Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! – Psalm 107:1
A heart for Thanksgiving this year took me all the way until the day before. Not that I am not grateful. There’s thanks in every breath. As the Psalmist proclaims, we have a multitude of reasons to be thankful to God. He is good to us. In fact, his love (mercy) endures forever. If you have a few minutes, read the whole of Psalm 107 to reckon the richness of how God’s mercies endure…through whatever we are going through.
This Thanksgiving, I have struggled to prepare my heart for a day of feasting. Until this morning, I had little stomach for it. Oh, I am looking forward to have all our children and grands around the table later today. Then on Thanksgiving itself, we’ve gathered a few neighbors and friends who, like us, won’t be with their families. It will be a sweet time.
Until this morning though, my thoughts struggled with the losses of late. Not my own, but that of some friends and extended family. The world’s a mess, isn’t it? Yet, within that mess, a good and merciful God is moving.
This morning, we said goodbye to dear dear friends who had passed through our home for a quick visit. They reminded us of other Thanksgivings spent together across the ocean. They stood in for family we would be missing, as we did for them.
Their making the time to visit lifted my heart. When I dropped them at the holiday-crowded train station and returned home, the list of preparations for this special day demanded attention.
Then in a moment…standing in this sun-drenched kitchen…
Thanksgiving came. As I began mixing the ingredients for cornbread dressing, my mom came to mind. I watched her for years doing this same action. Standing in the kitchen, mixing, adding love and sage to taste, no recipe. Years of comfort in that sweet memory.
My mom-in-law also came to mind…always preparing a loaded table of goodness for us to enjoy at Thanksgiving. Her table and company we will miss this time…as we wait until Christmas to travel home. Still, I know her. Even with a son and daughter-in-law cooking most of the meal, she will still scurry…still make her specialties…still lay a table fit for the family she loves.
Now as turkey and dressing bake in my oven, the fragrance calls to mind so many times of family together…food and football…hugs and laughter. Having adult children nearby, we are making a new set of memories with help in the kitchen…between this chef of a son of mine and two girls cooking in their homes as I am here.
There is a bond in that. In fact, there is a bond in this cooking for those we love…all over the world. What a blessing to think of being a part of that wonder today and forever.
Thanksgiving has come. God, in his enduring love and mercy, will get us through the dark times. He has done it before, and He will do it again. As for these shimmering bright moments of family coming and a table circled with love…I will be ever grateful.
Friday is here. The Friday before Thanksgiving in America. Kids home from college. Vacation looming. Pantries full preparing for a foodie’s feast day. The anticipation of more time with family. For the moment, a sigh at the end of a long week…and five favorite finds:
1) Celebrity – In the wildly popular TV show This Is Us (season 2), we see deep content on a myriad of issues – including family conflict, racism, weight, alcoholism, loss, adoption and foster care. Even my husband watches this show with me. Actor Justin Hartley, is one of the three siblings, and actually plays an actor on the show. This week’s episode was all about him. No spoilers here. The thing about this character is that he has it in him to be wildly successful. The story though winds around how celebrity and the pursuit of celebrity can actually destroy a person and damage that person’s relationships. Not all of that being on him. We, the fans, the audience, the bedazzled also bring some of what’s toxic to this scenario.Photo Credit: Popsugar, TooFab
Whether it’s celebrity politicians, celebrity preachers, celebrity athletes, actors, or artists…we put them on a pedestal. They can do no wrong. We are determined to trust their character, their motives, their game (whatever it is)…even when they lose their way.
This episode of This Is Us was heart-wrenching as we see what celebrity does to a vulnerable young man surrounded by people who just want to adulate or admire him…not really know or care about him.
[Sidebar: We actually were made for glory – but if we get caught up in our own self-importance, we lose sight of what it really means. A friend this week pointed me to The Gospel in Two Poems – written by Christian Burkhardt, pastor at Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA. Tell me what you think (Comments, below).Photo Credit: NewSpring Fuse
2) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest Arrangement – You may be seeing more of these in my Friday Faves, because Nathan Mills‘ is pouring it on, creating an arrangement every week presently. His latest is Evil Morty’s Theme from the adult cartoon TV show Rick and Morty. I’ve never seen the show, but this piece is definitely worthy the listen (composed originally by the rock band Blonde Redhead, arranged for classical guitar by Beyond the Guitar).
3) Happily Ever After – My husband and I have been married over 30 years. Live long enough, single or married, and we all discover that relationships are challenging and do need tending. No matter how much love holds them together.
4) Good News – This week has been shrouded by bad news around here – news of a layoff, a death in our extended family and a friend’s father, as well as the worsening of cancer in a near neighbor. Bad news seems to find us too readily.
It makes good news so much more a thing to celebrate. I have a loved one who has been working hard to fend off the addition of some cardiac drugs to her life. As we get older, it can feel futile trying to make lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, sleep)…changes capable of turning around a diagnosis.
Well, it does happen…and it happened for her. Her doctor actually called her personally to tell her that she doesn’t need the medication the doctor felt warranted just a couple of months previously.
This may seem a small thing, but I’m dancing a jig for her today. Her resolve and hard work paid off. Very motivating for me, as well.
Komisar’s book and Metaxas’ commentary are bitter pills to swallow for the mom who works outside the home, either because of preference or circumstance. My first-born was cared for parttime by another because, at that time, I loved my career so much I wasn’t prepared to let it go completely. She turned out well…praise God.
But what if…
The research findings and recommendations in Komisar’s book are not what we would imagine. Sure, we all believe moms are important to their little ones. We work out the best possible situation we can, if we have the choice (the dad, a grandparent, a trusted friend). Still, it’s something to consider…how much mommies matter to a child.
Read Metaxas’ review below. I think you’ll want to buy the book after.
Friday! Tonight, in the Richmond area, we have our first hard freeze this Fall. That means Dave finishes picking our peppers from the garden. He hopes the greens will survive. It’s a beautiful day – sunny and breezy – with showers of brightly colored leaves covering the grass. Both stained glass windows and patchwork quilts come to mind in this feast for the eyes. Hope your Friday is as lovely. Here are my faves for the week. Enjoy.
1) Concerning Hobbits – The Lord of the Rings film trilogy was a very big deal in our growing-up family. When these films came out, we wanted our kids (then middle-school and high school aged) to read the books first. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings novels by J. R. R. Tolkien. Surprisingly, our kids did, along with their dad re-reading these classics. They were captivated by the stories and the courage and endurance of the characters. The Hobbits were especially endearing as they were tiny folk, carried along by a grand mission. Much beyond their physical abilities but not beyond their great hearts.
This past week, Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, arranged the film theme Concerning Hobbits. Composed by Howard Shore, this melody captures the sweetness and hominess of the Hobbits. There is a rise to crescendo in Mills’ arrangement that also speaks to the willingness of the wee Hobbits to rise to battle when necessary.
I’m reminded of the Hobbit Samwise Gamgee’s role in the novel and film. Two quotes follow – one about him by the author and one by him:
“One tiny Hobbit against all the evil the world could muster. A sane being would have given up, but Samwise burned with a magnificent madness, a glowing obsession to surmount every obstacle, to find Frodo, destroy the Ring, and cleanse Middle Earth of its festering malignancy. He knew he would try again. Fail, perhaps. And try once more. A thousand, thousand times if need be, but he would not give up the quest.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.” – SamwisePhoto Credit: Pinterest
2) Flag at Half Staff – It seems our country’s flag is at half staff too frequently these days. This month we remember our military on Veterans Day and many businesses and private homes will display the American flag in honor of these men and women who served our country.
When a flag is flown at half staff it usually relates to the death of someone significant to all Americans.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
This tragedy has reminded us again of the brevity of life, the great value of life and community, and how important it is to reach out always to our neighbors. We grieve with our neighbors in Texas.
Yesterday our flags were at half staff for them:
Governor’s Flag Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia
Pursuant to President Trump’s Presidential Proclamation to lower the United States flag, I do hereby order that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia are to be flown at half-staff over the state Capitol and all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds to honor the victims of the attack in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5, 2017.
I hereby order that the flags shall be lowered until sunset, November 9, 2017.
3) Relational Shock Absorbers – I’d like us to consider for a moment the great gift of relational shock absorbers. Those people in our lives who are safe. Those people who sometimes take the brunt of our outbursts or brooding, without returning evil for evil and without inserting their own drama into what we’ve created. I am NOT talking about people who “just take” our bad behavior out of fear or insecurity or their own struggle. That’s codependence and doesn’t help heal either party.
What I am talking about is those in our lives who are rock-solid in their care for us, who recognize that we are not our best selves at that moment, and who refuse to think ill of us. They don’t make whatever issue is going on…about them. Relational shock absorbers are those in our lives who give space and grace, who hug instead of withhold, who listen for the truth behind the tantrum, and who love us forever. No trade-ins. Ever. Our mom was one of those in our lives…I have a long list of others. Give a shout-out to some of yours in the Comments. Photo Credit: Vimeo
4) Leader Smarts – It is so easy for us to become better at our work if we want it badly enough. Pursuing higher education in leadership or business administration is definitely one way. Or searching out leadership mentors online is another way accessible to all of us. Marcel Schwantes is one of my go-to guys, especially related to servant leadership. In a recent piece for Inc., he makes a case for why employees quit, and what leaders can do to keep them.
5) Making Family Happen – Everybody’s busy. I get that. So how do we make family happen without it being an undue burden on our loved ones, either our children or theirs?
I’m trying to figure this out and would love any wisdom from you willing to share (please comment below). Just this past week, we experienced a generous dose of “making family happen”.
Dave and I traveled to Georgia for a family visit, and it was a sweet touch-point with many we loved there. Like our trips to visit our Delaware family, this one brought all sorts of beauty and kindnesses which will sooth our hearts for many months to come.
In all our married life, we have never lived close to family – sometimes states away, and sometimes countries apart. I have always missed that drop-in nearness with loved ones. Now with both parents gone, my hope is that we next generations will carry on relationships that matter. The traditions may change some, but as long as there are sweet memories…that’s a big part of making family happen. I’m very thankful for a brother and sister-in-law who made family happen for us this past week…and all the younguns who could.
As the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas quickly come, I hope for all of us that we can lean in – to God and each other. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Let’s start on the grandest scale possible. Even the God of the universe invites us to speak to Him…and He listens and actually hears us.
Something to aim for with each other…on the smallest scale of our lives.
We love when little babies recognize our voices as attached to people they have grown to know and love in their short lives. Then they discover their own voices, and we celebrate that milestone. That magical power of making their observations and requests understood must be life-changing for them…and for us.
At some point, years down the road, we begin to tune out a little…and we model it for them, farther down the road.
This “tuning out” is why courses in active listening abound in universities, and not just in the communications department.
In our adult lives, of work and community, we are wise to take a measured look, from time to time, at how we listen and whether we silence the voices around us by our behavior.
She doesn’t hold back on leaders’ responsibility in this, but I view this as applicable to any part of our community, whether it be marriage, family, friendship, or religious/political affiliation. A brief summary of Nasser’s 15-point checklist follows:
Have a thin skin and make it about you.
Do not ask for input.
Bully and berate others or their ideas.
Speak only to those who make you comfortable.
Ignore ones who raise issues.
Create a hierarchy of those you speak with and those you don’t.
Claim you want innovation but demand proof during the creative phase.
Take credit for others’ ideas.
Accuse and blame in public.
Nit-pick on details when ideas are first offered.
Change the subject without acknowledging what was said.
Pit one person against another.
Override every decision others make.
Lead chaotically with constant exaggerations and untruths.
Whew! That was rough, huh? None of us are probably characterized by all those points. However, did any of them smart a little? We don’t want to be that kind of person…probably none of us…that kind of person who, by our behavior and attitude, silence another person’s voice. We all lose when that happens.
Dealing with our realities helps us to listen actively. Our realities may include over-work, weighty responsibility, and seemingly inadequate freedom or resources to make change. Don’t we want to be active listeners…to gain from those around us and empower them to be successful? We can become effective listeners again.
We may think we are good listeners. We make eye contact. We “give face” to those around us. However…hear this. Do others’ ideas make us tired? Do we have a strong grip on “the way it is” and have no intention on giving way…no matter how well we think we’re listening. Author and mediator William Ury (see TED Talk above) speaks of true communication through “a listening revolution”. First we listen to ourselves to discover our own desires, dreads, and dreams. Then we learn how to listen with understanding and with the determination of acting on what we hear. Actually, listening, with the goal of understanding, is the first action we take.
“Give them our full attention and listen to the human being behind the words, because one of the biggest gifts we can give anyone is the gift of being heard.” – William Ury
I’ve had more experiences than usual with doctors over this past year. As we all know, they have the reputation for not being “good listeners”, for not “giving voice”. I can tell you the ones I hope not to see again or the ones who are visibly backing out the door before my questions have been answered. There are still others who “give face” – eye contact and a seemingly engaged look (from years of practice maybe) – who have clearly still moved on to the next patient, even while still standing by my bed.
Then…there is the one or two – those beloved physicians – who actually sit by us, in the exam or hospital room. They treat us as if we’re the only patient they have that day. We talk together, and I know that we are partners in keeping me healthy. Right? Partners – not the greater and the lesser actors in a scene, but partners.
Kudos to you out there – physicians, bosses, colleagues, spouses, parents, children – who don’t just have the look of listening or communicate some sort of nuanced “I hear you”. Kudos to you who really listen and engage with the other.
We are not all just a set of ideas or opinions. Real people bring a voice to the table. When we communicate that we are too busy or too important or too settled already on a decision to consider one more voice, we speak volumes about our own character…and eventually the product or service we have to offer.
[I’m preaching to myself here…reminded of the God of the universe who takes the time and action to assure us that we will be heard… when we speak to Him. Sometimes, I cry out to this small world of mine, demanding to be heard…when there is a place, a Person, who always welcomes me. Please forgive my waxing a bit philosophical or theological. For me, it’s a good place to start in 1) sorting out what exactly I want to voice, and 2) practicing listening to another with the same honor/respect I wish for myself.]
We are not just the ones who silence voices or the ones who feel we are not being heard. We can be both, and usually are.
Listening, determined to understand, brings us closer to both leading well and following better. Something to think about on this Monday morning.
Don’t miss the links below. Really excellent reads on how we silence one another’s voices and how to we turn it around.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is one long, breathtakingly beautiful ride (a bit scary, too, if you’re not so keen about heights or deep water)…and it is the way home for us… The Eastern Shore of Maryland was my husband’s childhood home, and for the past 30 years, it has become another home to me. There’s nowhere else across the USA quite like the Eastern Shore.
After the up and over bridge experience, we find ourselves cradled on both sides of the road by sprawling farms teeming with life.I always want to stop and have a closer look, but our need to push on to get “there” keeps me in the car, pressed against the glass, watching the grain fields look a blur, as we pass quickly by. I wonder, looking out at each passing farm, what’s going on in that house; what the farmer is doing right then; what’s ready to be harvested or what crop will be sown next.
The land is flat, and you can see far and away the various crops planted and growing alongside the Bay and the wetlands. There are also more inland stretches, where the acres of grain, corn, and truck crops are watered, during dry times, by irrigation systems that stand as tall sentinels across the fields.
The seasons are marked by what is happening in the field. It’s mid-June now, and “Locally Grown” signs pepper the side of the highway. Strawberry season is fast over, and pumpkins will be planted in some of those fields soon. Right now, we can look forward to asparagus, sweet peas, early melons and tomatoes…maybe even the first peaches of the season.
Mine were delicious.
The pace of life slows considerably for us, after arriving at Dave’s parents’ home. It seems like all we do, on the Eastern Shore is eat, nap, and catch up on family stories. Yet, it is not so for the farmers in this rural part of the country.
The fields are always turning over from one crop to the next. I can’t tell the difference, but it’s not all wheat growing golden in the fields. Rye, barley, and wheat are all sown at various times on the Eastern Shore. Soybeans, too. Then there’s the corn. It is in its own special category of goodness. Right now, the dark-green leafy stalks are only knee- to waist-high, but in a few more weeks of warm summer sun, you can almost hear it grow. And I have never eaten sweeter corn than that pulled fresh from the fields of the Eastern Shore.
My husband’s family, for generations, has made their home east of the Chesapeake Bay, either in Maryland or Delaware. Our children have deep and enduring memories of vacations there – on the fishing docks of the Chesapeake or the sands of Ocean City, riding inner tubes on the river behind their uncle’s boat, picking out steamed crabs on newspaper on hot summer nights, playing hard in the winter snow or at games on the long dining room table, falling asleep on the living room floor at MomMom’s & PopPop’s, with cousins all around. And cooking out altogether, the dads tending the grill and the rest of us talking and laughing in the kitchen. If it’s possible to eat our way through the seasons on the Eastern Shore, we have.
I am struck at how much life we experience, in a few short days, at home on the Eastern Shore. Family, work, play, stories…life. Farms are never still. There are always different crops to plant and bring in. Animals to feed, and young ones to nurture along. Families are also changing with the seasons. Our parents turn into grandparents and great-grands. Our children grow up and don’t get to make the trip as often to the Eastern Shore as they did as youngsters in the backseat of our car. Between schooling, work, and blending families in marriage, it’s hard to get everything in, and I see the challenge for them.
My hope is that in the crazy pull of daily life, we never forget our way home…us or our children, to my family’s home in Georgia, or to the Eastern Shore…in time for the summer corn.
Weeks never seem to drag anymore. Friday has come again with lightning speed, forcing a break in our routine. In Virginia, today marks the last school day of the year for public schools. Summer has officially begun.
It’s not my favorite season of the year (OK…I know I’m in a minority here but heat and bugs come with summer, not just the beach). Having the kids home for the summer was always a joy so I will take that part anytime.
We have a big gathering of family coming up soon which is being made possible through Airbnb. That part of summer which does include the beach and baby snuggles along with late nights of laughter and games and movies with the babies in bed is a delight.
So without further ado, here are this week’s Friday Faves:
1) Seasonal Favorites – I’ve sung the praises of fruit in season once before. Orchard-fresh fruit and vegetables right out of the garden are so good. You just slice up summer squash and zucchini, lightly olive-oil spray it and roast in a hot oven and you can almost forget the cheesy casserole you were going to make out of it. Such sweetness in summer vegetables.
Dave’s favorite Honeycrisp apples are hard to find in the US summer – when found they often taste like last year’s harvest or are prohibitively expensive.
When the apples fade, we have watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries…and peaches!!! Glory!
Finally, I want to celebrate the small family businesses just open for the summer (and sometimes closed on Sundays) that bring all kinds of sweetness our way. Less than an hour away, we find Sno-To-Go. The weighty decision of whether to cool down with a cup of ice cream or a sno-cone is over. Stuffed snoballs are the perfect combo.
What’s your favorite summer to-go place for treats like these?
2) Beyond the Guitar – Classical Guitar Video – Here’s Nathan Mills‘ latest arrangement posted to YouTube. It is Japanese composer Yasunori Mitsuda‘s Frog’s Theme from the video game Chrono Trigger. For many of you gamers out there, this will be another musical delight. For us non-gamers, it is also an incredibly lovely melody, especially rendered on classical guitar. Enjoy the video below:
3) Scruffy Hospitality – [MEN – don’t pass this by – you are part of this.] What a gift to lavish hospitality on those you love or hope to know better. Too often we hesitate because the thought of getting the house ready, putting together just the right menu, and aiming for a “Pinterest-perfect” presentation exhausts us before we even make the invitation. Two articles I found this week gives freedom and empowerment to us all to extend hospitality – and scruffy is so much better than no hospitality. Robin Shreeves wrote a great piece on this, as a woman who threw off her need to have everything perfect. Photo Credit: Jason Lander, Flickr
Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together. – Jack King
I’m so glad he wrote about hospitality. Our hesitancy as both women and men can be conquered…especially if we help and encourage each other.
4) Hilarious Commercial – Commercials are fascinating to me – when they are done well. So many are just silly. In fact, in the days when our kids were small, and we would fast-forward through the commercials on homemade videotapes, our little Daniel would say, “No! I care about that!” Me, too, Daniel. A young businessman in Colorado Springs, Co., Joe McCloskey, Jr. , is an agent with Farmers Insurance. I don’t know who advised him or he is this creative, but he has put up several homemade video commercials on YouTube. The one below is the most recent and the most professional. It is hilarious. Don’t just scroll through. You will send your endorphins out the roof. I don’t think you can watch with out laughing out loud. Oh, and notice “Call Me For A Quote – 719-237-9455”. So creative.
5) Father’s Day – We all have fathers – whether very present or long-time absent. Some of you may be fathers. Some of you may have wanted to be fathers but are not able to be…for whatever reasons. This day of commemoration usually means a good meal and some sort of gifting or pampering for you fathers. For all of you, with or without children, you can be influencers…and we need you. My biological father was absent long before my parents divorced. Thankfully I have had a rich heritage of good fathers through the rest of my life – my step-dad, brothers, uncles, husband, father-in-law, son/son-in-law, and good and strong male friends – most of whom were spiritual fathers only…but fathers nonetheless.
Out of nowhere, I’m reminded of the goodness of God.
Yesterday, after unloading the back of my car at my favorite thrift shop, I walked inside to shop a bit. My mind was pretty much at a peaceful neutral…then the song playing over the sound system drew me to attention. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I sang along rifling through the rack of summer shirts.
This song never leaves me the same and I have written about it previously here and here. We sing it often at Movement Church and I’m grateful.
Grateful for a God who knows us perfectly and who lavishes His love on us. A God who is faithful to us when we are not faithful…when we wander from Him. Scripture calls us to count our blessings. When we do, we are reminded of what we receive from the hands of God. However, it doesn’t stop there – we are drawn to the beautiful face of God. No matter our struggle, no matter what disrupts our sleep or disturbs our joy, no matter what…when we turn our thoughts to Him, our hope and peace and confidence are marvelously restored.
Whatever the “what isn’t”, in the economy of God, there is the glory of “what is to come”. We have that assurance because of what has already come to pass…through a God who blesses without counting it out…just to the deserving. He is generous to all His children. So generous.
For most of my life, I was a “cup half full” kind of person…in fact, some would say it was more a cup spilling out annoyingly, splashing on some in my life who preferred a less idealistic, more “realistic” look at life. In getting older, my focus is drawn away to the negative side of life and the world’s experience. No wonder our faces fix in frowns and we fight grumpiness in our elder years. “Cup half empty” lives. I don’t want that for myself…or for those in my life.
So here goes Worship Wednesday – counting just a few of the amazing blessings of life today, at the hand of a God who has brought me – and all His children – “thus far” (1 Samuel 7:12).
Jesus – His life, teaching, death, resurrection; his continued presence in our lives through the Godhead; and his provision and promise of eternal life to all who believe,
1 year cancer-free (actually except for last year’s diagnosis, my whole life cancer-free, thus far),
Godly moms (my mom and my mom-in-law) who showed us the essence of unconditional love and faithfully pointed us to God,
Faithful fathers who provided financially and taught us so much about getting along in life,
A husband whose love for God informs and infuses his love for the kids and me, and others,
Our children – blessings I never thought I would enjoy, marrying later in life, and continue to be a source of great joy (including bringing the great gift of grandchildren along with them!),
Friends – oh my goodness, friends all over the world – who love no matter what. What a blessing!
A community of faith wherever we lived where the Word of God is treasured and serving Him through serving others the standard – Movement Church today,
Extended family who we have the privilege of loving across a lifetime…and who love back and never give up on us,
A world full of people to share Jesus with – in word and deed,
The beauty that surrounds and fuels us – nature, music, good company, the influencers and multipliers in our lives, food, clean water, and sleep (it’s a beautiful thing, right?),
Purpose – work that matters, hobbies that can leave a legacy (for me writing, photography, hospitality), and at every turn, the possibility and opportunity to glorify the God of the universe through our small lives made large by His Spirit.
I do not always count my blessings…there are days that I want more or different or less, even, of some things. We looks to others’ lives and want what they have rather than just being glad they live next door (or next somewhere). Facebook is not always our friend those days…but when my heart’s right, everything in real life and on social media can shimmer with the kindness, mercy, and sometimes the justice of God. He knows what He’s doing…and His love rains down good in all kinds of ways…we can count on it.
Come Thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I’m come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood
O to grace how how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.
Robinson wrote a fifth stanza that is often omitted. Here it is:
O that Day when freed from sinning,
I shall see thy lovely Face;
Clothed then in blood-washed Linnen [sic]
How I’ll sing thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransom’d Soul away;
Send thine Angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless Day.
How about you? Want to count some of your blessings in the Comments below? Would love to celebrate God with you.
Postscript: Don’t miss the video below with the Aeolians singing this great hymn accompanied by pipe organ. We don’t often get to hear this sort of musical feasting very often anymore. Glory! A glimpse of the worship of which we may be a part in Heaven…thanks to a faithful God who restores a repentant people.
What a week! How about for you? I’m on the other side of a medical emergency and thankful for timely and excellent care and for a rapid return to health. The weekend around here promises to be a sweet one with beautiful weather, outings with a son whose birthday we’re celebrating, a family gathering, and a long-awaited visit with an old friend. Oh…and rest, of course. Don’t want to overreach my recovery. Hope you have a weekend that fills you with anticipation as well…even if it’s just much-deserved rest and solitude.
Here are my favorite finds for this week.
1) Eurovision Song Contest – Since 1956, a European song contest has been held annually, much to the delight of all the countries participating. I never heard of it until a Portuguese friend of ours introduced us to it this season. [We know Tiago thanks to his friendship with Nathan on Krue.TV and Patreon].
In the Eurovision contest, each participant country puts forward an original song sung by person(s) from that country.
In the final TV extravaganza, the songs are performed and then judges vote on which should win the prized Eurovision title for that year. Along with the judges, citizens of all those countries can cast votes as well (only not for their own country; they vote for their favorite of any of the other countries). The process is fascinating and suspenseful as the votes are counted and the various songs rise or fall on the leaderboard as votes are announced.Photo Credit: SBS
Portugal’s Salvador Sobral won with the song Amar Pelos Dois, written by his sister. It is a lovely but sad love song reportedly reminiscent of Portugal’s folk tradition.
A YouTube video with the lyrics posted in Portuguese and English can be viewed here.
During the televised competition, our friend, Tiago, did a livestream of it on Krue.TV so we could enjoy watching. When Portugal won, his joy was uncontainable…reminded me of watching friends whose favorite team won the World Cup. So congratulations, Portugal, on the long-awaited first Eurovision win!
2) Expertise – I grew up at the end of the Vietnam War during the era of Hippie politics. Free speech was a really big deal, and we had opinions about everything…really not so dissimilar as today. A popular adage of those days was “Don’t trust anyone over 30”. Today, all of us of that era have been “over 30” for decades. We find ourselves faced with much the same thinking in a younger generation. [Maybe we modeled too well.] Let’s consider the concept and actuality of expertise.
Are there those in our lives who have, by deep study and long experience, become expert in their fields and worthy of a hearing and a following? Expertise is defined as “basis of credibility of a person who is perceived to be knowledgeable in an area or topic due to his or her study, training, or experience in the subject matter”.
With the wide use of internet searches and the palpable power of social media, we can all be self-proclaimed “experts”. Those with more knowledge and more experience are just “extra voices” in the conversation. In my younger years and too often since then, my own thinking has bent toward valuing my own generation’s thinking above those “over 30” (or 40, or 50, or 60). Of course, those younger sometimes get the same treatment (just search the enormous commentary on millennials on the web). That view of trusting my own generation has softened, over the years, as I’ve experienced the wise leadership of many. I regret thinking so highly of my own view and have tuned myself toward becoming a life-long learner (using my writing as a way to curate wisdom gained from others, as an example).
I haven’t read the book but DeYoung’s review opened the door to Nichols’ belief that our culture has a growing distaste for expertise (as derived from knowledge and experience).
DeYoung lists Nichols’ prescriptives in brief and they follow:
For experts: don’t drive outside your lane. Stick to what you know. By the same token, stop making predictions.
For the rest of us: Be ecumenical—don’t get all your information from the one source that magically you always agree with. Be less cynical—most people are not out to get you. Be more discriminating—consider whether the source you’re reading has editors, is tied to a reputable institution, is transparent about its sources, and present facts that are testable and checkable.
For everyone: Be humble. This goes for experts and laypeople. If you are an expert, use your knowledge as a servant not as a master. If you know stuff, use it to help others, not yourselves. At the same time, all of us have good reason to assume we don’t know as much as we think we know. Let’s be humble enough to learn from others.
3)– Food Festivals – Food festivals abound in the spring of the year. We’re headed to one this weekend – the Lebanese Food Festival. Like many national food specialties, Lebanese food is very time-intensive and ingredient-rich. I’m very thankful for the folks at Saint Anthony’s Maronite Church – for the food, the music, the conversations, and the occasional brush with our local dignitaries.
4) Anti-Aging – There is so much written these days on staying young and staving off aging – it’s enough to make you old trying to keep up with the latest on keeping from getting old. When you have a life-threatening event in your life, you realize all over again the gift of life. I wouldn’t mind growing old. However, I can’t deal with the myriads of tips on how to live young old.
Benjamin P. Hardy, one of my latest favorite writer/researchers, posted a fascinating piece this week entitled How to Reverse Aging and Become Whoever You Want To Be. He gives research findings (in very engaging, almost story-telling, ways) that are riveting in their support of his prescriptions. One study he shared was about a group of men in their 70s who were to share a living space for five days. It was designed and outfitted as a dwelling set in 1959. They were only to talk about their lives, careers, interests, as they would have in 1959. The impact on their thinking, and even their physical agility and capacity, was amazing. My sense from this and my own experience is we think ourselves old, and too often believe ourselves old by the behavior of those younger than we are. No harm, no foul. Just how we probably trip ourselves up.
Hardy’s prescriptions have to do with making goals for our present lives:
1. Determine your goal.
2. Commit to your goal by leaping into situations that require you to live up to your goal.
3. Determine the roles you will need to play in the various situations you create.
4. Act the part until you become the part.
5. Develop relationships with people who have your back and can help you achieve your goals.
6. Repeat — but at higher levels, with more strenuous leaps.
What Is Your Goal?
“This is a fundamental irony of most people’s lives. They don’t quite know what they want to do with their lives. Yet they are very active.” — Ryan Holiday
Most people are wandering through life like they wander on the internet, reactively scrolling their news feed and landing on the random pages that appear. They haven’t determined what they want, and thus they haven’t consciously designed their environments. Rather, they adapt to and become the product of whatever environments they wander into.
However, when you decide what you want, the universe conspires to make it happen.
[I love this young Benjamin P. Hardy. He has given me such rich fuel for living, of late. Read his blogs and follow him on Twitter.]
5) Blue Bloods – As much as I like to watch TV, I don’t watch that often…usually using it as a nap-generator. However, this week, I saw one of my favorite shows – Blue Bloods in its season finale (Season 7, Episode 22, The Thin Blue Line). It was so so good.
Blue Bloods is about a family that makes its living in public service – either in law enforcement, the court system, or nursing. Their Sunday family dinner gathering scenes are so appealing to me.Photo Credit: Huffington Post
On this season finale episode, son Danny, a NYPD detective, confronts a Mexican drug cartel and acts against it in a bold and risky (and unsupported) way. He was successful but the cost was huge. The cartel ordered his home to be bombed. Danny, arriving as his house is blazing, he searches for his family, and, relieved, finds them shocked…but OK.
He blames himself for their loss, and when the family gathers on that Sunday (his family now staying with his father and grandfather), he didn’t want to come down for dinner. He was persuaded and asked to pray over the meal. That scene (not on YouTube yet) was just beautiful. Here is a bit of it:
Wife Linda: It’s just a house, Danny.
Danny: It’s our home.
Linda: We made it a home. Without us, it’s just a house.
Danny’s youngest son: And we’re still that us.
Danny’s Father: When we have everyone we love, we have everything. For that we should be grateful. No matter the hardship or the loss, this family does not stand down…ever.
Danny then prayed…with his family.
Loved it so much. This family does not stand down…ever.
30 years ago, I knew this would be the day. Our baby was coming. It was still the wee hours of the morning, but labor wakes us. I let Dave sleep until it got to a place that I knew we probably needed to go. It was a windy pre-dawn drive to the hospital. That first day of March.
“It’s a girl!” How would I have known then how much she would change our lives? We had an inkling when, just days into parenting, and my hormones all over the place, I looked up at Dave, with her in my lap and tears in my eyes. “What if something were to happen to her?” – asked the new mom on the edge. Dave brought me back to myself when he said, “Look at how much joy she’s brought us in just these few days. We treat each day as precious…” It was something like that. He doesn’t remember, and all I can say is that each day has been precious.
This quiet girl spent her preschool years in East Tennessee enjoying friends from the neighborhood and church. She didn’t require much entertaining. The world of her imagination was rich and deep. She welcomed two little brothers in that time.
As their big sister, she created elaborate make-believe games, and they loved following her lead in play. This, of course, would end in time, as teen years would find all three off doing more of their own thing. Fun times together and shared memories.
Other times, the boys thought of her more like an old aunt…a third parent…rather than sister. Fortunately that season passed with them all still friends.
This quiet girl has known God since she was tiny. She’s always been an old soul, and that sensibleness and understanding about life informed her grasp of God. She isn’t perfect, by any means, but she carries into adulthood a faith that both anchors her and moves her toward His purposes.
She loves music and for all her life she has filled our home with singing or piano playing. I don’t know if that influenced her guitarist or harpist brothers. Their music has just been a joy…for the most part…our musical tastes have all had their own journeys. Remembering her high school girl band days still makes me smile. She plays the radio now more than the piano, and she isn’t pursuing a choir or praise team experience…but I hope she does again one day.
When we pulled her out of her lovely small-town life, along with her brothers, to move to Africa, this quiet girl took it in stride. We were always grateful to see the hand of God in these adjustments. There were tears…great, gushing cries over missing friends and family and grieving precious things left behind (even her dog once)…my heart would almost break over those tears. Then, like the sun breaking through storm clouds, she would give in to laughter. That would break the tension for all of us…that crazy-sweet laughter from a tear-drenched face. Her own wrestling through the many moves of our lives had to have helped our boys do the same. She helped us, for sure.
Making friends was sometimes challenging for this one whom we bounced around from country to country. Always having to start over was hard for her. She’s not one to push in or draw attention to herself. How thankful we were for the friends who opened up to friendship with this quiet girl. These are some of her most cherished friendships. When she does feel comfortable enough to be herself, she probably surprises people with her resoluteness, strong opinions, and deep loyalties. These are actually things I appreciate about this quiet girl. She is not going away. As we get older, it is a tremendous comfort to know that she has settled that. She will be there, God willing. With this one, you get life-long friendships and forever love.
When this quiet girl went back to the US for college, we would miss her terribly. Our home re-configured and the boys became the young men of the house. Her visits home were dear for all of us…as she perched around wherever we had landed at home and told us stories of life at school. I never tired of those stories.
After college, she would teach for several years (both inner city and county schools). Lots of crying followed by laughter in those days. The friendships that came out of both college and teaching are precious to her…lots of battle scars and victories to share there.
This quiet girl fell in love. She never really dated in high school. We as her parents were glad she, or the boys, didn’t suffer serial broken hearts. To find one so right for her as the quiet young man she married gladdened our hearts for her…and for us all.
Then she finally got a much-longed-for sister when one of her brothers married (and another when her husband’s brother married).
…and our first grandchild has this quiet girl as mommy.
[No pics of this little one on the blog yet. One day… The grandparents, I can tell you, are smitten with this little one not-so-quiet as the parents.]
I guess it’s a 30th birthday that made me want to write about this quiet girl. To know her is to love her, and I know her very well.
So Sweet Girl, Dear Daughter of ours, when you read this blog (and you do, so thanks for that), on this your 30th birthday, hope you’re having a Beautiful Day and know how Priceless you are to God Himself and to all who know and love you.
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13
Our family has never lived close to the grandparents. This was never easy…for any of us. Before I married, I did live close to home, and my mom was my best friend. She died several years ago, and I often say to people who knew her that “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.
Mom and I shared a weakness for words…they are probably excessively important to us, delivering both positive and (sometimes) negative weight. She was an amazing encourager. She rarely missed an opportunity to lift another’s spirit or to speak loving truth to someone desperate for God’s touch.
When I moved away to take a teaching job, she and my dad helped me move. New Haven, Connecticut was a 2-day drive from Georgia. It’s the farthest I had ever wandered from home. She stayed a week to help me settle in. While there, she was such great company. We explored the city together and laughed over a new culture and cried at the missing that was ahead for us.
She filled my freezer with her baking, and, while I was at work, she wrote notes. Then she hid them everywhere. After she flew home, I began finding them. In my coffee mug. Under my pillow. In the pocket of my coat. Among my reference books. Behind my music on the piano. She was with me in the love notes she left, and it made the distance between us…less.
My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I kept every one of her notes. These from that move over 30 years ago are fading…red ink on pink paper. There are a lifetime of notes between my mom and me. The tradition she started on that first move has become a life-long tradition for our family. Our visits back and forth, across the US and then the globe, have been papered by these little notes.
Our children, from the time they could write, entered into this tradition much to the joy of their grandparents. Before we would leave again, these three young ones would write of their affection for their grandparents and hide them all over their houses. I delighted in their cooperation in this conspiracy of love.
Mom always wrote notes…not just to us but to so many. She and her Sunday School Class ladies would send cards every week to the sick ones or the sad ones. She had a special burden for the elderly, for widows (including functional widows, deserted by husbands) and for fatherless children (again including those “orphaned” by still-living fathers). She inspired me by her humble ambition .
Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27
I am so thankful for my mom’s bits of paper…for her love…and for her perseverance in encouraging and serving others. Her generation is aging, and it is for us to pick up these traditions and pass them on somehow to the next generations…Maybe there won’t be bits of paper or love notes like in the past. I do hope we still take the time to write. Definitely, the call to serve and to encourage is as current as today. My life continues to be rich with those, young and old, who reach out to those around them with words of affirmation and kindness. Written or not, they are love notes to my heart.