Tag Archives: healing

5 Friday Faves – Body Language, the Wisdom of Andy Andrews, Healing Arts, Cheese, and Don’t Waste Your Life

It’s FRIDAY! Wrapping up another week that roared by. Without further ado, here are five of my favorite finds.

1) Body Language – Since our moms first instructed us to “smile at the nice lady” or “stand up straight”, we’ve been aware of the impact of body language. Posture, attitude, and approachableness are all a part of that.Photo Credit: DevZone

We communicate so much through our faces and bodies. Eye contact is a big one as well as what we do with our eyes – as in rolling them or staring off.  What does our body language convey?

Are we too self-important to engage with the person in front of us? Are our children growing up too cool to be bothered with the people around them?

Earlier this week, I saw a 2-minute video of UConn basketball coach Geno Auriemmas talk about body language. He nailed it! Not just in athletics but in any other life situation. We can still help our children and grandchildren to think beyond themselves…as we model it, too.

Geno Auriemma’s Advice: Body Language matters on Court and On Bench

How Coaches Evaluate Body Language During A Game – Joe Leccesi

2) Wisdom of Andy Andrews – Andy Andrews is an author and speaker. Years ago, I read his book The Traveler’s Gift – Seven Decisions That Determine Personal Success and then more recently his book The Noticer – Sometimes All A Person Needs Is A Little Perspective. Photo Credit: Andy Andrews

Andrews is so engaging. His books are highly readable and full of wisdom. His easy writing style is like having the author himself telling you the story out loud (in fact, in his audio books he does just that). I used his book The Traveler’s Gift in teaching ESL while we lived in Morocco.  The adult students loved it!

Andrews’ Seven Decisions (see image below) were gleaned from his own life experience and through reading and researching. He read over 200 biographies of  great men and women of history. What was it in their character or circumstance that led to their greatness?

In his book The Traveler’s Gift, he fleshes out the Seven Decisions through the story of a desperate man’s fantastical visitation with historical figures, learning their stories and gaining their wisdom.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

The Seven Decisions – A Breakdown of “The Traveler’s Gift” – Keith Laskey

Q & A with Andy Andrews

The Traveler’s Gift – Seven Decisions That Determine Personal Success – Andy Andrews

The Noticer – Sometimes All A Person Needs Is A Little Perspective – Andy Andrews

 3) Healing Arts – I was excited to hear recently that the local VA hospital incorporates the arts in the treatment of veterans with PTSD.  We read so much these days about post traumatic stress disorder. We see it in the lives of soldiers returning home from war as well as in the lives of survivors of adverse childhood experiences.
Photo Credit: Pinterest

How humanizing and honoring to see that visual and performance arts are being used right alongside medical treatment for our veterans.

Healing arts can include so many different expressions – photography, drawing, spoken word, story-telling, and music. During college, our son, Nathan, played his classical guitar as a volunteer at the medical center nearby. I have friends who also facilitate art projects, therapeutic story-telling, and photography.

It’s a beautiful thing.
Using Music to Help Parkinson’s Disease – Video Besides working with PTSD survivors, music can benefit patients with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s/Dementias.

4) Cheese – One of my absolute favorite foods. My heart goes out to those who have dairy allergies or lactose intolerance. Our life overseas even had an element of cheese discovery. Often when people live outside their home countries, they have cravings for what feels like home. The longer and happier you live in another country, those cravings subside. It happened for us in many ways. However, we were thankful that each of our resident countries had great cheese.

Egyptian cheeses most enjoyed by Egyptians are gebna rūmi (similar to a hard Romano cheese), and Gebna bēḍa (a soft salty cheese). We ate those cheeses but also found a wonderful white cheddar from New Zealand in the larger supermarkets. Tunisian cuisine was much more exotic, but cheese wasn’t a mainstay. There we again ate imported cheese from the Netherlands. Edam cheese encased in a red rind. We used it for everything we would have ordinarily used Cheddar or Mozzarella. Moroccan food again was really wonderful…with few cheese offerings. There was a fresh goat cheese available locally that was yummy. Still we found the Netherlands Edam and were satisfied.Photo Credit: Gouda Cheese Shops, New Zealand

Why the meandering about cheese this week? Not exactly a new find. The reason I’m writing is that my husband sent me searching the answer for why is cheddar cheese in America orange in color.

Well, it turns out you can follow the money for the answer to this. Centuries ago, when cows (Jersey and Guernsey, in particular) were grass-fed, they produced milk that was more golden in color. The color came from the beta-carotene in the grass. This golden-colored milk yielded a deep golden cheese. The deeper the color translated to the higher the quality. In fact, consumers were (and still are) willing to pay more for a deeper colored cheese.

Cheddar is the preferred cheese in the US, and most people associate it with its orange color (even though there are white Cheddars). Dyes (more natural dyes now, like the plant seed Annatto) are used to produce the deep color. In these days of the artisanal farmers, cows are becoming more grass-fed, and we see cheeses of deeper colors (without dyes added).

[Probably more than you ever wanted to know about our food preferences or the color of cheese.]

5) Don’t Waste Your Life – In 2000, a much younger John Piper preached to a crowd of young people at a Passion Conference. He focus in this sermon was to urge these college students not to miss the Kingdom of God before them…not to waste their lives on what wouldn’t last. Here is a brief (7-minute) excerpt you might want to watch. It is gripping.

John Piper is not against enjoying the glorious gifts God has given us (see John Piper Is Not Anti-Seashell – Trevin Wax). He just wanted those students…and any of us after them…to know our lives can make a difference…if we don’t waste our lives.Photo Credit: The Gospel Coalition

God gave us the beauty of this world…and He gave us eternal life, if we receive it…He gave us more…He gives us Himself…

That’s it for me.

Have a beautiful weekend. Please share any of your favorites in the Comments below.

Worship Wednesday – At Your Name, God – Phil Wickham

Photo Credit: Lisa Delay

Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord,
    Give praise, O servants of the Lord.

Your name, O Lord, endures forever,
    Your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages. Psalm 135:1, 13

So I will praise You as long as I live; at Your name, I will lift up my hands.Psalm 63:4

Ten years ago, a father raised his arm over his son’s high school graduating class and spoke a blessing on them. In this American school, the program was made fit for all the students in this diverse setting – a Quranic reading, speeches from student-picked favorites, an address from a US Embassy representative, and a benediction from this parent.

As this father beamed, looking at the class, he quoted the poet Hafiz, “This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.” He offered for these young graduates the blessing God gave Moses to bless His people:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

There is so much noise in the world today. So many opinions spoken as truth. So much gossip and name-calling. So much harkening to the latest and greatest wares – to satisfy our pleasure, our longings. The noise is deafening.

We lived for many years in places where a call to prayer rose above the noise in the streets. Although I believed differently, it was a call for me to pray as well. To remember the great God of Heaven who condescends to enter the experience of His children.

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – Matt Papa

Sometimes I felt like shouting the name of Jesus where we lived. Off our balcony and on the streets. With all the noise of city and village life…no sound of that name…Jesus. Shouting his name would not be the answer…living and loving like Jesus would…and speaking his name as I could.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Where we now live in the States, there is no call to prayer ringing from a loud speaker. No call to prayer. In a nation where we still have religious freedom, too often the name of God is spoken in our streets (and through our media) in the form of an expletive…a curse word. God have mercy on our souls.

May we be people who bear the name of God in all ways meaningful – in our speech and through the reach of our hands.

What extraordinary power exists in God Himself, absolutely, and even in His name! I remember one time, while living in North Africa, a friend asked us for money for her mother to have surgery on a badly broken leg. The fracture was complicated and she needed surgery not available in the public hospitals reserved for the care of the poor. Dave expressed his willingness to help with the hospital expenses, but he then asked if he could pray, in the name of Jesus, over this dear mother. As we stood around her bed, Dave touched my shoulder as I touched her casted leg. He prayed for healing. In the days and weeks ahead, the doctors determined she would not need the surgery, the healing completed with what they had already done.

Was it the good doctoring of the team in the public hospital? Maybe. Was it Dave’s faith and prayer? Possibly. Was it God moving in love for this mother and daughter…with pleasure at His name being called by a mere man in simple faith? Absolutely.

At Your name, God…

We live in a world where a vacuum exists…a vacuum that begs filling with the love of God…with the name, the life, and the teaching of Jesus.

God calls us to speak his name over our world…in both word and deed.

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!” “I tell you, He [Jesus] answered, “if they remain silent, the very stones will cry out.” … And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it. (Luke 19:39-41)

Worship with me.

At Your name
Mountains shake and crumble
At Your name
The oceans roar and tumble
At Your name
Angels will bow
The earth will rejoice
Your people cry out

(Chorus)
Lord of all the earth
We shout Your name, shout Your name
Filling up the skies
With endless praise, endless praise
Yahweh, Yahweh
We love to shout Your name, oh LordPhoto Credit: Pexels

At Your name
The morning breaks
In Your glory
At Your name
Creation sings Your story
At Your name
Angels will bow
The earth will rejoice
Your people cry out

Chorus

There is no one like our God
We will praise you, praise you
There is no one like our God
We will sing, we will sing (X3)

Chorus (X2)*

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place, and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11

*Lyrics for At Your Name

YouTube Video – Phil Wickham – At Your Name – Story Behind the Song

10 Things “Yahweh” Means – John Piper

30 Days of Praying the Names and Attributes of God – pdf – Navigators

Worship Wednesday – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – Matt Papa

Explore God

Worship Wednesday – Is It Luck or Is It Love? – To the Ends of the Earth – Hillsong

Photo Credit: Pinterest

“…Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:38-39

Who wouldn’t love a surgeon who calls to  check on you himself after you go home from surgery? That was my experience this afternoon. He had just removed 6 lesions (creepy word) from my face. Too much sun exposure in my reckless 20’s. I will know next week whether each is cancer or not (hopefully the non-scary type).

Some doctors are almost too professional – aloof, reserved, choosing words carefully, but this one is excellent at his work and also very human and approachable. Before we went into surgery, he sat down with Dave and me to review my medical history. In a few minutes, he would be doing multiple cuts and wound closures on this old face of mine, leaving me a bit Frankensteinish in appearance. Temporarily.

In that talk, he puzzled out loud at how I got lung cancer not ever having been a smoker. “Just bad luck…” he surmised.

All afternoon, I have thought about that odd observation. He didn’t know the whole of that medical workup which delivered a lung cancer diagnosis and surgery (Stage 1, by the way…sigh of relief). He would have considered it “good luck” then.  Another health issue had driven that workup, which turned out to be nothing. The testing, however, had fortuitously revealed the lung nodule. Luck…if you believed in that. I knew it was something much more.

What this latest favorite surgeon of mine casually observed as bad luck, I see as a good God. A good and loving God. Even when the diagnosis isn’t Stage 1…even when our calendars are filled with way too many doctors’ appointments and our hearts full of fear…the character of God shines through all that…if we look for Him.

Whether life is good or not so good, God’s care for us is unaltered.

These last several months have settled that in my heart over and over again. When we go through difficulties, God uses them in our lives in at least three ways.

  • To show us His love and faithfulness as we cling to Him through the scary unknowns.
  • To deepen our grasp of and wonder at His purposes for our lives.
  • To embolden us to extend His love to those around us, as He’s purposed us to do. To be His hands and feet to others, as He’s multiplied grace to us in our own hard places.

Luck doesn’t stir our hearts to take the lives God has given us (and health restored to us) and pour them out in service to Him and for the sake of others. Love does that.

Worship with me to Hillsong’s To the Ends of the Earth.

Love unfailing
Overtaking my heart
You take me in
Finding peace again
Fear is lost
In all you are

And I would give the world to tell Your story
Cause I know that You’ve called me
I know that You’ve called me
I’ve lost myself for good within Your promise
I won’t hide it
I won’t hide it

Jesus, I believe in You
And I would go to the ends of the earth
To the ends of the earth
For You alone are the Son of God
And all the world will see
That You are God
You are God*

I go for followup next week to this dear plastic surgeon who took such good care of me. While he takes out all these stitches, I hope to share, even briefly (and not weirdly), the whole “not luck, but love” story of my life. Hopefully all the biopsy results will be nothing or not scary. Whatever happens, God’s love turns my heart to Him…and to those He’s placed in my life – who also walk through hard places but don’t have to walk through them without Him.

We are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.2 Corinthians 5:20-21

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.Isaiah 26:3Photo Credit: Kuyamac

*Lyrics – To the Ends of the Earth – Hillsong

YouTube Video – To the Ends of the Earth – Lyrics Video (Just Lyrics) – Hillsong

Worship Wednesday – Rest, the Lord Is Near – Reminder By Steve Green

YouTube Video – Even If – Mercy Me

Lyrics to Even If

Worship Wednesday – God Who Moves the Mountains – Dustin Smith

blog-mountain-pixabayPhoto Credit: Pixabay

“…Truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” – Jesus – Matthew 17:20

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”  – Jesus – Matthew 13:31-32

And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” – Jesus – Luke 17:6

Jesus taught about faith many times to his slow-to-understand disciples. Like them, we can get things backward, thinking that if we only had greater faith, we could pray more effectively and act more powerfully. It’s not about the mustard seed-size of our faith. It’s always been about the object of our faith.

What a relief and what a challenge. If my faith has to be big enough to deal with cancer, a job for a friend, the poor health of our dads, or this world’s woes, the focus is on me. That won’t get us far at all.

With eyes on God, there is no limit to the majesty or sufficiency of His presence and provision in our lives. Eyes on God.

When we look just for what we pray, we try to put almighty Creator God into a small box of “here and now”, while He is working out His purposes for both today and forever. Yet, He calls us to trust Him for the smallest desire of our hearts, at the same time, drawing us to the greatest love possible…in Him.

blog-healing-st-james-united-methodist-churchPhoto Credit: STJConnect

I trip over wanting to have a greater faith in God than I have at present…but it’s not about going after more faith, it’s going after God Himself. He is more than big enough for whatever situation we are facing today…and He is good…and He loves us. Hallelujah!

You demonstrate faith not by what you say but by what you do. Faith shows up in your feet, not just in your feelings. That is why Paul instructed us to “walk by faith,” not to “talk by faith.” Faith is an action. Jesus said that whoever has faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain into the sea. The power of faith isn’t based on who you are, it’s based simply on who God is. Your faith is as big as the God you believe in. Like David facing the giant, sometimes God gives you a bigger-than-life problem so that He can show you His bigger-than-Goliath solution. Keep your eyes on Him…He is faithful. Tony Evans

Worship with me to Dustin Smith’s God Who Moves Mountains. He wrote this song as part of his Healing Is Right project. Within the song performance, there is space, for the singer/worshipper to pray. Pray in your worship today for that deep hurt in your heart today…for that undone thing…for your eyes to be fixed on God who loves you and is working out His will in this thing…Whether you see it yet or not…see Him. Eyes on God.

He is not confined, He confounds
He will not resign, He resounds
He is not restrained, hear the sound
Oh hear the sound

Rocks are falling, the broken calling
To the God who moves the mountains
The Earth is shaking, the weary waking
To the God who moves the mountains
You’ve gotta move this mountain

He is not surprised, he surrounds
He can not be stopped, he astounds
He is drawing near, hear the sound
oh hear the sound

You say speak, so we say, “Move!”
You say watch what You can do
You say, trust, and then You prove
You’re the God who moves the mountains
You’re the God who moves the mountains*

*Lyrics to God Who Moves Mountains – Writers: Dustin Smith, David Leonard, Richie Fike

YouTube Video – God Who Moves Mountains (Live from Dustin Smith)

YouTube Video – Trust His Heart (with Lyrics) – Babbie Mason

You Are Meant to Move Mountains – Desiring God – Jon Bloom

How Jesus Helped His Disciples to Increase Their Faith – Desiring God – John Piper

The Confidence of Faith – Tony Evans

5 Friday Faves – Dads Who Get It, Pompous Putdowns, Kids’ Birthdays, Hole-in-the-Wall Restaurants, and a Good Laugh

Blog - Friday Faves

Hello, Friday Friends! Finishing up today’s blog at my favorite shared workspace. Last days of summer are upon us. Looking forward to Fall…however, taking each day as a gift. This is one!Blog - Shared Workspace - Friday Faves

Here are my favorite finds this week. Would love to hear some of yours in Comments below.

1) Dads Who Get It – What a blessing you Dads who notice and insert yourselves in our lives. With care and insight. In a Youtube video, a young boy, Mateo had a secret dream of being a professional dancer…or maybe it wasn’t so secret. His daily life was darkened by the regular taunts of neighborhood bullies. Then…enter the Dad.Blog - Dads Who Get It - Bullying - dresser splentalePhoto Credit: Dresser Splentale 

Watch this short and sweet video showcasing such a dad.

2) Pompous Putdowns  – Okay…I actually deserved this one maybe. I made a comment on a blog of one of my favorite culture commentators. He is a great thinker and I usually “amen” everything he posts. So, on the one piece that didn’t wash for me, I made a disparaging comment. Something that I don’t appreciate when it’s done to others. Thought about deleting it…but not before another replied to my comment with the phrase “what pious trout nonsense.”Blog - Putdowns and pious trout nonsense - Oxford Grotesque TwitterPhoto Credit: Twitter – Oxford Grotesque

Wow! Not just “rude” or “self-righteous”, but this altogether higher level of putting my comment in its place. Sophisticated and snarky name-calling. So why is this a fave? It was  a reminder that comments on a blog, Twitter, or Facebook walls sometimes elicit more withering responses than the original post itself. When I posted the comment on this blogger’s wall, I had no idea that it could come across as “pious trout nonsense”. Gave me pause to think. Ironically, The origin of this putdown is ascribed to Christopher Hitchens, a steadfast critic of Christians. So for a moment, in the comment section of a favorite blogger, I got my comeuppance (in a manner of speaking) by a premiere persecutor. Could be worse.

[PS…I did go ahead and delete my comment, and will return to commenting only if it’s affirming…hopefully. Thankful for freedom of speech but don’t need to add to the negative stuff out there.]

3) Kids’ Birthdays – Just want to celebrate briefly the celebration of mileposts. Our oldest granddaughter just turned 1 y/o. She is a social media-free child. Can’t post pictures, so I will use the image below to celebrate both her, and her adorable little 2-month-old cousin.Blog - Grandchild Tshirts

Kids’ birthday parties have just been something we participated in mostly as spectators (over the last decade since our own children became adults). Until now! This week, we hovered over a 1-year-old with cameras aready for her first bites of cake. A struggle with sugar she will battle the rest of her life. This day, however, we celebrate her…and the cake her other sweet grandmother made…and the lovely community she gathers – extended family who love her and love being family with her. [When she is older and decides to do whatever the latest greatest social media will be, I’ll share her pictures.] Blog - Grandchildren BirthdaysP1280069 - Copy

4) Hole-in-the-Wall Restaurants – Our city/state has some super finds in restaurants – both little obscure ones and the larger franchises. Kuba-Kuba is one I’ve enjoyed. Wherever you live , there are websites that will point you to hole-in-the-wall restaurants not to miss. Visiting Georgia often to see my Dad/family, I also need to check these out, and our children’s home state has sweet options as well. What are your favorites? [Please share in Comments.]

Blog - Kuba-Kuba - hole in the wall restaurants - only in your statePhoto Credit: Only In Your State

5) A Good Laugh – I’m a pretty serious person, but what a gift to have people in my life who make me laugh. How about you? Do you have people like that In your life? It’s great for your health. Whether it’s cancer, heart disease, or chronic mental distress, laughter is good medicine. My friend, Heba, makes me laugh every time we talk. Every. Single. Time.2006 -- Nov -- Heba & Daniel eating Koshery

Blog - Merry heart - pinterestPhoto Credit: PinterestBlog - a merry heart - powerfulintentionsPhoto Credit: Powerful Intentions

Online, we can also find great helps – like Michael Jr., KevOnStage, Brian Regan, and others…who are your favorites?

Hope your weekend is full of laughter…and at least one of these:Blog - Hanover Tomato Sandwich

 

Worship Wednesday – Oh God, You Never Leave My Side – Citizens & Saints

Blog - Romans 8 - Love of god - Franklin Rodriguez TwitterPhoto Credit: Franklin Rodriguez

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:37-39

“I don’t know how anyone can get through____________ without God.”

What fills that blank in your life right now?

Sunday was my first time back with my church (Movement RVA) since surgery. It was a great normalizing experience. To have friends come up and give gentle hugs of welcome was surprisingly moving for me. All through this health scare, family, friends, and neighbors have been the hands of God to us.

Last week a huge storm came through Richmond, Virginia, with thousands of us losing power for four days. That first night, when the lights went out, it was weirdly quiet. Then, one by one, generators clicked on throughout our neighborhood. For days, we had this post-apocalyptic buzzing sound all around us.

Finally we got power back, and it was quiet again. Beautiful ordinary quiet.

I’ve become more and more thankful how we can sense God’s presence both in the noise and in the quiet…

On Sunday, our worship team led us in singing the Citizens & Saints song, Oh God. It was a quieter version than that band does, but I recognized the deep heart-cry to God. Those lyrics resounded what we have experienced lately of the nearness of God.Blog - Movement Church - Worship

These days are full of the graces and mercies of God. In the storm that took out our lights, in the journey to a cancer diagnosis and treatment, in the birth of a new grandchild, in the loss of an old friend, and in the difficult journey of loved ones going through miscarriage and divorce…we have seen and experienced the nearness of God. How else could we go through?

“I don’t know how anyone can get through____________ without God.”

We don’t have to….

Worship this great and loving God with me – to this song by  Zach Bolen inspired by Romans 8:

In the valley, Oh God, You’re near
In the quiet, Oh God, You’re near
In the shadow, Oh God, You’re near
At my breaking, Oh God, You’re near
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life
In my searching, Oh God, You’re near
In my wandering, Oh God, You’re near
When I feel alone, Oh God, You’re near
At my lowest, Oh God, You’re near
Height nor depth nor anything else
Could pull us apart
We are joined as one by Your blood
Hope will rise as we become more
Than conquerors through
The One who loved the world
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life*
Blog - God will never leave you - bibleinspirationsPhoto Credit: Bible Inspirations

Worship Wednesday – All Creatures of Our God and King – O Praise Him! – with David Crowder

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“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.Job 12:7-10
My pillow has been a constant companion these two weeks since surgery. It rested my head and splinted my side. It has been a help to me in recovery.
This morning, I made up the bed with that pillow in its place there…
Last night was the first night in two weeks that I slept through until dawn. Slept through. That rarely happened even before surgery. Since then, I have dreaded the nighttime, with not being able to get comfortable in any position for very long.
This morning marked a change and it’s been a glorious day. Sure, I am still short of breath and weak sometimes, and the pain breaks through…but, today, I feel strongly on the mend.
God did not make this a perfect June day for just me…but I’m celebrating in it…and in Him. After joining my neighbors this morning for a brief part of their longer walk-around, I sat in a bit of shade as the sun came up over the trees. These tall oaks form a canopy over the yard, and I love watching the sun peek through as the branches sway in the breeze.

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As I sat, soaking in all the beauty around me, the dew was still fresh on the lawn…sparking like diamonds strewn across the yard. I’m not meaning to be a poetic poser here, but you know what it’s like to see something almost for the first time…

This morning felt like Easter morning to me. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). All around is the sight, scent, and sound of life, and I am in the beautiful midst of it…cancer diagnosis and all.

Grateful to God today for His creation and all the signs of life, around me and inside this body He’s given me. A whole night’s sleep. Dave did have to just about hoist me out of bed because my back and chest felt frozen in that sleep position…but up I came, and up all day.

I’m confident from everything I know about this cancer surgery and its recovery that there will still be harder days. Today is a complete gift – complete with sun, blue sky, low humidity, and a delicious breeze all day long.

Every day, no matter the weather or circumstance, is a gift from a loving Creator God. I pray yours is full of Him today, whatever path you are walking…and the beauty of His creation is a perfect distraction, drawing you into what is most real and sustaining in life…IMG_6259

Worship with me to this old hymn written by Francis of Assisi and sung by David Crowder:

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing

O praise Him, Alleluia

Thou burning sun with golden beam
Thou silver moon with softer gleam

O praise Him, O praise Him
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along

O praise Him, Alleluia

Thou rising moon in praise rejoice
Ye lights of evening find a voice

O praise Him, O praise Him
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

Let all things their Creator bless
And worship Him in humbleness

O praise Him, Alleluia

Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son
And praise the Spirit, three in one

O praise Him, O praise Him
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son
And praise the Spirit, three in one

O praise Him, O praise Him
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia*

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5 Friday Faves – Housing the Homeless, Christmas Cookies, Sunrises in Winter, Healing from Trauma, and a Christmas Cactus

Blog - Friday FavesThis Friday came in so fast. I wish the time would slow down some…so much to savor and celebrate. Even those painful realities of life need time to process and make good decisions about…time… We grab hold of the minutes and squeeze the good out of them before they scatter. This is one of the reasons I write…I write to remember… all the good…and the hard… to take nothing for granted.

1. Housing the Homeless – The journey to housing for our homeless neighbors is complicated. Some we see at intersections in our cities, with their cardboard signs, have made a life, of sorts, on the streets. I have no idea how they survive winter. Others are freshly homeless, living in hotels, until they can’t anymore. Homelessness doesn’t come with its own guide of how to regain normalcy…the homeless need a compass. Thankfully, there are agencies who help these neighbors of ours, and help us learn how to help better. In our city, two agencies I want to highlight are Caritas and Hilliard House (or Housing Families First). Find out how you can get involved. “Homelessness isn’t a lifestyle, it’s an emergency.” – Caritas

L.A.'s Skid Row is home to more than 8,000 homeless people. With the help of domestic hunger funds given through the North American Mission Board, Set Free Church was able to provide a hot meal on Thanksgiving last year. Photo by Greg Schneider

Blog - Homeless - bpnews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews.net

2. Christmas Cookies – Once a year, plates of cookies come out that speak love like none other. Home-made, cut-out decorated Christmas cookies amaze me. I don’t bake them but am grateful for the hands that do. So much work in making the buttery cookie dough, cutting them out, baking and then decorating them. A frosted Christmas cookie and a cup of coffee in front of a fire…bliss.Blog - Christmas Cookies - from Josh Griffin's FB page - by Patricia Good EckardPhoto Credit: Facebook.com – Cookies by Patricia Good Eckard

3. Sunrises in Winter – I don’t know what it is about sunrises in winter, but they catch me by surprise every morning. Rolling out of bed in the still cool darkness, pulling on socks, sliding into slippers, and making my way to bathroom, and then kitchen. Somewhere in the middle of that first cup of coffee, my eyes are drawn to the window…and then glory! The light of the morning sky… Maybe it’s because the trees are bare and we are able to catch the hues of light earlier, but I love winter sunrises best. They take the chill off and fill me with anticipation of the day. Joy…Blog - Winter Sunrise

4. Healing from Trauma – Recently I have been learning more about Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and wrote about a valuable resource here.  Then, a friend told me about training she received last month in Amman, Jordan. It relates to caring for non-western peoples who have experienced severe trauma. The Trauma Healing Institute provides training in the US and internationally. “The Trauma Healing Institute at American Bible Society is equipping people, churches, and NGOs around the world to care for the more than one in seven people worldwide who suffer severe wounds of the heart and spirit in the aftermath of conflict, disaster or abuse.” I hope to sign up for this training in 2016. Watch the film Hope Rising to learn more.

5. Christmas Cactus – My mom-in-law is a master gardener. Her sunroom is its own botanical garden. She is always encouraging us to take some of her plants and we have two blooming Christmas cacti right now, because of her. My husband is our gardener (fortunately) or we would not have house plants. I love how these cacti, (or cactuses), “know” to bloom around the holidays (Thanksgiving or Christmas). From the plant family Schlumbergera, the Christmas cactus can be nurtured to bloom right on time. I am pretty sure Dave doesn’t follow a particular plan, but our plants are very forgiving…and are blooming just as they were meant to… Merry Christmas.Blog - Christmas Cactus (2)

Worship Wednesday – He Knows My Name – Francesca Battistelli

Blog - He Knows My NamePhoto Credit: Alan Grant, Pinterest.com

Thus says the LORD, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. “For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”Isaiah 43:1-3

Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands“. – Isaiah 49:15-16

My older brother, Robert, struggled for much of his adult life with anger and depression. Then toward the end of his life (he died young really from a lethal cardiac event), it was more regret. God in His mercy, before Robert died, was able to pierce through the bitterness. We saw our brother begin to live more in hope, allowing God to speak truth to his heart and allowing us to begin to get closer to him. I wish we had had more time…but Robert had enough time to know God’s love for him, and that’s what mattered most.

For some of those years, after a second divorce and during a time of great grief in the death of his son, he lived with our parents. Our Mom believed in the life-giving power of words. On his bedroom wall was the print above (from a painting by Alan Grant). These verses from God’s Word have always been a comfort to me – in remembering my brother…and in other situations since then when I’m tempted to wonder if God is at work in my life…in me.

If you are in a time of wondering…whether who you are matters or whether what you’re doing has any significance…take heart in the character of God. He is a God who remembers…and He is a God who knows everything about you and loves you. Your name is known to Him…because that is the kind of God He is.

Worship with me, singing/listening to the lovely lyrics of this Francesca Battistelli song (lyrics follow).

Spent today in a conversation
In the mirror face to face with
Somebody less than perfect
I wouldn’t choose me first if
I was looking for a champion
In fact I’d understand if
You picked everyone before me
But that’s just not my story

True to who You are
You saw my heart
And made something out of nothing, so

CHORUS
I don’t need my name in lights
I’m famous in my Father’s eyes
Make no mistake
He knows my name
I’m not living for applause
I’m already so adored
It’s all His stage
He knows my name
He knows my name

I’m not meant to just stay quiet
I’m meant to be a lion
I’ll roar beyond a song
With every moment that I’ve got

True to who You are
You saw my heart
And made something out of nothing

CHORUS

He calls me chosen
Free, forgiven
Wanted, child of the King
His forever
Held and treasured
I am loved

I don’t need my name in lights
I’m famous in my Father’s eyes

CHORUS

Song Writers: Francesca Battistelli, Mia Fieldes, Seth Mosley

[P.S. The YouTube video below is the same song but with stories of young women whose lives were restored and healed through Mercy Ministries (Mercy Multiplied).]

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song He Knows My Name

Story Behind the Song Interview – He Knows My Name – with Kevin Davis

Mercy Multiplied – Residential Program for young women – “Mercy Multiplied is a nonprofit Christian organization dedicated to helping young women break free from life-controlling behaviors and situations, including eating disorders, self-harm, drug and alcohol addictions, unplanned pregnancy, depression, sexual abuse, and sex trafficking. We hope to help every woman we serve experience God’s unconditional love, forgiveness, and life-transforming power.”

 

Give Church Another Try – 7 Things to Consider in a Community Where You Can Thrive

Blog - ChurchBlog - Church People

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

When I was a child, we learned this little fingerplay about church. “Here’s the church; here’s the steeple; open the doors, and see all the people.” As an adult, church has become less about a place, or steeple, and more about people. So the fingerplay I teach children now about church says only “Here’s the church” – with the two hands, palms up, with intertwined fingers. That’s church. There are three things I see in that visual that are good to remember: 1) Palms up – we need God. Church is about God. 2) Fingers – we are all people (stay with me). 3) Intertwined – we get close, which means we know each other very well, too well sometimes (unless grace is always applied). With people, church can get messy. We are all those people.

There are people I love who have walked away from church, citing, “They’re all a bunch of hypocrites.” Seriously? Aren’t they right where they need to be? An old saying goes, “Church is a hospital for sinners.” Maybe it’s also a rehab program for hypocrites… Either way, if I’ve given up on church, then at some level, I’m giving up on God. He loves His church, and we, as followers of Christ, are a part of that church He loves. To leave it, because of the hypocrites, the legalists, the gossips, the other sinners…just. like. us…is not the answer.

We left a church ourselves. The details won’t help this narrative. Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t wish the down side of that experience on my worst enemy. It wasn’t just our down side, or that of others who left…it was the pain and confusion of those whom we left as well.  We would have had that go very differently, if we had had the freedom to do so… That sort of leaving doesn’t heal easily, and the wounds break open as easily as a social media post reminding us that we are not in each other’s lives anymore.

That’s just so wrong. Jesus let nothing or no one keep him from his Father’s House. The Temple, in those days. My desire is to always follow His lead in life. We’ve learned a lot, some of it painfully, about church in recent years. There are writers on this subject far more wise and eloquent than I (just a few of whom wrote the pieces linked below). However, I would be so grateful if God allowed me to help someone be restored to His church. Also, for anyone who has never really been in a church community, maybe it would help to know what to consider.

Here’s my Quick List of 7 Things to Consider in Searching Out a Church Community. As you peruse a church website, or listen to a pastor/teaching elder’s podcast, or visit a worship service or community group, think about this:

1) Love for God – His Word is taught in ways you are meant to apply both inside and outside church. Worship is really about Him, not just a stage show. Humility, not arrogance, is apparent in handling God’s Word and His church. Prayer, not just for stuff, but to purely enjoy His presence is a sign of a God-centered church.

2) Love for people – The church operates out of a clear desire to creatively express God’s love to people in the church and community, neighbors to nations. It’s not just about that church’s presence or preeminence (superiority) in a town or city, but the goal is to be about Kingdom work – God’s Kingdom, not that church’s. Look to see if the church cooperates with other believers, other churches, other organizations to serve its city and the world. Partnerships tell you a lot about a church. Prayer opportunities, too.

3) Decision-making in the church – Who gives input for strategy or direction? Is the polity (or church governing) the pastor or elder rule? Or is there a clear flow between church leaders and the congregation? Is servant leadership development of all a part of the vision of the church? Can you get a sense of “the priesthood of the believers” (1 Peter 2:9) – where there is “safety in a multitude of counselors” (Proverbs 11:14)? Elder ruled vs. elder led churches both have Biblical support. A lot has to do with accountability and the leaders themselves.

4) Discipleship Throughout Ages and Stages – What happens on Sundays is vital, but it is just a part of church life as a whole. What opportunities does the church promote for growing in the Lord and serving Him both locally and globally? Pre-discipleship can start with young children, and discipleship continues through all life stages (we are grateful to know people in their 80s still serving actively in church). Young moms desperately need discipleship, too. Churches that make that happen must really please God.

5) Finances and Stewardship – What happens with the money that is given through the church? Who decides how it’s used? These answers may not be easily discovered. Is the budget presented by or published to the congregation? Or are the financial decisions made wholly by the elders? Is missions giving encouraged? Is sacrificial giving a pattern in the church? Not just for paying salaries or managing the operation of the church, but for critical needs beyond the church.

5) Church Membership – What are the steps to becoming a member of the church? Maybe you’re thinking you aren’t interested in church membership. Still this is something to consider. What are requirements of the members? Do they have to sign anything (a church covenant, a giving pledge, etc.)? [Signing your agreement/commitment can be a good thing, but realize things can change in the church such that what you signed can mean something different as part of that change. So just be aware…] What are the privileges of membership (teaching, children’s ministry, etc.)? What are the responsibilities of membership? These speak to the priorities of the church. They also speak to leadership/authority. Are members held with open hands, recognizing we belong to God first and then the Body?

6) Church Discipline – You may think that churches don’t all have a church discipline protocol. That may be true. I am thinking that church discipline is part of most churches, whether spoken/written or not. How does one even look for how the church does discipline? The sermons can give some sense of what is “tolerated” or not. That’s a sad thing to have to say, but we all know the expression “bully pulpit” which can happen in churches as well as in politics. Shunning is prescribed rarely in Scripture (Romans 16:17, 1 Corinthians 5:11, Titus 3:9-11). Honestly, if a church uses shunning as a discipline, I would run. It would require the church to have such humility and such wisdom. Who is able, over months or years, to do it with a pure heart? Jesus taught on discipline in the church in Matthew 18:15-20. It’s so like Him to place that teaching between the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the unforgiving servant. Think about it.

7) Style and Substance – Be careful you don’t make a decision about a church based on some element of style rather than substance. Just say, you don’t care for the style of worship. Or the preaching goes a little long. Or…fill in the blank. No church is going to be “perfect” because the church is made up of people, like you and me. Just don’t miss the church God has for you over something that matters so little. What does matter is that you get yourself in a situation where you can grow in knowing God, where you can serve Him and those around you as part of the church, and where you can heal…from whatever got you out of church. Don’t let that experience define your life. Please.

Just, please, give church another try. Do you know the story (Acts 15:36-40) about the Apostle Paul and his ministry partner, Barnabas and how they had a huge disagreement about another young partner, John Mark? Sometimes, disagreements happen – so strong, in fact, that maybe they can’t do ministry together for a season. Does that mean either of them are “the bad guys”? Paul even came to a place, near the time of his death, that he asked for John Mark to come to him (2 Timothy 4:11).  The Scripture doesn’t tell us whether either Paul or Barnabas was right or wrong. Yet, we are left with a huge door of reconciliation open to us in their story.

May it always be so with us – to the glory of God and for the sake of His Kingdom.

Jesus, you were once broken apart. You know how it feels to be so shattered by the good-byes of life. Help me to believe that I will one day experience wholeness again, that I will not have this terrible feeling of being torn into many pieces. Keep reminding me often that the Father raised you to new life, to a powerful wholeness that you had not known before. Encourage me to believe that, in time, I will no longer have this deep pain and hurt in my heart. I want to believe. Help my unbelief! Amen. – Joyce Rupp, Prayer for Wholeness in Praying Our Goodbyes

Healthy Church vs. Toxic Church – Bart’s Barometer (Bart Breen)

9 Marks of an Abusive Church – The Wartburg Watch

9 Traits of Mean Churches – Thom Rainer

9 Traits of Church Bullies – Thom Rainer

9 Ways to Deal with Church Bullies – Thom Rainer

14 Symptoms of Toxic Church Leaders – Thom Rainer

10 Traits of Pastors Who Have Healthy Long-Term Tenure

9 Reasons It’s Hard to Attend a Church Once You’ve Been Involved in Leading One – Carey Nieuwhof [Applies to all of us really, not just church leaders]