Tag Archives: Love Your Neighbor

Worship Wednesday – O God Forgive Us – For King & Country

Photo Credit: Vimeo

“You should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts [our sins],
as we also have forgiven our debtors [those who have sinned against us].
And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.'” – Jesus (Matthew 6:9-13)

Some things we will never make sense of…this side of Heaven.

The news every day has its fallout in our lives. It injects numbness into our hearts and minds. We just can’t comprehend what is going on around us sometimes.

We want to bring sense to bear on senselessness. To be able to blame someone. Or some natural force. Or we want to blame God.

Earlier this week, an unbelievable massacre took place in Las Vegas, Nevada. One gunman in his 60s rained down terror on an open field where thousands watched a concert. In a matter of 10 or so minutes, 50+ persons were killed and over 500 persons were injured.

Motives may be uncovered in future days. For now, all we know is the perpetrator fired at will on individuals he had no way of knowing. Random. Premeditated. Thoughtless. Evil.

We can’t make sense of such a thing.

For now, we pray for those families of the victims. We pray for those still in critical condition and for those recovering from their wounds. We thank God for first responders and for all those concert-goers who reached out to help others get to safety or to medical care. We also pray for our country to heal after another hard thing.

Besides praying, we also give blood and give other resources to help those in need.

What we cannot do…what we must refuse to do is to grow more numb to the brokenness of our world.

Jesus’ followers were in close proximity to him. They watched him do life. They saw him pull away alone to pray – to fortify himself for what he faced each day…and for what he would face before it was all over.

They asked him about this prayer thing he did so often and so deeply. I can’t even imagine what life must have been like for Jesus spending those years here on earth. How God was able to be both God and man at once can’t even be answered for us; our minds can’t hold such understanding. Yet, Jesus stole away often to linger with the Father; to counsel with Him; to be nourished by Him.

When he taught us how to pray, he gave a model which included the directive: forgive us our debts [our sins], as we also have forgiven our debtors [those who have sinned against us].

Our world is rocked with evil…people choosing self over others, even to the point of neglect, betrayal, and violence.

Still…there is hope. God is not finished us yet. He has not forsaken us.

Nor are we meant to forsake each other.

The gunman above is dead. We can only speculate what happened to that man to plan out and execute such incomprehensible acts.

What we know is our own hearts…well, even our own hearts we can’t fully know (Jeremiah 17:9). Still we do know we are desperate to make sense of life and to pursue true community, real love and peace.

The band For King & Country (with the help of hip-hop artist KB) put out a single “O God Forgive Us“.Photo Credit: Flickr; Rapzilla

In the video interpretation of the song, we see the three principal singers with “younger versions of themselves”. Scenes are projected in front of the little ones – scenes of wrongs done in this world. A tear trickled down the cheek of one little boy. The message is that we all perpetrate wrongs against one another…and against God. We all need God’s forgiveness and to forgive ourselves and each other.

It may take us awhile to forgive this man who killed and injured so many. We may fall to fear and wonder is anywhere safe. However, what will probably happen is that we will forget. The screen of our memory will refresh to the news of the next day and the next. Numbness settles in, deeper and deeper.

In times like these, we are tempted to circle up and seek for safety and security within our own self-prescribed perimeter of comfort.

However…

We do not want to fall victim ourselves, as the songwriters warn, to doubt, uncertainty, unbelief…

No. Let us have the courage as Christ-followers to reach out, crossing whatever boundaries that separate us; to love each other as Jesus commanded us. It starts with the forgiveness God gives us which empowers us to forgive others.

Worship with me [music in link].

We’ve prayed the prayer with no reply
Words float off into the night
Couldn’t cut our doubt with the sharpest knife
O, O God forgive us
Silence isn’t comfortable
We want drive-through peace and instant hope
Our shallow faith it has left us broke
O, O God forgive us
O, O God forgive us

A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us

Young and old, black and white
Rich and poor, there’s no divide
Hear the mighty, hear the powerless, singing
O God forgive us
O God forgive us

A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us

[Spoken word – KB]Photo Credit: Rapzilla

Forgive us
Yes we have ignored you
So busy doing your work
That we forgot that this was
For
You

Arms wide to our homeless Savior
But arms crossed to our homeless neighbor
On bended knee
Unite us all
Set us free

With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide

O, O God forgive us
A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us.

Run wild. To risk everything. To hold nothing back.
To lay it all on the line: your reputation, your success, your comfort.
It’s that moment when fear is overcome by faith. Live free.
It’s not the liberty to do whatever you want whenever and wherever you want,
But rather it’s living in accordance with the author of humanity
And finding freedom by connecting with the creator who conceived you.
Let the light flood into your eyes for the first time.
Feeling the blood course through your veins, finding the truest version of yourself
By knowing the one who knows you even better than you know yourself.
Love strong. Because you were first loved. Because without love we all perish.
Because the earth and the stars can and will pass away, but love, love will always remain*

*Lyrics & Quote – Behind the Song: for KING & COUNTRY Shares the Heart Behind Their Single “O God Forgive Us (feat. KB)

Forgiveness – The Lord’s Prayer – an Eight-part Series Exploring Its Meaning Line by Line – Bill Kolb

Worship Wednesday – Only God’s Shoulders Are Big Enough – Shoulders – for King & Country

Blog - Shoulders - 2Photo Credit: YouTube

[Adapted from the Archives]

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills–From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.”Psalm 121

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:28-29

[After several days of grieving over a series of events meant to divide our country right now and a natural disaster and national catastrophe across the ocean, I needed the reminder that our shoulders are not strong enough to bear these burdens…only God’s shoulders can carry us through all our days.]

There are wonderful and terrible things in this life I do not understand. The cycles of seasons. The next breath. The birth of a baby. The death of a young mother. A world crumbling under the weight of its own sin. At the same time, a world still sustaining life in exquisite beauty in the face of centuries of war. How is all this possible?

We are carried. By a God who loves us, comes alongside us, and lifts us up out of the muck and mire of our troubles. He shoulders our burdens. I am daily grateful to Him for that, because our shoulders are too small and weak for the task. Even when I don’t see God in a situation, I know, by faith and by experience, that He is present. How would we bear the wonders without Someone to praise for them? How would we bear the deep wrongs of this world without knowing, deep in our hearts, that He carries us?

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Some of you go forth to your daily labors and you find the place of your service to be a real wilderness, full of trial and everything that is unpleasant to you. Yet look again, with eyes touched with Heaven’s eye-salve and, instead of seeing the bitter poverty, and the grinding toil, and the daily trial, you will begin to see that God is in it all and, ‘underneath are the everlasting arms!’ You shall go cheerfully home to Heaven, borne up by God. He who made you will carry you! He who loves you will bear you all the days of old till you shall come unto the Mountain of God and stand in your lot at the end of the days!”*

Luke and Joel Smallbone, of the group for King & Country, write so honestly about the Shoulders of God. The writing comes out of their personal experience of both a life-threatening illness and the birth of a child. It’s no longer a new song, but it draws me back to the truth of what is most real in our lives. Watch their video linked below which visually tells stories some of which we have also experienced. Thankful for these guys who help me to worship God as He is. Strong and true.

Worship with me:

When confusion’s my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near
When I’m caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I’ll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

CHORUS
My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

My help is from You
Don’t have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don’t have to see it, ‘cause I know, ‘cause I know it’s true.**

Blog - Shoulders - for King & CountryPhoto Credit: www.forkingandcountry.com

A Kingdom Agenda Strategy for Community Transformation – Tony Evans

Baptist Global Response

*The Everlasting Arms by Charles Spurgeon

YouTube Video (Lyrics) – Shoulders – for King & Country

YouTube Video – Shoulders – for King & Country – Official Video

YouTube Video – Shoulders Live on K-Love with For King & Country

See It First: Go Behind the Scenes of For King & Country’s Powerful Video, ‘Shoulders

**K-Love – Lyrics to Shoulders by songwriters Luke Smallbone, Joel Smallbone, Ben Glover, Tedd Tjornhom

Story Behind the Song – Shoulders – NewReleaseTuesday.com Interview with Luke Smallbone

For Hope: Luke Smallbone Finds Grace in the Darkness

Teach Your Children Well…12 Essential Lessons of Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I married late in life, and the children came even later. Parenting wasn’t an instinctual process for me. Fortunately, mentors came along at pivotal times, as did parents whom I did not want to be like. Between the two, I found my way.

Feeding, clothing, and protecting children are all crucial…but what do we teach them? What are the essential lessons of life?

Two old songs come to mind when I think of the sober nature of teaching our children what they must learn for life. The old folk/rock group Crosby, Stills, and Nash & Young wrote and performed Teach Your Children. Graham Nash wrote the lyrics out of his painful relationship with an absent, sometimes imprisoned, father. Nash’s message is that we have to teach our children to make a better life…if not better world.

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught is the other deeply emotional song out of the musical South Pacific. This song points to racial prejudice and cultural bias, and how hatred must be taught to children when they are young. Mandy Patinkin‘s version of this song communicates its meaning powerfully.

Although hatred or bias can be taught, even from an early age, such dreadful things can also be caught over time in culture. Things like entitlement, dishonesty, greed, and irresponsibility. We as parents (teachers and employers also) have a huge role in guiding children and young people to mature into caring and responsible adults…even in a culture that may cut across the grain of our own values.

I’d like to explore what we must teach our children. Intentionally, with meaningful purpose. Catching those teachable moments and seasons. Some things are more “caught than taught”, as the saying goes. Kids will catch some values living in close proximity to us and others. That makes the case, as well, for how we choose to live and what companions we seek for ourselves and our children.

More Is Caught Than Taught – Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni

When our children were young, we taught them a set of rules which we honored in our home. The 21 Rules of This House by Gregg and Joshua Harris. These rules were, in ways, simplistic but also comprehensive enough to help us create a safe, orderly, and loving home, where children AND parents had the same expectations. Photo Credit: Choosing HomeSchool Curriculum

Our children are grown now, out on their own. Two of them are already in the season of small ones and will establish their own essentials for teaching their children.

This is a reminder to them of their own family values…I hope it’s also a help to you. These are 12 essential lessons of life. They are not comprehensive. I would love to hear what you think should have been there as well, in the Comments section below. Thanks.

1) Love God – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” – Jesus – Matthew 22:37-38 If you are reading this and don’t share a faith in one God, then this won’t have meaning for you. Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandments of the law (in that day, they were burdened by the weight of over 600 laws). His answer? Love God with everything in your being. Clearly it’s good for us to do and something parents can model and teach from the time children are tiny.

2) Love others – You shall love your neighbor as yourself.– Jesus – Matthew 22:39  Jesus didn’t stop at the greatest commandment. He added this one as just second to the most important. Love others. Not just your buddies. Not just those like you…but whomever neighbor is…the nobody, the every man. Jesus was clear in his instruction in “as yourself”. However it is we would serve ourselves, we give of ourselves to those around us. Wow! Great wisdom to teach our children.

3) Be obedient (honoring) – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” – Ephesians 6:1-3 What a struggle it is for us to teach our children to obey! What a developmental milestone when they get it! Not after we count to 3, or 10…or whatever other enticement to obey comes to mind. Immediate obedience – in attitude and action.

Raising in our children in huge cities made it crucial for them to obey the instant they heard us speak to them, especially over the noise of the city. One thing we did was a bird call (a whistle sounding “bob, bobwhite”. When they heard they looked up and started heading in our direction immediately. I still marvel when even today, that still gets their big grown-up attention.

More on obedience can be found here.

Photo Credit: Flickr

4) Be grateful. – Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18  God’s Word is filled with examples and encouragements toward being grateful (here are just a few). Jesus’ life was a testament of thankfulness to God the Father, and He taught us to pray with thanksgiving. Our kids grew up with The Thankful Song (from the Veggie Tales Madame Blueberry video) – “A grateful heart is a happy heart; that’s why we say thanks everyday.”

The Power of Gratitude – 21 Verses of Thanks to God – Debbie McDaniel

Avoid Raising an Entitled Child – 5 Strategies That Really Work – Amy McCready

5) Speak the truth. – Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. – Proverbs 12:22 The worst offense in our home was lying. Jesus spoke of Satan as being the father of lies (John 8:44). Telling the truth is something we model and something, I hope, our children value highly in their adult lives. No spin, no deception…straight-up truth. Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

6) Work with diligence and excellence. – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.Colossians 3:23   In grasping this lesson, children learn perseverance, patience, and an understanding of the value of work. Our youngest struggled with academics and he would say, about homework, “I just want to get it done!” As he matured, he moved his lament to more of a charge of “get it done and done well”. Watching him grow in that continues to make us so proud of him.

12 Ways to Glorify God at Work – Jose Etter

7) Seek joy. – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persistent in prayer. – (Romans 12:12) Grumbling, discontent, and whining are such a part of human nature. When we count our situation joy, whatever it is, everyone wins. Other verses here.

8) Seek peace. – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:9) Sometimes we crave peace, and we’ll do anything to get it. Our children don’t need to learn how to be peace-keepers but to be peace-makers. It’s not about giving way to the one causing trouble, for instance. It’s developing relational skills to bring peace to a situation, resolving the conflict. More verses here on peace.

9) Be forgiving. – Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.Colossians 3:13 Holding grudges and distancing ourselves from others in un-forgiveness is no way to live. Forgiving because we are forgiven carries with it a deep loving perspective. Helping our children understand how to forgive, especially little ones who have been gravely hurt by others, is huge. More on forgiveness.

10) See beauty; create beauty. – He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 My children tease me sometimes because they say I think everyone out there is handsome/pretty. God has given me eyes to see, maybe as He sees. He creates beauty and He means for us to see and appreciate it…and create beautiful things ourselves.Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Our children are all musicians (one professionally) or writers . They create beauty as we all can…in some way or another.

Nathan Mills -Beyond The Guitar

Top 10 Bible Verses about Art with Commentary

Saying Beautifully as a Way of Seeing Beauty – John Piper

11) Be kind. – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – (Ephesians 4:32) Again, years ago, when our kids were very young, they participated in a Vacation Bible School and learned a little song on kindness. “K-I-N-D, Love Is Kind”. I couldn’t find it anywhere for today’s blog, but the message stuck in all our heads. One of the simplest ways to show love is to be kind – to be generous and caring in our consideration of others. The Scripture points often to kindness in loving each other.

Be Kind to One Another – John Piper

12) Serve others. – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.Hebrews 13:16 This lesson of serving others is one I actually struggled to teach well. I fell into the excuse (like many in America do) that they had so much homework, so many assignments to complete, that they should just have fun when they had the time. Serving could have totally been a “fun” way of life. I hope our children do better with teaching serving than I did. More on serving here.Photo Credit: Niagara

In closing, I’ve left off many things. Critical thinking is one. Physical purity another. In fact, do you remember that little song, “Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.” Our kids knew that in English and Arabic.

Still probably the greatest lesson across the years of childhood (which goes along with the two greatest commandments Jesus taught) is the one Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, taught us.

Let (your) heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.

We want to teach our children to do right, for for the sake of others and for themselves, and to stand up for what is right.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6

Let Your Heart Be Broken – Jeremiah 8, 9 – Rick Ezell

Bible Verses on Injustice

Love Your Neighbor – the Resilience Movie and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Earlier this week, I had the privilege to attend a screening of the film Resilience. This documentary introduces the health issue of Adverse Childhood Experiences* (ACEs) and how, if unchecked, lead to adulthood diseases and dysfunction. This was both alarming and eye-opening for me. A closely related issue had already captured my interest – Trauma Healing – involving intervention with children and adults displaced and wounded by wars, famine, and other calamities.

The long-term impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences was first identified in a huge and significant study done in the 90’s by Dr. Vincent Felitti and Dr. Robert Anda. You can read more of the study, but the main take-away for me is that children who experienced trauma, and do not experience informed intervention, will have compounded health issues through their adult life.

Dr. Robert Block, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, had this observation: “Adverse childhood experiences are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today.”

Drs. Felitti and Anda developed a short 10-question questionnaire which can be used by any one of us to identify risks in our children or self-identify high risk. After watching the film, I came home and decided to take the ACE quiz to see what my numbers were. My numbers were low.

Take the ACE Quiz and Learn What It Does and Doesn’t Mean.

[PDF of 10-question ACE Quiz]

However, looking longer at the quiz, I thought of my mom (whose childhood – growing up in poverty with an alcoholic and abusive father – was very different from mine). Even though my childhood had some adversity, Mom buffered our lives from some stresses we would have experienced. I also thought of others in my family and among our friends who have had to endure much tougher childhoods. They are all adults now, so I wondered what their options were to reverse some of the trauma and build resilience. This research and the trauma-informed care that has developed out of it give tremendous hope.

There are so many resources now available to us to heal and help others heal. One of the young pioneers in this field is Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. Here is a bit of her take on the issue of ACEs and their impact on adult health:

As San Francisco pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris recently explained to host Ira Glass on the radio program, “This American Life”, if you’re in a forest and see a bear, a very efficient fight or flight system instantly floods your body with adrenaline and cortisol and shuts off the thinking portion of your brain that would stop to consider other options. This is very helpful if you’re in a forest and you need to run from a bear. “The problem is when that bear comes home from the bar every night,” she said.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and faux patient (for the photo)

If a bear threatens a child every single day, his emergency response system is activated over and over and over again. He’s always ready to fight or flee from the bear, but the part of his brain – the prefrontal cortex – that’s called upon to diagram a sentence or do math becomes stunted, because, in our brains, emergencies – such as fleeing bears – take precedence over doing math.

For Harris’ patients who had four or more categories of adverse childhood experiences “their odds of having learning or behavior problems in school were 32 times as high as kids who had no adverse childhood experiences,” she told Glass. – Jane Ellen Stevens, Aces Too High

[TED Talk – How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime – Dr. Nadine Burke Harris]

If you are like me, you will want to learn more and be a part of trauma-informed care, you can search for local agencies to help. In our city, we have a cooperative called Greater Richmond Trauma-Informed Community Network. I am looking forward to taking advantage of training and volunteering through this agency.

This may be very new knowledge for you. It was for me. Huge “light-bulb” experience. There are children out there put on medication for ADHD when (after further evaluation) are struggling to attend in the classroom because they are chronically on edge (as Dr. Harris defined with the constant threat of an attacking bear).  What a difference could be made in these children’s lives if their stressors are properly confirmed and then counseling for them and education for their parents/other support adults are initiated.

To think about how children who have been traumatized will still bear that trauma through their adult lives and bodies is unthinkable. Now that we know better.

Have a look at the ACEs Quiz. Pour over the infographics.  Learn from the links below.  Think about your own situation and that of those you love or serve (in a classroom, community/medical setting, faith-based institution). Then act…it could mean longer and higher quality of life. Resilience and healing can come out of this.

In closing, I would love to hear something of your take on all this. What did you discover in taking the ACEs quiz? What was your score?

Photo Credit: Donna Jackson Nakazawa

Photo Credit: Donna Jackson Nakazawa

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study — the largest, most important public health study you never heard of — began in an obesity clinic

*Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Life-long Consequences of Trauma – The American Academy of Pediatrics

Resilience the Film

TED Talk – How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime – Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nagazawa

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study – the Largest Public Health Study You Never Heard of, Part 3 – Jane Ellen Stevens

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – CDC

Infographic – Road to Resilience – 10 Ways to Build Resilience – Mercy Family Counseling

Photo Credit: Pinterest

5 Friday Faves – Christmas YouTube Videos, Peace on Earth – Good Will Toward All, Tim Tebow Miracle, Christmas Ad & Language of Love, and Mary’s Song

Happy Friday! We are now in that strange time warp of December – holding on tight as the days as fly past! Still, we will not be vanquished as we seize the moments to savor the joy and meaning of this Christmas season. Here are some of my favorite finds of this week to give wonder, make you chuckle, or just to enjoy over coffee on your break today. Blessings!

1) Christmas YouTube Videos – What are some of your favorites? (Please post in Comments)

2) Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward All – There’s something about Christmas that gentles the hearts of people toward each other. Ceasefires in the many wars around the world…kindnesses to strangers…reaching out to those in hard places. Situations when we see the face of Jesus in those who don’t necessarily believe as we do. Here is a story about a restaurant serving homeless and elderly on Christmas Day…lovely. (Jesus taught us this and lived this- Mark 12:30-31)Photo Credit: Independent

3) Tim Tebow Miracle – As talented and relentless an athlete as Tim Tebow is, his career has had many detours and disappointments. Yet, he is never disappointed in his God. In his book, Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms, he shares how God…this big faithful God…showed up for him, time and time again. In an interview with Harry Connick, Jr., he talked about the game as the Denver Broncos quarterback when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs (2012).  Amazing story. Read it here or watch in video below.

4) Christmas Ad & Language of Love – In my 40s, I learned Arabic… Living in Cairo, Egypt, at the time, I wanted to be able to communicate to my neighbors and friends. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done…but I did it, not for any intellectual satisfaction, but out of love. This Christmas ad out of Poland (but in English) reminds me of those days:

5) Mary’s SongFrancesca Battistelli wrote a song “Be Born in Me” of how it must have been for the Virgin Mary on receiving the word from God that she would carry and bear the Messiah for the whole world. The message to my own heart is give space for the Messiah as well. Beautiful.

As you go through this day and the weekend…be safe…enjoy the best of this season…and save space for the wonder of the Christ child…and the Messiah Himself…to be home in your heart forever.

353 Prophecies Fulfilled in Jesus Christ

5 Friday Faves – Hurricane Matthew, Engaging Older Adults, Life After Downton, Leading Change, and a Fall Evening

Blog - Friday Faves 006 (2)

It’s Friday, and tomorrow Hurricane Matthew is supposed to move into Virginia. Wind and rain. Hopefully we won’t lose power, but over a million folks in Florida did, so we wait and see.

Here are my favorite finds of this week. Two are actually blogs by the same writer, Carey Nieuwhof. He is a wise leader and gives excellent counsel to those of us who also want to lead well.

  1. Hurricane Matthew – The Caribbean and Florida have been hit hard by this week’s hurricane. A Category 4 storm through the Caribbean and now Category 3, passing through Florida and into Georgia tonight. Hundreds of deaths and the storm devastation is massive. I am so thankful for disaster response agencies who take definitive action quickly in times like this. Baptist Global Response (BGR) is that kind of organization, working with local partners to help in the life-saving areas of clean water, food security, shelter and supplies and general health of the peoples most hard-hit. Because of the work of other NGO’s already in Haiti, BGR is targeting its disaster relief efforts on Cuba.blog-hurricane-matthew-commondreamsblog-hurricane-matthew-wtvrPhoto Credit: Common Dreams; WTVR

2) Engaging Older Adults – Carey Nieuwhof posted a helpful 5 points list on engaging older adults. Shut Down the Bus Tours: What Older Church Members Should Really Be Doing. This post could just as easily been written any group of older adults who could be a tremendous resource if engaged…otherwise they are going to just keep getting on those buses.blog-senior-citizens-bus-tours-angeltourPhoto Credit: AngelTour

Not that older adults don’t deserve vacations after so many years in the work force and serving in their churches and families. Still, Nieuwhof makes a serious case for mobilizing seniors back into service where they are needed to mentor, model, guide, and cast vision for the next generations. The Fall Leaf bus tours are upon us, but we also need these valuable men and women among us as well.

3) Life After Downton – What to Watch Now – I do miss Downton Abbey, but fortunately we do have other viewing options. Amazon Screening Room lists out lovely period pieces that can scratch our itch for Downton. Two I’ve already watched are Doctor Thorne and Grantchester. Would love to hear some of your recommendations!blog-dr-thorneblog-after-downtonPhoto Credit: Screening Room

4) Leading Change – Canadian pastor, Carey Nieuwhof, is also a writer and speaker on leadership. carey-nieuwhof-blogPhoto Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

He wrote Leading Change Without Losing It: 5 Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition. In a blog this week, he takes from his book, focusing on how to lead through change in the face of opposition. A few of his observations are:

  • People aren’t opposed to change nearly as much as they are opposed to change they didn’t think of.
  • Usually no more than 10% of the people you lead are opposed to change.
  • Fear of opposition derails more leaders than actual opposition.
  • Buy-in happens most fully when people understand why, rather than what or how.

5) Firepit on a Fall Evening with S’Mores – This week marks the true arrival of Fall here with temperatures dropping and leaves just beginning to turn colors. We had our first marshmallow roast on an outdoor fire. Making S’mores – that camping treat of graham crackers, Hershey’s chocolate bars, and melted marshmallows. Thus marking the start of my favorite season. Lots of pics to follow of brilliant Fall leaves and fun times outside without the heat of summer.blog-smores-and-a-firepit

Be safe out there. Hope you East Coasters in the States are not too troubled by Hurricane Matthew. Have a restful weekend. Leave us your favorite finds of the week in the Comments below. Thanks.

Worship Wednesday – No More Night – David Phelps

Blog - Walk in the Light - Truth for LifePhoto Credit: Truth For Life

This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.1 John 1:5-7

This has been one of those weeks where the sheer weight of the hatred in this world seems to bear down on us all – in excruciating loss, deep grief, and beliefs in crosshairs.

Facebook and other social media are filled with caustic and accusatory comments, pointing fingers of blame at various religious and political groups. One brief item on my Twitter-feed raised the possibility that random costly hate crimes were becoming a new normal.

No. I won’t receive that. Not yet anyway.

God calls His children to shine His light into the dark places of the world. His light, not our own. His light that radiates love and life. If we hole ourselves off in church buildings where prayer and serving, praise and preaching are carefully hidden inside the walls, the world continues broken and unaltered. Something has to change…truly.

Jen Hatmaker wrote yesterday on her Facebook page about the Christian response to the horrific domestic terror attack this past week: “I’ve seen Christians everywhere promising to pray for the victims and their families and their communities. I wonder what might happen if everyone actually does? What might God do if millions of Christians begin praying for comfort and love toward the LGBTQ community? Relational healing? Crazier things have happened.

Perhaps instead of saying “we’re sad” this week, we should begin with “we’re sorry.”

Not: We’re sorry but…
Not: We’re sorry if…
Not: We’re sorry as long as…

Just: We’re sorry. Full stop.

I believe glory would inhabit that sort of humility and repentance, like it always has. NOBODY should be able to out-love God’s people. We should be Grand Champion Lovers of People, and everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone should know it, see it, feel it, experience it, bask it in, and be drawn to it.

When my youngest son re-posted this on his Facebook page, I responded:

We are sorry…deeply sorry for this and all atrocities around the world done in the name of some idea or religion that took hold because we were not so revolutionary in love as the One who first loved us…even us.

These days, when someone says, “I’m sorry”, the usual response is “It’s not your fault.” Or “You didn’t do anything.” Aha! Maybe that’s exactly what the “I’m sorry” means here. “I’m sorry we didn’t do anything. I’m sorry you didn’t know how much Jesus loves you and me both…because you didn’t see it in my love for you.”

It may be complicated to love (or even identify with) people different from us…whether different by religion, political party, or racial/sexual identity. Still, as followers of Jesus, He calls us to love – extravagantly – even those who consider us enemies.

We have no excuse.

A young acquaintance of mine during this week of shock and shaming added his own voice to the situation. I know him from our church, but he has since moved away, back home to a distant city. He posted that he only came to church for the people not for God. How  could the church be winsome, and God not be? How did we manage to love him in such a way that he would miss falling in love with God?

Jenn Hatmaker, in a later post, would apologize for lobbing a possible “shame grenade”. That is also not my desire. The Christian community sadly  should be used to friendly (and not-so-friendly) fire by now, especially related to how we are perceived as not showing love to one minority or another. What matters is not what we do with attacks or shaming,  but what we do with the very Word of God, and the wholly loving life of Jesus.

Blog - No More Night - Shine - slidesharePhoto Credit: SlideShare

This is what’s been banging around in my head over the last several days. What a gift God has given us in this life of ours…until we are here no more, He calls us to love loud, to live boldly, and to speak His healing and reconciling Word not just to and with other believers…but to a world of all sorts of people whom He also loves

Until Heaven…this is our calling.

Worship with me to this old song about Heaven. Sung by David Phelps, it reminds us of a day when pain will truly be over for those who have put their lives in the care of a Redeemer God. As we look to that day, may we be more resolved than ever to boldly and tirelessly share truth and love with all those around us. It is His desire for us all to be with Him forever

The timeless theme, Earth and Heaven will pass away
It’s not a dream, God will make all things new that day
Gone is the curse from which I stumbled and fell
Evil is banished to eternal hell

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

See all around, now the nations bow down to sing
The only sound is the praises to Christ, our King
Slowly the names from the book are read
I know the King, so there’s no need to dread

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

See over there, there’s a mansion
Oh, that’s prepared just for me
Where I will live with my Savior eternally

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

All praises to the great “I AM”
Were gonna live in the light of the risen Lamb*

*Lyrics to No More Night – Songwriter – Walter S. Harris

Be the Church – A City on a Hill – Powerpoint Presentation – FPBC

David Phelps and His Daughter Sing the Most Breathtaking Duet – Agnus Dei

Blog - No More Night - YouTubePhoto Credit: YouTube

Love Your Neighbor – the Audacity of Thinking We Are Always the Strong One…or the Weaker One

Blog - Strong or Weak

Photo Credit: PostCalvinist

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.Romans 14:1

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Romans 15:1

Take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.1 Corinthians 8:9

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” – Jesus – Matthew 7:3-5

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
 – 1 Thessalonians 5:14

Whether you are a Christ-follower or not, there is so much wisdom in the teaching of Jesus and his apostles who wrote for the generations to follow.

Take his teaching on the weaker brother…his teaching is often directed to that “stronger brother”, but the wisdom is there for both of us. Through life, we may be one or the other, depending on how our thinking changes or how culture changes.

Many of the world religions require a certain works-based practice of those who would be devout. In Christianity, we are called to right living but we are not saved by right living. Because of what Jesus did to redeem us, we are free. Free to live, not under Law and its penalty when we fail, but to do righteousness out of love not obligation.

So what happens, when we experience the withering judgment of a seemingly legalistic “weaker” brother? Or on the flip side, the condescension of a “stronger” brother flaunting his freedom?

Social media (especially Facebook and Twitter) are brutally reflective of such biases, whatever our faith, culture, or politics. Here’s an area where I am that “weaker one”. Nowhere in Scripture are we forbidden generally from drinking alcoholic beverages. We are warned against drunkenness only. Years ago, I made a very conscious decision to stop drinking (for many reasons which may end up in my writing one day). Your drinking is not an issue for me…unless (here’s my weakness) it appears, through social media or from the pulpit, you flaunt your freedom in this way. I struggle with that. With so many of us, in the church and out, who have histories of addictions or loss related to addiction, I don’t understand that regaling of freedom. This is just one of my “weaker one” struggles. Any you want to share? Or “stronger one” struggles? We all have them.

Jesus and, in particular, the Apostle Paul are so clear on how we are to respond to each other – both weak and strong – with deference, love, and patience. Not enabling a legalistic clouding of what we are meant to have in Christ nor disabling our witness through arrogance or contempt.

In the article Who is the Weaker Brother? linked below, we are introduced to Garry Friesen’s teaching on the topic. In his book,  Decision Making and the Will of God, he points to four areas where we are either weak, or strong: conviction, biblical knowledge, conscience or will. If we limit our definition to just one of these areas, we also may err in how we deal, in patience, with each other.

From the Scripture, Friesen gives what he considers is God’s definition of the weaker brother: “A weaker brother (or sister) is a Christian who, because of the weakness of his faith, knowledge, conscience, and will, can be influenced to sin against his conscience by the example of a differing stronger brother.”

He then offers a like definition of the stronger brother: “The stronger brother (or sister) is a Christian who, because of his understanding of Christian freedom and the strength of his conviction, exercises his liberty in good conscience without being improperly influenced by the differing opinions of others.”

Both of these definitions encourages us to live in the freedom that we have through Christ and at the same time to seek unity with one another, even when we don’t agree. Especially in the area of  non-essential or disputable matters of preference.

One last distinction Friesen makes relates to what we see in Scripture as a “stumbling block”. This phrase is used in the active and passive. The stronger one in the faith is NOT to intentionally place a stumbling block in the path of a weaker one; i.e. not intentionally trying to influence a person to stumble, or sin. However, the weaker one is also NOT to take offense by the one who attempts to cause him to stumble. This is the beautiful teaching of Christ. The both/and of the Gospel. The call to love, no matter what.

Blog - weaker or stronger - stumbling block - lionhearteaglePhoto Credit: LionHeartEagle

Finally, in Adam Miller’s piece Mishandled – the Weaker Brother (linked below), he distinguishes between a truly weaker brother and three impostors. They are the legalistic weaker brother, the professional weaker brother, and the illusive weaker brother. Take the time to read these brief definitions of those of us who consider ourselves “weaker brothers” (or sisters) but who are really acting in ways that divide the church (or community). Miller also references one of the great sermons of D. A. Carson where he addresses those who would detract from the beautiful sufficiency of Christ to restore us to God.

When I think of how Christ calls us to love our neighbor, He calls us not just to those who are so like us we could see them in our own mirrors. He calls us to those “weaker” and “stronger” than us. It is an easy thing for me to love and hang out with those who agree with me. How much more God means for us to lean in to those with whom we struggle because of their life choices, or elevated (or demeaning) sense of self, or stations in life.

Can we do that…without compromising or stumbling in our faith? We can if our love for Christ is rock-solid and we allow Him to mark out the boundaries of our lives. If He is our example, He will fill our lives with both the weaker and the stronger…for our good and theirs, and for His glory…as He’s promised.

Who Is the Weaker Brother? Excellent Review of Garry Friesen’s book – Decision Making and the Will of God – on the Section Dealing With this Topic

Mishandled – The Weaker Brother (Part 2) by Adam Miller

The Weaker and Stronger Brothers (Parts 1, 2, and 3) by J. Gordon Duncan

How to Welcome a Weak Brother by John Piper

Go, Ye, Therefore and Be Enablers – This is a hair-raiser. A very different view than I have taken but one that may be familiar to you.

Decision Making and the Will of God – Garry Friesen – 25th Anniversary Expanded Edition

Love Your Neighbor – Henrico Christmas Mother Revisited – How You Helped and Still Can

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Henrico Christmas Mother is a great local charity which I recently featured on this blog. Read there for the details. Today I just wanted to revisit their efforts as they come to the culmination of those efforts in their Christmas distributions starting this week. Henrico Christmas Mother is such a great success story in serving our county’s neighbors in need. The success of this charity is driven by the phenomenal support of hundreds of volunteers, schools, and local businesses.

The doors open on Thursday for the elderly, disabled, and families to receive your donations of love and care. Over the weekend, Harriet Long, president of the Council of Henrico Christmas Mother, and her husband Ken toured us around the facility where all this care for our neighbors is displayed.

2015 December - Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog, Crosstrain and Friends 001 (19)2015 December - Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog, Crosstrain and Friends 001 (18)

The sight of all the toys, food, clothing, and gift items is joyously overwhelming. Donations from students, families, and staff of Henrico County public schools as well as generous help from employees from the county government and other volunteers make for an amazing experience for these families in need. As an example, Moody Middle School  collected 2855 pairs of socks for Christmas Mother. 2855 pairs of socks!

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Local clubs, businesses, and churches are also incredibly generous in their help of these families.  The bicycles below are donated by Richmond Area Bicycle Association. Other bike donations come from Henrico County agencies as well as individual donors.2015 December - VCU Holiday Gala, Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog 085

The carload of stuffed animals and books below came from the Lifeway Christian Store in Richmond. So many companies, organizations, and local businesses donate money, time, food, and clothing to Henrico Christmas Mother…for the sake of our neighbors.Blog - Christmas Mother - Lifeway donation

On Thursday and through all the days of distribution, the toys and other gifts will be out of boxes and on display for moms and others to choose for their children. What an experience to be a part of helping to make for a happy Christmas!2015 December - VCU Holiday Gala, Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog 055Council Members Mary Shaia and Harriet Long2015 December - VCU Holiday Gala, Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog 075Council President Harriet Long and #1 Volunteer, Ken Long

As a citizen of Henrico County, I want to thank this year’s Christmas Mother, Beverly Cocke, and all the Council members who are the driving force for Henrico Christmas Mother. You make it easy for us to be a part of loving our neighbors…and there’s still time to help (see below).2015 December - VCU Holiday Gala, Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog 073

Also don’t miss the video from the Henrico County Public Schools. There is still time to donate to this great cause to make this Christmas a brighter one – for these neighbors of ours:

Please consider a contribution to this year’s Henrico Christmas Mother:

Material Donations will be accepted weekdays from 9am – 3pm from Thursday, December 3, to Thursday, December 17, at the Henrico Christmas Mother Warehouse, 361 Dabbs House Road.

To arrange delivery at other times, please call 804-236-9741.

Consider donating:

New toys:
New clothing – especially hats and gloves
New books
Non-perishable food items
New blankets (full or queen size) or other gifts for seniors or adults with disabilities

Spreading Christmas Cheer – Henrico Citizen

Love Your Neighbor – Henrico Christmas Mother – How We Can Help

5 Friday Faves – On Foster Care, Losing Control, Best Bakeries, Pornography, and Efficiency

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! I have guests visiting from out of country so writing time has taken a back seat to sweet times with friends. Still, what a week this has been in discovery. I chose just five favorites but would love to hear (in Comments below) what some of your faves of this week are. Learning is one of my favorite pastimes.

  1. On Foster Care    – It’s dangerous for me to start with such a topic because many will click out of this blog just on reading the title (“Not me”; “Not interested”). Foster care is not for everyone, but it has to be for some of us. What if we worked together to provide safe and loving homes for every child in crisis? Chris Campbell and Team of 111Tulsa, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, started just such an initiative. I read a bit of the story in his wife’s blog  A Turning Point then I wrote about foster care. We can care for these children together.Blog - Foster LetterPhoto Credit: AshleyAnnPhotography.com

2.  On Losing Control – This week, a blog by Jenilee Goodwin entitled The End of Me popped up in my inbox on a busy day. It might have gone unread except for that title. My Mom, my life-long best friend and the head cheerleader of Team Me, died over a decade ago. That was a grace-covered jolt to my sense of life and its dependability. God helped me through that long season of grief because He had already brought me through an “end of me” experience very similar to the one Jenilee describes in her blog. Crossing cultures and learning languages and the raw not-doing-anything-well are huge opportunities to see how tenuous our “control” is. God is dependable; our circumstances are not. Her piece was beautiful and deeply personal. Wherever you are in life, you will gain much by reading her story.Blog - Mom's funeral

3. On Best Bakeries – When Business Insider does an photo-splashed article on The Best Bakery in Every State, I took the time to read it. Or should I say “savor it” – without endangering my health. Finding that the “best bakery” in Virginia to be Blackbird Bakery in Bristol (as far across the state from us as could be found), I will drop my own “Best Bakery” in here. For doughnuts anyway, that bakery is the Westhampton Pastry Shop.  Ridiculously yummy. What’s your favorite?

Blog - Best Bakery - Westhampton Pastry Shop

Photo Credit: Westhampton Pastry Shop, yelp.com

4) On Pornography – A very serious topic – I placed it on purpose under “best bakeries” because there are all kinds of addictions. The scary difference is the fact that some addictions have outward presentations (like food, drug, and alcohol addictions). Not pornography. Addiction to pornography can do its damage in the quiet and isolation of one’s personal space in front of a screen (phone, tablet, computer). Yet, its damage reaches into relationships, career, and even our own anatomy and physiology. This Is Your Brain on Porn probably won’t deter someone addicted to pornography, but it could sound a warning that what you think is “not hurting anyone” really is…those you love…and you.Blog - Your Brain on PornPhoto Credit: Ideapod, Churchm.ag

5) On Efficiency – If you got this far, you are in for a huge treat. This week, as I watch friends go through a company downsizing, the subject came up of efficiency and effectiveness. Does one necessarily lead to the other? Are they the same? In learning more about that, I came across this happy little article by Eric Gilbertson on the push for efficiency in our colleges and universities – The Pursuit of Efficiency and the Pursuit of Folly. Sweet article. Then the book Team of Teams which my husband recently read (devoured really) came to mind. General McChrystal writes brilliantly about adaptability, not efficiency, as our greatest need in the workplace of the 21st century. Work matters…and the people doing the work matter. Get this book…your appetite will be whetted by the articles linked below.Blog - Efficiency and Adaptability - General McChrystal

Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal

Efficiency in Business Isn’t Key Says Retired General

Gen. Stanley McChrystal: Adapt to win in the 21st Century

Work Smart – Let General Stanley McChrystal Explain Why Adaptability trumps Hierarchy – Forget everything you ever knew about your company’s org chart—and that’s an order.

The Tim Ferriss Experiment – General Stan McChrystal on Eating One Meal Per Day, Special Ops, and Mental Toughness

Your Brain On Porn

Love Your Neighbor – Foster Parenting & Adoption – Every Child in a Safe and Loving Home – www.debmillswriter.com