Tag Archives: Neighbors

Every Breath’s a Gift – Great Are You, Lord – All Sons and Daughters

Photo Credit: MVFC1

In a few days, it will be a year since this non-smoker received a lung cancer diagnosis (Stage One, fortunately). Over these last several months, breath and breathing have become something very precious to me. You can tell when you search my blog archives for either topic. We take breathing so for granted, even when we acknowledge that every breath’s a gift. That rhythmic rise and fall in our chest that strengthens and refreshes us. Breathing just happens.

Until it doesn’t.

There have only been two times as an adult that I couldn’t get my breath. The first was eight months ago (you can read about it here.) The second time was less than 48 hours ago.

For the second time in my life, I was surprised, just before bedtime, by a rapid and terrifying development of shortness of breath and quickly got to the place that Dave had to call 911. He was still talking to the dispatcher when we heard the sirens.

So thankful for our local fire department and rescue squad.

We live in a quiet neighborhood, and most of the residents are older. The rescue squad shows up often here, and, of course, no one wants to be the one on the receiving end of their excellent care. Every time it happens, a neighbor or two stand sentinel in the road watching and hoping for a good report. While the rescue squad was getting me stabilized and Dave was waiting in his car to follow to the hospital, he would tell me later of a neighbor standing in the shadows. Not wanting to intrude but standing watch. It’s a comforting thing.

From the first hours in the emergency room through the next two days in the top floor ICU, I received excellent and thoughtful care at St. Mary’s Hospital. The crisis was averted, and the testing began again to determine the cause. The same testing that was done eight months ago. The findings were not so much different as they were the first time it happened. Maybe they were taken more seriously with it happening twice. Anyway, I am now in the care of a cardiologist with some meds on board that will hopefully help me NOT to go through this experience again.

To go from thinking you’re going to die to feeling pretty much as well as ever, within hours, is a strange and wondrous experience. We will all die one day, so it doesn’t always end as it did for me these two times of not being able to get my breath. For this, today, I am so grateful to God for breath…and I am reminded it is His to give.

The song Great Are You Lord beautifully presents this truth. The band All Sons & Daughters introduces the song in this way:

“Worship is when we give God His breath back.”

Tonight, still fresh from the frightening experience of two nights ago, I give God His breath back in praise. So thankful for a husband who acted quickly for me when I couldn’t, for trained professionals and volunteers, for watchful neighbors, for kids who show up (physically and in prayer), for praying friends and family, for all the many employees at St. Mary’s (including my own youngest son) who were kind in their care …for all of this I’m grateful.

Most of all I am so very thankful for the God who gives us breath.

I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! Death wrapped its ropes around me; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: “Please, LORD, save me!” How kind the LORD is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours! The LORD protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and he saved me. Let my soul be at rest again, for the LORD has been good to me. Psalm 116:1-7, NLT

Would you worship with me, as I am home once more, praising God for His healing and for His helpers?

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord

All the earth will shout Your praise
Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You, Lord*

*YouTube Video – Great Are You Lord – from All Sons and Daughters (Live) – written by: Jason Ingram, Leslie Jordan, David Leonard

Story Behind the Song – Great Are You Lord – from All Sons and Daughters

Worship Wednesday – Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Hillsong – Deb Mills Writer

Worship Wednesday – Friends – Michael W. Smith

Photo Credit: Pixabay

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13

Forever friends. What a grace of God! These are friends we don’t choose necessarily. They choose us, almost in spite of our own failings at being friends ourselves.

I thank God for the friends who have coursed with us across continents, through births and deaths, and in both the mundane and extraordinary of life. Today we’re settled, for the most part, and there are days, in the solitude of this current life that I wonder if I have friends (I know…silly thoughts…when too much alone).

In truth, this life of mine has been full of friends…lifelong, through all sorts of troubled water, friends.

Some of these friends turned out to be family, while others God Himself brought across our paths and a spark of commonality and community blazed into a fire. A fire that has warmed my heart from days to decades. A fire that snaps me out of my doldrums to be a better friend myself.

Am I having a kumbaya moment? Absolutely.

Friendship is not something to be trifled with in life. I’m learning (thankful for friends who have suffered long with me over the years).

Part of what has stirred this gratefulness today is in reading Scott Sauls’ book Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear. Each short but full chapter addresses a kind of friendship in our lives. Within each kind of friendship, Sauls points to the kindness and mercy of God within those relationships…and how, in both strength and weakness, we have our place.

Photo Credit: Amazon

Another writer, Dave Zuleger, exposes our cultural bias of casualness with friendships.

We need to begin defining true friendship and brotherly love not by conforming to cultural expectations, but by looking at the face of Jesus and being changed to look and love more like him (2 Corinthians 3:18). When we look at Jesus, we find a friend who loves when we are unlovable, and a brother willing to die for us, even when we didn’t deserve it. We find and experience a love utterly unlike what we normally find in ourselves, in our own hearts.

We can be such fickle friends, distancing ourselves from difficult people and situations. If someone seems too immature, too demanding, or too inconvenient, we bail. We find excuses (legitimate ones of course!) to distance ourselves from these kinds of friends. Yet, Jesus — the perfect, holy Son of God — went and hung out among wicked sinners who were extremely immature, difficult, and even dangerous (they crucified him!). – Dave Zuleger

Zuleger’s words reminded me of a very old song by Sharalee Lucas:

I see Jesus in your eyes, and it makes me love Him

I feel Jesus in your touch, and I know He cares

I hear Jesus in your voice, and it makes me listen

And I trust you with my love, because you’re His.

I see Him…Sharalee Lucas

This is the sort of friendship I’ve known. That friend who came quietly to sit with Dave during my cancer surgery. Those friends whose love for my mama has been lavished on me since her death. The friend from work who refuses to define or disdain me by my different political views. The friend neglected who gives me grace. The friends who see value in me that I don’t see. The friends who include me in their great works. The friends who love in spite of…

A cherished local friend told me recently that she was moving away within the next few months. Thinking of losing her, I was reminded of another old song about friends – the one Michael W. Smith published in 1983. We never have to lose a friend. As our travels over the last 20+ years have shown us, God gives us forever friends, not limited by time or geography. For this mercy, I will always be grateful to Him.

[BTW – for any younger friends who can’t wrap their sensibilities around this old song – I would love to know songs about friends that are super meaningful to you – so please let me know in the Comments.]

Worship with me, please…the God who calls us friend and who gives us the great grace of friends.

Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil of you
I can’t believe the hopes He’s granted
Means a chapter of your life is through
But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong
And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

And with the faith and love God’s given
Springing from the hope we know
We will pray the joy you live in
Is the strength that now you show

We’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

To live as friends

Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

No a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends*

 We need to learn to see every friendship through the lens of the work of Christ on our behalf. To see that at the cross there is more than enough grace to cover a multitude of sins committed against us. To see the cross of Christ as the depth of suffering a perfect Brother was willing to endure. We need to remember a true brother moves closer when times get harder, and never leaves or forsakes a friend, even when the trial lasts a lifetime. – Dave Zuleger
Here’s to friends (images of just a few of the many amazing friends – would put up a lot more and you would get tired of scrolling) that God has given over the years):

*Lyrics to Friends (1983)

Song Facts – Friends – Songwriters: Michael W. & Debbie Smith

The Best Friends Are Born For Adversity – Dave Zuleger

Find a Friend to Wound You – Greg Morse

Monday Morning Moment – Syrian Refugees – No One Puts Their Children On a Boat…Unless

What drives people to leave everything behind – everything they have known and owned – and board a sea-bound, over-loaded boat for an unknown future? My sense is it’s running for one’s life…rather than their path to terrorism.

These days in the US, we are adjusting to a new presidential administration and changing policies. Protests and social media wars abound. How to understand and what to really believe are challenging.

What is true?

A wise friend responded to my voiced struggle of what to think about our nation’s changing views on immigrants and refugees:

“The people trying to escape evil we want to welcome. The people who want to export evil we want to identify and shut down.”

Though not prepared myself to address the latter, I would like to highlight the plight of refugees…especially Syrian refugees. A poem I discovered just yesterday is real and riveting…and can put the reader on that sagging boat, holding our children tight, and hoping we will make it to that distant shore. With no idea what will come next.Photo Credit: CNN

Warsan Shire, a young Somali woman who grew up in London, writes deeply personal poetry about life and struggle. Her poem Home is a powerful description of the refugee experience…especially the Syrian, but it could speak to others as well [read the whole poem here].

No one leaves home unless
Home is the mouth of a shark
You only run for the border
When you see the whole city running as well

You only leave home
When home won’t let you stay.

No one leaves home unless home chases you
Fire under feet.

You have to understand,
That no one puts their children in a boat
Unless the water is safer than the land
No one burns their palms
Under trains
Beneath carriages
No one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck

No one crawls under fences
No one wants to be beaten
Pitied

No one chooses refugee camps.

Go home…

Refugees
Dirty immigrants
Asylum seekers
Sucking our country dry…
Messed up their country and now they want
To mess ours up

How do the words
The dirty looks
Roll off your backs
Maybe because the blow is softer
Than a limb torn off

I want to go home,
But home is the mouth of a shark
Home is the barrel of the gun
And no one would leave home
Unless home chased you to the shore

I don’t know what I’ve become
But I know that anywhere
Is safer than here.          – Warsan Shire

What can we do for refugees? Jesus’ teaching prevents his followers from blaming others, airing our impotent opinions, or sinking into compassion fatigue. Jesus poured his life out for us…all of us…and teaches us to do the same.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Jesus – Matthew 25:34-40

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To the refugee (probably not reading this, but I want to come out of silence somehow): There are those of us, in this country, who will do what we can to welcome you here and to be neighbor to you when you finally arrive. Forgive us that we haven’t done more. We have been shaken out of our slumber of unbelief at your suffering. Praying for you until you are home again…wherever that will be.

Home by Warsan Shire

YouTube Video – People of Nowhere – Lior Sperandeo

Baptist Global Response

Loving the Alien – PDF – Bible Study from Jubilee Centre, Cambridge, UK

Scripture and Immigration

5 (Biblical) Reasons Christians Must Care for Asylum Seekers – Matt Darvas

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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Owls in the Neighborhood – Fascinating Facts & Children’s Books to Match

Blog - Owls - Jeanne BarneyBlow - Owls - Jeanne BarneyPhoto Credit: Jeanne Barney – Barred Owl parent above; Owlet below

Only once have I seen an owl in flight. We were visiting with neighbors on their porch one summer evening and this big bird swept across the back yard. I don’t recall the wing-span, but it was sizable and the wings powerfully swung through in flight. Then the bird disappeared in a nearby tree, and an authoritative hooting followed. Unmistakably, an owl. It was a magical moment for me.

We have other neighbors who are the happy hosts of a couple of adult barred owls and (most recently) a single owlet. I can hear them chatter at night sometimes but have never seen them except through pictures. I envy our neighbors their guests.

Here are some fascinating facts about barred owls:

  • The barred owl is also known as a hoot owl because of its distinct call.
  • This owl’s preferred habitat is old forests near a water source. It is territorial and usually non-migratory. Unless pushed out by its own predator (the great horned owl) or altered habitat, the barred owl may stay its whole life in the same area.
  • It is a raptor (a bird that preys on smaller animals for food) and a night hunter. Its daytime counterpart is the red-shouldered hawk. They share the same preferred habitat and foods. The owl will not tolerate intrusion by the hawk; fortunately for both, they rarely encounter each other.Blog - Owls - barred owls and red-shouldered hawks - daily mailPhoto Credit: Daily Mail
  • Although barred owls probably mate for life, they are only together during mating and nesting. Once the owlets are out of the nest, the owls return to a more solitary life.
  • The barred owls may be responsible for a decline in the population of spotted owls. There has been a gradual, decades-long increase in the range of habitat for the barred owls. They are most commonly found in the Eastern United States, but now are present in the Great Plains states and the Northwest. Their population has thrived in these regions, threatening the smaller, less aggressive native spotted owls. A federally funded owl removal program was initiated to bring down the barred owl population, giving spotted owls opportunity to repopulate.

Owls are intriguing creatures. They are first predators snatching up all sorts of little forest animals at night, and at the same time, they have these intelligent human-like faces that draw our attention and affection. Dirya Srinivasan is an author and illustrator who brings a tiny character to life in her books about Little Owl. Little Owl’s Night and Little Owl’s Day give us a bird’s eye view of the world as this little one might see it. Blog - Owls - Children's book primary

The night is opened up and made friendly to the reader. The day is full of wonder for Little Owl who rarely sees this bright woodland world (which is fortunate, given what I’ve learned about the red-shouldered hawk’s appetite for small creatures). We have these board books for our granddaughter, but I can see her enjoying them as she grows into a reader herself.

So that’s my introduction to you of our neighbors, the barred owl family in the woods beside our neighbors. What cohabitants teach you about the beautiful varied life we enjoy together?

Owls in Virginia

Barred Owl – All About Birds – The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Laura’s Barred Owl

Shooting Owls to Save Other Owls – by Isabelle Groc – National Geographic

Just Breathe – Writing as Solace and More

Blog - Writing as Solace - writetodonePhoto Credit: Write to Done

Too much to do, and no time to write. Not a fan of these kinds of days. Still…it is what it is, and my time in front of a screen or blank page is limited by necessity today. And the next few days.

Just breathe.

As Maugham puts it, “Writing is the supreme solace.” I wouldn’t go that far, because prayer and community take writing down the list to #3. I do miss it when it can’t fit into the day.

Writing brings order to my thoughts. As an extrovert leaning toward introversion as I get older, the thoughts pinging around in my brain don’t seem always to make sense until they’re out in conversation or writing. Even in conversation, I’m not sure if it does justice to those thoughts.

So I write.

Today there is no time. The “real world” presses in and I welcome it…with its women and children, and errands, and laundry. If I don’t see my neighbor’s backyard azaleas today, they will be gone. My friend whose son is having surgery may need me later, so I must keep space in the day for her.

Small and large things keep me from writing today…even from thinking deeply…so I leave you now. Life, instead of writing about life, is the order of the day. Thank you for spending these moments with me, Reader Friend. You must understand about words.Blog - Spring Flowers Flowering Trees

Hope and Solace: Advice for Writers

Quotes on Solace – GoodReads

Why I Write – Jessica Morrell

YouTube Video – Breathe by Johnny Diaz with Lyrics

5 Friday Faves – New Boomer Website, Creativity Burnout, Blake Mycoski’s Why (TOMS Shoes), Epiphany, and Community

Blog - Friday Faves

It’s Friday again. How does that happen so rapidly every week? For those of you who can’t wait until Friday, I celebrate with you. For those of us who see life zooming by, taking account on Fridays of what we learned and what we savored seems to slow down time just a bit. Hope you enjoy my 5 favorites of this week. What were some of yours?

1) New Website for Us Boomers (well, everyone really)   Blog - Baby boomers (2)Photo Credit: LivingWellLivingStrong.com

Membree.com launched this week. Quoting the creators of the website, we older folks (i.e. “Baby-boomers“), as well as other generations, have 2 common desires: to serve and to share:

     1.    SERVE –a desire to live life to the full, by serving those around us;

     2.    SHARE –a desire to pass on our life experiences, wisdom and legacy to our loved ones.

“Membree answers those two major life pursuits by inspiring its members to perform random acts of kindness and by capturing life memories in both print and digital form, so these memories can be shared broadly.”Blog - MembreePhoto Credit: Membree.com

2) Creativity Burnout – In this week’s blog on BeyondtheGuitar.com, guitarist/arranger Nathan Mills tells a bit of his story about almost leaving music altogether after burning out on years of work. His re-entry seemed a bit unorthodox to me, but as I read the connection of emotion and creative work became clear. Glad that season of burnout is behind him.Nathan at guitar

3) Blake Mycoski’s Why (TOMS Shoes) – OK, so I’ve never bought a pair of TOMS shoes, and until this Harvard Business Review article I couldn’t have told you who in the world is Blake Mycoski. After reading his story and the history of his company, I’m inspired. His honesty and transparency are compelling. Take the time to read this article for the details of his journey and his rediscovering the “why” of his business. One book he mentioned was Simon Sinek’s Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. That book is now on my 2016 “to-read” list. To give you a sweet teaser about Blake Mycoski’s return to his “why”, here’s a quote from the HBR article:

People follow you, buy from you, when they believe what you believe. The more I thought about this idea, the more I realized that TOMS had veered away from its “why.” In the early days we always led with our story: We weren’t selling shoes; we were selling the promise that each purchase would directly and tangibly benefit a child who needed shoes. But our desire to sustain the company’s hypergrowth had pushed us away from that mission and into competing on the “what” and “how,” just as every other shoe company does…Our marketing increasingly felt product-focused rather than purpose-focused. And as the leader of TOMS, I was ultimately accountable for those mistakes. That was a tough pill to swallow.” – Blake Mycoski, Founder of TOMS ShoesBlog - Blake Mycoski - TOMS Shoes - tinyspark.orgPhoto Credit: tinyspark.org

4) Epiphany – This week’s marks the formal end of the Christmas season. Epiphany – January 6 – the day of celebration of God’s revelation of Christ, especially to the Gentiles (or all who are not Jews). It is also known as Three Kings’ Day. I love how it gives us twelve more days to celebrate such a God. The David Crowder Band refers to these 12 Days of Christmas in the intro to their song Carol of the Bells/Christmas Eve from the album Oh For Joy. [Crowder’s lounge piano intro is hilarious. Don’t miss it either.] Because of Epiphany and our sweet memories of many Christmases in Egypt (celebrated on January 7), I will finally ring out (or rock out, rather) the season with this amazing song:

 

5) Community – When you Google search the definition of the word community, this is what pops up:

com·mu·ni·ty
kəˈmyo͞onədē/
noun
1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
This week, I have been reminded all over again of the great value of community. Our neighbors are such a joy to us. So extraordinary in how they take time for each other and really seem to care for each other. We are blessed to live in this tiny part of Richmond, Virginia.

Blog - CommunityBlog - Community 3

Then there is this bunch of folks who make up our community group (so far). We are joined by living near to each other, our partnership in Movement Church, and our love for Jesus and each other. Just this week as an old friend became a new part of our group, we were reminded of the kindness of God in community. Encouraging each other, praying for each other, loving each other…right where we are in life. Works in progress. God’s magnificent works in progress. Seemingly ordinary, but oh, not so! Community.Blog - 2015 December - Community Group

Worship Wednesday – All Is Well – Storyteller Frank Peretti and Songwriter Michael W. Smith

Worship Wednesday - Blog - All is Well - Screen shot 2

[From the Archives]

We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28

All Is Well – A Story for Christmas brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. It was published in 1990 and we read it to our children every Christmas until they were old enough to read it themselves. Then I read it to myself. Frank Peretti is the author and Robert Sauber did the illustrations for the first book. It seems to be out of print now, and a newer edition, with illustrations by Gary Glover, came out in 2002.

I fell in love with the first edition, and it’s still my favorite. Don’t you love when you recover something once precious to you which you thought lost forever? In our many moves, somewhere along the way, we lost All Is Well – A Story for Christmas. I was delighted when, just today, I found the book, that old one, captured on a YouTube video.

Blog - Worship Wednesday - Screen shot - All is Well - 1Screen Shot

The memories of that book have stirred again – reading together cuddled up with the children in front of the fire in Tennessee, Or listening to the audiobook as they stared sleepily into the dark on those long drives to grandparents. Then childhood years across North Africa when stories familiar brought home closer. The tears came again today, as I watched that YouTube video and the telling of All is Well.

The story focuses on a single mother and her little girl, in tough times financially. There was no money for rent and they were facing losing their home. The little girl, Jenny, was determined to help, and she found an old box of Christmas ornaments that she peddled to neighbors in hopes of helping her mom, Ruth, with the rent. One of those ornaments was a small homemade piece of clay inscribed with the phrase, “All is well.” The rest of the story is a lovely picture of courage, hope, love, and kindness – of neighbors reaching out to this little twosome so in need.

The last page of the book ends with this:

“All is well, huh, Mom?”

“All is well, Jenny. Some way, somehow. We can’t see it yet, but all is well.”

(Narrator) “Well, like I said in the beginning, it all depends on where you’re standing and how good the view is from there. When you’re the storyteller, you have a pretty good view. You know things people in the story don’t know… I know Ruth and Jenny will be taken care of…

You know what tickles me: Ruth knows it, too. She knows. She can’t see any of it from where she is…but she knows.  Now that she remembers how come all is well, she knows. She remembers and she’ll tell Jenny once again: that God is the grandest storyteller of our lives. He weaves our days then strings them like beads on the chain of history. He knows the placement of every person…the end from the beginning. From His lofty heights, He has the best view of all.

She remembers and she’ll tell Jenny that in a stable in Bethlehem so long ago, God wrote Himself into the story and became that central character . Now the Weaver of the Story walks with us in the midst of the story…and He will stay with us, until that story is complete, in His way, in His time, for His glory…and that’s how come all is well. Remember?”

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the Lord, “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”Jeremiah 29:11-13

Blog - Worship Wednesday - All Is Well - 2nd book

Take the time to worship today…and then read this story as a family if you can. Or click on the YouTube video and cozy up with your kiddos to watch the story unfold. My children are all grown up now, but I don’t think they will have forgotten. All is well…or can be. Remember that.

Blog - Worship Wednesday - All is Well 2nd book coverPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

YouTube Video of original story All Is Well (1990) by Frank Peretti – book and audio CD no longer available. Illustrations by Robert Sauber

All Is Well: The Miracle of Christmas in July by Frank Peretti (2002) with illustrations by Gary Glover – this story is updated from the one above – with Daniel as our young hero, and his mom, Ruth – same great message of love, neighbors, and God’s faithfulness

YouTube Lyric Video of All Is Well by Michael W. Smith (featured in audiobook of All is Well above

YouTube Lyric Video of All Is Well sung by Carrie Underwood & Michael W. Smith (Spirit of Christmas Album)

For the long nights and heavy burdens – Jesus is coming.

PostScript – January 2, 2015 – Look what my daughter gave me for Christmas – she had the original book among her Christmas books for her 3rd grade class. Now I have them both again….

2014 Dec Christmas in Richmond with MomMom & PopPop 005a (2)

October 31 – Halloween Dress-up & Reformation Day Stand-Up

Blog - Halloween

Our kids were pre-schoolers the last time we celebrated Halloween – and that was a long time ago. A couple of weeks ago, my friend Amber reminded me of a different side of Halloween. It’s not just another commercialized holiday (second only to Christmas in the US). Nor is it just for dressing up children in fun outfits (although that is one of the best parts of Halloween).Blog - Halloween 2

Nor is Halloween just about giving and getting large quantities of favorite candies…although this might be THE BEST PART of Halloween.Blog - Fall - Candy Corn - twitter.com ERLCPhoto Credit: Twitter.com/erlc

Amber, still fairly new in town, was looking forward to Halloween to meet more of her neighbors. Over the years, we had separated our family from Halloween because of the darker side of the holiday (All Hallow’s Eve). I don’t think our kids missed out at all, really, but this year I have opened the door back up a bit…to meet more of our neighbors.

For the first time in two decades, we turned the porch light on, and had a basket of candy ready….and the children came. We marveled at their costumes and greeted their parents (and sometimes, grandparents). It was fun to chat with these little guys and then watch them meander on to the next house in their dressed-up otherness.

When the candy ran out, I flipped off the porch light. The glow of our next door neighbor’s luminaries still beckoned the small bands of children with their watchful parents close by.Blog - Halloween 3

So that was Halloween 2015. No new friendships forged or anything…but we at least showed ourselves friendly.

Earlier today, I was reminded of the other side of October 31. Reformation Day. My husband’s mom, Julia, reads through a couple of devotionals each day as part of her Bible reading. On a visit with her this morning, she read to us the page below.Blog - Reformation DayPhoto Credit: 30 Days to Change the Nation by D. James Kennedy

On this day, 498 years ago, Martin Luther stood up against a wrong done in the name of God. He challenged his beloved Catholic Church to stop certain practices of that day. Practices that drew people away from God really, rather than closer to Him. Practices, or indulgences, in particular, that communicated that we could actually buy our salvation or do service enough to earn our salvation from our sins.

He wrote 95 “theses” or indictments against the church and hammered that long list on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. They were serious accusations and started with the first one below:

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matthew 4:17), He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

Because of Martin Luther’s protest, a reformation was birthed. Millions of believers worldwide “have submitted to God’s word as their highest authority (Sola Scriptura) and…that salvation is a gift given by God’s grace alone (Sola Gratia) through the instrument of faith alone (Sola Fide) in the death and resurrection of their one savior and mediator, Jesus Christ (Sola Christus), so that all glory would always redound to the Triune God alone (Sola Deo Gloria).” *

October 31 marks two days – Halloween and Reformation Day.

The first calls for dress-up. The second a call to stand up.

I’m sure Martin Luther took great courage in God’s Word as he stood firm in his understanding of it.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God…and having done all, to stand firm.”  – Apostle Paul,  from Ephesians 6:10-20

Be safe out there if you’re still closing out the night. I’m thinking the kids won’t notice if a Butterfinger or Snickers bar is missing in the morning from their candy haul tonight…or could be, they will. It’s a risk. Good night.

*Reformation Day – Jesus Came Knocking

What Are Your Thoughts on Halloween? – John Piper

5 Interesting Facts About Reformation Day

Halloween - Nathan & Bekkah, Cliff & April[Four of my favorite grown-up “trick-or-treaters” -one of the kids must have taken this picture.] Photo Credit: Bekkah Mills