Tag Archives: prayer

Worship Wednesday – At Your Name, God – Phil Wickham

Photo Credit: Lisa Delay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – Matt Papa

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

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

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

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

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

At Your name, God…

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

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

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

Worship with me.

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

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

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

Chorus

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

Chorus (X2)*

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

*Lyrics for At Your Name

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

10 Things “Yahweh” Means – John Piper

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

Worship Wednesday – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – Matt Papa

Explore God

5 Friday Faves – No-Pressure Valentine’s Day, Travel Hacks, Prayer Habits, First Signs of Spring, and Wordplay Smiles

Friday! You made it. Joy! Here are five of my favorite finds for you…

1) No-Pressure Valentine’s Day – Seriously no pressure! Valentine’s Day is one of those super emotionally-laden days (maybe more for women, but I’m sure it’s not easy for guys either). I’ve always celebrated it, whether a man was involved or not, because of all the lovely stuff attached to it (cards, candy, dinner out, flowers, etc.). Never minded paying for those for myself or others. The best part is just being with people you love…whoever they are.

This week I came across a super-silly video by the Merrell Twins. They are these two YouTube stars and are pretty cute. The video is about Valentine’s Day with boyfriend or without boyfriend. The best part actually is their #TwinTalk at the end of the video…wait for it.

YouTube Video – It’s Valentine’s Day Song – Merrell Twins

I’ve previously written about Valentine’s Day (here and here). In fact, please read those pieces…for a no-pressure day. Seriously.

2) Travel Hacks – We who have the money and means to travel either love it or hate it. I LOVE it. In fact, it’s been too long since my last international trip…so I’ve been drawn to travel stories and articles. Tim Ferriss hosted Ryan Holiday on a blog about his 21 Travel Rules. Having lived in several countries and traveled through many more, I agree with many of his rules. Check them all out. Some you may already know like packing light, eating healthy, and don’t over-schedule your trip. Other bits of advice from Holiday were quite new for me – like not reclining your seat on a plane (THANK YOU!). Also don’t depend on guidebooks – talk to people where you’re going about things to do and see. Another idea: Note places or experiences described in books you’ve read and enjoy them again on your trip. One last favorite hack: don’t talk and talk about your upcoming trip or plan and plan – just go! Read the rest here:

Photo Credit: We Are Travel Girls

How to Travel: 21 Contrarian Rules

How to Travel – Some Contrarian Advice (shorter version of above article)

…and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” goes global!

3) Prayer Habits – Prayer is probably the most impactful thing we can do in life – for ourselves and those we love. Developing a habit of prayer can start today. I’m not talking about some sort of rote activity or just saying words out into the room. Prayer is not delivering a wish list to some benevolent father figure. It is a conversation with the God of the universe who calls us to Himself. He infuses all our lives with his love and purpose. He also actually taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Cliff Jordan of Movement Church spoke recently on how God Himself guides us to pray – listen here.

I learned the prayer Jesus taught his disciples when I was a child. It has been a comfort and primer for me ever since. Consider teaching your children to pray the Lord’s Prayer, and then guide them to grow up in a lifestyle of prayer…following your lead.Photo Credit: Faith Hope Love at Home; Courageous the Movie

Nick Aufenkamp writes about Martin Luther’s prayer patterns and offers a simple and sound approach to daily prayer:

  • Seek first God’s rule and reign and righteousness in our lives (Matthew 6:33).
  • Discipline our wandering minds.
  • Build a fence so our prayers can run wild inside (through the structure of the Lord’s Prayer).

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Four Ways to Lead Our Children Toward Bravery – Jill Waggoner

4) First Signs of Spring – It’s happening! Spring is showing up again. No matter how many cold and snowy days this winter still produces before it gives in to Spring, we can see it coming!

5) Wordplay Giggles – So I didn’t know the word for it until this week, but some people have a knack for turning the meaning of a sentence to something hilarious. Winston Churchill was gifted at the use of something you’ve probably never heard defined but you’ve enjoyed the humor within it.  A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to re-frame or re-interpret the first part.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Photo Credit: Frustrated Boomers

  1. Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good evening’ and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
  2. Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  3. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  4. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  5. Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.
  6. A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
  7. I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.
  8. Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, you will be a mile away and he won’t have any shoes.
  9. “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” — Groucho Marx
  10. “She got her good looks from her father; he’s a plastic surgeon.” — Groucho Marx
  11. Kittens play with yarn, they bat it around. What they’re really doing is saying, “I can’t knit, get this away from me!”
  12. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to find one now.
  13. There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away. – Monty Pelerin

Paraprosdokian Fun

Steven Wright Quotes – Good Reads

Have a sweet weekend and a Happy Valentine’s Day. You are loved!

Saturday Short – Give This World Back to God – Reba McEntire

Photo Credit: Amazon

Whew! Just had my coffee and was fixing to get up from the computer and getting on with the day…and an intriguing video came up. As I watched the video and listened to the words, my heart felt like it went up in my throat, and tears flowed. This is no sentimental, puppy dog, country music song. It was a commentary on our lives today…and what the solution is for the what’s wrong with our world.

I may be buying my first Reba McEntire album. Sing It Now – Songs of Faith & Hope (Release February 2017) is McEntire’s first Gospel album. 2 CDs. One is described as songs from her childhood – hymns she sang in church growing up. The other CD is comprised of new songs from various songwriters. Back to God, written by Randy Houser and Dallas Davidson, is mesmerizing. View it right here:

Have you looked around, have you heard the sound
Of Mama’s cryin’
Or do you turn away when you see the face
Of the innocent dyin’
In these darkest days are you not afraid
That it’s too late?

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
You gotta keep on praying

You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving

We can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
We gotta give this world back to God

Have you lost a love? Do you feel like giv’n up?
Has your heart been broken?
Are your kids okay? Will they come home safe?
And do you lie there hoping?

You can make a wish, you can knock on wood
It won’t do no good

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
You gotta keep on praying

You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving

Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
Gotta give this world back to God

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
You gotta keep on praying

You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving

Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
You can hope the best, make a wish, the only answer is
We give this world back to God

Gotta give this world back to God
Give this world back to God*

Photo Credit: Wide Open Country

I did struggle with one line, at first: “We’re still worth saving”.

There is too much emphasis today on us and me…rather than He. God. I watch the mean-spirited attacks on one another in media today (“social” and mainstream)…and am dumbfounded. Especially when the attacks are Christian against Christian. Not how Jesus taught us. However…and it’s a big however – God has placed value on us…on all of us. It’s not what we think about ourselves (our significance, our political ideology, our messaging eloquence…whateva). It’s what He says about us…and what He is willing to do for us.

It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from wrath through Him! – Romans 5:7-9

This is the magnificence of the Gospel. This is what brings tremendous hope to any struggle…including the struggle that we, in this world, find ourselves at this time in history.

Now…on with the day with this reminder that our battle won’t be won in social media or the pain and bitterness of our hearts…but on our knees with hearts of faith…in a faithFUL God.

Postscript: It would be easy to just get on out the door, with hearts resonating with the message of this song…without taking the words not just to heart…but to our knees. I needed that P.S. and am on it.

*Lyrics to Back to God – Songwriters: Randy Houser & Dallas Davidson

Reba McEntire Turns ‘Back to God‘ In Breathtaking New Music Video

Worship Wednesday – When I’m With You – Citizen Way

Photo Credit: Family Life

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.  – Psalm 34:18

I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy.  Psalm 140:12

Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily.
 – Hebrews 13:3

How people get through hard places and tough seasons without God? His love fills the broken places in our lives.

Just this week I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the film Resilience. It was such an “aha” experience for me watching this documentary on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and their impact on adult health and quality of life.  [More about this here.]Photo Credit: GrowlerMag

As I sat mesmerized by that film, so many faces came to mind – children struggling to learn in my daughter’s classroom, adults with massive social and health issues in the hospital where I worked years ago, friends and family who have endured terrible things at the hands of others. How do we respond? How do we, as the film challenged, build resilience and help heal trauma?

Sometimes problems seem too big for us…what can we do to make a difference? What can we say to help? We can pray. We can get equipped. We can position ourselves beside those most vulnerable – be first responders if necessary – as Jesus became for us.

When Ben Calhoun, lead singer of the Christian band Citizen Way, talks about the loss of their son Jeremiah in miscarriage, you can still hear the pain…and the care he received from God. So much love. It inspired the song When I’m with You. Photo Credit: YouTube

Whatever struggle we find ourselves in…others may walk away, but God doesn’t. He won’t. Sometimes that terrible thing happens to us as a child…and I won’t begin to offer an explanation of why adults sin against children…but I believe with all my heart that God will enter in and rescue us sometimes…and other times, bring healing. He is the God of both justice and mercy. I have experienced Him that way many times over. We receive His mercy and sometimes we become an extension of it – through our hearts, our hands, and our words.

Whatever is going on in your life, I pray that you can feel God near …and worship with me.

These are the things
That I need to pray
‘Cuz I can’t find peace any other way
I’m a mess underneath
And I’m just too scared to show it
Everything’s not fine
And I’m not okay
But it’s nice to know
I can come this way
When I’m with You
I feel the real me finally breaking through
It’s all because of You Jesus
Anytime anywhere any heartache
I’m never too much for You to take
There’s only love
There’s only grace
When I’m with You
Nobody knows me like You do
No need for walls
You see right through
Every hurt every scar every secret
You just love me
When everything’s not fine
And I’m not okay
It’s nice to know
I can come this way
I’m breathing in
I’m innocent
It’s like my heart’s on fire again
I’m not afraid
I’m not ashamed
I’m safe when I am with You
So I’m here just as I am
Bruised or broken
I don’t have to pretend*

Photo Credit: Among the Pages

Lyrics to When I’m With You – Citizen Way

YouTube Video – When I’m With You – Citizen Way – Official Music Video

YouTube Video – Citizen Way – Story Behind the Song When I’m With You

God has Not Forgotten You – a 31-Day Devotional – Leslie J. Barner

Resilience – the Film

ACEs Connection – Join the Movement to Prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences, Heal Trauma, and Build Resilience

ACEs Too High

Finding Your ACE Score (pdf)

Advent – Welcoming the Savior at Christmastime – Holding a Place For His Coming

blog-peace-at-christmas-crosswalk-25-joyful-prayersPhoto Credit: Crosswalk

So it begins. December 1. Turn around…and Christmas will be done. NOOOOO! There are those out there who respect no day over another (Romans 14:5). I get that. Still, Christmas is such a sweet time of year. What’s not to love about it? All the bright colors and shimmering lights in the dark of winter (granted, this is in the Northern Hemisphere). The many expressions of generosity (gift-giving among family and friends and kindnesses to strangers near and far). The secular and sacred observances that we share within this holiday and holy day.

“Christmas is too big for one day”, writes Andreas Köstenberger, and I agree. As the years go by, some Christmas observances deepen while others diminish. I’m becoming a lack-luster gift-giver, but cherish times together more than ever. December weekends full of parties just make the month fly by, but quieter more intimate times are the experiences I long for.

Connecting with people, savoring the beauty around us, remembering Christmases past, and pondering the wonder of what it all means. This Christmas miracle…this Child who would usher in a redemption only He could provide…from before Creation through a coarse cradle all the way to a Cross.

I need to stretch time in December…to go as deep as is humanly possible into the reality of this Savior King…to think long on the incredible truth of what happened there – To hold a place for His coming…“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
blog-advent-christmas-for-unto-us-a-child-is-born-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

Celebrating Advent (the “coming” of Christ) marks out the month of December in Sundays. If it’s not your tradition, you can search it out easily (here is one resource). For me, it doesn’t require prescribed readings and lighting candles…but I’m beginning to delight in those expressions of worship, as well.blog-advent-church-stage-design-ideasPhoto Credit: Church Stage Design Ideas

Advent, to me, incorporates prayer, meditation on God’s Word, worship in song…and quiet. A quiet that gives space for God to fill it with Himself. That is Advent. The coming of Christ into hearts made ready for Him.

Are there times in December when darkness attempts to extinguish the Light? Sure…I’ve known those times…that’s actually one reason I love Christmas so much…celebrating the coming of a Savior who shines light into the darkest of our nights…setting us free from what keeps us in darkness…because He came.

Not celebrate?

Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season?
Your tears have no end?

Not celebrate?

You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
to ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!
For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that a Savior is born this day,
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you. Ann Weems

In the hordes of shoppers and restaurants bursting with celebrants. In the packed candlelit churches and at boozy company parties. In the silence outside of celebrating Christmas as well as the quiet night within…

You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you.

Christmas Is Too Big For One Day – Why We Celebrate Advent – Andreas Köstenberger – Desiring God

Advent Begins Today – David Mathis – Desiring God

25 Joyful Prayers to Ready Your Heart for Christmas – Candace Crabtree

Good News of Great Joy – Daily Advent Readings – John Piper

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy – Daily Advent Readings – John Piper

Why Advent Is As Important As Christmas – Veronica Neffinger

Hark! The Long-Lost Verses Sing – David Mathis – Desiring God

The Problem with Our Holly Jolly Christmas Songs – Russell Moore

The US Presidential Election: What Drives Me to the Polls

blog-vote-thunderclap

Photo Credit: Thunderclap

I will vote. I will vote for the issues, more than for the candidates.

Fear does not drive me. Responsibility drives me. There’s a certain measure of remorse that I have done so little for our country – paid taxes, yes, obeyed the laws, prayed sometimes for those in leadership. We have this opportunity in voting for our country’s highest leaders…not just for our generation, but for the next. This one thing I can do…add my vote to the American many.

No matter the outcome, I will pray for the President. The icky, divisive arguments for various candidates that have darkly colored this election year…will fade. Friendships will continue. After the election, everyone will get back on social media. There will be a handful of congratulatory “told you so” blogs and articles alongside the somber doomsday pieces. Then life will go back to normal…and our country and culture will continue to lean further right…or further left.

What drives me to the polls? Primarily 3 issues.

  1. Life – In graduate school years ago, I took a required statistics course. There was only one textbook – a tiny primer entitled How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff. This set me on a worldview to question all statistics. They, like the political polls of late, can be manipulated to suit the researcher. Having said that, even on the issue of abortion, statistics are complicated because not all states report in the same way. Since the Roe v. Wade decision, in 1973, there have been 59,456,623 documented abortions in the US so far (check out the live abortion counter). blog-abortionPhoto Credit: LifeNews

Planned Parenthood just had its 100th birthday. The largest abortion provider in the US, they have reported 7,220,011 abortions, since 1973. Being pro-life doesn’t mean just being pro-baby; it means being pro-human all across the lifespan. I get that, and embrace that. Too bad there aren’t statistics about the life-long impact of abortion on the women and men who conceived. Their choice is protected; the baby’s right to live is not.

Ben Shapiro DESTROYS Abortion Argument: ‘No More Euphemisms’ by Amanda Prestigiacomo

The Most Important Question About Abortion – Video

2. Supreme Court Justices – and all the Federal judges who will be appointed in the next 4-8 years. When the US Supreme Court began their Fall session, I wondered if Chief Justice Scalia’s empty chair was still shrouded. This election is a fight for the right to appoint these incredibly influential men and women.The Courtroom of the Supreme Court showing Associate Justice Antonin Scalia’s Bench Chair and the Bench in front of his seat draped in black following his death on February 13, 2016. Credit: Franz Jantzen/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.Photo Credit: National Law Journal

A Scalia replacement would be instrumental in deciding the fate of an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, in determining the boundaries of religious freedom, the extent of LGBT and abortion rights, the nature of political speech and campaign finance, the strength of labor unions, the extent of congressional delegation to executive bureaucracies that regulate the environment, the workplace, private property, the schools, and much more…With so much at stake, it seems reasonable to conclude that his replacement will take the bench only under conditions of unified government. Ironic: Throughout his career Justice Scalia warned against an overreaching judiciary that replaced democratic judgments with its own. Because his warnings were not heeded, the Court grew into a leviathan that touches all aspects of American life, determines where self-government ends and rule by bureaucrats begins.” Matthew Continetti, The Washington Free Beacon

3) National Debt – I’m no expert on economy. However, our family has always tried to live within our means. It is a strong value for us. With the debt where it is now – $19.7 Trillion and counting (watch the numbers fly on the debt clock) – it seems not to even be an issue anymore. It’s just too great…too impossible to bring down… Not meaning to be a downer here…I just can’t fathom the numbers. Maybe one of our candidates can become the president who will bring us into fiscal integrity and still find ways to serve our nation well. blog-national-debt-culture-warPhoto Credit: Culture-War

US Day of Reckoning? – United States Government Debt to GDP (1940-2016) – even I could understand our economic situation and peril. Also listed is our economic standing related to other nations.

Finally…

This year I have probably studied more about the candidates than any year before. The mainstream media, even with its clear candidate preference, has been motivating in turning me into a fact-checker, on all candidates. I am grateful for the few out there who write and podcast that think somewhat like I do…it has kept me from occasionally questioning my own sanity, truly. The two major political platforms are also helpful, whether the candidates line up completely with their platforms or not – it’s not clear (here is a brief summary of both).

[Sidebar: Although this image is from a WSJ/NBC poll – and you can surmise that polls are suspect for me – it is a quick look at some of the platform issues and values of voters – that is, if it’s correct. Sigh..]

blog-party-platforms-vote-wsjPhoto Credit: Wall Street Journal

There are seven other issues that matter to me. Neither of the major party candidates have defined plans that would compel me to vote for either of them.

  • Refugees/Immigration
  • A President for All Americans
  • Poverty/Joblessness/Racial Divide
  • Religious Freedom
  • Economy/Smaller Government
  • Health Care
  • National Security

However, I will vote. It will be a vote that counts, whether it makes a single vote’s difference or not. It will not be about a lesser or greater evil. I will not be distracted by sensationalism or corruption. I completely get that candidates promise things they can’t deliver (in some situations, I’m counting on that actually). I will not risk or withhold my vote – either by voting for one who has little chance of winning or, by not going to the polls, respectively. Nor will I be put off by those who don’t agree with me and vote differently (or not vote at all). This could be a year when not voting, for some, is the only choice…that conscientious objection to what choices we have.

This, at the deepest level, is stewardship. I’m not proud of my inactivity in civil matters. As a Christian, my efforts to make a difference in the world have been more through the church in my own city and in global communities. This year, more than ever, I see that more has to be done – either by the church…or by collectives of people who truly care about our nation’s people…and the peoples of the world. Government is not enough…and making it bigger may not be the answer.

I don’t know…but this I do know. Voting for all of us has come at a high price…of one sort or another. So…it’s the very least we can do.

…and pray…the most.blog-unknown-soldier-national-security-herobox-on-facebookPhoto Credit: HeroBox on Facebook

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

blog-i-will-rise-rescue-squad-bakersfieldbside-shutterstockPhoto Credit: BakersfieldBSide, Shutterstock

“…I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days…” Deuteronomy 30:19-20a

I’ve ridden inside an ambulance as a caregiver and family member, but never as a patient…until this week.

Take one perfectly normal evening. Getting ready for bed. Last items of the day…and then…I can’t get my breath. Literally… Coughing and breathing hard and feeling like I just can’t get air.

For any of you with asthma or other lung issues, you may have experienced this. I now know how terrifying that can be.

Then you add a husband, already in bed and half asleep, who, in an emergency, can turn on a dime (i.e., move and think quickly and well)…and I was getting help.

Could I make it to an urgent care center? Yes…no! Feeling like I might lose consciousness, I had to sit down just as we were going out the door. Then he called 911. How many times have any of us ever even done that?

For me, I was just trying to breathe. The “what if’s” fly. What if this is it?…actually came to my mind in those moments. Sitting, sucking in air, I told him I loved him, and he said, “Let me pray for you.” …and God was near through it all. Did I feel Him near?…not every moment, but I knew it just the same.

Somewhere in those seeming seconds before the rescue squad arrived, some of the panic started subsiding. God. When they arrived, they took action, and my hope rallied.  Surprisingly, it actually took quite a few minutes before we drove off.

I could see Dave through the back window of the ambulance, in his car ready to follow us. Seriously, between him and them, it was like being attended by a host of angels. All I had to do was keep breathing.

The EMT’s were busy, too. Assessing, assessing, assessing. They fed me oxygen and encouragement, and finally off we went. Yet, the longer I lived, in those moments, with these professionals doing their job, the less it seemed I would die from whatever this was.

blog-emergency-room-i-will-rise-medscapePhoto Credit: Medscape

By the time, we were settled in the emergency room, the terror of not getting enough air had passed. It seemed everything the nurses, techs, and doctors did was magical. They were still searching for a cause all through the night, but the labwork, x-rays, and such were narrowing the field of possibles. They continued to assess and apply their knowledge to whatever was wrong with me – breathing treatments, more tests, antibiotics, more tests.

Finally, the scariest stuff was ruled out. It wasn’t a collapsed lung from cancer, or pulmonary edema from congestive heart failure, or bleeding from an aneurysm .

It was pneumonia…as best they could tell.

Admitted to the hospital, in the care of another set of angels…er, nurses, I began the process of getting better.img_8984

The better came quickly and I am so grateful. We all have had and will have dark days. What takes my breath away (in totally a good way) is that we never have to be alone in it. Either God sends angels…or God sends people. I have experienced that this week, and know it has happened in lives of others near me. Including my older brother’s situation…the day he too swiftly went to be with the Lord (that story is for another day).

Across our lifetimes, we have experiences of the severe mercies and tender graces of God. Sometimes, they come through the kindnesses of both strangers and loved ones. Sometimes, it’s in the quiet of a heart, through breathing hard in the back of an ambulance. We know we can count on Him from His Word…and from all these brushes with real and serious.

Just the day before I couldn’t breathe, we sang the following worship song during when gathered on Sunday at Movement Church. Over the last two days, the words and truth of God in the words have settled in my heart and mind.

Hillsong‘s Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) is a strong declaration of life knowing God through Jesus Christ. The songwriters took some of their ideas from the verse in Romans: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans6:4)

“I will rise” is my song today because what felt like a near-death experience two nights ago has just added my awareness of that “newness of life” we have in Christ. There will come a day for all of us that we won’t rise any more on this side of eternity…but because of Him, we will rise to be with Him, in Heaven…if we believe. Hallelujah!

Worship with me.

This is my revelation
Christ Jesus crucified
Salvation through repentance
At the cross on which He died

Now hear my absolution
Forgiveness for my sin
And I sink beneath the waters
That Christ was buried in

I will rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live

I stand a new creation
Baptized in blood and fire
No fear of condemnation
By faith I’m justified

I will rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live
(x2)

I rise as You are risen
Declare Your rule and reign
My life confess Your lordship
And glorify Your name

Your word it stands eternal
Your Kingdom knows no end
Your praise goes on forever
And on and on again

No power can stand against You
No curse assault Your throne
No one can steal Your glory
For it is Yours alone

I stand to sing Your praises
I stand to testify
For I was dead in my sin

But now I rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live

No power can stand against You
No curse assault Your throne
No one can steal Your glory
For it is Yours alone

I stand to sing Your praises
I stand to testify
For I was dead in my sin

But now i rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live

I will rise
I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him
Now in Him I live
(x2)*

PS – For those few of you who knew what was happening with me these last two days, thanks for praying. For those many who don’t know me or my situation, thanks for reading…and for praying for those going through a challenging situation…and if you’re in the one going through that situation, believe that God sees and reaches in. Please comment, if you’re willing, about your own experience….

YouTube Video – Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – with subtitles/lyrics

Song Story: Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Scott Ligertwood

*Lyrics of Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Writers Brooke Fraser Ligertwood & Scott Ligertwood

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Worship Wednesday – Rest, the Lord is Near – Reminder by Steve Green

Blog - Holy Week Wednesday 9Photo Credit: Baptist Press

[Today I am in surgery – this from the Archives]

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.Isaiah 26:3-4

It was an early morning on the streets of Casablanca, Morocco. I was surrounded by other drivers headed for work. They were not in my thoughts – except to stay clear in the crowded intersections where merging and turning happen skillfully or magically.

My thoughts were centered on the car in front of me where two friends were heading to a hospital. The wife was prepped to have surgery that morning to see if the problem in her abdomen was cancer. I was going with them for the occasion that day that she would need extra help and a woman to stand in for her husband. It was the custom for such things there.

She was a dear friend in those overseas days – the other mother to my sons. Friends with her son, they loved eating at her guy-friendly table or taking over her salon to play video games or watch a movie. This woman was a rock in her family’s lives…and ours. As I watched her, from behind, so small, beside her husband, jostled in the crazy traffic…I prayed.

Troubled with the possibilities and prospects of a life-changing diagnosis, my mind ping-ponged all around, even in prayer. Then, a song came up in my playlist…and every other voice in my head went silent. It was this old song by Steve Green entitled Rest, The Lord Is Near. You hear people tell stories of hearing God speak to them, almost audibly. This was one of those moments for me.

After that, I knew, whatever the outcome of her surgery, that she (we) would be alright. Nothing would change in the larger story of our lives. Most importantly, in that moment, I remembered that God was the same. Loving Father, Great Physician, Tender Comforter, All-Wise God.

The surgery went very well. She would be fine. My boys still love to feast at her table…and we are still friends…although living worlds apart now. What I was reminded that day, in my car alone in Casablanca traffic, was less about healing…or answered prayer…and more about God’s call to us to rest.

Blog - Rest - Sleep - Baptist PressPhoto Credit: Baptist Press

Sometimes that rest is like the sleep of a child, safe in the care of a loving, watchful parent. Even in Steve Green’s song, he delivers it as a lullaby really. How often we just need an all-out separation from the stresses of life…either in a respite in God’s Word, or a change of place (in our garden or by a sea, any sea, for me)…or sometimes just plain sleep. They are all rest in their turn.

Sometimes the rest is more active, like it was for me that morning. I was still maneuvering through a sea of cars, still watching my friends’ car so I wouldn’t lose them, and still praying. Yet, my state of mind moved from an anxious attention to being “at ease”. The image comes to mind of the military command. It’s defined as “a position of rest in which soldiers may relax but may not leave their places”. Blog - Rest - At EasePhoto Credit: military.com

Sometimes, we can’t leave our situation, our place in the battle. We must be present. We, as believers, are “under orders” from our King. Yet, even in those daily duties, He calls us to rest. I pray today that, whatever you’re facing, you will have moments when you are able to let go and lean into the arms of almighty God…and remember He is just that near.

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

Worship with me:

Rest the Lord is near
Refuse to fear
Enjoy his love

Trust, His mighty power
Fills every hour
Of all your days

There is no need
For needless worry
With such a Savior
You have no cause to ever

Doubt His perfect word
Still reassures
In any trial

Rest the Lord is there
Lift up your prayer
For He is strong

Trust, He’ll bring release
And perfect peace
Will calm your mind

There is no need
For needless worry
With such a Savior
You have no cause to ever

Doubt His perfect word
Still reassures
In any trial

Call Him, if you grow frightened
Call Him, with loving care
He’ll lift the burden and you’ll

Rest the Lord is near
Refuse to fear
Enjoy His love

Trust His mighty power
Fills every hour
Of all your days

Rest the Lord is near
Refuse to fear
Enjoy His love*

Blog - Resting in Praise & Worship - Baptist PressPhoto Credit: Baptist Press

*Lyrics to Rest sung by Steve Green (Lyrics and Music by Phill McHugh And Greg Nelson

YouTube Video – Rest – Steve Green (official music) from Joy to the World album

YouTube Video – Jesus, I am Resting, Resting – Steve Green

YouTube Video – Trust His Heart with lyrics – Babbie Mason

YouTube Video – Like a River Glorious (Stayed Upon Jehovah, Hearts are Fully Blessed) – by Frances Ridley Havergal –  one of my favorite hymns growing up2009 April May Trip to Georgia 161IMG_0023 (2)

One More Sleep Until Surgery – Staying On This Side of the Bridge

Blog - staying on this side of the bridge - harry w. nice memorial bridge - alpsroadsPhoto Credit: AlpsRoads

Tomorrow I have surgery…a biopsy. One more sleep, and then finally (hopefully) I will know what it is that we’ve been following for six months now. Your thoughts can go all sorts of places during a time of waiting. My dear friend, Kathy, who has now been in cancer nursing longer than I comforted me with this wisdom:

“For right now, you need to stay on this side of the bridge.”

She is so right. Bridges… As helpful and beautiful as they are, bridges stir up my fears of heights and deep water. There’s this one bridge we cross going to and from visits with our family in Delaware. Located  on Hwy. 301 in Maryland, it’s named the Governor Harry Nice Memorial Bridge. The bridge itself is not so nice if you struggle with bridges. It’s steep and narrow. As you ascend, you can’t see really where it’s going.

If your imagination runs wild, you could envision cars ahead of you (and you eventually) drop right off the top into the Potomac River… Of course, once at the pinnacle of the bridge, you see, with great relief, what seems an easy downward slope of the bridge and the other side of the river…and all will be (was always going to be) well.

It’s best to stay in the moment on the ascending side of the bridge, because the “unknown” other side of the bridge wreaks havoc in our thoughts. Experience helps, of course, because the presumed “unknown” is no longer, and you can rest, knowing, you’ve been here before, and it works out fine.

For several weeks now, I have had to discipline myself to stay on this side of the bridge. Knowing God as I do, and seeing Him at work in the lives of loved ones who’ve known their own bridges, this journey is not supposed to be scary. It’s meant to be from beautiful to beautiful. God even redeems suffering…and I know that…but my thoughts betray my struggle.

How gentle God is with His children! Just hours ago, I walked out to a sun-drenched morning, and stood with my coffee looking out the kitchen window. There’s this small dedicated space over the sink which reminds me, even doing dishes, of the grander more beautiful life experience that is ours. The shamrocks Mom Julia gave me are flourishing in the sun this morning. The Blessings plaque from friend Kay reminds me to count mine. The little pile of stones are my Ebenezer – ”I raise my Ebenezer” (from 1 Samuel 7:12) – my stones of remembrance that say to my heart, “thus far the Lord has helped us.” IMG_6106

Then in my quiet time, in the reading for today, the Prophet Samuel speaks to a sinful but repentant people of God. He reminds them of the great faithfulness of God and how he will not forsake His people (1 Samuel 12), nor will Samuel stop praying for them.Blog - Samuel's blessing - surgery

How grateful I am for a faithful, faithful God…and for all those followers of His, faithful to pray. No wonder Samuel tells the people not to be afraid.

Whatever comes tomorrow, I know, from God’s Word and experience, that He will be with me…and with all those dearest to me. Whatever the outcome, we have nothing to fear. Nothing.

As this day unfolds, one sleep from surgery, my fear is dissipating, and peace is restored. I’m not saying there won’t be bumps in that experience over the next hours…but the most rock-solid object of my faith remains immovable. God has our lives in His hands, and “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Full stop.

Like Kathy advises, clearing my thoughts regularly, I “stay on this side of the bridge.” Tomorrow, I will wake up after surgery and hopefully will find out that it is “either nothing or early”. Whatever the outcome, God’s grace will be there for me…for us.

Blog - staying on this side of the bridgePhoto Credit: ParentingThatHeals

For now, I will trust God, rest in His care and the love of family and friends, and…just breathe.

*This song comes up all the time on the radio right now…probably not just for me, but it feels sweetly personal.

My prayer for you and for me today is that whatever the situation, we stay in the place where He has us, and by His grace, and the love of those He’s placed in our way, we will get to the other side…it its time.IMG_6107Postscript – that early morning coffee came with banana bread and prayer from my friend Harriet. So many graces in life.

Bono and Eugene Peterson – The Psalms – a Film and a Friendship

Blog - The Psalms, Bono, Eugene Peterson - atu2blogPhoto Credit: atu2blog

Last night, in Richmond, Virginia, I had the opportunity to attend a preview screening of the film (premiering today on YouTube). The film is a 20-minute documentary highlighting the friendship between musician Bono of U2 and theologian Eugene Peterson. Blog - The Psalms - Bono & Eugene PetersonPhoto Credit: ThirdRVA

Their sweet and surprising friendship began when Bono contacted Peterson to express thanks for his translation of the Psalms.Blog - Psalms & Bono & Eugene PetersonPhoto Credit: Twitter

U2’s song 40 was inspired by Peterson’s translation of Psalm 40 (The Message: Psalms). During their 2015 Innocence + Experience Tour, the production included dropping pieces of paper, like confetti, onto the audience; these were excerpts from  Ulysses, Lord of the Flies, the Psalms, and Alice in Wonderland falling from the ceiling like confetti. (Wikipedia) Bono seems enthralled by both the societal relevance and the personal meaning of the Psalms in his life. He owes that to Eugene Peterson.

This documentary is beautiful in its simplicity, honesty, and mutual regard between Bono and Peterson. It’s a conversation between them, and our experience as audience is being brought close in by the filmmaker…as if the only thing missing was our cup of coffee at that table.

How the film was conceived came through the efforts of David Taylor, professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. He was a past student of Eugene Peterson’s. He had some way to reach out to Bono (unclear that connection but I’m sure it will come out as the film becomes known and loved). Finally, Taylor also knew the work of Nathan Clarke’s Fourth Line Films. Somehow he pulled all these principals together and with the generous support of Fuller Seminary, this documentary was created.

You will love it!

There is such a God-honoring, person-honoring purity to this film and the conversation between Bono and Peterson. Two very different people with very different lives and from different parts of the world…and yet a sweet friendship developed because of the profound impact that the Psalms had…has on both their lives.Blog - Bono - christianexaminerPhoto Credit: Christian Examiner

Blog - Eugene Peterson - the MessagePhoto Credit: Twitter

Thank you, Fuller Seminary. Thank you, David Taylor. Thank you, Bono, Eugene Peterson, Nathan Clarke and Fourth Line Films. Thank You, God, for inspiring the writers of the Psalms – honest, real, passionate, hopeful.

Finally, I have a confession…keeping it real and all. I went to the preview of this film because of the Q & A with Nathan Clarke. I would see the film at some point but I wanted to meet the filmmaker. It was a fascinating and satisfying finish to our watching the film. I write about the Q & A here.

The film closes (forgive the spoiler) with Bono saying his goodbyes to Mr. & Mrs. Peterson and bounding up the rock steps from their lakeside home. As he was hurrying up the steps, Mrs. Peterson called out, “Don’t run!” He slowed up, to stay safe – as friends do for other friends. So perfect. So comfortable…and sweet.

Enjoy the film…and get to know Bono, Eugene…, dare I say it, God…in a whole different way.

Postscript: U2 sings Psalm 40 from The Message Bible:

Fourth Line Films

Eugene H. Peterson Quotes

More Eugene H. Peterson Quotes