Tag Archives: reconciliation

Saturday Short – This Blood – with Rachel Chapman

Photo Credit: Flickr

Probably the greatest offense of Christ to a disbelieving world is the cross. Why? Surely, the God of the universe could have orchestrated another way…a gentler, more palatable way to reconcile a wayward people back to Himself. How can we, mere mortals, prescribe to Creator God, a better way? God have mercy.

In our small understanding of the costly nature of sin and the priceless redemption available to us through Jesus, we are undone. A sinless savior. Paying our debt that we had no way to do it. To a holy God. God the Father, restoring us back to Himself, through the death of this precious One, Jesus.

Songwriter Rita Springer wrote a song entitled This Blood that exquisitely describes what Jesus did for us. There is something about this song that also brings together generations. Don’t miss how Springer describes the inspiration of this song and her personal experience of God in the process (here). She also talks about her heritage of parents and grandparents who loved God deeply and raised her up in the tradition of choirs singing of this great love.

Get ready for goosebumps. This song. This choir. This girl. This God:

There is a blood
That cost a life
That paid my way
Death its price
When it flowed
Down from the cross
My sins were gone
My sins forgot

There is a grave
That tried to hide
This precious blood
That gave me life
In Three Days
He breathed again
And rose to stand in my defense

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim that He’s coming back for you
This Life, This Price, This Blood, This One

There is a Blood
That sights the blind
That Heals the sick
The lonely finds
It has the Power
To free the bound
As chains they fall
Upon the ground

So pour it out and
To cleanse my soul
And let’s liquid Glory flow
Because it lives
To make me whole
I owe my life
I owe my soul

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim that He’s coming back for you
This Life, This Price, This Blood, This One

What can wash away my sin?

Nothing, nothing, nothing,

What can make me whole again?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus (x2)

There is a grave
That tried to hide
This precious blood
That gave me life
In Three Days
He breathed again
And rose to stand in my defense

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim that He’s coming back for you
This Life, This Price, This Blood, This One*

[Postscript: I LOVE choirs. Grew up with them, singing in them. In recent years, praise teams have also affected for me an avenue to worship God. The thing is: it’s easy to just be caught up with the singers, the sound and the solace…and stop short of worshiping the God who inspired such singing. May we never stop short. Hallelujah!]

*Lyrics to This Blood – Songwriter Rita Springer

YouTube Video – Rita Springer – This Blood Song Story – listen to Springer’s testimony of how God gave her this song and how it resonated for her with the generations before – the hymn-singing generations – her parents and grandparents who loved God so.

YouTube Video – This Blood – First Baptist Church, Minden, Louisiana (this video features Rachel Chapman (embedded above)

YouTube Video – This Blood – First Baptist Jacksonville – with Soloist Terette Mitchell

Wednesday Worship – Exhale – Plumb

Photo Credit: Chintermeyer, Flickr

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Our saving is not by our own works! Hallelujah! How is it then, that we trip ourselves up on a daily basis with trying to please others when God Himself is already pleased? He sees us through a grace-colored lens…not that His vision ever needed correcting. From forever, we were made in the image of God and, as His forgiven ones, He sees us as Christ-redeemed and Spirit-filled.

Why then are we wooed into thinking that we must perform a certain way to be accepted? Even from the beginning, as complete and perfect and beloved as Eve was, the persuasive other-than-God message of our needing to be more has been driven into our flesh (Genesis 3:4-5).

God saved me as a young child out of the bondage, even then, of wanting to be good for my weary mama. She was raising four children on her own, and I thought if I could only just be good for her it would lighten her load. She didn’t require it of me; I required it of myself. The Gospel message of Ephesians 2:8-9 above was so winsome to me, even at nine years old.

Unfortunately, through the years, I have listened to my own flesh and those not-of-God messages (whether from Satan or the world or church culture). I have often struggled with needing the approval of men and women over God. Needing my own approval (as if mine was more substantive than God’s…sigh).

A concept that became very real to me in my 20s was performance-based acceptance. Measuring myself up against others (or my own evaluation of those others) was a struggle. Then when those others are also Christians, it can get even darker. These are my brothers and sisters. Our gains individually and together reflect the work of God. Full-stop. Any measure otherwise discounts Him.

Even the Apostle Paul who all-out raised the bar on performance understood the error of that and how meager it was compared to knowing and enjoying the love and grace of God:

“…although I once also had confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.

But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” – Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:4-10

The glorious life God means for us to have is drenched with His love and grace. No safe or controllable grace here…it is the magnificent, sufficient grace of God that breathes out of us in every circumstance of our lives…in our response to Him in us.

Tiffany Lee (Plumb) writes about this in the worship song Exhale. The physical act of breathing is a new interest of mine. We can all forcibly exhale (to blow out a birthday candle or set dandelion seeds in flight), but it isn’t a natural state. To exhale is the response to inhaling. It follows. It always follows.

Photo Credit: YouTube

What are we breathing out to the world, including to those we most love? It follows what we’re breathing in. No guilting here. It is the quiet reality of our lives. What we take in informs what we give out.

Worship with me.

It’s okay to not be okay
This is a safe place
This is a safe place
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be ashamed
There’s still hope here
There’s still hope here

No matter what you’ve done or who you are
Everyone is welcome His arms

Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Then exhale

Spirit come tear down the walls
That only You can
That only You can
Reconcile this heart to Yours
Right now God
Right now

Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Then exhale

Oh God we breathe in your grace
We breathe in your grace
And exhale
Oh God we do not exist for us
But to share Your grace and love
And exhale

Oh God We breathe in your grace
We breathe in your grace
And exhale
Oh God we do not exist for us
But to share Your grace and love
And exhale

Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Then exhale

Too often God’s grace is communicated as something we enjoy for ourselves. His grace is not meant to be kept for ourselves. The deeper we understand God…the more we experience His grace for our lives…the more we naturally want to lavish it (Him) on others. Not to please Him by our performance, but in our pleasure of Him.

Closing with John Piper‘s message on this (from over 30 years ago):

For some of you these are the very days in which for the first time the beauty of the gospel of grace is beginning to shine on the horizon of your soul. But others of you look back months or years or decades, to a golden era of faith when Christ was powerfully taking shape in your life. But something has changed. There has been a kind of settling into the world, and the vibrant sense of being an alien and an exile in the world has faded. And the powerful shaping forces in your life are not coming from Christ within but from the world without.

The word of encouragement and admonition to us all this morning is this: the Spirit of the living Christ can be poured into us afresh today… Therefore, I urge you, take your amateur hands off the clay of your life and yield yourselves into the sovereign hands of God. Disavow the praise of men and all your efforts to achieve it. Turn your hearts to Christ and say: I am not my own; you have bought me; forgive me; be formed within me. Not to me, O Lord, not to me, but to your name give glory (Psalm 115:1). Amen. – John Piper

Breathe Him in, Dear Ones, and your exhale can refresh a weary world.

*Lyrics – Exhale – Written by Josh Silverberg, Matthew Armstrong, and Tiffany Arbuckle Lee

Behind the Song with Kevin Davis – Exhale – Plumb

YouTube Video – Plumb – Exhale (Official Music Video)

YouTube Video – Behind the Music – Exhale by Plumb

Performance-based Acceptance – Richard J.

My Performance-based Story – a Synchroblog

Breaking the Bondage of Performance-based Acceptance – Deb Welch

O, That Christ Would Be Formed In You! – John Piper

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

Photo Credit: Pinterest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Lyrics – To the Ends of the Earth – Hillsong

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

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

YouTube Video – Even If – Mercy Me

Lyrics to Even If

Sulking and the Idolatry of Relationships

Blog - Sulking - listdosePhoto Credit: ListDose

I learned how to sulk very early in life, the only girl with three brothers. Sulking came too naturally when I didn’t get my way, especially when my brothers wanted something different than what I wanted. That habit of sulking transferred easily into marriage.

Joseph Bonifacio defines the verb sulk:

Blog - Sulk - joseph bonifacioPhoto Credit: Joseph Bonifacio

When Dave and I were first married, if he didn’t at times behave in some way that I felt he should have, I could effectively sink into a long, brooding sulk. Even though the Bible verse about “not letting the sun go down on your anger” was a serious warning against sulking, I could still go three days without talking to him…beyond the absolute essential.

Those early years of marriage are way in our past, and my sulking these days rarely goes for long, minutes usually, rarely a few hours. Still, it has to be so punishing for him. It certainly is for me.

Today I read the most fascinating description of sulking by Alain de Botton, author of On Love: A Novel and The Course of Love: A Novel

Blog - Sulking - Alain de Botton - fanpopPhoto Credit: Fanpop

At the heart of a sulk lies a confusing mixture of intense anger and an equally intense desire not to communicate what one is angry about. The sulker both desperately needs the other person to understand and yet remains utterly committed to doing nothing to help them do so. The very need to explain forms the kernel of the insult: if the partner requires an explanation, he or she is clearly not worthy of one. We should add: it is a privilege to be the recipient of a sulk; it means the other person respects and trusts us enough to think we should understand their unspoken hurt. It is one of the odder gifts of love.”Alain de Botton

Blog - Sulking - azquotesPhoto Credit: AZ Quotes

Sulking pays homage to a beautiful, dangerous ideal that can be traced back to our earliest childhoods: the promise of wordless understanding. In the womb, we never had to explain. Our every requirement was catered to. The right sort of comfort simply happened. Some of this idyll continued in our first years. We didn’t have to make our every  requirement known: large, kind people guessed for us. They saw past our tears, our inarticulacy, our confusions: they found the explanations for discomforts which we lacked the ability to verbalize. That may be why, in relationships, even the most eloquent among us may instinctively prefer not to spell things out when our partners are at risk of failing to read us properly. Only wordless and accurate mind reading can feel like a true sign that our partner is someone to be trusted: only when we don’t have to explain can we feel certain that we are genuinely understood.Alain de Botton


We can make it hard on those we love the most.

In the same article, on Brain Pickings, where I read Alain de Botton’s words above, there was also the following quote:

““Why is love rich beyond all other possible human experiences and a sweet burden to those seized in its grasp? Because we become what we love and yet remain ourselves.”Martin Heidegger

It reminded me of the passage preached by our pastor this morning. Psalm 115. The psalmist was glorifying God in worship and warning against the sin and human vanity of idolatry – of fashioning a thing or relationship into something for our own pleasure. He further warned that what we fashion for ourselves can cause us to stumble in the worshiping of what was never intended for worship.

Those who make them (idols) become like them; so do all who trust in them.Psalm 115:8
Sulking is a sign that I have assigned omniscience (an “all-knowing”) to my husband (for instance). He is supposed to know what is important to me and how to respond accordingly. The selfishness I may silently stew about in him is actually reflecting the very same selfishness in my own heart. Idolatry is when “I” or my interests take center stage, and sulking is a vehicle for that self-centered universe. Ugh!
It’s something that has come to mind today, thanks to the “coincidence” of a sermon at Movement Church, an article I read this afternoon, and my very own bumping into the idolatrous nature of my heart… This kind of convergence had a great impact on me today and helped me bounce back from a slow-burn that could have ruined a sweet evening with my best friend. Humility on both our parts helped restore the joy and peace in our relationship…sooner than later. Sulking no more.
So…what are your thoughts about idolatries in relationships? Is sulking a struggle of yours, or would your partner say it’s a burden of his/hers?

A senior couple enjoying a cup of tea together

Friendly Fire in the Family of God – How to Go Forward When You Are Hit by Surprise

Blog - Friendly Fire - thecripplegate

Photo Credit: The CrippleGate

We expect attacks from those we know don’t care for us or, in fact, want us gone. They want our jobs or view us as threats, or they can’t stomach our beliefs or ideologies. These confrontations are a part of life and work and we take them in stride; hurtful as they may be, they are expected.

It’s the surprise attacks that catch us off-guard, especially when we come under-fire by those who should have our backs. “Friendly fire” is a phrase coined from military situations when something goes very wrong in battle, and a fellow soldier is wounded or killed by a comrade in arms. Too often, we have experienced the sting of friendly fire.

We may endure long periods of hardship at the hands of difficult bosses or through relentless attacks by acquaintances or colleagues who think very differently than we do. What happens, though, when those who believe as we do (in this case, fellow Christ-followers or true believers) fire on us…sometimes over and over again?  Here is where the breath is knocked out of us and we straighten up again, bewildered, disoriented, and hurt deeply.

This isn’t supposed to happen. As Christians, we know to love one another, even our enemies, to forgive without exception, and to bear with one another and be deferent toward each other. This is not the stuff of doormats or deer “in the headlights”. This is living life in community (whether, work, family, or church) as Jesus calls us to live. I think that’s why we’re caught off-balance when someone who identifies with Christ fires away at us…and especially if there’s no repentance of that “friendly fire”.

How are we to respond in those situations? In fact, how are we to live with our eyes wide open, knowing friendly fire happens, and understanding that we might be the perpetrator the same as anyone else.

Michael Milton wrote an excellent piece on this entitled Hit By Friendly Fire: What To Do When Christians Hurt You. If you are right now dressing the wounds of such an attack, his counsel may be hard to bear. The truth is, though, that the wounds you have right now will never really heal until you do what is necessary for a full recovery. In fact, as we follow Jesus’ example of enduring such attacks, then we can recover much quicker and refuse to retaliate ourselves. We also restrain from launching such barbs ourselves in the heat of some battle.

Milton offers 3 steps in responding when someone hurts you – and this someone can be a family member, friend, colleague or one in authority over you (a Christian boss or pastor).

Step 1 – Take up Your Cross – Followers of Christ are not kept from pain; it is part of our lives as much as it was part of the life of Christ Himself. Even looking back to Old Testament accounts, we see betrayal, deceit, and hurt of every kind. The story of Joseph (Genesis 50:15-21) sold by his brothers into slavery, and then falsely accused and placed in prison for years is a great example. Joseph would finally end up in a position of influence where he was able to save his whole family from famine. He told his terrified and repentant brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:15-21).

Milton points out the lesson of taking up our cross in the face of friendly fire: “Every sorrow, every act of treachery, every act of betrayal [becomes] a point of identification with Christ.” He calls us to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). Even when we are hurt or offended or betrayed. “You and I are called to take up our cross in every way, including our relationships. It is true that you may be hurt, but you are a disciple of One who was betrayed, who was hurt, and you are no better than Jesus.” (Milton) As we wrestle with this truth, we actually move from being victims to victors in Christ.

Step 2 – Take Off Your Crown – When we are injured by another, we want that person to pay for it. We want to be in control of determining the punishment that person deserves. The truth is we are not sovereign, not in control; only God is. The crown of sovereign rule belongs to Him, and we really wouldn’t want it any other way. In the Genesis account, Joseph “escaped being a victim and became a victor by naming God, not as the author of evil, but the One who caused it to work together for good…The crucial step in coming to terms with any pain that has come against us, including getting hurt by someone close to us, is to say, “God, You are in control. What do You want me to learn?” (Milton)

Step 3 – Go to Your Gethsemane – The Apostle Paul trusted God through his many hardships and imprisonments to use that suffering, sometimes at the hands of people who knew him well, to make him more like Jesus.

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ..that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” – Paul (Philippians 3:8, 10)

Milton urged: “Gethsemane is the place where, like Jesus, like Paul, like Joseph, you come face-to-face with your crucifixion and with the fact that God is in control. If there is to be resurrection – a new life to emerge from the pain, the betrayal, the hurtful words – there must be a crucifixion, and if there is to be a crucifixion – by the Father for the good of many – there must be a Gethsemane moment when you say, ‘Not my will but yours.’ There must be a moment when you say, even when the shadow of pain is falling over you, ‘They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.’

God loves us so much. He knows very intimately the pain of the cross. He knows the weight of sovereignty. He knows the deep surrender of a Gethsemane moment. He calls us to a life gloriously beyond being victims, or “walking wounded”. Milton closes his piece with this proclamation of truth: “He will transform you who have been hurt, wounded, abandoned, sinned against, betrayed, from a victim to a victor by trusting in the One who was hurt, wounded, abandoned, sinned against, betrayed, but who pronounced forgiveness from the cross. In Him there can be no more victims – only victors.”

I pray for us all who have come under friendly fire, for months or a moment, to trust God to bring us through victoriously…for His glory and our good…for the good of all of us.

Hit By Friendly Fire: What To Do When Christians Hurt You by Michael Milton

Christian Friendly Fire: With “Friendly-Enemies” Like These Who Needs Christianity? by Kevin Benton

8 Responses to Friendly Fire by Jim Stitzinger

My Story by Jenny – Surviving Friendly Fire by Ronald Dunn

Surviving Friendly Fire – How to Respond When You’re Hurt by Someone You Trust by Ronald Dunn

Blog - Friendly Fire

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

The Story of Us – A Quick Bit about Marriage Through Its Difficult Seasons

2009 August 25th Wedding Anniversary in Paris 128

“Contempt is conceived with expectations. Respect is conceived with expressions of gratitude. We can choose which one we will obsess over—expectations, or thanksgivings.”   – Gary Thomas*

“I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouse.”   – Gary Thomas*

The Story of Us (1999), a film, starring Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer, details a marriage gone flat. I wanted to see the film at the time but the R rating (for language and brief sexuality) deterred me. Just yesterday, I caught the last half-hour of it, and loved that bit. Not recommending the whole film necessarily (it got terrible reviews) but Michelle Pfeiffer’s monolog at the end is amazing.Blog - Story_of_us - Wikipedia, Universal Pics, Warner Bros Pictures

To set the scene (if you didn’t see the movie either), Willis and Pfeiffer (actors I love) are Ben and Kate in a 15-year marriage. It has unwoven terribly over time. While their two children are away at summer camp, they decide to separate. Toward the end of the film, they are both rethinking their decision. As they pick up their children together, the emotional tension of that reunion is so touching. The monolog, in that last scene, is a great declaration of why not to destroy “the story of us”.

Before you watch (or read**) that scene, let me just say this about marriage and divorce…

My family history is riddled with divorce, and I was afraid of marriage because of all my biological family issues. Divorce happens, and honestly, there are situations when we can’t see any other way out, or through. Still, marriage, as we all at least say if not always believe, is worth the fight.

There are so many reasons to work through the dry and difficult seasons of marriage. Gary L. Thomas is a great teacher on this subject and I recommend all of his books on marriage. They are practical and empathetic and full of hope.

One thing I value is history in relationships. When we went through our hard seasons in marriage, I held on to three things: 1) wanting to honor God in my marriage; 2) never wanting the consequences of divorce (had experienced those as a child growing up in divorce); and 3) not wanting to lose our life together (“the story of us”).

We, my husband and I, are in a different place now, and I can say to any in fragile relationships right now, “Wait for it!” “Work for it!” Of course, it takes two. Pfeiffer’s monolog would have had a whole other feel if Willis didn’t respond, in the film, the way he did. In married life, it does take two, but God, in His mercy and love, adds great power and grace to the one willing. Hold on to that.

So here’s just a part of Pfeiffer’s monolog (women, especially, might enjoy reading this out loud, if you’re in a private place – so full of earnestness and vulnerability – just sayin’):

“We’re an “us”. There’s a history and histories don’t happen overnight. In Mesopotamia or Ancient Troy or somewhere back there, there were cities built on top of other cities, but I don’t want to build another city. I like this city…That’s a dance you perfect over time. And it’s hard, it’s much harder than I thought it would be, but there’s more good than bad. And you don’t just give up. And it’s not for the sake of the children, but they’re great kids aren’t they? And we made them – I mean think about that – there were no people there and then there were people – two of them. And they grew…  Let’s face it, anybody is going to have traits that get on your nerves, why shouldn’t it be your annoying traits? I’m no day at the beach, but I do have a good sense of direction so at least I can find the beach, but that’s not a criticism of you, it’s just a strength of mine. And you’re a good friend and good friends are hard to find… I mean I guess what I’m trying to say is – I love you.”**

[I know this is just a movie and maybe not a great one – it just reminded me – the bit I saw, and the monolog – of possibilities and hope. For you who have been terribly hurt in marriages you saw no way to save, God knows…and wants to heal that place in your heart.]

*Gary L. Thomas Quotes at Goodreads

YouTube Video – The Story of Us – Ending – Michelle Pfeiffer’s Amazing Monolog

**One of the Best Monologs Ever

The Story of Us film

How The Story of Us Should Have Ended – just for fun – a variation but with the same conclusion

A Lifelong Love: How to Have Lasting Intimacy, Friendship, and Purpose in Your Marriage by Gary Thomas

A Lifelong Love Quotes

Gary Thomas Answers Your Marriage Questions

YouTube Video – The Story of Us – Taylor Swift – Great song – Disclaimer – NOT about marriage

Photo Credit: Wikipedia.com

Worship Wednesday – I Need You Now – by Plumb

Blog - Plumb Need You NowPhoto Credit: fbcoverstreet.com

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy & find grace to help in time of need.Hebrews 4:16

Some things we won’t understand until Heaven. Like the audacious, relentless love of God for us sin-riddled, distractible children. His tender and severe mercies. His seeming silence in a world gone mad. His quiet, unobtrusive protection in the day-to-day “just keep breathing”. His blanketing grace in the unimaginable.

Tiffany Arbuckle Lee, better known as the singer/songwriter Plumb, writes about this God in deeply intimate ways that resonate with my experience of Him. Especially in the darkness of life…and in that moment when light breaks through. Plumb reflects so vividly the different sides of our lives. All-out rock star gorgeousness and yet, turn around, and there’s this wife and mom trying to keep all the balls in the air…and through it all, this daughter of a watchful, tender God.

She writes my experience of Him. We are driven to prayer sometimes by what’s happening in the world around us…and by those closest to us going through hard times. Marriage struggles. Needing a job. Infertility. Loneliness. Health issues. Growing old.

At night, I have times when sleep doesn’t come until my troubled thoughts turn to trusting prayer. We are like that child, burrowing his face, damp with angry tears, into his father’s shoulder. Then finally comes the release when that child settles in, the strain of the moment is broken, and his weight is transferred to the father. Then sleep comes…and peace.

I have a picture of a couple of friends of ours on my bedside table.  It reminds me to pray daily for them. They are Jeannie & Tom Elliff. Blog - Tom & Jeannie Elliff

For a few short years we lived in the same city. Now we are states apart, but not in the heart. They taught us so much about this walk with God. This walk of faith – praying hard and leaning in on a God who loves completely. Their stories of God’s provision through great losses and great gains fuel hope and joy in our journey with Him.

Blog - Tom & Jeannie Need You NowPhoto Credit: Jeannie’s Facebook

In looking toward another God-ordained turn in their road, Tom said this: “So here’s what I want you to know—you can rest assured in this—we’re going to run through the finish line.” [Not ones to say they weren’t up to it or drop their bags and give up, Elliff said he and his wife would run the course the Lord set before them with wholehearted reserve.]  [www.texanonline.net]

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.Philippians 4:11-13

Worship with me:

Well everybody’s got a story to tell
And everybody’s got a wound to be healed
I want to believe there’s beauty here
Cause oh, I get so tired of holding on
I can’t let go, I can’t move on
I want to believe there’s meaning here

How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this”?
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.

Standing on a road I didn’t plan
Wondering how I got to where I am
I’m trying to hear that still small voice
I’m trying to hear above the noise


Oh I walk, oh I walk through the shadows
And I, I am so afraid
Please stay, please stay right beside me
With every single step I take

How many times have you heard me cry out?
And how many times have you given me strength?


I need you now
I need you now*

Tom & Jeannie’s prayer – and one we can pray for ourselves, as well – resting in God’s strength on the roads we did not plan. Whatever the road, He is with us.Blog - Pray for Tom Elliff  Jeannie Elliff (2)

My Blog on Tom & Jeannie Elliff at the Homegoing of Tom’s Father

*Lyrics to Need You Now

Songfacts of Need You Now written by Plumb, Luke Sheets and Christa Wells

YouTube Video – Plumb – Need You Now – Official Music Video

YouTube Lyric Video – Need You Now (How Many Times) by Plumb

Plumb: How Songs of Healing Helped a Disintegrating Marriage

YouTube Video – Plumb Talks about Need You Now and Going Through Times in Her Marriage

Modern Rocker Turns to a Softer Sound – Plumb

4 Elements of Uncommon Loyalty in the Life of Jonathan

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If you were hanging off a cliff at the end of a rope, you would want someone like Jonathan on the other end. He’s not going to let you fall. This is the kind of loyalty we hope to have in friends, family members, even colleagues, if we were honest. In fact, someone like Jonathan would have intervened before you went over the edge.

We don’t use the term loyalty so often these days. As a character trait, its meaning has been maligned over the years. Being loyal has been perverted to mean something more weak than strong – something puppyish, short-sighted, or weak-willed. Occasionally, loyalty can bring to mind allegiances that serve our own purposes. It’s who you know, right, in advancing in the work force, for example.

Yet, when we look at Jonathan, in the Bible, loyalty is the character quality that comes to mind immediately. Deep, unwavering, costly loyalty. To his friend, David, yes, but also to his flawed king and father, Saul, and most importantly to the Lord Himself.

Jonathan’s story is found in 1 Samuel (beginning in 1 Samuel 13:2), as his father, King Saul, falters and then eventually falls as king of Israel. It’s a fast read to the end of this book and worth your time, if you want to see this picture of Jonathan’s true and steadfast loyalty.

I’ve read this passage many times, but this time, God opened my eyes to the “so much more” that lies at the heart of Biblical loyalty. Read the full account (1 Samuel 13-31) for the mesmerizing details, but here, in brief, is how Jonathan’s life has affected my own today.

The Loyalty of Jonathan

1) He acted on his loyalty – courageously and without hesitation. Jonathan was Saul’s oldest son and heir to the throne as next King of Israel. He was often in battle and led his troops valiantly, even at great risk to his own life (1 Samuel 14). He was loyal to the purposes of God and the direction of his father, King Saul. When his father did not lead well, or at all, Jonathan stayed true to the purposes of God. He found favor among the people (v. 45).

2) He was inclusive, as much as was possible for him to be. Jonathan met David after David killed the giant Goliath. When they met, their souls were knit together (1 Samuel 18:1). A deep love and loyalty grew between these two friends. Jonathan however still obeyed his father as much as he could. He would not follow the king’s orders if they went against God, but when he could obey, he did. [I love this about Jonathan that he didn’t cast off his relationship with his father with the advent of his relationship with David.] Jonathan’s loyalty extended to his God (and God’s purposes for Israel), his father, and his friend.

3) He was selfless in his loyalty, for the sake of those he loved. In reading, the account of Jonathan’s life in 1 Samuel, it became clear pretty early that he would not be heir of Israel’s kingdom after all. He would never be king. What bitterness that could birth in a lesser man! Jonathan must have had a profound trust in God. It seemed the throne was of little consequence to him in comparison to righting the relationships between his father and David. He did everything he could to reconcile the two, even with the knowledge that he would gain nothing more than he had already. That is the purest, truest kind of loyalty. A God-glorifying, unconditional love and loyalty.

4) He did not waver in his loyalty even at great cost. I hope you read the accounts in 1 Samuel that tell Jonathan’s story. From a human standpoint, it doesn’t lead to a happy ending. He dies in battle at his father’s side. David is elsewhere, fighting his own battles, and staying clear of the king who wanted him dead.

Jonathan dies, fighting the enemies of Israel, in obedience to God and his father…faithful, loyal, courageous to the end.  Earlier in his story (1 Samuel 23:17), Jonathan pledged to David, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.” David did become king, but Jonathan would not be at his side. Still, the king that David became was forever altered by how God used Jonathan in his life.

And Jonathan? What of Jonathan? Generations of us who have read his story have squared our shoulders, fixed our gaze, and resolved, with God’s help, to love like Jonathan did…to be truly loyal as he was. This is a greater legacy than being any king…

How would our churches, workplaces, families and friendships be different today if we determined to be wholly and intentionally loyal in our relationships? How would our relationships be with the Lord?

Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and of people. – Proverbs 3:3-4 NRV

Short Bible Study on Loyalty

What Does the Bible Say About Loyalty

The Character of Loyalty

The Bond of Brothers – Gospel Transformation & Reconciliation

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“I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers…For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” – Philemon 4, 7

Brothers. That word can vary greatly in its meaning, depending on the relationships it represents. For the apostle Paul, being “brothers” meant having Christ in common and loving each other as He intended. Also inferred is to follow Christ together, in obedience to His Word and through the grace of the Holy Spirit.

While imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote to Philemon, a brother in the faith, to ask a favor, or rather to ask his favor.  In this brief, carefully worded letter, Paul commended Philemon for his walk with the Lord and his Godly influence on the Colossian church that met in his home. Philemon had come to faith under Paul’s teaching, and his faithfulness was an encouragement to Paul.

In his letter to Philemon, Paul makes the surprising announcement that he is well-acquainted with a man who had severely wronged Philemon. The man, Onesimus, was a slave, or bond-servant, in Philemon’s household. Some time earlier, he had fled (stealing provisions) and made his way to Rome, where he met Paul. Under Paul’s teaching, he also came to faith in Christ. Two men, once in the same household, and then estranged, are now brothers. Could they be reconciled?

Philemon’s Dilemma – As a Godly believer, Philemon was most probably a benevolent master. When Onesimus ran away, Philemon could have easily felt betrayed and bitter at his loss, not just the loss of a servant or property, but the damage to his reputation or witness as a believer and leader in the church. Why would Onesimus leave unless he was mistreated, or so people would think. This rift between these two men would be what Paul addresses in his letter. Given the news that Onesimus had become a believer, could Philemon forgive him and receive him back, both as a slave and a brother?

[Paul doesn’t speak to the issue of slavery which was a common practice in the Greco-Roman world. This letter was not about the rightness or wrongness of Christ-followers having slaves in their households. Paul wrote to Philemon about relationship and Gospel transformation.]

Onesimus’ Dilemma – Onesimus’ costly decision to leave Philemon’s household would put him in a precarious situation with the authorities. He sought to hide himself in the bustling city of Rome, but he, in fact, was found by the Lord Himself. He thought he could save himself, but discovered the only Savior who could truly make him free. As Onesimus grew in his faith and in knowledge of Christ, he became a trusted friend and helper to Paul. The day came, however, that he and Paul must have agreed that an unresolved matter had to be made right. Onesimus must try to reconcile with Philemon.

Paul’s Dilemma – Paul was spiritual father to both of these men. In discipling Onesimus in being obedient to Christ, Paul must have been very clear about the need for confession of sin, God’s forgiveness, and then reconciliation – of the offense and with the offended. By the tone of Paul’s letter, Onesimus was ready and willing to return to Philemon. Paul could have been forthright in compelling Philemon to take Onesimus back. However, Paul wanted Philemon to desire it, not because Paul asked him, but because Onesimus was now his brother. “Receive him as you would receive me….Refresh my heart in Christ.” (Philemon 17, 20)

Do you think Philemon received Onesimus back…as a brother? We do not know from Scripture, but we can imagine, as we read this letter.

Often, if not daily, we encounter one or the other of the dilemmas these three brothers faced. We are the one who offends. We are the one offended. We are the brother who could intervene or intercede for the two others.

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There was a time when I gravely hurt a Christian friend of mine who finally confronted me with my wrong-doing. Shocked at my own insensitivity, I was immediately repentant and asked for forgiveness. The wound was still so raw, my friend momentarily refused to forgive me. I appealed with, “But you HAVE to forgive me.” As believers in Christ, we are obliged to forgive each other, if not out of obedience, then in gratitude to Him for our own forgiveness. I think if there had been a brother Paul in our lives, I would have seen my sin earlier and sought reconciliation more quickly, lessening the pain for that friend, who did, by the way, forgive me.

Take a moment with me to examine our lives. Is there a brother (or sister) whom we’ve wronged and we alone must take steps toward righting that wrong? Or are we in position to forgive another and to take the steps publicly to receive that one back into our lives? Or, lastly, and most counter-culture in today’s world, are there those with whom we have influence who need help reconciling. Do we love them enough to extend ourselves to them? Do we love God enough – to put ourselves on the line – for an Onesimus and a Philemon?

This bond of brothers – Philemon, Onesimus, and Paul – is one of life’s great lessons on how the Gospel transforms us. Reconciliation follows as we see each other as Christ sees us, and act accordingly – obeying Him in word and deed and lovingly encourage each other to do the same.

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Worship Wednesday – With Every Act of Love by Jason Gray & Jason Ingram

Blog - Worship Wednesday - With Every Act of Love

[Image from www.richmond.com/www.homewardva.org]

“Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”        – Matthew 6:10

In downtown Richmond, Virginia, you will see people standing on corners with cardboard signs. The signs tell stories of veterans needing jobs, homeless begging food, the down-and-out asking for spare change. Signs made out of pieces of cardboard held out to the drivers stopped at intersections. Those of us in the safe insulation of our vehicles size up these requests and wonder if they speak to real life. Do these sign-holders look needy enough? Is it real destitution born out of hardship thrust on them or is it out of circumstances they brought on themselves? We try not to look into their eyes as the seconds tick by before the light changes to green, and then we accelerate past them and our discomfort fades as they do in our rear-view mirrors. God forgive us.

There have been times I’ve responded with some money, or staples from a grocery store trip, or some food from the order I just placed at the drive-through window a block away. Still, a little money or food or conversation or prayer only scratches the surface of what must be going on in the lives of people willing to stand exposed, with a cardboard sign, on a city street. Responding in any way that “leans in” is at least moving in the direction of Kingdom living…Kingdom building…but we must not stop there.

Jason Gray explains how he came to write the lyrics of this song, “The Gospel is clearly a theology of deeper engagement and restoration and redemption ….Yes, the Kingdom will come, but the Kingdom is coming, day by day, moment by moment, and that we’re invited to play a part in that Kingdom coming, right now, right here, with every act of love we do…With every act of love, we get to be a part of God’s Kingdom coming. I love that.”

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Dear God, help us to know and practice authentic love for You and for “the least of these” whoever they are. Also we pray that we  infuse every moment of our lives with the love You’ve given us. Given not just for our pleasure but meant to bless the nations – our own children, and these whom You know and love on the streets of our cities…and in places far from us, but not far from You. Give us wisdom, God, and hearts like Yours.

Reaching out to the poor and displaced can be complicated, but we all were poor and displaced, and God reached out to us. My prayer is that we wrestle with this daily in a way that stirs our hearts to prayer and surrenders our hands and feet (and finances) to a good and generous God. If we build margin in our lives for the needy, God will grow capacity in us to serve them in ways that bring them the Kingdom.

Worship with me…

With Every Act of Love [Lyrics] – lyric video below

Sitting at the stoplight
He can’t be bothered by the heart cry
Written on the cardboard in her hand
But when she looks him in the eye
His heart is broken open wide
And he feels the hand of God reach out through him
As Heaven touches earth

Oh – we bring the Kingdom come
Oh – with every act of love
Jesus help us carry You
Alive in us, Your light shines through
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come

There’s silence at the table
He wants to talk but he’s not able
For all the shame that’s locked him deep inside
But her words are the medicine
When she says they can begin again
And forgiveness will set him free tonight
As Heaven touches earth

God put a million, million doors in the world
For his love to walk through
One of those doors is you
I said, God put a million, million doors in the world
For his love to walk through
One of those doors is you

Oh – we bring the Kingdom come
Oh – with every act of love
Jesus help us carry You
Alive in us, Your light shines through
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come

Publishing: © 2013 Centricity Music Publishing, Nothing Is Wasted Music (ASCAP) / Sony-ATV Timber Publishing, Open Hands Music (SESAC)

Writer(s): Jason Gray, Jason Ingram

With Every Act of Love – Official Lyric Video

Life Will Have the Final Word album by Jason Gray

Story Behind With Every Act of Love

Derry Prenkert’s Notes from 2014 Global Leadership Summit – Brian Loritts on God’s intent for the Church in doing good

Baptist Global Response to the Tragically Displaced

Jason Gray Music