Tag Archives: Tom Elliff

5 Friday Faves – Storytelling, the Restorative Nature of Music, a Film Company, Ethnic Food, and a Sugar Detox

Hope you’ve had a good week, since it’s pretty much done. Deep breath! Friday Faves coming at you right now.

1) Storytelling – When I was growing up, listening to stories was one of our favorite forms of distraction. Huddled around a campfire or under blankets at a sleepover, we would listen to funny or scary stories that kept us wanting more. In these days, good storytelling seems a neglected art form. Our friend Tom Elliff tells great stories and we never grow tired of him repeating them. Very little of Tom’s storytelling has been captured on film (you can enjoy some of his stories in this sermon). Fortunately for us, Tom has published some of his stories because you don’t want to miss them.

Communicator David Grossman has written many helpful pieces for us who would love to sharpen our storytelling. Two are linked below. His quick formula for excellent storytelling is depicted here:

Photo Credit: Your Thought Leader, David Grossman

A Quick Formula to Tell the Best Stories – David Grossman

The Power of Storytelling – David Grossman

I’ve written previously about storytelling here and here.

How’s your story-telling? Please comment below about your experiences with story-telling or good story-tellers.

2) The Restorative Nature of Music – I love music. Choral music is my favorite, but some instrumental music, as well, has captured my heart (this musician in particular). I sang in choirs from the time I was a small child. In college, I had the opportunity to sing with the Emory University Choir, a very different experience than that in a smallish Baptist church choir in the South. It amazes me to this day how music can touch emotions…even to the point of being therapeutic and restorative. Whether it is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or Alzheimer’s Disease, music can have a positive soothing effect.

Watch these two short videos of the impact of music on two elderly persons. So beautiful.

3) A Film Company – I don’t know how I first became aware of local filmmaker Nathan Clarke. He is the founder of Fourth Line Films in Richmond, Virginia. Here is how he describes the work of this company:

“Fourth Line is a Richmond, Virginia based production company specializing in documentary and authentic storytelling. As lovers, students and champions of film, we know the inherent power of a good story exceptionally told. That’s why we apply cinematic tools and techniques to produce engaging, authentic stories that captivate audiences. We strive to create films that don’t just entertain, but incite a response.”Photo Credit: Fourth Line

My favorite documentary so far by Fourth Line is Bono and Eugene Peterson: The Psalms. I write about that lovely film here.

Check out their intro video on their work and you get a montage of the quality of their work as well as their intent in the art of filmmaking.

Our town is not known for filmmaking…yet…but that will change as these guys make their mark on this city and our world.

Fourth Line Films and Fourth-Line

Fourth Line Films

Facebook Page – Fourth Line Films

Q & A with a Filmmaker – Nathan Clarke on the Arts, Authenticity, and the Christian Faith – Deb Mills Writer

4) Ethnic Food – Across the street from each other are two of my current favorite ethnic restaurants:

Habanero Mexican Grill – This is a tiny restaurant with most of the seating under umbrellas on the patio. It’s an order-at-the-counter experience, but they handle groups really well. Mexican food doesn’t always love me, so it’s not my go-to dining experience. This is the exception. Really great fajitas and taco salad, just to name two.

Mediterranean Bakery & Deli – This restaurant (deli and market) caters to anyone who loves Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food. So good. The grocery products, the music, and the tastes and smells take us back to our life in North Africa. The fatayer (an inexpensive pie of meat or spinach, with or without Feta cheese added) is so yummy. Always our go-to.Photo Credit: Mediterranean Bakery, Twitter

If you’re a Richmonder, please take a moment to comment below what your favorite ethic restaurants are around here. Thanks!

5) A Sugar Detox – I can’t believe I’m writing on this topic outside of a piece on addictions. Still, mentally and physically, my resolve is steely right now to deal with sugar in my life. After a few days of family vacation ahead of us, I’m coming back to do a sugar detox. Photo Credit: Pixabay, Saramukitza

Diets of any kind are suspect for me because they never seem to have lasting impact. Diets also force you to be “consumed” with food – which is so counter-intuitive since it’s the unhealthy consumption of food that is already the problem.

Twice in my life, I came completely off sugar – once while pregnant with Nathan, and the second time 3 or so years ago. Both times were very positive experiences, once I got past the addictive pull of sugar. Even now I just don’t eat chocolate or doughnuts (two lovely trigger foods for me)…everything else has become fair game again…and I am quite fond of sweet treats.

What has given me the impetus to do a sugar detox? This article: One-month Sugar Detox: a Nutritionist Explains How and Why by Lisa Drayer Very practical, not too food-weird. I am ready.

Will let you know how it goes…

So…here’s the weekend. Hope you have a safe and refreshing one with lots of loves around. The world today seems to breed loneliness which is so odd with the myriad ways people are able to be “connected”.  It helps for me to be aware, and to reach out instead of throwing a pity party of one. Hope you have no idea what I’m talking about. For the rest of us, let’s reach out.

Bonus

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age – Jeff Goins – Have you read it yet?

YouTube Video – Top 5 The IT Crowd Moments – British show about an IT department where the voicemail is “Have You Tried Turning It Off and On Again?”

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

Photo Credit: MVFC1

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

Until it doesn’t.

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

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

So thankful for our local fire department and rescue squad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy Week – Each Day of that Week in the Life of Jesus – Right Through to His Death, Burial, and Resurrection

Blog - Holy Week - fumcamesPhoto Credit: FUMCAmes

[From the Archives]

“The resurrection of Jesus changes the face of death for all His people. Death is no longer a prison, but a passage into God’s presence.  Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.”Clarence W. Hall

This week coming up is not like any other in the calendar. Through the centuries, this week has been considered holy. We note each day as significant because of what happened for the sake of all humanity in the space of 8 days…8 days that changed history forever.

Many writers commemorate Holy Week. I wrote a series of articles myself (links are below). Desiring God also has a great series on Holy Week…and Mike Mobley’s Events of the Holy Week. Then there’s Tom Elliff’s beautiful piece on The Easter I’ll Never Forget. You can find much to read on these incredible days of Jesus’ life.

In all the busyness of this month, with school assignments, work deadlines, and Spring vacations, don’t miss Holy Week.

Don’t miss Jesus of Nazareth…whose life is set in history and who sets us into His Story.

Day 1 of Holy Week – Palm Sunday – Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on the Way to the Cross

Jesus and Holy Week – Monday, Day 2 – Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Cleanses the Temple

Jesus and Holy Week – Tuesday, Day 3 – a Long Day teaching & Countering Religious Opposition

Jesus and Holy Week – Wednesday, Day 4 – a Day of Quiet Before the Storm – and We Worship

Jesus and Holy Week – Thursday, Day 5 – Passover Celebration and His Last Supper Before the Cross

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 6 – Good Friday – His Trial, Crucifixion, & Burial

Jesus and Holy Week – Saturday, Day 7 – Black Saturday – the Silent Tomb

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 8 – He is Risen! Resurrection Sunday

Resurrection of Jesus – Slideshare

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.”  – the Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:3–7

Blog - Holy Week - resurrection - the gospel coalitionPhoto Credit: The Gospel Coalition

On the 27th Birthday of Our Son and New Dad – A Charge, a Quote, a Poem and a Prayer

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Happy birthday, Son. Over the years, you have single-handedly taken me to my knees more often than you realize – praying to be the parent God would have me be for you; praying for you to come to faith at an early age; appealing to God for all the moves (overseas and stateside) to not be too hard for you; asking for comfort when situations were sometimes hard anyway, and thanking Him for all He did for you – the friendships, the opportunities, and His relationship with you from forever.

So many memories. IMG_0034 (2)

“Let’s go kill buffalo!” Following your sister around for play ideas. Grandparent visits. Family vacations at the Chesapeake Bay. Move to Africa. Carpool buddies. Gameboy. Drawing cartoons.IMG_8751Computer games. Getaways to the Red Sea. Dreamcast. Becoming a Christ-follower. Baptism back home in Tennessee. IMG_8749

Roadtrips to the Sahara Desert. Soccer. Cousins. Airports. Basketball.

2006 February -- Rabat BBall Tourney turtles bike 2972007 - June -- Nathan scoresGrumpy when hungry – feed the boy. High School Rock Band. Great friendships. Game Nights. Sleep-Overs. PlayStation. Laughter. Working out. Classical Guitar. 2006 -- Dec -- Nathan, Jeremiah, Jared

VCU. Honors College. Aletheia Praise Band. Guitar Professor Patykula. Sharing a house with your brother, sister, and then Duy.Blog - Parenting 4

Met and married beautiful Bekkah. Nathan & Bekkah collection

Grad school at East Carolina. Then back to Virginia, teaching guitar, playing beautiful music, and making a home…grown. Nathan & Bekkah - New House

With being grown, comes adult friendships, some nurtured since childhood, some within the family, others without. With being grown, comes new work challenges, fulfilling life aspirations, and deepening your faith in God. With being grown, comes new family designations – becoming uncle to your nieces (first niece on our side of the family).

Then that crazy day this summer that you wildly trended on social media through a posting of one of your krue.tv live streams.

Best of all…the day Titus was born…and you became a dad.Nathan, Bekkah, & Titus July 2016IMG_8050Photo Credit: Helen Phillips, Bekkah MillsNathan & Titus lookalikesTakes after his daddy – Titus (l) & Nathan (r)

Nathan, you are settled for now in the U.S. after so many stamps in your passport. Settled in our hearts forever. You make us laugh, and you make us think. Your grown-up heart is so worth the childhood/teen year battles. And your music…what a gift to us. [Videos linked at end of today’s blog]. Whether you’re on electric, acoustic, or classical guitar. Your music goes right to the heart. Thank you for honing the gift God gave you. – that heart of yours first, and that music flowing out of it.Nathan and guitar on stepsPhoto Credit: Duy Nguyen

As you settle into your mid- to late-twenties, I leave you with God’s word to Joshua, Oswald Sanders’ word to leaders, a poem often quoted by our friend Tom Elliff, and a prayer credited to General Douglas MacArthur.

Happy birthday, Son. I’ll love you forever.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

“When a person is really marked out for leadership, God will see that that person receives the necessary disciplines for effective service.” – J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man.
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall praise –
Watch His method, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects;
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which only God understands
While his tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends, but never breaks,
When his good He undertakes. . . .
How He uses whom He chooses
And with every purpose fuses him,
By every art induces him
To try his splendor out –
God knows what He’s about.
– Anon. – often quoted by Tom Elliff

Build me a son - Douglas MacArthurPhoto Credit: Pinterest

IMG_8616

Star Wars Video: Ian Edwards – Cameraman http://www.ian.camera/
Danny Caporaletti – Asst Cameraman http://dannycaporaletti.com
Ruthie Edwards – Animation http://ruthieswebsite.com

Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar

Nathan Mills Live Streaming at krue.tv

J. Oswald Sanders’ Spiritual Leadership

Part of Joni Eareckson Tada’s Testimony – Poem Drill a Man

Book Favorite I’ll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch – Before Helicopter Parenting Became a Cultural Issue

Adapted from a previous blog.

A Year Missing Our Friend Jeannie Elliff – Remembering

Blog - Jeannie Elliff

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the Homegoing of our dear friend, Jeannie Elliff. She died on July 20, 2015, after a long battle with breast cancer – a young 69 years old. I wrote before about her here. Remember her with me and all who knew her…and loved her.Blog - Jeannie Elliff 6Photo Credit: Facebook

What I also want to point you to today is her husband, Tom, and what he wrote this week about her. In his blog he writes eloquently and lovingly of those last days before her Homegoing.

What a year it must have been for him. Marking special days and trips he would have spent with her and those closest to them. Experiencing the many graces of God that come in the painful loneliness of losing a spouse like Jeannie. Of course, he wouldn’t probably describe these days as losing her altogether. She just arrived Home ahead of him.

Besides his blog, I also wanted to give you a heads-up about his latest book coming out in September. You can pre-order through Amazon.com and others. In The Unwanted Gift, Tom reflects on the relentless cancer Jeannie experienced (and he, with her). Then, in the book, he expands it to any personal trial we might be having, and how God can penetrate and infuse that hard place with His great grace and strength.

Blog - The Unwanted Gift by Tom Elliff - clcpublicationsPhoto Credit: Amazon

We have read all of Tom’s books. He writes as a dear friend might, your own pastor maybe…coming alongside with encouragement and care…with humility and trust…as one who has been in a similar place…confident that God will meet us there, as He did with Tom and Jeannie.

Postscript: Like you maybe, we have a full week with little time for much extra reading or viewing. For this reason, I wanted to point you to two easy-to-use resources to help you know and reflect on the life of Jeannie Elliff. One is a video and the other is audio (with transcript) – listen in the car or working at home – you will be blessed:

Tribute to Jeannie Elliff   Jeannie’s husband, Tom, and all four of her children spoke at her memorial service. It was the most worshipful service and loveliest tribute I’ve ever seen honoring a woman who loved God and all of us so completely. The video of the service is still available on Vimeo – so beautiful. Revive Our Hearts Radio also posted a two-part tribute (October 1 & 2, 1015) entitled Faithful to the Finish: The Life of Jeannie Elliff. Nancy Leigh DeMoss moderated the tribute, using audioclips from the memorial service.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.2 Timothy 4:6-8

For us…there is still a race to run.  For God’s glory and for those He’s placed in our lives…as Jeannie so marvelously showed the way.Blog - Tom & Jeannie Need You NowPhoto Credit: Facebook

Jeannie Elliff – Home Now with the God She Loved So Well – Debmillswriter

Angry Men – Dealing with Fits of Anger and the Painful Fallout

Blog - Anger - beliefnetPhoto Credit: BeliefNet

Be angry, yet do not sin. Do not let the sun set upon your anger, and do not give the devil a foothold.Ephesians 4:26-27

I’d like to start a conversation about angry men. Not that women don’t get angry; sure we do. For today, though I’d like to think out loud about the frightening, threatening nature of anger in men. As an emotion, anger isn’t necessarily bad. It is a normal response to plenty of situations. We all have good reasons to be angry at times. When we turn up our anger either on ourselves or others then it becomes destructive and sometimes dangerous.

[Disclaimer: I am not an authority on this topic,  but have found the articles by the men who have written and counseled on this topic very helpful – they are linked below.]

Living with someone who strikes out at me in anger is not a daily experience, and for that I’m very thankful. However, there are strong memories of unchecked anger in my past that still sting when they come to mind.

  • I was maybe 5 years old when, one night in our home, all four of us children were sitting, huddled together on a bottom bunk, while my mom, dad and an uncle were having some sort of altercation. Mom and Dad were divorced by then, and he and my uncle were in some sort of row. I remember my dad’s face bleeding and a bloody handkerchief…and lots of frightening yelling…until he finally left our house.
  • My step-dad, who is the only dad I’ve ever really known, has always been so kind to me. He, on the other hand, was sometimes a tough dad with the boys. He struggled with fits of anger, and they were the recipients of it. As the years went by, he managed to get control of his anger for the most part. Still there are memories I wish I didn’t have, and I’m sure my brothers wish they could forget.
  • My oldest brother, who saw much more than I did of our birth father’s selfishness and our step-dad’s temper, also struggled with anger issues through his life. He had an uncanny ability to bait us, as family, into escalating arguments that left us all shaking with emotion. I learned the most about dealing with anger through trying to stay in relationship with him. Two friends, who also loved him, gave me the insight I needed to NOT take the bait and to draw down the negative emotion of our conversations. One friend told me, “Hurt people hurt people.” That one observation helped me the most with my brother. His whole life was full of hurt, some he brought on himself, some he didn’t. Before he died, a few years back, he had begun the process of healing in a lot of those areas. I am so thankful that he finally saw that friendship with family was possible. We became close friends before the end. My only regret for him was that he didn’t have time for all his relationships mended before he died. Learn from this.

[There are some other situations very close to me that are still too fresh and painful to put up here….where people I love have been terribly hurt by angry, vindictive men who were supposed to protect and care for them.]

Blog - Anger - patheosPhoto Credit: Patheos

I started thinking about this dilemma of “blowing up” anger especially in men after reading Chuck Lawless’ article 10 Steps to Deal with Anger. He offers really good counsel especially to Christian men with anger problems, but anyone would benefit from reading this article. Chuck grew up with a father who lashed out at his family in anger (he wrote about it here). Like my step-dad, his dad would later change, with God’s help…which can give hope to all of us.

Too often we downplay anger. Because it is a normal emotion, we tend to just accept it unless there is violence inflicted.  When fits of anger are typical of how we respond to frustration, disappointment, loss, or not getting our way, we need help.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law...If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.Galatians 5:19-26

Kurt Smith posted a gripping piece on his Guy Stuff Counseling blog. Married to an Angry Man – A Wife’s View of Her Husband’s Anger was taken from Kim Barnes’ article With This Rage, I Thee Wed. Her story is real and heart-wrenching. Then the comments and Kurt Smith’s responses to them are also incredibly helpful in understanding what women encounter in their anger-singed relationships.

Dear men with anger issues in our lives, please get the help you need…for your sake and that of those who love you. Often, we hear people walking away from negative relationships, but, except for when violence is present, I would support people staying together and fighting through to healing if at all possible. Still, help from counselors, pastors, or other professionals may be required for a breakthrough.

Tom Elliff wrote a small book entitled The Broken Curse, about lashing out with words and the life-long impact of such words…unless healing takes place. “Hurt people hurt people” and their weapons are sometimes words of contempt, resentment, and intimidation. Men who explode with anger have histories often of being victims of that very same kind of treatment by one who was supposed to have loved and protected them. Both the angry men and the women, children, and other men in their lives all need to examine these life patterns and work together to relate differently to each other.

Helps abound online and through various agencies…when we’re willing to face the hateful, hurtful reality of unleashed anger.

 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:31-32

Kill Anger Before It Kills You or Your Marriage – John Piper – don’t miss this one.

Married to an Angry Man – A Wife’s View of Her Husband’s Anger – posted by Kurt Smith, Counseling Men Blog – Don’t miss the comments – story after story of women and the angry men they have loved – very helpful.

Counseling Men Blog – Guy Stuff Counseling

Brad Hambrick on Anger

Top 7 Bible Verses on Anger – Jack Wellman

7 Ways to Help Men Resolve Anger Issues – Jed Diamond

Battered Person Syndrome – Wikipedia

The Angry Heart – Biblical Counseling CoalitionBlog - Anger - Angry man - Biblical Counseling CoalitionPhoto Credit: Biblical Counseling Coalition

Worship Wednesday – In the Midst of Our Storms, We Have a Good, Good Father – Chris Tomlin & Pat Barrett

Blog - good good father - timesofmaltaPhoto Credit: TimesofMalta

“For I proclaim the name of the LORD; Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.” Deuteronomy 32:3-4

When we lived in Morocco, we loved walking along the coast – along both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. There were sandy beaches aplenty, but my favorite parts were the rocky outcroppings which stood as sentinels against the crashing waves. I will never forget one time, walking with a friend who prayed aloud as we stood by the shore on a stormy day. He said, “Lord, may the storms of our lives break on the rocks of Your mercy.”

Storms come to all our lives…shocks, interruptions and losses that shake our faith and cause confusion in our understanding of good…and God. We want to explain how such things can happen in the presence of a good God. However, our attempts at explaining fall pitifully short. How can we explain our experience of that good Father in the midst of every storm? He is present, even in His silence…we lean in, and we find strong support…through every storm.

Blog - Good Good Father - godisgreatitstruePhoto Credit: GodIsGreatItsTrue

“Life is hard and God is good.” – Marshall Shelley

These words were spoken by a father whose tiny son, Toby, lived 2 minutes in this world. Toby is short for Tobiah which means “God is good”. Shelley goes on to describe more of his wrestling with Toby’s brief life in a Christianity Today article.

“Why did God create a child to live two minutes?

He didn’t.

He didn’t create Toby to live two minutes…He didn’t create me to live 40 years (or whatever number he may choose to extend my days in this world). God created Toby for eternity. He created each of us for eternity, where we may be surprised to find our true calling, which always seemed just out of reach here on earth.”

I can’t explain the goodness of God but I know it. He is a good, good Father. He has brought me through hard places; He is with me through dark nights when I can’t sleep. How can we bask in His goodness in hard times and not believe, even when our hearts are broken, that His goodness extends into the hard as well? Because of His comfort thus far in my life…and that of others near to my heart…I determine to trust Him in the present hard…and with the future.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations. – Psalm 100:4-5

What a blessing to read the Psalms and rejoice with those inspired writers who give us pictures of God present in our storms. Our hearts are also gladdened by modern-day hymn-writers who remind us of the truth of God’s goodness. Casting Crowns’ Praise You in the Storm and Just Be Held, and then David Crowder’s I Am all remind us of God’s presence with us in the midst of storms.

Chris Tomlin and Pat Barrett’s song Good, Good Father gives voice to my experience of the goodness of God. I hope you are encouraged by it, in whatever the storms are in your life today.

Worship with me.

Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper
Of love in the dead of night
And You tell me that You’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Oh, and I’ve seen many searching
For answers far and wide
But I know we’re all searching
For answers only You provide
‘Cause You know just what we need
Before we say a word

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Cause You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us

You are perfect in all of Your ways
Oh, You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us

Oh, it’s love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
Into love, love, love

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am
You’re a good good Father

You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways*

“This I recall to mind and therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses never cease. His compassions [his mercies] never fail. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I have hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the person who seeks him.” – Lamentations 3:21-25

“Life is hard and God is good. Life is hard and God is good.” That is the meaning of Lamentations. That is the meaning of Job. You might say that is the meaning of the Bible. Life is hard and God is good…and many of you are right in the midst of proving it to be so now. At least if you would trust him, if I could persuade you that God is trustworthy in it, and if you held on to it, you would discover that life is hard and God is good.

O, that God would give us eyes to see his mercies in our lives and we would see them all the more clearly and know that they were mercies if we knew the price that he paid for them for us. He sent his son Jesus Christ into the world to die so that my guilt will be taken away, his wrath would be removed from me, and there would be a free, open course for his mercies to flow to me while he is just. Even though I am a sinner, I can be treated with mercy. That is a glorious thing that God has done in Jesus Christ. We would taste the mercies all the more sweetly if we knew the price.” – John Piper

BLog - Good good father - midspointofviewPhoto Credit: Midspointofview

Lyrics to Good, Good Father by Pat Barrett and Tony Brown

The God of Joyful Tears and Sorrow – Trevin Wax

YouTube Video – Good, Good Father – Housefires II (featuring Pat Barrett)

If This is Spring There Must Be a Tornado Somewhere – Tom Elliff

Blog - Good Good Father - onegirldesignshoppe

Photo Credit: OneGirlDesignShoppe

Holy Week – Each Day of that Week in the Life of Jesus – Right Through to His Death, Burial, and Resurrection

Blog - Holy Week - fumcamesPhoto Credit: FUMCAmes

“The resurrection of Jesus changes the face of death for all His people. Death is no longer a prison, but a passage into God’s presence.  Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.”Clarence W. Hall

This week is unlike any other in the calendar. Through the centuries, this week has been considered holy. We note each day as significant because of what happened for the sake of all humanity in the space of 8 days…8 days that changed history forever.

Many writers commemorate Holy Week. I wrote a series of articles myself this time last year (links are below). Desiring God also has a great series on Holy Week…and Mike Mobley’s Events of the Holy Week. Then there’s Tom Elliff’s beautiful piece on The Easter I’ll Never Forget. You can find much to read on these incredible days of Jesus’ life.

In all the busyness of this month, with school assignments, work deadlines, and Spring vacations, don’t miss Holy Week.

Don’t miss Jesus of Nazareth…whose life is set in history and who sets us into His Story.

Day 1 of Holy Week – Palm Sunday – Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on the Way to the Cross

Jesus and Holy Week – Monday, Day 2 – Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Cleanses the Temple

Jesus and Holy Week – Tuesday, Day 3 – a Long Day teaching & Countering Religious Opposition

Jesus and Holy Week – Wednesday, Day 4 – a Day of Quiet Before the Storm – and We Worship

Jesus and Holy Week – Thursday, Day 5 – Passover Celebration and His Last Supper Before the Cross

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 6 – Good Friday – His Trial, Crucifixion, & Burial

Jesus and Holy Week – Saturday, Day 7 – Black Saturday – the Silent Tomb

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 8 – He is Risen! Resurrection Sunday

Resurrection of Jesus – Slideshare

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.”  – the Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:3–7

Blog - Holy Week - resurrection - the gospel coalitionPhoto Credit: The Gospel Coalition

Thanksgiving in America – Family/Friends, Food, Football, Falling Asleep Following Football, Forever Grateful

Blog - Mills & Kitenko Family Thanksgiving 2015Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! If you’re in the USA, it’s a big day. Lots of food (all favorites you expect/hope to see every year) with those you love crowded around. Then football. Falling asleep from all the turkey.

Dave’s family is in Delaware and most of mine is in Georgia. We’ve had Thanksgivings with both, on sort of a rotation…but not nearly often enough, since we lived overseas for so many years. During that season of our lives, friends became family for us.Thanksgiving 04 009

The food favorites varied somewhat depending on the family. If you knew us well, you would know which family gathering was that year, just looking at the food below. What are your “must-haves” on Thanksgiving Day?2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 012 a (2)2010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 1152014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 023

Better even than the food is the time together with people we love. We can’t always be all together because of distance…but it is a good day spent together…I’m grateful for every memory we’ve made together. So thankful for family – with all its imperfections. God put us together, and I want to always honor that.

PopPop Stacie 2011 (2)

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.   – Albert Schweitzer

2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 3852010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 263 (2)2014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 0582014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 0542014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 056

If one should give me a dish of sand and tell me there were particles of iron in it, I might look for them with my eyes, and search for them with my clumsy fingers, and be unable to detect them; but let me take a magnet and sweep through it, and how would it draw to itself the almost invisible particles by the mere power of attraction.  The unthankful heart, like my finger in the sand, discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day, and as the magnet finds iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessing, only the iron in God’s sand is gold.                                 Henry Ward Beecher2009 Nov 029

Football!2014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 057Football! 2010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 204

[Sidebar about football and the mad cleanup that follows the huge Thanksgiving meal – this commercial.]

I cherish every memory these images represent and all the other memories not documented here. Thank You, God, for all Your good gifts to us. Your kindness is beyond our imagining.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”Romans 11:36

Look for things to be thankful for: a dear old face at an open door,

The table set for the family meal, a husband’s love that is true as steel.

A cushioned chair that you fixed yourself, your favorite books on a nearby shelf,

A green-hued twilight that sort of glows, the clean, fresh smell of a brier rose.

An old windjammer that you recall beating its way through an April squall,

Its old sides crusted with salty spray, limping in at the close of day.

The lovely odor of lemon peel; a humble man with a flaming zeal

For a worthy cause that he thinks is right; the feeling of warmth on a winter night.

Look for things to be thankful for: a braided rug on your bedroom floor,

A dormer window with curtains drawn, a bluebird singing across the lawn.

So much to be thankful for these days, so much to enjoy and love and praise. – Edna Jaques, Ideals, Vol. 57, #5

2009 Nov 006 (2)

Prayers for those of you who have said goodbye, for now, to loved ones this year – thinking especially of our dear friend, Tom Elliff, whose beloved Jeannie went ahead of him to the Lord this summer. May God’s tender presence be a sweet comfort to Tom this Thanksgiving…as he continues to bless his family and serve the Lord.Blog - Tom Elliff & Family at Thanksgiving 2015Photo Credit: Tom Elliff’s Family

Worship Wednesday – All Good Gifts – Thanksgiving Memories

Thanksgiving Poems

Ideals Magazine – Christmas Edition 2015

5 Organic Ingredients of a Grateful Heart by Steve Graves

Blog - International Student Thanksgiving Dinner 2015 2VCU International Student Thanksgiving Dinner 2015;  Photo Credit: Donna Ange Photography

Jeannie Elliff – Home Now with the GOD She Loved So Well

Blog - Jeannie Elliff

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.1 Peter 1:3-7

Dear Jeannie. A life well-lived. Finally Home.

We woke this morning to the news that our dear friend, Jeannie Elliff, went to be with the Lord during the night. Such a mix of emotions over that news. So thankful that God kept her from suffering and kept her with her Tom, surrounded by family, until that moment she went Home.

We are also so grateful to God to have known Jeannie. Since January of 1999 when we first heard them speak at a conference. It’s as if we’ve know Jeannie and Tom our whole lives…the impact they had on us, that she had on me.

It’s always been Tom & Jeannie. Jeannie & Tom. Strange to think of her not here now. Yet, she is still in all we learned in the life she lived.

Jeannie was (is) full of joy. Any conversation with her felt like a ticker tape parade as she checked on the one in front of her or spoke of how God was working in the lives of people she loved. She deeply and fiercely cared for all God brought her way. She was just the wife that Tom needed. What a blessing over these nearly 49 years of marriage (since August 20, 1966) she was to him!Blog - Jeannie Elliff 6Photo Credit: bpnews.net

She delighted in Tom, and her children, and all the grandchildren. Blog - Jeannie Elliff family portrait

She and Tom had great capacity for love…so much room in their hearts for others…and we knew that love. So grateful for that.

I only got to sit under her teaching once. Her love for the Lord and wonder at the goodness and faithfulness of His Word lit up her face as she taught. Even in the last days of her life, she soaked up God’s Word with Tom. It was a habit of her life – early in the Word and in prayer, every day.Jeannie & Tom Elliff at Christmas

Her prayers were her greatest gift to all of us. She prayed with an earnestness borne out of a deep personal faith in God. She knew Him and knew what He could do in our lives. He called her to prayer and she met Him there…for all of us.

I will miss her laughter. Her stories. Her loving playful jabs at Tom. Her wonder…at the love and mercy of God. The amazing way she never drew attention to herself, but always pointed us to God and toward each other.

Our last visit was short but wonderful. Her face, so beautiful and so full of His peace…and her readiness always to encourage another was still with her, even days before she would leave this life for the glorious Next. Jeannie…we will miss this about you so much.Blog - Grace 13Blog - Jeannie 7

She fought a good fight, she finished her course, she kept the faith.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.2 Timothy 4:6-8

For us…there is still a race to run.  For God’s glory and for those He’s placed in our lives…as Jeannie so marvelously showed the way.

Please pray with us for Tom…and the family…for all the sweet memories of Jeannie to wash over them in these days ahead…for God to be so near to them, as we know He will be.

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YouTube Video – It Is Well – Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Music

YouTube Video – Come to Jesus (Untitled Hymn) – Chris Rice

YouTube Video – Give Me Jesus – Jeremy Camp

YouTube Video – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe

How to Become a Follower of Christ

Jeannie Elliff Honored by Ministers’ Wives

My Blog on Tom & Jeannie – Need You Now

My Blog on Tom’s Dad’s HomeGoing – and the Hope for Us of Finishing Strong

Tom Elliff

Photo Credits: Jeannie Elliff & Family, and mine from our last visit