Worship Wednesday – Giving and Receiving Blessing – We Need It Now – Elevation Worship

[The tapestry above hangs beside our door…one of God’s many blessings upon His peoples.]

This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind, who makes the flesh his strength and turns his heart from the LORD. He will be like a shrub in the desert; he will not see when prosperity comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives, but blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. He is like a tree planted by the waters that sends out its roots toward the stream. It does not fear when the heat comes, and its leaves are always green. It does not worry in a year of drought, nor does it cease to produce fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8

 Beware of division. Having just finished reading Francis Chan‘s book Until Unity, I am way aware of how divided we are as church, family, people. We curse too easily and withhold blessing too often.

In the book of Jeremiah, the Lord speaks about this very thing. In these days of COVID, political and economic upheaval, and media’s feeding on any and every weakness and falling of the church, we take sides. We trust (or distrust, depending on our preferences) governments and authorities. We lean on our own reasoning and make that our strength. Too often, we turn our heart from God and His Word.

We are addicted to our own opinions, our own sense of rightness or rights or entitlement, our own form of judgment and retribution.

This…from the self-proclaimed “people of God”.

God, forgive us. Clear our minds. Help us to see as You see. Help us to bless and not curse. Soften the soil of our hearts toward those around us – for Your purposes. We know extending our roots deep into Your Word, surrendering ourselves to the Lordship of Christ, and obeying the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives – are the source fruitful lives.

As Your image-bearers, Father, help us to be a blessing to those around us…to speak blessing over them. Loving others as You love us …and them. We receive such generous blessing from You, Lord. Remind us we are blessed to be a blessing.

I will never forget our children’s high school graduations, all in Morocco. As part of our son Nathan’s graduation, parents are selected to give the invocation. Because of the makeup of the Senior Class, it would usually be a Muslim parent and Christian parent. In Nathan’s graduation, the Christian parent stood and lifted his hand over the class and spoke blessing to them from Scripture. I can’t remember the exact blessing, but it was powerful to us in the audience, watching this man speaking and showing blessing over our young people.

So reminiscent of Jesus’ blessing in His Sermon on the Mount:Photo Credit: Heartlight

In March 2020, at the start of the COVID pandemic, Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes helped write and then performed a song entitled The Blessing. The lyrics are straight out of Scripture and a true blessing from the Lord. It became the worship standard for our experience of God in a year full of crisis. Covered in many languages. Still such a blessing. So much beauty!

YouTube Video – The Bay Area Blessing – Churches Sing ‘The Blessing’ over the San Francisco Bay Area

We continue in a time when people seem so willing to devour one another…to curse and slander those different from or in opposition to them. This song, born out of Scripture, reminds us of God’s intent for His children…to be a blessing, out of the overflow of His own blessing in our lives, and not a cursing. He will judge the wrong and wrongs of this world. We look for whatever/whomever we can bless…and we extend blessing. Just as that parent extended his hand of blessing…we extend ourselves to those around us…in Jesus’ name. Photo Credit: Bible Verses 2 U

Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, Bear with one another and forgive any complaint you may have against someone else. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which is the bond of perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, for to this you were called as members of one body. And be thankful.Colossians 3:12-15

I thank God for this reminder of blessing. In fact, just this week, I have blasted this song at home and in my car multiple times. What a blessing we have in Him. A blessing He means for us to extend without reserve. It’s His blessing…not meant to keep only for ourselves.

Worship with me.

The Lord bless you [Numbers 6:24-26]
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

May His favor be upon you [Deuteronomy 7:9]
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you [Deuteronomy 31:8]
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

*Lyrics to The Blessing – Songwriter(s): Christopher Joel Brown, Cody Carnes, Kari Brooke Jobe, Steven Furtick

Photo Credit: The Common Rule, Twitter

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed to Be a Blessing – Andy Flannigan – Deb Mills

When Our Greatest Fears Come True – The Story Behind “The Blessing” by Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes, and Elevation Worship – Jen Roland

Monday Morning Moment – Parenting “Knots” and Untangling Them

Photo Credit: Pexels, Hipkicks

Do you remember who taught you how to tie your shoes? Or ride a bike? Or drive a car? We all have persons attached to those lessons and memories as well.

A teacher friend of mine recently posted (on Facebook) Joseph Stroud‘s poem “Knots”. I don’t remember ever reading it…but it stirred vague memories and sharp emotions.

OK…that’s a weighty situation. Most of us as children and teens feel proud and accomplished with each skill mastered in life…and our parents the same for us (and themselves as our parents). Mastery is a blessing that goes in an array of directions.

As parents we don’t get it right all the time, for sure. Rarely do we have the opportunity to go back and do it over again. Shame is a dark process we don’t want stirred up in us nor do we want to plant it in the hearts and minds of our children.

We learn and we grow and, sometimes, we ask forgiveness.

Our youngest son was born prematurely. He had a brain bleed in his first week of life that left him with physical challenges. He has overcome so many in his life that we forget sometimes what an incredible person he truly is. How much he has faced and risen above.

He will probably never forget trying to learn to ride a bike. I know I won’t forget it. As we pushed, cajoled, and sometimes scolded his faulty attempts…little did we know that he physically was never going to be able to ride a bike. And so what?! OK…we finally got it.

I just hope he doesn’t have too many memories like that in Joseph Stroud’s poem. To this day, without any memories I can call to mind, having someone standing over me watching me work is anxiety-provoking. Wonder why.

“…That memory stays with you long after you have grown into an adult who keeps trying to find his way in the world — to be strong and brave and independent and competent — without tripping over his shoe laces, without entangling himself in doubts about his father’s love.”                          – V. Galligan, Knots

In the heat of parenting, when our own “reputation” is on the line, or so we think, we don’t always see these precious children…beautiful and brilliant…and vastly more valuable than anything we think we could possibly shape meerly into our own image.

In recent weeks, I’ve been reading the works of psychiatrists Curt Thompson and Dan Siegel and  wrote about it as well…repeating a bit below:

Dr. Thompson has written a trilogy of powerful, ground-breaking books – Anatomy of the Soul, The Soul of Shame, and The Soul of Desire.  He describes these books as exploring “how neuroscience relates to the ways we experience relationships, deep emotions like shame and joy and especially our own stories — and how we can process our longings and desire for spiritual connection with God and each other to live more fully integrated, connected lives.”

[I highly recommend the above books, and not just for parents.]

Thompson refers often to Dr. Siegel’s “4 S’s of Attachment-Based Parenting“. Those S’s relate to what our children need from us, as infants but throughout life. We want them to know they are “safe and seen” and to experience being “soothed and secure”. This is especially poignant when we introduce the word “No” into the great adventure of their lives. No…and discipline as they get bigger.

“Seen, safe, soothed, secure”

Hard lessons in life don’t have to be laced with fear or shaming. We may have not experienced all the 4 s’s as children, or definitely not all the time, but we can aim to make that happen in our own children (and grandchildren). That they may know they are safe with us (no need to “brace for impact”), that they are truly seen (all the big emotions and struggles), that they can count on being soothed, and that they are secure in the love they have from us.

The 4 S’s of a Healthy Relationship – Kirsten Belzer

I am learning so much about parenting as a grandmother. With small children, the first time around, I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Photo Credit: R. D. Laing

Today parenting helps abound – in all sorts of media. In fact, it is hard to sort it all out while moms and dads are in the hot lab of real-time parenting.  Almost too much information; too much guidance.

Better a fire hose than needing to lean on “a mother’s intuition” which is what I was told would get me through figuring out how to parent my tiny firstborn.

What are some of your best helps? Please post in Comments below.Photo Credit: Pexels, Keira Burton

Photo Credit: The Motivation Hotel

The Neurobiology of Attachment to Nurturing and Abusive Caregivers – Regina M. Sullivan, PhD

Podcasts

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, Senses and Memories, Parenting Well, Fishing Perks, and Attention Alcohol

Late again. That kind of week. Here’s the rapid but not to miss runthrough.

1) Beyond the Guitar – If you love Star Wars, you will love Nathan‘s interpretation of John WilliamsAcross the Stars. Actually…whether you love Star Wars or not, this is achingly beautiful.

Then there is his piece later this week, posting his arrangement of the theme of Genshin Impact video game. This was actually sponsored by the game creators. I am sure they are pleased. Another really gorgeous treatment.

2) Senses and Memories – One of the appealing features of Nathan’s music is the nostalgia attached to much of it. It takes us back. To a scene from a movie, a TV show we shared with family, a video game of one’s childhood. Sound is powerfully attached to memory. We have all had those experiences or have read/watched the positive impact of beloved music on critically ill patients, or those suffering with brain injury or Alzheimer’s. Memory is stirred.

Where we live right now, we can hear the sound of planes, trains, and interstate traffic. The sound is just in the background but it is oftentimes powerful. Looking up at a commercial jet going over takes me back to being new in Cairo, Egypt, walking toward a taxi stand. I wondered at the destination of the flight and in my stress as a newbie to to language and culture, that sound (and sight) comforted me somehow.

The sound of a train takes me all the way back to Sfax, Tunisia, when we lived by a train track. The train whistles marked time for us through the day.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Farther still, the sound of a train took me back to childhood, as we waited for it to pass, and looking between the cars to my friend Evelyn’s house. Her family was only there briefly, but I loved her. She was from a different era. Wore hand-me-down dresses to middle school every day. Old everything. Poor. Stretched by poverty, but she was elegant and full of dignity. Their large, spooky old house peeked between the passing train cars, and I wondered at their lives inside that house. They were gone too soon…but the memory of her remains…with the sound of trains.

We know when Fall is here, because all of a sudden, it is all things pumpkin spice. Flavored coffee, pies, and decor – all pumpkiny.Photo Credit: Pexels – Valeriia Miller

What the Nose Knows – Colleen Walsh

Brain’s Link Between Sounds, Smells and Memory Revealed – Rachael Rettner

Music and Memory – Why the Music We Love as Teens Stays with Us for Life – Catherine Loveday

Comment below what are some of your favorite sensory memories.

3) Parenting Well – Our grandchildren (six years old and younger) have big emotions. Then they act on those big emotions. Whining, crying, hitting, screaming. This is not who these precious children are, but they are trying to communicate what is going on deep inside. How we respond to them – as parents and other significant (to them) adults – is huge!

Emotions relate to desire. This topic hit me hard when I saw the poem below on a friend’s Facebook page.

Our responses to our children (in normal developmental situations as well as in distressed situations) communicate far more than we think. We have recurring opportunities to connect with our children in ways that help them grow into emotionally healthy and relationally mature adults.

Lately I’ve been learning more about this whole parenting thing from two brilliant psychiatrists Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Curt Thompson.

Dr. Thompson has written a trilogy of powerful, ground-breaking books – Anatomy of the Soul, The Soul of Shame, and The Soul of Desire.  He describes these books as exploring “how neuroscience relates to the ways we experience relationships, deep emotions like shame and joy and especially our own stories — and how we can process our longings and desire for spiritual connection with God and each other to live more fully integrated, connected lives.”

[I highly recommend the above books, and not just for parents.]

Thompson refers often to Dr. Siegel’s “4 S’s of Attachment-Based Parenting“. Those S’s relate to what we communicate to our children even as infants but throughout life. We want them to know they are “safe and seen” and to experience being “soothed and secure”. This is especially poignant when we introduce the word “No” into the great adventure of their lives. No…and discipline as they get bigger.

I’ll be writing about this more in the days ahead. For now, check out the “refrigerator sheet” below with Siegel’s 4 S’s, referencing his book The Power of Showing Up.

Photo Credit: Dr. Dan Siegel & Dr. Tina Payne Bryson

The 4 S’s of Attachment-Based Parenting – Daniel J. Siegel – Podcast

The Power of Showing Up – Daniel J. Siegel, MD & Tina Payne Bryson, PhD

Mindful Parenting: 4 S’s of Secure Attachment – Esther Goldstein

4) Fishing Perks – My sweet husband is a fisherman. He is a “catch-and-release” guy, fishing the rivers and lakes of Virginia. This joy started for him as a boy fishing with his dad. Then it grew during our years in Tennessee. Finally now, after years of living in North African cities, just on the edge of the Sahara. There are so many perks to this avocation. Some of which really came to mind on a recent adventure. [I realize this is a “duh” for many, but for me, it was a great revelation.]

  • The Buildup – The day of fishing is preceded by all the planning and preparation. Weather checks, getting the equipment ready, fueling the boat, provisioning for the day. It makes for a happy evening of anticipation…and to bed early.
  • The Thrill of the Hunt – or Thrill of the Catch – You hope not to get skunked, but the marking and revisiting sites where fish were caught once before, the thrill of the pull on the line, and finally the fish pulled into the boat. Fun stuff!

  • Solitude – the single chair on this old dock says it all. The quiet of being on the water in the woods. So refreshing. So invigorating.

  • Beauty – Everywhere you look. Water, trees, wildlife. Sun and cloud playing on the water. Changing colors as the hours pass.

  • Company [I’m glad Dave has fishing buddies who share the experience with him. I fish rarely but always gain from the time with him, in nature.]

5) Attention Alcohol –  Author attorneyJustin Whitmel Earley pointed to an article by journalist Derek Thompson‘s article on social media and its use like that of alcohol.

Photo Credit: Rachel Claire, Pexels

Earley gives these reasons below for considering limiting or taking sabbath fasts from social media:

THREE REASONS SOCIAL MEDIA IS LIKE ALCOHOL:

  • It is Addictive. This means you are not as in control as you think you are. Remember, there are 1,000 people on the other side of this screen paid inordinate amounts of money to get you to keep scrolling.
  • It Changes Your Mental Health. This means it is not neutral. Your interactions with yourself, your family, and your friends are changed because of what you do with social media. You must recognize that to use it appropriately.
  • Someone Needs to Teach You How to Use It. This is one of the hardest things about our cultural moment. Because this technology is so new, none of us had parents to teach us how to use it, set boundaries, and practice moderation. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start to learn now, teach our kids, and help our friends. 

Social Media and Alcohol – Justin Whitmel Earley

Social Media Is Attention Alcohol – Derek Thompson

That’s the 5 for this week. How about you? Please enrich my life and that of other readers with your favorite finds. Comment below. Thanks always for stopping by.

Bonuses:

Quote of the Week: “Beauty is…that which draws our attention with wonder and welcome and that ultimately leads us to worship – not worship of the object itself but worship of God in gratitude, humility, and joy.”Curt Thompson, The Soul of Desire

The “10 Things” Rule Keeps My House Uncluttered, Even with a Family of Six – Alexandra Frost – We actually had the 20 Things rule in our family once the kids were big enough to count to 10. It helped!

YouTube Video – Dr. Curt Thompson – Shame: The Details of Devouring

YouTube Video: Curt Thompson: Vulnerability Reframed: Healing Shame & Promoting Human Flourishing

Photo Credit: Ian Kremer, Twitter

How the Brain Stays Young Even as We Age – Katherine Ellen Foley

My Boyfriend Is Spiritually Lethargic. Should I Marry Him? – John Piper

87-year-old Man Rewrites News Headlines for 2020 and Inspires Us All

Biscuit Lover – Sean Dietrich

100 Skills Every Man Should Know – The Art of Manliness [Some are also excellent skills for us women as well. Not so ambitious about most of them, but glad I know men and women who do.]

Beauty is the extravagance that makes us human

Worship Wednesday – Shame Faced – O Come to the Altar – Elevation Worship

Photo Credit: Heartlight

We have renounced secret and shameful things, not acting deceitfully or distorting the word of God, but commending ourselves before God to everyone’s conscience by an open display of the truth. – 2 Corinthians 4:2

Instead of shame, My people will have a double portion, and instead of humiliation, they will rejoice in their share; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.
 – Isaiah 61:7

For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame.Romans 10:11

No wait. Don’t scroll by.

No shaming here. In fact, we may have stuffed our shame so deep inside ourselves, we are pretty sure it is ever someone else’s problem and not our own.

Wait though. We can know the beauty and freedom in life that comes from wrestling with shame…until it has no power over us. We may think it has no power over us when we tamp it down so effectively that others don’t see it…but we know it’s there.

Shame faced can be defused…and freedom follows. Beauty and fullness of life and relationships as well. Worth the vulnerability.

Until recently I didn’t think much about shame. I was more a guilt-driven person (rather than shame-driven), or so I thought. Guilt is more about doing bad, rather than “being bad” (which defines shame). However, now I see how we hide our shame and hope no one sees.

Canadian pastor Darryl Dash wrote this incredible piece on shame (linked below), taking us right from the beginning. You remember how Adam and Eve were described originally as being “naked but unashamed”? Can you imagine the beauty and freedom in that?

The Beginning of Shame (Genesis 2:24-3:10, 21) – Darryl Dash

Once sin entered, their eyes were opened…to what is now their reality. Naked and ashamed. Fearful. Wanting to hide. They were never meant to experience this darkness…this isolation from God or one another.

Dash reveals the impact of sin:

  • Shame is a result of sin — either ours, or someone else’s.
  • Shame isolates us. It makes us think that if others knew the truth about us, that they couldn’t possibly love us. It keeps us from being known and loved.
  • Shame damages us. Ultimately it can kill us.

Dash also writes about how our strategies to deal with shame only cause us to hide or avoid or attack (ourselves or others) – see graphic below from another source.

Photo Credit: The Compass of Shame, D. L. Nathanson, IIRP

Lastly, Dash reminds us of God’s glorious response to our shame – He pursues us and He clothes us.

Christian psychiatrist Dr. Curt Thompson has written an important, hugely insightful book on shame. The Soul of Shame. The quotes that follow are from this book and help put the pieces of our shame together in ways we can then open ourselves up to healing. Giving those pieces to God.

“When we experience shame, we tend to turn away from others because the prospect of being seen or known by another carries the anticipation of shame being intensified or reactivated. However, the very act of turning away, while temporarily protecting and relieving us from our feeling (and the gaze of the ‘other’), ironically simultaneously reinforces the very shame we are attempting to avoid…Indeed this dance between hiding and feeling shame itself becomes a tightening of the noose.  We feel shame, and then feel shame for feeling shame. It begets itself.”

“The defining relational motif for humankind is not that we need to work as hard as we can, or at least harder than we are. It is not to do our best or to guarantee that our children will have a better life than we had. It is not about being right or the acquisition of power. Each of those (and other versions like them) play into the hand of shame’s anxiety. No – rather, we were created for joy. Not a weak and watery concept of joy that merely dilutes our sadness and pain. Rather it is the hard deck on which all of life finds its legs, a byproduct of deeply connected relationships in which each member is constantly known.

“To relationally confront our shame requires that we risk feeling it on the way to its healing. This is no easy task. This is the common undercurrent of virtually all of our relational brokenness. We sense, image, feel and think all sorts of things that we never say, because we’re far too frightened to be that honest, that vulnerable. But honest vulnerability is the key to both healing shame -and its inevitably anticipated hellish outcome of abandonment -and preventing it from taking further root in our relationships and culture.

“Shame positions itself in such a way so as to keep borders tightly closed and vulnerability at a minimum.”

“In reality, vulnerability is not something we choose or that is true in a given moment, while the rest of time it is not. Rather, it is something we are. That is why we wear clothes, live in houses and have speed limits. So much of what we do in life is designed, among other things, to protect us from the fact that we are vulnerable at all times. To be human is to be vulnerable… Vulnerability is not a question of if but rather to what degree….in seeing the place of vulnerability in the pages of the Bible we cannot but help be amazed at its place and purpose. It begins in the beginning, where we are introduced to a vulnerable God. Vulnerable in the sense that he is open to wounding. Open to pain. Open to rejection. Open to death.

We deeply long for connection, to be seen and known for who we are without rejection. But we are terrified of the vulnerability that is required for that very contact...God does not leave. The loving relationship shared between Father, Son and Spirit is the ground on which all other models of life and creativity rest. In this relationship of constant self-giving, vulnerable and joyful love, shame has no oxygen to breathe.

 We have in Jesus one who was willing to put his naked vulnerability on full display, opening himself to all that we in evil’s employ could throw at him. He was the first to trust us with himself, revealing himself, risking abandonment in the process.” – Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame

We all have shame and can keep ourselves tightly hidden in the comfort of this small group or that…or we can follow Jesus in His naked vulnerability. Recognizing (again) that we all have shame and we all need God and each other. What comes after is the life He means for us to have…not the smaller, hidden life we think is the only one possible. Oh, Dear One…it is meant to be so much more.

Worship with me. [Lyrics in the link]

Are you hurting and broken within
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin
Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well
Jesus is calling

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there’s no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Oh what a Savior
Isn’t He wonderful
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen
Bow down before Him
For He is Lord of all
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen

Oh what a Savior
Isn’t He wonderful
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen
Bow down before Him
For He is Lord of all
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Bear your cross as you wait for the crown
Tell the world of the treasure you’ve found*

[I love the whole of this song in dealing with shame. We hide our shame because we don’t want to confront the pain – either of our own sin or that of another. Following Jesus, receiving all He has for us, includes a cross. However, we never have to carry the cross – whatever it is – alone. He is with us all the way.]

*Lyrics to O Come to the Altar – Elevation Worship – Songwriters: Steven Furtick, Christopher Joel Brown, Mack Donald Iii Brock, Wade Joye

Breaking the Power of Shame – Jon Bloom, Desiring God

What Does It Mean to Be Approved of God? – Ed Elliott

20 Quotes from Curt Thompson’s The Soul of Shame

Monday Morning Moment – How Shame Affects Our Thinking and How We Can Break Free – Deb Mills

Shame is More Common Than You Think with Dr. Curt Thompson – Jennie Allen podcast

Worship Wednesday – Look What You’ve Done In Me – Tasha Layton

Photo Credit: YouTube

“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Blessed is the man who is always reverent, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.” – Proverbs 28:13-14

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God, and that no root of bitterness springs up to cause trouble and defile many.Hebrews 12:15

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” – Colossians 3:13

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19

We have immeasurable gifts in our life!

Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord, and His life, love, and example in all things. The Holy Spirit, Comforter and Guide, indwelling us. The faithful Word of God. The Church standing eternal as God has promised. The call to prayer and the ear of a just and loving Heavenly Father.

How is it then that we struggle so with voices that say “Not so”. Conviction of sin is one thing, but shaming is not a voice we hear from our Father. We shame ourselves, the world tries to do the same, and Satan, the Father of Lies, is a master in accusing us. When we listen to these voices, we deal with our shame by justifying ourselves, or burying our true redeemed selves in regret, or hardening our hearts in bitterness, or daring not to believe we can forgive or be forgiven…again. No more, Dear One!

If we tune our ears to the Lord, we catch His tone, His truth, His love.Photo Credit: Heartlight

Tasha Layton speaks to this in her song “Look What You’ve Done”. Her first verses speak the accusation and shame. Then, it is as if she shakes her head and comes back to her senses. She remembers God. She stands in His presence. She hears Him speak over her. She reflects on all He has done in her life…and she worships.

For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  Romans 10:11

Worship with me…as we all have been saved from sin and shame. No longer ruling over us…or our relationships…anymore… because of what He has done…and who He is…and who we are in Him.

Look what you’ve done
How could you fall so far
You should be ashamed of yourself
So I was ashamed of myself

The lies I believed
They got some roots that run deep
I let em take a hold of my life
I let em take control of my life

Standing in Your presence, Lord
I can feel You diggin’ all the roots up
I feel Ya healin’ all my wounds up
All I can say is hallelujah

Look what You’ve done
Look what You’ve done in me
You spoke Your truth into the lies I let my heart believe
Look at me now
Look how You made me new
The enemy did everything that he could do
Oh, but look what You’ve done

Suddenly all the shame is gone
I thought I was too broken, now I see
You were breaking new ground inside of me

Standing in Your presence, Lord
I can feel You diggin’ all my roots up
I feel Ya healin’ all my wounds up
All I can say is hallelujah

Look what You’ve done
Look what You’ve done in me
You spoke Your truth into the lies I let my heart believe
Look at me now
Look how You made me new
The enemy did everything that he could do
Oh, but look what You’ve done

On the cross, in a grave
With a stone, rolled away
All my debt, it was paid
Look what You’ve done

In my heart, in my mind
In my soul, in my life
With my hands lifted high
I’m singing

Look what You’ve done
Look what You’ve done in me
You spoke Your truth into the lies I let my heart believe
Look at me now
Look how You made me new
The enemy did everything that he could do
Oh, but look what you’ve done

On the cross, in a grave
With a stone, rolled away
All my debt, it was paid
Look what You’ve done

In my heart, in my mind
In my soul, in my life
With my hands lifted high
I’m singing
Look what You’ve done*

Photo Credit: Heartlight

*Lyrics to Look What You’ve Done – Songwriters: Tasha Layton, Matthew West, AJ Pruis, and Keith Everette Smith

Story Behind the Song “Look What You’ve Done” – Kevin Davis

Tasha Layton’s “Look What You’ve Done” – Truth of Scripture Hidden in Today’s Popular Christian Music

Monday Morning Moment – Gently Confronting the Conflict Generated by Reductionism (You Want to Know this Word)

Photo Credit: Quote Master

Today, I want to talk about reductionism – how we reduce a whole person into one part – one facet that we take great pleasure in mocking or deriding. Thinking highly of ourselves in the process. Don’t miss this! Here we go.

Pierce Taylor Hibbs is a writer, teacher, and gentle theologian. I came across a piece he wrote this past week, and it has brought such clarity to a murky subject. The piece is “Reductionism: the Disease that Breeds Conflict”.

Don’t let that big word reductionism put you off. Hibbs will define it, but first, let me give you a scenario or two where we have seen this in action (and when we might have added to the fire of such a situation). We’re at a party of peers. We feel comfortable to just say what we think about any number of people, policies, or processes. No filters. What kinds of things pop up in those conversations? Mind you…they all are met with heads nodding (or shaking), laughter, and attitude. Mocking derision even.

Who are we in this conversation? The chief propagator of said comment. The amused and agreeing audience. The one uncomfortably close in character or worldview of the one being mocked. The one not necessarily close to the subject of putdown, but not comfortable with the putdown…or the people enjoying it.

Now…the definition of reductionism before we weigh in on our conversation topics. Hang in there. it’s so worth it. Pierce Taylor Hibbs on reductionism:

“Reductionism is the stepchild of our desire for mastery (complete control), which emerged from the ancient evil of autonomy Autonomy is the idea that you’re completely and utterly independent…You want full control. The thing is, you can’t have that. . . you know, because you’re not God. You’re limited by nature. That’s how you and I were made. But we’re so stubborn that we don’t accept limitation. We refuse to think we can’t master our own lives. So, within what John Frame calls the fantasy world of autonomy, we chase after mastery, and when we can’t get it (again, we never will get it), then we pretend to have it with . . . reductionism…If we can’t master our lives, then we can simplify them and make it seem as if we’re in full control. We can reduce the complexity of our own lives, the people in them, and the problems that surround us. We can take, in other words, an issue or person with a thousand dimensions and pretend that there’s only one dimension. That’s reductionism. Put differently by my friend and teacher, [Vern Poythress], reductionism happens when people “reduce the world to one dimension of the whole. . . . But reductionism is poverty-stricken, not only in its threadbare endpoint consisting of only one dimension, but also in its explanatory power.””

Reductionism, in short, is when people make something a lot simpler than it is. They do this for the sake of convenience, or egoism, or to build their own self-righteousness. There’s no shortage of motives, but I can’t think of any that are wholesome. And note what Poythress ended with: it lacks explanatory power. Read: it doesn’t actually explain much...In our frustration we reduce people, problems, and situations to manageable bits (ignoring swaths of information) in order to convince ourselves of our own mastery. You can start to predict why this is so destructive.”

Reductionism hurts people because it flattens them. It takes a human life (or a situation, political topic, etc.) and crushes it down to a single dimension, ignoring all of the others. That not only fails to align with reality (reality is always more complicated than we could ever dream); it insults people by making judgments based on that single dimension.”

OK…here we go on the topics “reduced”:

Vaxxers/non-vaxxers. Maskers/non-maskers. Cool/Not Cool. Liberals/Conservatives. Republicans/Democratics. Pro-lifers/Pro-Choice/Abortion. Boomers/Ageists. Patriot/Isolationist. Racists. Privileged. Stupid. Misogynist. Hurtful. Offensive. Homophobe. Sexist. Small-minded. Evangelicals. Enneagram or other reductionist labeling.

We can reduce a person into a box of one word or phrase. What is up with that? Nothing good. It’s handy for a laugh at a party or a sympathetic ear who “gets” people “like that”.

It is not reality. It may be entertaining, but it furthers the accepted divide between people. It degrades not only the subject of the derision but the audience, as well as the person speaking. Hibbs suggests a solution for those who want one:

“Reductionism is killing us because it’s killing our conversations. It’s killing open, receptive dialogue. It’s polarizing the nation, even the world. For our part, we have to start identifying and assaulting reductionism whenever it crops up in our conversations…But what are we supposed to do instead?…We need God and other people to understand not just the world, but even ourselves truly. We need two things: humility and a withholding of assumptions.” – Pierce Taylor Hibbs

He goes on in his piece, giving specifics of how humility and withholding assumptions work together to soften the elements of conflict, even to the possible healing of rifts. Hibbs is a Christian theologian and speaks eloquently of the life of Jesus in his people in the call to a ceasing of conflict. Not just avoiding conflict, but confronting reductionism. Whatever your faith, his counsel is sound in acknowledging the sting of our current biting and devouring social culture. And resisting the temptation of engaging in it…but not be just keeping silent and existing the conversation. Definitely worth our consideration.

Photo Credit; Janet Mock, Audi Quotes

Why Do We Have to Make Others Wrong to Be Right? – Lolly Daskal

Personality Tests: Why Are We Obsessed with Labeling Ourselves? – Sara Abdelbarry

[The above video is fascinating. Wow!]

Bullying: Scoffers, Mockers, Ridicule, and Scorn in the Bible and Today – Kelly Ann Christensen

Worship Wednesday – Magnify – We Are Messengers

Photo Credit: Screenshot, YouTube

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together. – Psalm 34:1-3

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. – 1 Timothy 1:17

When I was younger, the phrase “to magnify God” seemed strange. “Magnify” meaning to make something bigger, in size or significance. When we magnify something way small, that encompasses the above meaning. Magnifying God is altogether different.

God is beyond big. We need faith on the order of a telescope to do justice to the immenseness of God.

Telescope vs. microscope faith – As in examining the heavens with a telescope, we capture just a portion of the greatness of the universe. So with God, as we magnify Him, we draw closer to some part of the magnitude of who He is as Creator, Saviour, Provider, Sustainer, Deliverer, and Lover of our souls.

We use microscope faith, as we train our eyes on the small in our lives, focusing on their seeming immensity. Our hearts’ eyes are filled with ourselves. Our pain, struggle, and sin. Even our hopes for the future consume our senses. No room for God. No recollection, in those microscope moments, of how big God is. Yet, a God who still condescends to take residence in us, His children.

Photo Credit: Screenshots, YouTube

When we turn our eyes upon Jesus, we then are able to exercise the right magnification, so to speak. Regarding the past, our failures, our struggles, we see them small compared to a God who looks to us with all-surpassing love and power. Regarding present sin, we may not see it as small, and rightly so, but God is so much greater than our sin. As we fix our eyes on Him, in confession and repentance, we see the God who is mighty to save. When our desires and longings consume us and crowd our hearts, we lift our eyes to the One True Treasure we have…in this life and the next.

You might think this is too hard. These things matter to you. They are too hard to turn away from. I get that. Our dilemma is because we are looking through a microscope and not a telescope.

To focus on any one facet of who God is will shake us to our knees. His undeserved love, His gentle goodness, His tender mercy, His divine justice, His great salvation, His generous provision, His fierce faithfulness, His forever holiness,  indescribable beauty.

Eyes on Him.

Worship with me to the song “Magnify” sung by Darren Mulligan with We Are Messengers.

I’ve been trying to make sense of the sorrow that I feel
Holding on for life to the only thing that’s real
I’ve only scratched the surface, I’ve barely had a taste
But just a glimpse draws my heart to change
And one sight of You lays my sin to waste
I don’t need to see everything, just more of You

Take it all, take it all away
Magnify no other name
Open up, open up my eyes
To You

Photo Credit: Screenshot, YouTube

Take it all, take it all away
Magnify no other name
Open up, open up my eyes
To You

My sight is incomplete and I’ve made You look small
I’ve been staring at my problems for way too long
Re-align where my hope is set, until You’re all that’s left
But just a glimpse draws my heart to change
And one sight of You lays my sin to waste
I don’t need to see everything, just more of You

Take it all, take it all away
Magnify no other name
Open up, open up my eyes
To You

Take it all, take it all away
Magnify no other name
Open up, open up my eyes
To You

Oh God, be greater, than the worries in my life
Be stronger, than the weakness in my mind
Be louder, let Your Glory come alive
Be magnified

God be greater, than the worries in my life
Be stronger, than the weakness in my mind
Be louder, let Your Glory come alive
Be magnified
Be magnified

Take it all, take it all away
Magnify no other name
Open up, open up my eyes
To You

Take it all, take it all away
Magnify no other name
Open up, open up my eyes
To You, to You*

*Lyrics to Magnify – Songwriters: Casey Brown & Darren Mulligan

YouTube Video – Magnify  (Acoustic) – We Are Messengers – Musicnotes Song Spotlight

35 Bible Verses About Magnifying God

We Are Messengers – Magnify – The Berean Test (Is the song Biblical? The reviewer saw some of the lyrics as vague but overall God-glorifying and Biblically sound.)

Worship Wednesday – Behold Him – Francesca Battistelli – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Is He Worthy? He Is – Andrew Peterson – Deb Mills

5 Friday Faves – Life Without Forgiveness, the Power of Words, the CALM Superpower, COVID Close to Home, and the 20th Anniversary of 9/11

Here we go!

1) Life Without Forgiveness – An article on  life without forgiveness by Dave Burchett got me thinking even more about forgiveness. I’m in a study on Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by Lysa Terkeurst. Writing about it, too.

Life without forgiveness sounds truly awful. We imprison ourselves to the past and drag it into our present day and future with treasured grudges. Grudges we feel we can’t afford to lay down. They become part of our identity and how people relate to us – either protecting, justifying, or, at times, “returning evil for evil”.

Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, William Arthur Ward

We have the power to release ourselves and all these entrapped with us…through forgiveness. We need God to help us, for sure. We however must make the decision to forgive. Pretending to do so while hatred gains strength in our hearts is a delusion. God help us.

Here’s a bit of what Dave Burchett says in his article (read the whole here):

“There is no way I have found to release grudges without the healing power of forgiveness. Author Will Davis wrote this powerful insight.

‘Once you decide to forgive, you initiate the healing process. Forgiveness gives your soul permission to move on to the higher and healthier ground of emotional recovery. Forgiveness is to your soul what antibiotics are to infection. It is the curative agent that will help to fully restore your soul. It doesn’t immediately remove the pain of offense but it does start you on the road to recovery.’

I really like that perspective. The decision to forgive initiates but does not complete our healing. You will, in time, heal. I am asking you to pray that you can begin the healing process of forgiveness knowing that only time and God’s mercy can fully heal. That will start you down that road to forgiveness and empowerment to let go of the grudges that are weighing you down. You won’t get there today or tomorrow. But you will never get there without taking the first step of faith.” – Dave Burchett

Photo Credit: Spark People

Burchett refers to the song “Without Forgiveness” by Jerry Salley. Here’s a sweet cover by Jason Davidson:

2) The Power of Words – Words mean things. In fact, they are more powerful than we can imagine. Author, speaker Jackie Hill Perry has referred to a poem which says “Words make worlds”. Now I haven’t been able to find that poem, BUT I have read Genesis 1-3 with the account of God speaking the world into existence.

Photo Credit: Lidia Yuknavitch, @Seek5, Pinterest

Perry spoke on the power of words at a women’s conference. She used the text of the Apostle James’ epistle. James 3. This passage focuses on the influence of the tongue. She elaborated on three points:

  • The tongue is accountable. [We are responsible for our use of words. When we have torn down instead of building up, we will experience consequences. It does not go unheeded.]
  • The tongue is powerful. [We must control our tongues…what we say. Self-control has a wide reach, especially starting with “restraining our speech”. Words can hurt, but they can also heal.]
  • The tongue is inconsistent. [We say one thing to one person and turn around and say another thing to someone else. We may bless God and then curse a neighbor, made in the image of God. Perry talks about the huge disconnect when we speak with reverence of God but with contempt or disdain toward another human being. Words can be a “restless evil”. Pay attention. Are others’ names and personhoods safe on our lips?]

Listen to this fascinating and charged talk by Jackie Hill Perry.

Words Create Worlds – The Language We Use Shapes the Culture We Lead – Eric Geiger

3) The CALM Superpower – Author, leadership trainer Carey Nieuwhof recently interviewed psychologist Jennifer Kolari on his podcast. She spoke on dealing with irrational people, and, in fact, any situation of conflict. I learned so much.

[I’ve written about the brain, decision-making, and dealing with crisis many times. Such fascinating issues!]

Dr. Kolari introduced her CALM technique of dealing with conflict (including helping children in conflict with you or others). In brief, “the CALM method is a way of deep listening using language, compassion and empathy literally as medicine. It will soothe and calm AND bring both participants in the conversation into brain-heart coherence.”

Here’s a brief outline of the framework:
C – CONNECT – connect before correcting; deeply listen; give the sense that you are “for them”.
A – AFFECT – match the affect of the person in front of you; don’t say how the other person SHOULD feel; show understanding.
L – LISTEN – deeply; take that affect above into what you’re hearing; wonder at it; choose your responses based on what is being said to you, including the emotion. Respond not react.
M – MIRROR – allow what’s going on with the person to “hit you right in the heart”. Be in the moment with them/him/her. We do this with babies intuitively. Communicate with your face and body even more than with words.

Listen to the podcast. Check out the resources below. We too often go to correction, with other adults and definitely with children, when they need connection first…and maybe only.

Connect With Your Kids Using the CALM Technique

YouTube Video – Jennifer Kolari – The CALM Technique and Child Brain Development – really fascinating and informative

YouTube Video – The CALM Technique for Babies and Toddlers

4) COVID Close to Home – I’m not saying much here, but COVID has hit very close to home this week. I have friends and family with COVID. Check your thoughts if you’re going straight to “oh…not vaccinated”. Not so in every situation. People who did everything “right” – vaccination, mitigation, all the preventions – can still get COVID. The graphic below is updated often and is super helpful.

Photo Credit: Wesleyan College

The most important points in this conversation are these:

  • COVID is real and we will have to deal with it for some time (not at a pandemic level forever but definitely as endemic).
  • Everyone has to make personal decisions on how to prevent and treat it. To not make a decision is to make a dangerous decision. I’m not saying what to do (enough people are telling us what to do), BUT I am saying to think through our risks and that of those around us, and make informed decisions.
  • Be prepared. You don’t want to start searching out what to do to lessen the impact of COVID when you are already sick.
  • Test early. Even if it might be something else. Testing early helps you and all those who may come in contact with you (if it turns out you test positive.

The pieces below are actually not in support of one methodology or another. In fact, they expose the hard decision-making needed in determining how to act with the threat of COVID. We can depend on (or react against) mandates from government, or we can make the best possible decision we can, given the information we receive.

By the way, my friends and family members are all on the mend… except for one. On a ventilator, with family called in. We are praying still. This is why we can’t be cavalier with our decisions.

Let’s Stop Pretending About the COVID-19 Vaccines – Buzz Hollander, MD

Impact of Masking – Twitter thread – Buzz Hollander MD

FDA Vaccine Regulators Argue Against COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters in New International Review – Andrew Joseph

5) 20th Anniversary of 9/11 – Part of why Friday Faves is coming out on Monday is because I’ve spent an enormous amount of time this week watching, reading, and listening to stories about 9/11. It’s the 20th anniversary of the bombings.

In the twenty years that have passed since 2001, our country has changed so much. We are divided in really unhealthy ways. On that day…for awhile, we came together. We may have had very conflicted views on what happened after (Iraqi War, immigration issues, and the long engagement in Afghanistan). Whatever our opinions are on these, the stories of that day are so worthy of our time and attention.

Photo Credit: Beth Wayland

One of the most beautiful pieces I read this past week was by writer Jennifer Senior for the Atlantic. It was really long, but she did justice to the loss and grief of just this one family. 27 y/o Bobby McIlvaine died that day at the bottom of the World Trade Center. Son, brother, friend, fiancé. His was just one of thousands of stories that day…it matters and it also reflects the many other stories that we don’t know.

The two videos below speak to the day after September 11, 2001 and to the day 20 years later. Take the time…

“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.” – Naomi Shihab Nye

___________________________________________________________________________

Bonuses:

Community – “Every arrow needs a bow: William Wilberforce” — the power of community. If Wilberforce was the arrow that pierced the heart of the slave trade, the Clapham Fellowship was the bow that propelled him. As Pollock writes, “Wilberforce proves that one man can change his times, but he cannot do it alone.” The Clapham fellowship lived by Wesley’s maxim: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” And this was no mere slogan: tensions developed in their relationship that would have splintered most associations, even Christian associations, had they not been so radically centered on Christ.” — “Every Arrow Needs a Bow,” by John Hart, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, July 1998 [This was a quote in my folder of quotes; I can’t find the source online today, but it rings even more true now.]

Photo Credit: Vala Afshar, Twitter

This Is What Happens to Your Brain When You Declutter Your Home – Kelsey Clark

“If we major in criticism, we become polemicists, rather than agents of redemption. Often polemicists excuse their loveless rough edges by the demands of truth. But they lose more than they realize. In fact, when love and the growth of positive truth are lost, truth is also lost. Biblical truth loses its scope, balance, depth, applicability, savor, and growing edge [in this disordered priority]. … Words that are not constructive, timely, and grace-giving are rotten and non-nutritive, whatever their formal likeness to Christian content (Eph 4:29). To lose charity, tenderheartedness, sympathy, and generosity is always to simultaneously pervert the redemptive nature of biblical revelation. Narrowed “truth” may bristle enough to defend one city wall, but it is not good enough to conquer the world.” – David Powlison’s “Cure of Souls” (2007)
Recipe for a Quick and Easy Cherry Cobbler – my husband’s favorite
Photo Credit: Lena Vo, Facebook

 

8 Ways to Build a Strong Foundation for Your Kids – Frank Sonnenberg

Remembering 9/11 – 20 years Later – and the Day Before – a Story about God and a Girl

Genessa (l) and April, Cairo, Egypt

[From the Archives – “Remember 9/11 – and the Day Before – a Story of God and a Girl”]

Today marks the eve of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in the US. We all have our stories of where we were when we heard that terrible news. I heard the news as an elevator door opened in a hospital emergency room in Cairo, Egypt. The surgeon watching for us to deliver the patient, walked into the elevator. His face strained (me thinking it related to the patient with me). Then he said, “I am so, so sorry.” I thought he was referring to the precious one on the stretcher beside me, so small and injured from a terrible bus accident the day before. It turns out he was talking about the news that had traveled instantly from the States about the 9/11 bombings. I’d like to go back to the day before. For us, it would help to go there, before I can ever process the grief of this day that we all share.

It was like any other Monday, that bright, warm September 10th in Cairo, Egypt…until the phone call. Janna was on the other end of the call, telling me that Genessa and April had been in a bus accident on the Sinai. April had called her and relayed their location, at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh. These were girls in our Middle Eastern Studies Program, and they were finishing their time with us, taking a vacation together. They would re-trace some of their experiences in Bedouin villages across the Sinai and then enjoy a few days on the Red Sea. They were to return that Monday of 9/10, traveling in on one of the over-night buses across the desert.

Details will have to wait for another time, but with this information, my husband, Dave, left immediately with Janna and a local Egyptian friend who was also one of our language coaches. He took these two women because of their relationship with each other and with all of us. He also understood that there were two injured friends hours away in a hospital who would need women to minister to their needs. I would be praying and on the phone the rest of the day with families, other friends, US Embassy people, and our other young people in the program. I can’t begin to describe the emotional nature of that day…not knowing, hoping, praying.

When Dave and our friends arrived at the hospital, he was directed to April. She had painful, serious injuries, but none life-threatening, praise God. Then he was escorted into the critical care area to see Genessa. To his horror, it wasn’t Genessa. It was another young woman, unconscious – an Italian tourist, who rode in the same ambulance with April. April, lucid and still able to communicate, had tried to comfort her on that long dark ride to the hospital. Personal belongings were all scrambled at the wreck site, and the authorities made the mistakened decision that because April was speaking to her, she was Genessa.

Then Dave went on the search for our dear one…somewhere else in the Sinai. He back-tracked toward the site of the accident, checking other hospitals where other injured were taken. At this point, he was also talking to US Embassy staff, as he drove through the desert. Just shortly before he arrived at the hospital where he would find Genessa, the staff person told him they confirmed her identification from a credit card she had in her pocket…in the morgue of that small village hospital.

Dave, our Egyptian friend, and Janna, that friend who received the first phone call, stood beside this precious girl’s body, to make the formal identification…to know for sure that this was Genessa. And it was…and yet not. She, the luminous, laughing, loving girl we knew, was gone. It was more than any of us who loved her could take in on that Monday evening in Cairo, Egypt…the day before 9/11.

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Genessa-with-team1.jpg

As they left the hospital to return to April, two more friends joined them from Cairo to help. For any of you who have been completely spent in every way by such a day, you can understand what it was for them to look up and see Matt and Richard getting out of a car. God, in His great goodness, alerted them, stirred their hearts to drive all those hours…and then to arrive…just when they were most needed. So many arrangements had to be made…and most importantly, at that moment, to get April back safely and quickly to Cairo for surgery.

She came into Cairo on a plane near the middle of the day of 9/11. By the time we got her from the airport in an ambulance to the specialty hospital to get the further care she needed, a series of horrific events had begun taking place in the US. We would hear of them from this caring Egyptian surgeon…who had no idea how numb we were from losing Genessa and how concerned we were that April got what she needed as soon as possible. We were already so drenched by grief, this unfathomable news about the bombings washed over us without understanding the scope of it…the pain of it…for all the rest of America.

Later in that day, with April receiving the best care possible, and me watching by her side, I could take in some of the loss coming at us on the small t.v. mounted in the hospital room. Egyptians were telling us how so, so sorry they were for us (as Americans). If they only knew, they were our mourners for our loss of Genessa, too. In the din of world-changing news, and a country brought together in grief…we grieved, too, a continent away…for the losses of 9/11 and the day before.

That was 20 years ago…April healed from her injuries (only she and God know what all that took on the inside), the other young people in our program have gone on to careers and families across the US and around the world. We have also gone on…back to the US and to other work.

Two things have not changed…a beautiful girl, who fell asleep by the window of a bus in the Sinai night and woke up in Heaven… and the God who welcomed her Home. There is so much, much, more to this story, but I have to close with this. As her family back in the US were pulling the pieces of their lives back together, and going through Genessa’s things, they found a little cassette player on her bed…there left by her, two years before, as she left for Cairo. In it was a cassette where she’d made a tape of her singing one of her favorite songs, I Long for the Day, by singer/songwriter Dennis Jernigan. Toward the end of the song you can hear Genessa’s tears in her voice, singing to the Lord. We would sometimes have the opportunity of being in the room when Genessa led worship in those days. She couldn’t hold the tears back. So in a space just God and her.

If we look at Genessa’s life through the lens of some American dream, then we would think how tragic to die so young, so full of promise. Look through the lens of how much she loved God, and knowing Him was what mattered most to her…and all who knew her knew His love through her.

This God…and this girl.  Genessa

 I Long for the Day by Dennis Jernigan

I long for the day when the Lord comes and takes me away!

Whether by death or if You come for me on a horse so white

And anyway You come will be alright with me

I long to just hear You said, “Now is the time. Won’t you come away?”

And I’ll take Your hand, surrendering completely to You that day!

And no, I can’t contain the joy that day will bring!

Chorus:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment I’ll be celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

O Lord, while I wait, I will cling to each word that You say.

So speak to my heart; Your voice is life to me, be it night or day.

And anything You say will be alright with me.

You see my heart’s greatest need

You and me, walking intimately.

You’re my only love, and I am waiting patiently for Your call.

When You call me to Your side eternally.

(Chorus Repeat)

Lord, I celebrate You!

Forever with You! No crying there.

Forever with You! No burden; no more worldly cares.

My heart is anticipating eternally with you celebrating You!

Forever with You I long to be;

Forever worshipping, knowing You intimately!

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

I’ll spend forever just celebrating You.

I’ll see all my loved ones gone before

I’ll get to be with them, laugh with them, hold them once more

There’ll be no more separating! [No separating]

Together we will be celebrating You!

Together we’ll worship You and sing.

Forever praising Lord Jesus, our Savior and King.

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

Enter your rest, and start celebrating, too.

Forever Lord, I’ll be celebrating You.

Chorus Repeat:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment of celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

Dennis Jernigan, from the album I Belong to Jesus (Volume 2)

Worship Wednesday – His Eye Is On the Sparrow, and I Know He’s Watching Me – Civilla Martin

Photo Credit: Heartlight

My heart is suffering, withered like grass; I even forget to eat my food. Because of the sound of my groaning, my flesh sticks to my bones. I am like an eagle owl, like a little owl among the ruins.
I stay awake; I am like a solitary bird on a roof.Psalm 102:4-7

“Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”Matthew 10:29-31

I have a friend who is sad.

She has reason. A series of losses and almost-wins have knocked the breath out of her. She loves God and trusts His goodness, but she still struggles with why life has gone the way it has…at this moment.

In praying for her and searching the Scripture to encourage her, it didn’t surprise me that even in my down time, the Lord spoke through an ordinary passing moment. A scene in a little-known TV movie. Settled on the couch, during a rain shower, I watched a film where one of the characters quoted part of Civilla Martin‘s poem “His Eye Is On the Sparrow”.

Wonder shot through me (once more) at the beauty of this truth and the song inspired by it. I searched out “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” online. So many lovely renditions of the old hymn on YouTube (see a few of the links below).

In my search, I came across author Gail Johnson‘s blog (written during the COVID summer of 2020) on the same song. Ironically, she had just seen a film which inspired her post as well (I’m pretty sure it is the same one). It was another gift from the Lord as I prayed and sought His face on behalf of my sweet grieving friend.

Johnson’s blog is wonderful, and you can read hers…or just stay here briefly, to worship with me, on this page. The quote below is from her blog, and it’s so to the point on today’s dilemma…how to deal with loss and our sadness over it.

The person who has the habit of hope also has the habit of remembering. Hope needs memories the way a writer needs notes. This is partly because hope depends so much on imagination. Our images of the future are sweepings from our remembrances of things past. If we expect to keep hope alive, we need to keep memory alive. Happy memories of good things we hoped for that were fulfilled, and grateful memories of bad things survived.Lewis Smedes

Photo Credit: Tonkin’s Growing Around Grief Model

I really have no doubt that my sad young friend will find her way through this dark tunnel to the glorious light at the end. Watching her persevere through this time of suffering is to see the radiance of the crucified AND risen Savior in the life of His child. Grief is an unwanted gift which can grow us up in Him…and with each other.

Worship with me.

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Refrain:
I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.*

Photo Credit: YouTube

Postscript: A member of my family told me recently that she wasn’t going to have a funeral. She didn’t want her family to suffer through one and she didn’t want all that sad music. I’ve thought about that a lot since. First, funeral gatherings can be amazing times of healing. They are a strange mix of sadness AND joy. We’ve lost some dear family members, colleagues, and friends in recent years. The times of the visitation, “wakes”, and even the funeral service have brought both tears of joy and sadness. With actual laughter in the halls as old friends and distant family reunited, honoring and celebrating a life too soon passed. So…a funeral can be a very good thing. Then the sad music. Sure some of the old hymns are sad…heartbreakingly so. I’ve played through this particular song several times this week. Turns out it is a favorite funeral song (in fact, it’s in this top 100 list of Southern Gospel funeral songs). The words are not at all sad to me. They are triumphant, glorious, even defiant, in the face of loss, suffering, and grief.

“When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m [defiantly] happy, I sing because I’m [gloriously] free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

*Lyrics to His Eye Is On the Sparrow – Civilla D. Martin, 1905

History of Hymns – His Eye Is On the Sparrow – Dr. Hawn

Story Behind the Song: ‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow’ – Lindsay Taylor

Lyrics to God Will Take Care of You – Civilla D. Martin, 1904

YouTube Video – Ethel Waters – His Eye Is On the Sparrow

YouTube Video – His Eye On the Sparrow – Lauryn Hill and Tanya Blount

YouTube Video – Larnelle Harris – His Eye Is On the Sparrow

YouTube Video – Whitney Houston – His Eye Is On the Sparrow

YouTube Video – Why We Sing (w/ lyrics) – Kirk Franklin & Family