Worship Wednesday – Nathanael, Philip, and Jesus – Time Under the Fig Tree

Photo Credit: Howard Carter

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”John 1:43-51

Philip found Jesus. The One. The Messiah. He followed Him…and he sought out his friend Nathanael to tell him the good news. Even as Nathanael mocked the news, Philip persevered.

“Come and see”.

As they approached, Jesus called out identifying Nathanael. It was shocking for Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew) because they had not met before. Jesus called him “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.  Something about what and how Jesus spoke to him caused Nathanael to wonder aloud how Jesus knew him.

Then Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” What?! Of course, we remember this is God, this Jesus. Still, something in His seeing Nathanael under the fig tree meant everything to Nathanael…it meant that He was the One. The Messiah. Nathanael believed.

“Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Now, there are a lot of fig trees in Israel. Most probably, Nathanael sat under them from time to time. Something happened specifically under one of those fig trees that made it hugely significant that Jesus recalled it to him…and told him, “I saw you”.

In the TV series, The Chosen, we watch a story about Jesus, His followers, and His public ministry. We are reminded by the director and others that The Chosen is faithful to the truth of Scripture, but it also tells a story. We don’t know from the Word what was going on in Nathanael’s life “under the fig tree”, but that Jesus saw him was crucial.

The writers of the series have Nathanael wrestling with God over a failed hope. Nathanael had wanted to design buildings that would honor God, and he failed. Under the fig tree, he cried out to God in the words of Psalm 102:1-2:

“Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry for help come before You. Do not hide Your face from me in my day of distress. Incline Your ear to me; answer me…”

In reality, we do not know from Scripture what happened under the fig tree, but when Jesus told him that He saw him there…Nathanael believed. In the Son of God. The King of Israel.

[The scene below is 11 minutes in length. If you haven’t seen it, it is well worth your time. Beautiful. Remember some is story, BUT the passage in John above is faithfully represented…and the emotion is there. The grand emotion of discovering that we are seen…we are known.]

We have all had those moments under the fig tree. Times we thought we were all alone. Times of anguish or fear. Times of feeling completely undone. To be reminded that Jesus sees us changes everything. It is similar, in a God way, to the pronouncement the Samaritan woman made after encountering Jesus at the well. “He told me everything I ever did!” So different from Nathanael but similar in that she met the Messiah who knew her…and still loved her completely.

Worship with me to Jeremy Camp‘s He Knows:

All the bitter weary ways
endless striving day by day
you barely have the strength to pray
in the valley low

how hard your fight has been
how deep the pain within
wounds that no one else has seen
hurts too much to show

all the doubt you’re standing in between
And all the weight that brings you to your knees

HE KNOWS, HE KNOWS
EVERY HURT AND EVERY STING
HE HAS WALKED THE SUFFERING
HE KNOWS, HE KNOWS
LET YOUR BURDENS COME UNDONE
LIFT YOUR EYES UP TO THE ONE
WHO KNOWS
HE KNOWS

we may faint and we may sink
feel the pain and near the brink
but the dark begins to shrink
when you find the one who knows

the chains of doubt that held you in between
one by one are starting to break free

every time that you feel forsaken
every time that you feel alone
He is near to the broken hearted
every tear
He knows…*

As you get back to your day, you might want to bookmark the links below. Nathanael is a lesser known apostle, BUT we can learn so much in his conversion story…about Jesus…about the friend Philip who brought Nathanael to Christ…and about Nathanael, this righteous Jew, overcoming his prejudice and coming to Christ.

*Lyrics from He Knows – KLove

YouTube Video – He Knows (Lyric Video)

Worship Wednesday – He Knows – Jeremy Camp – Deb Mills

Jesus and Nathanael – D. Young

Snowballs and Bowling Balls – Jesus and Nathanael – Brian Rosner

Nathanael and the Fig TreeCharles H. Spurgeon

Under the Fig Tree…Jesus Meets Us Where We Are and Calls Us to Follow Him – Howard Carter

Under the Fig-Tree – How to Live a Holy Life – C. E. Orr

Monday Morning Moment – a Fresh Start – You’ve Got This!

Blog - Monday Morning

[Adapted from the Archives]

Monday morning. It’s one of my favorite times of the week. Crazy, maybe…but I love fresh starts and new beginnings. Some mornings, a sweet old song pops into my head with the same affect as that first cup of coffee. It’s a Beautiful Morning – that oldie by The Rascals (1968, I know, really old). That gets me going. What keeps us going on a Monday morning (o.k. along with coffee) are the promises of God.

[Now, if God’s promises don’t resonate with you at the moment, see the links at the end of this post, for helps on what’s happening with Monday Blues and how you can take steps to feel better.]

Here are 5 verses that are a quick read to help you get out of bed and get going. Remember, God’s got you and God’s got this.

In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. – Mark 1:35

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in You I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul. – Psalm 143:8

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  – Lamentations 3:22-23Blog - Monday Morning 2

Sing praise to the LORD, you His godly ones, And give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.Psalm 30:4-5

Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Psalm90:14

Whether you are a morning person, or it’s a resounding snooze alarm on repeat, or no more vacation days that drag you out of bed this morning, remember you have a God who loves you and is with you all the way.Blog - Monday Morning 4

Do Over by Jon Acuff  – one of my favorite reads on work and change. Wrote a blog series on it here.

How to Fall in Love with Mondays – Reignite your Love for your Work with these Five Strategies – Fast Company article by Lisa Evans, referencing Do Over by Jon Acuff

6 Signs that ‘Monday Morning Blues’ May Be an Emotional Alarm – Marie Hartwell-Walker

Experts Explain Why Mondays Are So Psychologically Hard – Caroline Bologna

11 Ways to Beat the Monday Blues – Jacqueline Smith

5 Friday Faves – Loki Theme on Classical Guitar, Farm to Table, The Color of Law, Good Trouble, and LOTR Memes

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Weekend. Friday Faves. Go.

1) Loki Theme on Classical Guitar – Twice a month a video. Nathan Mills  (Beyond the Guitar) drops two classical guitar arrangements every month. Twice a month. It’s a happy time when that happens. Here’s his arrangement of the main theme from Marvel Studio’s Loki. Enjoy.

2) Farm to Table – Summer in this part of the world is a feast of flavors and colors as farm harvests come in. Markets abound and we reap all the good.

 

3) The Color of Law – Much of my adult life, I’ve lived in cities – Atlanta, New Haven, Cairo, Tunis, Casablanca, and now, Richmond, Virginia. Cities are where our children grew up. Amazing experiences for us all. Now we, who own homes, live in the suburbs. Last week I had the great privilege of hearing educator Sara Kennedy talk about the history of Richmond, Virginia. Particularly the history of the last 150 years or so. In just over an hour, she talked through the many laws, ordinances, and covenants put in place to seemingly protect the growth of the white middle class. Also to stifle or curtail the socioeconomic flourishing of African Americans in our country. In particular home ownership. How in the world? Through federal, state, and local laws. Kennedy explored all of this without shaming or judging those in the room…just talked about the laws, the impact on urban quality of life, and…”the color of law”.

Last year, I watched the 13th documentary about the abolition of slavery. It was hard to watch because, over and over, I had to take a breath, shake my head, and acknowledged to myself, “I didn’t know.”

Kennedy focused much of her talk on the huge impact of home ownership on the racial wealth gap…and how that wealth gap came to be through the laws of our land.

She referred often to a book by economist Richard Rothstein entitled The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. I am just now reading this book, but below are quotes from the text.

“The core argument of this book is that African Americans were unconstitutionally denied the means and the right to integration in middle-class neighborhoods, and because this denial was state-sponsored, the nation is obligated to remedy it.”

“If government had declined to build racially separate public housing in cities where segregation hadn’t previously taken root, and instead had scattered integrated developments throughout the community, those cities might have developed in a less racially toxic fashion, with fewer desperate ghettos and more diverse suburbs. If the federal government had not urged suburbs to adopt exclusionary zoning laws, white flight would have been minimized because there would have been fewer racially exclusive suburbs to which frightened homeowners could flee.”

“We have created a caste system in this country, with African Americans kept exploited and geographically separate by racially explicit government policies. Although most of these policies are now off the books, they have never been remedied and their effects endure.”

Read the book. Until you are able to do so, start, as I did, with Goodreads quotes of The Color of Law. Mind-blowing.

I’m learning. Not taking responsibility for the wrong of previous generations, but taking in the why’s that such division (in our city, in particular) still exists. Change is difficult but not impossible.

“Heard” – PBS Documentary – “HEARD captures the inspiring stories of five people who grew up in ‘the projects’ (Richmond, Va.), surviving and thriving in spite of, and often because of, the challenges they’ve had to overcome. Now they’re giving back to their home communities, trying to make a better life for those who come behind.”

‘Less Than Human’: The Psychology of Cruelty – NPR – David Livingstone Smith – includes a 30-minute listen along with article. It is shocking, though not surprising anymore, to think of how we as humans can treat each other…important to remember and not repeat…ever.

4) Good Trouble – This phrase has been made famous by the late Congressman John Lewis.

“Speak up, speak out, get in the way. Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”

If there was ever a person who turned our world upside down with something that could be termed “good trouble”, it was Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, the recent multi-season TV series The Chosen on the life of Christ has as its theme song “Trouble”.

Photo Credit: The Chosen, Season 2 Trailer, Christian Film Blog

Below is a video (and the lyrics) of the song Trouble.  It was written for the series above by Matthew S. Nelson and Dan Haseltine.

I was one way when you found me

I was not the one you see

And the only thing that happened

Was the stranger in between

You can say your eyes are open

You might think your hands are clean

Til the wind blows

in the dirt kicks up

In ways you’ve never seen

Yeah, trouble

Trouble ain’t bad

If the bad is good

You’d make a little trouble if you understood.

Worship Wednesday – Trouble – From ‘The Chosen’ – Deb Mills

5) LOTR Memes – A meme is defined as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture”. The many dialogs woven into the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) film trilogy come from the magnificent J. R. R. Tolkien novel of the same name.

Because of the many weighty words of these stories, it’s no wonder that we would remember them, use them in conversations, and turn them into memes.

One Cannot Simply Separate the Lord of the RIngs Movies From Meme Immortality

Below are a couple of my favorite memes (with the Youtube links of those scenes from the films). Do you have a favorite LOTR meme?

Photo Credit: Know Your Memes

Photo Credit: Esmemes

Return of the King Screenwriter Philippa Boyens Reflects on Éowyn’s ‘I Am No Man!’ – Karen Han

YouTube – Eowyn Meets the Witch King of Angmar

Photo Credit: Know Your Memes

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That’s it. Hope you have a refreshing weekend. Thanks for stopping by. Blessings.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Hilary Jacobs Hendel, From Confusion to Clarity

From Confusion to Clarity – Hilary Jacobs Hendel

The Change TrianglePhoto Credit: HilaryJacobs Hendel, What Is The Change Triangle?

A Prayer for a Wanderer – Tim Challies

Stand-Up International – Let’s Fight Against Street Harassment

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s “Take On Me”, the Woman Slowly Fading, Mama’s Table, Relationship Hacks, and Voices of Influence

Happy weekend! Here are my five faves of this week – rapid-fire.

1) Beyond the Guitar’s “Take On Me”Nathan Mills does it again.  He takes Norwegian band A-Ha‘s 1985 hit “Take On Me” to a whole new level on classical guitar. So beautiful that lyrics aren’t needed; the nostalgia is already there. This song is featured in the video game The Last of Us Part II. Whether you loved it or hated it in the soundtrack of that game (or not a gamer)…its melody is “all the feels” under the deft fingers of Beyond the Guitar. Enjoy!

2) To The Woman Slowly Fading – I didn’t know the work of Scottish poet Donna Ashworth until my great-niece posted the poem below on her social media. She (my great-niece) is mum to three little ones; in fact, three under the age of three at the time.

She is tired and pulled. Yet in the tired, she is full of joy.

I’m grateful she shared this poem because it told me something about her and it also illuminated something I had been feeling from a very different place. My niece is nearer the beginning of her life’s journey, and I am closer to the ending. Nothing sad here; just what is.

At our latest family dinner, I had that strange thought of fading. A moment of poignancy taking in the lovely scene of adult children and wee ones around the table. Ashworth describes this sense of fading so well. Read for yourself the lines below.

To the woman who has lost her spark.
To the woman whose get up and go, has well and truly gone.
This is for you.
This is to remind you whose daughter you are.
This is to remind you, that you don’t have to be everything to everyone, every day.
You didn’t sign up for that.
Remember when you used to laugh? Sing? Throw caution to the wind?
Remember when you used to forgive yourself more quickly for not always being perfect.
You can get that back again.
You really can.
And that doesn’t have to mean letting people down or walking away.
It just means being kinder to you, feeling brave enough to say no sometimes.
Being brave enough to stop sometimes.
And rest.
It starts the moment you realise that you’re not quite who you used to be. Some of that is good, some of that is not.

There are parts of you that need to be brought back.

And if anyone in your life is not okay with that… they are not your people. Your people will be glad to see that spark starting to light up again.

So, if you have been slowly fading away my friend, this is the time to start saying yes to things that bring you joy and no to things that don’t.

It’s really pretty simple. – Donna Ashworth, To the Women

I do take exception to the one line: “Saying yes to things that bring you joy and no to things that don’t.” Fortunately for my young niece’s children, she is not going to ignore their cries in the middle of the night, or their tears after a fall, or their fears of the unknown. These things do not bring her joy, but they are part of the journey.

Difficult family members, friends in crisis, health issues, mounting drama in the world’s press…we can’t always say no, but we can measure ourselves out in wise and thoughtful ways. There is sacrifice in life, and, with it, joy.

So if we are fading…may it be for good reasons. Squeezing all we can out of life and relationships…even the hard ones. Not leaving anything left on the field when the clock runs out (was that phrase from Vince Lombardi?). No slow fade. Intentional. Deliberate. Owning it.

For believers of Jesus, there is a call reflective of this: On the return of the Messiah one day, we are reminded of the joy of that great day when “He must increase, and I must decrease”. (John 3:30) As on a wedding day, we take in that glorious arrival of the bridegroom for his bride.

Fading may be how we feel, but the reality is we all have various seasons in our life’s journey. Each with its own glory, joy, and exhaustion.

Life…taking it all in.

“You may begin to notice that you’re invisible. Especially if you’re short and gray-haired. But I say to whom? And so what?”Grace Paley on the Art of Growing Older

Donna Ashworth – poetry website

“History Will Remember” – a Pandemic Poem – Donna Ashworth

3) Mama’s Table – Our youngest child, Dan, has been affectionately referred to as a food snob. He loves all kinds of food but can be hyper-critical of what he considers bland food or just the wrong mix of flavors or textures. Fortunately he is a good cook and he has been since middle school. On bake sale days back then, he would take his cupcakes into school and brought empty platters back home. His yeast rolls, from a favorite teacher’s recipe, were amazing. He and a small cadre of high school friends who loved to cook (well, to eat, for sure) even started a cooking club.

They had a great time together, and we enjoyed their feasts with them. Nothing like a kitchen full of friends and all good things – loud laughter, strong opinions, and the yummiest blend of fragrances.

Food has its own culture and anthropology. In fact, Dan has moved on from just cookbooks focused on recipes to thick volumes covering not just the food of Persia, Malaysia, or Russia but the culture that goes along with the food.

The article below reads like some of those texts.

The Economics Behind Grandma’s Tuna Casseroles – Megan McArdle

McArdle tells the story of how decisions were made in homes across America from the 1890s right through present-day. The quote below resonates deeply with the food experience I knew growing up.

“The great blessing of my life is that my mother did not let me become a food snob. She was from a small town in middle America, and she did not view this as any great handicap. Nor did she look down on the culinary tradition she inherited from her mother, a “good plain cook” of the miracle-whip-and-white-bread Midwestern persuasion whose pie crust was infallible. We did not mess around with limp chicken breasts and cans of Campbell’s Soup, but I have eaten plenty of Jell-O salad, and liked it. (On summer days, I still occasionally crave shredded carrots and crushed pineapple embedded in orange jello made with ginger ale. Don’t sneer; it is delightful and refreshing.) Apples, bananas and raisins, dripping with Miracle Whip, were served as a salad in my house, and one of my favorite dishes from my grandmother was ground meat and pasta shells in Ragu. I still bake out of the Betty Crocker 1950 cookbook, and have never found a better guide to the classic American layer cake.”

We got a Betty Crocker cookbook as a wedding present and I still use it. I remember growing up with Campbell soup and Jello salads. Money was always tight so Mom would use pork brains (??) from a can to add to eggs to make them stretch far enough for us four kids. My first pizza was from a Chef Boyardee box. We never ate out at a restaurant, but I remember when a McDonald’s opened up near us (the first one in our area), and Mom took us for burgers and fries as a reward for behaving ourselves at the grocery store. That was a big deal. Church suppers were a big deal as we sampled what our friends enjoyed at their homes. Food was (and is) much more than just nourishment.

How about you? What is your food culture? Or rather the culture you knew as a child. For many of us these days, our food cultures are diverse and delicious…but we still remember the culture of Mama’s table.

4) Relationship Hacks – Just a few finds on how we treat each other, and sometimes ourselves.

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, AZ Quotes

“Every day, we have the opportunity to be more thoughtful, respectful, supportive toward people living with ‘invisible’ challenges.”Ian Kremer

Someone Needs Your Encouragement – Marshall Segal

5 Phrases that Make People Discount What You’re Saying – Gwen Moran

Use the Magic 5:1 Ratio to Improve All Your Relationships – Jessica Stillman

5 Indicators of an Evil Heart – Signs of a Narcissistic Partner – Lesli White

Jacqueline Woodson’s Lovely Letter to Children About Kindness, Presence, and How Books Transform Us – Maria Popova

5) Voices of Influence – Amidst all the voices gracing our lives and in the news media, we have some truly stellar influencers. Below are just a few:

73-17 In the Making – Sho Baraka, Jackie Hill Perry, Propaganda

Rapper’s Twitter Thread About Human Behavior During Pandemic Goes Viral: People Will ‘Demand’ Authoritarianism ‘When Sufficiently Frightened’ – Zuby – Charlotte Pence Bond

YouTube Video – Black Self-Making – Glenn Loury & John McWhorter

YouTube Video – Breaking the Silence – 2021 Documentary on psychosis and psychotic disorders. Written, directed, and produced by Dara Sanandaji.

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Have a safe weekend filled with sweet times with people you love.
Bonuses:
Photo Credit: Twitter, Ian Kremer
Photo taken at the Jefferson Memorial, Three Panel

Worship Wednesday – the Answer for the Sullen and Inconsolable – Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Surely my soul remembers and is humbled within me. Yet I call this to mind, and there I have hope:  Because of the loving devotion of the LORD we are not consumed, for His mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Lamentations 3:21-26

We need to teach our little ones how to lament. Otherwise, those children (especially bent toward the cup being less than half full or entirely empty) will develop habits of being sullen or inconsolable. In fact, as our children grow into adulthood, knowing how to lament will be a worship tool for handling all the painful and seemingly unfair losses.

What is Biblical lament? Its definition is, in Hebrew, “to passionately cry out, to wail, to express sorrow, to mourn, to express regret”.

“We live in a fallen world. We experience the consequences of sin and death on individual, cultural, and global levels. God knows we need a way to express and release the pain of these losses or we risk becoming numb to even the joys of life or allowing momentary sorrows to infect our entire being. The tool He’s provided for this release is lamentation.”Lori Stanley Roeleveld

Yesterday I was spending the afternoon with our 5y/o and 3 y/o sibling grandchildren. We had a schedule, and they both understood it. Then the 3 y/o decided to change up the schedule. His strategy was to be miserable and make his sister and Gram miserable as well. He was successful. I don’t do sullen well at all. [My own struggle with responding to inconsolable children needs its own blog. Surely, I can do better.] The afternoon finished out fine enough, but we were all three worse the wear on feeling bad and making each other feel bad. Thankful for another day of learning to love well these precious ones.

Through the evening, I was reminded of my own children’s struggle with hardship and losses and how their dad and I tried to help them navigate them, growing up. Our sweet daughter’s struggle with our many moves, leaving friends behind and forced to start over in new places. Our darling youngest son who was different different (being both American and Korean living in Africa), and sometimes endured hard attention from other children. Our talented older son when his heart broke, not making the soccer team as a middle schooler.

[Sidebar: When this loss accentuated our son’s struggles later on his high school basketball team, we understood there would be dark times. Dave remembered last night about us giving him an after-dinner back yard task of 100 completed free throws. I can’t believe now that he actually went along with us. Hot, mad, and sweaty,  he shot and shot until he got those 100 successful attempts. His confidence grew through the season with his practiced proficiency.]

Our sullenness and inconsolable hearts must have their origins in entitlement. This is something we fought against with our children from toddler-hood. Still it creeps in (to all our lives). Life should be better for us. Life should bring successes. Even for Christians, we are shocked, at times, when we suffer because we think it is not right. Not fair. [We never responded to that expression with our kids growing up. Just moved on. It might have been a teachable moment to sow lament in their hearts.]

Dare to Hope in God – How to Lament Well – Mark Vroegop

Writer, pastor Mark Vroegop (in piece above) gives four elements of lament (from Psalm 13):

  1. Turn to God. – Tell God what’s happening. Talk to Him about everything about it, including how you feel.
  2. Bring your complaint. – Tell Him what’s frustrating you. All of it. He can take the struggle you are having.
  3. Ask boldly for help. – Don’t give into silence and despair. Ask Him for help. “Dare to hope.”
  4. Choose to trust. –  “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5–6). More than the stages of grief, this prayer language moves us to renew our commitment to trust in God as we navigate the brokenness of life.

Lament is definitely something we can choose as we walk with God. Teaching our children to turn their struggle away from themselves and toward God will move them to maturity. Just this week that basketballer son of ours gave counsel to treating perceived failure with perspective and perseverance. A good word for anyone.

C. S. Lewis talked about a joy as having a “stab, an inconsolable longing”. He also describes how we seem never to be fully satisfied here…because we were made for another world.

[Lessons From an Inconsolable Soul – John Piper is an excellent piece on the life and faith of C. S. Lewis. For a short read start at his point 2 “Why Lewis Is So Helpful to Me”.]

For today, let’s turn our longing, our ache, our sorrow into a lament and a praise. Allow gratitude to flatten our fear. Worship with me with the help of this great old hymn that I’ve referenced before (see links below). Remember that our beloved Comforter, and Consoler, is ever and always faithful:

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Refrain:
Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
all I have needed thy hand hath provided–
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. [Refrain]

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! [Refrain]*

“I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.”The Traditional Jewish Prayer Upon Awaking

*Lyrics to Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Songwriters: Thomas O. Chisholm and William Runyan

Great Is Thy FaithfulnessStory of John Piper’s extra verses for Thomas O. Chisholm’s classic hymn

Worship Wednesday – When Storms Come, We Still Have a Good, Good Father – Chris Tomlin & Pat Barrett

Worship Wednesday – No Matter What I Will Trust in You – Lauren Daigle

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

Worship Wednesday – Gratitude Flattens Fear – Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – No Shadow of Turning – Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Austin Stone Worship – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Soundtracks for Life – with Beyond the Guitar

Photo Credit: Tyler Scheerschmidt

Music is as universal as a smile. We understand its impact on our mood, our larger experience, and our sense of belonging. In fact, we unconsciously develop soundtracks for our lives with little effort.

When our children were entering their teens, we would often do long roadtrips, visiting family or heading to a beach somewhere. All three kids had their own headphones on, with their own individual soundtracks for the road. Occasionally, being the parents messing in their lives, we would insist they put away their private listening devices. Then we shared our various personal favorites through the car’s stereo. With differing levels of enjoyment for sure.

It was a bonding exercise of a sort. Or at least a cross-cultural musical experience between the five of us. I wonder if they remember.

My wonderful mom-in-law is visiting us this week.

Over the weekend, we were driving and Dave cued up Alan Jackson’s Gospel country song albums. Sweetly familiar to all of us, even though some of those songs we haven’t sung in a very long time. We all sang along, even our youngest adult son who remembers those songs from childhood (only). It was a lovely experience that wouldn’t necessarily have happened without MomMom in the car.

Memories.

Do you have favorite soundtracks for different times in your life? I know you do. Something nostalgic…or maybe new still? Something that restores you from a dark place or returns you to a happy time or just causes you to get out of your seat to dance or raise your arms in praise?

I sure do. A wide range of music because I’ve lived a long time now. One thing about music for me: for half my life, the soundtracks wouldn’t be instrumental. Music had to have words for me to engage. Marrying a quiet man began the reconstruction of that. If Dave was in the house, strains of big band, jazz, or classical music would always fill parts of the house. Even then, my appreciation for instrumental music just wasn’t happening.

Until our middle child, Nathan, picked up the guitar. He had his high school garage band days, but then honed in on mastering the classical guitar…and my soundtracks for life began to change.

Where words once seemed necessary, the music itself can bring “all the feels”. Especially when we already have the words in our heads, and all we need is just the right rendering of a melody, or harmony, to draw out the memory.

Nathan, at Beyond the Guitar, regularly brings to us his classical guitar arrangements of film, TV, and video game themes. Nostalgia is strong in this guy. When we listen to music that takes us back, we are, more often than not, fortified because we experience both an intimate connection (with our own sense of meaning) and with a social emotion drawing us toward others with similar music memories. It’s a sweet looking back. We don’t stay in the past, of course, but the emotions drawn out by such music refreshes, reconnects, and reorients us.

Speaking of Psychology: Does Nostalgia Have a Psychological Purpose? With Krystine Batcho, Ph.D.

We have various playlists from Nathan’s beautiful, lyrical music, but I will post just a few of my many favorite videos of his below. Including his most recent Tifa’s Theme” from the Final Fantasy video game franchise. No nostalgia attached to this one for me, because I never got into video games, but…The beauty of his arrangement of this gorgeous piece of music stands alone to touch my heart.

Here we go:

Just a few. Thanks for giving me this opportunity to share some of my soundtracks for life…music that lifts our mind and fills our hearts with sweet emotion. Put your earbuds in or turn your speakers up. Let the music flow and wash over you.

Please share some of your go-to tracks in the Comments. Have a soaring day!

We’re Living in a Nostalgia Boom. Here’s How to Harness Its Powers for Good – Julia Holmes (Fascinating nostalgia research)

The Psychology of Nostalgia – David Ludden Ph. D.

Music-Evoked Nostalgia – Ira Hyman, Ph.D.

Worship Wednesday – All These Babies – Raising Up Worshippers – Lullabies – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Habakkuk’s Response to the Incomprehensible Goodness of God

[Adapted from the Archives]

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.Habakkuk 3:17-19

Reading the book of Habakkuk, we are spellbound by the devastating situation where the people of God find themselves.  Habakkuk wrestles with God over this, and finally yields in faith to the God he trusts…no matter what. Whether in hunger or high places.

The thought of being completely without food is pretty frightening. The stories we hear in the news of displaced peoples, who had to flee their homes and villages and figure out how to survive on foot, are heartbreaking. I can’t fathom that situation, yet I know it’s real for far too many right now.

I’m also afraid of heights. When we fly, I always get an aisle seat, and treat the experience as if I’m on a cross-country bus trip. I love to look at mountains, but being up in them, on narrow roads or cliff-edge paths, is not what I would choose for transportation or relaxation.

Reading through the short account of desperate times, as recorded by the prophet Habakkuk, reminds me of the raw nature of life sometimes. What is that situation for you that would be the worst you could imagine? The loss of a person or the lack of a provision?

Is there anything that could so devastate me that I would take my eyes off God?

I pray not…and Habakkuk gives hope. He cried out to God, cried out against God, in the beginning, because of the horrific circumstances of his people, God’s people. Yet,  when we besiege the throne of God with our desperate requests, He hears His children and answers us. Not always in ways that suit us at the time, but He responds, with the wisdom of One who sees how all of life, all of history, fits together.

As we pray, whatever He does in answer to our appeals is up to Him – a perfectly loving, merciful and just God. Yet, there is a glorious spiritual transaction that happens, if we keep our eyes on Him. He restores our joy; He brings peace; He gives strength.

I love the passage in C. S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are trying to describe Aslan, the lion who symbolizes Jesus in the Narnia stories. Lucy and Susan ask if Aslan is safe. Mr. Beaver responds, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God is completely good. That does not mean that He keeps us always in comfortable places. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yet, as we look over the shoulders of Habakkuk, and see the world as he saw it…he still came around to seeing the goodness of God. We can also choose to rejoice in whatever situation we find ourselves. That is the faith that plants our feet surely on any path where God leads.

The Faith to Rejoice – A sermon on Habakkuk 3:17-19 by Coty Pinckney, Community Bible Church, Williamstown, MA

The Choice To Rejoice – A sermon by Richard Bray

Precept Austin Bible Study Helps for the book of Habakkuk

Aslan – Is He Safe? – Andrew Groves

Monday Morning Moment – How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

Photo Credit: Vanhercke Christiaan, Geograph

[Here we are two days post Juneteenth and one day post Father’s Day. What’s on my mind? Recovering from a bad fall with back pain slowly dissipating, and its resultant writer’s block. Hard to sit at a computer and write with brain drain from this pain.

However, the pain is improving…and inspiration is returning. In fact, the weekend’s events have spurred so many thoughts and emotions.]

This morning, I slowly rolled out of bed with so many thoughts pinging around my mind…thoughts and accompanying emotions. Then, as happens sometimes, a song, and the question in its title, settled in my brain.

“How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?”

Whether the Bee Gee’s epic original or Al Green’s amazing cover. Here’s a more recent Bee Gee’s performance (2001):

The Bee Gees, Al Green, and “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” – Alyson

Even when our hearts are not presently under attack, we share space with those we love whose hearts are breaking. A dear friend whose husband wants another future. A friend who spent his Father’s Day without his children (because his ex-wife chose a different future). .Friends who lost their fathers before this Father’s Day…or parents who lost their children (whether to death or to an estranged life). Friends heartbroken over the what-ifs or what-may-never-be’s.  Fill in the blank with your own. #BrokenHearts.

[Too heavy for a Monday morning? It does get better.]

Maybe you aren’t so aware of broken hearts. Maybe you haven’t had the experience of sitting on the phone of a friend scream-weeping at the hard reality of her life right now. Maybe you haven’t worked beside a friend whose stone face and deep quiet haven’t touched your awareness of what is going on under the surface of his silence…his pain.

Broken hearts can take us on spirals that lead to self-protective withdrawal, confused anger, terrifying isolation, or hard bitterness.Blog - Bitterness - Lee Strobel quote - azquotesPhoto Credit: AZ Quotes

Or we can heal.

One of the best TED talks I have ever heard is on “How to Fix a Broken Heart” with psychologist Dr. Guy Winch. Check out its 12 minutes of wisdom and helps.

I also found some helps in a somewhat odd place: Kristin Weber‘s Adulting for Jesus. Whatever you currently think about Jesus, this book on adulting is refreshing, funny sometimes, and so real. Midway of the book she talks about developing something she calls godly grit.

“Adulting requires learning how to fall and get back up again, and again, and again.” – Adulting for Jesus, p. 89

Weber presents 10 ways to shift perspective on the struggle (our heartbreak) and develop that grit:

  • Expect hardship.“Western comforts have lulled us into the false assumption that life is meant to be easy and the hard moments few. In reality, much of life is hard, and the easy moments are the exceptions.”  We can learn to live in such a way that difficult situations/relationships don’t catch us off guard.
  • Depend on God.  “…when a relationship [ends] abruptly, failure hurts – often deeply. We can be honest about our hurt and struggles while still trusting God.” We don’t ignore the pain of our broken heart, but we recognize that God hasn’t gone anywhere. He sees; He hears; He will work on our behalf.
  • Ask “What’s Next?”“Rather than ask ‘Why me?’…ask a different question about life: ‘What’s next?’ Obstacles, especially a long string of them, can make us short-sighted. By asking ‘What’s next?’ we recognize this failure or hardship isn’t the end of our story…Hardships will undoubtably change you, but keeping a long-term perspective will prevent them from destroying you.”
  • Look at Adversity through Eternal Lenses.“As a child of God your trials, both big and small, have an expiration date.” When our hearts are broken, we are consumed and exhausted by our loss. We can’t see down the road but so far. “Do the next thing”. Eternity comes but until then we grieve the loss, but we also train ourselves to stay in the moment and hope for a better future…a different future. We have that confidence in God’s care.
  • Appreciate the Bottom. “A lot can be learned on the bottom step of the ladder”. Our broken hearts can bring us low…but that is not where we stay. That is not where we belong.
  • Develop Thick Skin and a Tender Heart.“Try to be slow in getting offended and quick in extending grace. If someone causes you to have a knee-jerk reaction, that person controls you. That person has all the power…Choosing a calm response and keeping a level head, you remain free to live your life.”
  • Be Teachable.“Though we don’t need to let the opinions and critiques of everyone we encounter control our lives, we do need people who can lovingly speak truth into our lives…Our natural instinct is to make excuses or get defensive when someone corrects us, but adopting an attitude of teachability puts us on the track to growth and maturity. We need to take ownership of our actions and be humble enough to receive input about where we can improve.”
  • Do Something.“Big changes happen through tiny actions, and tiny actions require doing something.” Every day…step by step. #MakeYourBed.
  • Laugh. “Once I learned to laugh at myself and find humor in situations that didn’t tip in my favor, I became less stressed and anxious about every little thing. I didn’t dread life or failure as much…Our hope isn’t ultimately in everything going our way, and humor keeps the weight of our circumstances from crushing us.”
  • Count Your Blessings.“Instead of focusing constantly on everything that’s going wrong, take time each day to remember what’s going right. We might find our ‘gratitude attitude’ changes our entire outlook on life.”

Thanks, Kristin. I can tell you’ve known heartbreak and have learned to come out whole on the other side.

Closing out this Monday Morning Moment, for those of us who are sharing space with one or many dealing with broken hearts, we need to remember its pain, and have patience and compassion…be present, listen, and, when we can, speak the truth in love.

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Lanny Henninger

P.S. The Scripture verses are strong anchors and the links below are super helpful. None of us are in these broken spaces alone.

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

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.Psalm 73:26

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.Psalm 147:3

“I have chosen you and haven’t rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:9b-10

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Jesus – Matthew 11:28-30

Worship Wednesday – Jesus – the Friend of a Wounded Heart – Wayne Watson, Damaris Carbaugh (with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir), and Avalon – Deb Mills

4 Bible Secrets to Heal a Broken Heart – Dudley Rutherford – really excellent and rapid read.

How to Heal a Broken Heart – Cecil Maranville – another excellent read (also from a Biblical standpoint)

How Can I Recover From Heartbreak? – GotQuestions – another.

Worship Wednesday – From Bitterness to Brokenness – Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – the Wide Reach of a Hauntingly Beautiful Song – “Hurt”

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, YouTube

Having an artist in the family can be an extraordinarily sweet experience. One reason being we get to know the artist. Also, we have the opportunity of experiencing the art, with all its expansive nature. I know and love music that would never have come on my radar were it not for Nathan Mills, Beyond the Guitar classical guitarist.

I asked him last week what he was working on, and he said an arrangement of “Hurt”, the Johnny Cash version. Well…I didn’t know that song, but I did know the late great Johnny Cash. He was my mom’s favorite country singer. His music was the soundtrack of my early childhood.

After listening to the Cash version on YouTube, I was so taken by both the lyrics and the soulful melody. The original “Hurt” was written by Trent Reznor and performed by the industrial band Nine Inch Nails in 1994. That version was dark and despairingly sad, drawing our attention to brutal self-harm and drug addiction.

The Johnny Cash cover of “Hurt” came about when record producer Rick Rubin approached him about doing an album that would reintroduce the aging artist to the MTV generation of music fans. “Hurt” was one of many covers on Cash’s 2002 album American IV: The Man Comes Around. This album was a huge success.

The Lasting Impact of Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” – Bobby Moore

Cash’s version of “Hurt”, like Reznor’s original, was also sad and filled with regret. However, there was a difference. A big difference. In Cash’s rework of the original, he changed some of the lyrics to incorporate his faith. Still, the lyrics spoke of deep pain, the losses of his life and the losses to come. He knew he was in the last years of his life. His cherished wife and fellow artist June Carter Cash is seen briefly on the video of his cover. She would die in 2003 and he would also just months later. Somehow, Cash communicated both love and hope in his “Hurt”. It was excruciatingly beautiful.

Now enters Nathan’s arrangement and performance of this haunting melody. You can hear the emotion…even without the lyrics. Although I usually say “Enjoy”, on this one, just take it on and let it teach you something of life. Its great worth and the incredible gift it is.

What songs have touched your life in ways that continue to grow with time…and with the different reiterations and interpretations? Whatever genre. For me, many are old songs. Both in pop and country as well as old church hymns.

Please share some of your favorites in the comments below.

One song for me is “I Can Only Imagine”. I wrote about it here.

Another old favorite is the love song that became ours – Dave & me – years and years ago. “I Only Have Eyes For You”. A reminder of this song hangs on our bedroom wall. It always gives a cause to dance together.

Again, how about you?

YouTube Video – Johnny Cash – The Story Behind His Cover of Nine Inch Nails Hurt & Trent Reznor’s Reaction

YouTube Video – The Sad Story of Johnny Cash’s Hurt

YouTube Video – Beyond the Guitar – “Amazing Grace” – another favorite song that never grows old…ever

Worship Wednesday – Standing Firm, Side by Side, in Community, Not Afraid

Photo Credit: Philipp M., Pexels

[From the Archives]

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. – the Apostle Paul to the Philippian Church Philippians 1:27-28

God’s Word is powerful and freeing. We are emboldened and sustained by it – for life, for love, for forgiveness, for endurance.

Reading this passage recently, a charge from these words sizzled through me like electricity. Goosebumps and all.

Another translation of Paul’s writing introduced the above Scripture passage with the phrase “Just one thing”. We are living in confusing and shaky times, but God is unchanged. His truth is as riveting and reliable as when first written for us.

For months now, we have been kept apart by the social distancing of COVID-19. A year ago, we were brought together by the terrible loss of George Floyd. Brought together and at the same time torn apart. Protests and a pandemic. Racial unrest and a radical disease.

This time last year, a group of friends and I went through a Bible study together which turned out to be incredibly timely. We couldn’t be together so we met over a video call, working through Jennie Allen‘s Get Out of Your Head. In this book, Allen talks through our struggle with the kinds of thoughts that spiral downward taking us with them. The text she takes her readers through is Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He was in prison and yet wrote this short life-transforming letter to encourage the church experiencing its own hardship.

In confusing and chaotic times, our thoughts can be our worst enemy. We juggle the “what if’s” until they become more than we can manage. We question what’s right, what’s true, what’s our place in all of it…what’s God’s place. We become suspicious of others’ motives, and even sometimes our own. We grow weary of sorting it all out. We can withdraw…making six feet apart way too easy.

Jennie Allen reminds us that we have a choice; we can flip the downward spiral. We can make our aim, in all things,God’s glory and His headship. Keeping our focus on God, we then seek peace, do justice, love even our enemies, and trust God with our lives (whether the threat is COVID and or violence in the streets).

“As theologian and emeritus professor D. A. Carson has observed, People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”Jennie Allen
So how do we avoid that drift Dr. Carson talked about above?
In community. Standing firm, side by side, not afraid – in God’s strength and His salvation – Philippians 1:27-28.
However, even if community is shaky, God never is. We remind ourselves and each other that He is our refuge and we never have to be shaken...no matter the situation.

Psalm 62 – Trust in God Alone

For the choir director; according to Jeduthan. A psalm of David

I am at rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will never be shaken.

How long will you threaten a man?
Will all of you attack
as if he were a leaning wall
or a tottering fence?
They only plan to bring him down
from his high position.
They take pleasure in lying;
they bless with their mouths,
but they curse inwardly. Selah

Rest in God alone, my soul,
for my hope comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will not be shaken.
My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock.
My refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts before Him.
God is our refuge.Selah

Common people are only a vapor;
important people, an illusion.
Together on a scale,
they weigh less than a vapor.
Place no trust in oppression
or false hope in robbery.
If wealth increases,
don’t set your heart on it.

God has spoken once;
I have heard this twice:
Strength belongs to God,
and faithful love belongs to You, Lord.
For You repay each according to his works.Psalm 62