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

Monday Morning Moment – Isolation and Community

Photo Credit: Jackie Hill Perry, Art of It

After one-and-a-half years in COVID, we all have grappled with a need for social distancing and isolation. What happens then when the diligent pursuit of physical safety causes a loss of community?

None of us want to get COVID or its latest variant. However, we also desperately need community. It is on each of us to make creative and persistent decisions toward going after community. Especially the most vulnerable of us, or we will suffer more than the health impact of COVID [see links below].

The dilemma with isolation is somehow it has brought a social lethargy with it. We are becoming more solitary and our community has shrunk to the lowest and tightest we can manage.

Not necessarily out of fear of COVID, but out of a growing incapacity for community. Real community. “Iron sharpening iron” relationships.

I know I am not alone in the need for such community. We have probably all thought of how altered our relationships have become over the last several months. Not the closest maybe, but especially those that spurred us toward a higher accountability, responsibility or integrity. Those relationships where we are helped to make better decisions or extend kindnesses (especially toward those outside our inner circles).

[Whether introvert or extrovert, we can easily sink down into a solitary life of less. And less is not always more. This less can breed a sort of self-serving life where we gauge our relationships by our own gains and extend ourselves by our own comfort levels. Been there, done that. Ugh! ]

COVID or not, we still need other people, and they need us. Whether on a work project better served with team problem-solving or a family crisis that could use “all hands on deck”. Death and divorce are still happening, but life celebrations are also still with us – all calling for the touch of our community.

In the Wiki fandom Mary Shelley article, we read a fascinating take on the impact or lack of community on the characters of Shelley‘s novel Frankenstein.

In the novel, Victor Frankenstein is a brilliant scientist. He is overwhelmed by a series of losses and the grief, as well as his increasingly unhinged genius, drive him into isolation. He decides to make a human-like creature who would be like a son to him.

It did not turn out well. The creature, because of the rejection and isolation he himself felt, was determined to be a monster.

Both Victor and the creature Frankenstein, throughout the story, are plagued with isolation and a terrible lack of caring community.Photo Credit: Pixabay

The theme of isolation in Frankenstein raises many questions about the role of community and its importance. Many characters in the novel find themselves in isolated positions, and a few suffer grave consequences because of it. Characters suffer from both physical and emotional isolation, although, as in the case of the monster, the isolation is not always self-inflicted. Victor Frankenstein, on the other hand, chooses to isolate himself from his family, his peers, and even the monster he created.

In Frankenstein, horrible things happen when a character is isolated from the others. When Victor’s knowledge and ambition are unchecked by his peers, a monster is created…the destructive power lies not in the monster or his creator, but in solitude. Shelley uses this theme and its manifestation in her characters to pose questions about community, knowledge, and its role in society. Is unbridled knowledge always dangerous, or is there a middle ground? Should one abandon his or her pursuits if they are driving him or her away from a community? 

Shelley makes it clear that there are two different types of isolation: self-inflicted and societal. We see self-inflicted isolation manifested in Victor; he detaches from his world and the people he loves and as a result, everyone suffers tremendously. Rejection from society is demonstrated in the monster’s life. Again and again, he is turned away from love and companionship, which what he has longed for since he was first brought to life.” – Wiki-Fandom Analysis of Frankenstein – Mary Shelley, an Academic Wiki

Of course, this is a novel, but incredibly insightful as a tale of human nature. We need community…we are made for community.

Somehow we must rally during this protracted social experience of COVID. What is your mindset on this and what are your intentional actions toward community and away from isolation? The kind of isolation that eventually diminishes us and our relationships. Please comment below.

In closing, I do want to affirm an Isolation in Community. We may have to deal with social distancing for sometime still. Especially those most vulnerable to severe illness from COVID. For some isolation can’t be avoided, but there is an isolation in community. Where we take steps toward and lean in to deeper community. Even if it isn’t always in person. This takes a different sort of effort, but we know it is possible. Fortunately. For me, it’s actually using the phone for conversations (including Facetime). It’s not stepping out of responsibilities (work or community service) because of a need for social distancing, but figuring out alternate ways to serve, or get a job done. I have also experienced the fruit of it, thanks to your efforts. Our mail is less junk mail and more actual real connections through cards/letters. Thanks for that. Again, please comment below what your experience has been here.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Isolation – Good Therapy

Isolation and Community – Helen Thorne – Biblical Counseling UK

Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions – CDC

Creative Communities Are Addressing Social Isolation – Maryjoan Ladden

Sunday Blessing – a Son’s Birthday and a Charge, a Quote, a Poem, and a Prayer

Adapted from the Archives.

This son of ours is 32 today. We won’t be seeing him but we will be celebrating him. Today and every day of his life.

Here’s to you, Nathan.

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

So many memories. IMG_0034 (2)

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

Roadtrips to the Sahara Desert. Soccer. Cousins. Airports. Naps whenever and wherever. Basketball.

2007 - June -- Nathan scoresGrumpy when hungry – feed the boy. High School Rock Band. Great friendships. Game Nights. Sleep-Overs. PlayStation. Laughter. Working out. Classical Guitar. 2006 -- Dec -- Nathan, Jeremiah, Jared

Virginia Commonwealth University. Honors College. Aletheia Praise Band. Guitar Professor Patykula.

Sharing a house with your brother, sister, and then friend Duy.Blog - Parenting 4

Met and married beautiful Bekkah. Nathan & Bekkah collection

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

With being grown, comes adult friendships, some nurtured since childhood, some within the family, others without. Siblings. Cousins. With being grown, comes new work challenges, fulfilling life aspirations, and deepening your faith in God. With being grown, comes new family designations – becoming uncle to your nieces and nephew. 

Then that crazy day the summer of 2016 that you wildly trended on social media through a posting of one of your krue.tv live streams. [Krue doesn’t exist anymore but it was a springboard for your social media presence as a classical guitarist.]

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

And then sweet Emma.

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

As you settle into your early 30s, I leave you with a charge from God’s word to Joshua, Oswald Sanders’ quote to leaders, a poem often quoted by our friend Tom Elliff, and a prayer credited to General Douglas MacArthur.

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

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

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

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

Build me a son - Douglas MacArthurPhoto Credit: Pinterest

IMG_8616Nathan & his Dad

Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar

Nathan Mills – Patreon

J. Oswald Sanders’ Spiritual Leadership

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

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

Worship Wednesday – I Need Thee Every Hour – Fernando Ortega

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Phil Ware

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…”Genesis 1:26-28

Jesus explained, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.”  – John 4:34

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”Luke 23:34

We are needy people…by design.

Years ago, husband Dave and I led a Singles Sunday School class. These young people were top of the heap – well-educated, gifted, socially astute, emotionally intelligent, independent, and committed Christians. Yet, no matter the Scripture being studied that day, Dave always managed to insert two concepts:

  • We are all worms.
  • Obedience is always where we want to land.

I was like (on the first point) “Dude! What about we are fearfully and wonderfully made“?! [Psalm 139:14] [Years down the road, “dude” and “worm” would remind me of this exclamation as “worm” in Arabic is “dooda”. Sorry for the rabbit trail.]

As for the second point – the “O” word…no right or reasonable objection there. Period. Full stop.

Being Needy Is Not a Fault – It Is a Design – Christine Chappell

Yesterday I came across an Instagram story with Jackie Hill Perry talking about our inadequacy and deep need for God. If you know Instagram stories, they seem to last a minute. I wanted to hear it again, but couldn’t. So I’ve been thinking about it and praying since about it. We all have head knowledge about our dependence on God, our need for Him…it just doesn’t always settle into our hearts.

We (ok…is it just me?) go through too much of life with Paul’s affirmation that we have everything we need for “life and godliness” without remembering the context – dependence on His power and through knowing Him, in His glory and because of His goodness. [See verse below.]

His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  2 Peter 1:3

Wow! That right there.

Our days are busy and fraught with care (different depending on each of our situations, but its there…and draws our focus). God does  expect us to show up for work, for our families, for the church, for our communities…That is necessary…but not sufficient.

“Necessary but not sufficient”

“What we do is necessary but not sufficient. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and have substantial creative capacity and we can do a lot of neat things. God expects us to use our abilities, giftings, and capacities, and to work at it as hard as we can. However, all those things fall flat apart from our dependence on God – if He doesn’t breathe His life into our efforts and make them accomplish His purposes. Our work is necessary but not sufficient. He is sufficient.” – Dave Mills

We go to God each day for those things outside our power (cancer, COVID, conflict), but we forge ahead on what we think we can accomplish on our own (including growing our own character and that of our children). What then do we miss, in treating prayer and time in His Word as a sprinkling on our day? A seasoning rather than the meat. [See again John 4:34 above.] We miss God.

We miss God in working out our budgets, in counseling with a friend in crisis, in trips to the grocery store or playground, in studying for an exam. We miss His infusion of His own character, His own wisdom, His own wonder. We wear ourselves out walking in the flesh with just a touch of Him, even though we are indwelt by the very Spirit of God.

Whose image do we take into the public square? His or our own frail self? Preaching to the choir of one here (unless you are singing along with me).

Jesus taught us by His example that He revered the Word of God, and lived in obedience to It, and basked in the Father’s presence, and understood how being human can distract from the greatest reality in our lives – a holy yet approachable God. Even from the Cross, in His greatest need, He prayed for those who participated in the unspeakable. They didn’t know, He said (Luke 23:34).

We know.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses [of my imperfections], so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

“You see, our power as Christians is not in our strength, our own performance, or our own striving towards perfection. Our power comes when we can admit our vulnerability, our weakness, our neediness, and our dependence on the Lord. It was when Paul accepted his weaknesses and his imperfections that he discovered how strong he was in God.  

It’s when we are at our wits end that we discover that His ways are higher than our ways. It’s when we can’t do something that we discover He can. It’s when we realize the power is not in us that we find our strength in Him. Our imperfection is the pathway to the grace of God. It’s in that connection that we find His grace is indeed sufficient, even in spite of our weaknesses. –  Delman Coates

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  –     1 Corinthians 1:27–29

If you feel your neediness on a regular basis, know that you are in good company. All of us are needy, all of the time—we’re just too busy being “independent” to realize it.  We easily forget that neediness is inherent. Take a high-level view of the concept by starting with our neediness in the sight of God. Think back to the garden of Eden and all that Adam required from the Lord to live. Everything Adam had, he was given. Everything he possessed—even his very body and breath—came from God (Genesis 2:7). This truth hasn’t changed since the fall.

Think about it: what do you have at this moment that God did not give to you? …There’s no kidding ourselves: we are utterly dependent upon Someone else for all the things, all the time.

Man’s reliance upon God is a healthy relational construct, not an annoying character flaw. Our neediness is forged out of God’s good design (Genesis 1:31) and is meant to foster fellowship, faithfulness, and fruitfulness. In that sense, dependence upon God and interdependence upon each other is a blessed design meant for our good and God’s glory.Christine M. Chappell

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Be encouraged as I am (after hearing Jackie Hill Perry’s brief story). How different our lives are when we see God as He truly is and see ourselves in proper relationship to Him and each other (my definition of humility, actually). Our lives are small really, no matter how cool, independent or self-sufficient we think we are. How much more beautiful to receive that smallness as a gift in our lives as we walk in the fullness as His increase (in our decrease) (John 3:29-30).

Praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) is cause for rejoicing and gratefulness. I want more of this…more of Him. AND our children and grandchildren need to know they don’t have to grow up so grand and gifted…they can grow up knowing Him in all His power and glory and goodness!

Worship with me to this wonderful old hymn by Annie Hawks. OR if your heart would prefer a newer version then sing with Matt Maher’s Lord, I Need You.

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

Refrain:
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their pow’r when Thou art nigh.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is vain.

Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

[If you prefer the newer pink and blue background, live version of Lord, I Need You, with lyrics, here it is.]

Worship Wednesday – Deep Disappointment – Lord, I Need You – with Matt Maher & Audrey Assad – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – I Need Thee Every Hour – Anthem Lights

Needy People, Mighty God – Steven J. Cole

I Need You Every Hour – Tom Norville

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Monday Morning Moment – Indistractable…What?!

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Being distractable is one of my character flaws…I guess. For awhile, I had decided it was a super-power. In that, I could jump from activity to activity or person to person, and still somehow be fully present…at least for the moment. Sigh… Interruptions or a busy schedule were not problems for me. In fact, they made for a fun and energizing day. Or so I thought.

There was a time in my life, before marriage, that my closest friends even did an intervention on me. Seriously. Maybe it was because I over-scheduled life like a crazy person (meaning that I actually believed people wouldn’t be put off by my having three different activities, with three different groups of people, in one evening).

So now I’m older and wiser. Chuckle, chuckle. I have the time but not the energy for over-packing my schedule. Nor do I have the mental capacity for deep focus in the face of all the “pings, dings, and rings” of life.

Enter tech-savvy, habits guy Nir Eyal. I caught a 25-minute podcast with him speaking on how to become indistractable. It was illuminating.

In Eyal’s book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, he removes technology as the distractor in our lives and points to the emotional states that actually drive us. Those uncomfortable emotions (boredom, loneliness, uncertainty) that we hope to silence by simply exiting whatever we’re doing at the moment and take up a different, potentially mind-numbing activity. Like scrolling through social media.

Distractability may make us feel better for the moment, but it doesn’t help us become the persons we want to be. It is a soother but not a life-sorter. It is a behavior, and what needs changing is less the behavior than what’s behind it – identifying the triggers that move us to be distractable and applying new habits to help us stay focused. . We want to be people others can trust to do what we say we will do…to have genuine integrity. How we grow in this area is the point of his book.

Being indistractable means striving to do what you say you will do. Indistractable people are as honest with themselves as they are with others. If you care about your work, your family, and your physical and mental well-being, you must learn how to become indistractable.” – Nir Eyal

Photo Credit: Pixabay

“LOOK FOR THE DISCOMFORT THAT PRECEDES THE DISTRACTION, FOCUSING IN ON THE INTERNAL TRIGGER”.Nir Eyal
Eyal talks about time management as being pain management. When we understand the discomfort which triggers us to try to escape, we can then build in a tripwire to short-circuit the distraction.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
“Ten-minute rule.” If I find myself wanting to check my phone as a pacification device when I can’t think of anything better to do, I tell myself it’s fine to give in, but not right now. I have to wait just ten minutes.” – Nir Eyal
Two of the many tools Eyal encourages are 1) effort pacts and 2) identity pacts. With the effort pact, he uses an app (the Forest app, for one) to help him keep commitments to himself. He also prescribes having coworkers, friends, or family members come alongside and help you press into a project or task until you’re finished. Accountability helps.
“Effort pacts make us less likely to abandon the task at hand. Whether we make them with friends and colleagues, or via tools like Forest, SelfControl, Focusmate, or kSafe, effort pacts are a simple yet highly effective way to keep us from getting distracted.”Nir Eyal

Eyal’s identity pact is an intentional reflecting on the person you want to be, and then using that identity as its own motivator. For me to say, “I’m a writer” requires a certain measure of discipline, with habits in place to help me actually write. If we begin using the language of identity, an accountability is applied that helps us be the person we say we’re becoming. “I am not as distractable as I once was”. “I am not side-lined by negative emotions anymore.” “My values include majoring on family, so I focus on my work at work, in order to be all there at home”.

“Only by setting aside specific time in our schedules for traction (the actions that draw us toward what we want in life) can we turn our backs on distraction. Without planning ahead, it’s impossible to tell the difference between traction and distraction.” – Nir Eyal

Lastly, I’ll mention Eyal’s use of time-boxing over a to-do list. He doesn’t deny that a to-do list is helpful, but it has its own fails built in. We default to finishing what’s easy or urgent, and, in fact, rarely are as productive as we might think we should be with a to-do list. Also, there is always this guilting about what we didn’t complete.

He actually fills a time-box calendar with what he wants to accomplish in a day. He includes things we might not consider in a to-do list like prayer, fitness, reflection, time with family, etc.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

When we have a time allotment (not just how much time something should take but when we will work on it), we are more apt to focus on just that. Eyal does encourage multi-tasking, but only if it is done using “different sensory channels”. By this, he means bundling activities that can actually be done together without diminishing either. An example is watching TV (or listening to a podcast) while on a treadmill. We have a neighbor who reads while walking. That has always impressed me, but it can be done.

Fitness coach David Rosales does a great service (to those of us who haven’t yet tackled all of Eyal’s prescriptions) by giving his own takeaways from Indistractable (including a few I mentioned above):

  1. Don’t rely on willpower – put systems in place to help you succeed.
  2. Timeboxing – rather than a to-do list, block out time on your calendar for specific tasks.
  3. Do Not Disturb as Default –put in place practices that keep you from being distracted by your phone.
  4. Batch everything – batch actions (and distractions) to avoid having your flow disrupted. [From email to Instagram]
  5. Ulysses pact – set up an app or timer or work out an arrangement with someone to help you be accountable.
  6. Take a growth mindset – bit by bit, you are learning how not to be foiled by distractions. It is a process.
  7. Identify pacts – start identifying yourself in ways that communicate you are not distractable. Make the decision of what kind of person you are determined to be, and decision fatigue is removed. You learn to just say “no”.

What do you think about all this? Maybe you are a person of focus. Please, if you are, comment below on how you make that happen.

Nir Eyal Website

Nir Eyal: Mastering Indistraction

Nir Eyal on Taking Control of Technology to Become “Indistractable”    [25-minute video]

Working Parents? Here’s How to Raise Indistractable Kids with Nir Eyal – Nir Eyal and Vanessa Van Edwards – excellent resource

Read James Williams’ excellent review and critique of Nir Eyal’s book Indistractable.

How to Do Timeboxing Right – David Sherwin

How Timeboxing Works and Why It Will Make You More Productive – Marc Zao-Sanders

The Tail End – Wait But Why – Tim Urban

Quotes from Nir Eyal’s Indistractable

PDF Summary – Indistractable – Nir Eyal