Category Archives: Transformational

Worship Wednesday – Build My Life – Holy, There Is No One Like You – Housefires

Photo Credit: Heartlight

There is none like You, O LORD. You are great, and Your name is mighty in power. Who would not fear You, O King of nations? This is Your due. For among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like You. – Jeremiah 10:6-7

Lord, there is no one like you among the gods, and there are no works like yours. – Psalm 86:8

Earlier this evening, a small group of friends were gathered. Our hosts were refugees from a war-torn country which they fled over a year ago. We were celebrating a late Christmas/New Year’s together… One Christian friend was describing the “why” of giving gifts at Christmas. Crossing cultures and languages, the conversation was peppered with polite exchanges of where our beliefs were similar and where they were not. It happens…close friends who all consider themselves believers, but in very different experiences of faith.

I was reminded of a letter I wrote after a difficult conversation with a dear friend who wanted me to believe in God as she believed…just as I wanted the same for her…to believe as I did.

[As you read the letter, remember I’m writing to someone I loved very much and didn’t want to offend by my words. So keep that context in mind. To this day, she is as dear as ever. Precious to me. Still loving me as I love her…still two people who love God from different faiths.

Dearest Friend,

You’ve asked me why can’t I follow your way…the way you believe.  I know you spoke that from your heart, and you know I love you for it.  You also know how much I love you as you love me.  Since our conversation, your question has weighed heavily on my mind, and I want to try to give that question the answer you deserve.  Thank you for loving me enough to risk asking that question. Now, I hope you will hear my love through this answer.  We think very differently on these things, but I don’t think I will be telling you anything that we haven’t already talked about. Also, I want you to clarify anything for me that I’m in error on regarding your religion. I commit to you the same in our talks about what I believe. So what I write below is the answer to your question, “Why?”  And it’s written with all my love.

  1. First, I already see myself as one “submitted to God”, in the deepest sense of the word you’ve defined for me. My greatest desire is to know God and to surrender to Him in all areas of my life.  It’s been the imperfect but deeply personal pursuit of my life. My hope is to follow Him as He reveals Himself to me, both through His Word and by His Holy Spirit.
  2. As I understand your question, to follow your way would require me to leave the way I now follow.  That would be impossible for me.  I wasn’t born Christian.  I became a believer as I understood His revelation of Himself (through the Bible, the witness of others, and the stirring of my heart by the Holy Spirit). This is a relationship with God that I would never or could never sever.  To remove a portion of Who I believe He’s expressed Himself to be, both to and for His creation, would be unforgivable.  He has come near to us, and I am thankful to know Him, as One both Holy and Humble.  I would be sad to believe in a God whose holiness and judgment distance Him far from His people.  Am I wrong in my understanding of your experience of God?
  3. To have to face the burden of a life of sin would be more than I could bear.  I believe, by His Word, that He has forgiven me and continues to forgive me, as I confess my sins, repent of them, and live for Him.  I can’t imagine life where I was responsible to do good works and more good works in hopes to cancel some of my sins and hopefully to win His mercy.  My understanding of what is required in your faith may not be altogether correct on this point, but it’s what I see practiced.  Help me with this, if I am wrong.
  4. To live not knowing whether I would spend eternity with God or in Hell would be very painful…unimaginable, to be honest. Such terrible uncertainty! His Word tells me that I can know – not because of my good works but because of His good work for my sake.  I take great comfort in knowing that I will be in the presence of God forever.  It is also a great comfort to know I will see my Mom and Dad again, my brother and others who have gone before me, confident in God’s promises to them through His Word.
  5. To have to deny the sinless life of the Messiah, to deny His death on the cross, and to deny His resurrection would be the greatest dishonor to God that I could ever commit in life.  I would never be willing to deny this, and if this is required to be a good believer in your faith, then I am helpless to go that way.
  6. I could not require my children to follow any religion.  I do prefer for them to be believers in God by way of the Messiah, and I would be heart-broken if they denied God in their lives.  However, to be in a religion that requires them at birth to be identified with that religion seems beyond my right as a parent.  It is up to God how He moves in a person’s life.  I cannot demand it, no matter how much I would wish it a certain way.
  7. There are tenets of faith in your religion that I agree with wholeheartedly.  I think it’s a very good thing to have calls to prayer.  I actually also prayed, (when we lived in the same country), when I heard the calls to prayer, so in that we are alike.  I also agree with giving money to the place of prayer (for me, the church) for its service to the community.   I also think the intention of a month of fasting is a good thing.  To sacrifice food, drink, cigarettes, etc. to understand better what it’s like to be poor, and then to give that money to those less fortunate is a reasonable service for believers.  I think pilgrimages are also good opportunities to draw closer to God.  I do struggle with a pilgrimage that is not really accessible to every believer. 
  8. Like you, I believe that God is One…but I cannot ascribe to a faith that places a messenger of God in a preeminent position. You say that is what I do with Jesus, even to the point of making him equal, or a partner to God. This is where we differ greatly, and I know it divides us which makes me the saddest. We have books we believe to be holy which speak very differently about Jesus, even though Jesus is called Messiah in both. He is also said to be without sin in both. This is not a small thing.
  9. I don’t understand the concept of a holy war.  I do understand dying for one’s faith, and my hope is that if I have to die for my faith in God, that I will do it courageously and for His glory.  That part I understand.  To kill others, even infidels, and martyring oneself in doing so, seems morally wrong.  God doesn’t need my help to deal with infidels.  I know there are examples in the Torah of God calling His people to battle with those who stand against His people, and He shows His glory by miraculously giving them victory.  I don’t see God when people take matters into their own hands.  I don’t believe God would give me greater rewards for killing people rather than to try to reason with them to become true believers.
  10. Last, but not least, is that to follow your way, I would have to give up parts of the Bible to believe everything in the book you hold sacred.  I can’t do that.  It would be great sin for me to deny any part of God’s Word.  I believe every word is true.  I know you think I am deceived.  All I know, is that there was a time in my life that I wasn’t a Christian, and it was a dark time for me.  God revealed Himself to me through His Word, through the example of others whose lives had been changed by God, and through the movement of His Holy Spirit in my life.  Now, I know the experience of a changed life.  I am free, because His Truth has set me free.  It would be impossible for me to leave His guide for my life.  This person that you know and love is that person, only because I am walking in the Light of His Word.  We all struggle with the presence of sin, but we can have victory through His Word and by His Power.  Since I believe what He says about His own Word, I cannot leave His Word, any more than I can stop breathing.

As I write this, my heart aches, because, of course, I would love for us to be on the Way together.  I have answered your question.  Maybe, you’ll answer the same question for me sometime.  No matter what, if you let me, I will love you all the days of my life.  You are my friend, my sister, and my daughter.  You are one of the greatest gifts the Lord has given me, and I am so grateful.  Sometimes His gifts require a price.  He gave Himself for us, that we may be with Him forever.  My hope is that our friendship won’t require a price.  I never want us to be apart…although we’re not exactly traveling on the same path.  My prayer will always be that we reach Home together….and I know you pray the same for me.  Only God can answer both our prayers.

That letter was written years ago…to a friend who is even more dear to me today than decades ago. My faith remains unchanged…because God has not changed. He is worthy of our praise…He is worthy of our very lives. The song “Build My Life/Holy, There Is No One Like You” (by Housefires) speaks my heart today.

Worship with me:

[Verse 1] Worthy of every song we could ever sing
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe
We live for You

[Verse 2] Jesus, the Name above every other name
Jesus, the only One who could ever save
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe
We live for You
Oh, we live for You

[Chorus] (Holy)
Holy, there is no one like You
There is none beside You
Open up my eyes in wonder
And show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me

[Verse 1] Worthy of every song we could ever sing
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe
We live for You
Oh, we live for You
Jesus

[Verse 2] Jesus, the Name above every other name
Jesus, the only One who could ever save
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe
We live for You
Oh, we live for You

[Chorus] And holy, there is no one like You
There is none beside You
Open up my eyes in wonder
And show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me
Holy
Holy, there is no one like You
There is none beside You
Open up my eyes in wonder
And show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me*

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Blog-Isaiah-45-4-6-none-beside-me.jpg

Photo Credit: Heartlight

*Lyrics to “Build My Life/Holy, There Is No One Like You” – Songwriters: Pat Barrett, Brett Steve Younker, Karl Martin, Matt Redman, Kirby Elizabeth Kaple

Worship Wednesday – The Wonder of God – “So Will I” – Hillsong Worship

[Adapted from the Archives]

Photo Credit: Cedar Ridge Community Church

Christmas time is full of wonder…of a mystery of Jesus’ coming, not just as a man but, as a baby. God drawing near to us, in love and long-suffering. Immanuel – God with us. What a wonder!

Several years ago, I spoke at a homeschooling conference on the role we as parents have in modeling wonder and training worship. Our children are born with this huge sense of wonder, and then as the years go by, it can be dampened by the harder things (or people) in our lives. However, we, as adults, can model our own grown-up wonder. What follows, then, as we remind our children the source of the wonder…is worship.

In preparing for the conference, I was reminded of the apostle Peter’s exclamation below…his own wonder at a question Jesus asked. At that time in Jesus’ ministry on earth, some of his followers fell away. He then asked his closest followers if they would leave him (John 6:67-69):

“Lord, where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

 Where would we go? There’s nowhere…no one…like the Lord. The Creator and Sustainer of this beautiful world…

“When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place— What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings; You crowned him with glory and honor.”Psalm 8:3-5

“Even the darkness is not dark to You, but the night shines like the day, for darkness is as light to You. For You formed my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well.” Psalm 139:12-14

“So if you cannot do such a small thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow: they do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!”Luke 12:26-28

In thinking of how, as parents, we might protect and nurture our children’s sense of wonder, we rouse up our own sense of wonder.

Why We Must Protect and Nurture Our Children’s Sense of Wonder – Linda Akeson McGurk

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement…I should ask that [a] gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life. If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

What happens to our wonder? How do we pass it along, or keep it flourishing in our kiddos?

It’s helpful to spend a bit of time in reflection on some of what causes us to wonder:

  • Babies. Full-stop.
  • Cracking open a perfectly ripe watermelon – the color, how it smells, how it tastes.
  • Flowers coming from the tiniest of seeds (Dave has gardened in 4 different countries – pots on balconies when necessary).
  • The sky, night or day, and the vastness of space.
  • The water lines on the mountains of the Sinai Desert – no other way they could get there but a world-wide flood.
  • Forgiveness.
  • The wonder of sleep – lights out & alone with our thoughts & God; also sleep interrupted from anxiety but then the wonder of waking in the morning after miraculously falling back to sleep.
  • God’s answering Mom’s prayer – preferring for Him to be glorified in her cancer more than being healed from it, this side of Heaven.
  • The wonder of a virgin birth, of obedience even in death, of a resurrection.
  • the wonder of loving God – and that we are heard, known, understood, and forever received…by Him.

“Does the resurrection mean anything for your life now? Oh my, yes. [Because Jesus is the one bringing the kingdom of God – “shalom – complete healing of all the relationships in creation. We will be reconciled to God; to nature; to one another; and to ourselves…This broken world is not the only world we’re ever going to have…In the resurrection life we will dance perfectly, know perfect love, full satisfaction. The joy of your glory will be that much greater for every scar you bear”.Timothy Keller, Jesus the King

If we aren’t careful we falter in our wonder because of the seeming weight of our responsibilities or the distraction of our differences one with another. God never meant it to be this way.

“In a world full of pragmatic ‘older brothers’ it is easy, even in church, to forget the love that wants to stream between us. Instead we allow our heads and backs to bend under the weight of all that needs to be put right.Teresa McCaffery

“The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. –  C. S. Lewis

This is just a taste of the wonder we will know in Heaven…and what is our response to the wonder that surrounds us…the marvel of God Himself reflected in this world…and in His image-bearers? Gratefulness.

Photo Credit: Alan Chen, Good Free Photos

Gratefulness flows out of wonder and moves us to worship. We parents model wonder for our children & train them to turn their hearts in worship toward God…at Christmas and every “ordinary” day.

Worship with me in wonder as these days unfold toward Christmas – to Hillsong Worship‘s So Will I:

God of creation
There at the start
Before the beginning of time
With no point of reference
You spoke to the dark
And fleshed out the wonder of light

And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapor of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made
Every burning star
A signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I

God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice

And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You say
Every painted sky
A canvas of Your grace
If creation still obeys You so will I

If the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I
For if everything exists to lift You high so will I
If the wind goes where You send it so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy
Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times

God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created
The light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die

And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I can see Your heart
Eight billion different ways
Every precious one
A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I

Like You would again a hundred billion times
But what measure could amount to Your desire
You’re the One who never leaves the one behind*

“Lord, what a world you’ve given us! Our senses are full of the wonder of Your creation. Even more than that, the wonder of You. How You love us is beyond our understanding or comprehension. Your provision for our lives…the people You have brought close to love and to be loved by. The work You have given us…we are so privileged. Life eternal and abundant that we have both here and in the Hereafter. We are amazed, Oh God. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

*Lyrics to So Will I – Songwriters: Joel Houston Benjamin Hastings & Michael Fatkin

YouTube Video – (Star of Wonder) We Three Kings by The Roches

5 Friday Faves – Fortnite Revisited on Classical Guitar, Spring Rain, Habits of Love, Andy Crouch on Shame, and Wonder – Deb Mills Writer

Father, thank You for sending Jesus,
our rescuer, redeemer, and hope.
Fill my mind with wonder and awe
at the deep truths of Christmas.
Help me to celebrate and share the
good news of Your grace with others
whom you bring across my path.C. S. Lewis Institute, Advent Prayer

Worship Wednesday – You Are a Shining Light – Rend Collective

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” – Psalm 27:4

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”Matthew 5:14

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5

Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

My mom instilled in me a love for colored glass. She filled beautiful old wine decanters with color-tinted water and set them in our windows at home. On sunny days, the rooms dazzled with rainbow light. Such delight for us children! Then she discovered depression glass and again placed these translucent colored pieces on window ledges as well as our dining table, making special occasions even more special.

[Incidentally, today marks the 20th anniversary of Mom’s Homegoing. She brought so much beauty into our lives…so much beauty.]

Finishing Strong – On the Anniversary of My Mom’s Glorious Homegoing – Deb Mills

My kitchen reflects my Mom’s influence with colored glass.

It wasn’t until I became an adult that stained glass windows became a real experience. Their wonder and beauty is mesmerizing as they change with with the light.

Over the course of the last several years, my family has had opportunity to see some of the beautiful churches in the world…and right here in our own city. Below are just a few samples:

Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Richmond, Virginia

Stained glass windows evoke “the presence of the holy in our worship spaces” (in the words of artist Elizabeth Devereaux).

We know from Scripture that God is with us wherever we are. We count on that. Still, in a culture that cries against His very existence, being surrounded by sweet reflections of His light and beauty can lift our eyes up…to Heaven, to Him.

Stained glass relies on a light source for its characteristic vivid illumination. [It] is specifically designed to be highly translucent. This quality allows a great deal of light to pass through it which highlights its colors beautifully. That is why stained glass is particularly bright when viewed from inside a building on a sunny day or from outside the building on a night when there is ample light within. Stained glass works with the light to create its powerful effect…the color and brightness of the glass clearly has immense aesthetic appeal. That beauty often triggers powerful emotions within us – joy, inspiration, elation, humility, gratitude, and virtually anything else along the human emotional spectrum. – Steven L. Yarbrough

What Makes a Stained Glass Window Shine? – Steven L. Yarbrough

Our gathering space may be such that it has to work for multiple purposes – worship, concerts, conferences, suppers together. When we worship, visual art forms can set a tone for us to corporately and intimately connect with God

Stained glass windows are such an art form.

Stained Glass and the Book of Revelation – Msgr. Charles Pope

Our church building in Richmond (Movement Church) actually has stained glass windows. They weren’t on our wish list; they were part of a great gift to us by Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.

They are beautiful and we are grateful.

As Yarbrough says above, stained glass windows transmit light – either from outside during the day, or from inside during night hours. They speak to us of the great impact of God’s light in our daily lives and our darknesses.

Movement Church, Richmond, Virginia

As beautiful as stained glass windows are from the inside, they call us to worship at night as well. A church near our home has stained glass windows, and I love when they have services at night. Driving by, glancing over, I am transported by the colored light streaming through into the dark night reminding me. Not of differences in religions, or worship preferences, or negative religious experiences. No…none of that. I am reminded of the light and beauty of God. Joyfully.

We may be coming back around, the church today, to a preference of a more classic and sacred worship space…a place where stained glass windows draw our eyes and hearts up toward Heaven and all the hope and joy it reflects.

Our teaching pastor, Cliff Jordan, is currently preaching on 1 John. Sunday’s sermon concentrated on 1 John 1:5:

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5

I wanted to reflect on stained glass today as a vehicle for beautiful light. As we think on the Lord, we are like these stained glass windows – reflecting His light. We each have a particular make-up meant to give special glory to Him as He permeates each one of us with His light and love. That’s the church – a beautiful stained glass window – with broken pieces joined together in ways that make the whole even more exquisite than the parts…especially when His light shines through.

As the days fast approach another December 25, we pulled out our Christmas music and are playing on repeat every day, as opportunity allows. The Christian band, Rend Collective, from Northern Ireland, has several such albums. Today’s song Shining Light and the anniversary of Mom’s Homegoing inspired me to again celebrate Jesus, the light of the world.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship with me to Rend Collective‘s beautiful Shining Light:

Roman candles that burn in the night
Yeah, you are a shining light
You lit a torch in the infinite

Yeah, you are a shining light
Yeah, you light up my life

You have always been a thorn in their side
But to me you’re a shining light
You arrive and the night is alive
Yeah, you are a shining light
Yeah, you light up my life

We made a connection
A full on chemical reaction
Brought by dark divine intervention
Yeah, you are a shining light

A constellation once seen
Over royal Davids city
An epiphany you burn so pretty
Yeah, you are a shining light

You are a force, you are a constant source
Yeah, you are a shining light
Incandescent in the darkest night
Yeah, you are a shining light

We made a connection
A full on chemical reaction
Brought by dark divine intervention
Yeah, you are a shining light

A constellation once seen
Over royal Davids city
An epiphany you burn so pretty
Yeah, you are a shining light

Roman candles that burn in the night
Yeah, you are a shining light
Yeah, you light up my life*

In closing, I want to display the only pieces of stained glass I have at home – each piece is a reminder of the Lord’s great gift of a Godly mom gone from us now 20 years. A mom who taught us the Word and brought so much beauty into our lives – including a garden full of irises. God’s beautiful light shown through her to us…now, we have the privilege to do the same to those around us as well.

*Lyrics to Shining Light – Songwriter: Tim Wheeler

A Bright Shining Light: Five Things Revealed to us by John’s Jesus – N. T. Wright

Worship Wednesday – Stained Glass Windows – Reflecting the Light and Beauty of God – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Below find one of the videos of the sweet band Rend Collective.]

Monday Morning Moment – Reformation Day – A Halloween that Changed the World

blog-martin-luther-reformation-day-prae-huPhoto Credit: Prae.hu

[Adapted from the Archives]

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

On October 31, 1517, Catholic priest Martin Luther nailed a document known as his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg church. In this public stand against the Catholic practices of that day, he would divide Christianity into at least two camps – that of Protestants (the Reformers) and the Catholics.

Today marks the 505th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. October 31 is known as Reformation Day…and, of course, Halloween.

October 31, for most in the US for sure, is a huge family/community cultural event (very different from the historical Halloween). Parties, dress-up, spooky decorations, and sweet treats.blog-halloween-2016

For those of us who are Christian, identifying more Protestant than Catholic, we wouldn’t want to miss the historic significance of this day as well.

Justin Holcomb‘s piece on the five solas lists the fundamental elements of the Christian faith (as put forth by the Reformers) and the substantiating Scriptures. Below are the five (see article for commentary and Bible verses):

  1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
  2. Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
  3. Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
  4. Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
  5. Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.*

[See links below for articles/resources on the full relevance of this day for us personally, for our families, and for culture, in general.]

In all you might savor in this day, this 31st day of October, consider how Martin Luther changed a world, by taking a stand… Some of our children will choose to dress-up in super-hero costumes – taking on larger than life personas for the good of those around them. They are more like Martin Luther, in that, than they may know.

blog-halloween-martin-luther-costumeblog-martin-luther-legos-pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest; Pinterest

*5 Points From the Past That Should Matter to You – Justin Holcomb

5 Bible Verses to Read on Reformation Day – Andy Rau

October 31 – Halloween Dress-up and Reformation Day Stand-up – DebMillsWriter

Reformation Day: Resources to Help Us Remember – Desiring God

Man Between God and the Devil: Martin Luther and the Reclamation of Halloween – William E. Flippin, Jr.

Worship Wednesday – Big Love, Small Moments – JJ Heller

Photo Credit: Heartlight

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.”Luke 10:27

“I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received: with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, and with diligence to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”Ephesians 4:1-3

What beauty we know in the love of Jesus – talk about BIG LOVE!

Even from the cross, He appealed to the Father to forgive those who sought to destroy him saying, “Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing!” [Luke 23:34] He calls us to that same kind of love.

Often, big love is rolled out in one small moment after another small moment after another. We’ve all experienced that and hopefully we’re all in lives of executing those small moments for others.

I’d like to showcase two sets of folks who demonstrate such love. I don’t know them personally but they loom large in my social media.

1) Tony and Karen Vick were married in 2015. Two years later, Tony was diagnosed with ALS. I came across their story on Instagram @thekaregiver. Karen is her husband’s primary caregiver and also manages her own small business. Every day she posts videos (on their various platforms) – videos that give a glimpse of small moments in their lives. Whew! So much love. Both from Karen to Tony and vice versa. Even a devastating, terminal disease like ALS can’t keep us from communicating love to others. They both do this so beautifully. Pray for them, too, as you get to know their stories.

Photo Credit: Russell Colburn, Twitter

The Karegiver on Facebook

Photo Credit: The Karegiver, Facebook

Tony and Karen Vick – Faith Over Fear – Video

2) Stan MitchellStan Mitchell is a pastor and the son of this beautiful lady in the picture. His mom, Mrs. Shirley, was a church organist for 40 years but now struggles with dementia. Still, with minimal prompting, she sings the beautiful old Gospel songs many of us grew up with. Such a blessing in these waning years of her memory…and life. [Check out Rev. Mitchell’s Facebook page for some of that sweet singing of hers.]Photo Credit: Stan Mitchell & his mom – Facebook

Rev. Mitchell founded GracePointe Church in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2003. Under his leadership, in 2015, GracePointe moved to be completely inclusive of LGBTQ+ persons in the church family. Then a great upheaval followed within the church body. The church has survived and flourished, in a different direction than the beginning.

I’m not really sure what all Stan Mitchell does professionally but he seems to work with churches around our country in consultation to help them love better those in the LGBTQ+ community. Rev. Mitchell describes himself actually as progressive and liberal, cis-gender and heterosexual. He is also the fortunate son of Mrs. Shirley.

How I first came across Rev. Mitchell I couldn’t tell you. Maybe it was through a mention from seminary professor and thought leader Karen Swallow Prior. Ever how he came to my awareness, in our fractured world, I am learning from him on a big love within small moments. He has the wordsmith skills of a writer and preacher. He is quite clear in what he believes and his goal seems to be prompting us, as Christ-followers, to love those in the LGBTQ+ community …bigger.

[Most all of you who read this blog regularly know I’m fairly conservative in my thinking. I take the Scripture quite literally. In some camps of Christian theology, there does seem to be a disconnect, unfortunately, in the truth and grace conversation. We either lean heavily one way (toward truth/knowledge) or the other (toward grace/mercy). I want to learn how to love well (big) without compromising the truth of God’s Word. That gets revealed by our focus and decisions made in the small moments of every day life. There is the challenge.]

Worship Wednesday – Until Unity – Francis Chan – Deb Mills

Stan Mitchell’s Facebook posts pop up often on my Facebook newsfeed…thanks to that unknown social media giant’s algorithm. I read them to see the videos of his visits with his mom. Hearing her sing those old Gospel songs, even with memory darkened by dementia. I read them for what he says about people with whom he has counseled in and about the LGBTQ+ community. He is probably not someone I’d know, but he is giving me food for thought about how to love big…a particular population of people who don’t feel loved by churches who also love the Scripture.

We have these two commandments that Jesus calls the greatest. Just two.

  • Love God.
  • Love people.
How we learn to love big…to love like Jesus…is in moment-by-moment obedience to Him. We refuse to be stalled out by self-loathing or self-righteousness. We do what is needed…by a husband who can’t do everything for himself, as with Karen and Tony. Or by Pastor Stan who is spending these days treasuring his mom in this most vulnerable time of her life and extending the love of at least his church to the LBGTQ+ community. As with the Vick’s, pray for Rev. Mitchell and his mama.
I have been convicted by both the Vick’s and the Mitchell’s – to seek God’s face and His Word in bringing His large love into the lives of those closest to us…and to those who are not drawn so much to people like us. Whoever is on your heart right now, may they know the love of Jesus…it’s the biggest love available to us…and He is not diminished by an ideology, theology, or worldview.
Christian singer, songwriter JJ Heller gave us the captivating piece below – “Big Love, Small Moments”. She doesn’t call the name of Jesus…but He is there. His big love in all the small moments.

Catch this song (lyrics and music here) with the Lord in mind.

Heartbeats only happen one at a time, one at a time
You can’t rush a moment so don’t even try, don’t even try
There’s a symphony you’re missing
If you only listen you’ll find…

Big magic in the mundane
The big picture in a small frame
Everything is sacred when you take time to notice
Big love happens in the small moments
Big love happens in the small moments

There’s no use in chasing nickels and dimes, nickels and dimes
Riches all around you, open your eyes, open your eyes
You can’t buy the peace you’re after so don’t even try
‘Cause you’ll find…

Big magic in the mundane
The big picture in a small frame
Everything is sacred when you take time to notice
Big love happens in the small moments
Big love happens in the small moments

Feel the rain on your skin, feel my hand in your hand
You can’t do it all, so just do what you can
Feel the rain on your skin, feel my hand in your hand
You can’t do it all, so just do what you can

Feel the sun on your face (Feel the sun on your face)
Bare feet on the ground (Feet on the ground)
I know you’ll see beautiful things if you look around, yeah
Just look around
And you’ll find

Big magic in the mundane
The big picture in a small frame
Everything is sacred when you take time to notice the…
Big magic in the mundane
The big picture in a small frame
Everything is sacred when you take time to notice
Big love happens in the small moments
Big love happens in the small moments*

[Closing with some small moments that make our hearts swell with big love. God is so good. His love shapes our world. It is His. We are as well. Hallelujah!]

[We have other grands, who are not on social media or the internet, but are loved big as well. Just adding that to be clear. :)]

*Lyrics to Big Love, Small Moments – Songwriters:  Dave Heller, Cason Cooley, Jennifer Heller

Big Love, Small Moments – a blog post by JJ Heller

Big Love, Small Moments – Katrina Kenison

Worship Wednesday – The Steadfast Love of the Lord – On Repeat

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Psalm 118 – it was the focus of my devotional reading over the last few days. Not unusual in the Psalms, several attributes of God were repeated in this great chapter. Not only His character but how His character draws us out in utter worship and awe.

These repeated phrases reminded me of my days in church youth camp (as a camper and a counselor). All of us sitting around a smoky fire pit, someone with a guitar, and us singing familiar choruses. Camp songs often have repeated phrases, driving the truths of who God is into our youthful hearts. Those songs are still with me today… along with newer worship songs using less repetition…no need. As older believers, we know personally the enduring faithfulness of God and His unfailing love.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Wednesday Worship – Raising Up Worshippers – the Old Songs & the New – Deb Mills

Below you will find (bulleted) the repeated phrases from Psalm 118. The writer isn’t given, but it sounds like King David. Ever praising God for His deliverance, vanquishing the enemy.

When we feel the squeeze of our circumstances, as David must have, we cry out to God and He delivers us to freedom. Even freedom from our sins…thanks to Christ Jesus.

Let’s take a moment and reflect on these points of praise (links to songs if you’d like to use them as part of this time – both newer songs and some old church camp classics).

  • “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.” – Psalm 118:1, 29

YouTube Video – Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart

YouTube Video – Forever – Chris Tomlin

YouTube Video – His Love Endures Forever – Michael W. Smith [same song as above; different rendition]

  • “The LORD is for me.” [“The LORD is on my side.”]Psalm 118:6,7

YouTube Video – God Is For Me – JPCC Worship

YouTube Video – Steffany Gretzinger – Christ the Lord is With Me

YouTube Video – You Are My Hiding Place – Selah [Years ago, when Dave and I were first dating, we would sit at the piano and sing this one together. It was as much our song as the one that became our couple song (“I Only Have Eyes for You” – in case you would wonder.)

  • “I destroyed them all with the authority of the Lord [in the name of the Lord].” Psalm 118:10, 12, 13

YouTube Video – Authority – Elevation Worship

YouTube Video – Blessed Be the Name of the Lord – The Name of the Lord is a Strong Tower

  • “The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things!”Psalm 118:15-16

YouTube Video – Jon Reddick – God, Turn It Around (Feat. Matt Maher) – couldn’t find a worship song for this passage. This is just a beautiful reminder of His sovereignty. Someone needs to write such a song for “the strong right arm of the Lord”. If you know one, please comment its title/link below.

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I’d like to close with a part of Psalm 118 – verses that weren’t repeated but are so strong they make their own anthem to a God of love who is worthy to be praised with all our hearts:

“I will not die; instead I will live to tell what the LORD has done:

…The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing. and it is wonderful to see. This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”Psalm 118:17, 22-24

Until the day we do die and enter our Heavenly Home, we have this witness, this Gospel message. God, through Christ, made a way to restore us to Himself. This day! This day Jesus paid our sin debt with His own life. This day God made. This was His doing…and in this day, we will rejoice and be glad! Hallelujah!

Psalm 118 – Bible Teaching Notes – Omar C. Garcia

YouTube Video – I Will Call Upon the Lord/We Exalt Thee – Petra

Youth Worship Songs – 23 Praise Titles Teens Will Love to Sing – Stephanie Martin

17 Songs Every Youth Group Kid Still Knows By Heart – Jessica Misener

Praise the Lord, all you nations. Praise him, all you people of the earth. For his unfailing love for us is powerful; the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever. Psalm 117

Photo Credit: Heartlight

5 Friday Faves – A Lullaby by Beyond the Guitar, the Art of Neighboring, the Beauty of Fall, Ethnic Foods, and Telling Our Stories

Friday Faves. Here we go!

1) A Lullaby by Beyond the Guitar – Nathan Mills has been on hiatus from his public YouTube channel as he worked through the summer creating course content for his other channels. Big news: he’s back!!

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Talking through and then performing his treatment of the Game of Thrones theme (his previous arrangements of this can be found here). He takes Ramin Djawadi‘s epic piece and makes it into an ethereal lullaby. Just plain gorgeous.

2) The Art of Neighboring – Several years ago, my husband and I landed in an incredible neighborhood. With great neighbors. As happens, our neighborhood has changed significantly with elderly neighbors downsizing and moving away and new families coming in. The tight-knit feeling we had toward each other has changed…not lost but changed.

This Fall, our community group at church is studying “The Art of Neighboring”. This aligns closely with my deep dive, over the last several months, into our need for being known.

Being Known Podcast with Curt Thompson MD

Photo Credit: Art of Neighboring

There is neighboring where we might know someone by sight or even name, but little else. Then there is neighboring which leans in, where we know each other in ways that honors, enjoys, and serves.

It’s an art and it adds to our quality of lives and that of each other in immeasurable ways.Photo Credit: Grace Fellowship, The Art of Neighboring

The Art of Neighboring – Website, Book, Resources – Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon

3) The Beauty of Fall – Just a quick salute to the end of summer and beginning of Fall. Cooler weather prompting pulling out our hoodies and cozying up to fire pits. The harvest continues. The flowers, many going to seed, still have a glory that moves artists to paint. And pumpkins!

Photo Credit: Karen Burnette Garner, Facebook

4) Ethnic Foods – Our family has had the rich experience of living in several countries and enjoying the yummy “home cooking” of local friends. Some of that food is also sold by street vendors or in tiny restaurants for such a cheap price you wonder how they can afford to sell it, except for the volume of customers.

We search out those authentic food opportunities here, and various food festivals help fill the bill. Recently, we attended Armenian and Egyptian food festivals. So good! Visiting friends took us on the hunt of discovering new restaurants serving up foods so good they could have been cooked in mama’s homes.

In America, ethnic foods are not cheap. Part of that, I’m sure, is the cost of ingredients and labor. I couldn’t imagine paying the equivalent of $12 for a falafel sandwich when we lived overseas. Here, I’m just glad for the opportunity.

What Is ‘Ethnic’ Food? – Aaron Hutcherson

In the Hutcherson piece linked above, the phrase “ethnic food” may even be offensive in today’s cancel culture. Of me, it’s the best of home cooking served outside the home. America is such a cultural “melting pot” that we may come to the place where international foods become a part of the American food culture. Blended in. Beautifully.

“American food is the mixture of all food brought by our immigrants. Perhaps the recipes have been tweaked a little here, but they originate from past cultures, from identities new and old, and from our ethnic nation. Ethnic food is American food.”

This encouraging American ideal explains why Americans long to assimilate almost every food culture into their diets. It is socially encouraged to be more and more inclusive. The main way people try to find common ground is through food.

Ethnic food can best be described as a classification for types of food favored by cultural groups of people. This is different from authentic, which is a word used to describe food as something genuine or real. American cuisine may be classified as being only ethnic food because of the rich cultural diversity of its population. – DevTome

Still…I think we foodies will still look for the dining experiences that take us back to our mom’s table…or that table of friends in far-away places. Sweet memories.

Here in Virginia, we have an ethnic equivalent of food that’s hard to find anywhere but here and it’s Ukrop’s – a family-owned bakery, deli, and grocery business that’s been around since 1937. Their baked goods are very American. I say this because we have been told, by our international friends, that American sweets are “too sweet” for them. Maybe this is one American food that is uniquely American. I don’t know…but it’s good! No one does buttercream frosting like Ukrop’s. 

4) Telling Our Stories – Storytelling is in our very DNA. We appreciate the stories that draw us in – whether through books or film – or in the telling of our own lives.

Memory tends to embellish. A detail is added or emphasized beyond what really happened.

“Well, all good stories deserve embellishment.”J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

The Link Between Memory and Stories – Shawn Callahan

Embellishment entertains but what if our memory of an event or conversation stays the same even as we have grown into a person who has changed.

I think of childhood trauma or an incident that changed the course of our relationship with a person or organization. Sometimes all it takes is one circumstance.

Something may come to mind right now.

Is that a something that you want to affect your story forever?

Many of you may never have seen the 1981 British sports film Chariots of Fire. If you haven’t I highly recommend it. It gives an account of the Olympic Games of 1924. In particular, two runners, who compete against each other, are the focus. Two runners with very different stories.

Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell.

These two athletes had two very different stories…very different motivations and goals for life. In the film, some of their story may be fictionalized, but there are lessons for us here. Check out the film clips linked below.

“10 lonely seconds [will] justify my whole existence.” – Abrahams

“When I run, I feel His pleasure.” – Eric Liddell

[An extra: In the film, Eric was pushed off the track during an Olympic race, falling to the ground. He got back on his feet and got back on the track. In the crowd, a man was asked if Eric could do (recover the time lost), and he said, “his head’s not back yet”. Eric would put his head back as he felt the pleasure of God on him. And where did the power come from? Another clip.]

YouTube Video – He Who Honors God – Chariots of Fire – don’t miss this scene.

What is your story? Whether you know it or not, you’re telling a story? Is it the one you want to be remembered for? Or is there a healing, a reconciliation, a resolve you want to leave behind as part of your legacy?

Something to consider.

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That’s it for this week. Hope you have a delightful weekend. Thanks for stopping by.

Bonuses:

8 Rules to Do Everything Better – Brad Stulberg

What To Do When You Feel Like You Don’t Fit in at Work – Lisa Evans

How to Say the Unsayable – 10 Ways to Approach a Sensitive Daunting Conversation – Kathryn Mannix

Photo Credit: Facebook, Marjolein Bastin

Worship Wednesday – Asking Questions – 4 Questions the LORD Asks – Psalm 27 – Motion Worship

Photo Credit: Highland Park LC, Daily Verses

Daily our prayers are full of questions. We “inquire (ask from) the Lord”. The questions in our heads don’t always end up in our prayers, but they are there nonetheless.

Earlier this week, I wrote about the discipline of leading with powerful questions. God has certainly shown the way in this.

Why Does God Ask Questions If He Is Omniscient?

He wants us to wonder about Him, about life, about people…with Him. He also means for us to use His own explorations as a model for our interactions – our deep interactions – with each other.

Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson writes about four questions the Lord asks (in his book The Soul of Desire). These questions, when we ask them of each other, within context of relationship, can forge a path. A path for that other person to experience being “seen, soothed, safe, and secure” with us.   

1) “Where are you?” – God asked Adam this question (in Genesis 3:9), not because He didn’t know where he was but to give him an opportunity to say for himself what had happened. After Adam and Eve had sinned, they hid from God. In fear and shame. They had succumbed to distorted thinking after being tempted by the Evil One. They doubted the goodness of God and made the eternally consequential decision to choose for themselves what was good.

We also hide. We might not ask of another “Where are you?” exactly, but we might ask, “What’s going on?”, “What’s on your mind?” or “What are you feeling right now?” Rather than react to another’s anger, fear, or other distress, we lean in. Just as God was drawing out Adam, we give space for a person to feel safe to come out of hiding. We give space to ourselves in the same way when we go deep with God around this question.

2) “What do you want?” – In the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, two of John the Baptist’s disciples began following him. His first question to them was “What do you want?” (John 1:38) We don’t often ask God what He wants with us because the Scripture is clear. Yet, we struggle with what we want. Are our desires in line with the Lord’s? Do we ever edit or stifle our desires because we can’t fathom they are in line with the will of God? What if they are? Or some form of them? This is where we inquire of the Lord. This is also where we can be helpful to each other by giving opportunity to wrap words around those desires. To bring them out in the open in a safe environment with a trusted friend/family member. This, like Question 1, is something we also can explore with and seek affirmation from our Heavenly Father.

3) “Can you drink the cup?” – In Matthew 20:22, Jesus responded to a voiced desire of James and John to sit on each side of him in His kingdom. His question communicated that their desire implied a cost – a cup of suffering. They naively said they could drink the cup. His gentle reply was that they would drink that cup but the decision was not his but the Father’s. What beauty in the freedom of transparency and intimacy Jesus and his disciples had with each other.

“If we want to be this close to Jesus – if we are willing to enter into a confessional community and ask the first two questions – we must be prepared to suffer. Naming where we are and what we want invariably leads to discoveries that bring us great comfort but also demand that we be present to the brokenness of our own lives and that of others.” Curt Thompson, The Soul of Desire, p. 201

Part of the benefit of exploring the two first questions with a trusted someone is that we come to question 3. No longer is the stuff in our minds and emotions still hidden, but it’s out there. In the real world. This is when we can confront the cost…and this is where we find both healing and flourishing.Photo Credit: Heartlight

This is where we can have hope. Where our fear and shame can be removed. Where our addictions can be faced. Where our delights in the Lord can be fortified…within community.

“Evil does not intend to go quietly into the night. In this way, we will suffer; we will drink the cup that represents our resistance to evil as we swim against its current… In the context of a confessional community, we suffer, we grieve together, and as such our suffering itself is transformed…I learn to hope. I hope not in receiving exactly what I thought I wanted in the way I wanted it, but more.”Curt Thompson, The Soul of Desire, p. 205

4) “Do you love me?” – After his resurrection, Jesus appeared several times to his disciples before ascending to Heaven. This question he put to Peter. Now Peter was probably still reeling with shame from his denial of Jesus. He felt disqualified. Purposeless. Such that he returned to the trade he did before ever knowing Jesus. Jesus’ question “Do you love me?” clearly had multiple layers. He understood the rupture that happened when Peter acted the way he did. It wasn’t ruptured from Jesus’ side but was, in Peter’s head, from his side. Jesus drew close to Peter to fix that rupture and to remind him of the great work he had called Peter. “Feed my sheep”.

“Jesus takes the essence of our traumas and its attendant shame and creates New Wine. There is beauty to be found everywhere. But never is beauty more poignant than when we see it through our trauma and shame. We see Good Friday through the lens of Easter and everything about its brutality, its pulverization of God in the person of Jesus, is transformed into the beauty of the resurrection. This is what it means to fully answer the question, “Do you love me?”Curt Thompson, The Soul of Desire, p. 210

Worship, with me, the God who seeks after us and draws us close – the God who will create beauty in and through our lives as we live in the real, with Him within. [Psalm 27Motion Worship]

One thing I ask, one thing I seek
To live in Your house, to sit at Your feet
All of my days, delight in Your ways
And dwell in Your temple

So hide me in shelter when troubles may come
My feet set on high ground, my head lifted up
When darkness surrounds, in You I am found
And there’s joy in this temple

[Chorus]
I will sing, I will praise
With all that’s within me
I will seek, seek Your face
Jesus, my one thing
Oh Jesus, my one thing
(Yeah, yeah)

My heart believes, our eyes will see
The goodness of God in the land wе’re living
So we will be strong, and Hе won’t be long
And we’ll wait on You, Lord, yeah

[Chorus]
And I will sing, I will praise
With all that’s within me
I will seek, seek Your face
Jesus, my one thing, yeah
And I will sing, I will praise
With all that’s within me
And I will seek, seek Your face
Oh Jesus, my one thing
And oh Jesus, my one thing, yeah
Oh Jesus, my one thing (Oh, yes, You are, You are)
Oh Jesus, my one thing (Yes, You are, yes, You are)
Oh Jesus, my one thing, yeah

[Bridge]
And there’s joy in this temple, there’s praise in this house
With light and salvation, no fear can be found
When enemies rise up, they tremble and fall
None stand against Jesus, the name above all
There’s joy in this temple, there’s praise in this house
With light and salvation, no fear can be found
When enemies rise up, they tremble and fall
None stand against Jesus, the name above all

[Chorus]
And I will sing, I will praise
With all that’s within me
I will seek, seek Your face
Oh Jesus, my one thing
Oh Jesus, my one thing
Oh Jesus, my one thing (You are)
Oh Jesus, our one thing
Yes, You are our one thing (Jesus, my one thing)*

*Lyrics to Psalm 27 (Whom Shall I Fear?) – Motion Worship (Songwriters: Jesse Reeves & Caitlin Reeves)

Inquiring of the Lord – Posturing Ourselves for Success – Selenia Vera, International House of Prayer, Kansas City

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar Medleys, Life Online, Late Summer, the Older Generation, and Friendship

Friday Faves…here we go!

1) Beyond the Guitar Medleys – Music themes can fill us with such emotion – deep nostalgia about a shared experience, a memorable adventure, or a sweet story. Really great soundtracks often have several themes that draw us in and take us back. Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar,  has arranged and performed some lovely medleys from such music scores. Here are some of them (5 faves for Friday) and the rest are at the bottom of today’s blog:

2) Life Online – Obviously, if you’re reading this, then you’re online. The thing is, our lives have been greatly enhanced by the benefits of technology. We do, from time to time, need to revisit our habits which might include time spent online and for what purposes.

So much has been written already about the downside of screen-time and the prevalence of smartphone addiction. The distractions, mental laziness, shallow thinking, almost communication.

My husband got his first smartphone for work around 2005 or after. The rest of our family slowly moved in that direction.

I personally spend way too much time online. Sometimes for positive outcomes, sometime just because it has become knee-jerk…a time-filler. It’s what I do now unfortunately. When I used to carry a book around in my purse.

It could be addiction, and that’s got to change.

Photo Credit: Science Info

“The same chemicals are released in your brain when you get a text message as when you drink an alcoholic beverage, smoke a cigarette or gamble. What in essence is happening is we’re allowing children from 6 to 10 years of age access to our liquor cabinet when we give them a smartphone. They’re constantly texting so they’re continually getting high.”John Gatica

Our Brains on Smartphones

John Gatica is an educator, and his observations regarding children and neuroscience are sobering. Now not all texts are happy for adults, but the addiction phenomenon still holds true.

Our phones give the illusion of presence…and good. We are doing “good” with a text to a friend or family member – a text taking the place of a full-on “showing up”. Social media have grown a forest over our sleepy selves where we become lazy and reactive (mildly or harshly depending on the subject matter).
Now I’ll take a text over no contact. What the concern here is more what is happening to us when our online life is more real to us than our actual face-to-face, with skin-on, encounters with people… What’s going on in our brains long-term? Something to think about.
For more than a few seconds.

The Effects of Smartphones on Your Brain – Kendra Cherry

Is Social Media Making us Stupid? – Alex Kantrowitz

3) Late Summer – My sweet husband’s garden is all a tangle now. The vegetables are finishing up, and the flowers, though still beautiful, are winding down. As the feel of Fall teases us in the early mornings, I wanted to capture, once again, for your enjoyment and my own, some of this not-to-be-undone late summer garden of ours. Please post some of your own beauties below.

4) Older Generation – Just want to give a quick shout-out to the older generation – our parents and others who have graced our lives with wisdom, beauty, humor and Godly values.

When our children gather around our table, I realize we are fast becoming the older generation. We have one precious mom left this side of Heaven and hopefully she will be with us for many years more. I am thankful for her – and all I’ve learned from her over the years… Hopefully our own adult children and the grands will take every opportunity to lean in to her wisdom and love. We are a bit of an “old soul” family and I’m thankful for each one in this family.

“But I know people who as children had their grandparents’ memories in their memories, so that in a sense, as young people
they had old minds.  They had a kind of seasoning.”  Wendell Berry, 1973 [Source undetermined]

So here’s just a bit of gratitude for the older generations…those who give us a glimpse into the future which can seem too dark at times, and yet with faith in a good God and a love that holds us together, we take hope. Thankful for three sweet parents who have gone on ahead…and for MomMom still very much with us, encouraging us always.

Do you have the pleasure and great good of the company of “olders”?

YouTube Video – Mother – (Love Bigger Than the Ocean Is What You’ve Given to Me)

5) Friendship – Friendships have always come easy for me and I’m thankful. A few years back, I read Scott Sauls‘ book Befriend. It was both affirming and convicting as the realization that friendship, like marriage, takes nurturing…more than maybe I was giving. Then 2020 happened and the Coronavirus wreaked havoc on relationships, isolating us from one another.

Fast forward to 2022, and I find myself very much needing Jennie Allen‘s latest book Find Your People. Oddly, her online study (shades of COVID Zoom calls) drew me to the book. Finishing the study this coming week, I now want to take her counsel in finding my people.

Allen talks about how we can quite accidentally just stop investing in relationships. Our post-COVID culture has pushed us into even more independence and self-reliance than we had before. We isolate without even thinking about it and our days move quietly on.

Maybe that isn’t your experience…so hang in there with me.

Allen reflects back on how life through the ages flourishes within community. More a village experience than whatever it is we have today. People know each other and they are invested in each other. She lists out the realities necessary for healthy community:

  • Proximity
  • Transparency
  • Accountability (real connection)
  • Shared Mission
  • Consistency

It’s out of this realm that true friendship grows. Spending time together. Being our real selves. Allowing others to speak into our lives. Teaming together for a greater good. Showing up again and again.

These are the basic elements of community…and friendship.

If you are experiencing the loneliness of untended friendships, Allen’s book will help. If you just can’t put another book in your queue right now, at least consider what’s going on in your friendships. I’m not talking about acquaintanceships either. Deep, beautiful, lasting friendships.

Let’s get back out there and find our people.Photo Credit: Find Your People, Jennie Allen

[The liturgy below doesn’t really focus on friendship, but it speaks to hospitality which also took a hit with COVID. A beautiful prayer.]Photo Credit: Tiffany Holden, Facebook, Rabbit Room Chinwag

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Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot. Hope you have a weekend full of your people…with quiet in between.

Bonuses:

Even Tolkien Felt Like a Failure – Scott Sauls

An incredibly helpful Twitter thread on marriage:

[Trip to Cracker Barrel]

3 Simple Habits that Can Protect Your Brain From Cognitive Decline – Tara Swart

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes, C. S. Lewis

Photo Credit: Facebook, Rabbit Room Chinwag

*The rest of Beyond the Guitar’s medleys (so far):

Worship Wednesday – Everlasting God – William Murphy III

Photo Credit: William Murphy, Pinterest

“The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom should I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom should I be afraid?”Psalm 27:1

“But I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.”Micah 7:7

“I am certain that I will see the LORD’s goodness in the land of the living.”Psalm 27:13

“…godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying, worthy of full acceptance. To this end we labor and strive, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, and especially of those who believe.”1 Timothy 4:8-10

“I wait for the LORD; I wait and put my hope in his word. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning— more than watchmen for the morning.” – Psalm 130:5-6

Are we to separate ourselves from the suffering of this world? Can we look away in good conscience?

Absolutely not.

Yet…the brokenness in this world weighs heavy on us. Too often the darkness pushes in and touches our own lives. We experience the evil in the pain of loved ones, in the images of war and suffering around our world. We long for it to be different.

Some blame God…such bold assertions when we don’t have to look far at all to see how our own sins (or the sins of our fore-fathers and mothers) have cut a path of destruction for others to follow.

No…my whole understanding of God is that He is good. His love is perfect. His mercies are fresh every day toward us.

So what do we do with this in-between? This not-yet? This dark before the dawn?

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

What do we do in these days?

Photo Credit: KLove, Pinterest

What do we do? A friend recently reminded us of the walk with God that will eventually and victoriously take us home:

We humble ourselves (“and He will lift us up”James 4:10). Humility is having a right understanding of who we are in relationship with God and with each other. We need God and we need each other.

We keep our heads up, focusing our eyes on the One who saves, who loves us, and who will deliver us.

We hold our hands out to one another. God made us for community. Wide, far-reaching, loving, long-suffering, life-giving community. There is joy there.

Worship with me to the song, Everlasting God. The version below is 9 minutes long. Take the time. Stop the world to bask in the beauty of God…His goodness, His everlasting goodness.

[Leader:]
The Lord’s my light and salvation
Whom shall I fear?
Whom shall I be afraid?
The Lord’s my light and salvation
Whom shall I fear?
Whom shall I be afraid? [x2]
I will wait on you, I will wait on you
I will trust in you, I will trust in you
The Lord is my light and salvation
Whom shall I fear?
Whom shall I be afraid? [x2]

I will wait on you, I will wait on you
I will trust in you, I will trust in you

[Leader:]
I will remain confident in this I will see the goodness of the Lord

[Choir:]
I will remain confident in this I will see the goodness of the Lord
The Lord’s my light and salvation Whom shall I fear? Whom shall I be afraid [x2]
I will wait on you, I will wait on you [x2]
I will trust in you, I will trust in you [x2]
I will remain confident in this I will see the goodness of the Lord [x2]

[Leader:]
We set our hope on You
We set our hope on Your love
We set our hope on the One who is the Everlasting God
You are the Everlasting God, You are the Everlasting

[Choir:]
We set our hope on You
We set our hope on Your love
We set our hope on the One who is the Everlasting God
You are the Everlasting God, You are the Everlasting [x5]

[Leader:]
I will remain confident in this I will see the goodness of the Lord
[Choir:]
I will remain confident in this I will see the goodness of the Lord [x2]

[Leader:]
I will wait on you, I will wait on you
I will trust in you, I will trust in you

I will trust in the Lord, I will trust in the Lord
I don’t know about you, I don’t know about you
But I am goin’ to trust in the Lord
Till I I die
I will trust
In, In the Lord
Hey, Hey
I’m Gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna
Trust in the Lord
I will trust in the Lord
OH yes I will
I’ll trust in the lord
Till I
Till I die*

Worship Wednesday – Build My Life – Pat Barrett – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Heartlight