Category Archives: steadfast love

Worship Wednesday – If I Stand – Rich Mullins

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[Adapted from the Archives]

In these turbulent days, we are called to take our stand with or against. No middle ground. Seemingly no choice in the matter but with or against. Our culture seeks to define our choices. As believers, we once experienced the drawing of the Holy Spirit in a choosing of a loving Lord. Now we choose every day to shut out the noise that draws us away from Him, and to listen to that still small voice to choose life…to choose love…to choose Him.

This morning I want to focus on those in our lives who reflect this great God to us. Those who’ve gone before and in our lives today. Influencers. Not the ones in our culture who seek to tear down and condemn…but those whose own loving and steadfast hearts remind us of Jesus.

We stand “on the shoulders of giants” (attributed to Isaac Newton, but not original to him, standing on giant shoulders as well). How thankful I am for praying women, Godly teachers, sincere encouragers, true friends, and kind strangers. Among these as well are musicians who wrote and sang about the God they knew.

Worshipping God is something I long to do better. He is worthy of so much more. Fortunately for us, He has given heartsongs to a faithful few songwriters who put words to how we know, or want to know, God. Keith Green was one of those influencers in my life. I actually remember where I was when he died – working on a construction site in Surigao City, Philippines, over 30 years ago.

Another such influencer is…was Rich Mullins. His songs always help me shake off self and soar to worship God. He also died young in 1997. His legacy to us is song after song of gut-honest worship and wonder. He struggled in his own personal brokenness and that of our world. Yet he turned that into praise to a God who created all the beauty of this world for us and lavished His love on us, no matter what. Listen to this worshipper speak truth to you himself:

“The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart…It is not the collection of pretty little anecdotes mouthed by pious little church mice — it does not so much nibble at our shoe leather as it cuts to the heart and splits the marrow from the bone. It does not give us answers fitted to our small-minded questions, but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask.”  ― Rich Mullins

“God did not give Joseph any special information about how to get from being the son of a nomad in Palestine to being Pharaoh’s right hand man in Egypt. What He did give Joseph were eleven jealous brothers, the attention of a very loose and vengeful woman, the ability to do the service of interpreting dreams and managing other people’s affairs and the grace to do that faithfully wherever he was.”Rich Mullins

“I had a professor one time… He said, ‘Class, you will forget almost everything I will teach you in here, so please remember this: that God spoke to Balaam through his ass, and He has been speaking through asses ever since. So, if God should choose to speak through you, you need not think too highly of yourself. And, if on meeting someone, right away you recognize what they are, listen to them anyway’.”  ― Rich Mullins

“And then he [Job] went to God and wanted to know why the righteous suffer. And Beuchner points out, God never gave him an answer. That God merely gave him Himself. And when Job had encountered the Almighty, the questions lost their power over him. And I think that a lot of us are real interested in some easy answers, and some ‘Wow, if I can, if we can come up with some kind of an easy answer to make life comfortable…’ We’re much more interested in answers than we are in the Truth. And the Truth is always going to be a mystery. It will always be a paradox. It will always be a little beyond our grasp. And if we’re uncomfortable with that, that’s okay, because a little bit of discomfort will keep us moving.” — Rich Mullins

“Never forget what Jesus did for you. Never take lightly what it cost Him. And never assume that if it cost Him His very life, that it won’t also cost you yours.”Rich Mullins

Worship this beautiful, loving, just and merciful God with me:

There’s more that rises in the morning
Than the sun
And more that shines in the night
Than just the moon
It’s more than just this fire here
That keeps me warm
In a shelter that is larger
Than this room

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the giver
Of all good things

CHORUS:
So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

There’s more that dances on the prairies
Than the wind
More that pulses in the ocean
Than the tide
There’s a love that is fiercer
Than the love between friends
More gentle than a mother’s
When her baby’s at her side

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver
Of all good things

CHORUS(2x)

And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home.

“Like Thoreau, I love to suck the marrow out of the bones of life.  People want to know God’s will for them. In one of his most explicit statements on the subject, Christ said, ‘I come that you might have life and have it abundantly.’ One day it won’t make any difference how many albums I sold, but I will give account of my life to God. What I think He’ll be most pleased with is to see that we truly lived, that we were the person He created us to be.” Rich Mullins

Please share, in a comment below, someone who has influenced your experience of God because of how he/she knew Him. Thanks.

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Film- Ragamuffin – the True Story of Rich Mullins

Rich Mullins’ Biography – Wikipedia.com

*Rich Mullins’ Biography – ChristianMusic.com

YouTube Video – Interview with Sheila Walsh – 16:32 Rich Mullins talks about truth and comfort and then the extraordinary experience of the love of God. Don’t miss this vulnerable and personal look into the God who transformed his life…and music.

Mother’s Day – On Mothering and Grandmothering – a Life of Love, Launching, and Lifting to God

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[Adapted from the Archives]

“She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31: 27-30

 My Mom was a treasure – a lavishing of God’s grace on four undeserving children. She was my best friend, and I miss her every day. She taught me the most important lessons of life – the value of hard work, loving and serving others no matter what, and a life of following God. I have written, not well enough, about her (here, here, and here, etc.). She was my hero, and, though she is in Heaven now, she still informs much of how I live life.

Whether we are mothers or not, we all have/had mothers. I hope yours was/is lovely, and Godly, and inspiring. Whichever is your situation, we have an opportunity to honor those who mother well and we have other opportunities to love and forgive those who didn’t so well. My children are grown, but “mothering” them still flows out at times. Now that their childhood is over, I miss those years (we forget the hard days, right?). Still, like my mom, I encourage and pray and marvel at how God moves in their lives. Grand-parenting is a sweet dividend to mothering – a season of pouring into those little hearts – wonder, love, and grace.

Today, I share a bit out of Ruth Bell Graham’s lovely book Prayers from a Mother’s Heart. Wife of Billy Graham, with the Lord now, Mrs. Graham compiled some of her own poetry, her daughter’s, and that of other Godly moms. She touches on all seasons of growing up and mothering. May your seasons, mothers and mothered, be touched by God’s deepest wisdom and dearest kindnesses.http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Blog-Mothers-Day.jpg

Prayers for Our Little Ones

“Lord, as I stand beside this crib, watching this little boy fall asleep…

his blond curls sticking to his small, damp forehead, his chubby fingers wrapped tightly around his blanket,

my heart is filled with emotion, wonder, and awe. I have so many dreams and ambitions for him.

Please help me to remember that he is first of all Yours, and that the most important thing of all is that he grow to love You and follow You. So, Lord, tonight I put aside any and all prayers that could have their roots in selfish motherly desires, and pray these words for him,

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Beloved child, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. (1 Cor. 15:58)

Because, Lord, if this prayer is answered, then one day I will be able to say with John that my greatest joy is knowing that my children are walking in the truth.”Gigi Graham

“Lord, remind me often that parents are intended to be a mooring post, a safe place to stay, a sure place to cast anchor come wind or weather. It is not the time for me to worry about the storms beyond the bay, for now we have the gift of a little time called childhood; tethered to love, the little boat bobs and weaves about the post – happy and secure!”Jill Briscoe

A Prayer for Hurting Mothers“Be tender, Lord, we pray with one whose child lies dead today.

Be tender, Lord, we plead for those with runaways for whom moms bleed.

But be tenderest of all with each whose child no longer cares…is out of reach.”Ruth Bell Graham

Turning Children’s Cares Over to God

“Lord, I think it is harder to turn the worries and cares of my children over to You than my own. For, through the years, as I have grown in faith, I have learned that You are merciful and kind.

Not one time have You failed me, Lord – why do I fear You will fail mine?” –  Ruth Bell Graham, Prayers from a Mother’s Heart

Happy Mother’s Day, Dear Ones. May this day not just be about flowers, cards, or dinners not made by our hands. May this be a day that’s full of encouragement for moms “to go deep into their gifts, to focus on their Maker or to see how we’re made and who we’re made to be. …to live out faith in daring, dangerous ways…to know God better.” (Caryn Rivadeneira)

Love You Forever.

Dedicated to my mom-in-love, Julia – who loves us with bold devotion and fierce determination – giving us an example to do the same…http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/MomMom-Nathan-Daniel-2015.jpg

and to my fellow moms-in-law with whom I get to share a sisterhood in love.

Prayers from a Mother’s Heart compiled by Ruth Bell Graham

Mother’s Day Sermons…Ugh

Surprised by Motherhood – Lisa-Jo Baker’s Must-Read for All Women and the Bravest of Men

Mother’s Day 2015 – Top Favorite Quotes, Bible Verses, and Holiday History

A Long Motherhood – A Poem for Mother’s Day by John Piper

My Mom – Mildred Byrd McAdams – Memorial

Celebrating the Faith and Work of Our Mothers

A Prayer for Young Moms of Little Ones – my archives

The Season of Small Ones – Mother, God, and Gandalf – archives

Mothering Through the Seasons – Eyes on God and His on Me – archives

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch & Sheila McGraw

Blog - Mother's Day - Love You Forever

“I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.”

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

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[Adapted from the Archives]

It was a day like no other day in history. For years we lived in countries where Christianity was a minority religion. The few Christians in those places passed this week in reflection and wonder. It was, of course, just another week for most of our friends and colleagues. Easter had its name – Eid Al-Qiyama (“Feast of Resurrection”) – but Good Friday was shrouded in the ordinary. For Jesus and all who have experienced life through his teaching and example, this day was and is wholly extraordinary.

Good Friday – good for us, hard for Jesus. His mockery of a trial, crucifixion, death, and burial are all recorded with great detail in the four Gospels. They are riveting accounts of this terrible and triumphant day – Matthew 26:57-27:61, Mark 15Luke 22:66-23:56, John 18:28-19:42.

Jesus had no opportunity to sleep in the hours of night before this dawn. From the garden where he prayed the night before, he was forcibly taken into the custody of the high priests. Through the early morning hours, he was bounced brutally between the Sanhedrin, the high court of Israel, and the Roman authorities (Pilate and Herod Antipas). While in their custody, Jesus endured hostile interrogation, false accusations, trumped-up charges, relentless attempts at public humiliation, and repeated beatings. Yet, he somehow retained his full faculties, responding to the authorities, when necessary, with great wisdom and understanding of both the proceedings and the people. In the midst of all this trauma, he even made eye contact with one of his dearest friends and followers, Peter, hiding himself nearby…in his own painful moment.

The outcome of all the wrangling between the Jewish and Roman officials was an unwarranted, undeserved death sentence. Execution by crucifixion. Pilate even washed his hands of the matter, literally, declaring Jesus innocent but still consenting to the death sentence. He didn’t know then but the “blood” he tried to wash of his hands was truly innocent. Still, it wasn’t Pilate who put Jesus on that cross, nor was it Caiaphas, head of the Sanhedrin. Not a Roman, nor a Jew.

Jesus’ death, that day, was an outworking of a divine plan. We cannot begin to understand the holiness of the Father, the resolve of His Son, or the steadfastness of the Spirit. This three-in-one God orchestrated a path for us, His fallen and broken people, to be restored to Him. We, though wrecked by sin, can be whole again and one in Him, in that unity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (John 17:21). It is a miracle of grace.

Jesus gave his life for us that day. It was not taken from him. He laid it down. For us. Though completely undeserving, we are ransomed and redeemed. At such a great cost. This Jesus. This life. This cross.

It Was My Sin That Held Him There – Greg Morse

Jesus spoke seven times during the three hours he hung on that cross.  Each time he spoke, as in all the other times his words are recorded, there was something for all of us. If you don’t know what he said, in those seven brief cries from the cross, read them and discover more about him…and about us.

Just before he died, he cried out, “It. Is. Finished.” What? What was finished? His life…oh no…not at all…that story comes later. His work? Not completely…for he continues interceding for us (Romans 8:34). What was finished? The perfect sacrifice – the lamb without spot or blemish – his life for ours. “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Hallelujah!

‘Finished’ – What the Son Cried as He Died – Scott Hubbard – Desiring God

There is so much more to say about this day and the people present. Pilate’s wife who warned Pilate about ruling against this innocent man. Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, who tried to return his wage of betrayal and killed himself in remorse that same day. Simon of Cyrene, a pilgrim, who was drawn into the dreadful drama of that day to carry Jesus’ cross when he no longer could. Barabbas, a notorious criminal, who gained his freedom, through a strange twist of the day. The nameless thief on the cross who cried out in repentance to Jesus. The Roman centurion who in his witness of Jesus all those hours professed faith in him.  John, Jesus’ closest disciple, and Jesus’ mother to whom Jesus gave each other. The women, lives changed by their faith in Jesus, who stayed at the foot of the cross through all the horror of his crucifixion. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a Christ-follower, who tried to appeal for Jesus with the Sanhedrin. Joseph of Arimathea, another believing Pharisee, who went to Pilate to receive Jesus’ body for burial, to place in his own tomb.

So many stories of lives changed. Good Friday. Mine included… saved from my sin through Jesus’ sacrifice. This marked the day of Jesus’ trial, his death, and his burial, but it does not mark the end of the story. It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.*

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[Postscript: In the links are several beautiful songs of worship. Tributes to the Lord on this day. Don’t miss the articles and the great sermon “It’s Friday But Sunday’s a Coming” by S. M. Lockridge.]

Holy Week – Day 6: Good Friday’s Trial, Crucifixion, Death, Burial – Mary Fairchild

The Cross – Billy Graham 2020

YouTube Video – Passion – What’s So Good About Good Friday?

YouTube Video – It is Finished – Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Forever – Kari Jobe

YouTube Video with Lyrics – The Wonderful Cross by Chris Tomlin & Keith Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – The Power of the Cross – Kristyn Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – Lead Me to the Cross – Hillsong

*YouTube Video – It’s Friday but Sunday’s a Coming – S. M. Lockridge

YouTube Video – Skit Guys – Good Friday

YouTube Video – Passion Song – The Story of Holy Week (Lyric Video) by @scartermusic – powerful.

It Wasn’t Nails that Held Him to the Cross – Blog by Michele Perry

Good Friday – Bible Study

I Did It His Way: A Collection of B. C. Religious Comic Strips – Johnny Hart

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

[Adapted from the Archives – search blog under Holy Week for the description of the remaining days.]

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels…fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.Revelation 7:9-11

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”  – Revelation 5:12

There appears to be nothing recorded in Scripture of events surrounding Jesus on the Wednesday before his crucifixion. Nothing. After two difficult days dealing with his enemies and accusers, it is quite possible that he took a rest. A Sabbath rest. Given the terrible nature of what was ahead of him, starting just the next day, he could surely use a day to rest and reflect. To remember how the Father had sustained him through all the strains of his public life. To refresh himself in prayer and in the company of those on earth who loved him most – his disciples, his friends, possibly his family. We know no details of that day.

Photo Credit: klove

Since we also know what is coming for Jesus…and all for our sakes…we pause today, as well, to worship. He is the perfect lamb, without blemish, perfectly fit to be offered as a sacrifice for our sins. A sacrifice wholly satisfying the wrath of God the Father. God provided a ram for Abraham to take his son’s place in that strange and amazing sacrifice on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:1-14). This was a foreshadowing of our own need for a savior. We also can be saved by the blood of “the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Jesus was not killed on that Friday, two days hence. His life was not taken. Not by the Jewish or Roman authorities. He gave his life…for us…there are no words adequate to respond…worship is all we have.

Worship with me:

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy holy is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s mercy seat

Holy holy holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You

Clothed in rainbows of living color
Flashes of lighting rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor strength and glory and power be
To You the only One for me

Filled with wonder awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your name
Jesus Your name is power breath and living water
Such a marvelous mystery.*

*Lyrics to Revelation Song written by Jennie Lee Riddle

Story Behind Revelation Song – Jennie Lee Riddle’s vision of the Church wholly united in worship of God – here as we will be one day in Heaven

YouTube Lyric Video – Revelation Song – Kari Jobe – Passion 2013

YouTube Video – Is He Worthy? – Andrew Peterson

YouTube Video – Worthy Is the Lamb – Brooklyn Tabernacle

Holy Week – Day 4: Silent Wednesday – Mary Fairchild

Experience Easter – From Genesis to Revelation – K-Love

How is Jesus the Lamb of God?

The Wrath of God Was Satisfied: Wondrous Love in the Awful Cross – Jon Bloom – Desiring God

Podcast – Easter and Hymns with Keith Getty – Rainer on Leadership

Holy Week Timeline Graphic

Worship Wednesday – On the Peace of God – My Anchor – Christy Nockels

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7
Do you ever have nights when sleep is interrupted way too early? Last night was one of those for me. At 1:30am, my body and mind decided that we were done with sleeping. Two days ago, I took a bad fall. Walking with a friend, I tripped on an uneven bit of sidewalk and face-planted on the sidewalk. No breaks, few scrapes, praise God! However, the soreness yesterday and last night was a bit unnerving and debilitating. Once awake, then the thoughts come, and the emotions follow.
Did I need to go to urgent care? No. Did I need to risk Coronavirus in such a place or just stay home and wait the soreness out? What if I get Coronavirus anyway? Then the thoughts go to Dave, the kids and grandkids, the rest of the family, friends, and neighbors. Then the mental rollercoaster takes me to God’s purpose for my life – have I walked with Him? He will welcome me Home because of Jesus, but has my life turned out as He had meant for it to be?
Crazy, right?
So…not able to sleep, I quit the fight and fitful thoughts and prayers at 3:30am and got up. With a mug of yesterday’s coffee, and the fireplace going, candles lit, I was ready to keep vigil until morning came.
Picking up a book our community group is studying, I turned to the chapter we would tackle next. The book is Spiritual Depression – Its Causes and Its Cure by physician/pastor Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
The chapter? The Peace of God.
In this chapter, Lloyd-Jones unpacks Paul’s exhortation to the Philippian church… This beautiful letter written by the Apostle Paul in his last days…full of joy…peace…even in the tyranny of his circumstances.
Lloyd-Jones describes the “tyranny of circumstances” as that cascade of pressure or stressors that wash over us individually. They are personal and they feel overwhelming.
Paul, in the passage Philippians 4:6-7, gives us a pathway to peace with God. It’s less prescriptive than descriptive, but we can use it in a way that guides our prayer.

  • Don’t worry. – In his book, Lloyd-Jones acknowledges that anxiety can happen pretty much without our control. Borne out of our mind (thoughts) and heart (affections) and fueled by our imagination. The world shames us with pithy advice about worry. What Paul counsels is to acknowledge that we are prone to worry…but to take immediate steps and roll back the anxiety, remembering who God is. Those steps follow.
  • Pray. – In this action, we refocus and reset our minds and hearts off our circumstances and onto a good and loving God. In crying out to Him, we leave off our petitions and start with worshipful prayer. Recalling the truth about God and the greatness of His love and provision. Reminding ourselves of what He has already done for us and the promises to come…the promises that He will fulfill. My S.O.S. cries to God in the thick of sleep-deprived fitfulness were met by His mercy. He did not let me rest until we had this healing time of prayer.
  • Petition. – He wants us to cry out to Him. We acknowledge He is the Only One who knows what we really need and is wholly able to provide it. We need Him, first and foremost. After that, our petitions, following worship, rise out of hearts and minds tuned to the Lord. Ready for whatever comes from the hands of a loving God.
  • Give thanks. – Always. In everything. No matter what. The gratefulness will follow.

Out of all that…comes peace. Not just any sort of peace, but peace that “surpasses all understanding”.  The kind of peace that those in the world, without a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, must marvel at. We marvel, too, when we see it in each other. Brothers and sisters, some in great trials or hardship, filled with the peace of God. We marvel when it happens to us.

Like in this pre-dawn morning.

God guards our peace. He keeps us, garrisons us, inside Himself. Surrounds us with His love. It is what He promises to those whose minds are fixed on Him, because we trust Him (Isaiah 26:3).

When sleep fails, and worry or anxiety creeps in, we know what to do. May we always remember to correct course and settle back into His peace.

Worship with me through the song My Anchor by Christy Nockels and Jason Ingram.

You’re the Lord Almighty
Your every word is sure
And in Your love unfailing
I’m safe when oceans roar
Yes, I’m safe when oceans roar
My anchor, forever
My shelter within the storm
You’re my deliverer
You never falter
You’re the rock I stand on
Here within the struggle
And every crashing wave
You are more than able
Your hand is strong to save

Yes, I know Your hand is strong to save

My anchor, forever
My shelter within the storm
You’re my deliverer
You never falter
You’re the rock I stand on

I hold on to You
And You hold on to me
Jesus, I hold on to You
And You hold on to me*

Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will triumph in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! Yahweh my Lord is my strength!Habakkuk 3:17-19a

[Footnote: As we, all over the world, confront the the Coronavirus pandemic, we may, at some point, have to shelter in place. No better place to be than in Him…in His peace.

Worship Wednesday – On Anxiety – My Anchor – Christy Nockels – Deb Mills

*Lyrics to My Anchor – Songwriters: Christy Nockels & Jason Ingram

Story Behind the Song My Anchor by Christy Nockels – Kevin Davis

How Do I Take My Thoughts Captive? – Interview with John Piper

You Are My Peace – Housefires – YouTube Video

Worship Wednesday – I Need You Now – by Plumb

Worship Wednesday – Listening to His Voice Through the Noise

Worship Wednesday – Control Girls, Miriam, and God – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Stuart Townend

[Excerpts from the Archives]

Now hear the word of the Lord, you women.
Pay attention to the words from his mouth. Teach your daughters a lament and one another a dirge, for Death has climbed through our windows; it has entered our fortresses, cutting off children from the streets, young men from the squares.

This is what the Lord says:

“The wise person should not boast in his wisdom; the strong should not boast in his strength; the wealthy should not boast in his wealth.
But the one who boasts should boast in this:
that he understands and knows me—
that I am the Lord, showing faithful love,
justice, and righteousness on the earth,
for I delight in these things.
This is the Lord’s declaration.” Jeremiah 9:20-21, 23-24

At first, reading this passage in Jeremiah, it could so resonate with our current situation with the Coronavirus and how some are responding to it. There’s a lot of boasting and blaming going on in our media of how we are doing with containing the virus. Then, back to the Scripture passage, the prophet Jeremiah turns the focus away from “us” and on to God.

The image above is a snapshot of part of a group of women in my life, studying the Word together. Writer Shannon Popkin has given us a first book entitled Control Girl – Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control From Seven Women in the Bible. It’s such a great book on what controlling does to us and our families…what a burden it actually is. All the stories are taken from the lives of Old Testament (from Eve to Moses’ sister Miriam. So much wisdom here.Photo Credit: Shannon Popkin

We just finished the chapter on Miriam, Moses’ sister. Miriam appears first in Scripture as the older sister of infant Moses, under threat of death by Pharoah. She was instrumental in saving his life. Years later, God used Moses in His work for the release of the Israelites from Egypt, and Miriam was right there with him, leading the women in praise to God. Moses, Miriam, and their brother Aaron, and Miriam were together in overseeing the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings.

For Miriam, her trouble began when she took her eyes off God and focused on her own importance. She burned with ambition and jealousy toward her brother, Moses. She and Aaron then spoke against Moses, both privately and publicly. The motivation appeared to be jockeying for more power for themselves. This triangling, this slander, moved God to anger. He knows our hearts and He measures his judgment accordingly. Miriam’s pain of judgment (leprosy) galvanized her two brothers to pray for their sister, and she was healed. Repentance and restoration followed. God’s love abounds.

When we are tempted to look on our own intelligence, strength, or wealth as superior (Jeremiah 9:23), we take on an arrogance that separates us from each other…and especially from God. What is our boast?

Let Him Who Boasts Boast in the Lord – John Piper

English songwriter Stuart Townend wrote the hymn How Deep the Father’s Love For Us. It was published in 1995, the year we moved to Cairo, Egypt. New to us, this hymn became a standard in our family from those early days of adjusting to a new life in another country.

New to a very different culture with little ability to communicate in the local language, we found it hard to boast in pretty much anything. This hymn was a strong and loving reminder that our boast is in Christ…In Christ Alone (another great Townend hymn).

Because of what Christ did for me…for us…on the cross, I am no longer separated from God by the penalty of my rebellion against Him. The debt I built up through life is paid in one great act of God through Christ – His perfect, sinless life substituted, in death, for my own sin-filled mess…for our own. There is nothing left to pay…nothing. Christ paid in full, on the cross, for all our sins.

There is a wonderful, omnipotent God who deserves our highest praise, and how we feel about it is in many ways irrelevant!  I want to encourage the expression of joy, passion and adoration, but I want those things to be the by-product of focusing on God – I don’t want them to become the subject matter. I’m trying to write songs that refer to us as little as possible, and to Him as much as possible!”Stuart Townend

Our focus in this life is not even on what we believe…It is not just that we “believe”… What Townend describes in this hymn, reflective of the truth of Scripture, isn’t just what we believe…it is what happened and was witnessed by others – the deep love of God displayed in the self-emptying life and death of His Son. Hallelujah!

In the study of Control Girl, the special women I’m privileged to know are grappling with how tempted, like Miriam, we are to take on ourselves “what’s best” for us, our families, our futures. Praise God, His love for us is not swayed by our struggle, our humanness, our sin…He ever draws us back to Himself. That alone is our boast. He alone is our boast.

Worship with me.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.*

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.1 John 3:1

…the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20b

*Lyrics – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Stuart Townend

Worship Wednesday – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Stuart Townend – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Lyrics (with Scripture portions that support them)

Women of the Bible – Lesson 1 – Miriam – Vickie Kraft

The Depth of Christ’s Love: Its Cost – John Piper

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Stuart Townend

Hymn Reflection: How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Adam Faughn

YouTube Video – Allison Durham Speer – I Will Glory in the Cross

Worship Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – the 40-Day Lenten Road to Easter

Photo Credit: Flickr

[Adapted from the Archives]

“How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your Resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death? Yes, Lord, I have to die—with you, through you, and in you—and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your Resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess…. I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen.”Henri Nouwen  (From A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, Orbis)

It wasn’t until I was six years old that church even came on my radar as a thing. My mom worked all the time in those days, and finally, after a last-resort divorce, she settled us into a different life of meager means and lavish love. It was in those days that we responded to an invitation to church from neighbors. A weary single mom and four eager children met the welcome care of a loving church. Our experience was small town Bible-Belt Baptist, and that set the foundation for my understanding of God, and I am grateful.

My understanding of religion then was that it was Christianity only.

Years later, when I signed up for a World Religions course as a college freshman, I actually thought it would be a survey course on… Christianity.

[Even within the context of Christianity, I knew very little of its practice outside the realm of Southern evangelicalism. Now being older, I understand the difference in religion and faith. – that there are many religions. However, who the Person of God, and who we are as followers, is more about relationship than religion.]

My first experience with Lent was through a college friendship. One Wednesday long ago, I caught up with my best friend after she had disappeared from our usual daily routine. We met for lunch and she had this mysterious, ashen cross smudged on her forehead. I resisted the urge of just lovingly wiping it off for her, thinking she was unaware of it. Pointing it out instead, she taught me my first lessons about Lent – lessons on repentance, fasting (sacrifice), the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. All of that was gloriously real for me already, except for setting aside 40 days of resolve prior to the celebration of Easter.Blog - Lent - Ash Wednesday - from article by Jim DenisonPhoto Credit: Jennifer Balaska via en.wikipedia.org

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust – Preparing for Ash Wednesday – Pastor Kirk Thorson

For years, I still didn’t take Lent very seriously and still don’t know quite how to incorporate it into my life…except that my thinking has changed. In this world gone mad, I am more convinced than ever that we as the Church need to stand together for the sake of the nations and for the glory of God. If in Lent, I can find elements that help me see God, and our corporate and personal need for Him, more clearly, then I want to integrate some measure of Lenten practice into my life.

Month-long fasting (one part of Lent) has never been a draw for me, as I was always completely sure it would be a fail. While we lived in North Africa, and especially in Egypt, fasting was very much a part of our Muslim and Christian neighbors’ lives. Even those Christians who were evangelical (from Coptic backgrounds) saw the importance of fasting. Their awareness of the evil of sin in the world and the need for drastic measures lined up solidly with Jesus’ own life and teaching on this.

As I write this, my penitent friend with the ash smeared on her forehead comes to mind again. Decades later, on this day, I’m sure, wherever she is, she has a new ashen cross applied. Reminding her of the sin in her own life that Christ paid for Himself with His death on the Cross.

[We like our foreheads clean, don’t we? Being reminded of the dark and dirty smudge of sin in our lives is not something we want to carry around with us publicly. Especially in this post-Christian world of ours. Even with the message of the Cross as the only response to that sin…it’s just too public, too culturally “in your face” so to speak.]

Many may see Lent as extra-Biblical and therefore unnecessary to add to our countdown to commemorating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For me, at least, it gives a bit narrower road to walk for forty days – examining our own frailty, our sin, and the brevity of life alongside the magnificent perfection of the life and love of a wholly surrendered Christ.

Bible Gateway extends a free invitation to receive devotionals daily through Lent – A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’ll be going through that as part of my reading these 40 days until Easter.

Also for the past several years, during Lent, I have read British writer Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. It was a gift from a good friend during our years living overseas. There’s a lot in this world that’s frightening these days. Yet God is still God and is at work in the midst of so much crazy. I believe Him at His word. Full stop. We have a role in dealing with what we see in the world. As Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 17:21), there is evil that we can only battle with prayer and fasting. This is a power unleashed in a true observance of Lent.Blog - Lent - Easter (3)

As we grieve so much death around us in these days, and as we look to Easter, I would like to close with a prayer from Adrian Plass’ book:

“Loving heavenly Father, I want to try to tackle this business of loving enemies. First of all I’m going to sit quietly here and go through a mental list of the folk who I would call my enemies. Help me to be really honest…I don’t want to leave anyone out….I’ve done it, Lord. There are rather a lot, and some of them I really hate. But You made it quite clear that You can’t forgive me if I don’t forgive them, so I’ll start the process, even if it takes a long time to mean it. Love them for me, Lord, and please accept my prayers for their welfare and safety. Soften my hard heart as the days go by, until I begin to see them through Your eyes. Thank You for forgiving me. Amen.”

For these forty-plus days before Easter, my resolve is to:

  • read A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer;
  • refer back to the book-marked portions of The Unlocking;
  • reflect on God and the goodness and wisdom He displays through Jesus’ life and teaching
  • resist (fasting from) those money- and time-stealers that distract me from larger issues;
  • repent of the sins of neglect and indifference;
  • remember to pray and
  • reach out to God and those around me as His vessel for His purposes among the nations.

May the days of Lent roll on naturally into the rest of our days…

Preparing for Easter – 50 Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Forever Marred by School Shooting – One Mom Reaches Out to Comfort – Deb Mills Writer

Monday Morning Moment – Life & Politics – What If We Refused to Get Angry?

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

A friend of mine reached out to me this week with this dilemma. A Christian herself, she finds herself in the middle of a stand-off between pro-choice non-Christian colleagues and pro-life Christian friends. Each side angry at the other, without even knowing each other, just on principle alone.

I’ve been puzzling over her situation all week, and then yesterday, thanks to a pastor friend, an answer came. In fact, it is the most definitive answer to so many conflictive situations in our lives. Is it easy, no? Simple, yes.

The answer…or the path to the answer…is to refuse to get angry. Refuse to think ill of another. Refuse.

I’m not talking about stuffing our anger somewhere inside, keeping it pressurized until it explodes sometime later. Refusing to get angry is actually a step toward defusing it. Anger demands action. We take the energy of the anger and do something altogether different with it.

Jesus of Nazareth once delivered a short sermon known as the Sermon on the Mount. No matter our current faith, if we applied his teaching to life and politics, we could change the world for good. In the crowd that day, many religious leaders saw him as a threat, and would seek to destroy him in the months to come. However, that day…the wisdom and authority of Jesus’ words hit home to those in hearing, and they “were amazed”.

Here’s what Jesus said about anger:

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” – Matthew 5:21-22

See the contrast…we would never even think of murder as the solution but we allow ourselves to stir up anger like it’s nothing… especially if “deserved”. Jesus sees it differently.

When someone cuts us off in traffic, puts you down at work, or sets in motion legislation against a cause dear to us, we get angry. What is our response?

Anger too often goes to a place which escalates the situation rather than altering it in a positive way.

If we take to responding to anger, with a quietened heart, this is far from passivism. This is about as intentional and reasoned an action possible for us to take. Refusing to act in anger…refusing to think ill or speak ill of another.

Our strong opinions about politics today (especially, this being an election year) drive us to put relational wedges between ourselves and those with whom we disagree. What if we responded differently to those with whom anger becomes the first emotion?

We would listen, with our finger on the pulse of their hearts. We would seek to understand. Our disagreements become a launch pad for positive action. Anger would cease being a call to retaliatory or retributive action. It would become a flag, a button, a cue to respond in love and forgiveness.

Not as satisfying as “righteous indignation”, right? Not as definitive as my definition of justice…my, my, my.

What if there is another path to justice or rightness? We have another example from the life of Jesus…well, maybe examples, but here is one that peels away any sense of my right to express anger.

Jesus’ enemies would prevail against his life. It wasn’t really about the Jewish religious leaders or the Roman political authorities. Jesus gave his life for us. He was always in control, and his purposes were fulfilled, not thwarted, on the cross.

At any time, Jesus could have turned the situation around that day. When he was beaten, ridiculed, and falsely accused, he could have walked away. When he was attached to the cross, he could have taken himself down (Matthew 27:40-41). When he saw the sorrow on Mary’s face or his friend John’s torment, he could have acted in anger against those causing so much pain.

He did not. How he responded was an altogether different way:

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

When we find ourselves getting angry or having reason for anger, we can take another path through it. Instead of hardening our hearts toward those who cut us off or block our goals, we can take the anger a different way. We are not obliged to cultivate hatred and contempt…for reckless drivers (I first put “bad” but changed it), power brokers at work, or politicians or political parties.

What if anger sparked in us an intentionality to love and forgive.  What if, instead of railing in Facebook posts or blogs or office conversations, we work toward solutions about the things we care most about?…the things that suffer when we do nothing but express anger about them. What if we prayed more for our President, for instance…for Congress…for our governors and State legislatures. What if we thought deeply about solutions and then wrote them to those decision-makers? Rather than just talking to friend (or enemy) about how we disagree with them…or to those with whom we agree and agree to hate the other side.

What if (for my friend above) we took our anger at abortion (or protecting choice on the other side of the conversation), and we worked to make access to birth control and health care truly available for those most vulnerable?

What would the world look like if we refused to act on anger in hateful, punishing ways? What if we remembered we are all frail humanity? No matter how we come across to others or how powerful or powerless we are, we can alter the course of anger… in ways that heal instead of hurt.

There is another verse in the Bible where the Apostle Paul says, “Be angry but do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26). We, as Christians, sometimes justify our anger by calling it righteous, when our actions say otherwise. When we act out of anger, we can’t reflect the One who lived a life without sin…unless we act in love, tempering our anger into something that elevates rather than diminishes.

Thanks, Cliff, for that sermon, and thanks, Sherry, for reaching out to me…and making me think about this.

Movement Church – Sermon on the Mount Series – on Anger

The Twist in the Sermon on the Mount That You Probably Missed – Mark L. Ward, Jr.

Worship Wednesday – Love Notes – How Mom Encouraged Her Faraway Family

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Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13

[Today is Mom’s birthday – 18 of them now passed since she died. This blog adapted from the Archives. Using #WorshipWednesday today to showcase how we can share the love of Jesus with those He places in our lives.]

Our little family never lived close to the grandparents. This was not easy…for any of us. Before I married, I did live close to home, and my mom was my best friend. She died several years ago, and I often say to people who knew her that “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.

Mom and I shared a weakness for words…they are probably excessively important to us, delivering both positive and (sometimes) negative weight. She was an amazing encourager. She rarely missed an opportunity to lift another’s spirit or to speak loving truth to someone desperate for God’s touch.

When I moved away to take a teaching job, she and my dad helped me with the move. New Haven, Connecticut would be a 2-day drive from Georgia. It was the farthest I had ever wandered from home. She stayed a week to help me settle in.  While there, she was such great company. We explored the city together and laughed over a new culture and cried at the missing that was ahead for us.

She filled my freezer with her baking, and, while I was at work, she wrote notes. Then she hid them everywhere. After she flew home, I began finding them. In my coffee mug. Under my pillow. In the pocket of my coat. Among my reference books. Behind my music books on the piano. She was with me in the love notes she left, and it made the distance between us…less.IMAG2720 (2)

My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I kept every one of her notes. These from that move over 30 years ago are fading…red ink on pink paper. There is a lifetime of notes between my mom and me. The tradition she started on that first move has become a life-long tradition for our family. Our visits back and forth, across the US and then the globe, have been papered by these little notes.

Our children, from the time they could write, entered into this tradition much to the joy of their grandparents. Before we would leave again from visits with them, these three young ones would write of their affection for their grandparents and hide them all over their houses. I delighted in their cooperation in this conspiracy of love.

Mom always wrote notes…not just to us but to so many. She and her Sunday School Class ladies would send cards every week to the sick ones or the sad ones. She had a special burden for the elderly, for widows (including functional widows, deserted by husbands) and for fatherless children (again including those “orphaned” by still-living fathers). She inspired me by her humble ambition .

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27

I am so thankful for my mom’s bits of paper…for her love…and for her perseverance in encouraging and serving others. Her generation is sadly almost gone, and it is for us to pick up these traditions and pass them on somehow to the next generations…Maybe there won’t be bits of paper or love notes like in the past. I do hope we still take the time to write. Definitely, the call to serve and to encourage is as current as ever. My life continues to be rich with those, young and old, who reach out to those around them with words of affirmation and kindness. Written or not, they are love notes to the heart.

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

Mom pictures for website 012

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

Memory-of-Mildred Byrd McAdams

Worship Wednesday – Fighting Words – Ellie Holcomb

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”Ephesians 6:10-13
“Use your words.” That’s what we say to our little ones when they come running with wails of woe that are more emotion than intellect. They have to learn to find the words to say what they are feeling so they can get the proper help or solace that they need.
With our children as they grew older, the sorrows were more wrapped around struggling with chemistry homework, or not making the soccer team, or dealing with bullying. The sad or angry tears would come along with words that kicked at their situation…wondering aloud what was wrong with them.

Photo Credit: Piqsels

“What’s really true?” we parents would ask. No, they were not stupid, or untalented, or too different from others. The truth is that they were “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and they were “loved with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:37-38

Singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb‘s song Fighting Words caught me off-guard at first. Fighting words? That expression always meant something that escalated a situation, yet she uses “fighting words” as those with a righteous punch…an impact that exposed the lies!

Our adversary Satan uses words against us. Whispering stinging accusations in our thoughts. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the thoughts have my voice around them or that of the enemy. Whatever the origin, our hearts and minds are embattled by words that aren’t true, even when they sound true.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Through the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and the Lord Jesus who so graciously saved us, and the Word of God that arms us with truth…we are equipped to stand against the evil one.

After hearing the whole of Holcomb’s song, I’m inspired. Earlier this week, studying in Genesis, the temptation of Eve touched my heart like never before. Satan used words to color the truth  in ways that made God seem less good. As if He was withholding something good from her. As if He shouldn’t be trusted.

Eve fell for the lies. Oh, if only she had used “fighting words” against the tempter. She and Adam. If only…

We have terrible outcomes from their acting on lies. We also have benefit of her experience…of being caught off guard wavering on the truth, with calamitous consequences. We also have benefit of so many others in the Bible who faced trials and temptations, without faltering, standing on the truth of God’s Word.

Oh God, help us to believe You. Help us in our unbelief. Help us to remember who we are…who You are. Remind us daily of the great gift of salvation we have through Jesus. Give us courage to stand as Your children and speak with the authority You have given us in Christ…speaking the truth without compromise…speaking the truth in love.

Worship with me.

[Verse 1]
Fear is like a broken record, same old songs of accusation play
Like, “who are you to speak the truth, just look at all your failures and mistakes”
And “If they really knew you, there’s no way they could love you anyway”
Oh-oh-ohh, but I will…

[Chorus]
Fight the lies with the truth, oh-ohh
Keep my eyes fixed on You
I will sing the truth into the dark
I will use my fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh, fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh

[Verse 2]
The enemy keeps talking, telling me to hide my face in shame
Whispering that everything I’ve done will drive the Father’s love away
Saying, “It’s too late for hoping, that something in your heart could ever change”
Oh-oh-ohh, so I will…

[Chorus]
Fight the lies with the truth, oh-ohh
Keep my eyes fixed on You
I will sing the truth into the dark
I will use my fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh, fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh

[Bridge]
My debt is paid up
I’ve been set free and
You gave Your life up to rescue me
You say that I am
Worth fighting for and
Grace is like waves that keep crashing on the shore!

[Chorus]
Fight, the lies with the truth, oh-oh-ohh
Keep my eyes fixed on You
I will sing the truth into the dark
I will use my fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh, fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh…

[Outro]
I’m so tired of forgetting what I’m worth
So I will use, my fighting words*

*Lyrics to “Fighting Words” – Songwriter: Ellie Holcomb

“Fighting Words” – Story Behind the Song

Get Back, Satan! 5 Tips for Using Scripture as Defense – Alicia Purdy

YouTube Video – “Kutless” Word of God Speak