Category Archives: Service

Monday Morning Moment – Chef José Andrés Feeds the World – Inspiring Us to Do Likewise

Photo Credit: Screenshot from The Richmond Forum; Chef José Andrés, speaking to us from Honduras, where he and his team were feeding people after the Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

The first offering of the Richmond Forum‘s 2020-21 season was this past weekend. Because of COVID, it was virtual. Dave and I would miss our traditional pizza before the show, and talks with our friends at the Altria Theater, but comfy at home was not a bad option either.

We didn’t know this evening’s speaker, José Andrés, but with all who come to the stage of the Richmond Forum, we knew we would come away with a larger sense of the world and our part in it.

Photo Credit: José Andrés, World Central Kitchen, Bahamas, 2019

Chef José Andrés is an extraordinary person who challenges us to move that descriptor into the ordinary column. Here’s a brief intro to this amazing man – just a bit of his extensive bio from his website: “José Andrés is an internationally-recognized culinary innovator, New York Times bestselling author, educator, television personality, humanitarian, and chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup. A pioneer of Spanish tapas in the United States, he is also known for his groundbreaking avant-garde cuisine and his award-winning group of more than 30 restaurants located throughout the country and beyond, ranging in a variety of culinary experiences from a food truck to his multi-location vegetable-focused fast casual Beefsteak, to world-class tasting menus…As a naturalized citizen originally from Spain, Andrés has been a tireless advocate for immigration reform. In 2010, Andrés formed World Central Kitchen, a non-profit that provides smart solutions to end hunger and poverty by using the power of food to empower communities and strengthen economies. Notably, his team served over 3.6 million meals to the people of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.”

Photo Credit: José Andrés, World Central Kitchen – 2019 in Review

This celebrity chef who owns restaurants all over the US, writes cookbooks, and entertains us with his TV appearances.

However, you look at his face and see his heart. He says, “I am a cook. I feed the few, but I love to feed the many”.

He grew up in Spain with parents who were nurses. At times, one parent heading to work, would bring their four sons to the emergency room to exchange with the parent leaving work.   His parents also loved to cook for the family and for friends and neighbors. He tells the story of his father making a huge pan of paella. When his mother asked his father what if too many people come and there is not enough food. “We just add some more rice”.

Andrés credits his father with an early love and understanding of cooking. His father would tell him “Learn your fire. Control your fire. Master your fire. Then you will be able to cook anything you want.” He took that cooking lesson and applied it to his life.

As a young man, he dreamed of coming to America, of being a part of “We the People”. When he finally was able to immigrate to the US, he wasted no time in beginning work in a restaurant. He continued growing and learning…and before long, teaching others himself. Not just about cooking itself but what food brings to all of life.

“Respect people. Teach them to work. Give them a plate of food.”

He feels very strongly about giving back (especially to his beloved America) as well as giving to all who are suffering. “There’s nothing more nurturing than a plate of hot food.”

After responding to the Haiti earthquake in 2010, his vision to “feed the many” came to fruition with the World Central Kitchen. Andres took his ability to cook and his experience in leading and mentoring staff in his restaurants and applied it in the worst of situations. Through this non-profit, he and his teams would be “boots on the ground” after earthquakes,wildfires, wars, flooding, hurricanes, and other disasters. They came and found a kitchen and bought local food. They listened and learned. They mobilized others to help, and thousands upon thousands were fed.

[We sat mesmerized at this man and his stories of real life. This immigrant. This cook. With a heart as big as the world. He could have just enjoyed the great successes of his American dream realized, but this is not who he is.

We spent our evening with him (thanks to Richmond Forum). Hearing stories of how a few fed many…in Honduras, in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, and years ago in Haiti. These were just some of the many stories of the work of this chef and World Central Kitchen.

As questions came in from the Richmond Forum audience, he taught us, just as if we were standing in his kitchen, or his classroom. As if there was already a relationship there. As, for sure, he cared for us, somehow.

Nothing he said was the stuff of unapproachable genius. He put his hand to a cascade of difficult situations and made a difference. It gives hope to any of us willing to try. He changes recipes to fit the circumstances and peoples they served. He looks for new ways to make things happen. He uses food not as a charity but as a healing connection in a community – sustenance and support, pulling people together to heal and restore their lives and livelihoods.

His goal: to do good in the world.

“I have work to do. I’m here to be an improver of the world. Not by talking but by doing. There will always be a job to do.”

Andres has even worked with the US Congress on the Feed Act and the Restaurants Act that have come out of our battle with COVID-19. Food insecurity and restaurant closures should not be happening when the former can be helped by the latter – subsidizing restaurants to feed people in need. Who knows what will come out of all this, but that can-do creativity and great generosity of heart are at the heard of what makes America great.

Get to know José Andrés. It will not be one-sided.

He closed the evening with this: “Maybe I’ve added an ingredient or two to your life. I look forward to one or two from yours one day.”

Youtube Video –  José Andrés on 60 Minutes in 2017; Feeding Puerto Rico

YouTube Video – José Andrés on Giving Back to America

YouTube Video – When Disaster Strikes, Jose Andres Brings Hot Food and Hope – PBS

The 10 Best Lines From Jose Andres’ GWU Commencement Speech

Worship Wednesday – Keep Me in the Moment – Jeremy Camp

Photo Credit: Ramstein AF

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”Romans 12:1-5

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”Ephesians 2:10

“…and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death.”Philippians 3:9-10

The Scriptures give us a clear look at the large life God intends for us. He has set us apart from the world; He has prepared good works for us; He embeds us with His righteousness to faithfully endure whatever confronts us.

Then comes COVID.

Nothing in the character or purposes of God have altered. His children are still called to live in the present in His strength and to extend His love out to those around us.

[Writer Emma Grey Ellis has posted a fascinating article on the lethargy and depression that plagues us in the isolation of COVID. I can’t help but think there is also a spiritual component at work in this disease and in its prevention.]

This Sunday, our pastor Cliff Jordan of Movement Church finished teaching a series on God’s Kingdom Culture – focusing, this time, on the culture of displacement (listen here).

Displacement for us is that we’re not Home yet (Philippians 3:20). Cliff recalled his years playing high school basketball. It was a very high and privileged experience to be part of the Home team (playing in your own town and your own gym). When he was part of the Away team, it was a very different experience – no special treatment, and the team that most folks in the gym hoped would lose.

The church, here in this moment, is the Away team.

Basketball is a great picture of where we are as believers doing life, dealing with COVID.

When our children were in high school, the two oldest played basketball. At that time, our school was often the newcomer and underdog. What we lacked in experience and status, we made up for in enthusiasm, determination, and perseverance.[Seniors on the team of the 2007 boys’ basketball season of George Washington Academy, Casablanca, Morocco. Nathan “Beyond the Guitar” Mills is on the far right.]

We didn’t have a gym, so we were always the Away team.

As in life, especially in COVID life, we didn’t have to bring our “A” game. We had lots of opportunities to excuse ourselves from being all in. Between being “at-risk” or furloughed or parents all of a sudden juggling work and helping children school at home. The above-mentioned fatigue dampens our enthusiasm and stamina. Being truly “in the moment” as believers has become a challenge unlike any we’ve known previously.

It would be easy, again with the basketball analogy, to just wait out COVID and hope for better days, like the Away team might when the score starts mounting on the Home team’s board. Our enthusiasm wanes and our pace slows. We begin to give up before the game is over. And the bench!! What might have been “Put me in, Coach!” turns into thinking being #OfftheBench might not be a great idea. Our minds wander off the Word of God and onto anything else.

I love the tension of the pic below. The tension in those faces. Absorbed in the action on the court. Focused. Leaning forward. Ready at any moment to launch off the bench.Photo Credit: Needpix

Whether we feel benched by COVID or we’re very much in the game, the fact that we are the Away team doesn’t change anything about how God calls us to be engaged with Him and those around us.

Sure, we have to be creative at how to socially distance (for the sake of others and, at times, our own sakes)…but we don’t have to fall for being socially distanced from God’s glorious will for our lives.

Singer songwriter Jeremy Camp song “Keep Me in the Moment” could have been written for this season. The official video points to the beautiful, pulsating tension of lives lived well as God leads us through every situation. Redeeming the time.

Worship with me.
I’ve been thinking ’bout time and where does it go
How can I stop my life from passing me by, I don’t know
I’ve been thinking ’bout family and how it’s going so fast
Will I wake up one morning just wishing that I could go back?
I’ve been thinking ’bout lately, maybe
I can make a change and let you change me
So, with all of my heart this is my prayer
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Keep me in the moment
Oh, keep me in the moment
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (oh)
When I wake up in the morning
Lord, search my heart
Don’t let me stray
I just wanna stay where you are
All I got is one shot, one try
One go around in this beautiful life
Nothing is wasted when everything’s placed in your hands
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Lord keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
I’ve been thinking about heaven
And the promise you hold
So, it’s all eyes on you
Until the day you call me home
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
(I don’t wanna miss, I don’t wanna miss)
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after (oh)
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (yeah)
Keep me in the moment
Oh, keep me in the moment
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Oh, keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)*
By the way…that Away team analogy is only for a few years. Home is also our experience. Home is where we celebrate with our forever Victor…together.

8 Ways to Be Present – Tom Stuart

Why God Wants You to Live in the Moment – Drew Smith

Worship Wednesday – On Being Kind – and the Goodness of God

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

The LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.  Isaiah 30:18

Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor.  Romans 12:10

Photo Credit: Knowing-Jesus

You can spend hours reading all the passages in the Scriptures on kindness, graciousness, compassion, and love. Just soaking up the goodness of God and how He calls us to this same life of kindness to one another. Even, as the Romans 12 passage says above, outdoing each other in showing honor.

Last night I went out to help Dave with a chore in the driveway. Walking back into the garage, I found this sweet plant beside the door. It was a gift given without a name, “[Co]rona Make You Smile.” It did make me smile.

A sweet gesture for which I can’t even thank the person personally. So I will thank you here. You went out of your way to bless my life. Whoever you are…I felt the love of Jesus in this act of kindness. I felt your love whoever you are. Thank you. Thank God for you.

Kindness is so appreciated…so needed…in these socially distanced days. We can be kind to strangers, friends, and family alike. It becomes a way of life. For some, you beautiful, creative, generous souls, it seems completely natural…we learn from you who show kindness to all (or pretty much all), not just to those closest to you.

Do we only do kindness to those who deserve kindness?

Showing honor to only those who are clearly honorable?

No.

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

On this Worship Wednesday piece, I want to take and give opportunity to post shout-outs to those many acts of kindness we are receiving during this COVID-19 season. In so doing, we worship God as the source of the goodness we reflect and see reflected in others. We bear His image most radiantly as we lay down our own lives – our agendas, our preferences, our very selves – for others… in the name of Jesus.

  • Gifts of food (both receiving, participating in, and watching others blessing with food)
  • Human contact (phone and video calls, cards/letters, drive-bys, and 6 ft. apart visits in driveways, at doorways or windows)
  • Surprise gifts/special events (we have sweet and creative neighbors who major on this sort of expression of love – they are hard to keep up with but we all feel the energy of that challenge)
  • Providing service in creative ways
  • Using social media to encourage and empower (including video) – be bold; we welcome it.
  • Prayer

[Please use the Comments section below and post your shout-outs for kindnesses done to you or those done to others that inspired or uplifted you as well.]

Image may contain: Karen Walker, outdoor[A friend chalked a Bible verse on our driveway.]

Our married kids have socially distanced themselves for our sakes and so we can still see them and the grandchildren. Priceless. They are working at home so that helps, of course. Our youngest is considered an essential worker and has kept his distance from us, out of love. We miss him and do our own drive-bys talking together from the car as he visits from his yard. His kind of sacrificial love is also amazing.

These many weeks, with our schedules so altered, I’ve been keeping a journal of occasions of folks being kind. Sometimes it was my taking the opportunity, but more I have known the kindness of others. Never want to forget this brighter side of our pandemic experience. We could all use that God-infused kindness more than ever right now…both in reaching out and receiving.

I’ll close with this bit of a poem from many years ago but so resonates with this season.

Perhaps some future day, Lord,
Thy strong hand will lead me to the place
Where I must stand utterly alone;
Alone, Oh gracious Lover, but for Thee.

I shall be satisfied if I can see Jesus only.
I do not know Thy plan for years to come.
My spirit finds in Thee its perfect home: sufficiency.
Lord, all my desire is before Thee now.
Lead on no matter where, no matter how,
I trust in Thee. by Elisabeth Elliot, in her college years

5 Surprising Truths About Biblical Kindness – Davis Wetherell

6 Acts of Kindness During the Coronavirus Outbreak That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity – Kelsey Hurwitz

Monday Morning Moment – Remembering on Memorial Day

[Adapted from the Archives]

“Happy Memorial Day” isn’t a fitting greeting for this day.

Our commemoration of this holiday in America is a bit complex. I get the parades, and the setting flags on tombstones, and the sepia portraits of our military heroes past displayed on Facebook pages. Grandfathers, fathers, husbands, brothers…and their female counterparts.

The grilling and road races and t-shirt giveaways at baseball games, I don’t get as much. Yet, like our fellow Americans, we will grill and we will celebrate a day off…and through all that we will remember. We will remember the sacrifices of those who died to preserve our freedom.Photo Credit: Wikipedia, Normandy Landings

This year’s celebration is even more complex than usual. With the losses of COVID-19 casting their own shadow over this day of remembrance. The socially distanced gatherings will be small, but the grief will be large with us.

Photo Credit: Twitter, The New York Times

Memorial Day 2020: Grieving Another COVID-19 Death Count Milestone – Alan Cross

Writing helps me remember. The many lessons of life, the travels, all the people we’ve known along the way, and the great provisions of God. It has helped me to write them down.

Memorial Day is a somber remembrance. All the soldiers I’ve known personally survived the wars they fought . Still, I have friends who lost loved ones serving in devastating situations. I stand alongside to remember. To remember those of our own who died and to remember those families who also lost their loved ones on the other side of battle. There’s always the other side of war…the family side.

How ever you spend your Memorial Day…whether with a burger or fasting or at work or play, stopping and remembering is the first order of the day. We have much to be grateful for. On this day and every day.Photo Credit: Paul Davis On Crime

[Added from Comment when this blog first posted: That gravestone graphic leaves out the deadliest war in our history for some reason. Civil War – 620,000 dead. What a strange omission. – John]

Vietnam War is the war of my youth. We didn’t understand why we were there. I participated in protests but it didn’t take me long to realize how that wasn’t honoring of those of our country fighting for us. We thought we were communicating to “Bring them home!” but when Vietnam vets did return there really wasn’t a “Welcome home!” So short-sighted of us.

[Letters from pen-pals, soldiers in Vietnam, who shared details of what they experienced there. Sacred writings for me now.]

Don’t miss the PBS Memorial Day Presentation. So powerful! Stories of those who gave their lives in battle, honoring the different branches of service, and glorious music. Here is Christopher Jackson in last year’s performance of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”:

If someone you love died in one of these recent wars or in any service to our nation or community, please comment below with their names and any details you choose to include. I would be pleased to help honor them in this small way.

In closing, I’d like to add this clip from the 2002 film The Four Feathers – the brief and beautiful speech of a returning soldier who described why they fight:

Independence Day in the USA – Remembering that Freedom Is Not Free – Deb Mills Writer

Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – What Are You Remembering About God Today? – Deb Mills Writer

Worship Wednesday – Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – Part 2 – Deb Mills Writer

E. John Mills, US Navy – Dave’s DadGeorge T. McAdams (in center), US Army – my Dad

Thank you for your service.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Tim Wink

5 Friday Faves – Growing Up with Pixar, Pursuing Unity, Bringing Hope, Agility in Today’s Realities, and Making Music Happen

Happy Weekend! With so many of us either working remotely or with otherwise altered work situations, some rhythms are shifted. One for me is writing. I miss it. Please bear with me…and stay with me…as I carve out time and temperament to write something worth the read. You give me courage.

1) Growing Up with Pixar – Classical guitarist Nathan Mills (of Beyond the Guitar) knows exactly how to take any film song he chooses and draw out every bit of emotion possible. Related to Pixar, he did that previously with medleys of both the happy theme songs and the sad ones. This week, Nathan arranged and performed the heart-wrenching Randy Newman song “When She Loved Me”. You will recognize this song from the film Toy Story 2. It’s the poignant story of Emily and her cowgirl toy Jessie. At first, little girl Emily adores her toy and Jessie feels so loved, through their tireless play. Then…Emily grows up. Jessie ends up in a cardboard box donated to a charity. Many of our children have grown up with Pixar and have had lessons on life reinforced – love, loyalty, friendship, and determination – through these films. Nathan’s sweet rendition of this song will take you back.

Also check out his latest podcast on The Truth About Going Viral.

2) Pursuing Unity – We live in a world torn by division. Whatever our political ideology or religious fervor, we don’t have to just sit by and watch it burn. I am reminded of one who prayed for unity for us. One who died the next day in a world divided.

“May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.”Jesus, John 17:21-23

I want to align myself with those who choose unity…those who keep reasoning together, and refuse to hate, and who are determined to forgive and to find answers and to love no matter what.

Photo Credit: Wallpaper Flare

A veteran officer of the United States Marine Corps and a teaching pastor, Grant Castleberry, wrote exquisitely about pursuing unity. Here’s a bit of his article:

“The New Testament emphasis, over and over again, is that true Christian unity is only built on a right understanding of the gospel. No matter our national allegiance, economic background, political party, or ethnicity, the gospel unites believers in one faith, one ‘body’ (1 Cor 12:12, 17)…The family of God outstrips all our other allegiances and affiliations. This includes our allegiance to a political party or ethnicity. Identity, and therefore unity, in the New Testament is almost always linked to the fact that we have been united to Christ in faith through the gospel…we should be defined by a spirit of love and forgiveness…In our divided culture, unity in the Church will be only nurtured and maintained, using the methods and principles that Jesus and the Apostles have outlined for us in the New Testament…These bodies of believers, from diverse backgrounds and idealogies, will serve as beacons of unity in a divided world.”Grant Castleberry

3) Bringing Hope – What kinds of things have brought you hope in these days? I have experienced and observed so many acts of kindness – simple ones and costly ones. People being creative and hopeful themselves and lavishing it generously on others.

Actor writer John Krasinski is one of those persons. He created this little YouTube channel with the focus on Some Good News (in the face of all the bad). Only eight episodes in total but he celebrated so much in those eight weeks – health care and other essential workers, our beloved sports teams, and the big Spring events that have been disrupted (graduations, proms, weddings, etc) secondary to COVID-19.

John Krasinski Fights Back Tears During Emotional Some Good News Finale – Emily Belfiore

Column: What I’m Glad to Say Goodbye to John Krasinski’s ‘Some Good News’ – Mary McNamara

I guess John Krasinski has some projects coming up because he ended his broadcasts after the eighth episode. Or maybe with the opening up of our countries, we will be making even more good news. Like visits with beloved grandparents after three months of “social distancing”. Now that’s some good news!!!Photo Credit: Facebook, Eryn Cobb

Finally, the most hope-bringing message: “Jesus loves me/you; this I know!”

4) Agility in Today’s Realities – We often think of agility in terms of sports – that ability to change directions quickly, but it’s that and so much more. What does agility mean in life and work?Photo Credit: Gunther Verheyen, Scrum

We hear a lot these days about a “new normal” after we come out of the COVID-19 crisis. Maybe we are better off thinking not new but real – what is real now and how could it change or be changed?

Wisdom is taking what we are learning about this virus and maximize prevention and sound treatment while, at the same time, figure out how to still do life…work…all that matters to us.

Try things. Experiment. Think in teams. Acknowledge the fails. Try something different. Strengthen the successes. Broaden them.

I’m talking very simplistically here, but we have a lot of smart and innovative people out there. Let’s figure out how to be agile in our decision-making.Photo Credit: Facebook, TobyMac

5 Disruptive Leadership Trends that will Rule 2020 – Carey Nieuwhof

The Original 2020 Is History. 7 New Disruptive Church Trends Every Church Leader Should Watch – Carey Nieuwhof [insight beyond churches as well]

5) Making Music Happen – I had an opportunity years ago to direct a Christmas program in a tiny church in New Haven, Ct. It was a magical experience – for me for sure. Then years later, I had another opportunity to produce a fine arts program in a school in Casablanca, Morocco. Again, to bring singers and musicians together to make something beautiful was an incredible experience. Below are two videos of music that we might not have had except for COVID-19.

Also the following are now-famous songs from the film musical The Greatest Showman. They are “in the making” versions and bring us close to what it’s like for the singers to create something musical and joyful for us all. In the middle you’ll find another “virtual ensemble” bringing to life one of those great songs during the social distancing of today.

Bonuses:

Blue Bloods’ Reagan Family Dinner:

MercyMe’s Hurry Up  and Wait

Core Values List: 115 Values That I Filtered on Practicality – Darius Foroux

30 Days in the Shire – Adapted for Use in the Midst of Coronatide – Tea with Tolkien

“And people stayed at home
And read books
And listened
And they rested
And did exercises
And made art and played
And learned new ways of being
And stopped and listened
More deeply
Someone meditated, someone prayed
Someone met their shadow
And people began to think differently
And people healed.
And in the absence of people who
Lived in ignorant ways
Dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
The earth also began to heal
And when the danger ended and
People found themselves
They grieved for the dead
And made new choices
And dreamed of new visions
And created new ways of living
And completely healed the earth
Just as they were healed.”

The above poem was published on March 16, 2020, by writer Catherine O’Meara (aka Kitty O’Meara)

Photo Credit: Facebook, Elaine M. Lechanski

Photo Credit: Facebook; Wonders of Nature, Robert E. Saddler

Worship Wednesday – Even in the Madness, There Is Peace – You Are Writing a Symphony – Switch

Photo Credit: Piqsels

[Two nights ago I was on a Zoom meeting call with Virginia’s Kids Belong representatives and several others from churches and other community organizations. All meeting for the purpose of brain-storming for how we can best support foster kids, birth moms, and foster families. During this season of the Coronavirus and subsequent school closures and limited contact. Then last night Dave and I watched a movie – Instant Family – not meant for everyone, but definitely it moved my heart all the more – in terms of reaching out to these kids.]

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

See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children–and we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know him.  1 John 3:1

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.Psalm 68:5

I’d wanted to watch Instant Family since first seeing the trailer. Finally, as one result of “social distancing”, Dave and I watched it last night in our living room. It is NOT a family film. Strong language and adult themes throughout. However, it is one at least some adults should see – it is real (if not perfect – see excellent review below) in its depiction of foster parenting and foster care. Not recommending for everyone to watch the film, but do catch this one scene of the painful failed reunification with the children’s birth mom. So beautiful in the raw work required of adults reaching into the lives of seemingly fatherless children.

Instant Family – What Mark Wahlberg’s New Movie Gets Right and Wrong about Foster Care – Christy Tennant Krispin

Coronavirus Leaves Foster Children With Nowhere to Go – Eli Hager

In aligning with other churches and community agencies to serve this vulnerable population, we do a work that must please the Lord. To the point, even, that it is an act of worship. Right now foster children, and their birth and foster families, are more isolated than ever. The pressure in their hearts and homes must be hard for all involved. When in school, foster children have teachers who watch out for them. Teachers are a safety for these children because they care, they provide structure, and they sound the alarm when the children appear to be at risk for neglect or abuse.

I don’t have answers here, but there are folks in our communities who are working toward answers. Ears wide open.

Who knows how long we will be in this situation of “keeping distance”? However we are not out of hearing or direction from the Lord who loves these children and the adults in their lives. My hope is through listening to God, these agencies closest to the kids at risk, and through our churches, we can extend love, even in these days… in the power of the Lord.

In preparing for this piece today, I went looking for songs that reflect God’s love and provision in such situations, and there are many.

Songs for Foster Parents

One of the songwriters of Symphony, Cassidy Estevez had this to say about the song: “…one of those themes which we landed on for this song, was how everyone has gone through some type of chaos in their lives, whether it is unemployment, family issues, marriage distress, difficulty raising kids, everybody has some type of chaos in their lives. We wanted to write a song that could be a prayer for people to sing in the middle of those circumstances.” She also added, “This song reminds us that even when you can only see a small part right now, God is doing something bigger and He is crafting something beautiful that we can only see when we zoom out.”

Worship with me to Symphony by worship band Switch:

Sometimes it’s hard to breathe
All these thoughts they shout at me
Try to bring me to my knees
And it’s overwhelming

Darkness echoes all around
Feels like everything is crashing down
Still I know where my hope is found
And it’s only you and ooh-ooh

You say you’re working everything for my good and ooh-ooh
I believe every word

‘Cause even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony

And even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony, oh

Tune my heart to your beat
Let me be your melody
Even when I cannot see
But you orchestrate it

Even when the dark surrounds
You’ll never let me drown
I know that my hope is found
In the name of Jesus

Ooh-ooh
You say you’re working everything for my good
And ooh-ooh
I believe every word

‘Cause even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony

And even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony, oh

Yo, I wanna truly know
If you compose beautiful
Music, though
From all my unruly notes
Distance is distant, it’s movin’ close

Now I see, erase the scales from my eyes
Then play the scale of my life
Chaos played off with a chord in accord
With a source prevailing through strife and

I’ve tasted suffering
I’ve been embraced by the painful buffering
I’ve been bound by doubts so loud right now
But a melody is made when you play these rusty keys

So we all gotta get pressed
Tuned up like instruments
But I know
All of life’s tempo is set
Whenever we remember this

That even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony

And even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony, oh

Ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, a symphony
Ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, a symphony
Ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, a symphony*

I’d like to close with this beautiful love letter fashioned for children with the words of our Heavenly Father (God’s Love Letter for adults also here).

Photo Credit: Father’s Love Letter

*Lyrics to Symphony by Switch – Songwriters: Louis Biancaniello, Michael Biancaniello, Cassidy Estevez

Hope Beyond Coronavirus Roger Carswell

Father’s Love Letter

Ministering the Love of the Fathers to the Fatherless – Anna Meade Harris

God Promises to Be a Father to the Fatherless – Barry Adams

5 Ways that Churches Can Stand in the Gap for the Fatherless – Daniel Darling

Chris Tomlin Reveals the Dream God Gave Him 10 Years Ago That Is Now Saving Children Across America

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar Star Wars, Christmas Music, Adult Children, Christmas Happenings, and the Perks of Walking

Happy Weekend! Well, I should ask how was your weekend as Friday Faves posts on the Monday after. These Fridays come so fast! Anyway, if you have a minute, there’s a lot of Friday joy here for your Monday.

1) Star Wars Classical Guitar – We are Star Wars geeks around here. This movie franchise is part of our Christmas tradition through the years, going together to see the latest film coming out. Those of you who, like me, are fans of Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar, may remember his holiday mashup A Star Wars Christmas.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Of course, if you are Star Wars fans, you have probably already listened to Beyond the Guitar’s library of various themes. So much sweet nostalgia.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Thanks to Disney+, we have a Star Wars space western that we can stream between the big screen escapades. The Mandalorian. If you love Star Wars, you will love it. Here is Nathan’s rendition of the main theme:

2) Christmas Music – It’s been our jam since October, and still need more time to savor it all. From the ridiculous to the rapturous. Love most all of it. How about you? Do you have favorites to share? In Comments, please.

December is full of way too many music events to take them all in. Community sing-alongs of The Messiah, King College styled Lessons and Carols performances, spontaneous Christmas pageants, just to name a few. One of our family’s annual traditions is the VCU Holiday Gala. This Friday night, one of our littles also joined us. A next generation joy.

On a larger scale, the Christmas band for King & Country performs an amazing Little Drummer Boy. A drumming feast for the senses!

3) Adult Children – If we have grandchildren, then we have adult children. Loving them both in ways they understand is a crucial part of our life journey. This week I came across 3 very different but thought-provoking articles that were meaningful to me and you may also find them to be so for you (the adult children or you parents of same).

  • Alison Wright‘s The Death of the Family Gathering – We’re in a season when extended family gatherings only happen over a funeral or wedding. My birth family never did reunions but they always looked so fun. We would, from time to time, gather at grandparents at the same time, but it was never planned. Wright’s article touched my heart. Then a great-niece wrote a beautiful Facebook post about the same article… We work to make family dinners happen once a month and a family vacation each year. Worth the battle with busy schedules.
  • Deb Wolf‘s How to Love Your Adult Children Really Well is pure wisdom and worth your read. https://countingmyblessings.com/love-your-adult-children/
  • Daniel Kurt‘s Long-term Care Insurance – Is It the Right Move for My Aging Parents? This may seem an odd post for a Friday Fave, but for ever how much time long-term care insurance is still around, it is definitely a consideration for us to give ourselves and our adult children…or invest in a family compound of some sort where everyone cares for everyone else. Either way, it’s a chunk of change, but worth it.

4) Christmas Happenings – Beyond the Christmas music events, so much goes on in the month of December around here. Henrico Christmas Mother is a charitable venture that helps needy families, the elderly and the disabled of our county. I only minimally volunteer for this, but it is an incredible experience to see how people and organizations come together to help those less advantaged have a happy Christmas.

In Richmond, we have the Tacky Light Tour which makes driving around the city at night a shimmering, and sometimes silly, wonder.

Gatherings with friends and family or nights at home when overwhelmed or just needing a quiet place…all part of Christmas.

Then…then there are the platters, boxes, small bags full of Christmas cookies – made with love, shared.Photo Credit (last pic): Facebook.com – Cookies by Patricia Good Eckard

5) The Perks of Walking – So after all the Christmas cookies, I’ll close with this helpful piece on the perks of walking. We all know the perks actually, but we’ll be doing more walking come the New Year, for sure.

6 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Walk Every Day

Have a great week! I have to tell you that sometime during the night I woke with the wonderful realization that we are still over 2 weeks away from Christmas. I went to bed thinking it was just 10 days away. When trying to squeeze all the glorious goodness of this special time of year, the days fairly fly. It was a pre-dawn gift to know that…there is still time.

Bonuses:

Team of Retired Navy Seals Are Saving Teenagers From Human Trafficking – Mark Pygas

Zipper Mergers Are a Target for Road Rage, but They’re the Ones Doing It Right, VDOT Says – Joann Kimberlin

Do You Take Hours to Make Simple Decisions? You May Have FOBO (Fear of Better Options)

The Problem with “Hey Guys” – Joe Pinsker

What Makes You “Multicultural” Stacey Fitzsimmons, Davina Vora, Lee Martin, Salma Raheem, Andre Pekerti, C. Lakshman

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed to Be a Blessing – Andy Flannagan

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” – God to Abraham –  Genesis 12:2

We are so blessed. It is not a cliche. It is truth. Even those who don’t believe that God is will still use the expression of being blessed.

I wonder, “by whom?”.

Earlier this week I wrote about silence as punishment…withholding our words, ourselves, from others. Today we focus on the opposite – blessing others, through our words and actions. Reaching out, drawing in. Speaking life and love. Listening close. Blessing.

We are blessed to be a blessing. From the beginning of time, when God instructed His first man and woman. Especially to childless Abraham who would receive that promise in faith…blessed to be a blessing.

Writer Tina Boesch has written a beautiful book on blessing: Given: the Forgotten Meaning and Practice of Blessing. The first page of the book begins with a Scottish blessing:Life be in my speech, sense in what I say…the love Christ Jesus gave  filling me for every one.” Boesch writes about how, no matter the situation or the persons in front of us, we can bless them, because He has so utterly blessed us.

Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.Colossians 3:17

From a young British friend’s Facebook page sometime ago, I was introduced to songwriter Andy Flannagan and Reverend Kevin Lewis. They both love Jesus and sing and write about blessing…

They cheer us on to shake off the weight of self-interest and reach out to a broken world…that those desperate for love will find it in the same Savior we know…and show by our love – our words and deeds – that He loves them, also.

5 Friday Faves – Married Life on Guitar, Anxiety in Children, Refugees, the Day of the Girl, and Life Without Sugar

Here you go and Happy Weekend!

1) Married Life on Guitar – Pixar’s 2009 animated film Up captivated all of us with its love story combined with buddy adventure. The tenderness of the story is accentuated by the music score composed by Michael Giacchino. “Married Life” is the musical theme of the movie and appropriate to the story – both joyful and sad. Just so lovely. Nathan Mills‘ arrangement and performance are spot on. All the feels, Beyond the Guitar. Thanks!

2) Anxiety in Children – By the nature of their development, children are smaller than adults. They should not be made to feel small by our interactions with them. Author W. R. Cummings has written extensively on childhood behavioral concerns. her piece on childhood anxiety hit me hard regarding the role of adults as negatively or positively influential in this struggle.

When You Make a Child Feel Anxious You Steal Their Ability to Think Rationally – Whitney Cummings

Photo Credit: Kinderling Kids

“We mean well, but we focus more on immediate change than we do on long-term success. Instead of teaching kids skills to make independent choices, we teach them how to obey our demands… When the change agent for a child’s behavior is fear of how they’ll be treated by a trusted adult if they don’t behave, the only thing we’ve taught them to do is how they behave around US. We haven’t given them any real tools on what to do around other adults, and we haven’t taught them a thing about intrinsic motivation. We haven’t taught them to be honest or kind or self-confident… We don’t need to lecture kids until they feel small. We don’t need to set them up for failure by asking them questions they don’t know the answer to. We don’t need to point out their poor choices in front of other people. We don’t need to use a voice tone we’d be ashamed to use in front of other adults. We don’t need to yell, scream, push, move, or punish kids.” – W. R. Cummings

We don’t really want to guilt or shame our children…or make them feel afraid…or small. In choosing the above quotes, neither do I want to guilt or shame parents. Parenting is hard sometimes. Cummings’ short piece goes on to encourage a different direction to take in parenting our children well. Take the time to read this and think about another way to correct or guide children. Sometimes it takes such a little detour – a small course change for us to become more loving, effective parents. If you are affirmed in your parenting by reading her blog, bravo!

3) Refugees – I am for refugee resettlement in the US. Here’s why:

It is a right thing…and we should make possible a viable and vetted path toward residence/citizenship. Slowing down the process will not serve well.

We are a wealthy nation, compared to most in the world. We have a system of vetting and receiving that works. Changes need to be made, for sure. Decreasing the numbers of refugees we receive will not improve our immigration system; it will only become more sluggish. We have a non-governmental organizations who team with our government agencies to effectively resettle refugees. When we drop numbers of refugees we receive, those non-profit agencies will not be able to maintain their infrastructure. Some will have to close. The resettlement of refugees is not the problem in the US. The problem seems to rest in the immigration system itself and the handling of those who try to go around our broken system in their desperation to enter and stay in the US.

I don’t have the answers necessarily, but I’m certain there are solutions more creative and constructive than just dropping the numbers of refugees we receive in the US.

In 1903, a plague was mounted on the Statue of Liberty. The script on the plaque is the poem The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus. See the poem below.Photo Credit: Democratic Underground

Much has changed in the world in these over 100 years since that poem was posted to the podium of the Statue of Liberty. What has not changed is moral responsibility, human decency, and the call of God to care for those in difficult straits. We can’t turn our eyes away and pretend not to see. Decreasing numbers of refugees will only make it harder for those driven from their own homeland to find a home anywhere in the world. We want to do better than that…to be better than that.

Thoughts?

Evangelical Advocates Feel the Sting of More Trump Refugee Cuts – Kate Shellnutt

Don’t Underestimate the Impact of Lowering the US Refugee Ceiling – Matthew Soerens

4) The Day of the Girl – Today is the International Day of the Girl Child. We don’t have to look very far in the news to see that being a girl in many countries of the world is not a positive thing…in fact, it can be a deadly thing.

Photo Credit: Jagran Josh

Photo Credit: Jena Powell, Facebook

We in the States often hear the lament of women in the workplace and the impenetrability of “the glass ceiling” for most. For too many in the larger world, even the opportunity for education and work she chooses is entirely too out of reach.

What can we do about it? The link below offers options for all of us, no matter our nationality or political ideology.

10 Ways to Actually Help Girls on International Day of the Girl – Melissa Locker

5) Life Without Sugar – Every January, I try to eliminate sugar from my diet for a month at least. Well, added sugar anyway. It is more challenging than you might think, but the article below by Lisa Drayer helps each time.

One-month Sugar Detox: a Nutritionist Explains How and WhyLisa Drayer

This past January, I didn’t do a sugar detox and have suffered for it with reckless eating and weight gain. My resolve is building and hopefully curbing carbs in earnest is just on the horizon.

Writer, biologist Olivia Judson tells a fascinating story about her own reasoning about and journey into a life without sugar. Really good read.

I hope never to become my own or someone else’s sugar police. Holidays and special occasions carry their own sweet indulgences. The key here is the word “indulgence”. Sugar has a long dark history including slavery. The impact of sugar on our health is huge, especially regarding long-term chronic illnesses.Photo Credit: Smithsonian Magazine

We all know this and a no-sugar lifestyle is probably impractical. However, a low-sugar lifestyle is doable. Helping our children to avoid a sugar addiction from an early age will give them a headstart on a healthier, longer, and stronger life.

20 No-added Sugar Snacks for Kids – Katie Serbinski – Mom to Mom Nutrition

Photo Credit: Mom to Mom Nutrition

America’s National Institute of Nutrition and the Barbaric History of Sugar – Aarn Farmer

Bonuses:

The Neighbor’s Table – Inside a Father-Daughter Business – Bringing Neighbors Together

De-Converting, and the One Remaining Question

These Bear Cubs Were Done For, and Then Some Fishermen Intervened

The Six Cents Report – Black Privilege

The Six Cents Report – Black Forgiveness

The Addicted Brain – Amazon Prime

The Mind, Explained – Netflix

Don’t Blame Incivility on Religion. Christian Principles Are an Antidote to Nastiness – Daniel Darling

Monday Morning Moment – A Store Opens and a Business Thrives – Thanks to a Decades-Old Business Philosophy Still Relevant Today

In all the years I’ve known Dave’s Uncle Bob, he made grocery shopping and restaurant meals more like field trips. He was a grocer for many years and then owned and operated restaurants later in life. Never meeting a stranger and one of the most kindly and engaged men I’ve ever known, he would talk to anyone who was willing. About the store/restaurant design, why the particular products or menu items, taking everything in through his experienced and cultivated senses. Then we would talk about it. “Do you see how they….?” “You know what she said about….?” I learned so much from him about customer service, product presentation, and business practices. He had a terrific understanding about what makes for excellence.

I think Uncle Bob and Mr. George could have had great talks.

George W. Jenkins, Jr. was the founder of Publix Supermarkets. He opened his first Publix food store in 1930, during the Great Depression. He and his store associates managed to make it through that trying time when so many businesses suffered or closed.

Last week, I attended the family night before the Grand Opening of another Publix Supermarket in Richmond, Va. We now have them all over the city, but they only arrived here in 2017. Richmond has several grocery store chains, and I wasn’t sure how Publix would do…but…it has prospered.

I learned much about the store at that pre-grand opening family night (store employees are called associates and the family night was for families of this latest store’s associates). The store was ready to go. Groceries, produce, prepared foods, meat and dairy were all in place in gleaming cases. For the families, snack stations were set up all over the store. It was yummy! Then we were gathered for the welcomes and introductions of different department leads. There was a prayer which I thought unusual but special. Then Mr. George’s name was often spoken as different individuals talked about how special Publix was to them through the years. The company seems not to have experienced mission drift in all these 89 years since the first store opening.

Todd Jones, the CEO of Publix Supermarkets, was present as well as several other regional executives. There was much applause as he asked for a show of hands of those who had worked for Publix from less than a year on up. Two persons had worked for 45 years at Publix. One of them had started as a bag boy, like Todd Jones himself. Whenever possible, Publix promotes from within. It was neat to see how employees could very naturally rise to the top as they took opportunity for training and leading over years of work.

I picked up a little booklet at the welcome table. It was entitled Lessons From Our Founder – Publix’s Founder George W. Jenkins. Here they are listed below:

  • Invest in others. – Publix is the largest employee-owned grocery chain in the US. Every employee (even parttimers after 1000 hrs. can buy stock. Ownership brings its own desire for excellence.
  • Give back. – Mr. George was a philanthropist throughout his life as a successful businessman. Once asked, “Mr. George, how much do you think you’d be worth today if you hadn’t give so much away?” His immediate response was: “Probably nothing.”
  • Prepare for opportunity. – Publix employees, or associates, have opportunities from the beginning to apply themselves toward excellence and future job advancement.
  • Be there. – Mr. George knew the importance of being present in his stores. CEO Todd Jones follows his example in attending store openings and celebrating associates’ advancement. Being there, at all levels, matters.
  • Respect the dignity of the individual. – Mr. George also always had an open door policy. He welcomed ideas. He allowed for mistakes. He cared about the associates. Each person brought something special to the work.
  • Treat customers like royalty. – This, for all of us customers, is the best part. No matter how beautiful the stores are or how good the food is…how we are treated is why we come back.

Do the right thing. – That was Mr. George’s summary on his business philosophy.

What company out there would not profit from such a corporate philosophy?

Finally, in case you don’t have a Publix in your city but run across one in your travels: the best cakes and fried chicken in our town now!

In the Words of Mr. George – Jennifer B.