Category Archives: Jesus

Worship Wednesday – Standing Firm, Side by Side, Not Afraid – in God’s Strength and His Salvation

Photo Credit: Philipp M., Pexels

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

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

When I read this passage again a few days ago, a charge from these words sizzled through me like electricity. Goosebumps and all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 62 – Trust in God Alone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 – Something So Much Bigger Than Our Fear – Your Presence, Lord – Francesca Battistelli

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Where does fear come from? That fear that tears at our insides and causes our thoughts to scatter and light on the dreaded “what if’s”. That fear that draws us away from the promise of God’s constant care to the wrong thinking that we are left alone…to fend for ourselves and those we love.

It doesn’t come from God. I’ve written several times on one of my favorite and most fear-busting Bible verses, 2 Timothy 1:7. The Apostle Paul reassures us that God isn’t the One who causes us to fear. On the contrary, He actually gives us “power, love, and self-control/sound thinking”.

When we are tempted to fear, the struggle is against three “enemies of the soul” – the world, the evil one (Satan), and/or our own flesh (humanness).

We are presently hemmed in by a pandemic. COVID-19 has many of us on a sort of house arrest. It would be so easy to give into fear. Fear of the disease…fear of one another…fear of our own death or giving the virus to someone else.

Listen to what a pastor friend of mine says about how our core values as Christ-followers can be shaken as we are torn between living “safe” and living obedient to God.

“It is NOT NORMAL to view other humans (or ourselves) as potential carriers of death who must be avoided. To live and maneuver as if there was something so intrinsically deadly about people that we must constantly protect ourselves? This isn’t how human interactions and relationships are supposed to be! Make no mistake, this covid-19 stuff is causing relational trauma and teaching us things we will have to un-learn.

We are going to need time to readjust our thinking and prepare our hearts to be with people again. To allow ourselves to be (at least to a degree) unguarded and open. To look people in the eyes and communicate welcome and warmth, to mirror one another’s body language. To allow ourselves to be soothed by relationship, not threatened by it. To remember that God plans to use people in our lives for good.

We are not designed to adjust to a “new normal” that doesn’t allow for human connection. True, connection might look different for awhile. But we aren’t just biological cells prone to viruses; we are humans – image bearers – who are meant for relationship. Let’s not forget this!”Jared Corrie Burwell, Facebook

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

A couple of days ago, I finally got some needed dental work postponed for two months because of the social distancing. It was a chipped molar requiring a crown.

I am afraid of dental work. Afraid the pain will rip through the anesthetic. Afraid I can’t endure a long procedure. Afraid I could contract a deadly virus. You name it, I could fear it related to dentists.

Does that exhibit “power, love, or sound thinking?” Well, no. God knows this struggle and He keeps his promises. I am the frail one; not Him.

So I prayed…

During that longish time in the chair, I was supposed to be calmed by the repeat video on the screen in front of me. Beach, waves, blue sky. If fear is your foe, that scene can make you want to scream after awhile. Then the playlist…it was actually relaxing. Standard rock music of the 70s and 80s. Oddly, early in the “drilling” part of that experience, a familiar refrain, not from that era, penetrated my focused-elsewhere hearing.

“Your presence, Lord.” From a song I had heard often since it debuted in 2014.

Worship with me today, as I worshiped that day in the dentist chair:

There’s nothing worth more that will ever come close
Nothing can compare, You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free and my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen, of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free, and my shame is undone
By Your presence, Lord

Let us become more aware of Your presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness*

God is so kind to His children.

Whatever is causing us to fear at the moment – be it a dentist chair, an alarming symptom for which we await a doctor’s appointment, a complicated marriage, our sense of inadequacy with our children, or the visitation of COVID-19 itself on us or someone we love.

The world is full of stuff to fear, but God is with His. His presence ever with us. He will take us through whatever comes. He will rescue us.

I wish dentists would tell you, “We’re about halfway through…we have about 10 minutes and then you’ll be done.” “Almost over.” That didn’t happen at this visit. Just about the time I was about to ask for “a moment”…to stretch my back, calm my rising panic, and let my mouth relax from all the stretching…one more refrain broke through the 70s-80s songs.

It was the words “I will rescue you.” From singer songwriter Lauren Daigle‘s song “Rescue”.

And then, it was over. Oh, the dental visit lasted a bit longer, but I was calm again.

Some who read this may think I’m such a baby. In light of the huge threat in our world from this pandemic.

Maybe I am a baby…but, thank God, I’m His baby. These baby steps through small pains, small threats, small fears prepare me/us for the larger ones. Remembering that He is with us and He will rescue us… one way or another. Hallelujah!

He will never be shaken.
The righteous one will be remembered forever.
He will not fear bad news;
his heart is confident, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is assured; he will not fear.
In the end he will look in triumph on his foes.Psalm 112:6-8

Photo Credit: Roy T. Bennett, Twitter

Do you struggle with fear? How are you handling it? [Comment below.] Believe me, I’m aware of the struggle. Praise God, He is present with us.

*Lyrics to Holy Spirit [Your Presence, Lord] – Songwriters: Bryan Torwalt, Katie Torwalt

Worship Wednesday – My Fear Doesn’t Stand a Chance When I Stand in Your Love – Bethel Music – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – You Say – Lauren Daigle – Deb Mills

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.”

Worship Wednesday – The Forgiven Forgive – David Crowder & Matthew West

Photo Credit: FBC Yorktown, NY

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”Matthew 6:12

Early in Jesus’ earthly ministry, he preached out on a hillside to a great throng of people. This Sermon on the Mount set in motion the public teaching of Christ. In it, he focused on the hearts of men and women rather than on the religious law.

Toward the end of this sermon, he taught those in hearing how to pray. Within this beautiful prayer is the verse above:

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

In this short verse, we hear both our need for God’s forgiveness as well as our need to forgive others.

All my life, I have heard how important it is to forgive:

  • “Keep short accounts.” – my mama
  • “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes
  • “Don’t retry people in the court of your emotions.” – Tom Elliff
  • “As long as you don’t forgive, who and whatever it is will occupy a rent-free space in your mind.” – Isabelle Holland

The verse from the Lord’s Prayer calls us to ask God’s forgiveness for the debt of sin we owe and are unable to pay (thus needing Jesus as Savior). We ask God’s forgiveness as we forgive others – even if we are determined they owe us something (thus the word debts/debtors).

Seeking forgiveness for ourselves and forgiving others have high priority to God. They both relate to keeping our hearts pure before the Lord, keeping us from having a seared conscience, and acting for the sake of our brother/sister, restoring our fellowship with him/her (unity).

It is urgent that we ask for forgiveness and take action to forgive. Right away.

If we have sinned against another, leave our gift and go ask forgiveness.Matthew 5:23-24, also Mark 11:25

Leave Your Gift and Go – Life Action

As soon as we sense, or hear, or are made aware that we have sinned against someone, we need to move to make it right. Quickly. There is much at stake: our right relationship with that person, and guarding our own hearts from apathy, justifying ourselves, or shifting blame. In other words, sin heaped upon sin. When we remember how much God has forgiven us, we are tuned into the destructive nature of sin on ourselves and others.

Then, on the flip side, if someone has sinned against us, go to him and seek peace…be reconciled. – from Matthew 18:15-17

In my 20s, I had this great friend and roommate. She required very little from me. In fact, we got into a routine of her taking out the garbage and me letting her. It just seemed she preferred doing it, or so I wrongly thought. It may seem a small thing, but it grew big as sin does when it is left uncorrected. After some time, it became a point of contention, and she confronted me with my lack of care for her in this. I was truly sorry and asked her forgiveness.

She wasn’t ready to just let me off with my “I’m sorry.” We were both pretty serious Christ followers at that time, and I blurted out:  “You HAVE to forgive me.” We knew what the Scripture said on unforgiveness.

She forgave me, and that conversation was a turning point in our friendship. I am forever thankful for her courage in confronting my sin and forgiving me. We are still friends, many years later.

What To Do If Someone Sins Against You: the Teaching of Jesus – Mark D. Roberts

When Jesus told his disciples to pray for forgiveness as they forgive others did he not, then, mean that I should pray something like this: “Father, forgive me for my failure today to forgive [Dave]. I was irritable and wrapped up in myself and when he said what he said I flew off the handle at him and held a grudge all day, savoring in my mind how I might show him up, and keeping count of all the times he wronged me. My conscience smote me this afternoon when you reminded me of your constant mercy toward me. So I went to him and apologized (Mark 11:25). I do not desire to hold the grudge any longer. You have rid me of my selfish indignation and so I pray you will forgive my failure to forgive [Dave] earlier today and let me not fall into that temptation again.” Forgiveness is not a work by which we earn God’s forgiveness. It flows from a heart satisfied with the mercy of God and rejoicing in the cancellation of our own ten million dollar debt (Matthew 18:24). With man it is impossible, but not with God. – John Piper

Forgive Us Our What? Three Ways to Say the Lord’s Prayer – Jon Bloom

If I Fail to Forgive Others, Will God Not Forgive Me? – John Piper

It is not easy to forgive always. Some wounds are deep and reopened often. God gives grace. We cling to Him and to the amazing grace we have because of His forgiveness. Our emotions may lag behind and may take time, but we can forgive in an instant. Mark it down and remember it to God, ourselves, and (when necessary) the Evil One who accuses. We can forgive in an instant, and healing will begin.

Two songs come to mind in thinking about our hearts toward forgiveness. David Crowder’s Forgiven and Matthew West’s Forgiveness. They both take us to the very teaching of Christ – how much our sin separated us from God – and how we who are forgiven from our burden of sin will never want hold onto the sin of unforgiveness. The forgiven forgive.

Worship with me with the help of these two songs pointing us to a heart of forgiveness, a heart bent toward God. A heart He tenders toward those who need forgiveness, too.

Heavenly Father, thank You for this pattern of prayer that Jesus taught. Give me a gentle spirit and help me to be quick to forgive all those who have hurt or abused me… knowing that for Christ’s sake I have been forgiven of so much. I pray that I may maintain close fellowship with You, and be swift to forgive those who sin against me – in Jesus name, AMEN.” – Daily Verse

Precept Austin – Exhaustive study of Matthew 6:11-12

Forgiven to Forgive – Allen Webster

Forgiveness – First Presbyterian Church, Yorktown, NY

Worship Wednesday – Proximity to God and the Marginalized – Nearness – Nearer to God

Photo Credit: Heartlight

But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.Ephesians 2:13

On the day of the September 11, 2001 attacks and during the COVID-19 pandemic, we marvel at our first responders and health care workers. Running toward danger. Staying on the frontlines. For the sake of others.

We have a Savior who came close to us…who made a way for us to be reconciled to holy God. We could not redeem our sinful selves. We cannot, in our sinful conditions, draw near to the God of this universe. Except for a sinless savior who drew near to us, who bridged the distance, who made a way for us to be restored to God.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!2 Corinthians 9:15

Earlier this week I watched the documentary True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality. In this film, he uses the word “proximity” in a way that immediately reminded me of the life of Jesus…and the life to which he calls us.

Bryan Stevenson is an American attorney who works with some of the hardest cases in the court system. Predominately, he advocates for those who may not have received (did not receive) fair and right judgments and find themselves in long prison terms, some even on Death Row.

Bryan Stevenson at TED2012: Full Spectrum, February 27 – March 2, 2012. Long Beach, CA. Photo: James Duncan Davidson – WikipediaRead some of what he says about “proximity”:

“We’ve got to find ways to get proximate to the poor and the vulnerable…There is power in proximity….I am the product of someone’s choice to get proximate.” – Bryan Stevenson, Fortune’s CEO Initiative

Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. Finally, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”  – Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
“The kind of hope that creates a willingness to position oneself in a hopeless place and be a witness, that allows one to believe in a better future, even in the face of abusive power. That kind of hope makes one strong.” –  Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption – Bryan Stevenson

True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality – 2019 HBO Documentary

Just Mercy – 2019 Warner Brothers film

In our current situation with COVID-19, proximity is not something we can as easily pursue as before now. Still, the kind of proximity that Mr. Stevenson urges has never been easy. It cost Jesus everything.

For the love of Christ and in obedience to him (for the sake of those around us), we seek creative ways to be proximate. Our proximity to others, especially to those suffering, must be grounded in and infused by our proximity to a loving and empowering God.

We are called to worship. Two songs come to mind: Bethel Music’s Jenn Johnson’s Nearness and Sarah F. Adams’ Nearer, My God, to Thee. Both videos below include the lyrics to these worship songs. Take one of these options to soak into your soul today as we draw near to the God who draws near to us. He calls us to proximity to Him, to His people, and to those not yet His people.

11 Contemporary Christian Songs That Are Perfect For When You Are Crying Out to God – Beverly Gard

Near to God – Song Resources

Just Mercy Quotes – Good Reads

“Do Some Uncomfortable and Inconvenient Things”: A Civil Rights Champion’s Call to Action for CEOs – Matthew Heimer (watch the video at start of the article)

TED Talk – We Need to Talk About Injustice – Bryan Stevenson

5 Friday Faves – Spring Flowers, Beyond the Guitar Podcast, Wisdom of Vala Afshar, A Small Town with COVID-19, and Caring Communities

Happy weekend!

1) Spring Flowers – You know the old proverb “April showers bring May flowers”. Well, the April flowers here in the state of Virginia are pretty spectacular right now. Rhododendron, irises, roses, columbine, pinks, and begonias are dazzling with color in our backyard. More varieties will come in May, but these flowers have sure helped us thrive with the “stay at home” COVID-19 order. The rains have come, for sure, and the flowers keep coming. Glory!

2) Beyond the Guitar Podcast – So everyone who visits this page knows we’re huge fans (followers, supporters, whatever) of Nathan Mills (at Beyond the Guitar). The fact that he is our son could be how we “discovered” him, but not the reason we love his music. He is one of the hardest working, most creative, big-hearted musicians I know. When he plays classical guitar you can hear the emotion of the pieces – whether film or TV show themes, or video game music. There was a time when he livestreamed for awhile on an app called krue which is no longer with us but a lot of fun for its season. On his livestreams, he would even sing and talk awhile with us about the music we all loved. #NathanSings and #NathanTalks are rare these days. Well, until now!! Last week, Nathan, with close friend and fellow musician Jeremiah Dias, launched their podcast.  They talk about how it all began – both their friendship and their music careers. Who knows what all they will cover next time, so you’ll want to subscribe.

3) Wisdom from Vala AfsharMr. Afshar calls himself, on Twitter, the Chief Digital Evangelist @Salesforce. I don’t really know what that means, but I do know that he earns a followership because of the dense amount of great information he posts. All encouraging. All fascinating. A few days ago, he listed out 33 bits of wisdom as a thread on Twitter.

Some I’d heard before, but in that long list, I was reminded of how much we have in us (ability/opportunity) to change the course of our lives “as we get older”. Of the 33, here are a few of my favorites:

  • Networking is about giving.
  • If you are waiting for a title to lead, you are not ready to lead.
  • Imposter syndrome is real.
  • Love and cherish your parents by giving them your time.
  • Takers may end up with more, but givers sleep better at night.
  • Good listeners hear the unsaid.
  • Never ruin an apology with excuses.

Did any of these remind you of a favorite wisdom statement? Please comment below. Thanks.

4) A Small Town with COVID-19 – Albany, Georgia. I have a dear friend from that little town in South Georgia and a very large and favorite church calls Albany home.  Other than that, Albany, Georgia, was unknown to me until this Spring when COVID-19 swept through there. It apparently began when an older gentleman came to town in March to attend the funeral of a friend. He either came to town with the virus or contracted it while in Albany. After his death, several others from the funeral party also became ill with COVID-19. As the weeks went by with more and more cases, Albany became the fourth hardest hit town in the US.Photo Credit: Downtown Albany, Ga Facebook page

I have devoured all the news out of Albany over their response to COVID-19. Rural populations don’t have the medical resources available to larger towns and cities. These people must determine how to work together and how best to respond to the health crisis they (nor any of us) were prepared for. So thankful for their resilience.

The Black Pastor Watching the COVID-19 Virus Ravage His Town – David Dent

Rural America Needs Help To Face COVID-19 – Dr. Jennifer Olsen

5) Caring Communities – Of course, none of us prefer the mandates of self-distancing and staying at home. It’s one thing for us individually to take a break from people or to spend a few days in a staycation of our own choosing. To be given orders from our government is something we are not used to.

The isolation is itself difficult but the unknown is worse. Are we making a difference in holding off COVID-19? It is possible we could do less but we will never know (hopefully) how bad it could get if we weren’t self-distancing.

After so many weeks of self-isolating, and the clinical knowledge growing in the medical community, we are beginning to have mixed messages of what is necessary/appropriate.

YouTube Video – ER Physician Drops Multiple COVID-19 Bombshells – Viral

Getting cynical is not the answer. Nor is throwing off caution.

While we are sorting out next steps, what a blessing it is to be in caring communities – surrounded (six feet apart) by people who love one another and encourage and inspire each other.

These communities could be attached to our work or our neighborhood. Our church or civic group. Our family and friends. Photo Credit: Jared Burwell, Movement Church

People we can count on to reach out to us and serve us when we need them the most. People we can reach out to as well.

Community. Always, and especially in these days, we need to know we have it…even if, for now, it comes in the form of a video meeting.

5 favorite finds for this week…what are some of yours? Please respond in the Comments. Keep safe and be well. God is with us.

Bonuses:

A Therapist’s Simple Rule Transformed My Marriage – Jancee Dunn

Captive Thoughts – Sherwood Baptist Church

Country singer and songwriter Lauren Mascitti was, just until last week, a contestant on the TV show American Idol 2020 season. She is amazing. Lauren’s performances on this show, especially her original songs, were so big, full of heart. Her original song “God Made a Woman” is my favorite (minute 2:35 in above link). The lyric version is here.

A Side Effect of the Covid-19 Pandemic? Reading Got a Lot Harder – Emma Pettit

7 Ways to Make a Senior [Citizen]’s Day While Social Distancing

People Recreate Works of Art With Objects Found at Home During Self-Quarantine – Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine

Grandpa Remembers Back When We Were in the Time of Coronavirus

When God Makes Us Wait – Barbara Rainey

Photo Credit: Karen Garner

Worship Wednesday – Revive Us Again – Phil Wickham

Photo Credit: His Inscriptions, Deborah Perkins

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants and my blessing on your offspring.”Isaiah 44:3

Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not appealed to what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. –  Psalm 24:3-5

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14

Late last night a friend sent a video to me vai Facebook Messenger. It was rare for her to do this, and when I woke this morning, I watched it first thing.

It was a story told during a sermon by Dr. Clarence Sexton. He spoke in loving awe of the movement of God which resulted in an astonishing revival. We call it today the Hebrides Revival, in Scotland, 1949-1952.

The Hebrides Revival (1949-1952) – Some Observations by R. T. Kendall

As Dr. Sexton tells the story, he links generations (to the present day). Two Scottish sisters in their 80s were key to this movement of God as they came under terrible conviction of the need for revival. They began praying for hours at a time, and after a time, several joined them in prayer. In a tiny village on the Scottish island of Lewis.

Revival on the Island of Lewis: 1949-1952

The generations linked are from these old aunts to a niece who immigrated, in her late teens, to the US. then she met and married an American man. They had four children – one of whom is the  45th President of the United States.

Desperate Prayers by Trump’s Great Aunts in ‘Sanctuary’ Cottage said to Spark Hebrides Revival in Scotland

Sometime during this president’s childhood, the old Scottish aunts sent their niece a Bible. This particular Bible had significant meaning during their prayer vituals leading up to the Hebrides Revival. At some point, this niece gave this Bible to her son.

Dr. Sexton says this Bible is now in the Oval Office of the White House. One Bible given to this President by his mother was used as part of the swearing in ceremony. Whether it was the Revival Bible or another Bible given by his mother…it is unclear from what I could find. Either way, one of our current President’s Bibles, the one used in the Inauguration, is now in the Museum of the Bible, in Washington, DC.

So we don’t really know (at least I don’t) if this treasured old Bible is in the Oval Office –  this revered text, prayed through and around by a small group of believers in Scotland in the mid-20th century. That’s not really what this story is about.

We do know that great-aunts of the President of the United States sought and saw the miraculous movement of God over their town, their island, and beyond.

That connection stoked the fire in my heart of the possibilities – not just in this President’s life, but in the lives of all of us who can follow in the steps of those Godly old ones.

What if we prayed instead of complained? Prayed instead of reviled? Prayed instead of bemoaning a current situation?

Oh God, help us. We believe; help our unbelief (Mark 9:24).

Let’s worship together to Phil Wickham‘s song “Revive Us Again“. Let’s pray for our President and all who lead in our country and pray revival for our own hearts and for this nation.

When You move, hearts awaken
Broken lives will be redeemed
Here and now, as in Heaven
Let revival be released

Hear our cry
Heal our land
Oh God, we pray for revival
What You’ve done before
You can do again
Oh God, we pray for revival

God of grace, God of salvation
We are desperate on our knees
You can save this generation
Let revival be released

Hear our cry
Heal our land
Oh God, we pray for revival
What You’ve done before
You can do again
Oh God, we pray for revival

Oh God, we pray for revival

Like a river running through the barren land
Let mercy flow, revive us again
Move in power, save us by Your mighty hand
Let mercy flow, revive us again
Like a river running through the barren land
Let mercy flow, revive us again
Move in power, save us by Your mighty hand
Let mercy flow, revive us again
Revive us again

Hear our cry
Heal our land
Oh God, we pray for revival
What You’ve done before
You can do again
Oh God, we pray for revival

Oh God, we pray for revival
Oh God, revive us again*

I would like to close with this prayer from author Deborah Perkins who senses a great urgency in God moving us toward revival:

“Father, please show me what You are doing right now on the earth and what I can do to partner with You. Let Your Kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it already is in heaven!

“Jesus, please open my mind to understand the times and seasons in which I live. Interpret and explain everything to me concerning YOU and how you move in the Scriptures! Inscribe your laws in my mind and on my heart so that I obey You perfectly. Forgive me for anything that stands in the way of Your glory manifesting in my life.

Holy Spirit, show me how to pray according to the will of God. Please show me what I need to do right now to get ready for the incoming harvest. What do I have in my house (natural or spiritual) that you can use? Who do you want me to reach today? How will I do that, practically? Thank you for working with me personally to produce the fruits of repentance: righteousness, peace, and joy!”

*Lyrics to Revive Us Again – Songwriters: Jonathan Smith, Phil Wickham

‘God Seemed to Be Everywhere’ on Island Trump’s Mother Called Home – Rev. Gareth Burke

YouTube Video – Phil Wickham – Revive Us Again: Song Session

Revive Us Again! – Deborah Perkins

Worship Wednesday – Gratitude Flattens Fear – Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Photo Credit: Interrupting the Silence

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

You yourself have recorded my wanderings.
Put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will retreat on the day when I call.
This I know: God is for me. – Psalm 56: 3-4, 8-9

When I am afraid..when I am afraid…when I am afraid…I will trust in You, God…This I know: God is for me.

There’s a lot of fear in the air these days as the Coronavirus pandemic makes its way across our states and the world’s nations. We hear a lot about flattening the curve of the new cases and mortality rates. What we need to flatten as well is the strangling fear that rises up with the COVID case numbers.

Fear is an enemy to our health and to our hearts.

Fear may also look more like anger when people politicize the problem or rail at the why’s of this disease we are facing.

Blaming, fault-finding, nay-saying.

Both fear and anger have negative impact on our immune systems and sense of well-being – both of which are vital to staying healthy.

How about our faith? Is there a way we can flip fear as believers?

Absolutely. When we shake ourselves out of the “what-if’s” and into the “what-is”, our thinking clears. Our shoulders drop. We breathe. We remember.

Whatever the enemy…human foes or COVID-19…God is present with us and He is for us.

Psychologist Gregg Jantz Ph.D. reminds us that Gratitude Is an Antidote for Anger and Fear. In his article, he states,Gratitude is an antidote for fear. Fear focuses on all the things that could go wrong. Gratitude focuses on all the things that have gone right. When our gratitude is based upon the power and promises of God, we have an abundance of things that have gone right!”

This morning I came across the Reba McEntire 2017 song Back to God. Early in the video, she sits in an empty church.Photo Credit: GodTube

The story in the video begins in a cemetery and then moves to an empty church (which looks normal to us now with COVID). As Reba sings, we see individuals and small groups dealing with losses. There is sadness, isolation, anger, fear. Something like we are feeling in our current situation.

When we find ourselves, because of this pandemic, without work or school, facing ruined plans, or worse…unable to delay deaths of people we love…we are prone to default to fear.

Throughout Scripture, God calls us to remember. Remember who He is and how He has moved throughout history and in our own personal lives. To pull ourselves up out of fear and take a longer view of gratitude for a good and gracious Father God. He is for us. He stands with us, in whatever feels like it is overtaking us.

Reba’s song is an anthem for us who say we believe…to pray like we do…whatever it takes to turn our fear, anger, loss…and unbelief…to a loving God. We want to hold this life, our loves, our preferred “normal” tightly in our hands…but.

Because He is good, and we remember, we open our hands, and trust Him with what He gave us in the first place. Whatever comes, He is faithful in His love and at His word.

Worship with me with the help of this great old hymn and remember that God is ever and always faithful:

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

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

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

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

At the end of Reba’s video, the church building goes from her alone to being filled with all those who had experienced anguish and loss… a church filled with worshipers. People praying and praising God. All together.

That’s who we are and who He calls us to be. We may, for a season, be physically distanced from each other, but we are still in this together, and Him always with us.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.Revelation 21:3-4

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

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

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

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