Category Archives: Community

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 Sweetness, Words Matter, Leading Teams, Long-lost Relatives, and Shared Sacrifice

Happy Weekend!

I don’t know about you, but this pandemic has me way more distracted than I want to be. It’s a good thing to be informed and to abide by the recommended safe practices. The struggle for me is the bent toward being glued to the news updates. Becoming a content expert on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a private citizen will not make a difference in the larger…global…sense of this problem.

For the moment, let’s be champions of safe practices and in tune to our communities, especially the most at-risk, vulnerable. We can still reach out, in creative ways, still maintaining social distancing for now.

How thankful we all are for the medical/nursing professionals, first responders, scientists, and policy-makers out there helping us get through this! Also the lab workers, waste management folks, truckers, grocery and other food providers, farmers, etc. etc.

Two weeks…let’s pray these two weeks can make a difference (in all our countries) in the morbidity/mortality of this strange and sobering disease.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus – A Guide to Christian Leaders – Andy Crouch [the author will update as our situation in the US changes]

1) Classical Guitar Sweetness –This week Nathan Mills arranged and performed the exquisite Pure Imagination. This is one of the lovely songs composed by  Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley for the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Listen to Nathan’s sweetly nostalgic arrangement here.

Photo Credit: YouTube

2) Words matter. – Our nation has been divided along political and ideological lines for some time now. With the growing and deadly problem of the Coronavirus in our country, we are being compelled to come together to turn around the devastation of this disease. In just over five weeks, we in the US have gone from a handful of cases to over 25,000. The political race for the next US Presidency has gone almost quiet, as everyone with any power does what they can for the sake of all Americans.

For our politicians to be willing to cooperate across the aisle and to speak the truth to each other and all of us, it sends a huge message of hope. Maybe we can come together as a nation again one day.

I wrote earlier this week about what we could learn from Mr. Rogers. The quote below is his…and serves us well today. If forgiveness didn’t take root in your young lives, it isn’t too late.

“Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love. Like all of life’s important coping skills, the ability to forgive and the capacity to let go of resentments most likely take root very early in our lives.”Fred Rogers

45 Quotes From Mr. Rogers That We All Need Today – Geoffrey James

3) Leading Teams – Patrick Lencioni in the business world and Carey Nieuwhof in the church world are two of my favorite thought leaders. Below you will find two recent posts by them. Lencioni talks about the ideal team player in a new TEDx talk. I read his book of the same name and was enthralled by his talk on the three attributes of that team member – humble, hungry and smart. He also points out what you have to deal with when a teammate doesn’t have all three. The TEDx talk is a fast and fascinating rendering of his book.

Then Carey Nieuwhof takes on our current situation of teams working remotely. With so many of us practicing social distancing (a new phrase thanks to the Coronavirus), leading a “digital team” can be complicated. Nieuwhof gives wise counsel in his quick read below. Personalizing the experience of working from home is key.

My Top 7 Rules For Leading A Digital Team

4) Long-lost Relatives – Have you ever gone looking for relatives you’ve lost touch with? I’ve certainly done that with friends, and thanks to Facebook, long-ago relationships were happily rekindled.

In recent days, with the threat of this virus, and our hearts enlarging toward others, an opportunity presented itself to find cousins long-lost. Because of my parents’ divorce, my biological father’s family was a complete unknown. My mom and her siblings grew up with an alcoholic father). As happens with adult children of alcoholics, the shared pain was not something that held them together. One cousin who I haven’t seen in at least 30 years reached out to me, and we had a long and lovely phone conversations.

He filled in so many gaps on his family, and I was grateful. We also talked about my family, of course. His genuine interest and care touched my heart. Now I’m inspired to widen the search. To be honest, some of the conversations ahead may be painful…losses unshared, evolved misunderstandings…who knows what I will encounter. The risk is worth the reward of knowing these people… overdue as it is.

5) Shared Sacrifice – This is a new expression for me. I thought it was a concept borne out of our fight as a nation against the Coronavirus. However, it’s been used before – this idea of all of us cinching up our belts for one another’s sakes. President Obama talked about “shared sacrifice” and now President Trump calls us to it. Sociologist Jerome Karabel posted this week a beautiful piece on how the US steps up during times of war:

“America’s history demonstrates that, in times of war, we can rise above our ardent individualism and suspicion of the government and come together to defend the public good. So if we can…come to perceive today’s crisis as a war, we will rise to the occasion as we have done in the past. 

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, a spirit of shared sacrifice was everywhere visible: in the thousands of men and women who volunteered for duty, in the public’s acceptance of rationing, in labor’s no-strike pledge, in the purchase of war bonds by Americans of every economic level, and in the eighteen million “victory gardens” which produced one-third of the nation’s vegetables. During World War II, business converted to wartime production with astonishing speed, producing 300,000 military planes, 86,000 tanks, and 71,000 ships…[Today] the nation is at war with a deadly and stealthy foe. Like World War II, the current situation demands personal sacrifice and social solidarity. But unlike in World War II, we cannot wait years to win the war; this is a war that must be won in weeks, or at most, months. Every day of delay has the potential to cost thousands of lives. And if we do not act with decisiveness now, the toll may go well beyond the 405,399 Americans who died in World War II.” – Jerome Karabel

As government advances billions, if not trillions, of dollars into our economy, we in the private sector, businesses and private citizens, can share the burden of a nation under attack…and we will.

Photo Credit: Chili’s, Facebook

Walmart Announces Special Cash Bonus and Early Payment of Q1 Bonuses Totaling Nearly $550 Million for Hourly Associates

Kevin Love Kicks Off Support Drive for Arena Workers with $100k Pledge – Dave McMenamin – Just one of many stories of professional athletes showing appreciation for the many whose work serves their fans during a time when games have been cancelled/postponed.

__________________________________________________________________________

That’s five of my favorites for the week. How about you? The Comment section below is waiting for your words on life in this season of the Coronavirus.

Stay well.

Bonuses:

ImagePhoto Credit: Twitter, Lifeway

I’ve Been Working From Home for Eight Days. The Netflix-and-quarantine Life is Not That Chill. – Geoffrey A. Fowler

30 Edifying Things to Watch When Stuck at Home – Brett McCracken

Remember Typing Class: The Class That Actually Mattered in the Long Run – Dana Daly – I am still an fast and accurate typist, thanks to Coach Dan Smith, back in high school. How about you?

Paris Museums Put 100,000 Images Online for Unrestricted Public Use – Jason Kottke

Why I Hate That Howard Thurman Quote

How Giving up Refined Sugar Changed My Brain – Michael Grothaus

YouTube Video – Maurizio Marchini Serenades City of FLorence From His Balcony During the Italian Quarantine Lockdown

YouTube Video – Heartwarming Moments Quarantined Italians Sing Together From Balconies – check out other videos of Italians quarantined, singing to one another from their balconies.

Monday Morning Moment – What Can Mr. Rogers Teach Us About Life in This Coronavirus Crisis?

Photo Credit:  Flickr; NPR

Coronavirus COVID-19 seems to have taken center stage in the world today, and rightfully so. It is a terrible illness that kills some of our most vulnerable – especially the elderly and those with underlying disease. Our government (like many in the world) is appealing for us to do all we can to reduce the spread of this deadly virus. Handwashing, not touching our faces, social distancing, and testing if symptomatic. We have been asked to avoid gathering in groups larger than 10. Schools, universities, gyms, various government agencies, and some businesses are closed to safeguard the larger population.

I find myself, because of age and health history, to be in that “at-risk” population, so life has become much less peopled and much more quiet.

At home this weekend, Dave and I finally watched the 2019 film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”. It focuses on the life and work of children’s television personality Mr. (Fred) Rogers (played by Tom Hanks). In the biographical film, we watch unfold a relationship between Mr. Rogers and the journalist Tom Junod (played by Matthew Rhys). The writer met Mr. Rogers on an assignment to interview him for the 1998 Esquire article “Can You Say…Hero?”.

YouTube Video – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – Official Trailer

The film begins slow and quiet, much like this new normal for me (my husband is still working like a crazy man, so not so much for him). I was about to release Dave from watching it with me, and then the story totally captured our attention.

At the end of the movie (which I highly recommend), Mr. Rogers’ sweet personality and deep wisdom seem to find an anchor in what we’re dealing with at present. Here are my thoughts and some of what he had to say, as if in response (although Mr. Rogers died in 2003 at the age of 74).

1) To avoid contracting and/or spreading the Coronavirus, some of us must settle on a quieter lifestyle for awhile.

“How many times have you noticed that it’s the little quiet moments in the midst of life that seem to give the rest extra-special meaning?”Fred Rogers

Even days into this social distancing thing, I’m finding that the quiet is helping me reflect on and think through issues and ideas that I’d left unattended in previous more busy days. For some of you, with children home from cancelled school and carrying more responsibility than less, this quiet may still elude. Do what you can to chase after it. It may be one of the most crucial outcomes of this trial.

2) In this unique crisis, we are making intentional decisions to protect the most vulnerable…even facing our own hardships while about it.

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”Fred Rogers

Mr. Rogers communicated in the film, his TV show, and in the songs he composed that “Each one of us is precious.” It is so moving…so transforming…to actually be a part of a nation’s resolve to protect our more elderly and those at risk because of underlying health issues. This protecting of the most vulnerable will have enormous cost for some…for many in our country (and the world). It is a humanizing step for us.

Although close contact is being discouraged in public places for now, we still want to reach out to each other in healthy and creative ways.

3) As we isolate to avoid the spread of this virus, we still can show care for each other…just in different ways.

“All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors–in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”Fred Rogers

“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”Fred Rogers

In Mr. Rogers’ life, one way he showed care for those in his life was to pray for them by name, every day. He spent long early morning hours in prayer for one after another, sometimes even strangers who had asked him to pray. His faith wasn’t something he paraded on his TV program, but he lived it deeply and openly in his relationships. It is something we can do while socially distancing.

Also we are watching government agencies and private corporations cooperate in the fight of Coronavirus. We are seeing a different level of civility between political parties, a heightened cooperation. We all have something dreadfully in common right now in the fight against this virus. Good questions are being raised and better answers given.

4) We can have hope for what comes out of all this.

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”Fred Rogers

“There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.”Fred Rogers

Our church is helping with a feeding program for our city schools during the shutdown. This is the beginning of a relationship that we didn’t have before. What we are learning, as a country, from this virus, and how to combat it, will help us with future viral assaults. I see hope more than despair, even in countries hardest hit.

45 Quotes From Mr. Rogers That We All Need Today – Geoffrey James

5) Those in our helping professions, along with the scientists, and the many change agents in the wide and diverse management of this health crisis are our heroes right now.

“Look for the helpers.”Fred Rogers

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

How grateful we are for those who don’t have a quieter life right now. Those who are showing up every day for work, at great risk to their own health. The first responders, the doctors and nurses, the scientists, and our government representatives – working long hours. For us all. It is a joy to look for the helpers…and to be among them as opportunity arises, which it will.

Mister Rogers Said to ‘Look for the Helpers.’ Here’s How to Help Amid Coronavirus Panic. – Joshua Bote

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Thank you, Mr. Rogers, Dear Man. Thank you, Tom Hanks, for reminding us of his wisdom, love, and sparkle.

‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’: 5 of the Film’s Stars and Their Real-Life Inspirations – Umber Bhatti

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – 2018 Documentary on the life and thinking of Fred Rogers

15 Reasons Mr. Rogers Was Best Neighbor Ever – Mangesh Hattikudur

8 Things to Know About Mister Rogers From the Story That Inspired the Tom Hanks Movie – Scottie Andrew

Tom Hanks Plays Mister Rogers: Sharing Joy Is ‘The Natural State of Things’ – Scott Simon

Photo Credit: Instagram, Kristen Annie Bell; Ryan Alexander Boyles, Secondary Artifacts

5 Friday Faves – Coronavirus Panic, Hans Zimmer’s “Time”, Unless U, Community, and Signs of Spring

It’s Friday! Hope your workweek is ending well and the weekend looms lovely ahead of you. Here are this week’s favorite finds.

1) Coronavirus Panic – I’m not an alarmist. Alarm and panic is wreaking havoc in the US (and maybe around the world) related to the spread and morbidity of the Coronavirus (Covid-19). We all want to contain it and hope not to get it, or worse to spread it to others. Is there reason to be alarmed at present?

OK…so we can’t predict the future. Shaming those around us who are feeling panicky helps no one. Maybe some of us aren’t vigilant enough and may need the advice of those cautious to a fault. We learn from each other.

Five Reasons You Don’t Need to Panic About the COVID-19 Coronavirus – Ross Pomeroy

Pandemic Panic? These Five Tips Can Help You Regain Your Calm – Allison Aubrey

Pandemic? Don’t Panic – Dr. Cathaleen Madsen

While working at home this morning (in a very low-risk setting compared to some of you), I caught a bit of an interview with Dr. Drew Pinsky. It was so helpful. Listed below are his 7 action items. Simple and easy to put into action.

  • Don’t do unnecessary travel.
  • Use your Clorox Wipes wherever you go.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Get the flu shot.

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Social Distancing Not Yet Needed Nationwide to Fight Coronavirus – Today Show

What to Do If You’re Boarding a Plane in the Age of Coronavirus – Harriet Baskas

2) Hans Zimmer’s Time – This is a big week for Nathan MillsBeyond the Guitar. He has launched an Arranger’s Academy for guitarists to have the skill-set to take music they already love to arrange for guitar. [His launch with its reduced membership rate is only for a few more hours. Check it out. Later in the year, he will again take new members at what will be the usual cost].

In the midst of the launch, Nathan also arranged, performed and posted composer Hans Zimmer‘s beautiful theme “Time” from the film Inception. Enjoy.

Nathan Mills Live – Concert March 29 2020

3) Unless U – What can one person do? Here’s a story. Lindy Cleveland is the little sister to two treasured old brothers – one of whom has Down’s Syndrome. It was hard for Jordan as his brother and sister went off to college. He missed them and he wished for some of the experiences they were having. This touched Lindy’s heart so deeply, she had to act. Then others began to show up…

She was able to spark a grassroots movement of fellow educators, family members, and passionate donors and volunteers to create a continuing education campus experience for students with learning difficulties (special abilities). She named it Unless U.

“Unless you [Unless U] get involved, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”Lindy Cleveland

Here’s the story of Unless U:

TEDx Talk – Unless Someone Like You Cares – Lindy Cleveland

4) Community – We are grateful for community, whatever the experience of it. With community, we have a sense of belonging, of being seen/heard, of caring and being cared about. Thanks to Trevin’s Seven, I discovered this thought-provoking article below.

What is Community? An Illustration – Seth Kaplan

Dr. Kaplan‘s definition of community involves: “commitment to a certain social order—and, crucially, a place…We must also be available to help others—mentoring youth, donating money, volunteering for work. To earn acceptance and respect, we model good behaviour… Community formation cannot be easily explained or laid out in a plan of action. At times, it is more mystery than mechanics, subject to a wide range of factors that are beyond the control of any one actor. In general, groups begin as a product of strong, overlapping, interpersonal relationships… Keystone actors and institutions emerge as central supporting hubs, working to break down barriers and integrate disparate parts;…foster(ing) relationships and partnerships that together create a systemic effect well beyond the individuals directly involved. All these activities build trust where it may not have existed.”

This week, a devastating tornado cut a killer swath through middle Tennessee. It happened so fast that little could be done to get to safety for those in the path of this storm. At least 24 are dead and many more injured. One neighborhood in Cookeville, Tennessee, suffered great loss. 8 persons killed. All on one street. Devastating.Photo Credit: Baptist Press, First Baptist Mt. Juliet Facebook page

Within minutes, first responders arrived to help survivors injured or in shock from the deadly disaster. Then, so true to the Volunteer State of Tennessee, people kept showing up. Neighbors, student groups, local volunteers and folks coming from several states over. Then, of course, state and federal agencies, and government leaders.

If there wasn’t community before, this town, this neighborhood is forever changed. In the aftermath of this horrific storm, community showed itself strong…and true.

[There are various ways to give support to these survivors. Here and here are some.

5) Signs of Spring – We’ve had a relatively mild winter in the US, and with that an early Spring. Closing today’s Friday Faves with these signs of Spring.

Bonuses:

Corelle Recommends Using Their Pre-2005 Dishes as “Decorative Pieces” Due to Concerns for High Levels of Lead – Brittany Hambleton

Death on Demand Comes to Germany – Wesley J. Smith

Abortion and Eugenics – Justice Clarence Thomas

Hallmark Channel Censors Pro-Life Movie “Unplanned” From Its Annual Awards Show

12 Survival Skills Your Great-Grandparents Knew (That Most of Us Have Forgotten) – Sarah Schafer

Worship Wednesday – When We Pray – Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: More Famous Quotes

[From the Archives]

We talk about the need for prayer. We “send prayers” to those in difficult situations. The Scripture has prayer woven throughout. Below are just a few references to the powerful nature of prayer.

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

“The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.”Psalm 34:15

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.”Jeremiah 33:3

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’” – Jesus – Matthew 6:9-13

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”Romans 12:12

Do you find praying challenging? It’s strange that it is, when it is challenging. We know that God invites us to be in conversation with Him (Jeremiah 33:3). He even taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). He tunes his attention to even our baby prayers. His desire is to show Himself faithful and loving and all-sufficient to his children. Even when our prayers get locked on what we want rather than whom we want…our Heavenly Father…that whom.

If the Scripture doesn’t settle for us why we pray, a little song I learned years ago might be an added help…especially when the answers seem delayed or denied. It is Babbie Mason‘s  Trust His Heart and the chorus follows:

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When don’t see his plan
When you can’t trace his hand
Trust His Heart

The most beautiful part of prayer is that God meets us wherever we are…his faithful children and his prodigals coming to their senses:

“There is a story in the Talmud about a king who had a son who went astray. The son was told, ‘Return to your father.’ The son replied that he could not. The king then sent a messenger to the son with the message… ‘Come back to me as far as you can, and I will meet you the rest of the way’. ” – The Chosen

For Christ-followers, we don’t even make that journey back to Him alone, maybe even frightened. When we belong to Him, the Holy Spirit draws us back to Him…and the Savior is with us every step of the way.

What would put you on your face before such a God right now?

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Were it not for pride, or the cares of this world, or our culture’s clawing at us with its lies? God has already set prayer in motion by stirring up that desire, by making us aware of that need, by fanning our small faith into flame.

Our delight is to turn our hearts toward God…to enjoy His company, to see His mighty works, and to share community with others longing for Him as well.

My Mom, my Mom-in-law, my husband…other family members, and many many friends have deepened my prayer life by witnessing and being the beneficiary of their own…and their walk with the God of this universe. I wage spiritual warfare with them for the sake of those we love…and for the world that God also loves.

Worship with me (link to lyrics & music)…to this song, When We Pray, by Tauren Wells.

People hurting, people broken
Beaten down and feeling hopeless
Wonder if it’s gonna always be this way
Who will speak up for the captive
Show some love and heal a past that
Binds the wounds we think will never go away

But what if we could be a people on our knees
As one before the King
‘Cause we believe

All the world starts changing
When the church starts praying
Strongholds start to break
Oh, when we pray
Prison walls start shaking
At the sound of praising
Nothing stays the same
Oh, when we pray
Oh, when we pray, oh

I see revival rising
I see hope on the horizon
As a generation stepping out in faith

As one before the King
Yeah we believe

All the world starts changing
When the church starts praying
Strongholds start to break
Oh, when we pray
Prison walls start shaking
At the sound of praising
Nothing stays the same
Oh, when we pray
Oh, when we pray, oh

Let Your kingdom come, Lord
Let Your will be done

All the world starts changing
When the church starts praying
Strongholds start to break
Oh, when we pray
All the world starts changing
When the church starts praying
Strongholds start to break
Oh, when we pray
Prison walls start shaking
At the sound of praising
Nothing stays the same
Oh, when we pray, oh
When we pray, oh

In Jesus name (when we pray)
In Jesus name (when we pray)
When we pray, oh
When we pray*

*Lyrics to When We PrayWriters: Tauren Wells, Colby Wedgeworth, Ethan Hulse

Worship Wednesday – My Hope Is In Jesus – David Crowder and Tauren Wells – Deb Mills Writer

YouTube Video – Trust His Heart – Cynthia Clawson – lyrics by Babbie Mason

When God’s People Pray – Jim Cymbala – Session 1 (of 4) – Vimeo

10 Most Important Verses on Prayer in the Bible – Lori Hatcher

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

Photo Credit: Flickr

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday Morning Moment – Cultural Contradictions – Why We Can’t All Just Get Along*

Photo Credit: Deb Mills, Mission BBQ

Right through college, I wondered, with hope, at the question:

“Why can’t we all just get along?”

With enough will, effort, and care, we should all be able to find some common ground…where we can agree more than we disagree.

That was decades ago, and the world has changed so much. We still remember how it once was (we all do, no matter our generation), and we examine our world today with those lenses…and are mortified.

I am still hopeful…but not in the somewhat childish idea that it is possible to agree if we care enough. However, I do believe we can understand each other, if we care enough. And be gracious.

It is not necessary, and no way helpful, to blame, and boil over in anger at what we consider the stupidity or short sidedness of “the other side”…whatever that is. It just alienates and isolates and dims the possibility of working toward real solutions to problems.

Monday Morning Moment – Life and Politics – What If We Refused to Get Angry? – Deb Mills

I don’t want to be angry anymore. I want to treat people with grace, and respect, and genuine interest. Including people who don’t agree with me…and I’m not alone.

Defuse America’s Explosive Politics – Politicians in Both Parties Need to Clean Up Their Own Side of the Street – Peggy Noonan

America is divided along so many lines. Those lines are blurred by cultural contradictions. What does that mean? When we say we believe one thing but our actions communicate something very different. Or vice versa.

Examples?

  • We celebrate Thanksgiving Day in America, expressing gratitude for all we have, and then make a mad rush to the stores hours later to buy more.
  • Our elected officials say they care about the poor and yet the economically disadvantaged continue to be so, but our politicians get richer and richer.
  • We talk about health care for all, but in its current state it’s too costly for those who can already afford to pay for some measure of insurance. We do nothing about health care reform but want health care for all.
  • Americans have a high regard for life, and yet the most vulnerable – those who can’t defend themselves – the unborn – are, at times, considered disposable.
  • We see the painful racial divides in our country, and yet the walls continue to go up (built by the major political parties in their own unique ways, along with educators and celebrity influencers).
  • We feel a sense of ownership/stewardship over the earth, but again, we mainly just point fingers in blame, rather than coming to a policy table to wrestle through the problems and solutions.
  • We are proud of being a nation of immigrants, and yet for decades our government has been unable to exact reform in our sluggish immigration system – except either to temporarily protect or bar illegal immigrants or to wall off our borders. Our immigrant numbers dwindle and we blame…rather than work across our differences.

[Even in writing these examples, I find myself blaming. Forgive me. As an evangelical and political conservative, I have my own hopes for solving the contradictions listed above…but it would be thrilling to have the opportunity to observe or participate in problem-solving that “reaches across the aisle.”].

As another example, it’s a grievous thing when we Christians rabidly go after each other – on social media mostly – over our choices of political platforms or candidates. If we follow the teachings and life of Christ, we are always to forgive, no matter what, and to love even our enemies. How would our social media posts look during an election year if we, just us Christians, practiced our faith in this way?

How would our conversations go if we would keep listening and asking questions across our cultural contradictions? And determined not to judge each other in those contradictions?

What got me thinking about this is the increase of fairly surly posts popping up as the Presidential primaries are upon us…We agree on so many things…but some of the “loudest” things currently being broadcasted divide us and get personal. Righteous indignation doesn’t stay righteous when it moves from issues to individuals.

Then Trevin Wax‘s blog got my attention – The Maddening Contradictions of Our Current Moment . He engaged with the British journalist Douglas Murray on his book The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity . Two brilliant men who agree and disagree and yet give us much to consider in this contentious culture of ours. Take time to read that post…I learned so much.

Another place that helps me, as a passionate but somewhat passive observer, is Twitter. I follow some who are very much like me, somewhat like me, and nothing at all like me. They teach exquisite lessons on our post-Christian culture…where we do not have to interact in a post-Christ way. We can still be civil, caring and clear.

This is its own form of cross-cultural communication – learning how to winsomely engage people given all our cultural contradictions. We find ourselves in an intellectual and spiritual quagmire, but we can learn to recognize distinctions and learn how to keep talking and to stay engaged with each other.

[Don’t miss these writers below – whether you agree with all they say…their clarity is refreshing. Let’s learn from them.]

Must Pro-Life Mean Pro-Trump? – Karen Swallow Prior

The Science of Being ‘Nice’: How Politeness Is Different From Compassion – Kun Zhao and Luke Smillie

Four Lies on the Left That Make It Tough to Change Culture – David French

Managing Cultural and Emotional ‘Contradictions” at Work – Michael Moffa

*Can’t We All Just Get Along? – Warren Berger

Monday Morning Moment – Don’t Mess with my Facebook – a Cautionary Tale

Photo Credit: Pexels

I didn’t want to write this…but it had to be done so I could move on. Fortunately, waiting a day, some of the fire has died down.  Smoldering into reason.

Yesterday was a church gathering for us. At the start of the sermon, I had my journal open and my pen ready. Being a visual learner, it helps me to retain information if I “see” it by taking notes.

The pastor began with a long and pointed rant on social media – the time-sink it is and the fakery it showcases. The particular target was Facebook and Facebook users. I love our pastor-teacher guy, so it surprised me how mad I got listening to him showering putdowns on Facebook, Twitter and the like. Especially knowing Facebook is a key communication tool we use as a church.

What was causing all the anger inside of me? So silly especially related to social media…Facebook, of all things.

Later in the evening, I realized…the spent anger probably related to the fact that my Facebook usage could equate to an addiction. Not like pornography. Nor alcohol/drugs. Not even that of food or shopping. Facebook is something I have grown dependent on… accustomed to… comfortable with.

It is useful to me.

It is nothing like face-to-face communication or staying in touch by phone or mail with people I love. It’s nothing like getting in the car and driving across town (or country) to see the actual people I love, not just love seeing on Facebook.

Especially those I can’t easily get to…friends in Morocco, for instance. Facebook allows me to chat with them and see into their lives when reality prevents the same for me…although I have tried to get there…and will continue to do so.

I will share with my pastor the impact of this part of his sermon had on me… Not in anger but in understanding now that some time and reason have done their work…and most probably God.

For those of you, my Facebook friends, who have left Facebook because it’s less cool since us older ones are present, or it is all fakery and foolishness, or it’s an election year and the comments will cut like a knife…I understand and I will miss you.

Why don’t I leave?

  • Joining in 2007, Facebook gave me glimpses of the world that my college-aged children were entering – leaving home almost 4000 miles away. It helped make the distance not so achingly far.
  • It facilitated my finding some of the dearest college friends whom I’d lost track of. Now we see each other at least once a year in real time, but Facebook helps us catch snatches of each other’s lives in between.
  • Facebook picks the news it shows me, and I wish I had more of a say. Still that news of those friends helps me know when reaching out needs to happen – sooner than it might if I waited for a birthday or a passing memory or fleeting thought.
  • It doesn’t just display happy, healthy babies, engagements or weddings, or the new look of a friend having lost weight or on a new skin regime. It doesn’t just showcase where friends hang together on weekends and what fun they’re having… That’s cool and doesn’t bother me usually. Facebook especially helps when the news is hard and it’s broadcasted without hurting so much because it’s less personal to do it this way. We don’t have to call so many, because Facebook sends out the hard news past our immediate families and circle of friends and associates. The cancer diagnosis. The job opportunity that didn’t happen. The miscarriage. The breakup. The election lost. The death of a dear old one. All the harder things of life. Facebook gives us a place to send that out to the wind to carry it where we don’t have the strength to go.
  • Especially in an election year, Facebook gives us a platform to state our highest hopes and our darkest dreads regarding the possible outcomes. We can use the posts of our friends and families to gauge what we talk about…and how to…when we are actually face-to-face. Right? I have learned so much from this public venue that seems to feel safe to folks who post.

I could go on and on but will stop here. How about you? Any why’s or why not’s on Facebook, or social media, in general? Some of the dearest people in my life are minimal social media users. What’s your story? How do you stay in touch with people in your periphery…or it doesn’t matter?

Facebook has nothing on real flesh-and-blood encounters. It is better than nothing…or nearly nothing. I have 1,330 friends on Facebook right now. Some of them I see in real life, of course. Probably only see a tiny fraction of them in my Facebook newsfeed… but those (as a personal for instance) make my real life happier and my relational load lighter. They give hints about their lives – that they are there, engaged in life, and they see me sometimes (even on social media, it means a lot). They also get the same back from me hopefully…a “love”, a bit of encouragement, a private message reminding them of more love. This “almost reach” is a small but considerable thing in a polarized world and fast-paced life.

The cautionary tale is that Facebook can usurp our privacy, devour our precious time, market to us without our blessing, and choose what friends we see. Beware.

Also, if we wake at night, and instead of praying, pick up our phones and scroll away, we miss out on the most real person available to any of us. The One who is the most worthy of our following. If we pull up Facebook during the day, and never pull up in front of that friend’s house…or pull up her number in our phone directory…we have forgotten what Facebook is not. If we chat up our dearest causes or fight our political battles with social media posts and not with real skin in the game, then we miss out on the best of life…the rest of life. The #LoveYourNeighbor possibilities out there.

OK…I’m done.

Don’t mess with my Facebook, Pastor Friend. Putting my feet to the fire won’t change my social media usage (yet), but you caused me to think. Thanks.

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s Mad World, Kobe and Multiple Losses, Great Acting/Great Scripts, Coronavirus Panic, and Troubling Ideals

1) Nathan’s Mad World – You know that experience when you are transfixed – so moved, without even knowing the extent of it, that your heart slows, your body quietens, your thoughts settle on the moment. That was my experience listening to Nathan‘s (Beyond the Guitar) arrangement of the Tears for Fears song Mad World (the Gary Jules version for the film Donnie Darko). Here you go:

2) Kobe and Multiple Losses – I wrote earlier this week about the precious nature of life and its brevity. The sudden and tragic loss of philanthropist and basketball great Kobe Bryant, daughter, and friends inspired that. We have watched all the news this week of the huge impact Kobe has had on so many people, young and old. Then to see the articles on the others lost in the accident – daughter, friends and colleagues. All gone too quickly for the many who loved them, separate from Kobe. Grieving their own and grieving Kobe, too. It’s been a week of reflection for sure.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Teenage Girls and Beloved Coaches Were Among the 9 Victims of the Helicopter Crash that Killed Kobe Bryant

God Didn’t Need Kobe and Gigi in Heaven – Holly Erickson

3) The Coronavirus Panic– As health agencies around the world keep surveillance of victims, and airlines make decisions to stop service to and from China, our knowledge and concern builds regarding the Coronavirus health crisis. How bad is it? This one article below was so helpful to me on the risks as well as the rapid response in gene typing, diagnosis and global response to this new outbreak. Definitely worth the read:

The Wuhan coronavirus seems to have a low fatality rate, and most patients make full recoveries. Experts reveal why it’s causing panic anyway. – Holly Secon

The greatest at-risk population has to be the Chinese nationals and others quarantined in-country – and the risk may be less about the virus and more about access to food and services should the quarantine continue.

Photo Credit: AFP Factcheck

4) Great Acting/Great Scripts – OK, so I’m partial to TV shows and films majoring on the law and courtroom drama. Much of my knowledge of US laws has come through a TV or film rendition of them (could be a problem) . For a brief two seasons – 20 episodes – the TV show For the People (2018 TV series) was my favorite classroom for learning about the law. – Why was it cancelled? I have no idea. There was one sub-plot with a sexual relationship as the focus, but other than that, the show was pretty much clean viewing. The show followed various legal cases, with the team of prosecutors and the team of public defenders sparring over whether the accused was guilty and whether they deserved the verdict coming. The writers dealt with many of our culture’s hot legal topics: mandatory sentences, race, juvenile detention, drugs, mental illness, law enforcement, the role of the internet/gaming/social media in the law.

Every single episode left me thinking and researching and thinking some more about the legal dilemmas posed in these stories and how they affect our neighbors…and us. Below are videos of just a few of the unforgettable monologues/dialogues from this show:

5) Troubling Ideals – This Fave title comes from an article written by research fellow Erika Bachiochi. Her piece is The Troubling Ideals at the Heart of Abortion Rights. She writes about some of the history (from 1870) of women’s fight for equal rights, equal citizenship with men, and her sovereign rights over her own body. The problem – the troubling ideal – is when that battle infringes on the rights of another. Whatever your leaning, this article is crucial reading. Here’s a bit:

Victoria Woodhull, a leading suffragist and radical, and the first woman to run for president of the United States, nominated by the Equal Rights Party in 1872. With her peers in the 19th-century women’s movement, she asserted, among a host of other rights, the right to be free of the common-law sexual prerogative that husbands then enjoyed over their wives. Understanding the asymmetrical consequences of sexual intercourse for women, Woodhull anticipated a time “when woman rises from sexual slavery to sexual freedom into the ownership and control of her sexual organs, and man is obliged to respect this freedom.”

But owning and controlling one’s body did not extend, for Woodhull and other advocates of “voluntary motherhood,” to doing what one willed with the body of another. Rather, these women sought sovereignty over their own bodies in part because they could claim no legitimate authority to engage, in Woodhull’s words, in “antenatal murder of undesired children.” An outspoken advocate of constitutional equality for women, Woodhull also championed the rights of children—rights that “begin while yet they remain the fetus.” In 1870, she wrote:

Many women who would be shocked at the very thought of killing their children after birth, deliberately destroy them previously. If there is any difference in the actual crime we should be glad to have those who practice the latter, point it out. The truth of the matter is that it is just as much a murder to destroy life in its embryonic condition, as it is to destroy it after the fully developed form is attained, for it is the self-same life that is taken.

from the piece by Erika Bachiochi

Is there recourse for us who fight for women to have place in society equal to men as well as protecting the rights of the marginalized – those who can’t fight for themselves?

Another clip from the above mentioned TV show gives a window to the experience of being on a jury. Judge Byrne reflected on the exhilarating encounter he had with 11 other jurors in this weighty and leveling experience of working together, across values, opinions, and biases.

We fight and ridicule each other on issues that seem so critical but don’t look to the root of those issues…the problems that if we tackled them with each other, the surface issues might also be addressed…but with more sustainable, more compassionate solutions.

What are some of these issues we disagree bitterly on? What is the root problem? I’m going to propose possibles, but please help me here. Comment below. Proposing the possible root problem still doesn’t fix it or the surface ones. Still, couldn’t we try to work on them together?

Choice vs. abortion – root issue: sanctity of life (of both the woman and the child – with access to contraception; access to health care/support; access to concrete and timely services in a crisis pregnancy)

61 Million Babies Have Died in Abortions, a Death Toll That’s the Population of Italy

In a future blog, I’d like to add health care, the opioid epidemic, race, and immigration…but for now, just the huge issue of choice and abortion. I know it is a deep heart issue…trying to determine what would make a difference if we did revisit this issue as a panel of peers.

I am so very thankful for friends and acquaintances who stay in my life although our political and ideological views are very different. I learn so much from them, and appreciate them so very much. That kind of love – love across differences – is the kind of love that our nation and world need. The kind of love that could put policies in place for all of us to thrive in this place.

Bonuses:

What Is Attention Management and How It Can Help You – Maura Thomas

Director of Powerful New Clarence Thomas Documentary Opens Up: ‘He Just Got Tired of Having His Story Distorted’ – Emily Jashinsky

Monday Morning Moment – Life

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Life…it’s precious. It’s what we know. We depend on it. We think it lasts forever. Here. In our best health. Surrounded by our people.

The thing is, what we also come to know is life’s brevity. The Bible calls it “a vapor, a mist, a breath, a passing breeze.” Yet, life is also described as something beyond our finite understanding – beyond our wildest imaginings – in its possibilities, its purposes. It stretches across into eternity. Nothing is wasted. All of life is meant to be lived fully – the great good of it along with the sudden sorrows.

Life – Bible Study Tools [short article; worth the read]

America was rocked this weekend by the helicopter crash that killed athlete and philanthropist Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi, two of her basketball team friends, parents, coach, and the pilot. One very famous person but also eight others who all leave families and friends grieving their instant deaths. Life is precious.

Then here in Richmond, a man in his early 40s in a near neighborhood also died this weekend. He was crossing a busy street at night, on his way back home from a store, and was hit by a car. It was fatal. This man had, months ago, left his friends and work in another state and came here to care for his grandparents, in their 90s and frail in health. Like the nine people above, this man also died suddenly. Leaving behind those who will grieve him, too.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Robert Kuykendall

I contrast these two because in life and in death, we matter, whatever our circumstance. To each other and to God. Our lives matter…and when death interrupts…it affects us…even when it happens to strangers.

Today, a friend of ours is undergoing surgery for cancer. For several hours he will be in the operating room, surrounded by an excellent surgeon and staff specialized in his particular kind of surgery. Family and friends wait outside…praying. We are all praying. He is young and we are praying for him to do extraordinarily well.

As you read this, your own stories may come to mind. People who make life what it is for you. By faith, trusting in God for good outcomes. These are the kinds of stories and situations that give us pause and move us toward gratitude for this life.

Our wee grandchildren live near us. It is a joy to see them often. Their take on life is much simpler than ours as their adults. Their joys are simple, too – time with their people, a favorite toy, snacks they get to choose, a hug and kiss for comfort, a new discovery, any cause for laughter.

They don’t understand death…but neither do we, really.

I’m re-learning from these grandchildren to squeeze all the goodness to be had out of this life. Being older and understanding that death comes, I also get to look forward to what comes after… life forever with a God who is good and who is love, and with all those who went before us.

Choosing life…here and there.

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, Good Housekeeping