Category Archives: Displaced Peoples

Worship Wednesday – Godspeed – Just a Closer WALK with Thee

Photo Credit: Screenshot from Godspeed

Then the man and his wife heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the breeze of the day, and they hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called out to the man, “Where are you?”Genesis 3:9

The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary; His understanding is beyond searching out. He gives power to the faint and increases the strength of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall. But those who wait upon the LORD will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:28-31

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast [stand firm], immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Spiritually speaking, I’m a runner…oh not in the champion circle kind of runner (at least not yet)…but definitely one eager to be in the thick of things, even if it’s “slow and steady wins the race” plodding.

It’s not because I’m old and time seems to be flying, although that does factor in. I’ve always had a sense of urgency, a fire in my bones, about the lost, the unreached, the displaced or marginalized, and those who “fall through the cracks”.

Because of this, it happens sometimes that I may run ahead of God and exhaust myself at pulling at the reins or rubbing against the yoke the Lord calls “easy”. In my fits and starts, I make a burden out of what’s not meant to be.

let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.Hebrews 12:1

In the Scriptures above, the Lord calls to mind a pace in heart and life that is more in accordance with His will and His character. In the Garden, after Adam and Eve had sinned, the Lord came walking and called out to them. “Where are you?” Of course, He knew where they were…but the question implies a distance from Him. They had determined to go their own way…bad news for them and the rest of us.

What’s the lesson? The Scripture is full of pacing and direction. When we are out of step with God, we are truly on our own…off helter-skelter deceived that we’re about His work (or maybe not caring really, just checking off the boxes of a “good life”).

We will at times, in our journey with the Lord, walk, run, even fly. Other times, He calls us to stand firm in the heat of battle, and He also calls us to rest, sheltering us from the heat.

This is our God…the One whose pace, which can seem exceedingly slow but, is perfectly measured. For our good and His great glory.

Just this week, I confess a chafing in the instruction of our dear pastor. He was calling us as small group leaders to take a summer break. To relax… I honestly have no idea what he said over the next few sentences because the word “relax” triggered a brain freeze. Knowing him, and without following up (to be honest), I believe he meant that the programming can be relaxed and we can enjoy an opportunity to change things up…to go deeper…to truly get to know one another in different ways (including other ‘one anothers’ with whom we don’t usually share space).

So thanks, Pastor Cliff.

Below you will find some resources that aren’t meant to be extra but actually the core of this Worship Wednesday. Take time to check out all of them – short time commitment and long impact. The short film Godspeed – the Pace of Being Known is amazing! This whole idea of giving ourselves to God and each other – where we can truly be known and know one another– is both healing and life-transforming. So… don’t necessarily slow down, but find God’s pace…let’s do it together.

Take that walk with God. Find Your People. Find your parish.

An article, a podcast, a short film, and, finally, a song:

Godspeed – Mark Buchanan – don’t miss this short article. So good!

Made for This Podcast – Jennie Allen – Life in Scotland with Pastor Matt Canlis – this podcast is the story of Pastor Canlis’ journey to Godspeed.

Godspeed – the Pace of Being Known – documentary – Matt Canlis – Watch this! Beautiful, every bit of it.

YouTube Video – Just a Closer Walk with Thee – Alabama – old song, slowed down and lovely.

[All screenshots above taken from the documentary Godspeed]

Monday Morning Moment – Empowered People – Reckoning with a Victim Identity

Photo Credit: The Minds Journal

We hold the doors open for each other.

In recent days, I’ve marveled at common spaces we share in the world.

Out early in the morning, we pull into Wawa for coffee,  and gas if we need it (maybe where you are the gas station/convenience store has another name). On the way to our jobs or appointments. We wait on each other topping off our coffee per personal preferences. We share spaces. We check out together.

We hold the doors open for each other.

In the line at UPS, we wait. We are there to mail packages, return items, or maybe get a passport picture. We wait together. Young and old. Latino, Asian, Black, White. We wait and we hold the door open for each other.

Sitting or standing in the crowded reception area of the local free clinic, we wait to be seen. Again, a wide mix of people. All of whom, except for me, were not born in the US. [I was there with an Afghani refugee lady, helping her get medical services.] All of us there having successfully jumped through the hoops of obtaining that first appointment. We have this in common. We share this comradery.

We hold the doors open for each other.

In all these situations…and others…we are people with stories not necessarily known and yet with common threads. We have our stories. Both victim and victor stories. We do not have to choose to be defined by them…especially not the victim stories.

By definition, a victim is someone who has been injured, harmed, has suffered as a result of circumstances or what we consider to be disrespectful behavior from others. Linda and Charlie Bloom

The Victim Identity: Signs and How to Recover – Linda and Charlie Bloom [Quick read in 3 parts. Excellent resource.]

Maybe it’s different where you are in the world, but in our current socio-political system and culture, we are grappling with critical theory – the push to believe that all of humanity is either in the oppressor camp or the oppressed camp.

Deconstructing Critical Theory: Oppressed and Oppressor – Kevin Watson

Are there oppressors in the world? Absolutely. Are there those who are or have been oppressed? Unfortunately, also yes.

However, we, as peoples, are neither only oppressed or oppressor, in our fullest identities. We can rise up; not pointing fingers at each other, but in a larger understanding of one another. Not being subservient to either worldview.

Overcomers…

For those of us who have capacity and capability to help others, we help most effectively and comprehensively by influencing a pathway forward for those who have identified themselves as victims.

Or maybe the victim mindset was thrust upon some. A very wise person said to me just this morning, “If you want to ‘control’ people, convince them they are victims”.

Think about it…that is definitely oppressor behavior…and yet sometimes it is communicated by those in positions of power or influence who seem the most benevolent.

  Photo Credit: Courtney Wadley

As for doors? Most doors are closed; that’s their nature. That is their purpose. No added meaning. Sometimes, oppressors lock doors and control who goes through. Those who primarily think of themselves as victims may feel intimidated or persecuted at the prospect of prying open the door. If we look at doors as both giving access and protecting from evil (whatever that is), we use them accordingly. Most people, thankfully, hold the doors open for each other…and will continue to do so no matter how culture changes.

How we self-identify matters, in terms of a way forward. When we see ourselves as victims, our sense of agency or self-empowerment is diminished by our own mindset. Then there are the myriad of messages calling us to align ourselves with victimhood. These messages come from both well-meaning people and those who would seek to pigeon-hole us in ways we can be exploited.

All the scenarios mentioned at the start of this piece have stories attached to them. I don’t know those stories, but I do know many others. We all do. Telling and living our stories truly make for real legacy, for ourselves and our children.

Bad things have happened to us (some more than others). We can learn from each other if we are willing.

A victim mindset imprisons both the one who was harmed and the one who did the harming…as well as those in between who want to help but may not know how…yet. What a difference if we can empower rather than impoverish. Embrace CommunitiesWendy McCaig trains people to understand and operate with this worldview. Away from identifying victims and just doing “for” people as if they can’t possibly do for themselves. She lives and teaches to do “with” people, together discovering giftings and orchestrating opportunities to express those giftings (along the way, strengthening their families and communities).

In this way, we hold the doors open for each other.

Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig, Embrace Richmond, Embrace Communities

YouTube Video – TED Talk – How I Stopped Being a ‘Victim’ and Restarted My Life – Arman Abrahimzadeh

How to Know if Your Victimhood Has Become Your Identity – Rick Thomas

Monday Morning Moment – Building and Re-building Community – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Steps Forward in “We the People” Becoming True for All Americans – Deb Mills

Sunday Reflection – Am I My Brother’s Keeper? On Neglect – Part 1  and Part 2 – Deb Mills

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s Latest, Parenting Pearls, Aging Well, Words, and War

Quick take on favorites of mine over the last couple of weeks:

1) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest – Enjoy!

2) Parenting Pearls – So thankful for wisdom of others…especially in parenting and raising children to be mentally healthy and resilient. How other cultures parent is also intriguing. Below are some of both.

Mom blogger Becky Mansfield wrote a great piece on things we don’t want our kiddos to forget.  Please share in the Comments what you hope your children don’t forget.

What Really Matters: Things I Never Want Our Kids to Forget – Becky Mansfield

Photo Credit: Facebook, Becky Mansfield, Your Modern Family

First, You Decide that Kids Belong in School – Carrie McKean – a writer friend of mine in Texas; everyone won’t agree with her, but she writes well and with reason for us as parents during our time with COVID.

A Top Researcher Says It’s Time to Rethink Our Entire Approach to Preschool – Anya Kementz

It’s Easy to Judge Until It’s Your Kid; Let’s Try Compassion – MaryBeth Bock

The Secret of Arctic ‘Survival Parenting’

3) Aging Well – Start young. Start young to age well. If you have to catch up (like me), there is still time.

The Seven Habits That Lead to Happiness in Old Age – Arthur C. Brooks

Forgiving People Is Good for Your Health. Here’s How to Do It. – Rachel Feltman

Forgiving People Is Good for Your Health. Here’s How to Do It – Rachel Feltman

Photo Credit: John & Julie Gottman, Yes! Magazine

4) Words – As much as I love words this quote from Jesus’ teaching gives pause: “But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.”  – Matthew 12:36-37
Words matter. Words mean things. We should be generous with life-giving words and sparing with words that destroy.  Silence and restraint have their place.
What If– A poem by Malcolm Guite
What if every word we say
Never ends or fades away,
Gathers volume gathers weigh,
Drums and dins us with dismay
Surges on some dreadful day
When we cannot get away
Whelms us till we drown?
What if not a word is lost,
What if every word we cast
Cruel, cunning, cold, accurst,
Every word we cut and paste
Echoes to us from the past
Fares and finds us first and last
Haunts and hunts us down?
What if every murmuration,
Every otiose oration
Every oath and imprecation,
Insidious insinuation,
Every blogger’s aberration,
Every facebook fabrication
Every twittered titivation,
Unexamined asservation
Idiotic iteration,
Every facile explanation,
Drags us to the ground?
What if each polite evasion
Every word of defamation,
Insults made by implication,
Querulous prevarication,
Compromise in convocation,
Propaganda for the nation
False or flattering persuasion,
Blackmail and manipulation
Simulated desparation
Grows to such reverberation
That it shakes our own foundation,
Shakes and brings us down?
Better that some words be lost,
Better that they should not last,
Tongues of fire and violence.
O Word through whom the world is blessed,
Word in whom all words are graced,
Do not bring us to the test,
Give our clamant voices rest,
And the rest is silence.
Then, on a lighter note:  there’s this sweet game that is all the rage right now. Wordle created by Josh Wardle (launched in October 2021). I love it because it is not time-consuming. You get one word puzzle a day that is challenging but doable. So fun.

What to Read About Wordle While Everybody’s Still Talking About It – Alex Dalenberg

Twitter, Karen Swallow Prior (Click to read the full thread)

Wordle App (different game, different creator)

5) War – We have all read and watched about the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia. How to respond? Who to respond? I won’t pose an opinion here because we have so many, and they don’t help really. Praying is the most important thing we can do. Below are some links I found interesting this week (well, links that weren’t behind a paywall). Praying…

Photo Credit: Facebook

War in Ukraine: Essential Reading

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky: the Comedian President Who Is Rising to the Moment – Stephen Mulvey

Wendell Berry’s Advice for a Cataclysmic Age – Dorothy Wickenden [Lengthy biographical piece on Berry’s advice – also includes an audio file which you can listen to instead of reading the story.]

Here are a few quotes from the piece above:

“Think Little. Nearly every one of us, nearly every day of his life, is contributing directly to the ruin of this planet.” Berry went on to say that he was “ashamed and deeply distressed that American government should have become the chief cause of disillusionment with American principles.”

In a Jefferson Lecture in 2012, he quoted Stegner’s description of Americans as one of two basic types, “boomers” and “stickers.” Boomers are “those who pillage and run,” who “make a killing and end up on Easy Street.” Stickers are “those who settle, and love the life they have made and the place they have made it in.” They are “placed people,” in Berry’s term—forever attached to the look of the sky, the smell of native plants, and the vernacular of home.

He told the crowd that, as a member of the human race, he was “in the worst possible company: communists, fascists and totalitarians of all sorts, militarists and tyrants, exploiters, vandals, gluttons, ignoramuses, murderers.” But, he insisted, he was given hope by people “who through all the sad destructive centuries of our history have kept alive the vision of peace and kindness and generosity and humility and freedom.”

“A properly educated conservative, who has neither approved of abortion nor supported a tax or a regulation, can destroy a mountain or poison a river and sleep like a baby,” he writes. “A well-instructed liberal, who has behaved with the prescribed delicacy toward women and people of color, can consent to the plunder of the land and people of rural America and sleep like a conservative.”

“If two neighbors know that they may seriously disagree, but that either of them, given even a small change of circumstances, may desperately need the other, should they not keep between them a sort of pre-paid forgiveness? They ought to keep it ready to hand, like a fire extinguisher.”

“Jesus said, ‘Take no thought for the morrow,’ which I take to mean that if we do the right things today, we’ll have done all we really can for tomorrow. OK. So I hope to do the right things today.”

Wendell Berry – Americans Who Tell the Truth Website

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Any favorite finds you’d be willing to share? Post them in the Comments and thanks so much for stopping by.

Bonuses:

Setting a Valentine’s lunch for our grandchildren:

The Real-Life Diet of Kenny G, Who Learned to Cook to Set an Example for His Son – Mick Rouse

YouTube Video – Jesus’ Heart – Eric Gilmour and Dane Ortlund

Three Encouraging Quotes

Worship Wednesday – Authority in Prayer – Come Alive (Dry Bones) – Lauren Daigle

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Climbing up the steps of our church stage, I kept in the shadows. One of our pastors had asked me to close our service in prayer for two refugee families we were sponsoring for resettlement. We have been praying for them for weeks now.

Coming forward to the podium, I had a strange experience.

I became timid…almost afraid, preparing to talk to God…and not at all sure why.

As if standing in front of my own church family was a scary thing. I don’t know what was off-putting about it, but it has given me pause over these last few days.

When we pray we have only good before us in the person of Almighty God. He calls us to prayer and He bestows upon us the authority to pray believing in the One True God.

The Scripture is full of descriptions of the magnificence of Christ and the power of prayer, in obedience to God.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:9-11

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me [Paul] in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.”Ephesians 6:10-19

When we pray, we enter into an arena where God shows Himself mighty on our behalf. Praying can be scary because it is the stuff of miracle and mystery.

As often happens in preparing to write Worship Wednesday each week, God gave me a song. Sometimes it’s the passage of Scripture first, but today it was a song. Lauren Daigle‘s “Come Alive (Dry Bones)”. Then I was carried back to the Scripture. The Valley of Dry Bones.

In Ezekiel 37, The Lord spoke to the prophet (Ezekiel) during the Babylonian captivity of Israel. God’s people had rebelled (again) and they were dead to Him…They felt the deadness inside themselves and cried out to God, even in their hopelessness…as if God couldn’t raise them back to life.

Yet He is the only one who could save them.

The passage below is long, but don’t miss the vision God gave Ezekiel:

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’ “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. ‘I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.”’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’ “Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. “Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. “I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,” declares the LORD.’” Ezekiel 37:1-14

This vision was a metaphor, symbolic of what was to come. God would forgive the people of their sin. He heard their cries, restoring  them to Himself, and eventually restored them to their homeland. He pointed Ezekiel to what He would do for Israel…in that Valley of Dry Bones.

Prayer is our witness to the just and merciful authority of God. He speaks to us and we tune our ears to Him. He regularly does the miraculous in our lives, and we don’t want to miss it.

I was nervous praying in front of church family. Maybe it was because I was afraid the words wouldn’t come. The words I needed to ask God on behalf of these refugee families who had lost so much. God already knows what they need…maybe it’s what we need from Him that He calls us to settle…and to trust Him with.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Worship with me.

Through the eyes of men it seems
There’s so much we have lost
As we look down the road
Where all the prodigals have walked
One by one
The enemy has whispered lies
And led them off as slaves

But we know that you are God
Yours is the victory
We know there is more to come
That we may not yet see
So with the faith you’ve given us
We’ll step into the valley unafraid, yeah

As we call out to dry bones
Come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts
Come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes
Let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones, come alive

God of endless mercy
God of unrelenting love
Rescue every daughter
Bring us back the wayward son
And By your spirit breathe upon them
Show the world that you alone can save
You alone can save

As we call out to dry bones
Come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts
Come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes
Let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones come alive

So breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe, oh breath of God
Breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe

Breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe, oh breath of God
Breathe, oh breath of God, now breathe

As we call out to dry bones
Come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts
Come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes
Let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones come alive, yeah
We call out to dry bones, come alive

Oh come alive!*

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So…if we struggle with timidity, or doubt, or even some unbelief… we know what to do. Come. Come alive. Wake up afresh to the saving power of Redeemer God.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

*Lyrics to “Come Alive” – Songwriters: Michael Farren & Lauren Daigle

What Is the Meaning of the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37?

The Meaning of the Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones – Ezekiel 37:1-14, Part 3 – Joel Kine

Ezekiel: Valley of Dry Bones – Sean Koos

YouTube – Indescribable – Chris Tomlin

YouTube Video – Even If – MercyMe

Monday Morning Moment – We pray…and We Don’t Give Up.

Photo Credit: David Sanabria, Flickr

I really don’t have words this morning.

Scott Sauls gave me the words below.

The blaming takes us nowhere. The hating definitely diminishes all.

Some think of prayer as a soft and impotent action. Not so! The God who hears our prayers is mighty to save. His purposes are not thwarted. He calls us to prayer and we, and those of the this broken world, are best served when we obey.

Do we do other things? Like sending our resources and opening our communities to those no longer with a home. Absolutely. However… if we don’t pray, we neglect the greatest salvation…and the greatest Savior in these seemingly hopeless situations.

The blaming and hating change nothing and care for no one. It is a dreadful waste and dishonors both God and humankind.

So…we pray.

…and we don’t give up.

Photo Credit: The Fellowship Site

Worship Wednesday – Habakkuk’s Response to the Incomprehensible Goodness of God

[Adapted from the Archives]

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.Habakkuk 3:17-19

Reading the book of Habakkuk, we are spellbound by the devastating situation where the people of God find themselves.  Habakkuk wrestles with God over this, and finally yields in faith to the God he trusts…no matter what. Whether in hunger or high places.

The thought of being completely without food is pretty frightening. The stories we hear in the news of displaced peoples, who had to flee their homes and villages and figure out how to survive on foot, are heartbreaking. I can’t fathom that situation, yet I know it’s real for far too many right now.

I’m also afraid of heights. When we fly, I always get an aisle seat, and treat the experience as if I’m on a cross-country bus trip. I love to look at mountains, but being up in them, on narrow roads or cliff-edge paths, is not what I would choose for transportation or relaxation.

Reading through the short account of desperate times, as recorded by the prophet Habakkuk, reminds me of the raw nature of life sometimes. What is that situation for you that would be the worst you could imagine? The loss of a person or the lack of a provision?

Is there anything that could so devastate me that I would take my eyes off God?

I pray not…and Habakkuk gives hope. He cried out to God, cried out against God, in the beginning, because of the horrific circumstances of his people, God’s people. Yet,  when we besiege the throne of God with our desperate requests, He hears His children and answers us. Not always in ways that suit us at the time, but He responds, with the wisdom of One who sees how all of life, all of history, fits together.

As we pray, whatever He does in answer to our appeals is up to Him – a perfectly loving, merciful and just God. Yet, there is a glorious spiritual transaction that happens, if we keep our eyes on Him. He restores our joy; He brings peace; He gives strength.

I love the passage in C. S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are trying to describe Aslan, the lion who symbolizes Jesus in the Narnia stories. Lucy and Susan ask if Aslan is safe. Mr. Beaver responds, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God is completely good. That does not mean that He keeps us always in comfortable places. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yet, as we look over the shoulders of Habakkuk, and see the world as he saw it…he still came around to seeing the goodness of God. We can also choose to rejoice in whatever situation we find ourselves. That is the faith that plants our feet surely on any path where God leads.

The Faith to Rejoice – A sermon on Habakkuk 3:17-19 by Coty Pinckney, Community Bible Church, Williamstown, MA

The Choice To Rejoice – A sermon by Richard Bray

Precept Austin Bible Study Helps for the book of Habakkuk

Aslan – Is He Safe? – Andrew Groves

Jesus and Holy Week – Monday, Day 2 – Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Restores the Temple to a House of Prayer

[Adapted from the Archives]

On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!”Mark 11:12-14

When Jesus woke on Monday morning, after that glorious Sunday entering Jerusalem…I wonder what he thought. Did he know that, in just four days, he would be crucified? Whew…

Back to Monday:

During that week in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples spent the nights with friends in Bethany, two miles outside of the city. Each morning, they would walk into Jerusalem. On that Monday morning, just four days prior to his crucifixion, Jesus became hungry on the walk in. Seeing a leafy fig tree, he looked for fruit. With fig trees, where there are leaves, there should be figs. Since green figs are edible, and it wasn’t yet harvest season, there should still be some fruit on the tree.

When he found no figs, Jesus cursed the tree. This seems out of character for Jesus, until his action is put in the context of his culture and community. Throughout his public ministry, especially as he became more known and revered, the Jewish religious leaders held him in contempt. Jesus’ teaching of our dependence on God’s righteousness and not our own flew in the face of the Pharisaical teaching of the day – that of strict adherence to Jewish law as the only hope of finding favor with God. For Jesus, the leafy barren fig tree must have been a picture of religious Jews of that day, all flash and finery but no fruit of faith.

“Christ’s single miracle of Destruction, the withering of the fig-tree, has proved troublesome to some people, but I think its significance is plain enough. The miracle is an acted parable, a symbol of God’s sentence on all that is ‘fruitless’ and specially, no doubt, on the official Judaism of that age. That is its moral significance.”C. S. Lewis

Jesus was left still physically hungry. He remained spiritually hungry  as well – for this people of the Book to receive the good news that the Messiah had come.

Finally, arriving back in Jerusalem, Jesus was deeply troubled by what he found inside the Temple. The crowds of Passover pilgrims did not disturb him, but temple grounds turned marketplace did. In this sanctified place, meant only for worship, there were money-changers and sellers of animals for sacrifice, right in the Court of the Gentiles – in the only place where non-Jewish God-believers could worship. Photo Credit: Bible Universe

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”Matthew 21:12-13

Often in film depictions of Jesus cleansing the temple, he appears a crazed individual, flailing about, throwing tables and flinging pigeons into the air. I can’t even imagine him that way. We can’t know how it happened except that in Jesus’ anger, he did not sin. He would not sin. I know the Jesus Film is a director’s rendering of the Biblical account, but in this scene, Jesus showed considerable restraint. Disturbed at the buying and selling that actually kept believing Gentiles from worshiping, he moved to correct the situation. He was unafraid of the temple officials, burning with zeal for his Father to be truly worshiped in that place.

Zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.Psalm 69:9

Later in the week, he himself would be the one for sale – sold for 30 pieces of silver, betrayed by one of his own disciples, to satisfy the wrath of the religious leaders. That story is for another day.

This Holy Monday, we are drawn again to this Messiah who teaches us that the way we live our lives matters but not more than the way we relate to God. He makes space for us…room for all of us to receive Him. He is holy, and in His righteousness, we stand…on solid ground.

Photo Credit: KLove, Experience Easter Series

Holy Week – Day 2: Monday Jesus Clears the Temple – Mary Fairchild

Holy Week Devotions – Mission Lakewood

Spotify Playlist – From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Beth Wayland

Experience Easter – From Genesis to Revelation – K-Love

YouTube Video with Lyrics of In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

Reasoning Why Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree – Sam Shamoun

Monday of Holy Week

How Can We Be Angry and Not Sin? – Jon Bloom

Cleansing the Court of the Gentiles – Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Jesus Film Media – website & app to watch videos

Preparing for Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings From C. S. Lewis – C. S. Lewis

Worship Wednesday – St. Patrick’s Day – Be Thou My Vision

[Adapted from the Archives – Here and Here]

St. Patrick’s DayLá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit! Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Wearing green. Corned beef and cabbage…and my family background is Scottish…so a bit of a mix for us.

I am also planning to watch the David Kidd documentary Patrick. A friend who heard David Kidd speak shared the following with me via email – notes from his talk on the real Patrick (legends removed):

  • He was born in 396 AD and died in 471 AD.
  • Patrick was brought up in a Romano British Christian home somewhere in southwest Britain (his father was a deacon and grandfather a priest).
  • He was kidnapped at 16 (didn’t really know God at that time), trafficked, and taken to the West Coast of Ireland where he worked as a shepherd and learned to speak Irish.
  • As a slave, Patrick came to see the hand of God in his troubles. God broke through his defenses, and Patrick faced his unbelief and pride. Later he described how he turned to God whom he realized had been watching over him all the time. He became aware of God’s protection, and he discovered that God loved him as a father loves his son.
  • Before this, he knew he had ‘sinned’ and believed that God punished him.
  • God spoke to him in a dream about a ship coming to take him home. At 22, he managed to escape slavery.
  • At home, he had another dream of the people in Ireland calling him back.
  • He was obedient to the Spirit and went back to West Ireland (“the ends of the earth” at that time).
  • He was beaten, harassed by thieves and robbers, admonished by his British superiors, but his work grew and he remained humble.
  • He protested against injustice, esteemed women highly, and identified himself as Irish.
  • His legacy was a vibrant Christianity which lasted hundreds of years while Britain and Europe fell into the Dark Ages.

On St. Patrick’s Day, what we can do to honor Patrick’s memory?

  • The Past: Remember a humble man who had been mistreated, heard from God, obeyed, loved his enemies, lived his life for Jesus, and made a significant difference – not just in Ireland, but much of Europe.
  • The Present: Use Patrick’s life to help people focus on what really matters…Christ Jesus.
  • The Future: Be as faithful as Patrick and live for Jesus and His Kingdom – making a difference in this world with fruit that lasts.

Through slavery, Patrick’s life was essentially taken from him. In the loss of his freedom, he ultimately found Christ. That glorious salvation brought him eternal freedom. He managed to escape his slavery, but then surrendered his life, this time in his love for and obedience to God. returning to Ireland for the sake of the Gospel.

But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ.  More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ-the righteousness from God based on faith. [My goal] is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.Philippians 3:7-11

The strongest memories I have of the old Irish hymn Be Thou My Vision are connected with worship in North Africa. We sang it across three countries in Heliopolis Community Church (Cairo), St. George’s (Tunis), and St. John’s (Casablanca). When our children were growing up, we expat families, from various Christian denominations, gathered once or twice a week to worship in English.  We sang great hymns, old and contemporary, with guitar accompaniment, and followed worship leaders with more British accents than American. Photo Credit: Eurobishop

I remember our little family, strung out along a pew of these little churches. Our stair-step children, with shoulders squared, singing from hymnals in the early years and then with lyrics projected on the stuccoed front walls.Before our children all launched back into life in the US, we “attended” traditional church less and became a part of house churches. There we still sang Be Thou My Vision, still with guitar…less with a British accent.

Back in the US, when we sing Be Thou My Vision, we are still reminded of its great truths and of other years, in other places, where His truth was being made known. In places where we prayed to see people as He sees them…and to love them as He loves.

[Movement Church, Adapted from the Archives]

Worship with me to the rendition performed by Welsh singer Noel Richards. A bit slower than I’m used to but it allows us to soak up the words in worship. Also, all five verses are included which is important.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tow’r:
Raise Thou me heav’nward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.*

Worship Wednesday – In Christ Alone – Townend & Getty – Deb Mills

*Lyrics to “Be Thou My Vision” – an old Irish hymn (in the Celtic Christian tradition) – translated into the English above by Eleanor Hull in 1912

10 Steps to Developing God’s Vision For Your Life – J. P. Jones

Be Thou My Vision – Wikipedia – English Methodist Lyrics, 1964

Be Thou My Vision – She Reads Truth – Claire Gibson

Hymn Story to Be Thou My Vision

You are My Vision – Rend Collective – Official Live – acapella part at 2:23 will seriously give you cold chills 

YouTube Video – Be Thou My Vision – Nathan Pacheco

Photo Credit: UTubers

Monday Morning Moment – a Non-partisan Prayer for America on the Eve of the Election

Photo Credit: Savio Sebastian, Flickr

[6 minute read…and prayer]

Oh God,

We come to You because “where else would we go?”. You alone, Lord, hold all things together (Colossians 1:17). How thankful we are that nothing can separate us from Your love. (Romans 8:38-39)

Father, You call us to love You, not because You need our love, but because You know if we do harm to ourselves in loving anyone or anything more than You. With loving You as our primary call, You also urge us to love others as we love ourselves. Help us to daily become more like Jesus, that when we love others, they will experience His gracious love through us. Even our enemies.

God, You remind us how we work out that love in our lives – by “doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with You” (Micah 6:8).

Forgive us, Lord, when our identity as partisan citizens takes priority over Your Kingdom rule and reign. You remind us that You have created “thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities”. You have given us the blessing of being Americans. Forgive us when we elevate that blessing over Your place in our lives. You are God – You “exalt and You bring down”, “remove kings and establish them“, “appoint authorities”. Thank You, God, that no matter the outcome of this election, we can be confident that You are ever at work in the world.

How do we vote, Lord? Guide us to vote not just our sensibilities but out of conscience drenched by your Holy Spirit. Some preachers and writers counsel with us that neither candidate may deserve the vote of a true follower of Yours. Then there are Godly responses that followed of how we must live “in this world but not of this world” (John 17:9-19) – not drawing away from voting. There are so many opinions, so many platforms…both outside Your church and inside.

Teach us how to be as fully a part of our culture as possible, but without sin. How does that work with voting in a post-Christian country? Lord, our hearts burn with desire for You to be glorified in this place. We need Your clarity.

Will voting our conscience drive away or draw others to You?

Please help us, Lord. Are we to be silent in the arena of politics?

Guide us, Lord. We need Your wisdom. We also surrender ourselves to Your will in this…just please lead us. Whichever side we align with politically has its unique secular agenda. With no interest in Godly outcomes. Give us discernment, God, as we make our decisions and act on them.

We need Your humility. Help us Democrats to fight for the unborn; help us Republicans to intervene for children at our country’s borders.* Help us see Your love for the whole world, and move us to act, not just on election day, but every day thereafter.

You call us to demonstrate Your love to the most vulnerable in our society – the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, the poor. Help us, Father, move from intention, from words only, to be the hands and feet of God…following the life-giving (and life-giving-away) example of Jesus.

How ever the election ends, whatever the outcome, Father help us, each of us, to “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). Also, we pray for the grace to continue to obey You by praying for those in authority over us, whoever that might be.

Thank You, Father, for the amazing grace You give us to quieten our hearts and still our resolve.

Thank You for Jesus, whom You’ve given all authority. He has given us a great work in this world, from which we do not want to be distracted. Praise Your name that You are always with us…even in these moments ahead of the election. It is a small thing for You. Help us keep that perspective.

Lord, many of us came to faith in a supportive environment where we had freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembling together. Forgive us when we fall to fear of losing these currently protected rights. Should we experience persecution, Lord, we know from Your Word and the testimony of Your saints, that You continue with us always. Thank You, Father.

We keep our eyes on You. Whether we line up to vote tomorrow…or decide we won’t be voting this year. You are God. You are good. Your purposes are not thwarted. Every morning, Your mercies are new to us…just what we need for each day. Thank You, Father, that You love Your children and You remind us, throughout the Holy Scriptures, to be strong, to not be afraid, and to not lose heart.

We will ever keep our eyes on You, to finish Your work, in each of our lives, in this country, and in this world. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Oh, and Lord, could I pray for one thing more? Please, Father, please rid our world of COVID-19. We pray in the name and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not just divided by politics; we are divided by this terrible virus. Free us from the bondage and hardship that has come out of this disease and its mitigation. Lord, You have told us to come boldly in prayer to Your throne. This is a time of great need for us, all around the world. We ask for Your mercy. Thank You, Lord. Again, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

*YouTube Video – Politics: How Would Jesus Vote? – Scott Sauls – He also encourages us in how we vote. Best sermon I’ve heard on this topic in this election season.

Positive Living: No Matter What You Do – God’s Plans Cannot Be Aborted! – Margaret Hodge – Great passages of Scripture included

What Christians Should Do If Their Candidate Loses the 2020 Election – Andy Stanley

A Facebook post from a friend – short and worthwhile read

Sunday Reflection – Am I My Brother’s Keeper? – On Neglect – Part 1

Blog - Neglect

[From the Archives]

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” – Genesis 4:9

We must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?…Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. – Hebrews 2:1-3, 17-18

Neglect/Neglectful to leave behind, to omit by carelessness or design, to slight, to omit to receive/embrace, to disregard, to be inattentive, to become accustomed to omit what may or ought to be done.

Who wants a life riddled with gaping holes of neglectfulness? Or who wants to leave a heritage of neglect. Who? Yet it can happen ever so subtly in our pursuit of safety and security, circling our wagons tightly around what personally matters most to us.

And the rest of the world?

Not My Business

Not My Problem

Not My Family

Not My Job

Not My Call

Not My Responsibility

Not My Fault

Not My Gift

Not My Calling

Not Worth My Time/Money

Not Worth Saving

The most winsome thing I know of God is that He loves the whole world (John 3:16). I don’t want to line out my life…set boundaries… such that some around me are more deserving of grace than others…that some are worthy of aid or intervention but others are not…that some are outside of the Gospel and others, by “accident” of geography or opportunity, are not.  As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we have been given a great salvation – “so great a salvation” that we cannot neglect His intent of it, for our sakes, and for those around us. There is no such thing as benign neglect.*

We, individually and corporately, can’t save the world, as much as we would like. However, our humanity,  with whatever perceived limited capacity we have, was meant to glorify God by our nature and pursuits. We can determine to live lives faithful and pleasing to God – “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with  God” (Micah 6:8).

If you look at the list of “not’s” above, you may, like I do, see phrases we’ve used before for decisions made and actions not taken. Look now at some of the antonyms for neglect – what it is to not yield to being neglectful – intentional, diligent, constant, loving, inclined, conscious, determined, caring, keeping, dedicated, patient, carrying through, preserving, mindful, attending, cherishing, conserving, celebrating, listening, nourishing, obedient, inspiring, giving, remembering, redeeming, watchful, purposeful.

With so great a salvation that we have received, how could we choose to be any other way toward others?

“To fail to exhibit that we take truth seriously at those points where there is a cost in our doing so, is to push the next generation in the relative, dialectical millstream that surrounds us. ” Francis A. Schaeffer

Part 2 is here.

Denzel Washington, Martin Luther, and Our Strange Neglect of the Bible

Francis A. Schaeffer – a modern-day prophet, author of How Shall We Then Live?

The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence

Do Not Neglect the Weightier Matters of the Law

Charles Spurgeon’s Sermon on Neglecting Our Personal Work in the Kingdom

 Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

Worst-Case Scenarios: The Problem of Neglect

*“Benign” neglect  – a noninterference that is intended to benefit someone or something more than continual attention would.