Category Archives: Displaced Peoples

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.

5 Friday Faves – Food Anthropology, The Punisher on Classical Guitar, Pastimes, “Life Has Purpose”, and Community

Weekend! Go….five favorite finds for this week:

1) Food Anthropology – Anthropology is the study of cultures and peoples – their behaviors, values, etc. The TEDx talk below was a walk down the lane of pleasurable food memories for me. Syrian-American food writer Tony Tahhan talked on What Syrian Cuisine Can Teach Us About Humanity. In his talk, Tahhan gives sweet details about growing up in a Syrian home in Venezuela (?!). Then they immigrated to the US, blending more cultures. His stories of Syria itself center on food and culture.

Our first experience of Syrian food culture was when we lived in Cairo, Egypt, for a few years. Our friend Amal, a Syrian-American, often hosted us in her home. She and her husband reflected their culture of gathering and generous hosting of friends and family. Egyptians also have that wonderful hospitality as well..and their own yummy food. Still, being in Amal’s home and at her table was unique. So much food! So much preparation…chopping, blending, baking. Distinct flavors. Beautiful colors. Healthy and satisfying. Dessert, too…not healthy always (unless it was the huge bowl of fruit) but incredibly memory-making. Can you say baklava?

I took lots of food pictures in those days but couldn’t find them for this blog. The image below will have to do. This gives a good idea about Amal’s table. Beautiful and bountiful. Full of love.Photo Credit: Flickr

There is much we can learn from peoples and cultures through their food. Syria has been so traumatized by war. Still, I’m completely positive, that if anyone had an opportunity to sit at a Syrian table, whatever their hosts had would be presented sumptuously for the guest. That’s a lesson for us all.

Thank you, Amal, for the food and the friendship.

Syrian Cooking

The 9 Most Important Things I Learned in Cooking School – Jesse Szewczyk

2) The Punisher on Classical GuitarNathan Mills arranges another beautifully haunting piece – the theme Frank’s Choice from the TV show The Punisher. In the show (which I’ve never seen – too violent for me), Frank Castle has the horrific experience of watching his family be murdered. He then becomes a vigilante, hunting down those responsible. Then he seems not to be able to escape that life, going after other evil criminal types. Nathan (Beyond the Guitar) takes composer Tyler Bates‘ tortured theme (pointing to the “dead man walking” Frank Castle character) to a different place. A quieter, sad longing of a place. Beautiful.

3) Pastimes – The stuff of life outside of work. Hobbies, shopping, classes, volunteering, family/friend time, and desultory activities – being lost in the moment, wanderings.

With social distancing thanks to COVID, our pastimes may be altered somewhat. Before March, I spent a lot of time gone from the house. Now, not so much. Dave also presently works from home.

So when work is done, what do we do? What do you do?

We’re slow adopters. The Mandalorian, the web series on Disney+, wasn’t on our watch-list although we’re huge Star Wars fans. In fact, we didn’t know much about it except for the hype. Oh, and the piece  Nathan arranged and performed, of the show theme.

This week we signed up for Disney+ and are “bingeing” The Mandalorian. It’s a first, the whole binge thing. Such is some of the strangeness that COVID has brought to our socially distanced lives.

Now, watching movies is definitely a favorite pastime. This past week (including the weekend), we saw three “small” films (small in that they weren’t huge boxoffice hits).

I loved them all and recommend them. Lots of heart in these films. Heart and humor.

A few weeks back, I watched the 2020 Netflix documentary 13th (about the abolition of slavery) and I hope to watch  another 2020 documentary Uncle Tom soon. Anybody seen either of these?

During COVID, Dave and I have taken up playing Bananagrams after supper. It’s a quick game – he wins usually.

Just being outside in the back yard with a book, my camera, or a friend is also even more special with the press of COVID.

One favorite verse of mine in the Bible is: “Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor.Romans 12:10 It’s not about competing with one another for God’s favor (He loves His children purely and freely). It’s just an encouragement to be as generous as we can loving and showing honor to each other. out of the love we already enjoy from God. This “outdoing” a pastime worthy of making a skill/habit.

A dear friend dropped off some of her summer bounty for us this week…so for days, we enjoyed that sweet gift.

Then another friend dropped off a card from her little girl to our little granddaughter (these little ones are missing their friends, too). So special.

Finally, I got to be on the dessert delivery list of this amazing baker friend. She just drove pieces of cake around to different fortunate ones of us. Lemon pound cake. Yum! Right?

On the flip side – another friend has a birthday this week but was also heading to the beach…so no opportunity to gather. She is amazing at reaching out to people, always and also during COVID. For one time, I got a jump on her with some beach reading. Happy birthday, Karen!

What pastimes do you enjoy lately? Especially those that lift your heart or others.

4) Life Has Purpose – A friend of mine introduced Ryan and Bethany Bomberger to me via her Facebook post. They are pro-life adoptive parents. They are Christians. Give them a listen whatever your worldview…you’ll be drawn in to their hearts. They are not mush-minded (as some think of those with descriptions like this). Rock-solid people. Their podcast is Life Has Purpose.Photo Credit: Life Has Purpose

They are authors, and Ryan is a songwriter. He wrote Meant to Be as a tribute to his birth mother who conceived him in rape. He was adopted by parents who would adopt 9 other multi-ethnic kiddos.

Photo Credit: The Radiance Foundation

Part of what make finds favorites is that often there’s a beautiful ripple effect – finding favorites of the finds. Neil and Christina Shenvi came along with “Life Has Purpose”. Check them out. Fascinating.

5) Community – This comes up in my Faves from time to time, because it continues to just boggle the mind how essential it is and how deep it can be…even with COVID. [Our community group – so dear]

However…and there is a big HOWEVER here…social distancing can really do a number on community. When we think of how it has affected us as adults, we need to think also how it can affect our children (littles and bigs).

Earlier this week, this short film by 15-year-old Liv McNeil came to my attention and it surprised me with emotion – what it can be like for teens who are isolated by the COVID experience.

We must watch out for each other.

Shared Hope: Friendships Are Life-Saving Medicine – Jane Jayroe Gamble

That’s it for this week. Hope you get some rest and get some time with folks you love and who love you!

Bonuses:

SummerPhoto Credit: Kathryn Visneski

How to Declutter Your Closet with a Single Box – Olivia Muenter

YouTube Video – TEDx Talk – Everyone Has Hardships – John Guyon

The Real Secret to Aging Well & How to Feel the Luckiest About Growing Older Into a Deeply Meaningful Life – Ann Voskamp

Here’s the Science That Explains Why Drinking Diet Soda Makes You Gain Weight – Minda Zetlin

Negative Effects of Sugar-Free Carbonated Drinks – Erica Kannall

Thirty Minutes with the Perry’s – Podcast – Preston Perry & Jackie Hill Perry

These Four Phrases Will Make Life Easier for Teachers and Parents This Fall – Laura Milligan

This Dad and Pastor  Has Advice and Calming Words for Overwhelmed Parents – Erika Sanzi

The Nonconformist – Thomas Sowell on Race, Poverty, and Culture – Coleman Hughes

Two of my heroes at Southwood Community Resource Center:

Worship Wednesday – #Woke – What It Means to This Believer – Amazing Grace

Photo Credit: Statement on Social Justice

[Adapted from the Archives]

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice: blessed are all those who wait for Him.Isaiah 30:18

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.Job 1:22

When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.
 – Matthew 9:36

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”Micah 6:8

In today’s context, “woke” is a word  that I may never understand or fully embrace. However, it is concept that compelled me to research it and consider it.

Being “woke” has some strong, politically and sociologically polarizing applications, but the simplest definitions are captured below. It means “being aware of what is going on in the community; being aware of the social and political environments regarding all socio-economic standings”.Photo Credit: Slideshare, Mike Maccarone

I’d like to tell you a quick story. Then I will hop off anything political and onto the place I’ve landed as a believer.

Last summer, we traveled to a conference in Oklahoma. During the time there, I had the opportunity for a road trip across the Eastern part of the state. It was my first experience of the Native American nations in Oklahoma. Part of my “woke” journey now has this experience folded in. Except for the links below on tribal history and The Indian Removal Act, this topic will be for another day…but it speaks to “wokeness” as well.

We flew back to Richmond, with those experiences still very fresh in my mind.

Walking to baggage claim from our gate, we were surrounded by other travelers from the Atlanta flight. Either visitors to our city or, like us, residents returning home. In front of me for much of the walk was a youngish Black man. He was sharply dressed in khaki pants and a dazzling white t-shirt, and he had all the paraphernalia of someone who travels a lot. A professional appearing man who could easily put on a sport-coat over his white t-shirt and show up for work in some executive suite.

Photo Credit: Augusta Native

It is telling of this man’s experience of his country, this society, and the politics of the day. The slogan first caught my eye (with its particular spelling of America), then the hangman’s noose, and then the list of losses…

[Hard to read because I am grateful to be American. Its history, like so many countries, has dark terrible times in it. I don’t want to forget that…but how to respond to it…]

On his right forearm, this man had a large tattoo in bold capital letters: #BLM (Black Lives Matter).

He was a walking billboard for “wokeness” as a Black person with a loud cry against the injustice he lays on his country.

I don’t think that fellow traveler and I would ever have a conversation. For sure, it felt unwanted that day – an intrusion from a stranger…but I do want those conversations. For now, it begins with my response to him…and others.

In praying through these recent experiences, here are four points of action in this being “woke” as a follower of Christ:

  1. Listen. I’ve been learning to make it a practice to listen with intentionality to people who feel marginalized – for whatever reasons. To hear them, we have to come within hearing. It can be uncomfortable as you know. That’s why we want to avoid it or rationalize or downplay it.
  2. Consider. In nursing school, we learned that Pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he/she says it does” (McCaffery). The same can apply to what we hear of people’s pain – whether in their present experience or a past horror either theirs or others (with whom they feel a kinship). Again, reacting in a way that rationalizes or shifts blame only pushes away. Consider humbly what they are saying.
  3. Separate political from spiritual. When injustice occurs, we are called by God, as believers, to respond. Even better, we are to stand alongside the marginalized, when possible, doing what we can to lessen injustice. Lots could be said about this, but for today, just a check in our thinking. Our government may or may not act in definitive ways. We as the church have a very different call…and loving action is always a part of that call.
  4. Act. Again, so much could be said here, but today a brief take on it. For sure, we know that the Lord doesn’t require us to cover for the sins of others. Nor does He allow us to put our heads in the sand and ignore the suffering of those around us. To move forward we must leave the terrible wrongs of the past to the righteous justice of the Lord. He calls us to act today on behalf of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized…in front of us, all around us. Jesus acted on our behalf; we are to act on theirs.

To be “woke” as a believer is to see the world with God’s eyes and His heart and to engage and respond, in the power of His Holy Spirit. Previously I wrote the following about finishing strong in this life:

An imperative key to our finishing strong is humbling ourselves before God and in relationship to those He places in our lives.

An example of this humility worked out in relationship is the friendship between John Newton and William Wilberforce. Newton, a British slave ship captain until his conversion to Christ, would become a spiritual mentor to Wilberforce, who strongly influenced the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. Wilberforce was able to use his governmental authority to aid in abolishing slavery, but he was also a man of prayer and action in his personal life as well. Blog - Finishing strong - historicalmoviesPhoto Credit: Historical Movies

Jonathan Aitken, author of the biography John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, writes about the relationship between Newton and Wilberforce:

“Humanity will forever be in Newton’s debt for mentoring Wilberforce…their relationship was of pivotal importance for both historical and spiritual reasons.”

Jesus mentored us, His followers, so well. Who are we mentoring in this “wokeness”? Who are we ourselves learning from today?

Worship with me today through this beautiful old hymn, Amazing Grace, written by John Newton. His lyrics speak to being “woke”: I once was lost, but now I’m found; Was blind, but now I see. Consider watching the 2006 film Amazing Grace with your family or friends (who somehow missed it the first time around).

How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine.

Worship Wednesday – Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) – Deb Mills

What’s Wrong With Woke? – Tom Ascol

Slavery, by the Numbers – Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“This Is All Stolen Land”: Native Americans Want More Than California’s Apology – Sam Levin

Half the Land in Oklahoma Could Be Returned to native Americans. It Should Be. – Rebecca Nagle

Monday Morning Moment – Maximizing the Benefit of Video Meetings and Minimizing “Zoom Fatigue”

Photo Credit: Flickr, John Kless

What would we do during these days of COVID-19 without FaceTime, Zoom meetings, Microsoft Teams, or Skype?! Sheltering at home, working from home, and social distancing have all drawn us into more of a solitary work and life. Having these online conversation opportunities keeps our daily lives open to those we wouldn’t otherwise see. Unfortunately just as meetings in real life as well as large family gatherings can exhaust us, so can the electronic facsimiles.

We want the good of them, and we sure don’t want to burnout on them before our stint with the Coronavirus is over.

Thankfully there are clinicians, creatives, and other thought leaders out there who are keeping online meetings fresh and inviting.

Psychologist Steven Hickman has written an incredibly insightful article on Zoom fatigue. Here are some of his observations:

[Related to his various Zoom meetings during COVID-19] “I have felt joy arising to see the faces and hear the voices of people whose faces and voices I first encountered when we were breathing the same air, standing in the same physical space, each (in Dan Siegel’s term) “feeling felt” by the other. And so it was nice to be with them electronically in this age of social distancing and sheltering in place.

And that was it, it was nice. I’ve been so busy lately that I thought perhaps I was just fatigued. But the more it happens, the more I realize that I end up feeling both connected but disconnected to these dear people.”

“…when we start to be over-stimulated by extraneous data that we haven’t had to process in the physical world [all the faces on a Zoom meeting, the pets, the background, our own fiddling with phone or other outside the screen’s view], each new data point pushes us just a little bit farther away from the human-to-human connection that we all crave and appreciate.

“Italian management professor Gianpiero Petriglieri recently tweeted ‘It’s easier being in each other’s presence, or in each other’s absence, than in the constant presence of each other’s absence.’

Zoom Exhaustion Is Real. Here Are Six Ways to Find Balance and Stay Connected – Steven Hickman

Dr. Hickman then offers 6 interventions to boost the benefit of these online meetings while dissipating their down-side:

    • Take a few moments before clicking “Start” to settle and ground your attention. [My note: I find this so helpful because otherwise we are rushing into an online meeting, as if we’re running late for an in-person meeting. All the emotions and some of the guilt of being late.]
    • Take the time to truly greet whoever is in the room with your full attentionoffer your attention to each face that appears (if the group is not too big). Give yourself a moment for each person to make an impression on you, and “take in the good” as Rick Hanson would say. Give yourself an opportunity to feel what it feels like to be in the presence of another. [My note: I LOVE his reminder of mindfulness. We struggle with truly being present with people…in the moment. Good word.]
    • Choose “speaker view.” In Zoom, one can choose Speaker View or Gallery View. [My note: I didn’t notice before that a “speaker view” is available. I love seeing all the faces, but maybe they can be distracting as well. Something to think about, especially for a work or content meeting.]
    • Resist the urge to multitask. I need to let go of a bit of “efforting” and let my attention rest more lightly and lovingly on what (and who) is before me. [My note: This multitasking adds to our “Zoom fatigue” when we are trying to get more done than is reasonably possible and stay tuned into what’s going on in the online meeting. We may need to look away or focus more lightly on the screen, but multitasking will take away from our experience of those in the meeting.]
    • Try to take measured breaks between sessions.
    • And finally, remind yourself periodically that this is a new place between presence and absence that we will have to learn how to accommodate as we go forward into the uncertain future. It is both better than absence…and not quite as resonant as presence.

Thank you, Dr. Hickman, for this excellent piece of counsel.

What counsel do you have to keep online meetings engaging and pleasurable for those in attendance? Please comment below.

In my experiences of late with video meetings, we have tried to keep things rolling in terms of content and invite the addition of humor/play if it doesn’t already exist. Game nights came even be planned as online meetings. Family dinners, coffee breaks, teatimes, or happy hours can also be orchestrated via Zoom or one of the other platforms. Time limits are helpful. Chatroom groupings as part of a larger online meeting are helpful. One friend of ours actually added a dressup/costume element to his video meetings.

Online meetings should be just part of our arsenal of tools to stay in touch with each other. It’s way too early in this historical season for us to grow weary of them. I am grateful and will continue to be…let’s help each other to keep them beneficial for all involved…whether it’s two people or a large roomful.[Our son who is an essential worker and therefore unable to visit us because of his potential exposure to COVID-19 at work. So grateful to see him at least this way.]

Zoom Fatigue: Don’t Let Video Meetings Zap Your Energy – Some “Cheats” to Help You Beat Zoom Fatigue Before It Beats You – Suzanne Degges-White

6 Pro Tips for Overcoming Zoom Meeting Fatigue – Kelsey Ogletree

I’ll Be Right Back. How to Protect Your Energy During Zoom Meetings – Elizabeth Grace Saunders

6 Tops For Avoiding Zoom Fatigue in the Age of COVID-19 – Leah D. Schade

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

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