Category Archives: Lives Full of God

Wednesday Worship – Place In This World – Michael W. Smith

Photo Credit: Slideplayer

God has arranged each one of the parts in the body just as he wanted.  And if they were all the same part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.  The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  On the contrary, those parts of the body that are weaker are indispensable.  And those parts of the body that we consider less honorable, we clothe these with greater honorGod has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable,  so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other.  So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:18-23a, 24-27

Have you ever felt out of place? Awkwardly fitting in your family or workplace or church? 1 Corinthians 12 gives us a beautiful picture of how God intended for each of us to have a place. Within the Body of Christ. Where we belong, where we are known, and where we should magnificently fit.

A dear friend of ours, Dave Lyle, is a storyteller. He was our dad’s pastor, and he treated Dad as a good friend. When Dad wasn’t able to attend church anymore, Pastor Dave would still visit and catch him up on news and pray with him and for him. Dad never had to wonder if he had a place in this world, even in his 90s, when his pastor came around.

With his permission, you will read a story Pastor Dave recently shared on his Facebook page. It says a lot about how important it is to communicate to people that they matter…just as they are.

***HE’S NOT YOUR TYPICAL GUEST AT CHURCH, BUT HE’S WELCOME ANYTIME***

Roger came to worship with us, again, at church last night. He’s our friend and happens to be homeless. He looks the part and acts the part, although not dangerous at all. He’s actually a very sweet guy, and smart. Of course, there are reasons he is homeless, and we are not going to change it by analyzing, or preaching. And he won’t take money. I don’t think he needs it- he seems to always have a new project going, and the ability to fund it. Anyhow, I’ve stopped trying to explain Roger to other guests who show up at the same time. I talk with him as a friend, shake his hand, hug him if he will let me. It seems that Roger thinks he is normal, and the rest of us are maybe a bit strange but he loves us anyhow. And he keeps coming back. One time I set out to find his home place, searched far and wide and finally found him living in a dilapidated van behind a warehouse. He was proud to show me the dwellings- his bed, how he cooked and stored things. As he understood it, he was the security for all the businesses in the vicinity. I guess it was a nice gig?

I am learning more with every passing day that, foremost, you are to love people. Yes, change them if you can, lead them to Lord if you can. But before and beyond all the heavy stuff, consider him or her to be a person of value who is worth the time and effort to just hang out with and to get to know. And so, Roger fascinates me. He puzzles me and frustrates me, and I like him.

When worship was over and it was time to leave, he walked by a table at the front of the sanctuary and saw some baby bottles. I told him they were being used to raise money for a local medical clinic for expectant mothers. He made some catty statement about how they waste the money, rambled on with incoherency for about 30 seconds- typical Roger stuff. And then he pulled out a crumpled ten dollar bill and stuffed it in the bottle. You just gotta like the guy! – Pastor Dave Lyle

Now Pastor Dave is probably never going to lead a megachurch or write a bestseller (although he could!)…BUT! He has shown himself a the best sort of servant of God in loving people as they are, seeing their value in the Lord’s eyes. He makes a place for them in the church and points them to Jesus.

Worship with me to an old 1991 Michael W. Smith song Place in this World:

The wind is moving
But I am standing still
A life of pages
Waiting to be filled
A heart that’s hopeful
A head that’s full of dreams
But this becoming
Is harder than it seems
Feels like I’m

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world

If there are millions
Down on their knees
Among the many
Can you still hear me?
Hear me asking
Where do I belong?
Is there a vision
That I can call my own?
Show me I’m

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world*

I’m thankful for all those through my life who, led by the Holy Spirit, made a place for me. Often, our first glimpse of God is through the love of another – a parent, a teacher, a pastor, a friend.

Tauren Wells‘ song “Known” gives us another look at what it’s like to belong…truly belong…and to be fully known and loved by God.

Songwriters: Ethan Hulse, Tauren Wells, Jordan Sapp

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”  Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

Fully Known and Fully Loved – Jill Tracey

“Lord, love through us. Give us an appreciation for every member of the Body of Christ…as we have seen in the friendships of our brother Dave…with Roger…and our Dad. Then, God, help us remember how You gave each of us a place in Your Kingdom. Show us how to give space to others…those that You bring into our lives…to love them and see them as You do…fully known and fully loved.”

*Lyrics to Place in this World – Songwriters: Wayne Kirkpatrick, Michael W. Smith and Amy Lee Grant

Michael W. Smith Reflects on the Power of a Song – 35 #1 Hits Later – Pam Windsor

Worship Wednesday – God With us – MercyMe

Photo Credit: ASU Now

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof.Psalm 96:11

“If I say, ‘I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,’ His message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones, and I become weary of holding it in, and I cannot prevail.” – the prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah 20:9

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” But some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!” “I tell you,” He answered, “If they remain silent, the very stones will cry out.”Luke 19:38-40

But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than God. For we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heart.”Acts 4:20

The Scripture speaks over and over again about how God is always present with us. Always present. How do we respond to such a phenomenal truth? The accounts in the Bible resonate our own experiences – we are moved to worship this amazing ever-present God and we are loosed in speaking of His greatness. We can’t but speak.

“He is here. Right now. Fully, completely. He is in you, around you, with you, over you, about you, for you, on time, in the middle of, surrounding you and the ones you love, in complete power, communicating as clearly as any time in history, doing perfectly to you, for you, by you, thinking about you every moment, walking directly into the middle of your worst day, your worst moment, your worst fear, your pain, your loneliness, your doubts, your insecurity, your sickness, your tragedy, your fragileness, your hope, your joy, your peace, your dreams, your relationships, your love, your longing to have your life count. He is here. He is champion and author of every beauty you find yourself longing for. He is the one who stands over you in the darkest hour. He is lifting you up, when you are too exhausted, too devastated, too hopeless, too failed, too compromised, too far gone. He is in this season.” – John Lynch

Immanuel by John Lynch – Mundane Faithfulness

In Genesis 37-50, we marvel at the story of Jacob’s son, Joseph – sold into slavery by his own brothers, wrongly imprisoned, and then… forgotten? No. Not forgotten. Not by God.

Joseph lived as a slave and a prisoner for a total of 13 years. Always faithful to a very present God. Then in a providential, “for such a time as this” moment, the Lord brought him out and he was placed in the highest position of authority under Pharoah. It would be another 9 years before he would see his brothers again, but when he did, he would be able to come to their aid, and that of all the peoples of that day.

We are moved by the God who is always present with us. We are riveted by what we find in the Scriptures about how He works in the smallest details to bring about our good and His glory (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28). Then we are taken to our knees when we see Him do the same in our lives today.

“God glorifies himself towards the creatures also [in] two ways: (1) by appearing to them, being manifested to their understanding; (2) in communicating himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in, and enjoying the manifestations which he makes of himself. . . . God is glorified not only by his glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. . . . [W]hen those that see it delight in it: God is more glorified than if they only see it; his glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart.”Jonathan Edwards

We can do nothing less than worship. It is our complete joy to do so. Out of that worship, we understand God and His purposes more, and we rejoice. It becomes a joy to walk with Him wherever He takes us…right?Photo Credit: Media Shout

[We all have times when we feel alone…that no one cares; that we are invisible. Truth is…that is not true no matter how real it feels. Hold on to the “each others” that God brings to you…hold onto Him.]

MercyMe with lead singer/songwriter Bart Millard has delivered two of my favorite contemporary worship songs: I Can Only Imagine and Even If. This song God With Us reminds us of His loving constancy in our lives. It also reveals how it is that we can’t help but lift our voices about Him and raise our hands because of Him. He is with us!

Worship with me.

Who are we
That You would be mindful of us
What do You see
That’s worth looking our way

We are free
In ways that we never should be
Sweet release
From the grip of these chains

Like hinges straining from the weight
My heart no longer can keep from singing

CHORUS
All that is within me cries
For You alone be glorified
Emmanuel . God with us

My heart sings a brand new song
The debt is paid these chains are gone
Emmanuel . God with us

Lord . You know
Our hearts don’t deserve Your glory
Still You show
A love we cannot afford

Like hinges straining from the weight
My heart no longer can keep from singing

CHORUS

Such a tiny offering
Compared to Calvary
But nevertheless
We lay it at your feet

Such a tiny offering
Compared to Calvary
But nevertheless
We lay this at your feet

CHORUS

O my soul, bless God.
    From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
    don’t forget a single blessing!

     He forgives your sins—every one.
    He heals your diseases—every one.
    He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
    He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
    He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
    He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.                      –   Psalm 103:1-5, The Message

*Lyrics to God With Us – Songwriters: James Philip Bryson, Nathan Fay Cochran, Barry Earn Graul, Bart Marshall Millard, Michael John Scheuchzer, Robin Troy Shaffer

Story Behind the Song God With Us – Kevin Davis

The Place of Preaching in Worship – John Piper

5 Friday Faves – The Godfather Theme, Roaring Lambs, a Very Different Jesus, Core Values, and Finally Spring

Here’s to your weekend! 5 favorite finds from this week:

1) The Godfather Theme – One of the most iconic films of all time was The Godfather adapted from the 1969 novel of the same name. The story focused on the fictional New York crime family, the Corleone’s. So engrossing was the narrative that two later films of the same name followed. Composer Nino Rota‘s theme from The Godfather is beautiful and memorable. Whether or not you’ve ever seen the film(s), you know this melody. Nathan Mills has again taken this giant of a song and arranged a gorgeous piece for a single classical guitar.

[Sidebar: One of Nathan’s guitar students is doing a semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland. He heard a local guitarist playing and it reminded him of Nathan’s style of playing -at Beyond the Guitar. He engaged the guitarist in conversation and found out that he knows Nathan’s work and follows his music. Small guitar world. Sweet little story for you who follow and support Nathan’s music as well.]

2) Roaring Lambs – Many years ago, I read TV producer Bob Briner‘s book Roaring Lambs. Says Briner: “In my circles, Christians are thought of as people who are against things. I want us to be known as people who are for things good, wholesome, creative, wonderful, and fulfilling. That’s the message of the Gospel and it ought to be the message in all that we do.” His audience was Christians but there is wisdom for anyone who wants to make a difference rather than just a reputation or wants to make a change rather than just noise. We don’t think of lambs roaring, but Briner challenged the reader to take their work to the next level but not only aiming for excellence but for a depth and breadth that touches the lives of those around them.Photo Credit: Mountain Pleasant Granary

A woman I only know by what her “roaring lamb” reputation retired recently. Her job was made redundant by a new software program that was adopted in her workplace. What everyone will miss, as much as they will miss her diligence to task, is the beauty she brought to her department. Her generous gift of hospitality in both decorating common areas and serving food to her colleagues made it a joy just to leave the elevator and enter that office suite. She will be so missed.

Another “roaring lamb” work can be environmental services in a hospital. The tasks that make for a safe place to heal often go unseen and unrewarded. However, we all know personally or have heard stories of what can happen when either care or diligence aren’t exercised in this vital work group.

Finally, award-winning cartoonist Johnny Hart, after coming to Christianity later in life, made an intentional decision to incorporate his faith into some of his work. Some newspapers dropped his comic strips (B. C. and Wizard of Id) because of this, but most continued to publish them. His work was much-loved and his intent was just to use the medium of cartoons to inform on faith issues (as some use comics to do the same with political issues).

He died at his drawing table on Easter Eve 2007 after finishing his strip for the next day. It was fitting for this “roaring lamb”. [I wish I could post it but you can find it here.]

Roaring Lambs:  A Gentle Plan to Radically Change Your World – Bob Briner

How to Be a ‘Roaring Lamb’ – Warren Cole Smith

I Did It His Way: a Collection of B. C. Religious Comic Strips – Johnny Hart

3) A Very Different Jesus – I am always baffled when Jesus is treated as inconsequential…some sort of weak made-up messiah of even weaker people who call themselves Christians. Maybe, the reason is because of how we Christians have represented Him in the world. This historical profoundly world-changing Jesus is so much more than is captured in the Charles Wesley song “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild”.Photo Credit: Slideplayer

The Scriptures say that Jesus is “the same, yesterday, today, forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If this is true then we can search out who He is and what He is like.

British scholar C. S. Lewis, in his Chronicles of Narnia, described Aslan, the Christ-figure, very differently:

“Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh”, said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he…quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”…”Safe?”, said Mr. Beaver…”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”Photo Credit: Mark Meynell, Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The night before the crucifixion of Christ, a large mob of both religious authorities and Roman soldiers came for him in the dark of night (John 18:1-14). If he had resisted, by the might of His power seen previously, they would need large numbers to insure his arrest. Jesus did not resist arrest. He went of his own accord, knowing his journey to the Cross was at hand. For our sake, He laid down His own power…His own life (Philippians 2:5-8 and John 10:17-18).

We admire first responders – those who run into danger for the sake of those who can’t save themselves. Everything we know, when we read both the Gospel and other religious (and secular) texts, is that Jesus was this kind of different.

The question for all of us is “what will you do with this Jesus?”

The Rebellious Privacy of God: Rowan Williams on Narnia in “The Lion’s World” – Mark Meynell

4) Core Values – A friend of mine this week raised the question of what were my family’s core values. I hadn’t thought of that…in a long while. Not even sure I’ve wrestled with my own core values lately.

We hear of the core values of organizations.

Photo Credit: Multi Works Ltd.

The military publicizes and trains its personnel with core values in mind…differing somewhat depending on what branch of the military.

Photo Credit: Asia J. Sorenson

Corporate strategist and author Ben Sands has written a super helpful piece on discovering your core values. He talks about how our core values are those few we lead out with in our lives.

How to Discover Your Personal Core Values (and Why You Must!) – Ben Sands

So I went through this article and his list of values. He also gives a 4-step process for narrowing down to our core values. I’m still working through it, but below are my list of values (that I need to fine-tune to a Top 5, and then determine guiding principles, per his prescription):

  • Belonging/Inclusion
  • Collaboration/Teamwork
  • Community
  • Compassion/Kindness
  • Dependability
  • Faith
  • Family
  • Gratitude
  • Honesty/Transparency

How about you? Sands calls our core values our “safety net”. Otherwise, we don’t really have a mooring to dock our lives. I’m thinking he is right. What do you think?

5) Finally Spring – While this week marked the coming of Fall in the Southern Hemisphere, we in the North finally have Spring. Yes. Just a few pics of the glorious flowering around us right now.

Photo Credit: The Colorful Cottage, Facebook; An Extraordinary Day

Bonuses:

The Long Goodbye is finally available for purchase and rental. We watched it last night. Wow! Just wow!

From Sunrise House to forever home: teen finds adoptive family

Photo Credit: Homegrown Learners, Facebook

One of my favorite bloggers (a “roaring lamb” herself) on dealing with criticism from readers:

[This has been a week of hard and hard-to-understand events. They drive us to think and pray and reach out to serve.]

In the wake of the terrorist attack in New Zealand, your community needs you.

Wherever you happen to live, your community needs you to show up and say words out loud, because white silence is violence.

Your people need you to acknowledge that Muslims are people who Jesus loves, and that whether we agree or disagree with their beliefs, nobody deserves this.

They need you to pray against terrorism, violence, and white supremacy, but also to do something about it.

They need you to shut down jokes and little comments that make targets out of people of color or other faiths. Don’t let them slide. Make supremacists uncomfortable.

Your community needs you because only when white people, a LOT of white people, actively stand up and stand with those who experience oppression, terrorism, and loss of life because of the color of their skin and their place of worship, will the terrorists understand that they have lost. That their sickening philosophies are not welcome, even among other white people.

POC cannot do this for us. It is up to us to fill our lives and words and deeds and spaces with so much love and inclusivity that white supremacy cannot fit. That it is squeezed out. We do this by how we react to jokes and comments, what we say or do not say, what we do, how we speak about and treat Muslims and other folks in the margins. Again, we don’t have to agree with their theology, but are we kind? Are we gentle? Are we protective of the oppressed? Do we shut down casual racism and xenophobism when we see and hear it?

It’s up to us.

It’s up to you. Cattie Price, Facebook (with permission)

Agencies In Race Against Time After Cyclone – Mozambique

280 Christians Killed in Attacks in Nigeria

Thoughts on How to Be the Church in an Age of Terror and Tragedy – Carey Nieuwhof

Worship Wednesday – Kara Tippetts – Suffering as an Instrument of Love and Worship

Photo Credit: Mundane Faithfulness

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.2 Timothy 4:6-7

Kara Tippetts is one of the loveliest women I’ve never met. She died of cancer four years ago this month. Although cancer sharpened her experience of life, it did not define her life. She was a Christ-follower, pastor’s wife, mom of 4, writer, and amazing sister and friend. How I know her is through the cancer she battled, through her faith, and through her writing…this is how I know her and how I love her (from my earlier blog on her life).

On March 22, the documentary The Long Goodbye is released. Directed by Jay Lyons, it is an intimate story of Kara’s last months of life here on earth. It is a story of deep love, crazy humor, hard yet sweet moments, and forever faith. [See trailer here.]Photo Credit: Hallels

Some of my friends here in Richmond are joining with me for a premier party to watch the documentary together. I am excited to introduce them to Kara. It will be sad but also funny and supremely victorious.

Premiere THE LONG GOODBYE with your Friends! — Limited Time Offer

Over the course of Kara’s cancer, she wrote three books (with the help of friend Jill Lynn Buteyn). I remember the blog she wrote about signing contracts for the two last books just weeks before she died. Her determination to leave this legacy was buoyed by a husband, family, and friends who helped her keep living the life she loved until the end. These books are so beautiful. I spent a couple of decades doing cancer nursing and those experiences forged an understanding of the rare and beautiful gifts found in suffering. Walking through it with God. Kara has captured so much of that and shares it with us in these sweet, sometimes hard stories.

The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard – Kara Tippetts

Just Show Up: the Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together – Kara Tippetts & Jill Lynn Buteyn

And It Was Beautiful: Celebrating Life in the Midst of the Long Good-bye – Kara Tippetts

By the way, there is way more joy than sorrow in her story. Her love for her family and friends. Her joy in the beauty that surrounded her. Her confidence in the God who loved her. It’s all there.

In her last book, And It Was Beautiful: Celebrating Life in the Midst of the Long Good-bye, she writes a brief letter to the cancer:

“…So here we are. The truth is that now you are in my bones, my bone marrow, my blood-making place. I did not want you there. I asked you not to go there. But you did it anyway. But here’s something. You will never separate me from the Holy Spirit. He’s watching you, every single cell of you. He’s the One giving me all this peace that confounds you. You won’t take my joy, cancer. You won’t keep me from living as close as I can to my people. And I know you think you are killing me with all your fast-growing cell business, but you are not the boss. The day I breathe my last is exactly numbered. You don’t have a say in that, sorry. And when that day comes, and it will come, my people will be kept safe in God’s beautiful arms…I do hate you, and I’m still here.”Kara

Photo Credit: Deb Mills Writer from Mundane Faithfulness

This year during Lent, I’m reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s 40-Day Journey. He writes beautifully about what it is to be a true disciple of Jesus. Here is one excerpt:

Luther translates the Greek word for what is blessed with “to bear suffering.” The important part is the bearing. The community of disciples does not shake off suffering, as if they had nothing to do with it. Instead they bear it. In doing so, they give witness to their connection with the people around them. At the same time this indicates that they do not arbitrarily seek suffering, that they do not withdraw into willful contempt for the world. Instead, they bear what is laid upon them and what happens to them in discipleship for the sake of Jesus Christ. Finally, disciples will not be weakened by suffering, worn down, and embittered until they are broken. Instead, they bear suffering, by the power of him who supports them. The disciples bear the suffering laid on them only by the power of him who bears all suffering on the cross. As bearers of suffering, they stand in communion with the Crucified. They stand as strangers in the power of him who was so alien to the world that it crucified him. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever. Psalm 30:11-12

Kara, in your living and your dying, you taught me so much about being a disciple of Jesus. You knew/know Him so well. Thank you. Photo Credit: Life News

My Other Blogs on Kara – Here, Here, Here & Here

**Memorial – Mundane Faithfulness – read Kara’s blog – her story and her God will change your life.

Friday Faves – Black Friday Bonus – Many More Than the Usual Five

Sometimes life just gets busy. Writing and compiling favorite finds, in particular, get pushed to the back burner. Today, I’m just posting all my faves of the past 3 weeks. Choose what looks interesting to you… and leave the rest for another time. Blessings on you all for visiting today.

1) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest Arrangements

2) #Ephesians429Darrell B. Harrison is definitely a voice crying in our cultural wilderness. He is a writer, speaker, podcaster and brings a very different view for our consideration. Earlier this month he proclaimed a day  #Ephesians429. This comes from a Bible verse: No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.Ephesians 4:29 We could use more days when we use our voices for only the good of others, and not ill.

3) Comedian Dustin Nickerson – Comedian and podcaster opened for John Crist on tour earlier this month in Richmond. So good. Clean comedy. Hilarious.

4) First Responders – The California wildfires and those displaced by them are much on our minds these days in America…and in our prayers. So thankful for all the fire-fighters and other first responders – which include local church pastors. Here’s one story.

5) First Snows – One image from a friend – Fall and Winter combined.Photo Credit: Lara Fraser, Facebook

6) Growing Older and Growing Newer at the Same Time – Thought-provoking piece on growing older without wasting that season on just being old. “The benefit of a renewed mind is that it’s the only way to make peace with an aging body.” – Abigail Dodds

Photo Credit: Get Old

7) Holiday Sweetness – With American Thanksgiving just past and Christmas coming, we will be met with many cultural messages that target and touch our hearts. Here’s one:

Also this sweet idea: No Stress, No Fuss Christmas Pageant & Worship Part I

[Please post some of your holiday favorites in the Comments so we can all enjoy.]

8) This Is Us – the Missing Piece – Husband Dave watches little TV. The one show he has watched with me over the last couple of years is This Is Us. There is just about no stone un-turned in this gripping story. Family, death, adoption, infertility, parenting, foster care, obesity, depression, addiction, divorce, marriage, race, job loss, fame…and I could go on. Only thing missing? Religion. Beautiful, beautiful story…except for not one mention of God. Odd, really. Photo Credit: TV Line

9) Lauren Daigle – a rockstar in the contemporary Christmas music arena. Her voice and the songs she writes have touched our hearts.   She now has received national attention with appearances on The Ellen Show and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. You sing, Girl.

10) Madame Guyon – Over my adult life, this 17th century French woman and Catholic mystic, Madame Guyon, found her way into my devotional life. She has influenced many Christian leaders through the years by her writing and her life itself. I discovered her, quoted often in many of the books I’ve read. When a short biography of her came to my attention, this week, she became even more intriguing to me as she lived two very different lives – that of a vain and wealthy young woman and also, in later years, a completely transformed believer in Christ. She spent many years in prison for her faith and still wrote volume after volume which we can still enjoy today.Photo Credit: iPerceptive

Perhaps her own Christian experience is best described in the following words from her own pen:

 “To me remains nor place nor time ;

My country is in every clime ;

I can be calm and free from care

On any shore since God is there.” – J. Gilchrist Lawson, Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians

So…a couple of weeks of faves. Hope after the blast of family and friend fun at Thanksgiving (if you’re American), you can have a day or two to recuperate. For those who hail from elsewhere, the weekend is here…hope you can spend it in joyful ways.

Much love. Please share in Comments what are your favorite finds of late.

Bonuses:

Vacation Books – Every time I pack my bags to go anywhere, books are tossed in. Whether I read them all or not is irrelevant, but books are part of the pleasure of days out of the routine. I was thrilled recently to meet best selling author Grace Greene. She writes books perfect for vacation. Her books are set in the locations we prefer when we have time away. She actually lives right in our same city which I didn’t know until we met. These are two of her books out of many more. One will be my next vacation read…

Jonathan Franzen’s 10 Rules for Novelists – Jonathan Franzen

Melting Pot – The Voices of Melting Pot

There’s Got to Be a Day After [The Midterm Election] – Bill Wilson – Intercessors for America

Thanksgiving Memories – All Good Gifts

2006 -- Nov -- Thanksgiving table

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17

[Adapted from the Archives]

For most of 20 years, we lived in North Africa where a Thanksgiving holiday was a foreign concept. “Eid el Shukr” (“Feast of Thanks” in Arabic) was understood but not a day set aside. We, along with other expat Americans, brought Thanksgiving with us and invited our local friends into the experience. On the surface, American Thanksgiving has pretty much three constant components – food, family, and football.

Back in the States, the old traditions are changing and yet stay sweetly familiar. My Mom, who always laid out an incredible Southern-style feast on the kitchen counter at home in Georgia, is no longer with us. As with some of you, I’m sure, I miss her still every day and how she lavished love on us through these family times together. Our children are grown now and establishing their own traditions with more families and friends added into the mix. Each year, we find ourselves re-working our own traditions as well.

Thanksgiving is again, for us, all about food, family, and football…but there’s also another element…faith… I am grateful every day for the kindnesses of God and those he’s placed in our lives. Celebrating Thanksgiving allows us to put an exclamation point on being grateful. It’s not just about a table full of food, although food is clearly a focal point. Thanksgiving, even as a national holiday and not a religious one, focuses our sight beyond ourselves. There is an object in Thanksgiving beyond ourselves.

Over 30 years ago, a funky little Broadway musical was turned into a film – Godspell. It was an adaptation of the life of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew. At that time, I was in the season of life that young people pass through of searching out what exactly I believed. It wasn’t going well at that time. Praise God, He did not forget me during those days when I had all but forgotten Him. Watching the film Godspell was one of the occasions God used to wake me up. There’s a wonder and delight in the young followers of Jesus in the musical. It reminded me of what I had once with God…and what could be again.

All the songs in the musical Godspell are lovely. Composer and Lyricist, Stephen Schwartz, beautifully captured some of Jesus’ teaching and the depth of love and rightness between Him, His followers, and creation, in general. All Good Gifts, adapted from an old hymn, is one such song and is a pure and proper doxology of praise for Thanksgiving.

Worship with me.  [Here’s the YouTube video from Godspell to give you the melody.]

All Good Gifts*
We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land..
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand..
He sends us snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain…
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain…

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love…

We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seedtime and the harvest, our life our health our food,
No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts
But that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts!

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love..

I really wanna thank you Lord!
All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love..

2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 010Food – Family Favorites in Mom’s Kitchen2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 012 a (2)

Football – on T.V. or out on the street with cousins and friends2010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 204

Family – Time together…savoring every minute2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 015

Happy Thanksgiving…

Oh…just in case Thanksgiving is a struggle…and it isn’t all happy family fun…I pray you take courage and rein in your heart to remember that God sees and loves you. We can be a Thanksgiving blessing to each other…if you’ve read this far…you are a blessing to me. Wish you were at our table…maybe one day you will be. You are definitely welcome at God’s table.

YouTube Video – Take Courage – Kristene DiMarco

*Lyrics and Story Behind the Song – All Good Gifts (Godspell)

YouTube Video – All Good Gifts (Godspell 1990)

YouTube Video Clip – All Good Gifts (Godspell original cast 1973)

Wikipedia article on original hymn/lyric – We Plough the Fields and Scatter (1862)

Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart – Part 2 – Caring

[Today’s blog is Part 2 of 3 – excerpts from a talk given at an ISBC Women’s Ministry Holiday Dinner with the theme: Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart. See Part 1 – Capacityhere and Part 3 – Constancyhere.]

We’re talking about matters of the heart – the kind of character our Godly mothers, grandmothers, and great-aunts demonstrated…that we learned and want to pass onto next generations.

From building capacity, we can move to that character trait of genuine caring. Caring that comes from a heart full of love. We all love…it’s part of our nature. This kind of caring isn’t the love that we in our human effort alone can make happen. This is a love that comes from Jesus to us…and then through us to others.

Every morning, I wake up to this view – my bedside table and the wall beyond it. A framed print hangs right where I see it first thing – a little cherub nestled in an open heart with the words inscribed: “Heart full of love”. A dear friend gave this to me before we went overseas. Like other keepsakes from so many of our friends and loved ones, it reminds me of their caring, and inspires me to be and do likewise.

The Bible is full of calls to love. God is perfect in His own love for us and He then commands us to care for one another. Through every season of our lives. The earliest God-fearers mentioned in the Old Testament were taught to 1) love God and 2) love each other as they would themselves. Jesus also taught these two very same greatest commandments.

The night before He was crucified, in a room with his closest friends and followers, Jesus took that commandment up a notch: “A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another just as I have loved you; you also are to love one another.”

Without Jesus filling us with such love, we could never even fathom how to love others like He loves us. Laying down our lives for one another as He laid his life down for us.

It is obvious how we all benefit from such great love received by Him and lavished on others. During that last supper together, Jesus and those dear to Him, He went on to give one more incentive to love – one more world-shaking incentive. “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Photo Credit: The Fellowship Site

As we love God, and receive His love, we are moved to keep our eyes on Him and allow Him a place in our lives to display His love in all kinds of ways…we can care for others as He cares for us.

“We love because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19

In all the seasons of our lives, we deal with people not like us, people we consider haters or spoilers. People who hate us so we are tempted to hate them right back. There are also those people who are just plain indifferent to us or to those we love. Lastly, there are those who are stranger to us. We don’t know them; we don’t need to know them, we think. Whether we believe we are this way or not… how we act toward others is telling.

We were living overseas when 9/11 happened. We came home a year later, and we discovered an America that had suffered so much loss. It was like we as a people had circled our wagons. Even in the South, people didn’t make eye contact, or chat with store clerks or strangers on the street, or generally engage people they didn’t know. It seemed just easier, less risky, to be home with just a few people. Us four and no more, right?

Jesus calls us to care for those closest to us, those easy to love, those who care for us. It’s a joy to love them. His call goes much farther, though…for our own sake and that of all we encounter.

God calls us to care…to love…as He does.

This is the largest sincerity check of our lives. The life of the Christ-follower is a life of love…of deep caring…of caring beyond comfort.

We have all heard the response “Well, it’s not about you.” In our flesh, we totally want it to be about us…but…

When we make the substance of our lives about ourselves, our lives get very small. They seem big to us because of all the responsibilities we carry; all the cool stuff we get to be about. However…what could our lives be like if we cared, truly cared, about others…any others, all others?

“To fill up on God, you begin to have more than enough love for others and yourself because the God Who IS love is operating on the inside of you.”Cassia Glass

Photo Credit: Jill E. McCormick

We can be the people through whom the world sees Jesus. Because of our love, our care, for each other.

This kind of caring is costly. It cost Jesus everything. Whatever the cost is to each of us, young or old, we gain so much more than we give. A 19th century missionary, Amy Carmichael, spent her whole life serving orphans in India, cast-off little girls who would come to know God’s love…through Amy. She had this to say about what caring costs and what we gain in caring:

“Let us not be surprised when we have to face difficulties. When the wind blows hard on a tree, the roots stretch and grow the stronger, let it be so with us. Let us not be weaklings, yielding to every wind that blows, but strong in spirit to resist.”

Photo Credit: AZQuotes

I want to just stop right here a moment. You…you women right here have shown yourselves to be this kind of Christ-follower. You have built capacity for God to show up through you. You love through all kinds of hard. You know from God’s Word that our battle is not against one another…the Evil One wants to break us and divide us and tarnish what the world sees of God in us. You stay strong, Dear Ones…and keep tending the embers of love, in the midst of this hard place. God will keep showing up.

Photo Credit: QuoteFancy, John Groberg

Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart – Part 1 – Capacity

This past weekend, I was privileged to speak at a women’s holiday event in Kingsport, Tennessee. 150 women gathered to bring in a vintage Christmas together. Photo Credit: ISBC Women’s Ministry, Facebook

The food was delicious, the company was old friend-comfortable, and the memories wrapped around us like a Tennessee quilt.

The Festival of Tables was amazing – designed by the women hostessing. Just a few of the table toppers shown below:

[Today’s blog and the next two – Part 2 and Part 3] are taken from the talk I gave that evening on “Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart”. The following are excerpts of the talk because some who couldn’t come wanted me to post. Though written for Christian women, there is much to apply to any of our lives.]

“Vintage” can mean something very different to each one of us, depending on our ages and life experiences.

Vintage…one day our grandchildren and great-grands will look way back to our Christmases and call them vintage. They will look back on us as the women of old in their lives – the grandmothers (and great-grandmothers) of their faith.

What do we see when we look back? What will they see when they look back?

When I look back to my growing up years, it’s my Mom and women like her who come to mind. Godly women – tirelessly serving their families, church and community and pointing us to Jesus.

In thinking about Vintage Christmases and matters of the heart, God has placed three character traits on my mind. Three qualities we probably saw in our Godly grandmothers and great-aunts.

Strong and steely traits that we can develop across a lifetime walking with God. These traits are all matters of the heart. We see them in the life and character of Jesus. As we wrestle with them in each season of our lives, we can hope to carry them forward to future generations.

The first is capacity defined as the maximum that something can contain or produce.

In every season of our lives, we have those moments or days of coming to the end of ourselves. We feel like we just can’t do one more thing. We are DONE. When I talk about capacity, it’s not about adding more stuff to lives that are over-packed or over-scheduled lives. God doesn’t call us to be Energizer Bunnies…until we burn out, or dry up, or give in to the busy.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Capacity isn’t just about getting a lot done. Nor is it, on the flip side, about shaking up those of us in seasons of life that have been downsized –  intentionally or unintentionally. Unless God is speaking into that…which He sure did with me.

Building capacity means to look to God to order our days and to watch for Him to show up in our schedules and “chance” encounters.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve come through both a cancer diagnosis and a couple of cardiac emergencies that could have taken my life. Having half a lung removed diminished my physical capacity for awhile. Then moving into retirement diminished my other capacities even further. I felt old. In our previous work circles and in our church, whatever purpose or identity I had before seemed to fade with time and age. It wasn’t pretty.

Maybe you have experienced this sort of thing, whatever your age is. A situation where you have passion or desire to be a part of something but the doors seem to all be closed. When it seemed there was no way forward, I just settled into a slowed-down, lesser life.

In the middle of all this, the Lord in His great kindness, pretty much asked me, out right, “Is that it? You’re done?” I sure didn’t want to be done. With age and what seemed to be dwindling opportunity, life had become small for me.

Or did I do it to myself? Was I looking to people for opportunities to serve…or to God?

Now those of you with heavy academic loads, small children or big responsibilities in your work may not even be able to imagine this…but think with me a minute. Is our capacity such that God could show up and do as He wills in us…or are we pretty much maxed-out or turned-in?

Does God have our hearts? Or is our capacity dulled because He is more a tenant in our hearts rather than the Lord?

Is there space in our hearts He would fill if we didn’t already have them packed with other stuff?

Now, we all have responsibilities in life. For some, papers have to be written, babies must be fed, and payrolls managed…fill in the blank in your thoughts of where you have to show up every day…

What happens when we show up with our eyes on Jesus and the possibility of what He might do in and through us?

That realization from the Lord that “if I wasn’t done, then what?” started a spiritual journey for me… Last December, as part of a New Year’s resolution, and in response to our pastor’s challenge, I determined to make God’s voice the first voice of my every day. I’m a morning person, so quiet times before dawn may come easier for me than for some. Still for God’s to be the first voice does require me NOT to pick up the cell phone, or sit down at my computer, or turn on the TV news. In my season of life, there are no children to feed or to get schooled, so you with children have different challenges of making God’s voice first.

Whatever our challenges, it doesn’t change our great need of hearing Him speak truth and love into our hearts. Early. Every day.

When God did get first voice, He began helping me to clear out the clutter in my heart which changed the contents of my conversations and my calendar…Bit by bit, God added space to my life. Space to hear Him speak and to “interrupt” the rhythms of my day.

The discovery that I seemingly had more time wasn’t magic…it was God.

The visual below is so perfect of Christ flooding our heart with His love and all the good things God has for us, and in turn our hearts are cleansed, cleared of all the junk that distances us from Him, and then the contents of our hearts pour into others. Jesus talked to the religious leaders of his day about this very thing: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”Photo Credit: HolyTrinityPTC

Another way to look at this is related to what we hold in our lives as treasure. Jesus taught us that “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Photo Credit: Heather C. King

You can guide your heart with your treasure. Wherever you put your treasure or whomever you make your treasure, your heart will follow. Your treasure leads your heart.

This was so helpful for me because I had stored up quite a bit of self-absorbed treasure in recent years – my own significance being one part of that. Even wanting to be useful to God somehow had become an idol. That sort of thing just happens when we take our eyes off Him and onto ourselves. Right?

Days turned to weeks of God being the first voice each day in my life. I started doing life more in present tense with Him, listening for His voice through the day. Like a real conversation. Sometimes it would be a prayer; sometimes a complaint; just being in His presence. The barriers keeping life small seemed to start coming down. Such that, even when life was small, I was becoming more content. We keep our eyes on God, and He guides…sounds too simple, I know…but it has given the most mundane day or situation a sense of the divine.

The prophet Isaiah captures this so well when he says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it”. [Isaiah 30:21] Of course, we may not hear God speak audibly, but He will lead us just that clearly as we tune our hearts to His voice. We’ve all experienced that. To walk daily like this builds capacity…

Photo Credit: Francis of Assisi, Brainy Quote

We start by doing what’s necessary…this is sometimes where we stop…short.  If…we keep our hearts on the Lord, the necessary can open up to being a part of something only possible with God in it…and then…the impossible.

 If we are faithful to make a capacity for Jesus…He will fill that capacity with Himself.  “Make of yourself a capacity and I will make myself a torrent!” – Catherine of Siena

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Quotemeal

[Part 2 on Caring and Part 3 on Constancy]

Monday Morning Moment – a Comforting Reminder When Family Gathered – “Do the Next Thing”

Photo Credit: Francis J. Gavin, Kristian Dela Cour

This morning I woke weighed down with so much undone that needing doing. A week of travel, as delightful as it was, lends itself to a deep sleep on Sunday night and an early fretful waking on a Monday morning.

Do you have those awakenings? When your mind clears from sleep and you begin looking at the week ahead and think “How am I going to get it all done?” Or “How do I even do it?” Anxiety builds, and depression follows.

That’s how this morning started…and then the heaviness lifted with the simplest thought. A reminder I received just this weekend…a reminder that stirred sweet memories of a woman with huge influence on my younger years…writer Elisabeth Elliot.

On our trip to see family this past week, we had an evening with girl talk. Four generations of women around the dinner table, laughing, sharing, and remembering. [I know men do this, too – how else do they keep all those football, baseball, and fishing trip stories so fresh in their memories?]

In the course of the warm glow of that conversation, my dear sister-in-law, Stacie, reminded her girls of how she counseled with them through their high school angsty moments. She told us she used to  quote Elisabeth Elliot‘s own advice to her daughter, Valerie, when she was overwhelmed by life: “Do the next thing.”

[Stacie sounded just like Elisabeth Elliot as well…took me back to when I was her girls’ ages and first began reading Elliot’s books, including her husband Jim’s journals.]

Elisabeth Elliot died in 2015, but through her life she wrote many books that had huge impact on my life. From my teen years. Books that remain treasures today…http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Blog-Elisabeth-Elliot-Love-is-a-Laid-Down-Life.jpg

For years after, as a struggling mom with young children, I would tune into her daily radio shows – Gateway to Joy – listening to her “square-your-shoulders” walk-with-God counsel. Her manner was both tough and tender as she covered the real stuff of life and how we maneuver through it in the presence of God.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

This morning, in the cloud of confusion over where to even begin this week, God brought our dinner table conversation to mind. Hearing Stacie quoting Eliot in that no-nonsense voice of hers made me laugh then, and smile today.

Four little words that brought clarity.

“Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now…Do the next thing.Elisabeth Elliot

When You Don’t Know What to Do – (a tribute to Elisabeth Elliot) – Rhonda Quaney

On the Passing of Elisabeth Elliot – Love Is a Laid Down Life – Deb Mills

Love Is a Laid-Down Life  – a Slowing Down for a Season – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Pinterest, AllysTruth

YouTube Video: Elisabeth Elliot: Suffering Is Never For Nothing

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed, to Bless a World in Pieces – Andy Flannagan

Photo Credit: Bible Verses 2 U

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

We are so blessed. Even those who don’t believe God is will use the expression of being blessed. I wonder, “by whom” and “why?”

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

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

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

“[We need to] come out of Moral Superiority Castle, cross over the stagnant moat of separation and meet the kingdom of God where justice and mercy meet, where the never-ending stream is full of justice and goodness; where people are messed up and broken and dirty like old cracked pots that leak and feel pretty useless and that, that is where we are and where we are a part of the repairing and restoring and transforming of the world. It is a place of tension. It is a place of unresolved hurt.

No-one said that where justice and mercy meet was a comfortable place.” – Kevin Lewis

Worship with me.

Bring heaven to earth, Lord
Bring peace where there’s fear
Bring life where there’s death, Lord
Bring joy in these tears
Bring love where there’s lust, Lord
Bring hope where there’s pain
Bring rest where there’s chaos
Bring faith where there’s fame

You invite us to partner with you
To see your kingdom come

We are blessed, to bless a world in pieces
We are loved, to love where love is not
We are changed, to be the change you promised
We are freed, to be your hands, O God

Bring home to the homeless
Bring keys to the chained
Bring worth to the purchased
And touch to the shamed
Bring flesh from your word, Lord
Bring truth where there’s spin
Bring risk where’s there safety
And grace where there’s sin

In the broken, we shall see restored
The image of our King

We are blessed…

Lord we cry out to you
Change the atmosphere
Breathe new life in all who gather here

We are blessed…

Bring justice to profit
Bring patience to growth
Bring wisdom to progress
Plant trees on this road
Bring freedom from debt, Lord
An end to excess
Bring closer your kingdom
By quiet success

May we grow in the knowledge of you
Through every heart and face

We are blessed…*

Postscript: Andy Flannagan, in a town meeting with London mayor Sadiq Khan, at a local church, talked (in this video clip) about what we as Christians do well. He closed with “The harder thing is to go back to the Jericho Road to work out how to stop anybody else getting mugged.” (Luke 10:35-37)

*Lyrics to We Are Blessed – Songwriter: Andy Flannagan

Andy Flannagan Website

Blessed to Be a Blessing – Mike Pettengill