Category Archives: Walk with God

5 Friday Faves – Happy Tunes with Beyond the Guitar, Hunkering Down, Some Good News, Holy Week, and Surprising Twitter Benefits

We made it! Another Friday, another weekend. Stay safe, Dear Ones. Thanks to all those serving in essential capacities. We are grateful. Praying for you.

1) Happy Tunes with Beyond the GuitarNathan Mills is bringing a lift to all our hearts in these days with this sweet medley of Disney/Pixar movie themes. Enjoy!

2) Some Good News – Actor John Krasinski has redeemed his time at home during the COVID-19 crisis by producing his own news program. Some Good News. It is funny, and celebratory, and nostalgic. Don’t miss it (Episode 1 and waiting on Episode 2 in the next week). In the meantime, we can catch bits of good news on his Twitter and Facebook pages – some he finds and some posted by others of us with good news. Bring it! Thanks, John!

[Sidebar: Can you believe it’s the 15th anniversary of the American TV show The Office?!]

John Krasinski Reveals the Conversation that “Saved” His Relationship with Emily Blunt – Randee Dawn

3) Hunkering Down – This week in the US, we are seeing state after state giving mandates to Stay at Home. As we watch the numbers of new cases of and deaths from COVID-19 continue to escalate, the motivation for social distancing is high. Essential workers still go to work and others of us work from home. The economy has been hit hard, but if we can contain COVID-19, things should get better. Return to normal? Who knows what the new normal will look like? We must stay hopeful.

I have struggled with anxiety and fear, but thankfully focusing on God, praying, and reaching out (appropriately) to others as much as possible have all been restorative in the stress of these days.

Being proactive and cultivating new positive habits will help us endure and thrive through whatever our current circumstances are. Many of us now have friends and family who have contracted this disease. We want to keep the impact of this disease as low as possible…worrying or panic will not help them or us. So…we hunker down.

Photo Credit: Senior Airman Alexa Culbert,  AETC

Photo Credit: Science Museum of Virginia

Photo Credit: Georgia Health News

[Even as I posted the above graphics, the thought came how we’ve all seen maybe more graphics on COVID-19 than we hope ever to see again…we can social distance…we can encourage and stay connected in creative ways and we can pray.]

This Is a War and Where Are the Prayer Warriors to Win This Battle? #PandemicPrayers – Ann Voskamp [included free is a powerful prayer bookmark]

Be calm and shelter on.

Just maybe a sweet daughter-in-law will bring the grands for a drive-by. Hope so.

4) Holy Week – It’s hard to believe that Lent is almost over, and Holy Week starts on Sunday. With our battle against Coronavirus, Lent and Easter will be very different in some ways…hopefully not in the most important ways.

[There is also the breaking of the anxiety, instilling some by humor like the joke going around “not planning to give up quite this much for Lent”.]

We will still observe what happened this week and commemorate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It will be in much smaller gatherings (at home)…not in the church buildings. In fact, I hope since the church “left the building”, we are reaching out to our neighbors and the world, even more in the way Jesus did when he was here in the flesh.Photo Credit: Jared Burwell, Facebook

#HopeNowHopeAlways

Below are two resources for celebrating this Holy Week. I will also be posting daily blogs, as in years past, to mark the history of this last week of Jesus’ earthly life.

Holy Week Devotions – Mission Lakewood (Family, this is nephew/cousin’s Jeremy’s church)

Experience Easter – From Genesis to Revelation – K-Love

Holy Week Timeline – From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Mary Fairfield

5) Surprising Twitter Benefits – Twitter has been a great benefit to me. Some excellent thinkers post their ideas and opinions on there… Of course, there are some profane, divisive, self-absorbed folks who regularly darken the Twittersphere as well. I have been very deliberate in whom I follow and whom I don’t. Now, I do follow people very different from me, but they are good teachers of whatever makes up “the other side”.  Below are tweets from six different persons – no politics involved – four of whom I met through Twitter. Enjoy.

YouTube Video – Italian Music – Background Chill Out

YouTube Video – Italian Restaurant Music – Italian Dinner, Background Music, Folk Music from Italy (2 Hours)

Bonuses:

The Three Kinds of Leaders You See in a Crisis – Carey Nieuwhof

Finally, a few Spring beauties from our friend, Marc Merlin.

Worship Wednesday – Even in the Madness, There Is Peace – You Are Writing a Symphony – Switch

Photo Credit: Piqsels

[Two nights ago I was on a Zoom meeting call with Virginia’s Kids Belong representatives and several others from churches and other community organizations. All meeting for the purpose of brain-storming for how we can best support foster kids, birth moms, and foster families. During this season of the Coronavirus and subsequent school closures and limited contact. Then last night Dave and I watched a movie – Instant Family – not meant for everyone, but definitely it moved my heart all the more – in terms of reaching out to these kids.]

Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.  James 1:27

See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children–and we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know him.  1 John 3:1

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.Psalm 68:5

I’d wanted to watch Instant Family since first seeing the trailer. Finally, as one result of “social distancing”, Dave and I watched it last night in our living room. It is NOT a family film. Strong language and adult themes throughout. However, it is one at least some adults should see – it is real (if not perfect – see excellent review below) in its depiction of foster parenting and foster care. Not recommending for everyone to watch the film, but do catch this one scene of the painful failed reunification with the children’s birth mom. So beautiful in the raw work required of adults reaching into the lives of seemingly fatherless children.

Instant Family – What Mark Wahlberg’s New Movie Gets Right and Wrong about Foster Care – Christy Tennant Krispin

Coronavirus Leaves Foster Children With Nowhere to Go – Eli Hager

In aligning with other churches and community agencies to serve this vulnerable population, we do a work that must please the Lord. To the point, even, that it is an act of worship. Right now foster children, and their birth and foster families, are more isolated than ever. The pressure in their hearts and homes must be hard for all involved. When in school, foster children have teachers who watch out for them. Teachers are a safety for these children because they care, they provide structure, and they sound the alarm when the children appear to be at risk for neglect or abuse.

I don’t have answers here, but there are folks in our communities who are working toward answers. Ears wide open.

Who knows how long we will be in this situation of “keeping distance”? However we are not out of hearing or direction from the Lord who loves these children and the adults in their lives. My hope is through listening to God, these agencies closest to the kids at risk, and through our churches, we can extend love, even in these days… in the power of the Lord.

In preparing for this piece today, I went looking for songs that reflect God’s love and provision in such situations, and there are many.

Songs for Foster Parents

One of the songwriters of Symphony, Cassidy Estevez had this to say about the song: “…one of those themes which we landed on for this song, was how everyone has gone through some type of chaos in their lives, whether it is unemployment, family issues, marriage distress, difficulty raising kids, everybody has some type of chaos in their lives. We wanted to write a song that could be a prayer for people to sing in the middle of those circumstances.” She also added, “This song reminds us that even when you can only see a small part right now, God is doing something bigger and He is crafting something beautiful that we can only see when we zoom out.”

Worship with me to Symphony by worship band Switch:

Sometimes it’s hard to breathe
All these thoughts they shout at me
Try to bring me to my knees
And it’s overwhelming

Darkness echoes all around
Feels like everything is crashing down
Still I know where my hope is found
And it’s only you and ooh-ooh

You say you’re working everything for my good and ooh-ooh
I believe every word

‘Cause even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony

And even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony, oh

Tune my heart to your beat
Let me be your melody
Even when I cannot see
But you orchestrate it

Even when the dark surrounds
You’ll never let me drown
I know that my hope is found
In the name of Jesus

Ooh-ooh
You say you’re working everything for my good
And ooh-ooh
I believe every word

‘Cause even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony

And even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony, oh

Yo, I wanna truly know
If you compose beautiful
Music, though
From all my unruly notes
Distance is distant, it’s movin’ close

Now I see, erase the scales from my eyes
Then play the scale of my life
Chaos played off with a chord in accord
With a source prevailing through strife and

I’ve tasted suffering
I’ve been embraced by the painful buffering
I’ve been bound by doubts so loud right now
But a melody is made when you play these rusty keys

So we all gotta get pressed
Tuned up like instruments
But I know
All of life’s tempo is set
Whenever we remember this

That even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony

And even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony, oh

Ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, a symphony
Ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, a symphony
Ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, a symphony*

I’d like to close with this beautiful love letter fashioned for children with the words of our Heavenly Father (God’s Love Letter for adults also here).

Photo Credit: Father’s Love Letter

*Lyrics to Symphony by Switch – Songwriters: Louis Biancaniello, Michael Biancaniello, Cassidy Estevez

Hope Beyond Coronavirus Roger Carswell

Father’s Love Letter

Ministering the Love of the Fathers to the Fatherless – Anna Meade Harris

God Promises to Be a Father to the Fatherless – Barry Adams

5 Ways that Churches Can Stand in the Gap for the Fatherless – Daniel Darling

Chris Tomlin Reveals the Dream God Gave Him 10 Years Ago That Is Now Saving Children Across America

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar Sweetness, Words Matter, Leading Teams, Long-lost Relatives, and Shared Sacrifice

Happy Weekend!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Top 7 Rules For Leading A Digital Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Chili’s, Facebook

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

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

__________________________________________________________________________

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

Stay well.

Bonuses:

ImagePhoto Credit: Twitter, Lifeway

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

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

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

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

Why I Hate That Howard Thurman Quote

How Giving up Refined Sugar Changed My Brain – Michael Grothaus

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

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

Worship Wednesday – On the Peace of God – My Anchor – Christy Nockels

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7
Do you ever have nights when sleep is interrupted way too early? Last night was one of those for me. At 1:30am, my body and mind decided that we were done with sleeping. Two days ago, I took a bad fall. Walking with a friend, I tripped on an uneven bit of sidewalk and face-planted on the sidewalk. No breaks, few scrapes, praise God! However, the soreness yesterday and last night was a bit unnerving and debilitating. Once awake, then the thoughts come, and the emotions follow.
Did I need to go to urgent care? No. Did I need to risk Coronavirus in such a place or just stay home and wait the soreness out? What if I get Coronavirus anyway? Then the thoughts go to Dave, the kids and grandkids, the rest of the family, friends, and neighbors. Then the mental rollercoaster takes me to God’s purpose for my life – have I walked with Him? He will welcome me Home because of Jesus, but has my life turned out as He had meant for it to be?
Crazy, right?
So…not able to sleep, I quit the fight and fitful thoughts and prayers at 3:30am and got up. With a mug of yesterday’s coffee, and the fireplace going, candles lit, I was ready to keep vigil until morning came.
Picking up a book our community group is studying, I turned to the chapter we would tackle next. The book is Spiritual Depression – Its Causes and Its Cure by physician/pastor Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
The chapter? The Peace of God.
In this chapter, Lloyd-Jones unpacks Paul’s exhortation to the Philippian church… This beautiful letter written by the Apostle Paul in his last days…full of joy…peace…even in the tyranny of his circumstances.
Lloyd-Jones describes the “tyranny of circumstances” as that cascade of pressure or stressors that wash over us individually. They are personal and they feel overwhelming.
Paul, in the passage Philippians 4:6-7, gives us a pathway to peace with God. It’s less prescriptive than descriptive, but we can use it in a way that guides our prayer.

  • Don’t worry. – In his book, Lloyd-Jones acknowledges that anxiety can happen pretty much without our control. Borne out of our mind (thoughts) and heart (affections) and fueled by our imagination. The world shames us with pithy advice about worry. What Paul counsels is to acknowledge that we are prone to worry…but to take immediate steps and roll back the anxiety, remembering who God is. Those steps follow.
  • Pray. – In this action, we refocus and reset our minds and hearts off our circumstances and onto a good and loving God. In crying out to Him, we leave off our petitions and start with worshipful prayer. Recalling the truth about God and the greatness of His love and provision. Reminding ourselves of what He has already done for us and the promises to come…the promises that He will fulfill. My S.O.S. cries to God in the thick of sleep-deprived fitfulness were met by His mercy. He did not let me rest until we had this healing time of prayer.
  • Petition. – He wants us to cry out to Him. We acknowledge He is the Only One who knows what we really need and is wholly able to provide it. We need Him, first and foremost. After that, our petitions, following worship, rise out of hearts and minds tuned to the Lord. Ready for whatever comes from the hands of a loving God.
  • Give thanks. – Always. In everything. No matter what. The gratefulness will follow.

Out of all that…comes peace. Not just any sort of peace, but peace that “surpasses all understanding”.  The kind of peace that those in the world, without a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, must marvel at. We marvel, too, when we see it in each other. Brothers and sisters, some in great trials or hardship, filled with the peace of God. We marvel when it happens to us.

Like in this pre-dawn morning.

God guards our peace. He keeps us, garrisons us, inside Himself. Surrounds us with His love. It is what He promises to those whose minds are fixed on Him, because we trust Him (Isaiah 26:3).

When sleep fails, and worry or anxiety creeps in, we know what to do. May we always remember to correct course and settle back into His peace.

Worship with me through the song My Anchor by Christy Nockels and Jason Ingram.

You’re the Lord Almighty
Your every word is sure
And in Your love unfailing
I’m safe when oceans roar
Yes, I’m safe when oceans roar
My anchor, forever
My shelter within the storm
You’re my deliverer
You never falter
You’re the rock I stand on
Here within the struggle
And every crashing wave
You are more than able
Your hand is strong to save

Yes, I know Your hand is strong to save

My anchor, forever
My shelter within the storm
You’re my deliverer
You never falter
You’re the rock I stand on

I hold on to You
And You hold on to me
Jesus, I hold on to You
And You hold on to me*

Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will triumph in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! Yahweh my Lord is my strength!Habakkuk 3:17-19a

[Footnote: As we, all over the world, confront the the Coronavirus pandemic, we may, at some point, have to shelter in place. No better place to be than in Him…in His peace.

Worship Wednesday – On Anxiety – My Anchor – Christy Nockels – Deb Mills

*Lyrics to My Anchor – Songwriters: Christy Nockels & Jason Ingram

Story Behind the Song My Anchor by Christy Nockels – Kevin Davis

How Do I Take My Thoughts Captive? – Interview with John Piper

You Are My Peace – Housefires – YouTube Video

Worship Wednesday – I Need You Now – by Plumb

Worship Wednesday – Listening to His Voice Through the Noise

Worship Wednesday – Control Girls, Miriam, and God – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Stuart Townend

[Excerpts from the Archives]

Now hear the word of the Lord, you women.
Pay attention to the words from his mouth. Teach your daughters a lament and one another a dirge, for Death has climbed through our windows; it has entered our fortresses, cutting off children from the streets, young men from the squares.

This is what the Lord says:

“The wise person should not boast in his wisdom; the strong should not boast in his strength; the wealthy should not boast in his wealth.
But the one who boasts should boast in this:
that he understands and knows me—
that I am the Lord, showing faithful love,
justice, and righteousness on the earth,
for I delight in these things.
This is the Lord’s declaration.” Jeremiah 9:20-21, 23-24

At first, reading this passage in Jeremiah, it could so resonate with our current situation with the Coronavirus and how some are responding to it. There’s a lot of boasting and blaming going on in our media of how we are doing with containing the virus. Then, back to the Scripture passage, the prophet Jeremiah turns the focus away from “us” and on to God.

The image above is a snapshot of part of a group of women in my life, studying the Word together. Writer Shannon Popkin has given us a first book entitled Control Girl – Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control From Seven Women in the Bible. It’s such a great book on what controlling does to us and our families…what a burden it actually is. All the stories are taken from the lives of Old Testament (from Eve to Moses’ sister Miriam. So much wisdom here.Photo Credit: Shannon Popkin

We just finished the chapter on Miriam, Moses’ sister. Miriam appears first in Scripture as the older sister of infant Moses, under threat of death by Pharoah. She was instrumental in saving his life. Years later, God used Moses in His work for the release of the Israelites from Egypt, and Miriam was right there with him, leading the women in praise to God. Moses, Miriam, and their brother Aaron, and Miriam were together in overseeing the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings.

For Miriam, her trouble began when she took her eyes off God and focused on her own importance. She burned with ambition and jealousy toward her brother, Moses. She and Aaron then spoke against Moses, both privately and publicly. The motivation appeared to be jockeying for more power for themselves. This triangling, this slander, moved God to anger. He knows our hearts and He measures his judgment accordingly. Miriam’s pain of judgment (leprosy) galvanized her two brothers to pray for their sister, and she was healed. Repentance and restoration followed. God’s love abounds.

When we are tempted to look on our own intelligence, strength, or wealth as superior (Jeremiah 9:23), we take on an arrogance that separates us from each other…and especially from God. What is our boast?

Let Him Who Boasts Boast in the Lord – John Piper

English songwriter Stuart Townend wrote the hymn How Deep the Father’s Love For Us. It was published in 1995, the year we moved to Cairo, Egypt. New to us, this hymn became a standard in our family from those early days of adjusting to a new life in another country.

New to a very different culture with little ability to communicate in the local language, we found it hard to boast in pretty much anything. This hymn was a strong and loving reminder that our boast is in Christ…In Christ Alone (another great Townend hymn).

Because of what Christ did for me…for us…on the cross, I am no longer separated from God by the penalty of my rebellion against Him. The debt I built up through life is paid in one great act of God through Christ – His perfect, sinless life substituted, in death, for my own sin-filled mess…for our own. There is nothing left to pay…nothing. Christ paid in full, on the cross, for all our sins.

There is a wonderful, omnipotent God who deserves our highest praise, and how we feel about it is in many ways irrelevant!  I want to encourage the expression of joy, passion and adoration, but I want those things to be the by-product of focusing on God – I don’t want them to become the subject matter. I’m trying to write songs that refer to us as little as possible, and to Him as much as possible!”Stuart Townend

Our focus in this life is not even on what we believe…It is not just that we “believe”… What Townend describes in this hymn, reflective of the truth of Scripture, isn’t just what we believe…it is what happened and was witnessed by others – the deep love of God displayed in the self-emptying life and death of His Son. Hallelujah!

In the study of Control Girl, the special women I’m privileged to know are grappling with how tempted, like Miriam, we are to take on ourselves “what’s best” for us, our families, our futures. Praise God, His love for us is not swayed by our struggle, our humanness, our sin…He ever draws us back to Himself. That alone is our boast. He alone is our boast.

Worship with me.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.*

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.1 John 3:1

…the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20b

*Lyrics – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Stuart Townend

Worship Wednesday – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Stuart Townend – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Lyrics (with Scripture portions that support them)

Women of the Bible – Lesson 1 – Miriam – Vickie Kraft

The Depth of Christ’s Love: Its Cost – John Piper

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Stuart Townend

Hymn Reflection: How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Adam Faughn

YouTube Video – Allison Durham Speer – I Will Glory in the Cross

Worship Wednesday – When We Pray – Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: More Famous Quotes

[From the Archives]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As one before the King
Yeah we believe

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

Let Your kingdom come, Lord
Let Your will be done

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Flickr

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship Wednesday – Way Maker – Mandisa

Photo Credit: Flickr

It is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose. – Philippians 2:13

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

 In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8:26-27

Just days into walking out the lesson on going a different way through anger, I’m experiencing the strength of God…in choosing His ways over mine. Days will come when my resolve will weaken and my flesh will rise up in wanting to react against some injustice or wrong needing righting. God still has a way through that…His ways are not ours, until we make it so through obedience and love. Love for Him and love for others. Where and how He leads me to make things right, for instance, He will give me the wisdom and grace to put myself in the equation. In situations larger, harder, or beyond my reach, they are not so with Him. I want to and aspire to remembering that…and find His way through it.

He is able.

Years ago, songwriter Don Moens gave us a shoulder-squaring little worship song by the title of God Will Make a Way (he also brought us Give Thanks but that’s for another day). When we look at Scripture, we see on every page the mighty hand of God. No wonder we sing about it. We are emboldened by the great promises of God working out His purposes…His ways…in our frail-hearted, shaking-knees situations.

Singer worshiper Mandisa knows God in the heartaches of life – when she prayed and prayed, and it didn’t go the way she wanted. Yet God was there, all the time…and her faith was galvanized like never before. She sings a  great little song on this theme. Way Maker.Photo Credit: Mandisa, Music Row

Worship with me:

You are here,
Moving in our midst
I worship You,
I worship You
You are here,
Working in this place
I worship You,
I worship You
You are
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
You are
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
You are here, touching every heart
I worship You,
I worship You
You are here,
Healing every life
I worship You,
I worship You, oh-oh
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
You are
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
That is who You are
(That is who You are)
That is who You are
(That is who You are)
That is who You are
(That is who You are)
Oh-oh-oh,
That is…*

Worship Wednesday – Fighting Words – Ellie Holcomb

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”Ephesians 6:10-13
“Use your words.” That’s what we say to our little ones when they come running with wails of woe that are more emotion than intellect. They have to learn to find the words to say what they are feeling so they can get the proper help or solace that they need.
With our children as they grew older, the sorrows were more wrapped around struggling with chemistry homework, or not making the soccer team, or dealing with bullying. The sad or angry tears would come along with words that kicked at their situation…wondering aloud what was wrong with them.

Photo Credit: Piqsels

“What’s really true?” we parents would ask. No, they were not stupid, or untalented, or too different from others. The truth is that they were “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and they were “loved with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:37-38

Singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb‘s song Fighting Words caught me off-guard at first. Fighting words? That expression always meant something that escalated a situation, yet she uses “fighting words” as those with a righteous punch…an impact that exposed the lies!

Our adversary Satan uses words against us. Whispering stinging accusations in our thoughts. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the thoughts have my voice around them or that of the enemy. Whatever the origin, our hearts and minds are embattled by words that aren’t true, even when they sound true.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Through the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and the Lord Jesus who so graciously saved us, and the Word of God that arms us with truth…we are equipped to stand against the evil one.

After hearing the whole of Holcomb’s song, I’m inspired. Earlier this week, studying in Genesis, the temptation of Eve touched my heart like never before. Satan used words to color the truth  in ways that made God seem less good. As if He was withholding something good from her. As if He shouldn’t be trusted.

Eve fell for the lies. Oh, if only she had used “fighting words” against the tempter. She and Adam. If only…

We have terrible outcomes from their acting on lies. We also have benefit of her experience…of being caught off guard wavering on the truth, with calamitous consequences. We also have benefit of so many others in the Bible who faced trials and temptations, without faltering, standing on the truth of God’s Word.

Oh God, help us to believe You. Help us in our unbelief. Help us to remember who we are…who You are. Remind us daily of the great gift of salvation we have through Jesus. Give us courage to stand as Your children and speak with the authority You have given us in Christ…speaking the truth without compromise…speaking the truth in love.

Worship with me.

[Verse 1]
Fear is like a broken record, same old songs of accusation play
Like, “who are you to speak the truth, just look at all your failures and mistakes”
And “If they really knew you, there’s no way they could love you anyway”
Oh-oh-ohh, but I will…

[Chorus]
Fight the lies with the truth, oh-ohh
Keep my eyes fixed on You
I will sing the truth into the dark
I will use my fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh, fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh

[Verse 2]
The enemy keeps talking, telling me to hide my face in shame
Whispering that everything I’ve done will drive the Father’s love away
Saying, “It’s too late for hoping, that something in your heart could ever change”
Oh-oh-ohh, so I will…

[Chorus]
Fight the lies with the truth, oh-ohh
Keep my eyes fixed on You
I will sing the truth into the dark
I will use my fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh, fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh

[Bridge]
My debt is paid up
I’ve been set free and
You gave Your life up to rescue me
You say that I am
Worth fighting for and
Grace is like waves that keep crashing on the shore!

[Chorus]
Fight, the lies with the truth, oh-oh-ohh
Keep my eyes fixed on You
I will sing the truth into the dark
I will use my fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh, fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh…

[Outro]
I’m so tired of forgetting what I’m worth
So I will use, my fighting words*

*Lyrics to “Fighting Words” – Songwriter: Ellie Holcomb

“Fighting Words” – Story Behind the Song

Get Back, Satan! 5 Tips for Using Scripture as Defense – Alicia Purdy

YouTube Video – “Kutless” Word of God Speak

Monday Morning Moment – Life

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Flickr, Robert Kuykendall

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing life…here and there.

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, Good Housekeeping