Category Archives: Walk with God

Monday Morning Moment – 3 Observations on Life Around Here

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

  1. What Might Goofing Off Communicate? – This weekend, a friend told me about her son’s internship in a local organization. This young man expressed his disappointment at the amount of goofing off he saw among his coworkers, all more senior than he was.Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Suffice it to say, after his internship, he did not seek employment with this company.

What can we take from such a situation? Is it possible, those employees were blowing off steam from already completing large chunks of work, either earlier in the day or at home the night before? Are they taking healthy breaks from doing a good job, or have they lost the vision of their value in the big picture of their work? Also, what part of this scenario belongs to their supervisor? When goofing off is a pattern, where is the leader guy or gal in the mix?

This may be a disconnect for you, but I found myself strangely sympathetic to those “goofing off”. Maybe an organizational move toward leanness would be appropriate, but never without drilling down to the core of what’s going on here. Otherwise lean becomes just mean.

Any thoughts?

Why You Shouldn’t Punish Employees Who Goof Off – Rob Enderle

Ten Signs You’re Failing as a Manager – Liz Ryan

2. Proverbs – a Father Appeals to His ChildrenA couple of times a year, I read through the Book of Proverbs in the Bible. All the Proverbs were either written or collected by Solomon, the son of King David. There are 31 chapters in the book so it’s easy to incorporate one a day in one’s usual Bible reading. This time around, I noticed something in the ESV Bible study notes that was new: 10 paternal appeals. As a father might teach his son about life and making good choices, so Solomon did the same in this wisdom book.Photo Credit: Flickr

Here are the 10 paternal appeals in brief:

  1. Do not join those greedy for unjust gain (Proverbs 1:8-19).
  2. Get wisdom (Proverbs 2:1-22).
  3. Fear the Lord (Proverbs 3:1-12).
  4. Walk securely in wisdom (Proverbs 3:21-35).
  5. Wisdom is a tradition worth maintaining (Proverbs 4:1-9).
  6. The two ways: the way of wisdom or the way of folly. We choose. (Proverbs 4:10-19)
  7. Maintain a heart of wisdom (Proverbs 4:20-27).
  8. Sexuality – the presence of sexual temptations and the response of a wise person (Proverbs 5:1-23).
  9. Adultery leads to ruin (Proverbs 6:20-35).
  10. Keep away from temptations to adultery (Proverbs 7:1-27).

What might appear to be redundancy is more for emphasis. God will give us wisdom, but it is on us to live according to the wisdom he gives.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.Proverbs 3:5-6

Proverbs – a 12-week Study (pdf) – Lydia Brownback

3. None of Us Are Invisible – We are Seen – A circumstance this weekend struck a chord about how easy it is to just not see others. We have our close friends, our near colleagues, our people. It takes an intentionality to watch for those on the outside of our circles…and to extend to them a welcome. An old song by Casting Crowns came to mind today, as it relates to this dilemma – this strange experience of feeling invisible. Can Anybody Hear Her? is that “looking for love in all the wrong places” kind of story. Searching for a place to belong, to flourish, to be loved.

I’ve taken to watching for those solitary ones…they are not all in the midst of poor life choices. Those closest to God can feel isolation as well. The key to all of this is to know He sees…He sees, and He loves us. We can reflect that love to those who feel unseen…because they are…who feel they don’t matter…because they do.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Worship Wednesday – Joy to the World – For King and Country

Photo Credit: YouTube, For King & Country

Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.
 – Romans 12:12

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

Who’s heard this strange and woeful adage: “The world is going to hell in a hand basket.”? It’s a saying that’s been around a long time, and I’m thinking it originated around a holiday family dinner table.

This Christmas we were having one of those conversations about the mess the world is in…we were a multi-generational family gathering of teens to our eighty-somethings. All beloved by each other.

As our conversation spiraled down, I looked around the table at these precious young ones. This was more their world we were talking about than our own. This was the world we were handing them.

Then the realization washed over us all again as our conversation turned. This world pales in comparison to some of the other eras in history…and survived. This world is not beyond the care of God…not beyond His reach…not beyond His ability to save.

We may not take joy in the political chaos we see nor the hardships that surround us, but we can always take joy in knowing that what we see is not the whole story.

The Lord has come! He comes every day into this beautiful, messy world. He created it in perfection, and we have had our sinful way with it. Still, He comes. He shows up every single day in our lives and in the circumstances of the peoples and governments of this world.

For King & Country, one of my favorite Christian bands, has taken the Christmas standard Joy to the World and reminded us of this very truth…Christ has come, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Worship with me on the new beginning of another year…who knows what God will do? Joy…

Joy to the world the Lord is come
Let Earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing
Joy to the world the Saviour reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy
He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love

It’s remarkable isn’t it?
As Luke said that this baby boy
No family of promotion
No city of impressive nature
Just a manger
No social media campaigns
No presidential campaigns
No private aeroplanes
But he rose up with twelve ragamuffins
And He turned B. C into A. D.
Flipped the world on its head
He’s the most famous name around the globe
The most read book ever written

And the most beautiful news the world has ever known is this
That He reconnected us to heaven
He offered us redemption, a fresh start
Freedom, so that we can hold our heads high
And march through this life knowing,
My friends, that we are never alone
And that’s the greatest news the world has ever known
So let’s stand to our feet tonight
And let’s sing this like we mean it
Joy to the world the Lord has come

Joy to the world the Lord is come
Let Earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing*

“When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.” – C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

*Lyrics to Joy to the World – For King & Country

Joy to the World – Isaac Watts – original lyrics

YouTube Video – The One Hour for King & Country Christmas Concert, Phoenix, AZ

10 Bible Verses for a Joyful Spirit – Taylor Yenko

YouTube Video – Joy – For King & Country (Official Music Video)

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar Christmas, a Prayer for the Grieving, Experience and the Brain, Complaining Exposed, and Gift Giving

It’s Friday! Days before Christmas. So no time to lose…here’s this week’s five favorite finds:

1) Beyond the Guitar ChristmasNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has given us 4 sweet Christmas videos over the years. The latest is a medley of 3 Christmas movie classics on guitar. Watch it here:

A Star Wars Christmas – a Classical Guitar Mashup

December Song (Peter Hollens) – Classical Guitar Cover

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (w/ Surprise)

2) A Prayer for the Grieving – This Christmas more than any other I can remember is marked by multiple losses…friends who have died and family members of friends. Words are tricky when you want to reach out to those wounded by loss. Writer Dena Johnson Martin‘s prayer for the grieving at Christmas is a just-right-to-share piece for these dear ones who are still in the throes of grief right now. Especially those looking to God for help but don’t have the words either.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Dena Johnson Martin

A Prayer for Christmas Hope – Dena Johnson Martin [another prayer]

20 Messages of Advice for Suicide Loss Survivors During the Holidays – Sarah Schuster

What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas – Nancy Guthrie

3) Experience and the Brain – You know the saying, “Practice makes perfect”? Well, that has been found to be true only with the right kind of practice. Another saying “Use it or lose it” however does continue to hold true. Exercising our brain and building our brain through experiences are both still vital for brain health and aptitude – from childhood through old age.

Author and brain injury survivor Debbie Hampton has given us 5 Ways Experience Changes the Brain. [It is a ton of cool science. I decided not to list those points out because you really need to read it – to glean just how we can power up learning through experience, intentional and meaningful experience, from early childhood through late adulthood.Photo Credit: Experience Life, Jon Spayde

Neuroplasticity is a fascination of mine. It is defined as “the ability of the brain to change throughout an individual’s life, e.g., brain activity associated with a given function can be transferred to a different location, the proportion of grey matter can change, and synapses may strengthen or weaken over time.”

“It refers to the physiological changes in the brain that happen as the result of our interactions with our environment. From the time the brain begins to develop in utero until the day we die, the connections among the cells in our brains reorganize in response to our changing needs. This dynamic process allows us to learn from and adapt to different experiences.” – Celeste Campbell (n.d.).

What I love about the potential of experience’s positive impact on brain function is that we can be strategic in our own actions and responses. Building healthy and meaningful mental responses rather than being passively reactive to whatever stimuli comes our way.

What Is Neuroplasticity? Definition + 14 Brain Plasticity Exercises

Use It or Lose It – Exercising Your Mind Becomes Even More Important in Old Age – Dawn C. Carr

Upgrade Your Brain – Jon Spayde

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life – Deb Mills Writer

4) Complaining Exposed – When it comes to complaining, we all think of someone else who does it…not us. It is an irritating habit, and (like we saw in #3 on neuroplasticity), it only gets worse if unchecked. Poet writer Anne Peterson talks about complaining and how it flows out of 6 heart attitudes. Complaining reveals that:

  • We feel entitled.
  • We are impatient.
  • We hold on to resentment.
  • We compare ourselves to others.
  • We don’t think life is fair.
  • We are conformed to this world/culture.

Read her article for the particulars. Be prepared to rip the excuses off your complaining.

What Your Complaints Actually Reveal About Your Heart Anne Peterson

Photo Credit: Gary Vaynerchuk

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk writes about how his mom and wife seem to be incapable of complaining and it’s one of the things he loves about them: “Complaining has zero value. Looking at the negative, seeing the glass as half empty, and complaining are some of the biggest wastes of time a human being can engage in. Instead, tackle the problem head on. Assess it, see what you can do about it, and then do just that. ‘Woe is me’ is truly one of the biggest things that can stand in the way of success both professionally and personally.”

Gary Vaynerchuk

One of the Few Things I Complain About: Complaining – Gary Vaynerchuk

5) Gift Giving – My shopping for Christmas is probably about as done as it will get. As for what I want for Christmas? Forgive the song reference, but all I want for Christmas…is you.Photo Credit: Facebook, Kelly’s Treehouse

When you can’t always have your family around…if you have friends who are generous and genius gift-givers, you can still wrap up all cozy with your family [photo fleece] anyway.

_______________________________________________________________________

Happy Christmas, y’all. Thanks for spending this bit of time here. It means a lot to me. May God’s richest Christmas blessing find a place in your heart.

Bonuses:

Who Is Jesus? – Explore God

Marwencol – the website and the feature-length film: Welcome to Marwen – What a story!

2018 Lights on Canoe Brook – The Greatest Showman

I Fit the Description – The Good Men ProjectPhoto Credit: Steve Locke, The Good Men Project

Photo Credit: Facebook; Pal’s Blountville

Photo Credit: Facebook, Christmas comes to Aleppo, Syria under reconstruction.

Photo Credit: Twitter, Music Notes

December Daffodil and Narcissus shoots in December at Lewis Ginter Botanical GardenPhoto Credit: Lewis Ginter Twitter

Monday Morning Moment – Lessons on Life From a Grieving Husband

Photo Credit: National Institute on Aging

Time can be so fluid…like water in our hands. Hard to hold onto. This is evidenced often in this blog as Monday Morning Moments are posted on Tuesdays at times, and Friday Faves don’t make it up until Saturday or Sunday…or not until the next week.

Life happens…and is punctuated by significant and not-so events. One full-stop experience is the death of a loved one. It stops us in our tracks. We are shocked by it even when we see it coming. Death turns our feet into concrete and yet at the same time moves us to action. Necessary action that drags us forward in dealing with the loss of that one so important to us. Someone has to make arrangements; someone has to make decisions.

When that someone is you, a grand narrative is born in the darkness of loss. It is a gift from God in the wake of bereavement.

We who are bystanders, or close watchers, in the company of one grieving can learn so much about life…and the attentiveness of God over that one in distress.

In Genesis, an account is given, centuries ago, of the death of Sarah, the beloved wife of Abraham. This Abraham is considered the founding father of three major world religions today. In the Scripture he was considered a friend of God (James 2:23), and his faith was counted to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

The lessons on life that we learn from this husband grieving the loss of his wife include the following:

  • Death of a loved one reorients us to the transient nature of life. Even though Abraham and Sarah had been married for 90-100 years, the day would come that death would separate them. Their lives had taken them far from their home of Ur, in Mesopotamia. For many years, they lived in Canaan, always in tents. Always “foreigners and outsiders” (Genesis 23:4). As Abraham wept over the loss of his wife, he realized he had no place to bury her. Should he take her back home or make some provision for burying her where they lived? No matter how long we live, how long we may be married, or how wealthy we are…in this life, in many ways, we are simply sojourners…passing through.
  • The loss of someone we love moves us to put down a stake. In Abraham’s situation, this was a literal “planting a stake”. He negotiated with the men of Hebron to purchase a burial cave (and the land surrounding it) to lay his Sarah to rest. This was huge for him because, although he was wealthy, he had not bought any land, waiting on God. God had promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants. Now, because of the necessity of a burial tomb, Abraham would stake claim to God’s promise by exercising his faith that Canaan would be his family home for all time. The cave for Sarah would also be where he and others in his family would be buried as well. In this land, Canaan. For many of us, the reality of losing a loved one brings into sharp clarity what all is lost with them. My mom was an incredibly faithful prayer warrior for her family and friends. She also lived a life of self-less service to others. It was joy for her that God would allow her such a life of purpose. When she died, I realized that putting down a stake, in her passing, would be to enter into the spiritual work she left behind. Taking hold of the baton my mom passed to us. Praying for and serving others. I’m not where she was in that…but growing.
  • Even in our pain, we can trust God to give us wisdom and care in dealing with those around us. When we are grieving, life doesn’t feel normal. It’s as if we operate on slow-motion. Our thoughts are muddled. People are saying things to us but we can’t seem to hear correctly. In the depth of his grief, in order to secure a burial place for Sarah, Abraham had to deal with people not like him in a culture not his own. Yet, he negotiated with sensitivity and clarity. In fact, the way he did his business that day is a lesson for any of us in working with others. He was gracious and generous. The sale of that land to Abraham went very well for the seller, and the ownership of it should never come into question in the future. When we are faced with responding to others, in the midst of our grief, we can take his example. God will lead us to be our best selves, even in the hardest of situations…if we keep our eyes on Him and we treat those in front of us in good faith. When we lose someone, people usually mean well…even when motives are suspect, we can respond graciously. If, like the owner of the property Abraham would buy, the person seems focused on their own gain, we can act with wisdom and expedience. Abraham needed a burial place that would forever be considered his property. He did what needed to be done…and God gave grace.
  • Lastly, whatever the loss, we can look to the future in hope and confidence. Abraham had a great promise from God for the future. He had only begun to see the promise unfold, but he trusted God for the rest (see Hebrews 11:13-16 below). When we lose someone the idea of never seeing them again would be horrific. In fact, I don’t see how people, who believe that this life is all we have, can survive the death of a loved one. Everything in this life gives evidence that we are made for eternity. I rejoice in the knowledge that this life is not our forever home. We have another homeland…a better place. God has it ready for His children – for that loved one we are mourning now and for us on another glorious day.

“These all died in faith, although they had not received the things that were promised. But they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. But they now desire a better place—a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”Hebrews 11:13-16

Made of the Stuff of Eternity – A. W. Tozer

Our Hope in Grief – Ross Rhoads

Dealing with Death – Bob Deffinbaugh

Death of Sarah and Abraham – Ralph F. Wilson

Mourning the Death of a Spouse – National Institute on Aging

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 3 – Constancy

[Today’s blog is Part 3 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; Part 2 – Caringhere.]

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 to our children and grandchildren.

…which takes us to the last character trait to consider…for us in this generation, and for generations forward (when we will be considered vintage…but God isn’t).

Constancy

No matter how old we are, we have people in our lives who are constant. They are those we count on; those who always show up. No. Matter. What. They are faithful to God and faithful to us. Let’s just take a moment to think, even looking around us, at some of those dear women in our lives. Let’s remember those who aren’t with us anymore but who taught us how to be constant in our love and in our lives.

When we lived overseas, we were daily reminded of how only God could work the miracles that must be worked for people to receive the truth of the Gospel. Our neighbors were steeped in a very different worldview. They saw Jesus as a good man but the Saviour. The fact that we desperately need Him to restore us to a holy God was foreign to them.

Every day…every single day…God called us to show up with His love and His word…in those places and for those people. That constancy was tested every day because it would have been so easy just to stop showing up.

One of the verses from God’s Word that kept us going was Galatians 6:9 where Paul encouraged believers, saying, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap a harvest if we do not lose heart.”Photo Credit: Pinterest

God has already promised us that His purposes are not thwarted; He will complete His work; He will finish what He started in us.

God calls us to keep showing up…following His example in our own lives.

This is how we get to “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). By showing up, time after time, with whatever gifts we have. We don’t have to be rockstars of any kind…we have a God who equips us to be exactly what is needed in any situation. Our constancy radiates His greatness. We can count on Him.

A few years back, I discovered a Christian sister, by the name of Kara Tippetts. We never met but she wrote in her blog in such a way it was like receiving a letter from a dear friend. She wrote about her walk with God through a relentless cancer. Over the course of her diagnosis and treatment, she adjusted to a very different life. However, she continued to show up. For her family. For her friends. For all of us who watched for every report of her life and how God met her each step of the way. She modeled showing up…and emboldened those in her life to show up for her…in all that hard.

Photo Credit: Mundane Faithfulness

Just shy of her 40th birthday, she finished her race and went to be with the Lord. Leaving behind 4 sweet children and an adoring husband.

It was both terribly sad and gloriously beautiful.

In the last months of her life, she managed to write three books…three books!!! The last one was a dialog between her and her friend, Jill. By that time, it was all Kara could do to show up, the disease had so done its ill.

This is what she had to say about constancy…even in the hardest of situations…

“If God asks us to do something, then He’s also going to show up to carry us through it. And when we walk in community with one another, we will be kept.”

Photo Credit: Just Show Up, Kara Tippetts & Jill Lynn Buteyn

Completely cared for by God Himself.

He is faithful. His infinite capacity fills our small hearts; His perfect love magnifies the care we offer to others, His steadfastness gives us what we need to be constant.

In His strength and love, we become the women of that adage: “When her feet hit the floor, the Devil says ‘Oh no, she’s up!’” The evil one battles with us to fail…but we will not, with our eyes on God.

From Genesis through the whole of Scripture, we see the word “shield” and that God is our shield. Against any evil. When we take God seriously and put our lives wholly in His hands we become a force to reckon with – whether we’re 14 or 50 or 82. We will experience attacks from the evil one – he doesn’t want us to be successful as Christ’s image-bearers. We may even take friendly fire from other believers. It happens, and sometimes the enemy is us…but God take what was meant for evil and make it for good in our lives. We have His promise.

Photo Credit: FBC Mt. Pleasant

Hear the Word the Lord: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full of armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.Ephesians 6:10-11

 

Brent Curtis, a Biblical counselor and author of a favorite book of mine The Sacred Romance, wrote about how God demonstrates His own constancy when we show up for someone:

“God graciously showed me this several years ago while I was in the midst of an intense, three-year spiritual battle on behalf of a client.

One night, David (not his real name) called me on the phone at three in the morning, in the midst of painful spiritual torment.  We talked and prayed and I began to read from the Psalms.  Finally, I could hear by his deep breathing that he had fallen asleep.  As I lay on my dining room floor…something wonderful and strange took place.

In my heart, I heard a voice say, “Brent, forget about the battle.  You’re here with me now.  Rest.”  I looked up, actually expecting to see God in some way, or perhaps an angel.  What I did see was the light in the room change.  I find myself wanting to say it grew more distinct, almost more personal.  I only know I discovered that my hand was raised in the air in worship.  I didn’t decide to raise it.  I am not, by any means, an expressive person in the charismatic sense of the word.  It was simply as if there was no other appropriate response and my hand acted accordingly.  For several minutes I basked in what I can only describe now as God’s warmth and love toward me.  The epiphany ended with me reading the Twenty-third Psalm and others it seemed the Lord had chosen to assure me that I was not alone in the battle.”

When we live with capacity for Him, caring for others, and constancy in being there, we may, at times, come under attack, but we will never be alone.

The Old Testament prophet Zephaniah reminds us of this: “The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in His love. He will delight in you with singing.”

No matter what your situation…even when you feel God has been “too quiet” in His love…or you have been waiting such a long time for something…God’s love is constant, trust in that, and God is in the waiting, with us, Dear Ones.

[Special thanks for the ISBC Women’s Ministry and the opportunity extended to me to speak at their holiday dinner. The sweet beauty of the Vintage Christmas displays was surpassed by the faces and hearts of the women present. They would make their grandmothers proud. I was unable to get images of all the women so will leave you with a few more images of just some of the tables. Blessings.]

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]

Worship Wednesday – Take Courage – Kristene DiMarco

Photo Credit: Primo Bible Verses

“I lift my eyes to you,
the one enthroned in heaven.
Like a servant’s eyes on his master’s hand,
like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand,
so our eyes are on the Lord our God
until he shows us favor.

Show us favor, Lord, show us favor,
for we’ve had more than enough contempt.
We’ve had more than enough
scorn from the arrogant
and contempt from the proud.” – Psalm 123:1-4

God’s Word is so rich…so real. It is, after all, God’s very word to each one of us. Even as the psalmist is speaking to the Lord, pouring out his heart to Him. His anguish. His fed-up-ness. God is already whispering the answers to the psalm-writer’s laments right into his weary dejected heart.

If you find yourself in a day where you are just done…remember that God isn’t.

Pull those beautiful eyes of yours up…away from the circumstances you find yourself in, away from those indifferent to your struggle, away from the burden weighing you down. Pull your eyes up to the Lord whose eyes are set on you.

Don’t let your peace be riddled with the holes of human arrows… sometimes even friendly fire. Remember His promise that “our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12).

No matter how great the enemy or how insignificant we feel today, God has prepared armor for us that will withstand any attack.

We stand, we keep our eyes on Him. The battle belongs to the Lord.

The Lord Himself fights for us (Exodus 14:14).

In the confusion and chaos of battle, or the silence and longing of standing on the sidelines…we sometimes reel fainthearted in our anxious thoughts. Then as the Spirit speaks truth to our hearts, clarity is restored. We take a breath. We lift our eyes back up to Him…as a servant looks to his good master for favor.

We wait…“He’s in the waiting…He’s never failing.” Stand, breathe, re-frame your thoughts toward Him… No matter what the world says, the truth is that He will finish all He has begun (Philippians 1:6)…in you and through you.

Worship with me to Take Courage by Bethel Music (Kristene DiMarco):

Slow down, take time
Breathe in He said
He’d reveal what’s to come
The thoughts in His mind
Always higher than mine
He’ll reveal all to come

Take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope
As your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing
He’s never failing

Sing praise my soul
Find strength in joy
Let His Words lead you on
Do not forget
His great faithfulness
He’ll finish all He’s begun

So take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope
As your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing
He’s never failing

Take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope
As your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing
He’s never failing

And You who hold the stars
Who call them each by name
Will surely keep, Your promise to me
That I will rise, in Your victory
And You who hold the stars
Who call them each by name
Will surely keep, Your promise to me
That I will rise, in Your victory!

So take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
And hold onto your hope
Watch your triumph unfold
He’s never failing
He’s never failing

So take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
And hold onto your hope
Watch your triumph unfold
He’s never failing
He’s never failing!

He’s in the waiting…*

[Extended version of this beautiful song in video below]

*Lyrics to Take Courage – AZ Lyrics

Take Courage – Lyrics and Chords – Songwriters: Kristene DiMarco, Jeremy Riddle, Joel Taylor 

Story Behind the Song – Take Courage – Kevin Davis

Psalm 123:1-4 – a Matter of Where You Look – Philip W. McLarty

Monday Morning Moment – Wrong-doing – Concealing, Confessing, and Covering

Photo Credit: Godly Daddy Blog, Dan Ericson

Do any of us really believe we can conceal a wrong forever? Do we truly think we can get away with something…especially something with impact on another? Or maybe we could if a wrong only affects me? Right? No one has to know…right?

Concealing

We are in a time in history and civilization where, like never before,  “Your sins will find you out”. It is ironic because being that we’re in a post-Christian era, sins are not taken as seriously by many as they were just a generation or two before. However, called another name… wrong-doing… or abuse…will be exposed. Eventually that sin will be brought out of the darkness.

“He who covers his sins will not prosper.”

Photo Credit: My Bible, Debra Aiken

The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Darkness cannot withstand light, nor can wrongdoing forever be concealed…it will be exposed. That should be a comfort to those who have been the victim of the wrongful actions of another.

Precept Austin Commentary on Proverbs 28:13 (great resource)

Are You Covering or Confessing Your Sins? – Debra Aiken

Are You Covering Up Your Crimes? – Lifeway, Facts & Trends

10 Common Ways We Try to Hide Our Guilt and Shame – Andy Barlow

There is a dark place in our hearts where we delight in others being “found out”…their wrongdoing exposed. Humility, true humility, sorrows, knowing too well, that it could happen to any of us, for we have all wronged others. All of us.

Confessing

When we face our part in wronging another, when we “come clean”, healing can begin in both parties. For those who have long concealed, this is very difficult to do. To bear the responsibility of a wrong. Time doesn’t heal wrong; it seems to just grow and grow… with time. However, when we shine a light on that dark place and own our wrongdoing, we can hopefully begin to turn things right. Make restitution if possible. Ask forgiveness. Humble ourselves.

But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  – 1 John 1:7-9

Confessing Our Sins Together – Ryan Griffith

What keeps us from confessing is the whisper of a hope that we are not to blame, that we had our reasons, that it wasn’t that bad, or that it wasn’t us. Or, we know we did wrong, and the prospect of consequences that could follow confessing is just too terrifying.

Covering

When we fall on the mercy of God, we can free ourselves of covering up and actually know the joy of being covered. Forgiven. Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for us, we are justified…“just-as-if I’d never sinned”. Now we may still have to reckon with righting a wrong against another person, as much as is possible, even paying society for a wrong. From God’s side, when “we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ” (1 John 1:9)

How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!Psalm 32:1

Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered.Romans 4:7

In our culture today, we are bombarded by blaming and blame-shifting, fingers pointing at wrong-doers or even those it’s not clear are wrong-doers…they are just a race or gender or political party we determine to be wrong-doers.

Thank God, we have a Judge who sees our hearts perfectly and weighs our actions and intents with both justice and mercy. In that courtroom, grace abounds.

The Covering of Sin – writer pastor Wayne Jackson

Postscript: My Mom used to quote a Bible verse in circumstances when one of us, fortunate enough to be loved by her, had done wrong.

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8

Now, she would guide us to right living, and she would be tough with us in doing right to those we wronged. In her love, in her quiet handling of our sins as youngsters and young adults, we learned about the love of God…both just and full of mercy.

Mom didn’t feel the need to expose our sin or wrong-doing to others, giving God room to move in our hearts and alter the course of our lives. God’s love covers our sins, through the sinless life of Jesus, and His sacrifice poured out on our sinful selves.

Cover the Sins of Others – Tim Porter