Category Archives: Inspired

Worship Wednesday – Praise You Anywhere – Brandon Lake

Photo Credit: GodTube

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!Psalm 150:6

Rejoice in the LORD, O righteous ones; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him. Psalm 33:1

The Lord is faithful to all His words and merciful toward all He has made.
The Lord lifts up all who fall, and He supports all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look eagerly to You, and You give them their food at the proper time.
He opens his hand, and He satisfies the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all His ways and merciful toward all that He has made.
The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.
He grants the desire of those who fear Him. He hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love Him, but He will destroy all the wicked. My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord. Let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. – Psalm 145:13-21

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” Revelation 5:13

Praise is a completely natural response to both the character of God and His marvelous works.

On a phone call earlier today, my mom-in-law was going down her prayer list, asking me the status of different ones for whom she has been praying. Over and over, she would say, “Answered prayer!” It was true. As we pause our lives and consider God, we can take hope, even rejoice, in all that He is doing in our lives and around us. This world feels broken, but He isn’t finished…not nearly so.

We may all have different ways we praise God and different preferences as to the setting of praise. In the expansive out of doors or inside in a “quiet time” chair. In the living room of a house church or a huge worship space. Alone or with others.

Photo Credit: Deb Mills, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Va.

The point is that we keep praise a priority in our daily lives. Even in valley experiences or a season of suffering, when we look for it, we will find reason upon reason to praise the Lord. A dear friend of mine finishes her cancer treatment this week. We are praising God for how He walked with her through this time such that she made it through a hard regimen and will ring the bell on Friday to celebrate the last day of treatment. We are also praising God as another friend is getting prepared to start cancer treatment; her cancer was found before she started having symptoms. We are trusting God for good outcomes for both. Praise. Praise. Praise. He is worthy.

Several months ago, I went with a friend to a concert that turned out to be so much more than just great music. It was church. Worship with a few hundred folks we didn’t know but shared a love for Jesus that would bring us to our feet, hands in the air, singing along with singer/songwriter Brandon Lake.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

There is something about Brandon Lake that reminds me of King David in 2 Samuel 6:14-22 when he was dancing in the streets at the return of the Ark of the Lord. He could not contain his joy and had no care for what others might have thought of him. Praising God, dancing before Him, taking great comfort in this moment of feeling God’s pleasure and provision.

God is worthy of praise, with complete abandon, our minds riveted on Him, both alone and in the company of the saints.

Worship with me…and Brandon. Stand on up. You will be in good company.
Sometimes you’ve gotta dance through the darkness
Sing through the fire, praise when it don’t make sense
Sometimes you’ve gotta stare down the giant
Worship from the lion’s den

Sometimes you’ve gotta shout it from the mountain
Louder in the valley, trusting that He’s gonna get you there
Sometimes you’ve gotta welcome the wonder
Wait for the answer, worship with your hands in the air
I’ll praise You anywhеre

Praise, give Him praisе, give Him praise in the highest
Praise, give Him praise, give Him praise in the highest
He is worthy, yes, He is worthy of all of the praise

Sometimes you’ve gotta praise in the prison
Cry out to heaven, shout it ’til the doors swing wide
Sometimes you’ve gotta stand on your shackles
Brave in the battle, worship with your hands held high
I’ll praise You anywhere

Praise, give Him praise, give Him praise in the highest
Praise, give Him praise, give Him praise in the highest
He is worthy, yes, He is worthy of all of the
Praise, give Him praise, give Him praise in the highest
Praise, give Him praise, give Him praise in the highest
He is worthy, yes, He is worthy of all of the praise

Faithful all my life, blessings day and night
Countless reasons why I’ll praise You anywhere
Every promise kept, goodness every step
Each and every breath, I’ll praise You anywhere
Faithful all my life, blessings day and night
Countless reasons why I’ll praise You anywhere
Every promise kept, goodness every step
Each and every breath, I’ll praise You anywhere

Praise, give Him praise, give Him praise in the highest
Praise, give Him praise, give Him praise in the highest
He is worthy, yes, He is worthy of all of the praise

Oh, I’ll praise you anywhere
Oh, mountain or valley, I know that You’re with me there
I’ll praise You anywhere*

Photo Credit: Heartlight

We’re not done! Years ago, when we lived overseas, in Cairo, Egypt, we would attend a monthly praise event called “The Cutting Edge” at Maadi Community Church. Our kids were young and just cutting their teeth on corporate worship. Those evenings, in the cool of hot days, we gathered in the courtyard of this international church and sang together – with other believers from many nations, all having different worship styles and preferences. It didn’t matter. What a grace to focus on Jesus and sing our hearts out!

One more song on this Worship Wednesday – “Praise” with Brandon Lake, Chris Brown & Chandler Moore. Somehow I had missed this song until a few days ago…we have so many reasons to praise the Lord. Let’s get after it!

Worship with these brothers:

Let’s go, 1, 2, hey
Let everything that has breath
Praise the Lord (You got it), praise the Lord
Let everything, let everything that has breath
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord
(Let everything) Let everything (Hey) that has breath (Hey)

[Verse 1: Brandon Lake]
I’ll praise in the valley, praise on the mountain (Yeah)
I’ll praise when I’m sure, praise when I’m doubting
I’ll praise when outnumbered, praise when surrounded
‘Cause praise is the waters my enemies drown in

[Chorus: Brandon Lake & Chandler Moore, Both]
As long as I’m breathing
I’ve got a reason to
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
Praise the Lord, oh my soul

[Verse 2: Chris Brown & Chandler Moore]
I’ll praise when I feel it, and I’ll praise when I don’t (Yeah)
I’ll praise ’cause I know You’re still in control
‘Cause my praise is a weapon, it’s more than a sound (More than a sound)
Oh, my praise is the shout that brings Jericho down (Yeah)

[Chorus: Brandon Lake & Chandler Moore, Both]
As long as I’m breathing
I’ve got a reason to
Praise the Lord (C’mon), oh my soul
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
I won’t be quiet, my God is alive
How could I keep it inside? (I gotta)
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
(Yeah, praise the Lord)

[Interlude: Brandon Lake]
C’mon let me see a dance, put a dance on it tonight (Yeah)
If you’re grateful, c’mon
Hey, hey, yeah

[Bridge: Brandon Lake & Chris Brown]
I’ll praise ’cause You’re sovereign, praise ’cause You reign
Praise ’cause You rose and defeated the grave
I’ll praise ’cause You’re faithful, praise ’cause You’re true
Praise ’cause there’s nobody greater than You
I’ll praise ’cause You’re sovereign, praise ’cause You reign (You reign)
Praise ’cause You rose and defeated the grave
I’ll praise ’cause You’re faithful, praise ’cause You’re true
Praise ’cause there’s nobody greater than You

[Chorus: Chris Brown, Brandon Lake & Chandler Moore, All]
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
(C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon)
(I gotta) Praise the Lord, oh my soul
(Praise the Lord, oh my soul)
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
I won’t be quiet, my God is alive
How could I keep it inside? (How could I)
I won’t be quiet, my God is alive
How could I keep it inside? (I won’t keep quiet)
I won’t be quiet, my God is alive
How could I keep it inside? (I gotta)
Praise the Lord, oh my soul

[Outro: Chandler Moore]
Jump, jump, jump, jump, jump
Let everything that has breath
Praise the Lord (Hey, hey), praise the Lord
Let everything, let everything that has breath
(C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon)
Praise the Lord (C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon)
Praise the Lord (C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon)
(Let everything), Let everything that has breath
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, praise the Lord
(Let everything), Let everything that has breath
(Praise the Lord)
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, praise the Lord**

*Lyrics to Praise You Anywhere – Songwriters: Jacob Sooter, Brandon Lake, Ben Fielding & Hank Bentley

**Lyrics to Praise – Songwriters: Steven Furtick, Chandler Moore, Brandon Lake, Pat Barrett, Cody Carnes, Chris Brown

Worship Wednesday – the Wonder of God – Count ‘Em – Brandon Lake – Deb Mills

Why Is Praising God Important?

12 Reasons God Is Worthy of Worship – Karen Hoffman

Photo Credit: Ullie Kaye Poetry, Facebook

Monday Morning Moment – Henri Nouwen on Leadership

Photo Credit: Henri J. M. Nouwen, In Jesus’ Name, QuoteFancy

What can we learn about leadership from a priest? A priest who spent his potentially most influential years as pastor of L’Arche – a community for mentally handicapped persons? What? Plenty!

Henri J. M. Nouwen was a renowned scholar, writer, professor, and a Dutch Catholic priest. He taught for many years at such prestigious universities as Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard. His writings were prolific and his personality was winsome.

Whether you are Christian or not, you will profit from the tiny book (81 pages) he wrote on leadership – “In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership”. I read this book yesterday afternoon and was spellbound by his wisdom. Having read many texts on leadership over the years, both secular and Christian, I was captivated by Nouwen’s take on leadership…and his willingness to confront the pitfalls that can occur along the way. In a clear and succinct way, he exposed the temptations we have in leading others and the way we can extinguish them through applying certain disciplines or habits.

Nouwen points out three temptations leaders are apt to succumb to, and then he offers three disciplines to counter (and gain freedom from) them. Christian readers, you will appreciate his direction. He refers to Scripture for his teaching – two passages in particular: 1) Jesus’ questioning a repentant Peter after he had denied the Lord three times (John 21:15-19), and 2) the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13). I will list the temptations below and examples from my own life where they crept in:

  1. To Be Relevant – In recent years this has actually been a longing of mine, before the Lord. After retiring from a full and satisfying ministry life, with all our children grown and on their own, my days got very quiet. I didn’t know what to do with them. The calls to join this team or lead that work just didn’t come in. Somehow I had made relevance an idol. Thankfully God was working away at that temptation in my life. He is still at work, because I still struggle…but not like before. Earlier today, I was sitting in the waiting room while an Afghan grandmother in my care was having dental work done. It’s been my least favorite activity on the refugee resettlement team of our church. The appointments are three hours long (for the dental students’ learning), and even with books, phone, and hallways to do steps, I bristled at times at the servitude of this activity. After reading Nouwen’s book, he pointed the way to resist. Contemplative prayer is the answer. Recognizing that I don’t need to be going here or there because it is I who am needed in those situations. To use the time of seeming irrelevance to participate in a grander work than I could have ever imagined. To simply be, humbled and grateful, with God, and to have a quiet many would love to know. To remember that the work, whatever it is, came from Him to begin with. I don’t own work, or ministry, or service of any kind. It is an opportunity to show up for a greater good, in a quieter state, where I am surrendered, making myself available, to love others more than myself – “in the name of Jesus”.

“I’m telling you all this because I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God’s love…God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.”Henri Nouwen

2. To Be Popular (Spectacular even)What a temptation this is. It is stealthy. We sometimes aren’t even aware that we experience it. Until we are. Sigh… Leadership lends itself to singular popularity (even in situations where people love to hate you…it’s still a superlative position of a sort). When we rise through the ranks, through experience mixed with education, it can be a very individualistic journey. “Lonely at the top”. However, there is a head trip attached where we become prone to thinking that we are the ones to call, or to consult, or to give opinion, or have the last decision. This temptation to want to be “the one” is fortunately tempered by doing work/life/church in community. By taking someone along. By sharing decision-making. By including those most affected in the conversation. Making room around the table. Nouwen, in regards to this temptation, calls the reader to Confession and Forgiveness. When is the last time you heard a leader confess a weakness or struggle? When did she or he ask forgiveness for a decision that turned out poorly or for a moral failure exposed? Being willing to remove the cape of the hero, and step off the pedestal, takes a humility that allows for, mutual confession and forgiveness within the larger community.

3. To Be Powerful – What a temptation!! To believe that we could actually have power over other people’s lives. To be in a position of making sweeping decisions with little restraint. To be surrounded by those who (dealing with their own temptations) would go along with the decisions out of their own need for popularity and power. It’s messed-up. In fact, what we think is our leading is really being led (by our own preferences, or the pressures of that vaunted position). What’s the solution? Now, each of these temptations so far has had a spiritual response – prayer, confession and forgiveness. What is the way forward when power has taken the driver’s seat? Theological Reflection. Nouwen is NOT talking about the answers that may be debated in the seminary classroom. It goes far deeper…to actually look for the truth in the background…and seeking to act on what is true…not for the sake of relevance or popularity or to hold onto power.

“Christian leaders have the arduous task of responding to personal struggles, family conflicts, national calamities, and international tensions with an articulate faith in God’s real presence. They have to say ‘no’ to every form of fatalism, defeatism, accidentalism or incidentalism which make people believe that statistics are telling us the truth. They have to say ‘no’ to every form of despair in which human life is seen as a pure matter of good or bad luck. They have to say ‘no’ to sentimental attempts to make people develop a spirit of resignation or stoic indifference in the face of the unavoidability of pain, suffering, and death…Theological reflection is reflecting on the painful and joyful realities of every day with the mind of Jesus and thereby raising human consciousness to the knowledge of God’s gentle guidance.” Henri Nouwen

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Henri Nouwen left the lofty academic environment to join in community with those who would not incline to be impressed with his credentials. Yet, in the setting of L’Arche, Nouwen dug deep into how to lead in gentler and more loving ways, with the example of the life of Jesus, and the nearness of God and community.

The beauty of his life laid down has given me pause to look differently at leadership and the possibility of being led…by a God who loves us first, in servant mode, in community with others…in the name of Jesus.

YouTube Video – Remembering Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)

In the Name of Jesus – Summary – Chuck Olson

Monday Morning Moment – Withholding – When It Goes Way Past Boundaries Into Downright Meanness

Photo Credit: Marshall B. Rosenberg, Quote Fancy

This has been days in the writing. When I saw the quote below just scrolling through Instagram, it stopped me in my tracks. Withholding (as defined here) goes way past “not knowing what to say” or “placing boundaries” or any measure of shyness or introversion. Withholding is actually an act of aggression…a display of power. One in which any of us can find ourselves if we don’t practicing checking our hearts or intentions regarding certain people or situations.

Photo Credit: Covenantal Relationships, Instagram

My Mom was the most significant influence in my life growing up. Now, I didn’t have the vocabulary for a lot of what she taught me, in word and deed, until recent years. Much of what she modeled came through her love of Scripture. She wasn’t a practicing Christian in my early childhood, but still she had made some decisions as a young person (while churched or otherwise influenced) that she practiced throughout her life. She became more mature and even more compassionate in these rules of life as she patterned her life more and more like Jesus.

I said all this to say that she was the opposite of a withholding sort of person. Even as an introvert.

Maybe growing up in a home with an alcoholic father and a timid mother influenced her willingness to show up for people – her brothers, her friends, her children, and strangers she met day-to-day. She did not withhold herself from others – all sorts of others – and it made for a beautiful life. This from a woman who worked full-time, raised four kids, and dealt with a cancer that would take her life too soon. Well, it didn’t take her life. Her life was finished at 75 to the glory of God. Even in her last hours and experiencing pain and increasing weakness, she was encouraging all of us around her. She even woke up from a coma that had silenced her to say “I love you” in response to one of her little grandchildren’s goodbyes to her.

This woman. Now you can understand why this issue of withholding feels so wrong to me. I understand people needing boundaries in toxic relationships, however, the practice of withholding can take boundaries up several notches. This probably isn’t a winsome topic because we don’t think what we’re doing is mean-spirited…it’s just because we are busy, or shy, or can’t do one more thing, or (fill in the reason).

Withholding can have different faces depending on what our intent or inclination is. It can be withholding of:

  • Time, attention, helps, favor.
  • Information, encouragement, welcome.
  • Food, possessions, recreation, experiences.
  • People (children, friends, family members).
  • Finances, job opportunities, training/equipping, inclusion.

We have all experienced withholding – either as the one holding out on others or the one experiencing that neglect (whether intended personally or just in the wake of not being chosen for any of the above).

What do we do with this issue? If you’re reading this, you are already on the path to solutions. Those who don’t read this sort of piece don’t see this as a problem. Certainly, none of us are necessarily entitled to whatever is sensed as being withheld. However, if we don’t want to be on the giving end of withholding, we can note it and practice the opposite – a humility, intentionality, watchfulness, and graciousness can move us toward an openness and willingness to be there, even when others are not.

Parenting is a long season where withholding can become a habit – when we as parents get exasperated with our children’s choices and when we are shaken in our sense of who we are and how we’re doing. An example is well-communicated below by Youth Dynamics of Montana. If we have struggled with parenting or have been harmed by our own parents’ withholding, our temptation is to extend that same experience back, over time, either with our kids or our parents.

Do we really want that to become our practice?

Photo Credit: Youth Dynamics of Montana, Instagram

For me, it’s a daily battle to be like my Mom, but one I want to come out winning, or at least fighting. To be that person who works to catch the eye of people, to engage and encourage, to be courteous and deferent, to include, to give where there is opportunity, to serve when I know I can, to share information that would help, to let people in and to show up for others. All of this models good for our children and is a blessing to those around us. Choosing not to withhold myself, my people, and my resources by tightly circling the wagons.

There’s a great call to action by the Prophet Isaiah on what can happen (if I could interject) when we don’t withhold. When we show up, God shows up in exponentially greater ways. Is that your experience?

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert…
Isaiah 35:3-6

5 Withholding Tactics Malignant Narcissists and Psychopaths Use To Torment You – Shahida Arabi, MA

What Emotional Withholding Looks Like And How To Handle It In Relationships – Row Light

Why Punishing a Child by Withholding Affection is Wrong – W. R. Cummings

Withholding: A Dangerous Saboteur of Love – That Immobilization Some Feel Under Stress Can Become Withholding Behavior. – Randi Gunther Ph.D.

To Say the Least: Where Deceptively Withholding Information Ends and Lying Begins – Marta Dynel – a highly scholarly (but very readable!), totally fascinating article on this topic

Monday Morning Moment – A Place for You – Deb Mills

Inner Circles – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Considering Others – the Wawa Experience – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – The 6 Sacrifices of Leadership – in Memory of Clyde Meador

Photo Credit: GOBNM

10 years writing this blog. I started 10 years ago this very month. The reason, in particular, was because I felt my memory clouding some, and there were memories and counsel I wanted to make sure were left for my children. As writing does, the blog cut its course through many topics – God, life, marriage, parenting, beauty, friendship, work, meaning, purpose, and reflections of all sorts. Now 10 years out, my memory is still hanging in there, and for that I’m thankful. Also for the having of words to share with those I love.

Our friend Clyde Meador started a blog himself 3 years ago this month. He may have had similar hopes – to leave something for his children and for the sake of a greater work.

Leadership was a topic that I studied for years (posting in my Monday Morning Moment). I learned so much from great leaders in my life, as well as some leaders who could have used some mentoring by our friend Clyde. That may not have been kind, but good leaders matter – in our lives and in the futures of organizations.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Stephen White, 2017 [Clyde and his beloved wife, Elaine]

In the first year of Clyde’s blog, he wrote a series of posts entitled 6 Sacrifices of Leadership. The topics were:

  • Loss of Constant Firsthand Involvement
  • Too Much Negative Knowledge
  • Constant Criticism
  • Leaving
  • Sacrifice, Isolation, Ostracism
  • Impact on Family Ties Due to Travel and Workload

Take the time to study those posts to learn from Clyde. In a recent tribute to him, a friend and colleague, Charles Clark wrote a brief summary of Clyde’s six sacrifices, their dangers and rewards. You find them in the image below:

Photo Credit: Clyde Meador from Charles Clark’s Facebook page, May 2024

In April 2024, Clyde Meador, this wise, humble, and insightful leader friend of ours, died, at 70 years of age. Complications of a long battle with cancer. He leaves a big hole, for his family, but also for the many people who have known him and loved him through the years. However, he would say something along the lines of God doesn’t leave holes.

We all have stories with Clyde in them – his lessons on life and leading. His legacy is that he never wavered in his faith walk, his love for his family, or his determination to do excellence in the work God had given him. He and Elaine have been a picture of constancy in our lives. Leading and loving.

In July of 2023, life and cancer treatment got in the way of Clyde continuing his blog. What turned out to be his last blog is so appropriate and beautiful. “To Those Who Come After Us”. Here are the last paragraphs.

“I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.”  (Psalm 89:1, ESV)  “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done.”  (Psalm 78:4, ESV)  This commitment of faithful followers of the Lord must be our commitment, also.

“So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.”  (Psalm 71:18, ESV)  I am grateful that I have reached old age and gray hair, and pray that I will faithfully do all I can to communicate the truth of the Gospel to those who come after me.

Of all those things which we teach our children and those who come after them, nothing is more important, more urgent than the truth of the Gospel.  I have a less-than-perfect record of success in this endeavor, yet I seek to faithfully persist in sharing the Truth.  I challenge each of us to a major focus on sharing all we know about our Lord and Savior with the next generations! – Clyde Meador, To Those Who Come After Us

[Dave & Clyde, a few weeks before Clyde went to be with the Lord. So grateful. What a humble and wise mentor he was to so many.]

Worship Wednesday – Holy Forever – Chris Tomlin

Photo Credit: YouTube

Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:

“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”
Revelation 4:6-11

After this I looked and saw a multitude too large to count, from every nation and tribe and people and tongue, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. And they fell face down before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”Revelation 7:9-12

It wasn’t my time. A few days ago, I turned into a neighborhood street near my house. On a fast errand, I returned on the same street within a couple of minutes max. There across the street was this huge fallen tree! It was a moment for me to think about the reality that a few seconds later entering that street or earlier returning, and my car could have been under that tree.

You can imagine, it gave pause. Thinking of all the times we are slowed down by red lights or long store lines or the distracted driver slowing us down. I believe in angels. How God protects us through these heavenly messengers who don’t make themselves known to us, but who may very well sometimes protect us from all sorts of calamity. I say sometimes, because we all know (and may even be experiencing right now) hard situations that God did not prevent. Yet, He knows and gives grace and works all things out for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

In the midst of every day life…both magnificent and mundane…God reminds us of Himself and the grandness of this life (and the next, of course). We forget…or we don’t notice…our heads too often down, looking at screens, rather than up and around at the beauty of God and those He places in our lives.

Sunday, our worship team closed out the service at Movement Church with the song Holy Forever. It is a familiar song but hit me different that day. It was a tiny snapshot of what it will be around the throne of God in eternity. All of us, singing, agreeing on the majesty of holy God.

Video – Movement Church – Holy Forever – at 1 hr., 3 min. in – Hallelujah!

What does it mean that God is holy. Got Questions, an online ministry, answers that question beautifully. Here is an excerpt:

“The holiness of God refers to the unparalleled majesty of His incomparable being and His blameless, faultless, unblemished moral purity (Isaiah 6:1–5; Revelation 4:1–8). Unlike His created beings, God is eternal, preeminent, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He was, is, and will be before all things. He is ageless, tireless, and faultless. He is beyond full human comprehension. Indeed, our language lacks the superlatives necessary to justly describe Him. Drawn to Him for His unequaled goodness and majesty, the psalmist wrote, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1, ESV). Nothing or no one satisfies like God, for He is altogether lovely to behold. Earthly treasures will pass away, but the Lord is our great reward and inheritance (Joshua 13:33)…God is holy. In Him, there is not even the faintest trace of evil. He is impeccably pure, wholly without fault, and uncompromisingly just. God cannot lie. He cannot make wrong decisions. He is blameless, timeless, and sinless. To the lost the holiness of God is a dreadful matter, but to the redeemed the holiness of God is our greatest good.”

What Does It Mean that God Is a Holy God? What Is the Holiness of God? – Got Questions

Pastor, writer Scott Savage has written a beautiful review of the song Holy Forever. He references songwriter Chris Tomlin‘s story behind the song. Tomlin wanted to communicate 3 elements, in particular: God’s transcendence, the idea of “eternal worship”, and God’s faithfulness in the face of our failure.

Savage goes on to say:

“If you need a reminder of God’s transcendence in your life, I want to encourage to get into God’s creation. Stargaze, hike, or get out on the water. Put your phone away and get alone, or get with people who will help you connect with God, not distract you from God. 

Be quiet before God – really listen for His still, small voice. Read Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4. Listen to the song “Holy Forever” and meditate on the bigness and holiness of God. 

When you do, may you find your heart reset and your viewpoints recalibrated in light of the glory, majesty, and transcendence of God.” Scott Savage 

Faith Behind the Song: “Holy Forever” by Chris Tomlin – Scott Savage

One day, it will be my time…as it will be for all of us. What an amazing grace to stand before the One True God, in the righteousness of our Savior Jesus Christ, and be welcomed Home.

Worship with me.

A thousand generations falling down in worship
To sing the song of ages to the Lamb
And all who’ve gone before us, and all who will believe
Will sing the song of ages to the Lamb

Your name is the highest
Your name is the greatest
Your name stands above them all
All thrones and dominions
All powers and positions
Your name stands above them all

And the angels cry, “Holy”
All creations cries, “Holy”
You are lifted high, holy
Holy forever

If you’ve been forgiven, if you’ve been redeemed
Sing the song forever to the Lamb
If you walk in freedom, if you bear His name
Sing the song forever to the Lamb
We’ll sing the song forever and amen

And the angels cry, “Holy”
All creations cries, “Holy”
You are lifted high, holy
Holy forever
Hear Your people sing, “Holy”
To the King of kings, holy
You will always be holy
Holy forever

Your name is the highest
Your name is the greatest
Your name stands above them all
All thrones and dominion
All powers and positions
Your name stands above them all, Jesus
Your name is the highest
Your name is the greatest
Your name stands above them all
(Oh, stands above)
All thrones and dominions
All powers and positions
Your name stands above them all

And the angels cry, “Holy”
All creations cries, “Holy”
You are lifted high, holy
Holy forever (We cry, “Holy forever”)
Hear Your people sing, “Holy” (We will sing)
To the King of kings, (Holy) holy (Holy forever)
You will always be holy
Holy forever

You will always be holy
Holy forever*

*Lyrics to Holy Forever – Songwriters: Chris Tomlin, Brian Johnson, Jason Ingram, Jenn Johnson, and Phil Wickham

YouTube Video – Movement Church – Holy Forever – 1 hr. 3 minutes in.

The Meaning Behind the Song: Holy Forever by Chris Tomlin – Charlie Wall

Worship Wednesday – For Christ-Followers – It’s Surrender – Not Self-Improvement

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”Matthew 16:24

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And 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 2:20

If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His footsteps. 1 Peter 2:20-21

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities and continue to grow in them, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever lacks these traits is nearsighted to the point of blindness, having forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, brothers, strive to make your calling and election sure. For if you practice these things you will never stumble.2 Peter 1:3-10

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.2 Corinthians 3:17-18

I’m an avid reader of non-fiction. Sometimes, oftentimes, that has included volumes of Christian self-help books. Self-improvement is very much the goal of New Year’s resolutions, and I am still in the thick of those made a few weeks back.

Then, last week, I read a chapter on improvement in Karen Swallow Prior‘s book, The Evangelical Imagination, and it has totally upended my whole understanding of improving my life – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Reading Prior’s book (and this chapter, at the moment) is a wake-up call on how we have taken on culture’s trappings, language, and ethics. Weaving them into our faith, as if they belonged. Such that we as Christians are merely improved humans, rather than the new creations God has made us.

Photo Credit: Highlight

The Evangelical Imagination: How Stories, Images & Metaphors Created a Culture in Crisis – Karen Swallow Prior

I realize my focus of late has been more self-improvement than sanctification. Why would we want to improve on the self, anyway, since Christ has told us to deny self? It’s not self that I want improved. It’s so much more than that. Sanctification is defined as being set apart. When we come to faith in Christ, we become His, set apart for Himself and for His service. Although we find in Scripture the command to work out our salvation, we must understand that we are not improving on what has already been done for us. Rather, we do what is needful to truly know Christ and to infuse every part of our being with His character. To what end? For His pleasure, for our good, and for the sake of those He places in our lives. For love’s sake.

This kind of work, discipline, habit formation is daily and full of God-shaped challenge. However, the goal is not to improve ourselves, but to become ever more His such that we manifest the very likeness of Christ in our relationships and circumstances. As believers, we aren’t just nice people…we are meant to be warriors on the ready for whatever confronts us or those around us, confident of His power at work in us.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

God calls us often to show up as peacemakers, too. To die to self, to refuse to think ill of others, to forgive (over and over at times), and to seek forgiveness when we’ve wronged someone.

Jesus prayed for us to be one with Him and with each other. To extend the fruit of the Spirit He means for the good of those around us. To confront our sin and to put down our idols. Self-improvement is by its nature self-focused…unless…

You Are Set Free from Self-Improvement – Lydia Brownback

Podcast: The False Messages Facing Women Today (Lydia Brownback)

Unless that working out we’re doing is to benefit others, even more than we are benefited. A self-abandonment. We have someone very close to us who has done a huge work in recent months to be as healthy as he can be. In all areas of his life. Some would call that a massive self-improvement effort, but I know him and I know his heart. He has taken a hard look at his life and made some decisions to stretch himself to love God and his family in deeper ways…rather than escaping into self-serving and escape when his daily work is done. Now could he fall into a lesser pursuit of self-improvement? Sure…we all can, but part of his effort is that sorting out of living the life of a new creation with access to the unfathomable grace, love, and power of God.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

I’m just at the start of figuring out this whole “dying to self and living to God” process. It’s so easy for me to choose comfort over sacrifice. To choose my preferences over His. How gracious the Lord is! He celebrates our small victories and does not condemn us when we falter. We are His, indwelt by His Spirit, with Christ Jesus interceding for us in the Heavenlies in this very moment.

This life is not a self-improvement journey for us as believers. It is a practicing the ways of Christ life. Immersing ourselves in His Word to know Him at a heart level, spending time with Him and others, believing Him to live His life through us, ruthlessly dealing with sin and deception in our lives, and then practicing (working out our salvation) His ways until they become our ways.

What joy! And freedom we discover in this Jesus life…a freedom and a hope that is only ours through Christ’s presence and power. Fleshing out His character in our frail lives, being made more and more like Him, as we work out our salvation, in truly knowing Him and being transformed into His likeness across our lifespan.

Let me close with the beautiful commentary below from Bibleref.com:

In the previous two verses (2 Peter 1:3-4), Peter summarized the enormous benefit we have received in knowing God through faith in Christ. We have been equipped to follow the example of Jesus’ glory and goodness. We’re not missing anything we need to lead the life He calls us to. More, through faith in Jesus, we have been granted the right to participate, right now, in God’s nature. We can partner with Christ in fulfilling God’s purpose on earth. We have been freed from the corruption of sin.

All of that sounds fantastic, but what does it mean for us today? Why does it seem that many Christians are so far away from participating in God’s nature, not living with Christ’s purpose, joy, and love? Why do some continue to live in the sin from whose corruption we’ve supposedly been freed?

This verse gives us a clue. God has given us all we need to live like Jesus, but now we must actually use those gifts. And that means work. Before we had received God’s gift of grace, we lacked both the ability and the desire to live in Jesus’ glory and goodness. Now that we have been empowered to do so, we must “make every effort” to add the following qualities [2 Peter 1:3-10] to, or “alongside,” our faith.

In other words, we must begin to live as if what we believe is really true.

By faith, we came to Christ. Now, with Christ’s power, we must work to add goodness to our faith, and to add knowledge to our goodness. The next two verses (vv. 6 & 7) will explore additional ideas about the chain of traits we as Christians should work to build into our lives.” Bibleref.com

#2. Add to Your Faith Goodness – (2 Peter 1:5-11) – 2 Peter & Jude Bible Studies – Ralph F. Wilson

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Practicing the Way website- John Mark Comer

Growth Is Not the Goal: Why We Need Habits of Grace – David Mathis, Desiring God

How Christian Is Self-Improvement – Marshall Segal, Desiring God

Sanctification – Bible Study Tools

The Most Important Cultural Book of the Year (Maybe Even Decade) – Review: ‘The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self’ by Carl Trueman – Andrew T. Walker

Monday Morning Moment – Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Photo Credit: Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Pinterest

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”Lamentations 3:22-23

“Let me hear in the morning of Your steadfast love, for in You I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.” Psalm 143:8

“He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.”Psalm 91:4

Holy Week of 2024 is finished. How glorious the annual recounting of what happened in those days for our sakes. Jesus faithfully lived each of those momentous days – holy living, sacrificially loving, dying with Eternity in view.

So here we are on Monday – ordinary start to another week. Or is it ordinary? No. For some, it is a crawling out of bed with every bit of will we can muster, facing a hard, an unknown, a breath-taking challenge.

The phrase “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” comes from a treasured hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” written by Thomas Chisholm. I was reminded of this in a Caring Bridge journal entry from a dear friend whose 6 y/o is in the throes of chemotherapy. She wrote this:

“Our God provides us with strength for today, and because He lives and has Risen…as we [celebrated] on Easter, we can also have and expect “bright hope for tomorrow.” May we be faithful and believe this! May we fear not and focus more on living life for eternity and not just the circumstances that occupy our present!” – [Niccole, not linking journal entry for the family’s privacy]

The History of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” – Eric Wyse

So this is for you, Dear Ones. That precious one confronting a shocking cancer diagnosis, and a young mom with a newborn and her own mom struggling with diminishing health leaning on this young mom, and a husband and father dealing with a fractured family, and…you can fill in the blank (God knows).

If you could use a deeper reminder of this old hymn and the Scripture-drenched truths of its message, here are the lyrics and a video you can sing them with. For this day, meditate on God’s faithfulness, not just for the nations and generations, but for you, Dear One.

“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
 “Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
  Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
    “Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
Lyrics written by Thomas Obediah Chisholm – shared from
Hymnal.net

“Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” is ours…in Him.

Worship Wednesday – the Answer for the Sullen and Inconsolable – Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – No Shadow of Turning – Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Austin Stone Worship – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Gratitude Flattens Fear – Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Crown Him With Many Crowns – Looking to Easter and the Resurrected Christ

Photo Credit: Jean-Marie Pirot, also known as Arcabas, The Lent Project, Biola University

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11

They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power.Revelation 4:10-11

During the season of Lent, leading up to Good Friday and Easter (Resurrection Sunday), I am inspired by reading, listening to music, and studying the beauty with which God surrounds us (including the sacred arts). Biola University combines all three resources for worship in its Lent Project which we can access online. The Arcabas painting above is the capstone of the March 21, 2024 devotional. The painting title is “The Humbled and Exalted Christ”. Christ is shown with the crown of thorns set painfully on His head prior to His crucifixion. Then, upon His resurrection/ascension, the angels are shown crowning Him with the golden crown as King of Heaven.

Below you’ll find excerpts from this day’s devotional written by Dr. David Merrill, theology professor at Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology.

“We see the reality that it is here in Christ’s humiliation, there is exaltation. Here slave and king, heaven and earth, God and man are brought together…The incarnation, suffering, and death, form the basis of his exaltation. What is also won of course, is our salvation and healing, for “with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). In gathering humanity and death into himself he defeats death and gives us new life…this truth must find a home in our own hearts. For what we exalt in our hearts becomes lord of our lives and what we deem as beautiful governs our loves and desires, and thus directs our lives.”Dr. David Merrill

Crown Him with Many Crowns – Rev. Colin Smith

Worship with me to this timeless hymn:

1 Crown him with many crowns,
the Lamb upon his throne.
Hark! how the heavenly anthem drowns
all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing
of him who died for thee,
and hail him as thy matchless king
through all eternity.

2 Crown him the Lord of life,
who triumphed o’er the grave,
and rose victorious in the strife
for those he came to save;
his glories now we sing
who died and rose on high,
who died eternal life to bring,
and lives that death may die.

3 Crown him the Lord of love;
behold his hands and side,
rich wounds, yet visible above,
in beauty glorified;
no angels in the sky
can fully bear that sight,
but downward bends their burning eye
at mysteries so bright.

4 Crown him the Lord of years,
the potentate of time,
creator of the rolling spheres,
ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail!
for thou hast died for me;
thy praise shall never, never fail
throughout eternity.*

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
John 6:68-69

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, as we look intently into Your face and attend to Your crucifixion, may You be exalted in our hearts. May our affections be captivated by Your beauty, and may we come to find that life is truly found in You alone. And where our loves have become captivated by the beauty of other lords, draw us back and lead us along the ancient path, the way of the cross. Amen. – Dr. David Merrill

*Lyrics to Crown Him with Many Crowns – Matthew Bridges (1851 – original lyrics, see below) and Godfrey Thring (1871, alterer of lyrics – shown above)

Casting of the Crowns – Commentary

[The lyrics below include all the verses, as written by Matthew Bridges (1851) – Anglican converted to Catholicism] and Godfrey Thring (alterer, 1871)

Crown Him with ma­ny crowns,
The Lamb up­on His throne.
Hark! How the heav’n­ly an­them drowns
All mu­sic but its own!
Awake, my soul, and sing
Of Him who died for thee;
And hail Him as thy match­less king
Through all eter­ni­ty!

Crown Him the vir­gin’s son!
The God in­car­nate born,
Whose arm those crim­son tro­phies won
Which now His brow adorn!
Fruit of the mys­tic rose,
As of that rose the stem;
The root whence mer­cy ev­er flows,
The Babe of Beth­le­hem!

Crown Him the Lord of love!
Behold His hands and side,
Those wounds, yet vi­si­ble above,
In beau­ty glo­ri­fied:
No an­gel in the sky
Can ful­ly bear that sight,
But down­ward bends his burn­ing eye
At mys­ter­ies so bright!

Crown Him the Lord of peace!
Whose pow­er a scep­ter sways
From pole to pole, that wars may cease,
Absorbed in pray­er and praise:
His reign shall know no end,
And round His pierc­èd feet
Fair flow­ers of pa­ra­dise ex­tend
Their frag­rance ev­er sweet.

Crown Him the Lord of years,
The Po­ten­tate of time,
Creator of the roll­ing spheres,
Ineffably sub­lime.
All hail, Re­deem­er, hail!
For Thou has died for me;
Thy praise and glo­ry shall not fail
Throughout eter­ni­ty.

Crown Him the Lord of Heav’n,
Enthroned in worlds above,
Crown Him the king to whom is giv’n
The won­drous name of Love.
Crown Him with ma­ny crowns,
As thrones be­fore Him fall;
Crown Him, ye kings, with ma­ny crowns,
For He is king of all.

Crown Him the Son of God,
Before the worlds be­gan,
And ye who tread where He hath trod,
Crown Him the Son of Man;
Who ev­ery grief hath known
That wrings the hu­man breast,
And takes and bears them for His own,
That all in Him may rest.

Crown Him the Lord of life,
Who tri­umphed o’er the grave,
And rose vic­to­ri­ous in the strife
For those He came to save.
His glo­ries now we sing,
Who died, and rose on high,
Who died eter­nal life to bring,
And lives that death may die.

Crown Him the Lord of lords,
Who ov­er all doth reign,
Who once on earth, the in­car­nate Word,
For ran­somed sin­ners slain,
Now lives in realms of light,
Where saints with an­gels sing
Their songs be­fore Him day and night,
Their God, Re­deem­er, king.

Saturday Short – Remembering Our Chad and the Legacy of Chadwick Boseman

Photo Credit: L) Chadwick Boseman – Gage Skidmore, Flickr, R) Chad Stephens (pic taken by Deb Mills)

[This piece is adapted from the Archives on the 30th anniversary of my nephew Chad Stephens’ death. He was 23 when he died instantly in a car accident. After so many years, I’m not sure who all have the sweet memories of Chad that his family has. As to legacy…only God knows. I was reminded today in remembering Chad of another’s legacy – the actor/influencer Chadwick Boseman. His legacy is large and public. For both of them, Chad and Chadwick, dying sooner and harder than any of us imagined would have happened…who knows the extent of their legacy – either Chad, a young man with most of his promise still ahead of him, or the profoundly gifted Chadwick Boseman, dying in his 40s. Below you’ll find excerpts from a blog I wrote when Chadwick died, as I also remember Chad today.]

Shock waves covered our country and the world at the news of actor and Black Panther superhero ‘s death. He was/is a bigger-than-life figure in our culture. As we all know now, he had late-stage colon cancer since 2016 (four years prior to his death). That the public didn’t know he was ill isn’t a surprise, given Boseman’s private nature and also the incredible production of 10 of his films from 2016 until now (one of them Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom released after his death). Fighting his battle with cancer at the same time, what grace, focus, and courage he displayed through all the making of those films!

Chadwick Boseman, ‘Black Panther’ Star, Dies at 43

Boseman died on Jackie Robinson Day – August 28, 2020 – at the age of 43.

‘Black Panther’ Director Ryan Coogler Pens Emotional, Beautiful Tribute to Chadwick Boseman – Ryan Parker, Borys Kit

Boseman was very committed to raising the opportunity and quality of life for fellow black people. He used his work to reflect the dignity of humankind. He showed his own respect for others not only in the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther but in all his films. Several of which were biopics – two of my favorites being Marshall (on the life of Justice Thurgood Marshall) and “42” (on the life of baseball player Jackie Robinson). Both movies are timeless in their handling of justice for blacks in America.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

After seeing the incredible film Black Panther some time ago, I was reminded of the relatively small part Boseman also played in Draft Day. Two very different films, but both where he played one who took his platform to champion others. This seemed to be true of Boseman’s public and private life.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

After a weekend of trying to get hold of the life and character of this man from Anderson, South Carolina…this man who became a Christ follower as a boy and served in his church’s choir and youth group…I couldn’t get to sleep.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

What Boseman accomplished in his relatively short life as a public figure will last as long as we watch the movies…and longer still.

What can a regular non-celebrity do in our world gone mad? What really can this older white woman in the suburbs of a small city? What can you do?

Last night, in the dark trying not to wake my husband, I grabbed my phone and wrote the following list. It came quickly. Hopefully it is understandable.

  • Listen hard with ears, mind and heart open.
  • Seek to understand.
  • Ask the question: “What are we hearing?”
  • Ask the question: “What are we not hearing?”
  • Ask the next layer of question without judging: “What sounds true? What sounds like deception motivated by something else? How can we know?
  • What is the source of what we are hearing? [Sidebar: Where we get our news is often where we get our attitudes. If we take in news at all, we need a mix of views or we won’t critically be able to sift for what is true…or hopefully true.]
  • Then…
  • Speak up on behalf of one another.
  • Stand up against evil and for the truth.
  • Act up? NO. Act in love.
  • Mobilize our resources, relationships, and influence to actually make a true, lasting difference for those most vulnerable in our country.
  • Who has the courage to say “Enough” to what is hurting more than healing, to what is destroying more than building up, to what is not really for change for those who most need the change?

Boseman once said: “The only difference between a hero and the villain is that the villain chooses to use that power in a way that is selfish and hurts other people.”

Boseman’s life reflected his faith in Jesus.

Therapist Kalee Vandergrift-Blackwell wrote a beautiful piece (below) on “a brown, immigrant, refugee, colonized Jesus”.

Did You Know Jesus Is Brown? – Kalee Vandergrift

Jesus died at the hands of the political and religious leaders of the day, but…He did not die a victim. He gave his life in all its beauty, courage, and truth – for our sakes…and He gave his life, even for the political and religious leaders of the day.

When He called out the wrong motives of religious leaders and turned over the tables of opportunists, everything He did, He did in love. He calls us, His followers, to do the same.

Jesus calls us to love our neighbors…and even to love our enemies. We aren’t allowed to just take sides…we are to full-bore, wide open love people – to recognize, respect, and validate in all we do the worth, dignity, and God-breathed humanity of all.

This is our legacy…this is what I want to have the courage and the depth of love to leave when my life is over.

Not complacency. Not comfort. Not smugness. Not arrogance. Not blaming another party or one president over another (if there’s blame it extends much farther…). Not violence. Not isolation.

So…that is the burn I got this weekend after taking in and grieving over the loss of Chadwick Boseman.

One last quote from Boseman that is especially poignant and inspiring right now is this: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything You gave me.”

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

In remembering Chad, also, I’m reminded of his legacy…not as publicized as a great actor who died too early…but of a young man who had also given his life to Christ. A young man with great heart and strong convictions. A young man who thought of others. A young man who lavished love and joy on all of us, just entering the room and then staying in the room. A young man who could flip the tension of a family dispute…just being present, by showing up over and over, even in the uncomfortable and imperfect.

Whatever our influence or audience – the world as with Chadwick Boseman, or a much smaller sphere as our Chad – we all leave a legacy. We learn from those who’ve gone before us. Because of what Jesus did for us, and knowing that both Chad and Chadwick received Jesus for themselves, we will see them again.

That makes today a little less hard and a whole lot more hopeful.

Chadwick Boseman – AZ Quotes

10 Inspiring Quotes From Chadwick Boseman That Could Change Your Life – A. R. Shaw

YouTube Video – Chadwick Boseman Tribute – Marvel

Worship Wednesday – Safe – Victory Worship [Ft. Isa Fabregas]

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Soon a violent windstorm came up, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was being swamped. But Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke Him and said, “Teacher, don’t You care that we are perishing?” Then Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the sea. “Silence!” He commanded. “Be still!” And the wind died down, and it was perfectly calm.Mark 4:37-39

We are all ships in a storm, with Jesus onboard. He is our safe harbor. Not a place but a person. Safe in Him.

I follow this young man Ian Simkins. He does these succinct devotionals that are incredibly powerful. The one below inspired me to write on this topic today.

“Apart from the Holy Spirit, the Christian life isn’t difficult. It’s impossible…

We are sailboats. God is the wind. Even tattered sails do pretty well in a windstorm.

Take heart. Raise your sail.

How do we raise our sail?

Prayer. Scripture. Community. Silence. Stillness. Rest. Service. Sacrifice. Surrender.

Keep raising your sail, Friend.

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” – John 3:8

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” – John A. Shedd

“One cannot discover new lands unless they have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andrew Gide

A pastor at The Bridge Church in Nashville, Tennessee, Ian tells the story of an Indian couple whose home he visited while on a summer in India. They were poor, but in wisdom, very rich. The wife said to him, “We pray for you Christians in America. We can’t imagine trying to be with someone like Jesus in a place as distracting as America.”

A Kenyan pastor, after a violent attack, on a university campus a few years ago, left 150 people dead, responded:

“This attack has strengthened our conviction and resolve that the safest and securest place to be is at the center of God’s will. As it has been said, “Peace is not the absence of trouble but the assurance that God is with us no matter what.”

Where Can We Be Safe? – Heidi Carlson

We have this temptation to strive for safety. For ourselves and our families. What does it even look like to be “safe”? To build a perimeter between us and anything that might present a threat. What are we teaching our children and grandchildren? That we have to protect ourselves? From what?

With Christ within, no matter what happens, no matter the hardship or worry, we have a profound safe harbor in Him.

Just yesterday, I discovered that Tyler Staton, a young brother and spiritual father of mine, is in treatment for recurrent cancer. He is lead pastor for Bridgetown Church in Portland, Oregon and the author of the transformative book Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools.

In a video recently, Tyler gave a health update on how he is with treatment and in his walk with God through this cancer recurrence. He commented on how God is a master story-teller and is writing our stories. He calls us to “say yes to the story He’s writing” and step into/walk in that story. Tyler reported on how he was praying both Psalm 23 and Psalm 21. Psalm 23 reminds Tyler of “green pasture” and “still water” days and also days “in the shadow of death” – they are all part of our lives. Tyler expressed his desire “for God’s presence more than His power”. He also is praying Psalm 21 (“maybe hedging (his) bets with God”) which is a cry for God to lengthen his days – to grow old with his wife Kirsten and to see his children’s children.

From the time I first read Tyler’s book and returned to it many times since, I’m not at all surprised at how he has faced this cancer.

Does Tyler feel safe? I’m not even sure that is even the point for him. He wants to receive whatever God has for him, and if cancer is a part of that, then he receives it. Will he battle it? Absolutely. However you do not hear him recoil from God or question the His goodness in this. It is just part of the story of Tyler’s life.

Rather than safety as we might count it and go after it in this crazy world…let’s reconsider and deepen our understanding of how safe we are in Christ Jesus’ keeping.

Worship with me with Victory Worship‘s anthem “Safe”.

[Verse 1]
Under Your grace, Your mercy amazes me
Under Your wings, Your shadow covers me
Your promise of love, where my heart is safely undone

[Verse 2]
Speak to me, Lord, Your servant is listening
Over the noise, I hear You whispering
My hope has come and my heart is safely undone

[Chorus]
I found my fortress, in You
And my soul is anchored, with You
My resting place, is in Your name
Forever safe

[Verse 2]
Speak to me, Lord, Your servant is listening
Over the noise, I hear You whispering
My hope has come and my heart is safely undone, oh-oh

[Chorus]
I found my fortress, in You
And my soul is anchored, with You
My resting place, is in Your name
I found my fortress, in You
And my soul is anchored, with You
My resting place, is in Your name

[Post-Chorus]
Forever safe, forever safe
Forever safe, forever safe

[Bridge]
You are never far away
Always reaching out to save
My weakness covered by Your strength
And I am found forever safe
You are never far away
Always reaching out to save
My weakness covered by Your strength
And I am found forever safe

[Chorus]
I found my fortress, in You
And my soul is anchored, with You
My resting place, is in Your name
Forever safe
I found my fortress, in You
And my soul is anchored, with You
My resting place, is in Your name
I found my fortress, in You
And my soul is anchored, with You
My resting place, is in Your name
Forever safe*

*Lyrics to “Safe” – Songwriters: Lee Simon Brown, Moira Dela Torre, Juan Winans & Justin Gray

On Feeling Secure in God – John Piper

How Should Christians View Safety? – Brooks Buser

[The video below is a scene from The Chosen. It is based on the account of Jesus walking on rough waters and Peter coming out of the boat to Him. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he was safe. This passage, like the one in Mark above, speaks to our safety in the midst of a storm as long as He holds us. Lots more to this story…but the scene beautifully demonstrates it.]

Photo Credit: Julian of Norwich, Cedarfield Pinnacle Living Readings and Reflections for Lent 2019