Category Archives: Habits

Worship Wednesday – Unstoppable – David Crowder

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one...praying at all times. – Ephesians 6:11-16, 18

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” …His truth shall be your shield and buckler…Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you…for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.”
Psalm 91:1-2, 4b, 9-11, 14-15

From the Creation story to present day, we are confronted by lies. Through the world’s influence, in our own fallen flesh, and from Satan and his emissaries. Maybe we don’t think much about it, because lies just become part of our worldview if we aren’t on guard. Weighing truth against what seems true or what might be true. Just yesterday, my son told me about his 8 y/o’s troubling thought that he didn’t really love God. What I know of the Holy Spirit, that thought did not come from Him. Satan is the father of lies and the accuser of believers. My son was able to comfort our grandson with the truth, both about God and how this precious child’s thoughts can wrongly condemn him. The talk about our enemy, the Devil, will come later.

Much is written about spiritual warfare, and too often, it is as if it’s us, rather me, against Satan. God is our victor. The battle is truly His, and Satan is no match for the Creator. The Scripture is full of encouragements for us to be strong and courageous, to stand against our enemies, and to trust the Lord. The battle does not depend on our winning, it is God’s to win. However, God calls us to plant our feet on the truth of who He is, who we are, and what He intends for our lives (John Mark Comer, Live No Lies).


In recent days, I’ve been digging into John Mark Comer‘s and Henri Nouwen‘s writings. “Beloved” is a small volume calling us to recognize our identity in Christ and to draw near to Him in prayer, away from what we think is the busyness of a significant life. Comer’s book’s Live No Lies is a substantial and serious read on recognizing and resisting the same temptations Jesus endured in the wilderness, at the beginning of His public ministry. Both authors refer to this experience as common to all of us.

Jesus had three temptations in the desert [Matthew 4:1-11]: to be relevant – turning stones into bread; to be popular – jumping from the tower and have angels catch Him; to have power to possess all the land. Jesus refused all that because He didn’t have to prove to anybody that He was loveable. He was already the beloved. That’s precisely what the Spirit revealed to Him after He was baptised in the Jordan. The voice came and said, ‘You are My beloved son, on You My favour rests’. That’s who you are; you are the beloved, so you don’t have to be busy proving it. You don’t have to run around. Immediately, that same Spirit who revealed to Him that He was the beloved sent Him into the desert to be tested….Solitude is listening to the voice who calls you the beloved. It is being alone with the One who says, ‘You are My beloved, I want to be with you’...Solitude is the place where we go in order to hear the truth about ourselves. Henri Nouwen, “Beloved”

Monday Morning Moment – Henri Nouwen on Leadership – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Heartlight

“The devil’s goal is to first isolate us, then implant in our minds deceitful ideas that play to our disordered desires, which we feel comfortable with because they are normalized by the status quo of our society. Specifically, he lies about who God is, who we are, and what the good life is, with an aim to undermine our trust in God’s love and wisdom. His intent is to get us to seize autonomy from God and redefine good and evil for ourselves, thereby leading to the ruin of our souls and society.” John Mark Comer, Live No Lies: Recognize and Resist the Three Enemies That Sabotage Your Peace

We are probably all familiar with Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness and Satan’s tempting Him. The Evil One has not changed his ways of beguiling since the beginning, when he similarly tempted Eve to distrust God. Ours is to follow and practice the way Jesus dealt with lies and with the accuser. With quiet prayer (in solitude), with seeking the truth (Scripture), with fasting. And in community. Satan attacks most when we are isolated from God and one another.

With the Spirit of God ruling in our hearts and lives, we need never fear. The battle is real, but God is present with us. We stand in His strength. Although our enemies are real and the world seems hostile to us, we have a greater Overcomer.

Singer/songwriter David Crowder tells this story in his rocking anthem Unstoppable. It puts in perspective that our God is invincible, and because we are in Him, we have the confidence and privilege of tasting His victory. Hallelujah!

Worship with me:

Devil’s playing fiddle
Demons coming like a missile
To my left, to my right
But I ain’t be dancing with ’em
I got angels watching over me
Fighting all my enemies
Wear ’em out, knock ’em down
‘Bout to taste that victory

Hey, hey
They can try to slow me
Thinking that they own me
They be thinking crazy
Hey
Welcome to the showdown
They about to find out

When I got You, I am unstoppable
When I got You, nothing’s impossible

No way I lose, I am unbeatable, powerful
Stronger than invincible
I feel bulletproof when I got You
When I got You

See these arrows in my quiver
Winner, winner, chicken dinner
If I’m bitten by the serpent
He’ll be sucking out the venom
I got someone watching over me
Fighting all my enemies
See that smile on my face
‘Bout to taste that victory

Hey, hey
They can try to slow me
Thinking that they own me
They be thinking crazy
Hey
Welcome to the showdown
They about to find out
A-a-amen

When I got You, I am unstoppable
When I got You, nothing’s impossible

No way I lose, I am unbeatable, powerful
Stronger than invincible
I feel bulletproof when I got You
When I got You

When I got You
When I got You

That’s my dad, I’m His son
He’s gonna make that Devil run

That’s my dad, that’s my dad
That’s my dad, I’m His son
Watch him make that Devil run
That’s my dad, that’s my dad

That’s my dad, and I’m His son
He’s gonna make that Devil run
That’s my dad, that’s my dad
That’s my dad, I’m His son
He’s gonna make that Devil run
That’s my dad, yeah, that’s my dad

When I got You, I am unstoppable
When I got You
When I got You, nothing’s impossible
When I got You
No way I lose, I am unbeatable, powerful
No way I lose
Stronger than invincible
I feel bulletproof when I got You
When I got You

When I got You
When I got You

*Lyrics to Unstoppable

Worship Wednesday – When We Pray – Tauren Wells – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – “Be Strong and Courageous” – a Good Word for These Days – Deb Mills

Top 10 Quotes from Live No Lies by John Mark Comer – Joshua Branham

Book Review of “Live No Lies” by John Mark Comer – Fran Hill

Live No Lies Podcast with John Mark Comer

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Monday Morning Moment – Contempt – the Cold Killer of Hearts and Humanity

Photo Credit: Armstrong Economics

Ah…contempt. It is defined as a strong negative emotion that joins disgust and disrespect. We have all experienced contempt, either for someone else, or a group of someones…or the contempt of another towards us.

Contempt is a harsh response…a cold killer of hearts and relationships.

It became more real than ever when I experienced it myself recently. Not toward me personally maybe but because of an association/affiliation I have that is viewed by some as contemptible. When we express contempt, it is usually in conversation with those who agree with us. Rarely do we have the person(s) toward which we feel contempt in front of us. We don’t engage them as much as we complain about them. We hold some in contempt because of their beliefs or actions, and our temptation is to have nothing to do with them. We may view this as a strength, but (as I’ve heard said), “an unguarded strength is a double weakness.”

“Knowing our weakness, dividing leaders on both the left and right seek power and fame by setting American against American, brother against brother, compatriot against compatriot. These leaders assert that we must choose sides, then argue that the other side is wicked—not worthy of any consideration—rather than challenging them to listen to others with kindness and respect. They foster a culture of contempt.” Arthur C. Brooks, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save Our Country From the Culture of Contempt

Contempt is something I’d like to annihilate in my own thinking, and thankfully there are helps. Below you will find two thought leaders who have worked to expose contempt for what it truly is and does to us, and who have given us counsel on how to recognize it and rid ourselves of it. Author and academician Arthur Brooks and clinical psychologist John Gottman.

How do we confront contempt?

Arthur Brooks’ 5 Rules to Counter Contempt

1. Refuse to be used by the powerful.“The accurate image of a powerful manipulator is someone on your side of the debate: a media figure who always affirms your views, a politician who always says what you think, or a professor who never challenges your biases. They declare the other side is terrible, irredeemable, unintelligent or anything else that expresses contempt — and they say you should think these things as well.” Brooks encourages us to tune out that person “on our side” who seeks to manipulate us, whatever the reason. Then (this is the harder part), we are to call out contemptuous behavior among those with whom we agree (our friends and maybe family). Contempt tears us down, and we don’t want that for ourselves or those we love.

2. Escape your bubble.“The culture of contempt is sustained by polarization and separation. It is easy to express contempt for those with whom we disagree when we view them as “them” or never see them at all. Contempt is much harder to express when we see one another as fellow human beings, as “us.”” We do well to make opportunities to share space and conversation with people not like us. Seek to understand and look for ways we are alike.

3. Treat others with love and respect, even when it’s difficult.“Never treat others with contempt, even if you believe they deserve it. First, your contempt makes persuasion impossible, because no one has ever been insulted into agreement. Second, you may be wrong to assume that certain people are beyond reason. There are many examples of people forming unlikely bonds precisely because they didn’t treat each other with contempt.” Sometimes we are the ones toward which contempt is aimed. If we have offended, then we can apologize. Raising an issue higher than the value of the person doesn’t take us anywhere positive.

4. Be part of a healthy competition of ideas.“I believe disagreement is good because competition is good. As in politics and economics, competition — bounded by rule of law and morality — brings excellence. In the world of ideas, competition is called “disagreement.” Disagreement helps us innovate, improve, correct and find the truth. Of course, disagreement — like free markets and free elections — requires proper behavior to function.” The goal is not to disagree less but to disagree better, notes Brooks.

5. Disconnect from unproductive debates.“Get rid of curated social media feeds. Unfollow public figures who foment contempt. Want to get really radical? Stop talking and thinking about politics for a little while. Do a politics cleanse. For two weeks — maybe during your next vacation — resolve not to read, watch or listen to anything about politics. Don’t discuss politics with anyone. This will be hard to do but not impossible.” This exercise will reveal how much of your life and mental energy is wasted, allowing you to refocus on people you truly love and work/play that matter more than those things you probably won’t be able to change. – Arthur Brooks, Sick of the Culture of Contempt? Here are 5 Ways You Can Subvert It

One last quote from Albert Brooks: “We should be careful to note that love and agreement are not the same thing. There are ideas and actions that are worthy of our contempt. But while some ideas and actions are worthy of contempt, we should always remember that no person is.”Defusing a Culture of Contempt: Arthur Brooks on How to ‘Disagree Better’ – Joan Frawley Desmond

Another exceptional thinker and clinician is Dr. John Gottman, psychologist and professor. His focus is primarily on marriages and individual mental health within relationships. The Four Horsemen is a metaphor pointing toward end-times. Dr. Gottman uses the same metaphor in describing four elements of communication, any one of which can predict the demise of a marriage (or any other relationship). These elements are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Each has an antidote.

Photo Credit: John Gottman, Gottman Institute, Instagram

The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling – Ellie Lisitsa

Contempt is much more mean-spirited than criticism. It communicates a measure of cold superiority over the one being criticized. Gottman isn’t talking about a political stand or a point of contention over culture or morality. He is concentrating on the relationship between two people, usually being a married couple.

“Contempt, simply put, says, “I’m better than you. And you are lesser than me.” [It] is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about one’s partner, and it arises in the form of an attack on someone’s sense of self. Inevitably, contempt leads to more conflict—particularly dangerous and destructive forms of conflict—rather than to reconciliation. It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you’re disgusted with them and that you’re condescending and acting as their superior.”

Gottman prescribes two antidotes for contempt in the marriage relationship – one short-term and the other more long-term:

  • First, the person feeling contempt toward the other would do well to name the emotions that rise to the top during a conflict. Express these emotions to your spouse without blaming, and appeal for help with a solution. “I am sad that we don’t have friends over. Could we talk about a way forward on this?” Or “I get worried when the bills pile up. Can we talk about what we can do to stay within budget?”
  • Second, Gottman suggests establishing (or re-building) a home culture of fondness and admiration for each other. This is a discipline that may take some strong determination, but it is doable. In fact, I have go-to Bible verses (Revelation 2:4-5) that help me immensely during those dry times in my own marriage. It speaks about what to do when we have lost our first love (for God and each other). Essentially, the instruction is to remember how it was in the beginning, repent/return, and repeat the actions/emotions/intentions that came naturally when the relationship was new. We don’t have to feel the fondness or admiration at first, but as we practice them, they can be restored. Among many tools, Dr. Gottman uses the instrument below to kick-start the process as the spouse chooses three descriptors and then gives examples of those to the other person.
Photo Credit: John Gottman, The Gottman Institute

Contempt is deceptive. It feels so good to think we are right, and yet in the practice of contempt, we become more isolated and less engaged in real community. Only preferring people who think like we do. At some point, our competencies will be impacted because our problem-solving shrinks down to just judging others and determining they aren’t worth our time. We miss learning from them, and we miss the possibility of genuinely understanding them, even loving them.

Having faced contempt myself in the last week, It has brought me to a “come to Jesus” moment. I don’t want to hold contempt for anyone, no matter how different they are, no matter what wrongs they have done. I want to figure out how to stay engaged with people…such that “if [I] can’t move mountains, [maybe I can] move a stone”.*

Photo Credit: Instagram, Ullie Kaye Poetry*

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

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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

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

5 Friday Faves – Good Friday, Beyond the Guitar’s Rendition of Dune, How to Know a Person, Scruffy Hospitality, and Flowering Trees

Real fast. 5 Friday Faves.

1) Good Friday – Holy Week 2024 is coming to an end. Every day, I join many around the world reflecting on the events and meaning of each day of that last week of Jesus’ earthly life. Up through the crucifixion and onto Resurrection Sunday. You can read my countdown here.

“It was not nails that held Jesus to that wretched cross; it was his unqualified resolution, out of love for his Father, to do his Father’s will—and it was his love for sinners like me.”D.A. Carson

And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I can see Your heart
Eight billion different ways
Every precious one
A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I

Like You would again a hundred billion times
But what measure could amount to Your desire
You’re the One who never leaves the one behind – Hillsong (So Will I (100 Billion X)

Don’t leave until you watch and listen to Pastor S. M. Lockridge‘s powerful 3 1/2 minute oration below!

Or listen to Atlas Rhoads song He Cries with scenes from The Savior film.

2) Beyond the Guitar’s Dune – As usual, Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar captures the exquisite beauty of Hans Zimmer‘s compositions (this time, from the film Dune Part 2 soundtrack).

Here’s Nathan’s rendition on classical guitar. So moving!

3) How to Know a Person – How to really know a person? David Brooks’ book delves into that so practically. I hadn’t heard of this book until someone I follow on social media described it as a masterpiece. then I caught Brooks’ interview on The Next Big Idea podcast.

Photo Credit: David Brooks, Amazon

So far, I love everything I have heard and read about this book. A few quotes from the book follow:

“The real act of, say, building a friendship or creating a community involves performing a series of small, concrete social actions well: disagreeing without poisoning the relationship; revealing vulnerability at the appropriate pace; being a good listener; knowing how to end a conversation gracefully; knowing how to ask for and offer forgiveness; knowing how to let someone down without breaking their heart; knowing how to sit with someone who is suffering; knowing how to host a gathering where everyone feels embraced; knowing how to see things from another’s point of view.”David Brooks, How to Know a Person

“The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them,” George Bernard Shaw wrote, “but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.”David Brooks, How to Know a Person

“On social media you can have the illusion of social contact without having to perform the gestures that actually build trust, care, and affection. On social media, stimulation replaces intimacy. There is judgment everywhere and understanding nowhere.”David Brooks, How to Know a Person

“As the Harvard psychologist Robert Kegan has observed, what the eye sees more deeply the heart tends to love more tenderly.”David Brooks, How to Know a Person

Brooks offers story after story of human connections, the kind we all long for…and how they happen. With curiosity and care and a measure of intentionality. Get the book!

How to Know a Person by David Brooks – Review, Summary, Analysis & Facts – Mental Branch – excellent review!!

David Brooks: We Change People for the Better by Knowing Them More Fully – Justin Whitmel Earley – also super helpful!

4) Scruffy Hospitality – Hospitality follows along the same thinking as David Brooks’ book on knowing people. When we put out the welcome mat for folks, we gain as much as we give, and it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Photo Credit: Jason Lander, Flickr

Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together.

Don’t allow a to-do list disqualify you from an evening with people you’re called to love in friendship. Scheduling is hard enough in our world. If it’s eating with kind, welcoming people in a less than perfect house versus eating alone, what do you think someone would choose? We tell our guests ‘come as you are,’ perhaps we should tell ourselves ‘host as you are.’” – Jack King

In Praise of ‘Scruffy Hospitality’ – Robin Shreeves

Families are embracing ‘scruffy hospitality’ — should you join the trend? – Rosie Colosi

Scruffy Hospitality – Poems of Lived-In Places – Sarah Ann Winn

What We Gain When We Forget That Scruffy Hospitality – Tara K. E. Brelinsky

I was reminded of this sort of hospitality when a neighbor dropped by recently without notice. I felt a bit embarrassed by the piles of books on my coffee table and the general messiness of the kitchen. I was cooking for a special occasion, and the counters were full of preps in progress. She wasn’t bothered by any of it, and we had a great visit.

Just today after a meal shared with extended family, we were sitting and talked, and I noticed how dusty the floor was in the afternoon sun – the areas that don’t get “swept up” by sock-clad feet. Sigh… Even as we were visiting, I pulled out the dust-mop and tidied up the floor. It didn’t bother our visitors, but it did me, once I saw it. Couldn’t unsee it.

The important thing is to keep inviting folks into your home, into your welcome. The condition of the house is secondary. There are too many folks out there eating alone because we want the comfort of our own homes without the work of making them presentable to others. Since COVID, also, we seem to have gotten out of the sweet habit of gathering, like we once did. Worth re-visiting.

5) Flowering Trees – We’re in Springtime here, and the flowering trees and bushes are giving us quite the show! I remember with great delight the fragrance of flowering Jasmine when we used to live in North Africa. For a brief time, the Viburnum bushes with new blossoms gives that same intoxicating smell. Everywhere you look right now, trees are like watercolor paintings with flowers popping and new leaves unfurling. Spectacular time of the year!

Viburnum

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So much more…but with this being a special week of celebrating the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah…will close here. Thanks for stopping by. It means so much.

Monday Morning Moment – Considering Others – the Wawa Experience

Small acts of kindness aren’t really so small. They add up and can alter your day. Take stopping into Wawa – “the ultimate convenience store for food, drink, fuel, and more”. [If you don’t have Wawa in your town, it’s wherever you stop for gas and coffee.] Now, Wawa seems to be a working person’s stop-on-the-go place. Fueling the car and grabbing a quick beverage (plus food maybe). Customers are on the move. They have places to go.

What happens there, in seconds, is noteworthy. When folks go to and from the store, they almost without exception, hold the door for the next customer. Literally, I sometimes just stand and watch, while filling my gas tank. [It would have been creepy for me to video this activity although I was tempted. It’s a constant where the one opening the door waits for the oncoming person exiting or entering.

So considerate. So courteous. Now, I’m sure there are folks who run in to grab coffee and are lost in their thoughts. They enter and exit without thinking. Not noticing the person in front or behind them. This happens…just doesn’t seem to happen here.

I love that about Wawa. Working people who have jobs to do but take the seconds to hold the door. A small act of kindness. Do we do that intuitively? Or did we learn it from someone – at home, in the classroom? It’s definitely a work culture phenomenon as well. Check out the #1 element of work culture that matters in the SloanReview article:

10 Things Your Corporate Culture Needs to Get Right – Donald Sull and Charles Sull

We lived overseas for many years and were amazed at the courtesy extended toward us and others. If I was at tea with local ladies and children entered from school, without prompting, they would go around the circle of women and greet each one of us. No matter how old they were. That was just one example of the almost ceremonial expression of hospitality wherever we found ourselves. Now, every culture has its imperfect treatment of people, but I was struck but the impact of courtesy and consideration expressed even from small children, even from teens.

Photo Credit: How to Know a Person, David Brooks, GoodReads

A verse in the Bible comes to mind related to this: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) In that moment, considering another more important than myself. A great exercise in life.

What does it take to teach, model, and reward/reenforce such qualities as consideration and courtesy such that they continue throughout life? I’d love to hear your take on this, in the Comments.

It was a sweet visit to Wawa for me. Consistent with every other visit. My favorite coffee (Hazelnut with vanilla creamer) even came free today and it’s not even Free Coffee Tuesday.

So…think about slowing down a bit and consider others just ahead of or behind you, and hold the door. If you read this far, you probably already make a habit of showing that level of care. Thank you.

Putting Others Before Yourself – 7 Great Tips – David Peach

The Power of Etiquette: How Practicing Good Manners Enhances Our Well-being

How to Teach Kids Good Manners: The True Meaning of Etiquette and Why It’s Important – Ashika Singh

The Importance of Courtesy: Lessons in Kindness and Respect – Naytik Sheth

Seven Activities for National Courtesy Month (September)

[Postscript: Below you’ll find another quote on being a friend or creating community. It goes beyond the scope of this Monday Morning Moment but is apropos to how we treat people, even in the moment, even strangers.]

Photo Credit: How to Know a Person, David Brooks, GoodReads

Monday Morning Moment – Complaining Rewires Your Brain – How to Curb (Maybe Not Stop) Complaining

Photo Credit: Stream

What’s the last thing (or person) that caused you to complain? You felt totally justified, right? When we think of the negative aspects of complaining, others come to mind as being “those people”. The complainers, the contrarians, the grumpy people, or the ones you just can never please.

For much of my early life, people who knew me well would describe me as a Pollyanna, someone who looks for the silver lining, the good in people, “the cup half full [or fuller], the possibilities. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” The Pollyanna turns into an accidental contrarian.

Monday Morning Moment – Spend a Minute with Pollyanna and the Contrarian – There’s a Place for Each of Us – Deb Mills

Maybe life itself changes us – dealing with hard situations, losses, failures, etc. We harden a little. We analyze, scrutinize, and make ourselves the tweakers of people and things (always looking for those little improvements that, we think, need to be made).

Once we begin to complain, we find others willing to join in. Commiserating is born. It’s not a happy community. Complaining becomes a habit and even a lifestyle, if we’re not careful.

Monday Morning Moment – Grumpy Begets Grumpy – Understanding It, Not Reacting, and Turning It Around – Deb Mills

On Sunday, we listened to Cliff Jordan‘s sermon entitled “Complaining in the Wilderness”, pondering the strangeness of a delivered and protected people’s complaints against God.

Cliff talked about how complaining actually rewires the brain – how we see others, ourselves, our circumstances, and even God. I’m not going to address the science of this, but do an online search and you’ll see how this happens and the negative outcomes of chronic complaining.

The source of complaining, Cliff noted, relates to our memory. Do we focus on the irritants to the detriment of remembering the good in our jobs, the people we work with, the many graces of life, and the kindness of God? Complaining has a stubbornness to it. It wants satisfaction and has very little patience for others. As we practice more positive thinking, we are poised, not to minimize the situation but to maximize the potential outcome…including safeguarding our relationships.

The Destructive Power of Grumbling and Complaining – Michael Brown

Andrew Kirby, a successful Youtuber and entrepreneur, actually posted a super helpful video on how complaining rewires the brain.

Kirby also acknowledged that not all complaining IS negative. When we complain about something, it’s an indicator of a change that might need to be made.

Photo Credit: Andrew Kirby, YouTube

The key is to not stay in the complaining mode but to act in a way that brings positive change. Too much complaining can drive a person to make unwise changes, based on advice given to them by sympathetic hearers of their complaints. Better to be judicious in what change needs to be made and take wise steps toward that change.

The prescription for rewiring our brain away from complaining is straightforward and easy, with practice. In fact, these four reminders could easily sit on a card at our work station to help us stay on the road and out of the ditch:

  • Be grateful. – Keep a journal and write down things/persons for which you’re grateful – morning and evening. Turn your thoughts toward gratitude when you’re tempted to go negative/complaining.
  • Catch yourself. – Shake off the temptation to complain before your friends/coworkers intervene…or pull away. Learn to catch yourself and change course.
  • Change your mood. – If your emotions start to spiral downward, shift your environment. Take a walk. Listen to music. Step away from your work station. Grab a few minutes with a friend.
  • Practice wise effort. – “Wise effort is the practice of letting go of anything that doesn’t serve you. If your worry [complaint] won’t improve your situation or teach you a lesson, simply let it go and move on.This is much easier said then done, of course, but if you write it out, ask friends for advice, and take some time to think it through constructively, it really can be done.” – Daily Health Post

All this is common sense. Still, in an age of outrage, we must practice thinking positively (refraining from chronic complaining) until it becomes a discipline…a healthy habit.

“What you practice, you get very good at.”

As that relates to complaining, do we really want to get good at that? No. In fact, practice doesn’t always make us good at something. We can practice unhelpful, unhealthy habits and they can become ingrained….even permanent…unless we intentionally do the work to reverse them.

Photo Credit: QuoteFancy

When we know something needs to change, make the complaint count by refusing to think ill of others involved and taking your concern to the right people. Make yourself part of the solution. Whenever possible, remember all the good you can. It will keep you humble and grateful.

How and Why You Should Stop Complaining – Elizabeth Scott Ph.D.

The Three Types of Complaining – Robert Biswas-Diener

How Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity – Travis Bradberry

How Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity and Literally Kills You – Janey Davies

Monday Morning Moment – Rewiring Your Brain Toward Thinking in the Positive – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Negativism – Its Cost and Cure – Deb Mills

How to Stop Complaining: 7 Ways to Change Your Attitude – Amber Murphy

Photo Credit: Amazing Facts

Monday Morning Moment – On the Journey of Not Giving Up

Photo Credit: Elbert Hubbard, Success.com

[Before jumping into this, let’s take a moment to give space for those who tried for a long, long time…and then felt there was no recourse but to give up. I have given up, too, in some situations, with some relationships…either because I lost hope, or heart, or strength, or opportunity, or time. We all have such stories. Today, let’s pause and consider the large and life-affirming possibility of just NOT giving up.]

Have you said any of these things recently? “I quit!” “I’m tired of trying.” “I give up.” “It’s not fair.” “It’s not worth it.” “Why do I have to do everything?” “It won’t last.” “There’s no use.” “I’m just not good at it.” “What difference does it make?”

Words matter. They can move us toward positive outcomes or negative ones. The negative affirmations above, spoken or just thought, sound true. Some may even be factual. They move us to action. The problem is when we are moved to act in ways that make things worse instead of better.

Negative Affirmations: Why You Should Avoid Them – Sanju Pradeepa

13 Reasons Why You Give Up So Easily (+ How Not To) – Natasha MacFarlane

Whether it is your job, a lifestyle change, or relationship…we choose whether to be proactive or reactive. Whether we give up or keep at it. Bit by bit. Day by day.

All of life is a journey. We move toward one another or away. Our temptation is to self-protect…or protect someone we love thinking it requires pulling away from someone else. We can give up without even realizing it. Just in the disappointment…the distancing. We pull away from possible solutions. They are just too hard. Or are they?

When we get to the point of giving up, it’s not just giving up on that person, but giving up on ourselves in relationship to that person. Maybe even giving up on God to help us repair the rupture, thus opening one between us and Him.

You may think I am philosophizing or making this too simple. Believe me, I totally get how complicated “not giving up” can be. And painful. And even isolating. However, giving up is more isolating…and potentially more painful. We can bury the pain, cover it over, but it’s still there.

Photo Credit: Ullie Kaye Poetry, Facebook

Now, we may not be able to restore the relationship…or heal a family wounded by rupture…but when we quit on them, the door to repair, from our side, closes.

Photo Credit: Danielle Bernock, Possibility Change, Instagram

The day will come, I am hoping and believing, with God’s help, that we will see good come through this hard place. For me, I am NOT giving up.

Stories of feeling the need or desire to quit abound. It may be your story as well. There is no blame here. No shaming whatsoever. It’s what we do with our stories that matters.

Attorney, writer, coach Marelisa Fabrega offers 8 strategies for not quitting. Her commentary is thought-provoking so don’t miss reading the article. I’m listing her strategies and adding my own quick thoughts.

  1. Adopt an “I Won’t Quit” Mindset. Make that decision ahead of the situation. When Dave and I began talking about marriage together, we both stated pretty emphatically that, for us, divorce would be off the table. I grew up in a blended family and divorce impacted all my brothers’ adult lives. With Dave, it was extended family who experienced the pain of divorce, and his family felt that pain. Marriage has had its hard seasons for Dave and me, but we fought through together. [Not everyone gets that opportunity as the other spouse can ditch the marriage without your input. I get how painful that is.] Whether in marriage, friendships, work, or physical/mental health, an “I won’t quit” mindset gives you fortification in hard situations.
  2. Watch Someone Else Persevere. It is a beautiful and poignant thing to watch when loved ones refuse to quit. I’m not saying to be a doormat or to continue to take terrible abuse. What I’m talking about is when people keep pressing forward in tough work or relationships when everything in their being and all those around are screaming, “Quit!” Two women come to mind here. One friend went though a struggle early in her marriage when her husband had an affair. All our friends (but me) advised her to divorce him and make him suffer for what he did to her. I asked her, “Do you still love him? Because if you do, and you could imagine being willing to take him back…wait.” She did love him and she decided to wait. He came back, wholeheartedly repentant. They went on to have a beautiful marriage, children, and now grandchildren. Another friend is in the furnace of a difficult relationship right now. I am watching her persevere. She has strong faith in God and a few deep friendships who are cheering her on. I believe she/they will make it.
  3. Call Someone. This is huge! I’m thinking have more than one person you can trust to be with you (and for you) in this arena when quitting feels like all you want to do. If you’ve already decided up-front that you want to not give up, these friends and family can stand with you when the battle has exhausted you. They are for you. Hopefully they are also for your spouse and family member. It’s better to have folks who are fighting for you AND for your relationship. Not out of some scruple or moralistic platform, but because it’s your life and your battle. It’s what you want. [That may change at some point down the road, and if it does, these same people who love you will still be there.]
  4. Go Back to Your “Why”. It’s extremely important to have a why for not giving up. A list of why’s, even better. I have loved ones very close to me who, if treated badly or served poorly, will determine not to trust an individual or business anymore. They just won’t go back. This is a much smaller situation than a deteriorating relationship. However, I’ve never understood the why and, after reading Fabrega’s piece, I plan to ask. These same people do not quit on family relationships, for which I’m grateful. So…we need to go back to our “why’s” of staying in relationship, or in a job for that matter.
  5. Find a Different “How”. If a difficult boss is blocking the way for you to succeed at a job you once loved, figure out a respectful work-around. If the approach you have always used for managing conflict in your marriage isn’t working, think of a different way. If you continue to struggle with managing a healthy lifestyle or avoiding cycles of anxiety/depression, seek help (counseling, coaching/mentoring, medical advice, support groups). Find another way forward. Outlast the person or problem.
  6. Succeed at Something Else. If you have been immersed in a painful situation, determining not to quit, you may just need a respite. A brief reprieve. A focus elsewhere for a few hours or days will be refreshing. Not seeing success in an area important to us colors how we feel about our self globally. Even when success isn’t visible to us, it may be coming, so we don’t give up. For that second wind, we might be refreshed by setting our sights on areas where we are seeing success (work, health, hobbies). Preferably, we do both – staying in the battle and interspersing life-giving activities.
  7. Use Failure as a Stepping Stone. No retaliation. No victim mentality. You have already made the decision of what kind of character you want in life. Keep growing. Don’t let failure define you. It actually may not even be your failure at all. So, as much as you can yourself, live the life and be the person you want to be. It is a journey after all.
  8. Keep Chipping Away. Like Fabrega has already said so well…keep going. Keep doing what you know is right. This is part of your story. Whatever happened in the relationship or work situation, you are making a future for yourself, and maybe for your children or family. Again, who you are is much more than what you’ve come through. – How to Not Give Up – 8 Strategies For Not Quitting – Marelisa Fabrega
Photo Credit: Danielle Bernock, Instagram

I’d like to add a 9th strategy:

9. Look for Beauty. It is there. Just outside. Or just there within reach. Just in all the reasons you are you.

I’ve read all of psychiatrist Curt Thompson‘s books and he has inspired me to look for the beauty in front of us even in situations where we feel like giving up. He inspired Bill Haley to write an essay on beauty. Here is an excerpt:

“Etty Hillesum, a young Jewish woman from Holland, wrote one of the most truly amazing things I’ve ever read.  The context of her words makes all the difference.  She wrote them while imprisoned at Westerbork transit camp waiting to be taken to Auschwitz, where she died in 1943 at age 29.  Her diaries and letters were compiled into An Interrupted Life.

A very hard day.  But I keep finding myself in prayer.  And that is something I shall always be able to do, even in the smallest space: pray.  And I know for certain that there will be a continuity between the life I have led and the life about to begin…

I often walk with a spring in my step along the barbed wire and then time and again it soars straight from my heart — I can’t help it, that’s just the way it is, like some elementary force — the feeling that life is glorious and magnificent, and that one day we shall be building a whole new world.  Against every new outrage and every fresh horror we shall put up one more piece of love and goodness, drawing strength from within ourselves.  We may suffer, but we must not succumb…

Once you have begun to walk with God, you need only keep walking with Him and all of life becomes one long stroll.” – Bill Haley, “Why Beauty Matters Right Now”

What kind of people do we choose to be? With all my heart, I want to be one who is not giving up. My family (immediate and extended) knows I am for them. Also, hopefully other folks as well – friends and neighbors. I’m not going anywhere. This is not just a commitment. This is an issue of character that goes way beyond any circle I’m a part of. It’s the kind of person I want to be. It’s not a small thing. I get it. Probably a God-sized endeavor. God is for all of us. He does not give up. He is not going anywhere. He is in the room…and He is staying.

You may say…well, you haven’t reached your breaking point, and you are right, of course. We can’t know what it will take for us to get to the place that we want to quit. Sometimes, we have no other option but to let go, because the other person is, or appears to be, already gone. My hope and resolve is to hold out as long as possible. Who knows what difference that could make? I’m holding onto that.

Photo Credit: Dale Carnegie, Success.com

117 Never Give Up Quotes (+ My 5 Favorite Tips to Help You Keep Going) – Henrik Edberg

Photo Credit: QuoteFancy, Chester Nimitz

Worship Wednesday – Seasons – Benjamin William Hastings

[Some of our raised beds, winterized, resting and waiting their replanting]

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”Genesis 8:22

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

[I’ve written about seasons many times. If you have time…catch them again here.]

It’s winter here. Although our garden is quiet now, the promise of Spring is still visible.

[Japanese Maple seeds]
[Daffodils coming up]

[My beloved irises pushing through. Mom’s favorite flowers, thus they are mine as well.]

Most all my life, I’ve had the pleasure of living in four-seasons places. Except for Egypt when all the seasons we knew were hot and then a little less hot. Still the beauty surrounded us there…different yet still a witness to our Creator God.

Seasons aren’t just studies in the growth cycles of plants, trees, and produce. They also mark periods in our lives. Some more fruitful than others. Some more filled with wonder and joy. Others remembered with some measure of regret and disappointment.

God is not surprised or taken aback by any of our seasons. He was there for all of it, and He loved us through every season.

A few weeks back, I heard the northern Irish singer/songwriter Benjamin William Hastings for the first time. He was one of the songwriters on “So Will I”. His song “Seasons” is a beautiful description of what it is like to be patient in our seasons, both with ourselves and with our God.

“You’re the God of seasons, I’m just in the winter
If all I know of harvest is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done workin’, God, I’m not done waiting.”

Whatever your present season, keep tilling the soil of your life (and that of your children), keep counting on God’s promises, keep trusting Him for the harvest. “Like a seed, believe that my (your) season will come.”

Worship with me.

Like the frost on a rose
Winter comes for us all
Oh, how nature acquaints us
With the nature of patience
So like a seed in the snow
I’ve been buried to grow
For Your promise is loyal
From seed to sequoia
I know

[Chorus]
Though the winter is long, even richer
Is the harvest it brings
And though my waiting prolongs, even greater
Is Your promise for me, like a seed
I believe that my season will come

So like the low winter sun
So it is with Your love
As I gaze, I am blinded
In the light of Your brightnеss
So like a fire to the snow
I’m rеnewed in Your warmth
Oh, melt the ice of this wild soul
Till the barren is beautiful

And I know

[Chorus]
Though the winter is long, even richer
Is the harvest it brings
And though my waiting prolongs, even greater
Is Your promise for me, like a seed
I believe that my season will come

[Bridge]
I can see the promise, I can see the future
You’re the God of seasons, I’m just in the winter
If all I know of harvest is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done workin’, God, I’m not done waiting

Well, You can see my promise even in the winter
‘Cause You’re the God of greatness, even in a manger
For all I know of seasons is that You take Your time
You could have saved us in a second, instead, You sent a child

[Chorus]
Though the winter is long, even richer
Is the harvest it brings
And though my waiting prolongs, even greater
Is Your promise for me, like a seed
I believe that my season will come
For one day, I’ll see my tree
‘Cause I believe there’s a season to come

[Outro]
Like a seed You were sown
For the sake of us all
And from Bethlehem’s soil
Grew Calvary’s sequoia, ooh-ooh-ooh
*

[Our tall maple tree and the waning winter moon]

*Lyrics to Seasons – Songwriters: Benjamin William Hastings, Ben Tan, & Chris Davenport

Worship Wednesday – Abandoned (in the Best Possible Way) – Benjamin William Hastings – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – Brandon Lake – MORE (Music Video) ft. Benjamin William Hastings, Leeland

Your Work Matters to God: Staying On Course Through Life’s Seasons – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Word for the New Year – Strong (Nested in “Filled” – There’s a Story)

Photo Credit: Heartlight

In 2020 (the year of COVID), I read Debbie Macomber‘s book One Perfect Word. She tells fascinating stories of persons’ choosing a word to guide their year. Finishing her book and praying a bit, the word compassion became my focus. 2021 was a good year for that as we dealt with so many divisions over COVID, race, politics, etc. Compassion for all on both sides of each issue.

At first I wasn’t going to do “a word” for 2022, and then a rapid series of “coincidences” drew me to the word: joy. As that year ended, I had become negative and even a bit cynical. Still having faith in God but not so much in humans, including myself. Even after a year of compassion!!

Then 2023 followed, and I chose the word “wonder”. It was inspired by my study of Dr. Curt Thompson’s books. He encourages a pursuit of mental health and healing including staying “in the path of oncoming beauty”. This focus on wonder – in searching out beauty in the context of community and a loving God – brought me through a year tougher than I imagined it would be.

Monday Morning Moment – Word for the Year 2023 – Wonder – Deb Mills

Now we stand at the start of 2024.

The last several days of December 2023, I have pondered what word would be a fixed point for this coming year. New Year’s resolutions and habit formation are both great helps for my slightly scattered brain.

5 Friday Faves – New Year’s Resolutions, Habit Planner, Year-End Review, Word for the Year, and the Last Days of 2021 – Deb Mills

Here’s how it all came together, look toward 2024. In recent days, I’ve been lamenting behing older (i.e. Weaker, more frail). Having lost 2 inches in stature (just in the years of pounding on my vertebra) also made me feel small. I’ve decided to push back against the weakness and seemingly diminished nature of getting older. After all, what does that even mean?! I’m not that old. Right?

Then the passage in Joshua 14 came to my attention. First the back-story: During the years after God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, they wandered in the wilderness awaiting his timing on entering the Promised Land. In obedience to God, Moses had sent 12 spies to scope out the land. It was amazing, filled with much good but also peoples of formidable strength. Only Caleb and Joshua returned with good reports that, with God’s help, they could take the land as their own. The other spies terrified the people and they pushed back against God’s call to enter and conquer. [This historical account is found in Numbers 13 and 14.]

Because of their disobedience, those in rebellion would not receive their homeland. They would die in the wilderness. For forty years, Caleb and Joshua would patiently endure the punishment not their own, as they waited for God’s command to enter the land, along with all the Israelite children now grown.

40 years later, when Caleb was 85, he gives a beautiful and faith-filled declaration:

 “I am still as strong today as I was on the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in. Now then, give me this hill country about which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim (giants) were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the Lord will be with me, and I will drive them out just as the Lord has spoken.” [Joshua 14:11-12.]

Talking to Dave (that husband of mine), he commented that Caleb had that strength for which I am longing because he had “a different spirit in him” (Numbers 14:24). Whereas the 10 spies and the Israelites influenced by them were driven by a spirit of fear, Caleb was filled by the Spirit of God. In his determination to obey and follow wholeheartedly, his faith emboldened him. He demonstrated strength physically, mentally, and spiritually.

He would not be defined by age, aptitude, or ability…but by the great and gracious God he sought to serve.

That’s what I long for in this coming year. To be strong. In all ways possible. Including strong in my love for God and others. This can only be mine if nested in being filled with the very Spirit of God.

Let’s see what’s ahead that will require me to be strong. Is that a tad unnerving? Absolutely! Yet, again, I am reminded of the goodness of God. “For when I am weak (and it will happen), then His strength is manifested perfectly and completely!” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

How is God’s strength made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)? – Got Questions [Read this brief glorious article about how God moves in our weakness – like helping us choose a word for the year, in my case right now.]

Photo Credit: The World of Calvin & Hobbs, Facebook
Photo Credit: Heartlight