Category Archives: America

Independence Day Reflection – You Say I Am Free – Lauren Daigle

Photo Credit: My God and My Dog

[Adapted from Archives]

Today, we Americans celebrate our Independence Day.

Food, fireworks, and freedom. That’s what it’s all about. Family, too, and/or friends gathered. It’s a big day around here.

Photo Credit: Pixabay
Photo Credit: NeedPix, Martinique Le Prêcheur

In this early morning, I’m reflecting on freedom.

American Independence Day (4th of July) commemorates our declaration of freedom (July 4, 1776) from the rule of Britain. We declared our own freedom. On July 4, we celebrate the freedom we continue to have as Americans because of the many wars fought to hold onto or to obtain freedom.

How much more transforming when the Lord Himself declares us free!

Some time ago, we were in Dave’s family’s home church – Grace Church in Seaford, Delaware. One of their pastors was teaching a sermon series on Avoiding Colossal Mistakes. That Sunday’s sermon centered on the cross of Christ (podcast here).

During the worship service before the sermon, this lyric really penetrated my heart:

“You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free.”

When you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14

As we celebrate our Independence Day, we have a far greater celebration in the cross of Christ. Apart from receiving His death for our sin, His righteousness for our own unrighteousness, we would be dead in our sins today. Still in bondage, enslaved.

We, in the US, have a dark history of slavery. No matter how deeply we are grieved by it, the stain of that great sin is forever a part of our nation’s fabric. Try as we may, we cannot wash that stain out.

Those who lived as slaves in this country, like those who are enslaved today through human trafficking, did not bring their bondage on themselves. It was/is a wrong done to them.

Many anti-trafficking organizations have a key strategy:

Reach, Rescue, & Restore

This is exactly what Jesus has done for us. In our sinful state, He reached out to us. He rescued us through the cross, and He restored us to Himself.

As we think about the freedom we have in Christ and the freedom we have as Americans, I pray we don’t forget our own bondage, or that of others – spiritual bondage, and for some…the physical bondage of being trafficked, forced into slavery even today.

We must reach. We must rescue. We must restore.

Worship with me, as we celebrate freedom, to the Lauren Daigle song “How Can It Be“:

I am guilty
Ashamed of what I’ve done, what I’ve become
These hands are dirty
I dare not lift them up to the Holy one

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be

I’ve been hiding
Afraid I’ve let You down, inside I doubt
That You could love me
But in Your eyes there’s only grace now

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be

Though I fall, You can make me new
From this death I will rise with You
Oh the grace reaching out for me
How can it be
How can it be

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be*

He himself [Jesus Christ] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude. Colossians 2:6-7

*Lyrics & the Story Behind the Song “How Can It Be” performed by Lauren Daigle – Songwriters: Paul Mabury, Jason Ingram and Jeff Johnson

The Victory of the Cross – Chuck Smith Sermon Notes – Blue Letter Bible

Colossians 2:14-15 – Commentary – Precept Austin

Photo Credit: QuoteFancy

Independence Day in the USA – Celebrating the 4th of July and Remembering that Freedom is Not Free – Deb Mills

Conflicted Thoughts on Independence Day – Chris Turner

Worship Wednesday – These Days – Jeremy Camp

Photo Credit: Faith Chapel

“Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”Esther 4:14

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”Jeremiah 29:11-13

For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good purpose. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine as lights in the world.Philippians 2:13-15

Singer/songwriter Jeremy Camp‘s song These Days first came to my awareness last week when it was playing on our Christian radio station (WPER). I searched for it on YouTube after stopping the car, and it wasn’t even posted yet. Nor could you find the lyrics anywhere. It was that new. Finally, it’s now posted. For such a time as this. The lyrics, simple but profound, stopped me in my tracks. He sings of us being born “in just the right place, at just the right time”. He encourages the listener not to be afraid because “maybe we were made for these days”.

When you think about it, of course, we were made for these days!

It’s how God does things. In the US, 2024 is an election year. No matter what side people politically align, everyone is squaring their shoulders in some sort of aggressive or protective maneuver. We measure the events of our world and the people attached to those events and we make the judgment: “You’re either for us or against us.” We as Christians may enlarge that to “for God, or against God”.

There is much more at work here…but much of it lies under the surface, or maybe even in the heavenlies.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

What is going on in our world today changes absolutely nothing about God’s promises, His claims, and His calling in our lives. He means for us to trust Him and to walk by faith in Him.

I’m often drawn to Paul’s passage to the persecuted church in Rome (Romans 5:1-5):

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Whatever news reports come to our attention, whatever doomsday commentary seems true, whatever terror feels too close by, we as followers of Christ are to respond in faith. Not in ourselves, or our country, but in Christ alone. We reach out in compassion to those in need, we pray for our country and others, we encourage one another with what is true, and we walk in faith, daily obedient to His Word, through the power of the Holy Spirit. To God be the glory!

Jeremy Camp gives the story behind his song: “I remember writing this and just thinking about what’s going on in our society — a lot of the chaos that’s going on and a lot of the fear. A lot of people are feeling like, ‘Why am I here? What’s my purpose? Why was I born at this time?’ [Like] Esther, back in the Old Testament, where it says she was born at ‘such a time as this’ to stand up for her people, God has given us a purpose and a reason for being here. I really do want to encourage you God has you here for a reason. He doesn’t make mistakes. He has a plan and a purpose for you. You were born for such a time as this to truly be a light in a dark world.”for K-Love Radio with Lindsay Williams

Worship with me.

These days my heart’s always on the run

These days the world’s spinning out of control

Ooh-ohh

These days are fast and they’re furious

Feels like the worst is ahead of us

Ooh-ohh

Ooh-ohh

Sometimes it’s hard to feel at home, but

I believe that you and I

Are in the right place, at the right time

God called us by name

And He doesn’t make mistakes

I know we were born to shine bright

In a dark world that needed some light

Don’t have to be afraid

Maybe we were made for these days

Maybe we were made for these days

What if the beauty isn’t crushed?

It just needs the hope that’s inside of us

Ooh-ohh

Ooh-ohh

What if it’s more than a destiny?

What if we’re part of a masterpiece?

Ooh-ohh

Ooh-ohh

Until our father brings us home

I believe that you and I

Are in the right place, at the right time

God called us by name

And He doesn’t make mistakes

I know we were born to shine bright

In a dark world that needed some light

Don’t have to be afraid

Maybe we were made for these days

Maybe we were made for these days

To stand when it gets hard

To love with open arms

It’s something to embrace

Maybe we were made for these days

I believe that you and I

Are in the right place, at the right time

God called us by name

And He doesn’t make mistakes

I know we were born to shine bright

In a dark world that needed some light

Don’t have to be afraid

Maybe we were made for these days

Maybe we were made for these days.*

Postscript: Even in the hard, God gives us reason to rejoice and live in a deep peace and steady hope. In YouTube’s recommendation column (beside Camp’s song above), I discovered Lauren Daigle‘s song “These Are the Days”. Very different to Jeremy Camp’s song, but…still thought-provoking and riveting. In Lauren’s story about the song, she wrote the lyric in the excitement post-COVID of returning to the stage, but greater still, Christ’s return being on the horizon. In her song of jubilation, this lyric stands out: “If it’s not good, then it’s not over!”. It reminded me of Hastings’ lyric in last week’s Worship Wednesday: “Then if You’re not done workin’, God, I’m not done waiting.”

We, as believers, have more reason than ever, in hard and confusing times, to wait on the Lord. To look, in readiness, to our Deliverer and our Conqueror…to the exquisite Lover of our souls. Hallelujah!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all. – from David’s Psalm 103

*Lyrics to “These Days” – Songwriter: Jeremy Camp

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship Wednesday – A Lament on War – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Many say of me, “God will not deliver him.” Selah But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.Psalm 3:2-3

Blessed be the LORD, for He has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart rejoices, and I give thanks to Him with my song.Psalm 28:6-7

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.1 Peter 5:7-9

Last night, in the car leaving his taekwondo lesson, our 7 y/o grandson wanted to talk about the most recent conflict between Israel and Palestine. I was shocked that he knew about it given such an adult situation. Maybe he heard his parents talk. Maybe they were praying as a family for the conflict…now war.

He had amazingly mature thoughts and questions about it. You can imagine that it led to a discussion that went all the way back to Adam and Eve and all the way forward to Heaven and Hell. He wondered if America would ever have war and what that would look like. We talked about both the sadness of the situation for Israel and Palestine, and we talked about what our response as Christ-followers must be.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s. During the Vietnam War era. I also grew up with a mom who taught us not to hate. It was never acceptable. If we loved Jesus then we did not have the privilege or luxury or burden (however you see it) of hating another individual or group of people. It went against everything we understood of Jesus, including His very own teaching to love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44).

During the Vietnam war, the culture was mixed (as it is today) with opinions on what was right and what was wrong. In high school, I wrote letters of encouragement to soldiers (brothers, friends, and sometimes strangers who became penpals). Writing to boys only a few years older than me…gone to war.

In college, I, like so many others, participated in protests of a too-long and too-costly war. Protests and prayer vigils.

The music and film of that day reflected our struggle. Some of the songs that have stayed with me for all these years have been “Teach Your Children Well”, “Children Will Listen”, and “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”. Do you know them?

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

YouTube Video – Mandy Patinkin Sings You’ve Got to be Carefully taught; Children Will Listen Medley

In these days, we cry out to God for the sake of Israel and Palestine…and the rest of the world, not knowing what will happen in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.

It feels very weighty.

A lament to God…many laments…are appropriate.

Photo Credit: YouTube

In the book study When You Pray, author/speaker Jennifer Rothschild gives 5 elements of lament:

  1. Address God. (Focus your prayer on the One who hears and answers.)
  2. Pour out your heart. (Bring Him your complaints and concerns.)
  3. Request help. (Ask God for what you need.)
  4. Express trust. (Affirm your faith in His character and His Word.)
  5. Praise Him. (Worship Him because He is worthy.)

“Confessing trust in God is the hinge that turns our grieving into grace, tears into trust, and worries into worship.” Jennifer Rothschild

If you’re like me, you’ve lost confidence in much of what we see in the news. Or at least, we sift through several accounts of events to determine what might be true.

This I know: something catastrophic is happening in the Middle East right now which will most probably have a wide ripple effect into coming generations. There is much to lament here. God’s face is the only one to which we can look with complete trust and confidence.

So here we are…

Worship with me to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir‘s rendition of the lament in Psalm 3.

Many are they increased that troubled me
Many are they that rise up against me
Many there be which say of my soul
There is no help for him in God

But Thou, oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
Thou, oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head

[Repeat]

I cried unto the Lord with my voice
And he heard me out of His holy hill
I laid me down and slept and awaked
For the Lord sustained, for he sustained me

Thou, oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
Thou, oh Lord are shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head

[Repeat Twice]
For Thou oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
Of my head
My head*

*Lyrics to Thou O Lord as sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, “Thrive by Five” Parenting, Unexpected Wisdom, Confessional Communities, and Funerals

Happy Friday! Welcome weekend. Rapid fire Friday Faves.

1) Beyond the Guitar – While Nathan’s “saddest song” arrangement on YouTube moves toward a million views, he continues to teach, arrange, and compose.

Enjoy!

YouTube Video – This Scene from The Office Changed My Life #Shorts – Beyond the Guitar

2) “Thrive by Five” Parenting – Have you seen the TED Talk below? Start here…fascinating the impact of attuned parents on their babies.

YouTube Video – Molly Wright: How Every Child Can Thrive by Five – TED Talk “Serve & return. Early & often.”

Photo Credit: YouTube, TED Talk, Thrive by Five

I so appreciate the work of psychiatrists/therapists Curt Thompson MD, Adam Young, Matthias Barker, Dan Siegel MD, and others.

Foster mom Jamie Finn posted on the first year of a baby’s life and how vital it is to build that foundation of secure attachment:

“Baby has a need, baby cries, attuned caregiver meets need, baby learns to trust. This is the basic foundation of the attachment cycle.

And it’s the foundation for every relationship and interaction a person has with the surrounding world from that point forward. Secure attachment teaches the child’s brain & body & beliefs: I am safe, people are trustworthy, the world makes sense.

The first year of life is the most developmentally significant, formative time of a child’s life.

The moments of motherhood that make up the first few months of a baby’s life go far beyond the present and profoundly impact the future of that little person. Every cry that’s responded to, need that’s met, and discomfort that’s soothed actually changes the brain’s chemistry and structure, the body’s ability to regulate and feel safe—the complete trajectory of a child’s life.

I don’t know how long this little one will be with me, and I don’t know if he’ll have memories of me. But I know that his brain and body will remember my nurturing care, and it will change his life forever.”
Jamie Finn

The 4 S’s of Secure Attachment and How They Impact Adult Relationships – Hope Gillette

Integrating Science, Culture and Anthropology: A New Journal Article Discusses Thrive by Five International’s Novel Scientific Framework

Thrive by Five – Ideas Hub

Thrive by Five – Minderoo

Facebook – Foster the Family – Jamie Finn – First year of life is the foundation for attachment.

Instagram – Foster the Family Blog – Jamie Finn

https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=770770747740992&set=a.548292643322138

3) Unexpected Wisdom – We have a subscription to The Richmond Forum. It’s a lecture series with world-renowned speakers. Some are politicians, some actors, some writers, some private and public sector leaders, and all influencers. Two of my favorite speakers this year were actor and arts education advocate John Lithgow and a dialog between Dr. Cornel West and Thomas Chatterton Williams. The West and Williams dialog centered on “the absolute condemnation of no one”. Brilliant and redemptive!

Below are samples of their work including a longer version of the West/Williams conversation on another platform. Don’t miss it.

Photo Credit: John Lithgow, Richmond Forum

Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo

YouTube Video – John Lithgow Breaks Down His Most Iconic Characters

YouTube Video – Carnival of the Animals – John Lithgow

4) Confessional Communities – My absolute favorite podcast is Dr. Curt Thompson‘s Being Known. I’ve been listening (watching on YouTube) ever since Dr. Curt Thompson’s books changed my understanding of the mind/brain and community.

This season’s podcast focuses on confessional communities and if you only listen to one before you will want to listen to them all, here‘s the one.

Being Known Podcast – Dr. Curt Thompson & Pepper Sweeney

“We need others to bear witness to our deepest longings, our greatest joys, our most painful shame, and all the rest in order to have any sense at all of ourselves.” Curt Thompson, MD

Confessional communities are not therapeutic groups as we have traditionally known as group therapy. However, they are also more than a Bible-study oriented small group, the kind we might experience as part of a church curriculum. Confessional communities require commitment of a deeper nature from participants who are willing to explore attachment, attunement, presence, and vulnerability – extending welcome and experiencing welcome, all seeking to be known and truly know and affirm each other.

Read Thompson’s books and listen/watch his podcasts for an excellent introduction to this process. I would love to be part of a confessional community…it will happen.

5) Funerals – Why a fave? Well…it comes after watching a British series involving an undertaker (the show had a great story-line but very adult-themed so will leave it at that). The funeral conversations, preparation, and executions were both poignant, sometimes oddly funny, and beautiful.

I was reminded of the funerals of people close to me – young nephew, parents, brother, father-in-law, uncles, aunts, friends and colleagues. It was a privilege to be present for many of these. Some we had to watch via live-stream which itself was a blessing…a perk that came out of the COVID era.

Photo Credit: Air Force, Defense Department

Looking back at images from our mom’s funeral and then our dad’s some 15 years later, memories washed over me. How honored they were by those officiating, how healing the conversations with family and friends (some whom we hadn’t seen in too many years). The care given to detail. The time given to both grieve their passing and celebrate their lives. Such a mix of emotions. Completely thankful for the gathering and strengthening of community that funerals facilitate.

Cremation is replacing burial more these days. We are rethinking our own choices on this. However, having a funeral is something I want for our children and grandchildren, in particular. Not for my sake but for theirs. They may not want this, and I get it, but my hope is they have helps to reflect, remember, and reorient. A funeral, or celebration of life, or memorial service – whatever it’s called makes a difference.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Doing Death Differently: Today’s Funerals Are Not Like They Used to Be – Elle Hunt

Should We Celebrate Funerals? – Kenneth J. Doka Ph.D.

Americans Avoiding Funerals and Not Leaving Their Mark

The Importance of Flags and Horses in American Military Funerals – Suzette Sherman

Well…it’s been a minute since I’ve pulled together a Friday Faves. Hope it was fun to read. Thanks for stopping by…it’s means more than you know. Have a restful weekend.

Bonuses

The Trait that “Super Friends” Have in Common – Marisa G. Franco

Tim Keller – a Reflection and a Very Short Prayer – Scotty Smith – Facebook

Photo Credit: Twitter, Terence Lester

[Here’s the full quote found in his forthcoming book, All God’s Children “Everyone is welcome” is drastically different from “we built this with you in mind.” People don’t want to go where they are merely tolerated, they want to go where they are included.”]

Photo Credit: The Soul Leaf, Facebook
Photo Credit: TobyMac, Facebook

Monday Morning Moment – No Going Back – a Bit of My Story

[As I write, it is the day before Independence Day in the US. The 4th of July. Parades, barbecues, gatherings of friends and family, and fireworks gloriously finishing off the day. Our fridge is filled with summer-sweet watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, and chicken ready for the grill. Today is quiet and full of introspection. Here’s what’s on my mind.]

I wasn’t born into a Christian family. We weren’t in church until I was 7 or 8. My mom had a church experience as a child and was saved and baptized but had stopped attending church years before I was born. She would say she stopped seeking God somewhere along the way in a difficult marriage. Not sure at all whether my biological father had any sort of faith. To this day, I’m thankful for Christian neighbors who loved us and invited us into their church family.

When I was 9, during a summer Bible school week, the message of God’s love and His deliverance from our self-serving, sinful hearts was immensely beautiful to me. Even as a little girl, I had unsuccessfully tried my hardest to be good for my mama. She worked so hard to keep food on the table for us (with no help from anyone), and I didn’t want to add to her burden. Still, like I said, being good wasn’t always my path forward. Then hearing that God was not put off by that, and, in fact, had made a way for me to be covered by His own righteousness through Jesus…well, it was the most amazing thing I had ever heard.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

This wasn’t just a tickling-the-ears sort of experience. Not just a relief-generating tale for troubled child. It resonated with my heart and mind. It sounded truer than anything I had known before. Understanding, even as a child, that God had made a way for me to be free of the burden of my sin was really good news.

Photo Credit: My God and My Dog

My pursuit of God actually followed His pursuit of me. He has never let go of me…even in seasons of my rebellion as a young adult. The shiny things of the world can be mesmerizing – popularity, higher education, professional favor, the stuff and experiences that work affords us.

In my 20s, I had a divided mind and allegiance. To some, it may not have seemed so, but I knew my own heart, and it was, for a time, lured back to old ways – a heart that could be both deceived and deceitful. However, by God’s grace, I did NOT stay in that place forever. He drew me back to Himself.

Reminded of the passage late in Jesus’ public ministry, when some of His followers fell away, He asked the apostle Peter if he would leave, too. Peter answered Him with the question that always brings me back to the reality of life: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” There is simply no one else…nowhere else to go. Period. Full-stop.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Well…that’s a bit of my story. Your story may look very different from mine. Since my 30s, as winding as the path may be, or as imperfectly as I follow it…there is no going back.

As we celebrate our freedoms as a nation, freedoms hard-won by those who sacrificed their lives for our sake, I also celebrate the freedom won by Christ whose own ultimate sacrifice won us back to Himself. Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Independence Day in the USA – Celebrating the 4th of July and Remembering that Freedom is Not Free – Deb Mills

Independence Day Montage – Family, Food, Fireworks, and the American Flag – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Independence Day Reflection – You Say I Am Free – Lauren Daigle’s How Can It Be – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Steps Forward in “We the People” Becoming True for All Americans – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – PrayerFULness – Heal Our Land – Kari Jobe

Photo Credit: Rachael M. Colby, Tattoo It On Your Heart

[Adapted from the archives]

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. For I have now chosen and consecrated this temple so that My Name may be there forever. My eyes and My heart will be there for all time. – 2 Chronicles 7:14-16 

“Then let this be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone’. Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”Acts 4:10-12

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be offered for all men … Prayer of this kind is good and God our saviour is pleased with it — it is my wish that in every place men shall offer prayers with blameless hands held aloft, and be free from anger and dissension.1 Timothy 2:1–8

At every opportunity pray in the Spirit, using prayers and petitions of every sort. Pray constantly and attentively for all God’s people.Ephesians 6:18

Dave’s Mom, my sweet mother-in-law, prays. Every day. Through the day. In her 80s, Julia carries the baton of her own Godly mother who has long since gone to be with the Lord. She prays not out of duty or self-interest. She prays in obedience to God and out of love for Him, for her family, her church, her country, and the world.

As long as Julia lives, I know that daily our names echo in the great halls of Heaven before the God of the universe. When my own mom died, now 20 years ago, a silence sounded in our lives that I had never experienced before. She, like Julia, was a pray-er. Mom prayed faithfully for us, her children and grandchildren. She also had hope borne out of prayer for the church and our country. Since Mom died, I am trying to run the race she left for me…praying for those God has lovingly and strategically placed  in my life to lift up to Him.

Photo Credit: Kirtland AFB

In the US, we are moving into the season of political rallies with widely varying displays of patriotism, anticipating the 2024 election year. The news media is full of disheartening reports on our country’s status in the world, its moral and cultural decline, and partisan viewpoints on what’s the cause and who’s to blame.

God is not surprised by anything. Nor is He disinterested. He loves all peoples and He has certainly not forgotten those who call themselves Americans.

We as believers search for meaning in the chaos we see around us. We, too, are tempted to assign blame.

What if…what if the cause of our country’s racial and sociopolitical divides…the violence and opioid epidemic…abortion and poverty…related less to politics and more to prayerlessness?

God doesn’t seem to mind small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10). He is also a world-shaking finisher (Philippians 1:6).

What if two or more of us gather agreeing and pray (Matthew 18:20)? For each other, our church leaders, our country, the nations. God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10).

Movement Church has had many seasons of prayer…many small beginnings. For some time, we had a tiny ministry called Play ‘n Pray. It was moms and grandmothers with little ones who came together each week briefly to pray. During COVID, a handful of us sat outside, circled together, socially distanced, in singular mind, to pray down the Spirit of God on our church and community. This summer as a part of our local mission effort to know our city better and to pray with the city in view, we are all participating in a prayer scavenger hunt.

Many of the world’s spiritual revivals began with just a handful of believers. It can happen here…

“One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.” John Piper

Our vision at Movement Church includes a God-glorifying movement of prayer that will spread through our church, extending into our community, city, and the world. Small beginnings but with a great God. One day we believe that He will take the small embers of this many efforts over time and flame them up into a redeeming work only He can finish.

Prayerfulness does take some spiritual formation…habit formation. Last night, we had a friend over and we talked at length about the spiraling nature of our culture, the lack of true life-giving compassion, the anti-Christian sentiment, and the disinterest in a holy God (or any god outside of one’s own making). Our conversation was dark…and too familiar. What if…we prayed instead? Talking not ABOUT chaos to one another but praying WITH one another, taking those same things to God. Praying FULL of hope and faith.

As I write this morning, our dear praying mom, Julia, is sitting in her favorite spot, Bible open in her lap, praying. She knows the God who draws her to prayer is at work. One person, one of His daughters, trusting Him with what He lays on her heart. One by one…two or more…all over this country and this world…prayerFUL. Anticipating what God is about and what He will complete. To Him be all glory.

Worship with me to the Kari Jobe‘s call to prayer “Heal Our Land”:

You take our lives
Flawed, yet beautiful
Restore, refine
Lord, You’re merciful

Redeem, revive

Spirit of God
Breathe on Your church
Pour out Your presence
Speak through Your word
We pray in every nation, Christ be known
Our hope and salvation, Christ alone

New power, new wine
As divisions fall
One church, one bride
Jesus, Lord of all

With one voice we cry

Spirit of God
Breathe on Your church
Pour out Your presence
Speak through Your word
We pray in every nation, Christ be known
Our hope and salvation, Christ alone

So, God we pray to You
Humble ourselves again
Lord, would You hear our cry
Lord, will You heal our land
That every eye will see
That every heart will know
The One who took our sin
The One who died and rose
[x2]

And when Your kingdom comes
And when at last You call
We’ll rise to worship You alone

Spirit of God
Breathe on Your church
Pour out Your presence
Speak through Your word
We pray in every nation, Christ be known
Our hope and salvation, Christ alone

Spirit of God
Breathe on Your church
Pour out Your presence
Speak through Your word
We pray in every nation, Christ be known
Our hope and salvation, Christ alone*

*Lyrics to Heal Our Land – Songwriters: Scott Ligertwood, Brooke Gabrielle Fraser, Karie Jobe, Cody Carnes

YouTube Video – Heal Our Land – Kari Jobe (Song Story)

If My People – Tony Evans

Prayerfulness: A Grace to Seek – Claude Lopez

Character Traits of the Spiritual Life: Prayerfulness – Richard Hollerman

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Monday Morning Moment – Resisting the Reactive Response

Photo Credit: Aunatural, IZQuotes

How do we deal with individuals, organizations, or even a larger culture where either we personally or our values are attacked or diminished?

Do we take the approach of the old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me”? We build boundaries substantial enough that keep us from experiencing that discomfort again. Or do they really? Is that diminishing still being mulled over in our thoughts and body, such that we are bound to it, linked to it by our own vigilance?

How we respond to threats to ourselves or others has its origins in our personalities, family of origin, and life training as students and through adulthood. Ultimately, we choose how we respond to negatives. Proactively or reactively.

My preference is to stay…in the relationship, in the job or organization. I want to make things work…improve things from the inside out. Be tenacious. Figure it out. Give grace. Push in for a place at the table and make room for others there.

We live in a reactive space in history. Or maybe it’s always been that way, but now, the reactions are broadcast multiple ways through various media, both sympathetic and unsympathetic to our side or that of the other.

It is exhausting.

In a Slideserve on classroom management, the familiar elements of reactive response are outlined. When trouble is brewing, we do what we can to 1) expose and remove the perpetrator, 2) remove ourselves, 3) change up the environment to relieve discomfort, and/or 4) assign blame outside ourselves.

Photo Credit: Slideserve, Creative Behavior Management, Terri Vest

To move from being reactive to become more proactive, we must stay in the conversation. We determine how best to go forward. We listen with a desire for understanding and not just the goal of being right.

While downsizing our extensive book library this weekend, I rediscovered this little treasure of a book

and found this quote apropos to today’s topic:

Abraham Lincoln was one who listened to the Different Drummer, and not to the vindictive voices of his advisers.

Stephens, Phillips and Beecher were among Lincoln’s contemporaries who were echoing the cry, “Crush the South…Stamp out the whole slave-holding aristocracy…Make them pay to the last acre of land, the last vestige of power, the last drop of blood.”

But the great man upon whose furrowed brow the responsibility rested heard a Different Drummer… “With malice toward none, with charity for all, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” – From the late US Senate chaplain and Scotsman Peter Marshall‘s His Hand On Your Shoulder

The paragraph above shows the contrast between the reactive, vengeful response and the more proactive, hopeful and potentially healing response.

Five lessons from the Life of Peter Marshall – Joshua Bontrager

The Southern Baptist Convention has its annual meeting later this month. Now for many of you, this is inconsequential. However, in anticipation of this meeting, and throughout the proceedings, Twitter and other social media platforms are and will be abuzz with the reactors. Those who would not wish these folk well. Those who may have been hurt in the past by this enormous cooperative of churches. Those who love a good wrangle especially when it potentially brings down Christians or sullies the name of Jesus.

Just last night, an out-of-state friend and I had a deep conversation on this topic (ok…via texts…so much meaning in short bursts). Her longing was to see Southern Baptists keep focused on the essentials of the church’s mission and not to allow the non-essentials divide us and cancel what matters most.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

In Essentials, Unity, in Non-Essentials Liberty, in All Things Charity – Mark Ross

I am with my friend, in this. In fact, there are consequential lessons here for all peoples.

On Open Letter to All Southern Baptists – Rick Warren

Whatever our challenge is this morning – whether a troubled work situation, a broken relationship, or an affiliation with an imperfect organization – we can choose a better way forward.

We can choose not to lash out or quit. We can choose to seek change from within. We can operate out of humility, hope, faith, or even love. We can resist a reactive response.

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Stephen Covey

Monday Morning Moment – I See You…or Refuse to – a Pet Peeve

Photo Credit: Pexels, Cottonbro Studio

[Pet peeves are not anything we want to cultivate or nurture…I get to a more positive place at the end so hang in there with me.]

US culture has changed – especially related to encounters with strangers or those we consider insignificant or irrelevant – as shown by turned down or away faces, looking beyond people, or not engaging with those we don’t know or don’t care to know.

People passing in hallways as if a living human being isn’t within their visual field. Charting a course from Point A to Point B, maneuvering around people without words. Stepping aside, disengaging, when someone else enters the space and greets one of the two in conversation. Disinterested.

I don’t understand this lack of desire in connection. This avoidance of engagement.

Avoiding Eye Contact in Body Language (10 Reasons) – Hanan Parvez

Where does it start? I occasionally teach elementary school-aged children, and even at this early age, there are kiddos who seem to easily engage across groups and with authority figures, others who are shy to engage or are awkward in social interactions, and, finally, those who only engage with their buddies (unless pressed to engage with others). Is it a personality thing? A social anxiety? Is there an environment (classroom or home) that sets a pattern for the children who see and engage with those around them and the ones who refuse to see beyond their friend group? It’s probably complicated, right?

We have grandchildren that look, gaze, see others…and refuse not to be seen. I hope it never changes as they grow older. How did they get where they are as children? I need to ask this question of their parents.

Eye contact as a behavior of connection can occur on a spectrum. No one wants the gift of creepy, penetrating stare-downs. A more subtle or passing gaze could communicate a desire for engagement but accompanied by a further desire not to intrude. Or at the opposing end of the spectrum, the total lack of eye contact as if there is no one there…or the hope, with social anxiety, that if I don’t look, you don’t see me. However, somewhere in the middle of all this, is the one who makes steady and engaging eye contact. That one that says with their eyes and facial expressions, “I see you”. Conversation may or may not follow…but to be seen and acknowledged is a small and precious gift we can present to another.

Photo Credit: Pexels, Cottonbro Studio

A life habit easily developed is to determine to see those around us. To make meaningful eye contact. To honor those in front of us (whether a store clerk, fellow employee, or guy in the gym). Lock eyes, a head nod, a smile, a greeting – communicating “I see you”.

This comes to play in all sorts of situations. It is a humanizing practice. A situational awareness that goes beyond keeping ourselves and others safe. It communicates that we matter in the spaces we share.

In our city, as one for instance, we see people with signs at many of the intersections. Beggars. Homeless. Not really sure. The very least we can give them is our eyes…acknowledging them whether we give money or not.

Remember, I spoke earlier of a pet peeve not being something I want to indulge, right? So…

A pet peeve is a button pushed. Long ago, I made it an aim to get rid of the buttons in my life. They divide us and there’s enough division out there already.

This is one I’m still wrestling with…and not to my credit. It becomes easy for me to intentionally ignore, or see past those who see past me…or those who “refuse to see” ones who matter to me. Yet…am I not doing the same thing then? By faulting those in my small opinion are “refusing to see”? When we fault people, without understanding them, we don’t really see them either.

May it not continue so in me. How about you?

The Power of Being Known – Holly Korbey (Video above details some of this article – so good!)

How to Overcome Eye Contact Anxiety – Arlin Cuncic

What a Lack of Eye Contact Says About You, According to Science (and How to Fix It) – Wanda Thibodeaux

5 Friday Faves – A Lullaby by Beyond the Guitar, the Art of Neighboring, the Beauty of Fall, Ethnic Foods, and Telling Our Stories

Friday Faves. Here we go!

1) A Lullaby by Beyond the Guitar – Nathan Mills has been on hiatus from his public YouTube channel as he worked through the summer creating course content for his other channels. Big news: he’s back!!

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Talking through and then performing his treatment of the Game of Thrones theme (his previous arrangements of this can be found here). He takes Ramin Djawadi‘s epic piece and makes it into an ethereal lullaby. Just plain gorgeous.

2) The Art of Neighboring – Several years ago, my husband and I landed in an incredible neighborhood. With great neighbors. As happens, our neighborhood has changed significantly with elderly neighbors downsizing and moving away and new families coming in. The tight-knit feeling we had toward each other has changed…not lost but changed.

This Fall, our community group at church is studying “The Art of Neighboring”. This aligns closely with my deep dive, over the last several months, into our need for being known.

Being Known Podcast with Curt Thompson MD

Photo Credit: Art of Neighboring

There is neighboring where we might know someone by sight or even name, but little else. Then there is neighboring which leans in, where we know each other in ways that honors, enjoys, and serves.

It’s an art and it adds to our quality of lives and that of each other in immeasurable ways.Photo Credit: Grace Fellowship, The Art of Neighboring

The Art of Neighboring – Website, Book, Resources – Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon

3) The Beauty of Fall – Just a quick salute to the end of summer and beginning of Fall. Cooler weather prompting pulling out our hoodies and cozying up to fire pits. The harvest continues. The flowers, many going to seed, still have a glory that moves artists to paint. And pumpkins!

Photo Credit: Karen Burnette Garner, Facebook

4) Ethnic Foods – Our family has had the rich experience of living in several countries and enjoying the yummy “home cooking” of local friends. Some of that food is also sold by street vendors or in tiny restaurants for such a cheap price you wonder how they can afford to sell it, except for the volume of customers.

We search out those authentic food opportunities here, and various food festivals help fill the bill. Recently, we attended Armenian and Egyptian food festivals. So good! Visiting friends took us on the hunt of discovering new restaurants serving up foods so good they could have been cooked in mama’s homes.

In America, ethnic foods are not cheap. Part of that, I’m sure, is the cost of ingredients and labor. I couldn’t imagine paying the equivalent of $12 for a falafel sandwich when we lived overseas. Here, I’m just glad for the opportunity.

What Is ‘Ethnic’ Food? – Aaron Hutcherson

In the Hutcherson piece linked above, the phrase “ethnic food” may even be offensive in today’s cancel culture. Of me, it’s the best of home cooking served outside the home. America is such a cultural “melting pot” that we may come to the place where international foods become a part of the American food culture. Blended in. Beautifully.

“American food is the mixture of all food brought by our immigrants. Perhaps the recipes have been tweaked a little here, but they originate from past cultures, from identities new and old, and from our ethnic nation. Ethnic food is American food.”

This encouraging American ideal explains why Americans long to assimilate almost every food culture into their diets. It is socially encouraged to be more and more inclusive. The main way people try to find common ground is through food.

Ethnic food can best be described as a classification for types of food favored by cultural groups of people. This is different from authentic, which is a word used to describe food as something genuine or real. American cuisine may be classified as being only ethnic food because of the rich cultural diversity of its population. – DevTome

Still…I think we foodies will still look for the dining experiences that take us back to our mom’s table…or that table of friends in far-away places. Sweet memories.

Here in Virginia, we have an ethnic equivalent of food that’s hard to find anywhere but here and it’s Ukrop’s – a family-owned bakery, deli, and grocery business that’s been around since 1937. Their baked goods are very American. I say this because we have been told, by our international friends, that American sweets are “too sweet” for them. Maybe this is one American food that is uniquely American. I don’t know…but it’s good! No one does buttercream frosting like Ukrop’s. 

4) Telling Our Stories – Storytelling is in our very DNA. We appreciate the stories that draw us in – whether through books or film – or in the telling of our own lives.

Memory tends to embellish. A detail is added or emphasized beyond what really happened.

“Well, all good stories deserve embellishment.”J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

The Link Between Memory and Stories – Shawn Callahan

Embellishment entertains but what if our memory of an event or conversation stays the same even as we have grown into a person who has changed.

I think of childhood trauma or an incident that changed the course of our relationship with a person or organization. Sometimes all it takes is one circumstance.

Something may come to mind right now.

Is that a something that you want to affect your story forever?

Many of you may never have seen the 1981 British sports film Chariots of Fire. If you haven’t I highly recommend it. It gives an account of the Olympic Games of 1924. In particular, two runners, who compete against each other, are the focus. Two runners with very different stories.

Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell.

These two athletes had two very different stories…very different motivations and goals for life. In the film, some of their story may be fictionalized, but there are lessons for us here. Check out the film clips linked below.

“10 lonely seconds [will] justify my whole existence.” – Abrahams

“When I run, I feel His pleasure.” – Eric Liddell

[An extra: In the film, Eric was pushed off the track during an Olympic race, falling to the ground. He got back on his feet and got back on the track. In the crowd, a man was asked if Eric could do (recover the time lost), and he said, “his head’s not back yet”. Eric would put his head back as he felt the pleasure of God on him. And where did the power come from? Another clip.]

YouTube Video – He Who Honors God – Chariots of Fire – don’t miss this scene.

What is your story? Whether you know it or not, you’re telling a story? Is it the one you want to be remembered for? Or is there a healing, a reconciliation, a resolve you want to leave behind as part of your legacy?

Something to consider.

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s it for this week. Hope you have a delightful weekend. Thanks for stopping by.

Bonuses:

8 Rules to Do Everything Better – Brad Stulberg

What To Do When You Feel Like You Don’t Fit in at Work – Lisa Evans

How to Say the Unsayable – 10 Ways to Approach a Sensitive Daunting Conversation – Kathryn Mannix

Photo Credit: Facebook, Marjolein Bastin

Worship Wednesday – The Faithful Love of God Wakes Us with Singing – with Zach Williams, Matthew West, Tasha Layton, & Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: Heartlight

“Don’t worry [be anxious] about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”Psalm 30:5b

My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my being. Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, O LORD, among the nations; I will sing Your praises among the peoples. For Your loving devotion extends beyond the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; may Your glory cover all the earth.”Psalm 108:1-5

My dear mom-in-law prays hard and often. She and I pray in unity on many, many things. Situations some of which she knows few details. Still she prays. Her prayers never end without the phrase “with thanksgiving”. Her anticipation of God’s answering prayer is thrilling…and inspires my hope and confidence in the heart of God.

Yesterday, I woke with heavy thoughts of many concerns: the dad of a colleague critically ill in the hospital, a visitation hearing on a beloved foster child in our family, the condition of our country, health issues with one of our kids, and the spiritual condition of some very close to us. There were also occasions for “joy in the morning” – the baptism of a precious great-niece of ours on Sunday and my husband’s birthday.

As those thoughts continued circulating in my head, I spent the morning with an Afghan refugee, a grandmother, who needed dental care. A lot of it. After her appointment, and translation help before leaving, we drove home in the silence of no shared language. [The love between us kept company, so there was that.] I used the radio to soften the silence.

Four songs in a row. Four songs in a row about the exquisite love of God. My friend couldn’t understand the words, but the lyrics moved me so much I had to stop and write the songs down to remember for today’s blog.

Then my quiet reading for today was Psalm 108 (the verses above captured my heart). Psalm 108:1-5. Oh God, no matter our situation, may we wake the dawn with singing of your great heart, your great love!

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship together with me to Zach WilliamsHeart of God (full lyrics and music in this link).

I know you’re hurtin’, I can see it in your eyes
So, pull back the curtain and take off your disguise
Whoever told you ain’t worth the fight
The cross tells a story that’ll change your mind.

No, He’s not sittin’ there shakin’ His head
Writin’ you off, leavin’ you lost
He’s not sittin’ there shakin’ His head
Wishin’ He’d never went to that cross
He’s not sittin’ there shakin’ His head
Writin’ you off, leavin’ you lost
He’s not sittin’ there shakin’ His head
He went to that cross, He went to that cross
‘Cause He loves you so much
Ooh-ooh-ooh, yeah

There’s only love in the heart of God
No room for shame in His open arms
There’s beauty from ashes, so come as you are
And there’s only love in the heart of God.

YouTube Video – Zach Williams – Heart of God – Official Music Video

…and worship also with Matthew West‘s The God Who Stays (full lyrics and music here).

If I were You I would’ve given up on me by now
I would’ve labeled me a lost cause
‘Cause I feel just like a lost cause
If I were You I would’ve turned around and walked away
I would’ve labeled me beyond repair
‘Cause I feel like I’m beyond repair

Oh, but somehow You don’t see me like I do
Somehow You’re still here

You’re the God who stays
You’re the God who stays
You’re the one who runs in my direction
When the whole world walks away
You’re the God who stands
With wide open arms
And You tell me nothing I have ever done can separate my heart
From the God who stays

My shame can’t separate
My guilt can’t separate
My past can’t separate
I’m Yours forever
My sin can’t separate
My scars can’t separate
My failures can’t separate
I’m Yours forever
No enemy can separate
No power of hell can take away
Your love for me will never change
I’m Yours forever

‘Cause You’re the God who stays.

YouTube Video – The God Who Stays – Matthew West (Official Music Video)

Now, let’s worship with the help of Tasha Layton‘s How Far Your Love Will Go (full lyrics and music here).

How far is too far
I thought I’d be there by now
I followed shame to the place
I was sure Your grace ran out

I kept running and running and running
You kept chasing and chasing and chasing

A million miles of my mistakes
Still couldn’t keep Your love away
However far away I am from home
That’s how far Your love will go… go…

Mercy’s arms stretched open wide
You paid it all
What kind of love lays down His life?
Willing to cross

A million miles of my mistakes
Still couldn’t keep Your love away
However far away I am from home
That’s how far Your love will go…

YouTube Video – How Far – Tasha Layton (Official Music Video)

Finally (for now), let’s close out with Tauren WellsKnown (full lyrics and music here).

It’s so unusual it’s frightening
You see right through the mess inside me
And you call me out to pull me in
You tell me I can start again
And I don’t need to keep on hiding

I’m fully known and loved by You
You won’t let go no matter what I do
And it’s not one or the other
It’s hard truth and ridiculous grace
To be known fully known and loved by You.

YouTube Video – Known – Tauren Wells (Official Music Video)

Whatever is going on with you – on the negative – be it shame, regret, fear, bitterness, sorrow – let known of that isolate you from the God who loves you. We can never get too far from God. We are fully known by Him. He is a God who stays. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”Psalm 30:5b

Photo Credit: Tauren Wells

YouTube Video – Joy in the Morning – Tauren Wells (Live Performance)

YouTube Video – There Was Jesus – Zach Williams, Dolly Parton (Official Music Video)

Photo Credit: Heartlight