Category Archives: America

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed to Be a Blessing – Andy Flannagan

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” – God to Abraham –  Genesis 12:2

We are so blessed. It is not a cliche. It is truth. Even those who don’t believe that God is will still use the expression of being blessed.

I wonder, “by whom?”.

Earlier this week I wrote about silence as punishment…withholding our words, ourselves, from others. Today we focus on the opposite – blessing others, through our words and actions. Reaching out, drawing in. Speaking life and love. Listening close. Blessing.

We are blessed to be a blessing. From the beginning of time, when God instructed His first man and woman. Especially to childless Abraham who would receive that promise in faith…blessed to be a blessing.

Writer Tina Boesch has written a beautiful book on blessing: Given: the Forgotten Meaning and Practice of Blessing. The first page of the book begins with a Scottish blessing:Life be in my speech, sense in what I say…the love Christ Jesus gave  filling me for every one.” Boesch writes about how, no matter the situation or the persons in front of us, we can bless them, because He has so utterly blessed us.

Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.Colossians 3:17

From a young British friend’s Facebook page sometime ago, I was introduced to songwriter Andy Flannagan and Reverend Kevin Lewis. They both love Jesus and sing and write about blessing…

They cheer us on to shake off the weight of self-interest and reach out to a broken world…that those desperate for love will find it in the same Savior we know…and show by our love – our words and deeds – that He loves them, also.

Worship Wednesday – Spirit Pour Out – Andy and Rachel Graham

And when he [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, he wept over it.Luke 19:41

Jesus continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. – Matthew 9:35-36

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. Psalm 127:1

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce…But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. – Jeremiah 29:4-5, 7

The shining city we call home is Richmond, Virginia. It is a beautiful, gleaming mix of old and new.  A river runs east-west through it, and interstate highways divide it north-south. The divide goes much deeper than the highways cut through neighborhoods decades ago, but these transportation portals speak to that divide.

After the Civil War (during which Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States of America), the African-American community began to thrive here. In fact, Jackson Ward, a Richmond neighborhood still today, was once known as “Black Wall Street” and “the Harlem of the South”. Beautiful homes, large churches, successful businesses, and popular entertainment venues were all part of this thriving neighborhood.

Then “progress” happened. City and state officials determined the design of what is now our vast interstate system. This all-white group of officials made the decision of what would best serve the city and beyond. The highways would be laid down right through Jackson Ward. 1000 homes were lost through the city’s powers of eminent domain.

Roads to Nowhere: How Infrastructure Built Built on American Inequality – Johnny Miller

Recently I saw a TV show, All Rise, that featured an anquished young man, wrongly accused of a felony. While awaiting the jury’s verdict, his public defender sat with him. She asked about why he was studying urban planning. This was the powerful scene that speaks to what happened in our city and others:

“Every shining city is built on something pretty dark.”

The above statement from the scene isn’t always true (especially when I think of Heaven), BUT. God, in His Word, demonstrated both understanding of and love for cities.

The peoples of cities. Peoples like us, and others not like us but loved. Exquisitely, generously loved by God. We are meant to love as He loves. We are blessed to be a blessing to all peoples.

Not just transactional charity…where we give of our goods but not ourselves. Jesus did feed the thousands (transactional) but He also gave all of Himself to all people (transformational). He left that example for us…that transformational model of loving people.

Seek Your City’s Good – John Piper

This past Sunday, our worship team at Movement Church, led us in a song new to me. Spirit Pour Out. It was written by Andy and Rachel Graham out of a worship experience with Urban Doxology, a ministry based in Richmond. Members of Urban Doxology live, work, worship, and serve in the racially diverse (and divided) neighborhoods of Richmond. They bring a message and vision for reconciliation – with God and each other. See the Ted Talk about Urban Doxology here. The YouTube video below shows footage of our city, Richmond, Virginia. It is a call to prayer for cities – for ours and for all cities.

Worship with me.

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

Come restore generations of desolation
Bind up the poor and broken heart
Plant and sow, till and grow what time has ravaged
Break down the walls of race and war

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

God we seek the peace and welfare of our city
Prosper redeem her as your own
That all would see your glory here in greater measure
Through us your church your kingdom come

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

You are the God who builds
You are the one who saves
You are the God who prospers
Evil has no claim
You are the God builds
You are the one who saves
You are the God who prospers
Fervently we pray*

Peter says that Christians are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11) and Paul says “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). In fact, we will do most good for this world by keeping a steadfast freedom from its beguiling attractions. We will serve our city best by getting our values from “the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). We will do our city most good by calling as many of its citizens as we can to be citizens of “the Jerusalem above” (Galatians 4:26).

So, let’s live — let’s do so much good (1 Peter 2:12) — that the natives will want to meet our King. – John Piper

*Lyrics to Spirit Pour Out – Songwriters: Andy & Rachel Graham

YouTube Video – Spirit Pour Out – Urban Doxology

5 Friday Faves – Married Life on Guitar, Anxiety in Children, Refugees, the Day of the Girl, and Life Without Sugar

Here you go and Happy Weekend!

1) Married Life on Guitar – Pixar’s 2009 animated film Up captivated all of us with its love story combined with buddy adventure. The tenderness of the story is accentuated by the music score composed by Michael Giacchino. “Married Life” is the musical theme of the movie and appropriate to the story – both joyful and sad. Just so lovely. Nathan Mills‘ arrangement and performance are spot on. All the feels, Beyond the Guitar. Thanks!

2) Anxiety in Children – By the nature of their development, children are smaller than adults. They should not be made to feel small by our interactions with them. Author W. R. Cummings has written extensively on childhood behavioral concerns. her piece on childhood anxiety hit me hard regarding the role of adults as negatively or positively influential in this struggle.

When You Make a Child Feel Anxious You Steal Their Ability to Think Rationally – Whitney Cummings

Photo Credit: Kinderling Kids

“We mean well, but we focus more on immediate change than we do on long-term success. Instead of teaching kids skills to make independent choices, we teach them how to obey our demands… When the change agent for a child’s behavior is fear of how they’ll be treated by a trusted adult if they don’t behave, the only thing we’ve taught them to do is how they behave around US. We haven’t given them any real tools on what to do around other adults, and we haven’t taught them a thing about intrinsic motivation. We haven’t taught them to be honest or kind or self-confident… We don’t need to lecture kids until they feel small. We don’t need to set them up for failure by asking them questions they don’t know the answer to. We don’t need to point out their poor choices in front of other people. We don’t need to use a voice tone we’d be ashamed to use in front of other adults. We don’t need to yell, scream, push, move, or punish kids.” – W. R. Cummings

We don’t really want to guilt or shame our children…or make them feel afraid…or small. In choosing the above quotes, neither do I want to guilt or shame parents. Parenting is hard sometimes. Cummings’ short piece goes on to encourage a different direction to take in parenting our children well. Take the time to read this and think about another way to correct or guide children. Sometimes it takes such a little detour – a small course change for us to become more loving, effective parents. If you are affirmed in your parenting by reading her blog, bravo!

3) Refugees – I am for refugee resettlement in the US. Here’s why:

It is a right thing…and we should make possible a viable and vetted path toward residence/citizenship. Slowing down the process will not serve well.

We are a wealthy nation, compared to most in the world. We have a system of vetting and receiving that works. Changes need to be made, for sure. Decreasing the numbers of refugees we receive will not improve our immigration system; it will only become more sluggish. We have a non-governmental organizations who team with our government agencies to effectively resettle refugees. When we drop numbers of refugees we receive, those non-profit agencies will not be able to maintain their infrastructure. Some will have to close. The resettlement of refugees is not the problem in the US. The problem seems to rest in the immigration system itself and the handling of those who try to go around our broken system in their desperation to enter and stay in the US.

I don’t have the answers necessarily, but I’m certain there are solutions more creative and constructive than just dropping the numbers of refugees we receive in the US.

In 1903, a plague was mounted on the Statue of Liberty. The script on the plaque is the poem The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus. See the poem below.Photo Credit: Democratic Underground

Much has changed in the world in these over 100 years since that poem was posted to the podium of the Statue of Liberty. What has not changed is moral responsibility, human decency, and the call of God to care for those in difficult straits. We can’t turn our eyes away and pretend not to see. Decreasing numbers of refugees will only make it harder for those driven from their own homeland to find a home anywhere in the world. We want to do better than that…to be better than that.

Thoughts?

Evangelical Advocates Feel the Sting of More Trump Refugee Cuts – Kate Shellnutt

Don’t Underestimate the Impact of Lowering the US Refugee Ceiling – Matthew Soerens

4) The Day of the Girl – Today is the International Day of the Girl Child. We don’t have to look very far in the news to see that being a girl in many countries of the world is not a positive thing…in fact, it can be a deadly thing.

Photo Credit: Jagran Josh

Photo Credit: Jena Powell, Facebook

We in the States often hear the lament of women in the workplace and the impenetrability of “the glass ceiling” for most. For too many in the larger world, even the opportunity for education and work she chooses is entirely too out of reach.

What can we do about it? The link below offers options for all of us, no matter our nationality or political ideology.

10 Ways to Actually Help Girls on International Day of the Girl – Melissa Locker

5) Life Without Sugar – Every January, I try to eliminate sugar from my diet for a month at least. Well, added sugar anyway. It is more challenging than you might think, but the article below by Lisa Drayer helps each time.

One-month Sugar Detox: a Nutritionist Explains How and WhyLisa Drayer

This past January, I didn’t do a sugar detox and have suffered for it with reckless eating and weight gain. My resolve is building and hopefully curbing carbs in earnest is just on the horizon.

Writer, biologist Olivia Judson tells a fascinating story about her own reasoning about and journey into a life without sugar. Really good read.

I hope never to become my own or someone else’s sugar police. Holidays and special occasions carry their own sweet indulgences. The key here is the word “indulgence”. Sugar has a long dark history including slavery. The impact of sugar on our health is huge, especially regarding long-term chronic illnesses.Photo Credit: Smithsonian Magazine

We all know this and a no-sugar lifestyle is probably impractical. However, a low-sugar lifestyle is doable. Helping our children to avoid a sugar addiction from an early age will give them a headstart on a healthier, longer, and stronger life.

20 No-added Sugar Snacks for Kids – Katie Serbinski – Mom to Mom Nutrition

Photo Credit: Mom to Mom Nutrition

America’s National Institute of Nutrition and the Barbaric History of Sugar – Aarn Farmer

Bonuses:

The Neighbor’s Table – Inside a Father-Daughter Business – Bringing Neighbors Together

De-Converting, and the One Remaining Question

These Bear Cubs Were Done For, and Then Some Fishermen Intervened

The Six Cents Report – Black Privilege

The Six Cents Report – Black Forgiveness

The Addicted Brain – Amazon Prime

The Mind, Explained – Netflix

Don’t Blame Incivility on Religion. Christian Principles Are an Antidote to Nastiness – Daniel Darling

5 Friday Faves – Minecraft Guitar Cover, Culture Care, Marriage Advice, Women & Alcohol, and First Responders

Friday Faves – lightning-fast – go!

1) Minecraft Guitar Cover – Since 2011, Minecraft is a video game that’s been played by millions. It is considered one of the most successful games ever designed. The players can build and create pretty much anything they want in the sand-box type game. The ambient theme music was brilliantly composed by Daniel Rosenfeld (aka C418). It is beautiful, as you’ll discover in listening to Nathan‘s arrangement and performance on classical guitar. Check it out:

2) Culture Care– Instead of culture wars, Japanese-American artist Makoto Fujimura focuses on culture care. He is an arts advocate and is known internationally as a culture influencer. He defines culture care as “a philosophy that offers the creation and conservation of beauty as antidote to cultural brokenness…The thesis of Culture Care affirms that beauty is vital to ‘soul care’, offering a vision of the power of artistic generosity to inspire, edify, and heal the church and culture…Culture Care is a thesis for thoughtful stewardship of culture.”

Photo Credit: Makoto Fujimura, Joseph Sunde

Writer Andy Crouch further describes culture care as a worldview of abundance: “that decision to choose abundance, to assume that grace is indeed infinite—that we can still choose to speak against our fears despite the world of scarcity we experience every day… The world we live in—and, even more critically for us, our church culture—seem driven by fear: to choose to fight culture wars instead of caring for and loving our culture. As a result, we display the face of fear instead of love; project hatred instead of joy; reveal anxiousness instead of peace; exhibit judgmentalism instead of forbearance; build walls with jealous exclusion instead of kindness; invite bitterness instead of goodness; celebrate celebrity instead of faithfulness; invoke rage instead of self-control. Can there be an alternative?”

I am intrigued by the idea of culture care. It embodies the call to “love God and love others as ourselves” (Matthew 22:34-40). There is so much beauty in that.

Makoto Fujimura on Cultivating the Imagination – Joseph Sunde [gives steps to moving toward culture care]

YouTube Video – A Conversation with Makoto Fujimura

3) Marriage Advice – In the car for long stretches this week allowed for listening to TED Talks and the like. Couples counselor Susan L. Adler gives a funny, practical, empowering talk entitled “Secrets of a Couples Counselor: 3 Steps to Happier Relationships”. She lays out 3 tools in how to work through a conflict; steps that can actually move the relationship into a more positive, stronger place. These steps are:

  • Anything but anger– “When you find yourself feeling angry, sit down, take a deep breath, and ask yourself what an I really feeling under all this anger?’ Expressing just about anything other than frustration or anger can bring you closer.” She goes on… good stuff.
  • Raising the bar– challenge yourself to be better. “Whatever is happening, you take the high road. You can make a different choice…Challenge yourself to be helpful, patient, caring, and kind.” Again, she continues. Watch the TED talk.
  • Use “I would love it if…” statements, instead of blaming or criticizing one another. Rather than “You never wash the dishes!” Say “I would really love it if you could wash the dishes next round.” Keep these statements “positive and future-focused”.

4) Women & Alcohol – [No judging here. My own struggle with using food as self-medicating makes me hugely sympathetic.] Another in-car TED talk listen was Ann Dowsett Johnston‘s “Drinking and How It Changed My Life”. She is the author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. In the TED Talk, she tells a riveting story of growing up with an alcoholic mom and becoming a high-functioning alcoholic herself.

Her story is one of caution. She talks as much about the growing incidence of drinking in women, in general, as she does about her own issues. The “pinking” of alcohol is a concern for her as she sees alcohol being marketed specifically to women, including to teen-aged girls. As has been done with cigarette smoking and illicit drug use, she presses for us to use our collective power to confront alcohol manufacturing and marketing companies.

Drinking in and of itself is not a problem necessarily…it becomes a problem when we drink to excess and that can be different, one woman to the next.

Photo Credit: NIAAA

[Added in regards to above image: Today, the beer is often a pint (16oz) at 6-8% alcohol.]

Becoming alcohol-free may be the choice of some. It has been for me. Does it affect relationships? It can…but the healthiest relationships will remain.

Jolene Park‘s TED Talk can help you identify whether alcohol is a problem for you or not. Her talk is both scientific and fascinating.

YouTube Video – TEDx Talk – Gray Area Drinking – Jolene Park

Women and Alcohol – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – Brochures and Fact Sheets

Alcohol Consumption Among Women Is on the Rise – Jennifer Clopton

The Reason Why Women Are Drinking More Than They Ever Have – Ginny Graves

5) First Responders – With the devastation to the Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian last week, and the commemoration of the 9/11 bombings this week, we are grateful for first responders. Those who move into danger instead of away from it. Risking their lives for the sake of others. In the dreadful wake of this storm Dorian. men and women specially prepared for disaster response left their daily lives and traveled down to Florida. Even getting over to the Bahamas has been complicated with all the destruction on the islands, but first responders are doing what they can, partnering with local churches and agencies, to reach out to the many who have lost loved ones and homes.Photo Credit: Go BGR

Photo Credit: BP News

Bonuses:

Come From Away: Tiny Desk Concert – Commemorating 9/11 and 9/12

2 Ways Your Phone Is Reducing Your Brain Power

25 Ways to Screw Up Your Kids

Photo Credit: Facebook, Enneagram & Coffee

Photo Credit: Facebook, Marianne Wink

Remembering 9/11 – and the Day Before – a Story of God and a Girl

[From the Archives]

Today marks the eve of the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in the US. We all have our stories of where we were when we heard that terrible news. I heard the news as an elevator door opened in a hospital emergency room in Cairo, Egypt. The surgeon watching for us to deliver the patient walking into the elevator, saying, “I am so, so sorry.” I thought he was referring to the precious one on the stretcher beside me, so small and injured from a terrible bus accident the day before. It turns out he was talking about the news that traveled instantly from the States about the bombings. I’d like to go back to the day before. For us, it would help to go there, before I can ever process the grief of this day that we all share.

It was like any other Monday, that bright, warm September 10th in Cairo, Egypt…until the phone call. Janna was on the other end of the call, telling me that Genessa and April had been in a bus accident on the Sinai. April had called her and relayed their location, at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh. These were girls in our Middle Eastern Studies Program, and they were finishing their time with us, taking a vacation together. They would re-trace some of their experiences in Bedouin villages across the Sinai and then enjoy a few days on the Red Sea. They were to return that Monday, traveling in on one of the over-night buses across the desert.

Details will have to wait for another time, but with this information, my husband, Dave, left immediately with Janna and a local Egyptian friend who was also one of our language coaches. He took these two women because of their relationship with each other and with all of us. He also understood that there were two injured friends hours away in a hospital who would need women to minister to their needs. I would be praying and on the phone the rest of the day with families, other friends, US Embassy people, and our other young people in the program. I can’t begin to describe the emotional nature of that day…not knowing, hoping, praying.

When Dave and our friends arrived at the hospital, he was directed to April. She had painful, serious injuries, but none life-threatening, praise God. Then he was escorted into the critical care area to see Genessa. To his horror, it wasn’t Genessa. It was another young woman, unconscious – an Italian tourist, who rode in the same ambulance with April. April, lucid and still able to communicate, had tried to comfort her on that long dark ride to the hospital. Personal belongings were all scrambled at the wreck site, and the authorities made the mistakened decision that because April was speaking to her, she was Genessa.

Then Dave went on the search for our dear one…somewhere else in the Sinai. He back-tracked toward the site of the accident, checking other hospitals where other injured were taken. At this point, he was also talking to US Embassy staff, as he drove through the desert. Just shortly before he arrived at the hospital where he would find Genessa, the staff person told him they confirmed her identification from a credit card she had in her pocket…in the morgue of that small village hospital.

Dave and Janna, that friend who received the first phone call, stood beside this precious girl’s body, to make the formal identification…to know for sure that this was Genessa. And it was…and yet not. She, the luminous, laughing, loving girl we knew, was gone. It was more than any of us who loved her could take in on that Monday evening in Cairo, Egypt…the day before 9/11.

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Genessa-with-team1.jpg

As they left the hospital to return to April, two more friends joined them from Cairo to help. For any of you who have been completely spent in every way by such a day, you can understand what it was for them to look up and see Matt and Richard getting out of a car. God in His great goodness alerted them, stirred their hearts to drive all those hours…and then to arrive…just when they were most needed. So many arrangements had to be made…and most importantly, at that moment, to get April back safely and quickly to Cairo for surgery.

She came into Cairo on a plane near the middle of the day of 9/11. By the time we got her from the airport in an ambulance to the specialty hospital to get the further care she needed, a series of horrific events had begun taking place in the US. We would hear of them from this caring Egyptian surgeon…who had no idea how numb we were from losing Genessa and how concerned we were that April got what she needed as soon as possible. We were already so drenched by grief, this unfathomable news about the bombings washed over us without understanding the scope of it…the pain of it…for all the rest of America.

Later in that day, with April receiving the best care possible, and me watching by her side, I could take in some of the loss coming at us on the small t.v. mounted in the hospital room. Egyptians were telling us how so, so sorry they were for us (as Americans). If they only knew, they were our mourners for our loss of Genessa, too. In the din of world-changing news, and a country brought together in grief…we grieved, too, a continent away…for the losses of 9/11 and the day before.

That was 18 years ago…April healed from her injuries (only she and God know what all that took on the inside), the other young people in our program have gone on to careers and families across the US and around the world. We have also gone on…back to the US for now, and to other work.

Two things have not changed…a beautiful girl, who fell asleep by the window of a bus in the Sinai night and woke up in Heaven… and the God who welcomed her Home. There is so much, much, more to this story, but I have to close with this. As her family back in the US were pulling the pieces of their lives back together, and going through Genessa’s things, they found a little cassette player on her bed…there left by her, two years before, as she left for Cairo. In it was a cassette where she’d made a tape of her singing one of her favorite songs, I Long for the Day, by singer/songwriter Dennis Jernigan. If we look at Genessa’s life through the lens of some American dream, then we would think how tragic to die so young, so full of promise. Look through the lens of how much she loved God, and knowing Him was what mattered most to her…and all who knew her knew His love through her.

This God…and this girl.  Genessa

 I Long for the Day by Dennis Jernigan

I long for the day when the Lord comes and takes me away!

Whether by death or if You come for me on a horse so white

And anyway You come will be alright with me

I long to just hear You said, “Now is the time. Won’t you come away?”

And I’ll take Your hand, surrendering completely to You that day!

And no, I can’t contain the joy that day will bring!

Chorus:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment I’ll be celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

O Lord, while I wait, I will cling to each word that You say.

So speak to my heart; Your voice is life to me, be it night or day.

And anything You say will be alright with me.

You see my heart’s greatest need

You and me, walking intimately.

You’re my only love, and I am waiting patiently for Your call.

When You call me to Your side eternally.

(Chorus Repeat)

Lord, I celebrate You!

Forever with You! No crying there.

Forever with You! No burden; no more worldly cares.

My heart is anticipating eternally with you celebrating You!

Forever with You I long to be;

Forever worshipping, knowing You intimately!

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

I’ll spend forever just celebrating You.

I’ll see all my loved ones gone before

I’ll get to be with them, laugh with them, hold them once more

There’ll be no more separating! [No separating]

Together we will be celebrating You!

Together we’ll worship You and sing.

Forever praising Lord Jesus, our Savior and King.

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

Enter your rest, and start celebrating, too.

Forever Lord, I’ll be celebrating You.

Chorus Repeat:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment of celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

Dennis Jernigan, from the album I Belong to Jesus (Volume 2)

Worship Wednesday – Heal Our Land – Kari Jobe

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

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

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, and her country.

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 17 years ago, a silence sounded in our lives that I had never experienced before. She, like Julia, was a prayer. 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 election year ahead. 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, want 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). As I write, our 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.

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 this tiny ministry we call Play ‘n Pray. It’s moms and grandmothers with little ones who come together each week briefly to pray. Our vision is a God-glorifying movement of prayer that will spread through our church, extending into our community, city, and the world. It’s a small beginning but with a great God.

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

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

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

5 Friday Faves – Truth, Leveling the Playing Field, the Best of Twitter, Spiderman, and Books as Art

Fridays seem to come so fast, that Faves get written late in the weekend…this one did anyway. Here they are finally:

1) Truth “What is truth?” This question was asked centuries ago by a Roman governor standing over an innocent man whom he himself believed was innocent. Pontius Pilate asked the question when pressed by the religious leaders of that day for a guilty verdict on Jesus Christ. Guilty of what? Guilty of whatever would get him executed and out of the way.

The question of what is truth? continues through the ages. Even for those who believe in the sanctity of Scripture, we become functional atheists if we don’t apply it to our understanding of God and to our very lives.

What Is Truth? – excellent read on truth (including philosophical and scientific perspectives)

A friend posted a Gallup poll this week on what Americans believe about the Bible. I don’t take polls seriously usually because they can so often be slanted depending on the polling intent and the sample selected. Still, this one gave pause.Photo Credit: Gallup

Record Few Americans Believe that the Bible Is the Literal Word of God – Lydia Saad, Gallup

The Bible continues to reportedly be the most read book in the world. What do we do with what we read? Most Read Books InfographicJared Fanning

I remain in the diminishing “light green” group from the Gallup poll above. God is certainly capable of protecting His recorded word through the ages. If I did begin to take parts as fable, moral precept alone or not literally… which parts? Keep the parts that treat me favorably? Willing to risk that God means for us to take it all to heart…and trust His goodness, fairness, and love for the mysteries.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Why We Need the Truth More Than Ever – Matt Brown

2) Leveling the Playing Field– When an individual or organization acts to truly give opportunity to marginalized people, it is noteworthy. Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School (AJCES) is one of those organizations. Named after a woman born into slavery, AJCES affords private education to over 100 middle schoolers.

PrivateSchools_AnnaJuliaCooperSchool1_COURTESY_rp0819.jpg

Photo Credit: Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School

The parents pay a small annual admission fee and must commit to be involved in their children’s education (including parent/teacher conferences). The students are gifted scholarships for the tuition and fees throughout their middle school years.

Anna Julia Cooper received a scholarship herself to go to such a school. She would pursue graduate education and earned a doctorate during a time such degrees were never awarded to black women.

AJCES is a small school but hopes to double in size in next few years becoming a K-8 facility. A capital campaign is under way.

In the meantime, this school is a beacon of hope in a neighborhood that could use it. Read more about it in the article Leveling the Playing Field by Julinda Lewis.

Please give your own shout-out to a person or organization who is leveling the playing field for others (in Comments below).

3) The Best of Twitter – Twitter has its own downside like much of social media. I am really glad for what I have learned from others through their Tweets and my Twitter feed, in general. It’s worth enough that it crowds out the political hatred, mudslinging, and trash talk…so prominent on social media platforms (especially during election years) I’m staying for the best of Twitter, not the worst.

Two of my favorite Tweets of the week follow (this time both featuring the same person):

4) Spiderman – Finally watched Spiderman Homecoming on Amazon Prime. So good. I really like Tom Holland as Spiderman. The action and special effects were sensational, and the dialogue was fun and often funny. Now, however, the news is out that Spiderman films may be no more. Here’s what’s happening according to Chris Gates:

“Sources at Deadline claim that the partnership between Sony Pictures, which owns the film rights to Spider-Man and all associated characters, and Marvel Studios, which controls the rest of the MCU, has been terminated, effectively ending Peter Parker’s time as a member of both the Avengers and Marvel’s shared cinematic superhero universe.

The culprit, as always, is money. Disney was rumored to be pushing for a new deal that would have given the company a co-financing stake in future Spider-Man films. Sony refused to agree to the terms, effectively ending the deal that allowed Spider-Man to join Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, and other heroes on the silver screen.”

Photo Credit: Amazon

However, it may not be over yet, again from the above article:

“However things shake out, this isn’t the end of the current iteration of Spider-Man. Sony still has two Spider-Man films in development with Spider-Man: Homecoming and Far From Home director John Watts, both of which are expected to star current Spider-Man actor Tom Holland. In addition, Sony is pushing ahead with Spider-Man spinoffs, including Venom sequel, Jared Leto’s Morbius, and a bunch of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse-related projects.” – Chris Gates

Check out Beyond the Guitar‘s Marvel vs. DC Mashup. It includes Michael Giacchino‘s Spiderman: Homecoming theme (3:10 minutes in).

And this…from the hilarious Jeff Goldblum:

5) Books as Art – Finally a kindred spirit find related to decluttering. I have sometimes felt compelled to get rid of books, and I have. Still, there are some bookcases in our house that hold treasures.  Like the ones below. Dave has a collection of books on President Lincoln. We have books on the cultures where our family lived overseas. Various biographies, books on spiritual disciplines, homeschool classics, and children’s books. [You can see below that the children’s books come and go from their respective places as our oldest granddaughter pulls them out for our reading together.]

Books in our house say something about who we are and what (also who) we love. They’re organized loosely by category, for when I need a particular reference or re-read on a topic. They are on the ready to comfort or encourage or gently shake me out of a doldrum. Books, at least our books, are friendly and kind. No preaching or bearing down. Just a journey back to a familiar place…worth the keeping.

What got me thinking on this was the piece below where the author interviewed several authors about their book collections. Fun and fascinating read for those of us who love books, and for those who see them as clutter – a different side to that discussion. These are my people! Sweet read…don’t miss it.

Going Against the Decluttering Craze: the Book Hoarders Who Defy Marie KondoAmanda Long

___________________________________________________________________________

Bonuses:

PPFA (Planned Parenthood) Forfeits Family Planning Funds for Abortion – Tom Strode

End of summer cooling down enough for a fire pit – wish you could hear the crickets and frogs, smell the woody smoke, taste the roasted marshmallows, and see the stars in the night sky. Goodnight.

Worship Wednesday – Why God? – Austin French

Photo Credit: YouTube

Suddenly a powerful wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on the young people so that they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you!” Then Job stood up, tore his robe and shaved his head. He fell to the ground and worshiped, saying: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of the Lord.” Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God for anything.Job 1:19-22

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” – John 6:66-69

This has been a week of disorienting grief across the U.S. Weekend shootings in El Paso, Dayton, and Chicago have rocked our country with so many dead and wounded…and everyone asks the question “why?”.

The answers to this question are complicated…beyond political, beyond ideological. As believers, we don’t look to government to answer because the losses we are experiencing go deeper than what a government can fix.
We go to God. How He must grieve at the madness happening in America right now. His grief must be ever so much greater than our own.

Singer songwriter Austin French, in introducing his song “Why God?” talks about the hard questions:

Why, God, do people have to die? Why does tragedy still have a place in the life of a Christian? Why another school shooting? God, why? Are You even here? Are You with us? These are real questions that inspired my song ‘Why God’ on my upcoming record. I believe that our God is a good father and we are his kids and He’s not scared of our questions. In those moments there’s tons of things in this life that we do not understand, but maybe we’re not supposed to. Maybe we’re supposed to need God, need a father who knows all things and holds all things in his hands. And that’s ok.” – Austin French

Photo Credit: Facebook, Austin French

When hard things happen in our lives, we grieve. We adjust to a new reality. We do what we can to make life better, to make the world better…to make things right.

For me, walking away from God is not an option. Where would I go? God is good even when the world is not. Even when the world has gone wretchedly wrong.

Worship with me.

Why God
Do people have to die
A daughter or a son
Sudden and so young
Long before their time?

Why God
Do people fall apart
A promise and a ring
Becomes a broken thing
A road that got too hard?

I don’t understand
But I understand

Why God I need You
It’s why God I run to Your arms
Over and over again
It’s why God I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life
And I find You are right by my side

Why God
Do we feel so alone?
Every single day
Fighting through the pain
Hoping there is hope

I don’t understand
But I understand

Why God I need You
It’s why God I run to Your arms
Over and over again
It’s why God I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life
And I find You are right by my side, ooh…

Give me a faith stronger than I have
I need to know when it hurts this bad
That You hold my heart when it breaks
And I’m not alone in this place

That’s why God I need You
Why God I run to Your arms
Over and over again
It’s why God I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life
And I find You are right by my side
Always right by my side
Even here in the why… God*

*Lyrics to Why God – Songwriters: Jeff Pardo, Mia Fieldes, Austin French, Jacob Harrison

Austin French Asks God Why

Austin French Music

El Paso and Dayton Mass Shootings – Christians Must Act As Well As Pray – Jamie D. Aten

I’m a Shooting Survivor – If You’re Going to Pray For Us, Here’s How – Taylor Schumann

Christian Leaders React to Mass Shootings: We Can’t Keep Going On Like This

5 Friday Faves – Political Correctness or Not So Much, Claire’s Lion King Medley, Back to School, Michael W. Smith, and The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Here we go! Friday Faves! Just for you…

1) Political Correctness or Not So Much – It doesn’t do any of us good to use language or messaging that inflame division or hatred. The dilemma is that the rules on what is “politically correct” change and grow such that it becomes difficult even to have dialogue  across political or sociological lines. When we differ in how we think on today’s issues, we desperately need to keep talking to each other…listening to each other…to work toward solutions with positive lasting impact.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

What happens to me, in the face of articulate and passionate people who insist on a politically correct and savvy response? I go silent. Silence is serves no one.

This week I discovered author pastor Scott Sauls‘ article “Saying ‘No’ to Political Correctness”.

“What if we’ve gotten it all wrong in our efforts to be politically correct and not risk stirring the pot, ever? What if, in our sincere attempt to become relevant to the culture, we have instead become products and disciples of the culture? If we discovered that skeptics would take us more seriously for being open with our views versus secretive and timid about them, would we become more expressive about the truths we hold inside?” – Scott Sauls

Sauls also acknowledges that those of us who are Christian evangelicals may seem a minority and feel we have no voice…but hopefully it isn’t because we’ve given up our voice. We have a mandate from God to stand for Him, to hear, and to speak, even as a minority.

Ironically, the single thing that makes Scripture relevant to our culture, and any culture, is that Scripture shows no interest in being relevant. Instead, it acts as God still speaking, affirming what’s good and confronting what’s not. Where Scripture and culture are at odds, Christians too must remain countercultural.

But we must not allow our counter-cultural postures to become anti-cultural.

A perception of minority status can easily tempt Christians to get testy, even hostile, against a world God calls us to love. Scott Sauls

Politically correct or incorrect, we are called to love without prejudice or reserve. So I’m moved to listen more than ever. Listening takes getting close to people. Resolved to get close.

2) Claire’s Lion King Medley – When Claire Crosby was three, her dad Dave began videotaping her & posting to YouTube. My first awareness of her was their version of You’ve Got a Friend in Me. Even before that song, she did a totally adorable version of Little Mermaid.Photo Credit: Facebook, Claire Ryann Crosby

Her singing of “A Million Dreams” is amazing! Goosebumps listening to a 5 y/o sing.

Now the whole family has produced a video of Every Song From Lion King. So good. Also don’t miss the behind-the-scenes video of the making of this video. Fascinating and fun.

YouTube Video – Every Song From The Lion King Movie – 6 year-old Claire and the Crosby Family

YouTube Video – We Made a Lion King Video – The Crosby’s

YouTube Video – The Lion King (Main Theme – “This Land” – Beyond the Guitar (my kid’s version)

3) Back to School – [Adapted from the Archives] During the hottest days of summer, a Fall breeze blows through our favorite stores. Back to school supplies and cool kids’ clothes pop up everywhere. I have always loved the smell of pencils and paper. However, I never loved the long hours of school that boxed in our children to spend evenings separated from us and each other with hours and hours of homework. Sorry, wonderful teacher friends of mine. Anyway, seeing school supplies in the stores this week was fun…and also a reminder of the flight of time. Summer slow down (too late to slow down for some of you. Welcome to the next school year).Blog - Back to School Supplies - friday Faves

So much new happens as summer ends, and Fall stretches out before us. Routines and rhythms crank up again. Growth spurts require new clothes. Then there are all the school supplies required for starting a new year.

As our children grew up, we had varying seasons of “back-to-school” between home schooling and other schooling, both in the US and in Africa. It was never easy for me to see them off, when we didn’t homeschool. I missed them…and those moments together when they talked about life as they saw it. I also missed being able to protect them from some of the meanness in the world. Still, the start of the school year, for all of us, is a hopeful time of anticipation and wonder, of new beginnings and possibilities.[Kudos to the teachers, Stacie Mills & Kirby Joseph, whose classrooms pre-student-return, were my inspiration on this fave.]

How thankful I am for teachers who really care for their students. Teachers who see themselves as partners with parents, even us most woefully unprepared…for the sake of these kiddos who will hold the future in their hands one day. What a marvel this is.

Back to School – Teachers On My Mind – Deb Mills

Putting the Basket in the Water: Trusting God in the Next Phase of Your Child’s Life – Ashlei Woods

The Trauma-Informed Teacher – Silent Front Line

4) Michael W. Smith – Singer songwriter Michael W. Smith has given me words to worship God for over 35 years. Either writing himself, collaborating, or performing others’ songs. He has blessed so many of us over the years. Today when it seems people struggle so hard to finish strong, Michael is the real deal. Not yet 60, he has been married to Debbie for over 35 years. He wrote his first song when he was 5 and he’s been writing them ever since.

His “Agnus Dei” is one of my favorites. I’m actually not sure why it is entitled that, but it is a powerful worship song. Few lyrics; but great heart! Like Michael.

This week, I watched the TBN special “35 Years of Friends – Celebrating the Music of Michael W. Smith”. Here’s a highlight reel of that show. So great! All the emotions of decades of music that moved hearts and lives.

Thanks, Michael W. Smith, for living a life on- and off-stage that never compromised what you hold dear – God, your family, and all of us friends of yours.

Michael W. Smith – Grammy Winner and Grandfather – Jeremy V. Jones

10 Best Michael W. Smith SongsPamela Rose Williams (includes his bio and stories)

List of All Songs by Michael W. Smith (A-Z) – with links to the videos

Michael W. Smith – Song List (with links to iTunes)

5) The Last Black Man in San Francisco – Have you ever had to leave a house you loved? One that expressed home almost as much as the people who lived there? When my mom died and we finally had to sell the house where we grew up, it was hard. Every time, I go to home to Georgia, I still drive by that little much-loved house. If its walls could talk…

The film The Last Black Man in San Francisco is the story about a beloved house. I haven’t seen the film yet but it’s on my film list for this summer. Everything I’ve read about it (and watching the trailer below) touched my heart. Comment below if you’ve seen it. I love it already.

YouTube Video – How “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” Was Made – HBO

That’s it for me. Be blessed. Thanks for reading. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Size 14 Is No Longer the Average Size for an American Woman – Chris Adams

Photo Credit: Facebook, Maria Bessler

Worship Wednesday – Hope that Inspires Response – God of This City – Chris Tomlin

Photo Credit: YouTube

This is what the LORD says: “Administer justice and righteousness. Rescue the victim of robbery from his oppressor. Don’t exploit or brutalize the resident alien, the fatherless, or the widow. Don’t shed innocent blood in this place.”  Jeremiah 22:3

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.”Matthew 23:23

It’s easy to get entangled in the negative, life-sucking conversations that bombard us through the mainstream news and social media.

Not today!

There was a time, not too long ago, when friends and coworkers would tell me that I inspired hope. That even when situations seemed hopeless, I could find the glimmer of light still present. The possibility. The “could happen”.

Somehow I have let that hope for our country…and world…flicker and dim.

Today, a light went on for me. A God-inspired remembrance. A hope that goes beyond but also includes us as individuals. A hope that answers the question, “What can one person do?”

I live in this beautiful small city in America. Richmond, Virginia.

Photo Credit: Flickr

It is a city of innovation and renovation. Once the capital of the Confederacy, there is also a history that divides the city.Photo Credit: Flickr, Taber Andrew Bain

Homelessness, poverty, racial discrimination, food insecurity, violence, crime, urban housing and education challenges, and addiction issues are all part of this city’s deep-seated problems.

While we rant about our country’s larger struggles, we sometimes forget that we are very present in the communities we call home.

We may not be able to do much about our nation’s troubles, but right here…right here in Richmond, we can make a difference. God is present and we are His people. In both the Old and New Testaments, He gives direction. It’s for us to act, prayerfully, with authority, and in love. To see our city as He sees it, and to love it accordingly.

I am certain that I will see the LORD’s goodness in the land of the living.  Psalm 27:13

Worship with me – hope with me – to Chris Tomlin‘s God of This City:

[Verse 1]
You’re the God of this city
You’re the king of these people
You’re the lord of this nation
You are

[Verse 2]
You’re the light in this darkness
You’re the hope to the hopeless
You’re the peace to the restless
You are

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

[Chorus]
For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city

[Verse 1]

[Verse 2]

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

[Chorus]
For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here

There is no one like our god
There is no one like you, God

[Chorus]
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here*

*Lyrics to God of This City – Songwriters: Aaron Boyd, Andrew Mccann, Ian Jordan, Peter Comfort, Peter Kernaghan, Richard Bleakley

Story Behind the Song – God of This City also YouTube Video Bluetree God of This City Story

The Lessons of an Innercity Hospital – God Loves Us All the Same – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Do Something by Matthew West – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – God of This City (by Bluetree) – Fishermen’s Project//Cover

YouTube Video – God of Justice – Tim Hughes