Today an old friend has been on my mind…Rick Holm. He died yesterday, March 22, 2020, of pancreatic cancer. He died at a very young 71.
[Yesterday was also the 5th anniversary of the death of Kara Tippetts…also so young when she died…also a life well-lived. Never met her yet she had a huge impact on me, writing about her here.]
The news of Rick’s death hit me hard. With our whole world dealing with the impact of the Coronavirus, we know we may be facing our own contracting of the illness or, worse, the death of people we know and love. That was the overlay of this news for me.
It’s been almost 40 years since Rick and I shared the same space. That’s Rick with the pipe and red suspenders in the image below.
I was the cancer nurse specialist at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Rick was a resident in the internal medicine program of Emory Medical School. Then he went on faculty at the same med school. We saw each other almost every day, not only because of working in close proximity, but because we were also across-the-hall neighbors of an old apartment building on the bus line between Emory and Grady. He gave me the great gift of his friendship.
Rick called South Dakota home. He introduced us to a culture new to us in Atlanta, resorting to his quasi-Swedish accent to tweak a conversation that went too serious. He had such a gift for putting people at east. I think it was because he genuinely cared for people. He found them truly interesting and celebrated them. His smile was as warm and generous as his heart.
As “hall-mates”, we would often join forces on parties and suppers together with friends. Those were sweet days of growing in our professions and sorting out all kinds of world dilemmas. The image above was taken after one of our many Saturday mornings spent at breakfast at Horton’s 5 and Dime near Emory University. We would linger, over coffee and the newspaper, doctors and nurses, and talk about work, politics, and relationships. We had great times together.
Once we were both working together on an obesity task force as so many of our patients at Grady were at risk for obesity-related diseases. We were a group of young doctors, nurses, nutritionists and researchers. Rick was our muse – keeping us both on task and, at the same time, entertained. I think we all gained weight, working over pizza and pasta.
After so many years at Emory/Grady, Rick was one of the grand eligible bachelors. Then he met Joanie…and it was all over.Photo Credit: Facebook, May 2019
It was 1981 when Rick and Joanie left Atlanta for South Dakota. Rick felt moved to finally enter practice outside of academia, and he wanted to give back to the state that gave him his start in life and medicine. I would leave Atlanta a few months later for a teaching job in Connecticut. It didn’t seem we would ever see each other again, and sadly, we didn’t.
As Facebook does sometimes, a post about Prairie Doc popped up “randomly” on my home page. There was that familiar smiling face of Dr. Rick Holm. “Prairie Doc® Media is a project of the Healing Words Foundation which endeavors to enhance health and diminish suffering by communicating useful information, based on honest science, provided in a respectful and compassionate manner. The Foundation engages a variety of media outlets to provide science-based medical information to the greater South Dakota region.” This mission statement or vision sounded just like its founder.
I messaged Prairie Doc to reach out to Rick, and in a few days, he answered back. Below is an excerpt on his life – “Joanie, South Dakota, happy, pancreatic cancer, chance of a cure and wonderful kids”.
There is tons more to say about this ordinary extraordinary man Rick Holm, but I’m going to leave it now..with his website (for his TV and radio offerings, his blog, and his book).
Photo Credit: Facebook, Prairie Doc, December 2019
His book is like having Rick across the table from you…with a cup of coffee and, seemingly, all the time in the world.
You will be missed, Rick. Thanks for leaving so much behind for us in the wake of your journey.
We’re not talking controlling men today or men controlling women, in particular. Today, we are looking at our own leanings toward being controlling women. Ever charting the course toward our own “happy endings” or that of our children.
None of us ever start out taking control because we see it as the best course. We often stumble on controlling. We could even be oblivious to the possibility that we are. If we are awakened to that reality, we can justify it. Figuring we love too much, or we’re loved not enough, or there appears no other recourse but to control our situation.
I married later in life and had the blessing of three children. Being a wife and mom (especially the mom part) did not come naturally to me, even though I myself had an amazing mom. Maybe it was coming into parenthood as a 30-something. It was an intense experience, and I was often riddled with guilt about getting it wrong. The kids all turned out well, I think, but the journey there was broken up by stumbles and starts.
Adult children are a wonderful thing. They take care of themselves (or someone else does, for the most part, right?). They make you proud and sometimes bring you grandchildren. I find myself wanting to draw them in…reel them back home to family dinners or beach vacations or long talks on “life aspirations”.* Is it because I am needy? Or just miss the people who grew up from tiny tots to independent grownups, in what feels like an unguarded instant.
*[It is NOT controlling when parents and children want these sorts of things but logistics are hard to work out, and you take on that work for a mutually desired end. It IS controlling, when we pressure, manipulate, or guilt our families into something they would rather not do.]
Photo Credit: Piqsels (check out all the moms/children images)
Just this week, I saw this video on adjusting to our children growing up. It is a piece by Australian writer Mia Freedman. It is a gushing, tear-jerking essay, but it sums up how we might, as mums, grasp for control…without meaning to. Sigh…
“Babies and toddlers and boys…will grow up and grow away and break up with their mothers. Slowly. But surely. Because they need to. And if they do – when they do – it means we got it right. We parented them right. Whether you have sons or daughters, our role as parents is ultimately to make ourselves redundant and while I don’t know what it’s like to be the parent of an adult woman, I know what it’s like to stumble as my son became a man. There are so many bat crazy things about being a parent and one that definitely wasn’t in the brochure is the way you don’t actually parent one person, you parent many, many different people who are all your child.
There’s the newborn, the baby, the toddler, the pre-schooler, the primary aged kid, the pre-teen, the adolescent, the full-blown teen, the young adult and then the adult. They all answer to the same name. They all call you Mum. And you never ever notice the inflection point where one of those people turns into the next.
You never get to properly say goodbye to all the little people who grow up because you don’t notice the growing, the changing. Except when Facebook sends you those bloody memory reminders that invariably make me cry because it’s like showing me the face of someone I can never see again. Not in that way. Not at that age.” – Mia Freedman
She went on to say, in the piece above, how handy and interesting grown children are and how proud we will be of them. How blessed she is to have had those children, acknowledging how not all women have children or don’t get to see them grown. She marveled that she actually “grew one of my best friends in the world, one of the best men I know, in my own body.”
In each story, we revisit familiar stories of wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters…and what control issues they struggled with. This week, I read the chapter on Rachel’s life…Rachel, the wife of Jacob and the mother of Joseph. Jacob’s family would be the foundation for the nation of Israel. If Rachel knew a “happy ending” was coming, she might not have anguished so about her ability to have children. After a season of barrenness, she had Joseph, the man who would save Israel from years of famine. Right after his birth, she longed out loud for more children. She would die in childbirth, delivering her second son, Benjamin. I wonder if the joy of having her firstborn was diminished in the longing for another.
We struggle in our relationships, longing for something more. Something not yet now. Something reminiscent of what we once had. We take the reins of our relationships into our own hands and try to steer them toward the happy ending of our own choosing.
It’s a lot of work. Exhausting for us and those in the harness of our own desires.
“God wired us to long for meaningful, lasting family relationships. It’s why we care so deeply and tug so insistently on the people we love. But when our tug becomes a yank, and our request becomes a demand, rather than drawing everyone in, we drive them away.” – Shannon Popkin
What do we do with controlling in our own lives or that we experience from other women? I have a few ideas (borne out of my own experience, God’s Word, the wise counsel of other women, including the author Shannon Popkin):
Refuse to think ill of that controlling woman. The control may very well be borne out of a heart of love…just taken too far. If you’re the controlling woman, then give yourself grace, as you pull in and examine your own heart and motives.
Stop self-referencing – thinking it’s about you. If you are beginning to see that controlling can rip relationships apart, then lay down your own agenda. Walk in your spouse’s/adult children’s shoes a bit. We may think that what we want is what’s best for everyone, and it could be, on the surface…but it won’t matter if the “making it happen” drives a wedge between us all.
Don’t get caught in the web of comparing your own marriage or family with someone else’s. There are always going to be other spouses and parents who are more gifted, cooler, maybe even more loving, and more capable. That’s a good thing, when we stop comparing. We want the best for our children. We can be thankful they have all sorts of great people in their lives. Let it go. Maybe we can serve them in ways that speak to how they feel loved…without our own agenda coming into play…or wondering if it’s good enough. Nope, not going there. Nope, not doing it.
Release the fear of what could happen if our adult children make their own path to a happy ending. This is a place for prayer and for trusting that they are in good hands, as are we. We raised them. It’s done. Celebrate that, loving them with wide open, unselfish hearts…praying for them, releasing them (and our fears) to God.
Tuck our story into the larger one. Shannon Popkin talks about how we author our lives like a “chunky board book”. We (and our spouses/children) are the characters. We, the wives/moms, could even be the heroine. The book has bright and engaging illustrations, and it ends just right, with all the “happy” possible in those sturdy pages. What if we trusted our lives, and that of our family’s, into the hands of a greater Author. One who is writing a story across the ages…and ours is tucked into it. When I’m in my right mind, and not trying to configure a scenario where my family is all mine, then I can see the glory of that greater story. And live the life God has given me today.
Letting the lesser story go…today. This could be what I give up for Lent…the whole control thing. Maybe it will stick. I sure hope so.
Life…it’s precious. It’s what we know. We depend on it. We think it lasts forever. Here. In our best health. Surrounded by our people.
The thing is, what we also come to know is life’s brevity. The Bible calls it “a vapor, a mist, a breath, a passing breeze.” Yet, life is also described as something beyond our finite understanding – beyond our wildest imaginings – in its possibilities, its purposes. It stretches across into eternity. Nothing is wasted. All of life is meant to be lived fully – the great good of it along with the sudden sorrows.
America was rocked this weekend by the helicopter crash that killed athlete and philanthropist Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi, two of her basketball team friends, parents, coach, and the pilot. One very famous person but also eight others who all leave families and friends grieving their instant deaths. Life is precious.
Then here in Richmond, a man in his early 40s in a near neighborhood also died this weekend. He was crossing a busy street at night, on his way back home from a store, and was hit by a car. It was fatal. This man had, months ago, left his friends and work in another state and came here to care for his grandparents, in their 90s and frail in health. Like the nine people above, this man also died suddenly. Leaving behind those who will grieve him, too.
I contrast these two because in life and in death, we matter, whatever our circumstance. To each other and to God. Our lives matter…and when death interrupts…it affects us…even when it happens to strangers.
Today, a friend of ours is undergoing surgery for cancer. For several hours he will be in the operating room, surrounded by an excellent surgeon and staff specialized in his particular kind of surgery. Family and friends wait outside…praying. We are all praying. He is young and we are praying for him to do extraordinarily well.
As you read this, your own stories may come to mind. People who make life what it is for you. By faith, trusting in God for good outcomes. These are the kinds of stories and situations that give us pause and move us toward gratitude for this life.
Our wee grandchildren live near us. It is a joy to see them often. Their take on life is much simpler than ours as their adults. Their joys are simple, too – time with their people, a favorite toy, snacks they get to choose, a hug and kiss for comfort, a new discovery, any cause for laughter.
They don’t understand death…but neither do we, really.
I’m re-learning from these grandchildren to squeeze all the goodness to be had out of this life. Being older and understanding that death comes, I also get to look forward to what comes after… life forever with a God who is good and who is love, and with all those who went before us.
Welcome to the weekend! Here in a flash are my week’s faves:
1) Moment of Lament – This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first landing of ships carrying African peoples, destined for slavery or servanthood, to American soil. [See link for some of the controversy around this anniversary.] A Moment of Lament organized by For Richmond is scheduled for several churches in our city to mark this anniversary, and to thank God for those who endured this terrible offense and have profoundly contributed to our country’s identity and character.
2) Anxiety and Depression – Two connected and chronic human struggles in society today are anxiety and depression. None of us is immune to these, and we all have loved ones who are especially caught in the battle against either anxiety or depression or both.
A favorite author of mine, Frank Sonnenberg, has written on 30 distressing habits we can develop over time that lead us to anxiety and depression. Some of these include keeping bad company, prizing possessions over relationships, holding onto anger, bowing to others’ agendas for your life, and entitlement. Just to name a few. Check out his list, see if you’ve fallen into some of these, but don’t let his list guilt you (another one of his 30). Understanding how we can fall into these habits can help us climb out of some of our struggles.
Hari has long struggled himself with anxiety and depression. In preparation for writing his book on the subject, he took a literal journey of discovery. Traveling across the world to interview a myriad of specialists on the subject of anxiety/depression. The TED Talk is worth your 20 minutes. In short, he talked about how sometimes medication is necessary for the chemical imbalance some of us have making us vulnerable to anxiety/depression. Many more of us, however, don’t have a chemical imbalance. Our struggles with anxiety and depression relate more to “unmet needs”. The needs for meaning, purpose, community, connectedness. He talks about how we have allowed false values (recognition on social media, fame or celebrity, individual effort) to replace larger values of actually being present in our world, touching lives as only we’re able to do, connecting with life (and I will add God, here).
14:22 minutes into the TED Talk, he offers an exercise that can make a difference in the quality of our lives. An exercise that’s meant to be done in community.
3) John’s Crazy Socks – Socks for Christmas, right? Always a good idea. John Lee Cronin and Mark X. Cronin are the co-founders of John’s Crazy Socks. Mark is the dad and John is the son. The whole concept of these socks is so special that you need to see the story:
Whether you buy socks at Walmart or pay the extra for John’s Crazy Socks is not the issue. What counts is that some folks have made this a very successful business, and it is much deserved! Thanks, Mark and John. You’ve definitely made us happy just knowing you a bit.
4) Relapse/Recovery – For any of us who have friends or family in recovery from drug addiction, we know the dread of relapse. One of my best friends is a recovered alcoholic. She has spent most of her life sober…to the point, in fact, that she feels God has cured her of alcoholism. However, does she ever drink? Absolutely not.
She just doesn’t go there.
Someone else in our lives has relapsed. After several years drug-free. I will protect their privacy, but the relapse has been devastating. For us, and I’m sure for them.
It happens. Not always, but sometimes. However, it still doesn’t define the person. That person, after recovery, has a job, and a family, and hopes and dreams. When a relapse occurs all those things are threatened.Photo Credit: PxHere
With the opioid epidemic, incarceration is not the answer. Drug rehab residential programs are less costly and more effective, but also are not without risks. After years of drug-free recovery, a person who relapses is more vulnerable for overdose and death because of lowered tolerance for the drugs.
Relapse also leaves the family vulnerable…emotionally and socioeconomically.
For those of us who love these wrestling with the work of recovery and the risk of relapse…we learn what we can and we rally around them and their families in healthy and truly helpful ways.
5) Alex Trebek – A quiz show on TV that millions of Americans watch every day is Jeopardy. We wait to call Dave’s mom until after Jeopardy is off. Alex Trebek, the show-host, is as much a household name is any celebrity in our pop culture. He makes the show even more interesting and sometimes funny and treats his guest contestants with honor.
We were all saddened to hear of his cancer diagnosis earlier this year. Pancreatic cancer. Thankful to hear he was determined to fight it, and he has! Alex Trebek instills confidence and if anyone can successfully stave off pancreatic cancer, he can. He announced recently, during this beloved show, that he was going back on chemotherapy, we were stunned. Even one of the contestants forfeited his opportunity to win more prize money to show support for Alex.
Here’s the video of what happened…including Alex’s emotional response – #WeLoveYouAlex – Praying for you.
We heard Bob Costas speak recently at Richmond Forum – a real national treasure.
“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.
“[We need to] come out of Moral Superiority Castle, cross over the stagnant moat of separation and meet the kingdom of God where justice and mercy meet, where the never-ending stream is full of justice and goodness; where people are messed up and broken and dirty like old cracked pots that leak and feel pretty useless and that, that is where we are and where we are a part of the repairing and restoring and transforming of the world. It is a place of tension. It is a place of unresolved hurt. No-one said that where justice and mercy meet was a comfortable place.” – Kevin Lewis
Bring heaven to earth, Lord
Bring peace where there’s fear
Bring life where there’s death, Lord
Bring joy in these tears
Bring love where there’s lust, Lord
Bring hope where there’s pain
Bring rest where there’s chaos
Bring faith where there’s fame
You invite us to partner with you
To see your kingdom come
We are blessed, to bless a world in pieces We are loved, to love where love is not We are changed, to be the change you promised We are freed, to be your hands, O God
Bring home to the homeless
Bring keys to the chained
Bring worth to the purchased
And touch to the shamed
Bring flesh from your word, Lord
Bring truth where there’s spin
Bring risk where’s there safety
And grace where there’s sin
In the broken, we shall see restored
The image of our King
We are blessed…
Lord we cry out to you
Change the atmosphere
Breathe new life in all who gather here
We are blessed…
Bring justice to profit
Bring patience to growth
Bring wisdom to progress
Plant trees on this road
Bring freedom from debt, Lord
An end to excess
Bring closer your kingdom
By quiet success
May we grow in the knowledge of you
Through every heart and face
We are blessed…*
Postscript: Andy Flannagan, in a town meeting with London mayor Sadiq Khan, at a local church, talked (in this video clip) about what we as Christians do well. He closed with “The harder thing is to go back to the Jericho Road to work out how to stop anybody else getting mugged.” (Luke 10:35-37)
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.
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.
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.
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.
You take our lives
Flawed, yet beautiful
Lord, You’re merciful
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*
Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them. He remains faithful forever, executing justice for the exploited and giving food to the hungry. The Lord frees prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord raises up those who are oppressed. The Lord loves the righteous. The Lord protects resident aliens and helps the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. – Psalm 146:5-9
What an experience to have our vision restored! In the 8th century, an Irish poet, Dallán Forgaill, penned the words of what would become the hymn Be Thou My Vision. He was blind. The legend goes that his vision was miraculously restored later in his life.
Whatever our visual capabilities, oh to have the vision that only God can give! To see the world as He sees it.
“God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7b
Hear this, you foolish and senseless people. They have eyes, but they don’t see. They have ears, but they don’t hear.
These people have stubborn and rebellious hearts. They have turned aside and have gone away. – Jeremiah 5:21, 23
The strongest memories I have of this song Be Thou My Vision are connected with worship across North Africa. When our children were growing up, we “attended church” – expat families, from various Christian denominations, who gathered once or twice a week to worship in English. We sang great hymns, old and contemporary, with guitar accompaniment, and worship leaders with more British accents than American. I remember our little family, strung out along a pew of these little churches. Our stair-step children, with shoulders squared, singing from hymnals in the early years and then with lyrics projected on the stuccoed front walls.
We sang Be Thou My Vision, this old Irish hymn, across three countries in Heliopolis Community Church (Cairo), St. George’s (Tunis), and St. John’s (Casablanca). Before our children all launched back into life in the US, we “attended” traditional church less and became a part of house churches. There we still sang Be Thou My Vision, still with guitar…less with a British accent.
Today we no longer “attend church” in various African countries. Nor are we a part of a house church. Today we are deep in the life of a larger church, bringing our own stuff to the stuff of many others. All of us collectively love God, albeit imperfectly, of course, and want to express His perfect love in our communities.
This Sunday during worship at Movement Church we sang Be Thou My Vision, and I was reminded of its great truths and of other years, in other places, where His truth was being made known. In places where we prayed to see people as He sees them…and to love them as He loves.
Worship with me to the rendition performed by Welsh singer Noel Richards. A bit slower than I’m used to but it allows us to soak up the words in worship. Also, all five verses are included which is important.
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tow’r:
Raise Thou me heav’nward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.*
[Adapted from my presentation at a recent home-school conference – Part 1 on Raising Adults with the focus on work and responsibility can be found here.]
One of the most challenging tasks a parent has is to teach a small child how to be deferential – to respectfully give way to another, to put another first. Whew! This is a hard one. It’s not just about helping a child understand sharing. It’s our demonstrating and them seeing the value of people and taking hold of how we can serve or help them, no matter our age. Not for any reward for ourselves but just because others matter.
The battles of will that communicate “Me, me!” or “Mine, mine!” can wear us out – both parent and child.
Yesterday we talked about work and kids’ discovery that they can make a difference. Work and exercising responsibility are their own reward. Often there is compensation, but work is a head issue – a decision made to insert ourselves into a situation for the good of all (both the worker and the larger community).
Serving is a heart issue. In the role of the server, we do ultimately benefit, but the whole focus is on the one served. Serving, by its nature, requires sacrifice, sometimes small but, even for a child, it can be substantial.
Before we dive in, let’s pray to wrap our own hearts around this.
“Father, we want to be wholly Yours. Whatever You ask of us…we want to be ready and willing. Not only to be laborers in the Harvest, but to serve with the same heart and mind that Jesus had while He walked this earth. Humble, loving, deferential to others. A servant heart, a mind bent toward You, God, a body and life laid-down in love for others. We want to be responsible and to do good work. Teach us to take our hearts even higher…or lower as the case may be…to serve as Jesus did, in Your abundant grace. In His name. Amen.”
When we model and teach work, the mindset or worldview we communicate to our children is “Get it done and done well”. In action and attitude.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8
“He has shown you, O mankind, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4
What if, along with with leading our children to be responsible, we created a culture of serving? What would our homes be like if our kiddos embraced serving as a good thing and something they were capable of? And not just for a jelly bean or a favorite TV show.
Lisa Jacobson, author, encourager and mother of 8 has a lot to say about her own experience of creating a culture of serving:
“I did things right. The way things should be done. Oh, and, of course, I was serving my family all the while. I was the sacrificial mom who cooked, laundered, and cleaned up after everyone. Most every job was done by me.
And, as a “shining model” of service, I figured my children would eventually follow my example. It was obvious that I worked hard and did my best to please our family. So wouldn’t they just naturally follow in my footsteps? More is caught than taught, right? But you know something? They didn’t catch on like I thought they would. They really enjoyed being served…and it kind of stopped there. I was a good giver. They were good takers.” – Lisa Jacobson
She then discovered how to teach her children the joy of serving others:
Start by letting them work [serve] alongside you.
Teach your children to notice what needs to be done. [This one point is so worth your time reading thus far – both in working & serving – guiding our children to see, for themselves, what needs to be done. It’s a strong beginning to winning their hearts.]
Let them enjoy helping out.
Instruct them in how they can be a help to you [and others].
To bear the image of God. [“Be fruitful & multiply.” Our human calling is inextricably linked with the family where we first found our name, language, identity, and home.]
To restore the image of God. [Our distinctive calling as Christians is to actively seek out the places where that image has been lost, to place ourselves at particular risk on behalf of the victims of idolatry and injustice. So in every workplace, Christians should be those who speak up most quickly, and sacrifice their own privileges most readily, for those whose image-bearing has been compromised by that organization’s patterns of neglect. In every society, Christians should be the most active in using their talents on behalf of those the society considers marginal or unworthy. In every place where the gospel isn’t known, Christians should be finding ways to proclaim Jesus as the world’s true Lord and “the image of the invisible God.”]
To make the most of today (contingent calling). [If you get the first two right, the third is practically an afterthought. Your third calling is your contingent calling: to make the most of today, while it is called today. “Contingent” is a word used to describe something that could be otherwise—in that sense, it’s the opposite of necessary. It’s also used to describe something that depends on something else—in that sense, it’s the opposite of independent. You are in some particular place today—maybe at school, maybe on a bus, maybe in a workplace, maybe at home. And you are there with certain resources—memory, energy, reason, attention, skill. All these are contingent. It is God within these that we must learn to discern and then serve as He leads.
[Heady topics for a 2 y/o maybe…but highly teachable concepts, as well…how would we teach and model these three callings to our little ones?]
“There is one topic that I’m extremely interested in that the writers of Scripture do not seem interested in at all—and that topic is, actually, me. I am quite interested in the expressive individual that I call me—but Scripture turns out not to be interested in me hardly at all. It is somewhat more interested in me as a member of a community, connected to one of the “nations” of the earth—but really, what Scripture is interested in is God, God’s mission in the world, God’s commissioning of a people, and God’s gracious invitation to me to stop being so interested in me and start being absolutely fascinated by [Him and] his mission.” – Andy Crouch
How do we cultivate a culture of serving in our home, community – for ourselves and our children? What are you doing? What do you dream of doing? Please share in Comments below. Thanks.
As with work, so with service, we not only model but insure our children have the opportunity to contribute what only they can do – for others…whether operating out of their strengths or their weaknesses.
Looking back, I don’t think we created a culture of serving in our home during our kids’ childhood. It was just easier to do it myself, right? They had so little time, between schoolwork and their other “just being children/youth” activities. This is a regret for me today. There were moments, however, – bright and shining…teachable moments where they did see how serving mattered…especially when they (at whatever age) showed up to serve. Now I hope to help our grown-up children model and teach serving to their grands. Can’t wait to see them, growing up to adulthood, discover the continuous joy of serving others.
[Adapted from my presentation at a recent home-school conference. Part 2 – Raising Adults – Creating a Culture of Serving can be found here.]
Being a parent is a humbling work…one way or other, it takes us to our knees at some point. In thinking about how we shape our little ones and raise them into adulthood, I was driven to prayer…a lot.
“Oh God, You have given us such crucial work in raising our children to adulthood. Help us to be faithful to live in the tension of remembering they are still small/young and yet pointing them to their place in this world and Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
In the book of Genesis, we have a beautiful picture of God’s work – His eye for detail, His gift of order – He provided everything that was needful…including work for us.
God has given us all work to do. It was His plan from the beginning… In training up our children, we will always push against the counter-pressure of entitlement in our kids’ lives (and in our own)… but we are not alone. He’s already promised that “His yoke is easy, and His burden’s light”.
The Scripture is full of wisdom pointing us toward teaching our children to become responsible adults…understanding the importance of showing up, working in whatever capacity they can.
So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. – Nehemiah 4:6
Anyone who can be trusted in little matters can also be trusted in important matters. But anyone who is dishonest in little matters will be dishonest in important matters. – Luke 16:10
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.– Proverbs 22:6
“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord – you serve the Lord Christ.” – Colossians 3:23-24
What goes into raising adults? Teaching our children and giving opportunity to see the value of work, to treat people and possessions appropriately, and to see themselves as a responsible part of a larger community. When does it start? Very early.
Author and parenting coach Reggie Joiner talks about the key to raising responsible adults is to give them responsibilities…now.
We are called, by God, to work…from the beginning…to have dominion…and to essentially clean up our own messes. As we learn to do that at home – caring for ourselves and contributing to our family – we can quite naturally expend the effort, and extend that, toward our larger community.
Joiner defines responsibility and counsels parents how to train it:
“Responsibility is an interesting word.
It’s actually two words. Response and ability.
Do you see the link between the two concepts? If you want to raise kids to become responsible, then lead them toward a life where they develop the right attitude toward work and tasks. Give them chores at every stage.
Lead so their response reveals their ability.
Lead so their response matches their ability.
Lead so their response grows their ability.
Think about it this way:
Home should be the first job every kid ever has. What kind of experiences are you giving your children to prepare them to be responsible adults?” – Reggie Joiner
She talks about this being the anxiety generation. Some of that anxiety revolves around the pressures coming out of social media. “There is an existential anxiety that goes with having so many choices in front of you and being afraid you’re going to make the wrong choice and miss out and go down the wrong path.” – “Everything you do in life [marriage, work, weekends] is supposed to be this huge self-fulfillment…such that you can post it on social media.” Too often, our experiences aren’t fulfilling and then the anxiety comes, “did I make the wrong choice?” – Notes from the podcast with Karen Swallow Prior
Dr. Prior supports education as a help in correcting the “tunnel vision and distorted vision” that can evolve in young people’s thinking. Work throughout our children’s growing up years can also impact thinking as well…restoring perspective.
Instead of asking: “What will keep our teens out of trouble?” “What will make them happy?” or “What will get them into college?”, we need to switch our focus to a different set of queries: “How can we introduce realistic elements of adulthood into their worlds?” What activities best provide real feedback about their effort and skill?” and “Which other adults can we recruit to help pass our values on to them?” In short, we need to switch our focus from activities that reflect living happily as a teenager to activities that let our young people actually use their energy, connect with adults, and make choices that matter in order to begin moving successfully into adulthood. – Allen & Allen
In their helps for parents of teens (and younger children), the Allen’s coach how to guide kids to become contributing members of the family, how to give genuine, real-world feedback toward maturity, how to connect their kids with role model adults (including the parents themselves), and how to positively stretch their kids toward skill- and confidence-building.
Writer and stylist Jo-lynne Shane shares a ‘raising adults” system she uses with her three children.
[Her] system based on the following principles:
logical consequences vs discipline and anger
choices vs commands
questions vs lectures
no idle threats
You see, when you allow them to experience the natural consequences of their choices rather than resorting to nagging, yelling, idle threats, and unrelated punishments, you put the responsibility for their actions on their shoulders. Too often parents make their kids’ problems their problems. Then the parents get angry and the kids learn nothing.
By giving them choices rather than commands, they don’t have the option to disobey. The key is to give only choices that you can live with, and then to be willing to follow through.
Asking questions instead of lecturing encourages kids to think for themselves and be discerning. – Jo-lynne Shane
All our children are, bit by bit, becoming adults. [Like we are often told, it comes faster than we can imagine.] We as parents recognize the adult inside each one and build scaffolding, just enough support, to help each child grow into that adult. At every age, they can see it matters that they show up. It matters.