Category Archives: Pray

Worship Wednesday – Godspeed – Just a Closer WALK with Thee

Photo Credit: Screenshot from Godspeed

Then the man and his wife heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the breeze of the day, and they hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called out to the man, “Where are you?”Genesis 3:9

The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary; His understanding is beyond searching out. He gives power to the faint and increases the strength of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall. But those who wait upon the LORD will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:28-31

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast [stand firm], immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Spiritually speaking, I’m a runner…oh not in the champion circle kind of runner (at least not yet)…but definitely one eager to be in the thick of things, even if it’s “slow and steady wins the race” plodding.

It’s not because I’m old and time seems to be flying, although that does factor in. I’ve always had a sense of urgency, a fire in my bones, about the lost, the unreached, the displaced or marginalized, and those who “fall through the cracks”.

Because of this, it happens sometimes that I may run ahead of God and exhaust myself at pulling at the reins or rubbing against the yoke the Lord calls “easy”. In my fits and starts, I make a burden out of what’s not meant to be.

let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.Hebrews 12:1

In the Scriptures above, the Lord calls to mind a pace in heart and life that is more in accordance with His will and His character. In the Garden, after Adam and Eve had sinned, the Lord came walking and called out to them. “Where are you?” Of course, He knew where they were…but the question implies a distance from Him. They had determined to go their own way…bad news for them and the rest of us.

What’s the lesson? The Scripture is full of pacing and direction. When we are out of step with God, we are truly on our own…off helter-skelter deceived that we’re about His work (or maybe not caring really, just checking off the boxes of a “good life”).

We will at times, in our journey with the Lord, walk, run, even fly. Other times, He calls us to stand firm in the heat of battle, and He also calls us to rest, sheltering us from the heat.

This is our God…the One whose pace, which can seem exceedingly slow but, is perfectly measured. For our good and His great glory.

Just this week, I confess a chafing in the instruction of our dear pastor. He was calling us as small group leaders to take a summer break. To relax… I honestly have no idea what he said over the next few sentences because the word “relax” triggered a brain freeze. Knowing him, and without following up (to be honest), I believe he meant that the programming can be relaxed and we can enjoy an opportunity to change things up…to go deeper…to truly get to know one another in different ways (including other ‘one anothers’ with whom we don’t usually share space).

So thanks, Pastor Cliff.

Below you will find some resources that aren’t meant to be extra but actually the core of this Worship Wednesday. Take time to check out all of them – short time commitment and long impact. The short film Godspeed – the Pace of Being Known is amazing! This whole idea of giving ourselves to God and each other – where we can truly be known and know one another– is both healing and life-transforming. So… don’t necessarily slow down, but find God’s pace…let’s do it together.

Take that walk with God. Find Your People. Find your parish.

An article, a podcast, a short film, and, finally, a song:

Godspeed – Mark Buchanan – don’t miss this short article. So good!

Made for This Podcast – Jennie Allen – Life in Scotland with Pastor Matt Canlis – this podcast is the story of Pastor Canlis’ journey to Godspeed.

Godspeed – the Pace of Being Known – documentary – Matt Canlis – Watch this! Beautiful, every bit of it.

YouTube Video – Just a Closer Walk with Thee – Alabama – old song, slowed down and lovely.

[All screenshots above taken from the documentary Godspeed]

Worship Wednesday – Remember – Maverick City Music x UPPER ROOM

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Jeremy Taylor

From the mouths of children and infants You have ordained praise on account of Your adversaries, to silence the enemy and avenger. When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place – what is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him?Psalm 8:2-4

Let’s just start right here. It’s been difficult for me to write a Worship Wednesday this week because the news has been so distracting and demoralizing, even defeating at times.

How do we let that happen? Given the God we know who also knows us (1 Corinthians 8:3). Nothing in our world right now is a surprise to Him. Is He angry at how sin is abounding? Absolutely. A pure and measured anger. An anger that accompanies His perfect compassion for the suffering of His children.

Gentle and Lowly – the Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers – Dane Ortlund – highly recommend this for our comfort in knowing Jesus

In this season of distress, our own compassion is matched by our accompanying anger at the wrongs around us. Our attention is drawn to what’s seen and we forget the glorious unseen.

Author, pastor Tim Keller‘s tweet helped me clear my head.

Photo Credit: Twitter –  @timkellernyc

Oh Lord, help us remember You. You are near and You are wholly and perfectly feeling the pain this world is experiencing. Your plan is in motion…whether we see it or not. You are moving in our lives today. We do not need to fear. Our eyes are on You right now.

Maverick City + UPPER ROOM‘s song Remember applies well to these moments of upheaval and struggle. It reflects Jesus’ command to remember Him through the Lord’s Supper and takes it farther to a daily sacrifice of praise. What He did for us we could not do for ourselves or each other. The Lord Jesus is still our advocate and intercessor. Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: Timothy Keller, Quote Fancy, Get Wallpapers

Worship and remember with me.

We see You on the cross
And You’re beautiful, God
The blood speaks a better word, yeah

The bread, Your body
The wine, Your blood
Sweet communion
You set a table for us
The crucified Jesus
No greater love
Than the bread, Your body
Than the wine, Your blood

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember
Yes, we will, yes, we will
Yeah

The holes in Your hands
And the wounds in Your side
Thirty-nine lashes
Brought me back to life
And before resurrection
There was a grave
In hell, there was a battle
And my life was saved

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

Yes, we will, yes, we will (Hey)
Oh, we can see it now
And we can see how (Mmm, yeah)
Oh, Your blood made a way
Your blood made a way
Hey, hey

And this is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, would you look at Him?
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him

And oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, would you just look at Him? Look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, would you just look at Him?
Oh, our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, won’t you look at Him?
Oh, our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him (Look at Him)
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him (Look at Him), oh (Hey)

Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (Look at Him, look at Him)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (Look at Him, look at Him)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His eyes like fire)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His hair like wool)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His feet like brass)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (He’s beautiful)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His eyes like fire)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His hair like wool)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His feet like brass)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (He’s beautiful)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him, oh

Oh-oh, we will remember (Oh, hey)
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, hey, we will remember

And how could we forget?
After what we’ve experienced
Oh, it’s unforgettable (Woo)
It’s unforgettable
Oh, how we could forget? (Look at Him)
After what we experienced
Oh, up from the muck and the miry clay
He lifted me (He lifted me)
Up from the muck and the miry clay
He lifted me (He lifted me)
Oh, I remember, I won’t forget
How He took my life from the pit (Hey)
I remember, I won’t forget
How He took my life from the pit, oh
We remember, we won’t forget (Yeah, yeah)
How You took our lives from the pit
We remember, we won’t forget
Look at where we are now
Look at where we were back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our life from the pit (Hey)
Oh, we remember, we won’t forget
Look at where I am now
Look at where I was back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our life from the pit (Yeah)
We remember, we won’t forget
Look at where I am now
Look at where I was back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our lives (From the pit), hey
We remember, we won’t forget
(Look at where we are now)
Lift your voice, lift your voice

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior (Oh, just to know you)
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember*

We are far from unmoved by the news of the day – war, wildfires, abortion battles, soaring prices, drug deaths, and racial divides. Yet, in the midst of being the church in these situations, we turn our eyes to Jesus, fix them on Him…and remember.

*Lyrics to Remember by Maverick City x Upper Room

YouTube Video – Remember (Shortened Version) – Lyric Video

Photo Credit: Timothy Keller, Quote Fancy

Photo Credit: Heartlight, C. S. Lewis

Jesus and Holy Week – Thursday, Day 5 – Passover Celebration and His Last Supper Before the Cross

Photo Credit – Baptist Press – Courtesy of DeMoss News Pond

[Adapted from the Archives]

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

The Thursday before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion was the awaited celebration of Passover. In this day, we have a picture of Jesus, in all his humanity, and in all his deity. All four of the Gospels written about Jesus’ life have the account of this day’s events (Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14; Luke 22:7-65; John 13:1-18:27).

After sunset, the Jewish people would take the Passover meal together – as families usually. They would share the Seder and remember how God protected them during the days of their slavery in Egypt. Photo Credit: Seder Meal, Robert Couse-Baker, Flickr

When Jesus and his disciples gathered around this meal, there was not just looking back, but also a looking forward. The disciples still may not have understood that Jesus was hours away from dying. However, I’m sure they listened carefully to his teaching in those sacred moments together.

This Thursday is known as Maundy Thursday. Maundy means “commanded” and also can refer to the ceremonial washing of feet.  Jesus took upon himself to wash the dusty feet of his disciples, modeling for them his command to love one another (John 13:34-35).Photo Credit: Heartlight

After Jesus and his disciples finished their meal together, he would go into the garden Gethsemane to pray. They were all with him, except Judas Iscariot, who had stolen away during the meal. He would bring Jesus’ enemies to trap him there in the garden in the dark of night. Jesus prayed there for a long time that evening. He wrestled with his heavenly Father over the need for him to die. “Oh my Father, if it is possible, let this cup [of suffering and death]pass from me.” Then, settled in his obedience, “O my Father, if this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” [Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:42]Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Sometime during that dark night of the soul, he turned his attention toward his disciples and all the rest of us, across the ages, who would follow him. His prayer to the Father, recorded in John 17, is exquisitely beautiful, especially in the context of this difficult night. [Take time to read it in full, but I’ve included a part of it below.]

“Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.  I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

Then out of the darkness, Judas came to betray Jesus. He was leading a group of the religious leaders, along with a huge company of soldiers. Although Jesus’ disciples wanted to resist his arrest, Jesus refused their intervening and surrendered himself…not to the mob, as much as to the will of the Father.

The betrayal was complete. His disciples fled (although those closest to him would soon follow after him). Jesus would spend the rest of the night in the tormenting custody of his enemies. The countdown to the cross had begun in earnest. A countdown that actually began at the Fall of humanity, and, under the careful watch of God, our Father…a countdown toward restoring us back to Himself.

One more day

YouTube video – Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn) by Keith & Kristyn Getty

Spotify Playlist From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Beth Wayland

Holy Week – Day 5: Thursday’s Passover, Last Supper – Mary Fairchild

Maundy Thursday 2015: The History Behind The Holy Thursday Before Easter – Also enjoy the beautiful Lent Meditations Slideshow at end of article.

Jesus and Holy Week – Monday, Day 2 – Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Cleanses the Temple

Photo Credit: Fig Tree by Bob Orchard

[Adapted from the Archives]

On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!”Mark 11:12-14

When Jesus woke on Monday morning, after that glorious Sunday entering Jerusalem…I wonder what he thought. Did he know that, in just four days, he would be crucified? Whew…

Back to Monday:

During that week in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples spent the nights with friends in Bethany, two miles outside of the city. Each morning, they would walk into Jerusalem. On that Monday morning, just four days prior to his crucifixion, Jesus became hungry on the walk in. Seeing a leafy fig tree, he looked for fruit. With fig trees, where there are leaves, there should be figs. Since green figs are edible, and it wasn’t yet harvest season, there should still be some fruit on the tree.

When he found no figs, Jesus cursed the tree. This seems out of character for Jesus, until his action is put in the context of his culture and community. Throughout his public ministry, especially as he became more known and revered, the Jewish religious leaders held him in contempt. Jesus’ teaching of our dependence on God’s righteousness and not our own flew in the face of the Pharisaical teaching of the day – that of strict adherence to Jewish law as the only hope of finding favor with God. For Jesus, the leafy barren fig tree must have been a picture of religious Jews of that day, all flash and finery but no fruit of faith.

“Christ’s single miracle of Destruction, the withering of the fig-tree, has proved troublesome to some people, but I think its significance is plain enough. The miracle is an acted parable, a symbol of God’s sentence on all that is ‘fruitless’ and specially, no doubt, on the official Judaism of that age. That is its moral significance.”C. S. Lewis

Jesus was left still physically hungry. He remained spiritually hungry  as well – for this people of the Book to receive the good news that the Messiah had come.

Finally, arriving back in Jerusalem, Jesus was deeply troubled by what he found inside the Temple. The crowds of Passover pilgrims did not disturb him, but temple grounds turned marketplace did. In this sanctified place, meant only for worship, there were money-changers and sellers of animals for sacrifice, right in the Court of the Gentiles – in the only place where non-Jewish God-believers could worship.

Photo Credit:Expulsion of the Moneychangers from the Temple” by Luca Giordano

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”Matthew 21:12-13

Often in film depictions of Jesus cleansing the temple, he appears a crazed individual, flailing about, throwing tables and flinging pigeons into the air. I can’t even imagine him that way. We can’t know how it happened except that in Jesus’ anger, he did not sin. He would not sin. I know the Jesus Film is just another director’s film rendering, but in this scene, Jesus showed considerable restraint. Disturbed at the buying and selling that actually kept believing Gentiles from worshiping, he moved to correct the situation. He was unafraid of the temple officials, burning with zeal for his Father to be truly worshiped in that place.

Zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.Psalm 69:9

Later in the week, he himself would be the one for sale –  sold for 30 pieces of silver, betrayed by one of his own disciples, to satisfy the wrath of the religious leaders. That story is for another day.

This Holy Monday, we are drawn again to this Messiah who teaches us that the way we live our lives matters but not more than the way we relate to God. He makes space for us…room for all of us to receive Him. He is holy, and in His righteousness, we stand…on solid ground.

Holy Week – Day 2: Monday Jesus Clears the Temple

YouTube Video with Lyrics of In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

Reasoning Why Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree

Monday of Holy Week

The Righteous Anger of Jesus

Cleansing the Court of the Gentiles

Jesus Film Media – website & app to watch videos

Worship Wednesday – Sidelined? By Whom? – A Musical Account of Moses and His God – Ken Medema

Photo Credit: Heartlight

The Lord asked him [Moses], “What is that in your hand?”
“A staff,” he replied.
“Throw it on the ground,” he said. So Moses threw it on the ground, it became a snake, and he ran from it. The Lord told Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grab it by the tail.”
So he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand.
“This will take place,” he continued, “so that they will believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”Exodus 4:3-5
The life of Moses inspires us all. He definitely had seasons when he must have felt side-lined…looking out the palace windows with no royal way to help the Israelite slaves; then 40 years tending sheep on the far side of nowhere; and finally after leading God’s people through the wilderness to the Promised Land, dying without entering himself.
Who sidelines us? What exactly sidelines us? Too often we are our own limiting factor…we put ourselves on the bench.
Is God not still at work in our lives…through every season?
Earlier this week, I was lamenting (maybe even whining) to a friend about something that gets to me from time to time. That feeling of being sidelined…after a lifetime of great productivity and unmerited influence. What is it, I asked her (or maybe God), about this season that is so hard? That feeling of being place-less, ministry-less. Surely it’s not my age or gender…or is it? Is there no more fruitfulness to look forward to this side of Heaven?
Can I execute bountiful pity parties or what?!
Then even in this talk with my friend, God’s sweet truth broke through. Dr. Curt Thompson is spot on when he talks about how we can come “to our senses” just in the simple experience of being seen…being known by a trusted friend. At the end of that conversation, as we prayed, the tears flowed (which is rare for me), and God reminded me of His own goodness and good purposes – and while I had breath, nothing was about to thwart what He was doing in and through me…in and through all of us.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Just in the course of a few hours after that conversation, the Lord worked His grace in my heart, and I’m back in the life He has so generously given me.

5 lessons God taught me…again:

  • Let go of the past. – We can romanticize and pedestalize previous seasons of our life and work. We look back over the plow (Luke 9:62) and long for other days. This is the field. This is the day where He has us now. I don’t want to miss what He has for my life today because my thoughts are languishing, settled in the distant past. We don’t forget the past, but we remember it, glorifying God, not glorying in our own supposed “usefulness”. Sigh…
  • Check your heart. – Anytime a spirit of complaining clouds our thinking, it is a good reminder to see what’s going on in our hearts. Am I feeling unseen, unappreciated, under-utilized? [So what?! If that happens then we’re completely free to listen more closely to how God is directing.] Arm-chair quarterbacking is not a good look for any of us. I remember my mom was a treasure to the young pastors she had through the years. In fact, three of them preached her funeral…with others in the room, with the same testimony. They talked of how she loved them, spoke truth to them, and prayed over them faithfully. In her own quiet life, growing older…closer to God. The Lord got hold of me the other day in this area. So thankful for His love and care…and forgiveness.
  • Watch for the new thing. – God is always with us and at work in us. He may take us down familiar, well-worn paths (those we get caught up longing for), but He also chooses to stretch our faith and build our capacity for loving Him and loving others. Not necessarily in grand and glorious ways, but in small and subtle ways where we have the opportunity to decrease while He increases. Whew! Watching for it.
  • Will there be barriers? Always. The thing we should have learned from previous seasons of life and work is that God is our over-comer. More often than not, we find the battle belongs to God; all we have to do is stand. We forget that sometimes. We stare at the barriers (fashioning them, at times, to look like our own brothers and sisters in Christ), and fume about them…forgetting that our battle is NOT against flesh and blood…nor is it really our battle. [There’s a very short story that comes to mind about how we’re called to push against what seems an impossible weight…but God* (see below, worth the read). Compared to the person and presence of God, all seeming barriers are small.
  • Eyes on God – The most beautiful reminder out of this pity party of mine is that setting our eyes on God changes everything. If He means for me to finish in this life’s “Promised Land” or, like Moses, looking down into it but not quite arriving…it is His to make happen and for me to follow. The Scriptures do not record Moses grumbling about not getting to enter with all those he led… I think the reason it’s not recorded is that it didn’t happen. For Moses, being with God was enough. More than enough. Period. Full stop. Eyes on God.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.Colossians 3:1-4

OK…so Moses…he may have felt sidelined…and except for the years in Pharaoh’s palace, he did the sidelining to himself. God, however, did not let him stay on the bench. Singer songwriter Ken Medema wrote and performed an incredible account of Moses’ early encounter with God (the verses above, Exodus 4:3-5).

Worship with me, or listen to this amazing and revealing story of God…and His servant Moses. [In the video, you may notice Ken Medema is blind…but in his heart, he can see and sing God so clearly!].

“Do you know what it means, Moses?
Do you know what I’m trying to say, Moses?
The rod of Moses became the rod of God!
With the rod of God, strike the rock and the water will come;

With the rod of God, part the waters of the sea;
With the rod of God, you can strike old Pharaoh dead;

With the rod of God, you can set the people free.”

What do you hold in your hand today?
To what or to whom are you bound?
Are you willing to give it to God right now?
Give it up, let it go, throw it down.Ken Medema

I Stutter All the Time: Moses by Ken Medema

Photo Credit: Rick Warren, Heartlight

Thanks for joining me today. Do you ever struggle in this area? Maybe you don’t…yet. Maybe you do. Would love for you to share some of your own insight on how God redeemed that season for you.

Prayerfully…

What do you hold in your hand today?
To what or to whom are you bound?
Are you willing to give it to God right now?
Give it up, let it go, throw it down. from Moses by Ken Medema

Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:1-13

Worship Wednesday – Surrendering What’s Precious in Exchange for the Doubtless…the Supernatural Movement of God – Deb Mills

The Two Hurdles of God’s Will – Greg Matte

Intimacy with God Is the Main Thing – Letter to My 30-Year-Old Self – Kim Cash Tate

I’m Too Distracted with Life to Meditate on Christ – John Piper

*Pushing the Rock – Joshua Adams

The greatest gospel force is the lay person in the pew equipped by the preacher in the pulpit! Scott Sullivan

Worship Wednesday – You Are My Hiding Place – Selah

Photo Credit: Heartlight

You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.Psalm 32:7

When I am afraid, I will trust in You.Psalm 56:3

This I know: God is for me.Psalm 56:9b

OK…so I seem to write a fair amount about fear and being afraid.

As a child, I was unfortunately a bit of a Chicken Little…with “the sky is falling! The sky is falling” response to confusing, disquieting situations.

How Many Times Is Fear Not in the Bible? – Chris L.

My move to Connecticut to take a faculty position at Yale’s School of Nursing was a huge stretch for me. Arriving there in snowy January 19, 1983. I was new to a very different city and culture. I had loosened my Southern roots, and the Bible Belt that had cinched me in was dropped behind me somewhere between Georgia and Connecticut. I took refuge in songs like Michael Ledner’s  “You Are My Hiding Place” . Published in 1981, it quickly became one of my go-to songs for comfort and assurance. Not just in hard moments alone, but definitely, pretty much in every hard moment.

Sitting down at the piano on those winter evenings, alone with God and the music, I would play and sing away the days of sharp learning curves and homesickness. Sometimes Broadway tunes, sometimes old rock standards, but often worship songs. In fact, I think I fell in love with my husband Dave, early in our relationship, playing that piano and singing side by side…in the 80s. “You Are My Hiding Place.”

These days, fear can so easily churn up from deep inside.

How anyone gets through all that’s going on in the world today, without Jesus…I just don’t know. So thankful for His Word, His presence, His comfort and redirection. #DoNotBeAfraidPhoto Credit: Flickr

Worship with me, (words and music in the link). This is Selah‘s cover. [After you worship a bit, and this song leads us to worship, go back and read the comments on the YouTube video linked above…story after story of God’s kindness and provision in hard times.]

You are my hiding place
You always fill my heart
With songs of deliverance
Whenever I am afraid
I will trust in You

I will trust in You
Let the weak say
I am strong
In the strength of the Lord

You are my hiding place
You always fill my heart
With songs of deliverance
Whenever I am afraid
I will trust in You

I will trust in You
Let the weak say I am strong
In the strength of the Lord
I will trust in You*

*Lyrics to “You Are My Hiding Place” Songwriter: Michael Ledner

Photo Credit: Heartlight

YouTube Video – El Shaddai Medley – You Are My Hiding Place – Jesus Image

YouTube Video – You Deserve the Glory – Jew & Arab Worship Together – just an extra – so beautiful.

Worship Wednesday – The Commission – Cain the Band

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20

When good news shakes up and transforms our very lives, we don’t keep it to ourselves. We can’t. In fact, in his last conversation with his disciples, the Messiah Jesus speaks of this in commanding terms.

The occasion for his words in the Gospel of Matthew was a gathering of Jesus’ followers with him. They were filled with both the comfort and joy of having come through His unwarranted death on a Roman cross and then having witnessed His resurrection from the dead. Nothing could keep Jesus in the grave. Nothing.

He took our sins to the cross. He died in our place. He gave himself for our sake that we could know His abundant life on earth and be with the Lord forever in Heaven.

In his commissioning (Matthew 28:18-20), he spoke to his followers but the words ring through the centuries to all of us and to those who come after us. Only he had the authority to speak them and to send us out. His authority came from the Father, we can speak the good news of Christ through his authority and the power of the Holy Spirit. He goes with us and is with us always.

So what is our commission?

  • Go – to our children, our larger families, our friends, our neighbors, our workplace, the marketplace, the world.
  • Make disciples – not by any coercion or bait-and-switch strategy. We live Christ before others and we speak the words of Christ to those he places in our path. We are not Christian from birth (as some think about Christians). We are also not saved by manipulation or parental persuasion. We are saved by reckoning with our sinful state and need for a savior. The Lord saves; we cannot save ourselves. “Making disciples” is to lay out the truth of our own experience in received salvation from Christ and inviting others to receive the same. It is not the Lord’s desire for anyone to die without an opportunity to come to faith in him (2 Peter 3:9). He has commissioned us to bring about that opportunity.
  • Baptize – in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus himself was baptized, (without need but as a witness for what he calls us to do). It is a public pronouncement of our faith in the sufficiency of Christ and our decision to follow him.
  • Teaching to obey. Obedience to Christ is not a peevish, demeaning thing. It is a beautiful alignment with all his promises, with all of who he is, and with all the good he brings out of our obedience – not just for ourselves but with a wide and generational ripple effect.

And that glorious promise: He is with us always. Glory!

[A note from my mom when we took a job outside the U.S. – she was a great pray-er.]

Have you received this Christ as your savior? Not an acknowledging of a form of Christ made popular across religions…but the One true God (three in one, in perfect unity). Not a “hope to get to Heaven” ticket…but through a personal relationship where God the Father sees us as we were meant to be – pure and beautiful sons and daughters, transformed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Salvation – Explore God

For those of us who have experienced this incredible, undeserved, God-given adoption into his kingdom, we have our commission.

Worship with me (lyrics/music in the link).

See my hands and look at my feet
It’s okay if it’s hard to believe
I have faith that you will do greater things
It’s my time to go, but before I leave
Go tell the world about me
I was dead but now I live
I’ve gotta go now for a little while
But goodbye is not the end
Don’t forget the things that I taught you
I’ve conquered death and I hold the keys
Where I go you will go too someday
But there’s much to do here before you leave so
Go tell the world about me
I was dead but now I live
I’ve gotta go now for a little while
But goodbye is not the
End of the journey
The end of the road
My spirit is with you
Wherever you go
You have a purpose
And I have a plan
I’ll make you this promise
I’ll come back again
But until then
Go tell the world about me
For I was dead but now I live
Oh, I’ve gotta go now for a little while
Hey, but goodbye is not the end(Go tell the world)
Oh, go tell them about me
(Go tell the world)
I’ve gotta go
(Go tell the world)
For a little while
But goodbye is not the end*

*Lyrics to The Commission

YouTube – The Story Behind the Song The Commission by Cain

Cain the Band Website

YouTube – I Am with You Always: Matthew 28:18-20 – Desiring God – John Piper

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s Latest, Parenting Pearls, Aging Well, Words, and War

Quick take on favorites of mine over the last couple of weeks:

1) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest – Enjoy!

2) Parenting Pearls – So thankful for wisdom of others…especially in parenting and raising children to be mentally healthy and resilient. How other cultures parent is also intriguing. Below are some of both.

Mom blogger Becky Mansfield wrote a great piece on things we don’t want our kiddos to forget.  Please share in the Comments what you hope your children don’t forget.

What Really Matters: Things I Never Want Our Kids to Forget – Becky Mansfield

Photo Credit: Facebook, Becky Mansfield, Your Modern Family

First, You Decide that Kids Belong in School – Carrie McKean – a writer friend of mine in Texas; everyone won’t agree with her, but she writes well and with reason for us as parents during our time with COVID.

A Top Researcher Says It’s Time to Rethink Our Entire Approach to Preschool – Anya Kementz

It’s Easy to Judge Until It’s Your Kid; Let’s Try Compassion – MaryBeth Bock

The Secret of Arctic ‘Survival Parenting’

3) Aging Well – Start young. Start young to age well. If you have to catch up (like me), there is still time.

The Seven Habits That Lead to Happiness in Old Age – Arthur C. Brooks

Forgiving People Is Good for Your Health. Here’s How to Do It. – Rachel Feltman

Forgiving People Is Good for Your Health. Here’s How to Do It – Rachel Feltman

Photo Credit: John & Julie Gottman, Yes! Magazine

4) Words – As much as I love words this quote from Jesus’ teaching gives pause: “But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.”  – Matthew 12:36-37
Words matter. Words mean things. We should be generous with life-giving words and sparing with words that destroy.  Silence and restraint have their place.
What If– A poem by Malcolm Guite
What if every word we say
Never ends or fades away,
Gathers volume gathers weigh,
Drums and dins us with dismay
Surges on some dreadful day
When we cannot get away
Whelms us till we drown?
What if not a word is lost,
What if every word we cast
Cruel, cunning, cold, accurst,
Every word we cut and paste
Echoes to us from the past
Fares and finds us first and last
Haunts and hunts us down?
What if every murmuration,
Every otiose oration
Every oath and imprecation,
Insidious insinuation,
Every blogger’s aberration,
Every facebook fabrication
Every twittered titivation,
Unexamined asservation
Idiotic iteration,
Every facile explanation,
Drags us to the ground?
What if each polite evasion
Every word of defamation,
Insults made by implication,
Querulous prevarication,
Compromise in convocation,
Propaganda for the nation
False or flattering persuasion,
Blackmail and manipulation
Simulated desparation
Grows to such reverberation
That it shakes our own foundation,
Shakes and brings us down?
Better that some words be lost,
Better that they should not last,
Tongues of fire and violence.
O Word through whom the world is blessed,
Word in whom all words are graced,
Do not bring us to the test,
Give our clamant voices rest,
And the rest is silence.
Then, on a lighter note:  there’s this sweet game that is all the rage right now. Wordle created by Josh Wardle (launched in October 2021). I love it because it is not time-consuming. You get one word puzzle a day that is challenging but doable. So fun.

What to Read About Wordle While Everybody’s Still Talking About It – Alex Dalenberg

Twitter, Karen Swallow Prior (Click to read the full thread)

Wordle App (different game, different creator)

5) War – We have all read and watched about the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia. How to respond? Who to respond? I won’t pose an opinion here because we have so many, and they don’t help really. Praying is the most important thing we can do. Below are some links I found interesting this week (well, links that weren’t behind a paywall). Praying…

Photo Credit: Facebook

War in Ukraine: Essential Reading

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky: the Comedian President Who Is Rising to the Moment – Stephen Mulvey

Wendell Berry’s Advice for a Cataclysmic Age – Dorothy Wickenden [Lengthy biographical piece on Berry’s advice – also includes an audio file which you can listen to instead of reading the story.]

Here are a few quotes from the piece above:

“Think Little. Nearly every one of us, nearly every day of his life, is contributing directly to the ruin of this planet.” Berry went on to say that he was “ashamed and deeply distressed that American government should have become the chief cause of disillusionment with American principles.”

In a Jefferson Lecture in 2012, he quoted Stegner’s description of Americans as one of two basic types, “boomers” and “stickers.” Boomers are “those who pillage and run,” who “make a killing and end up on Easy Street.” Stickers are “those who settle, and love the life they have made and the place they have made it in.” They are “placed people,” in Berry’s term—forever attached to the look of the sky, the smell of native plants, and the vernacular of home.

He told the crowd that, as a member of the human race, he was “in the worst possible company: communists, fascists and totalitarians of all sorts, militarists and tyrants, exploiters, vandals, gluttons, ignoramuses, murderers.” But, he insisted, he was given hope by people “who through all the sad destructive centuries of our history have kept alive the vision of peace and kindness and generosity and humility and freedom.”

“A properly educated conservative, who has neither approved of abortion nor supported a tax or a regulation, can destroy a mountain or poison a river and sleep like a baby,” he writes. “A well-instructed liberal, who has behaved with the prescribed delicacy toward women and people of color, can consent to the plunder of the land and people of rural America and sleep like a conservative.”

“If two neighbors know that they may seriously disagree, but that either of them, given even a small change of circumstances, may desperately need the other, should they not keep between them a sort of pre-paid forgiveness? They ought to keep it ready to hand, like a fire extinguisher.”

“Jesus said, ‘Take no thought for the morrow,’ which I take to mean that if we do the right things today, we’ll have done all we really can for tomorrow. OK. So I hope to do the right things today.”

Wendell Berry – Americans Who Tell the Truth Website

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Any favorite finds you’d be willing to share? Post them in the Comments and thanks so much for stopping by.

Bonuses:

Setting a Valentine’s lunch for our grandchildren:

The Real-Life Diet of Kenny G, Who Learned to Cook to Set an Example for His Son – Mick Rouse

YouTube Video – Jesus’ Heart – Eric Gilmour and Dane Ortlund

Three Encouraging Quotes

Worship Wednesday – Coming Out of the Dark of Shame – Glorious Day – Passion Music

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.Romans 8:1

For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” – 1 Peter 2:6

Turns out I’ve written a lot about shame. Strange for me, in that until a few months ago, I didn’t think shame was something that bothered me. Guilt, yes. Shame…no.

I was wrong. Even studying Scripture, I must have just skipped over all the “shame” passages. We are introduced to the experience of shame very early in the Bible as Adam and Eve (before sin) were described as “naked but unashamed”. Too soon, they tasted the bitter fruit of disobedience and couldn’t stomach the shame of their nakedness. Naked and, this time, ashamed…and wanting to hide themselves from each other…and God.

What are we trying to hide? What are we working so hard to bury or cover or avoid? Quick to judge someone else before we ourselves are judged.

Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson helps us understand shame and find a way to healing and freedom. In his book The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves, he talks about how shamed people try to shame others. We don’t want our lives to be examined too closely…our secrets might be exposed. We hide. We isolate ourselves. We turn aside rather than be truly known.

“When we experience shame, we tend to turn away from others because the prospect of being seen or known by another carries the anticipation of shame being intensified or reactivated. However, the very act of turning away, while temporarily protecting and relieving us from our feeling (and the gaze of the ‘other’), ironically simultaneously reinforces the very shame we are attempting to avoid. Notably, we do not necessarily realize this to be happening-we’re just trying to survive the moment. But indeed this dance between hiding and feeling shame itself becomes a tightening of the noose.  We feel shame, and then feel shame for feeling shame. It begets itself.” – Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves

Photo Credit: IIRP, Nathanson

The irony here is that none of us is exempt from this experience of shame. We have all endured the pain and sorrow of it. How we deal with it is to name it and take it out of the darkness into His marvelous light… Shame is not meant to be a tormentor. God gave us this gift, really, as a signal, a marker, that something is wrong and can be righted. We are to turn our eyes away from hiding our sin and look to Jesus to heal our sin.

To this God, whom we meet in Jesus, we must direct our attention if we are to know the healing of our shame. We must literally look to Jesus in embodied ways in order to know how being loved in community brings shame to its knees and lifts us up and into acts of goodness and beauty.”
Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves
Sometimes we feel shame not from anything we’ve done wrong but from what others have communicated to us about us…from childhood. Our “not enough-ness”. That communication gets wired into our minds and we recall it over and over through life.
We can derail that messaging when we name it for what it is, talk about it with a person with whom we feel safe, and give it to Jesus.
Just this week, I had the responsibility of arranging housing for a refugee family. Rentals in our city are often expensive, and even at that, hard to come by. I found an apartment that would work well (praise God!), then in the process of applying for a lease, the monthly rent went up (LIKE $50). It changes daily I was told. After venting my frustration with the rental office agent, and we ended our phone conversation with me answering his question, “Yes, I still want the apartment!!!” After a few minutes, the shamed bubbled up. What if I lost us the apartment? What if my rant meant we would have to keep searching for a home for this weary, displaced family? What if? What if?! Shamed turned my focus inward and I was terrified at being found out…being found wanting…being a failure.
The Lord, in His mercy, reminded me of all I had been learning about shame, and I recognized it for what it was. Processing it, I prayed… and I called Dave. Talking through it took away much of its power. In the end, there was nothing to worry about. We agreed to the rent offered (which was still within the budget…I overreacted!), and the agent had taken no offense, it turns out. God had quieted my heart and reminded me of the truth of His love. He provided. Period. Full stop. We take deep breaths, and look to Him.

“…Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” – Hebrews 12:2

What Does It Mean for Jesus to Despise the Shame? – John Piper

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Shame’s healing encompasses the counterintuitive act of turning toward what we are most terrified of. We fear the shame that we will feel when we speak of that very shame.  In some circumstances we anticipate this vulnerable exposure to be so great that it will be almost life threatening.  But it is in the movement toward another, toward connection with someone who is safe, that we come to know life and freedom from this prison.Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves

The key here in dealing with shame is to refuse to let it isolate us. In the dark of our own silent shame, we allow our thoughts to torment and accuse…or we tamp down those thoughts by dismissing them or turning on others in judgment. When we hide, we miss the comfort God means for us through fellowship with Him and each other.

You did it: You turned my deepest pains into joyful dancing; You stripped off my dark clothing and covered me with joyful light. You have restored my honor. My heart is ready to explode, erupt in new songs! It’s impossible to keep quiet! Eternal One, my God, my Life-Giver, I will thank You forever.”Psalm 30:11-12

Worship with me (Passion Music‘s Glorious Day – music & lyrics in link). Let’s celebrate the blessed freedom we have in Christ…

I was buried beneath my shame
Who could carry that kind of weight
It was my tomb
Till I met You

I was breathing but not alive
All my failures I tried to hide
It was my tomb
Till I met You

You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day
You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day

Now Your mercy has saved my soul
Now Your freedom is all I know
The old made new
Jesus, when I met You

You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day
You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day

I needed rescue
My sin was heavy
But chains break at the weight of Your glory
I needed shelter
I was an orphan
Now You call me a citizen of heaven
When I was broken
You were my healing
Your love is the air that I’m breathing
I have a future
My eyes are open

You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day
You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day*

For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  Romans 10:11

*Lyrics to Glorious Day – Songwriters: Jonathan Smith, Kristian Paul Stanfill, Jason Ingram, Sean Curran

Behind the Song: Passion Shares the Heart Behind Their Song “Glorious Day” –  Abby Young

20 Quotes from Curt Thompson’s New Book The Soul of Shame – Jordan (the Levite) Williams

Worship Wednesday – Somebody’s Prayin’ – John G. Elliott

Photo Credit: Heartlight

 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.1 Timothy 2:1

When we lived overseas, one of my greatest joys was to pray, on the streets doing errands. In Cairo, Tunis, Sfax, and Casablanca. Just walking in and out of stores. Praying for people as they came across my path. Strangers with lives of which I had no knowledge. Except for those things we all hold in common. Work, health, family, and some understanding of God. I felt such a connection with these people who I might never really know…or maybe I would…one day.

Praying.

What a privilege also to pray for those near to us…family, friends, neighbors, colleagues. Near…and far. Those in power and those far removed. Those who deeply need prayer in the moment as well as those who discount their need…but it is still there.

In the early 90s, an album by singer, songwriter John G. Elliott found an enduring place on our playlist. Let All the Thirsty Come (1988). Beautiful lyrics and Elliott’s voice brought these heartsongs to life for us. In particular, our favorite song is his Somebody’s Prayin’. Not surprisingly, he is on staff today at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri.

My Mom was a great pray-er, and we, her children, are still buoyed on the wings of those prayers. Now, my praying mentor is my treasured mom-in-law. She is praying, early morning and through the day, for many somebodies…us included. [She won’t love the image below that I captured without her knowledge. For me, it is a beautiful, albeit early-morning-grainy image for me of one before the throne of God.] So thankful for her and for the God who draws her to Himself.

If you wonder sometimes if anyone is praying for you…take that wondering to God and with it your own prayer for someone else. Keep in mind that in our loneliest, most isolated times, Someone is always praying for us…His name is Jesus.

Who is there to condemn us? For Christ Jesus, who died, and more than that was raised to life, is at the right hand of God—and He is interceding for us.Romans 8:34

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship with me (lyrics and music in the link. This cover done beautifully by Ricky Skaggs).

Somebody’s prayin, I can feel it
Somebody’s prayin’ for me
Mighty hands are guiding me
To protect what I can’t see
Lord I believe, Lord I believe
That somebody’s prayin’, for me

Angels are watchin’, I can feel it
Angels are watchin’ over me
There’s many miles ahead ’til I get home
Still I’m safely kept before Your throne
‘Cause Lord I believe, Lord I believe
Your angels are watchin’ over me

Well, I’ve walked through barren wilderness
When my pillow was a stone
And I’ve been through the darkest caverns
Where no light had ever shown
Still I went on ’cause there was someone
Who was down on their knees
And Lord. I thank You for those people
Prayin’ all this time for me

Somebody’s prayin’, I can feel it
Somebody’s prayin’ for me
Mighty hands are guiding me
To protect me from what I can’t see
Lord I believe, Lord I believe
Somebody’s prayin’ for me*

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I hope you know you’re prayed for…thanks for those of you who have prayed for me over the years.

*Lyrics to “Somebody’s Prayin’” – Songwriter: John G. Elliott

John G. Elliott – Bandcamp – Music

The Heart of Songwriting – John G. Elliott – International House of Prayer, Kansas City

Our Top 10 Blogs of 2021 – International House of Prayer, Kansas City

Photo Credit: Heartlight