Category Archives: Go

Worship Wednesday – Keep Me in the Moment – Jeremy Camp

Photo Credit: Ramstein AF

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”Romans 12:1-5

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”Ephesians 2:10

“…and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death.”Philippians 3:9-10

The Scriptures give us a clear look at the large life God intends for us. He has set us apart from the world; He has prepared good works for us; He embeds us with His righteousness to faithfully endure whatever confronts us.

Then comes COVID.

Nothing in the character or purposes of God have altered. His children are still called to live in the present in His strength and to extend His love out to those around us.

[Writer Emma Grey Ellis has posted a fascinating article on the lethargy and depression that plagues us in the isolation of COVID. I can’t help but think there is also a spiritual component at work in this disease and in its prevention.]

This Sunday, our pastor Cliff Jordan of Movement Church finished teaching a series on God’s Kingdom Culture – focusing, this time, on the culture of displacement (listen here).

Displacement for us is that we’re not Home yet (Philippians 3:20). Cliff recalled his years playing high school basketball. It was a very high and privileged experience to be part of the Home team (playing in your own town and your own gym). When he was part of the Away team, it was a very different experience – no special treatment, and the team that most folks in the gym hoped would lose.

The church, here in this moment, is the Away team.

Basketball is a great picture of where we are as believers doing life, dealing with COVID.

When our children were in high school, the two oldest played basketball. At that time, our school was often the newcomer and underdog. What we lacked in experience and status, we made up for in enthusiasm, determination, and perseverance.[Seniors on the team of the 2007 boys’ basketball season of George Washington Academy, Casablanca, Morocco. Nathan “Beyond the Guitar” Mills is on the far right.]

We didn’t have a gym, so we were always the Away team.

As in life, especially in COVID life, we didn’t have to bring our “A” game. We had lots of opportunities to excuse ourselves from being all in. Between being “at-risk” or furloughed or parents all of a sudden juggling work and helping children school at home. The above-mentioned fatigue dampens our enthusiasm and stamina. Being truly “in the moment” as believers has become a challenge unlike any we’ve known previously.

It would be easy, again with the basketball analogy, to just wait out COVID and hope for better days, like the Away team might when the score starts mounting on the Home team’s board. Our enthusiasm wanes and our pace slows. We begin to give up before the game is over. And the bench!! What might have been “Put me in, Coach!” turns into thinking being #OfftheBench might not be a great idea. Our minds wander off the Word of God and onto anything else.

I love the tension of the pic below. The tension in those faces. Absorbed in the action on the court. Focused. Leaning forward. Ready at any moment to launch off the bench.Photo Credit: Needpix

Whether we feel benched by COVID or we’re very much in the game, the fact that we are the Away team doesn’t change anything about how God calls us to be engaged with Him and those around us.

Sure, we have to be creative at how to socially distance (for the sake of others and, at times, our own sakes)…but we don’t have to fall for being socially distanced from God’s glorious will for our lives.

Singer songwriter Jeremy Camp song “Keep Me in the Moment” could have been written for this season. The official video points to the beautiful, pulsating tension of lives lived well as God leads us through every situation. Redeeming the time.

Worship with me.
I’ve been thinking ’bout time and where does it go
How can I stop my life from passing me by, I don’t know
I’ve been thinking ’bout family and how it’s going so fast
Will I wake up one morning just wishing that I could go back?
I’ve been thinking ’bout lately, maybe
I can make a change and let you change me
So, with all of my heart this is my prayer
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Keep me in the moment
Oh, keep me in the moment
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (oh)
When I wake up in the morning
Lord, search my heart
Don’t let me stray
I just wanna stay where you are
All I got is one shot, one try
One go around in this beautiful life
Nothing is wasted when everything’s placed in your hands
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Lord keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
I’ve been thinking about heaven
And the promise you hold
So, it’s all eyes on you
Until the day you call me home
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
(I don’t wanna miss, I don’t wanna miss)
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after (oh)
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (yeah)
Keep me in the moment
Oh, keep me in the moment
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Oh, keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)*
By the way…that Away team analogy is only for a few years. Home is also our experience. Home is where we celebrate with our forever Victor…together.

8 Ways to Be Present – Tom Stuart

Why God Wants You to Live in the Moment – Drew Smith

Worship Wednesday – The Hands and Feet of Christ – “Do Something” – Matthew West

Blog - Do Something

[Adapted from the Archives]

Let’s start right here.

Worship with me to Matthew West‘s Do Something:

Do Something by Matthew West

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”
If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something
I’m so tired of talking
About how we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
“I’m gonna do something”
We are the salt of the earth
We are a city on a hill
But we’re never gonna change the world
By standing still
No we won’t stand still
No we won’t stand still
No we won’t stand still*

Songwriter: Matthew West (Into the Light album) 2014

*Lyrics: Publishing: Songs of Southside Independent Music Publishing / External Combustion Music / Songs for Delaney (ASCAP)

We want to do something, but where to even start in the world all broken around us. After four months of social distancing, I find myself fighting against an odd fatigue…the usual ways of reaching out to others, to serve, to encourage are all disrupted. COVID-19 and the social distancing that comes with it have turned community and ministry on its head.

Yet, the Lord continues to draw near…reminding us to draw near to Him, pointing us to our neighbors near and far, holding Himself to promises that are as constant as He is.

I’ve been thinking lately about muscle memory. Is it possible that as we practice our faith in Christ, no matter the situation, that we develop muscle memory of a sort that keeps us near to God and His mission.  Is it possible to give into a lie? Do the problems we face seem too big for us to do anything about them? Is God still with us, still for us? Of course, He is.

If our faith has taken a hit and we have faltered, we are not done.  So what if the culture around us says what we think or do is insufficient?! God is at work…always at work. We can take both hope and courage in that truth.

If God is at work, then we can do something. Whether a great thing or a small thing made great in love and obedience.

“The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”Dwight L. Moody

“There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.”Dwight L. Moody

As we pull ourselves out of the doldrums of COVID19, we can lean into a ministry of reconciliation – of serving, as individuals and the church, a world badly broken. I am reminded of 5 things…in these 5 things, we can do something.

1) Be informed. Every day we are slammed with bad news by the media. We are not immune to compassion fatigue and, in fact, can just let the news wash over us, suspicious of what’s true or not. As believers, we must not turn a deaf ear. We must weigh, every day, what is happening in the world, what grieves the heart of God, and what is ours to do about it. So what if we don’t always get it right? We take the news and op-eds, as well as conversations we have with real people, and sift not just the information, but considering (prayerfully) what we are to do as His people. How we answer His call has little to do with the news or social media…but with planting ourselves in the Word. He informs our hearts and infuses our hands and feet with His love and His resolve.

2) Refuse to be silent. – If we are silent, we align ourselves with the persecutors in this world. However, there is a way for Kingdom people to be the voice of the persecuted and oppressed. Language of hate and blame will not glorify God. Will not. We speak love.

3) Pray. Unbelief has to be the worst sin of all. We as Christ-followers resist this temptation, especially in a world so racked with cynicism, lethargy and self-absorption. So pray, believing, dear ones. Every day. Together and alone. Pray.

4) Give. There is so much in the Word of God about giving. Again, the world’s thinking creeps into our decision-making when we don’t give (either through our churches or to relief organizations). “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”1 John 3:17

5) Go. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:19-20

When Jesus gave this Great Commission, He wasn’t just speaking to those within His immediate hearing. He was speaking to the Church through the ages. He means for us to go, in obedience – to our neighbor, our co-worker, our friend. He may also mean for us to go short-term (2 weeks or 2 years) to another part of the world. He may mean for us to take a job with our company or another organization and spend much of our life among the nations. God definitely means for us to go next door…and to those most marginalized in our cities, towns, counties. In obedience. For the lives of the people. For the glory of God.

Send Relief

YouTube video of Story Behind Song Do Something

Matthew West’s & his dad Pastor Joe West’s popwe.org – reaching beyond entertainment – Craft. Share. Live.

5 Ways to Love Your Neighbor – All Pro Dad

9 Ways to Love Your Neighbor In This Pandemic – Justin Whitmel Earley

19 Simple Ways to Love Your Neighbor Right Now – Sheila Dolinger

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

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

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

I wonder, “by whom?”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed, to Bless a World in Pieces – Andy Flannagan

Photo Credit: Bible Verses 2 U

“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. Even those who don’t believe God is will use the expression of being blessed. I wonder, “by whom” and “why?”

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.

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 both 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 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

Worship with me.

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)

*Lyrics to We Are Blessed – Songwriter: Andy Flannagan

Andy Flannagan Website

Blessed to Be a Blessing – Mike Pettengill

5 Friday Faves – No-Pressure Valentine’s Day, Travel Hacks, Prayer Habits, First Signs of Spring, and Wordplay Smiles

Friday! You made it. Joy! Here are five of my favorite finds for you…

1) No-Pressure Valentine’s Day – Seriously no pressure! Valentine’s Day is one of those super emotionally-laden days (maybe more for women, but I’m sure it’s not easy for guys either). I’ve always celebrated it, whether a man was involved or not, because of all the lovely stuff attached to it (cards, candy, dinner out, flowers, etc.). Never minded paying for those for myself or others. The best part is just being with people you love…whoever they are.

This week I came across a super-silly video by the Merrell Twins. They are these two YouTube stars and are pretty cute. The video is about Valentine’s Day with boyfriend or without boyfriend. The best part actually is their #TwinTalk at the end of the video…wait for it.

YouTube Video – It’s Valentine’s Day Song – Merrell Twins

I’ve previously written about Valentine’s Day (here and here). In fact, please read those pieces…for a no-pressure day. Seriously.

2) Travel Hacks – We who have the money and means to travel either love it or hate it. I LOVE it. In fact, it’s been too long since my last international trip…so I’ve been drawn to travel stories and articles. Tim Ferriss hosted Ryan Holiday on a blog about his 21 Travel Rules. Having lived in several countries and traveled through many more, I agree with many of his rules. Check them all out. Some you may already know like packing light, eating healthy, and don’t over-schedule your trip. Other bits of advice from Holiday were quite new for me – like not reclining your seat on a plane (THANK YOU!). Also don’t depend on guidebooks – talk to people where you’re going about things to do and see. Another idea: Note places or experiences described in books you’ve read and enjoy them again on your trip. One last favorite hack: don’t talk and talk about your upcoming trip or plan and plan – just go! Read the rest here:

Photo Credit: We Are Travel Girls

How to Travel: 21 Contrarian Rules

How to Travel – Some Contrarian Advice (shorter version of above article)

…and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” goes global!

3) Prayer Habits – Prayer is probably the most impactful thing we can do in life – for ourselves and those we love. Developing a habit of prayer can start today. I’m not talking about some sort of rote activity or just saying words out into the room. Prayer is not delivering a wish list to some benevolent father figure. It is a conversation with the God of the universe who calls us to Himself. He infuses all our lives with his love and purpose. He also actually taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Cliff Jordan of Movement Church spoke recently on how God Himself guides us to pray – listen here.

I learned the prayer Jesus taught his disciples when I was a child. It has been a comfort and primer for me ever since. Consider teaching your children to pray the Lord’s Prayer, and then guide them to grow up in a lifestyle of prayer…following your lead.Photo Credit: Faith Hope Love at Home; Courageous the Movie

Nick Aufenkamp writes about Martin Luther’s prayer patterns and offers a simple and sound approach to daily prayer:

  • Seek first God’s rule and reign and righteousness in our lives (Matthew 6:33).
  • Discipline our wandering minds.
  • Build a fence so our prayers can run wild inside (through the structure of the Lord’s Prayer).

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Four Ways to Lead Our Children Toward Bravery – Jill Waggoner

4) First Signs of Spring – It’s happening! Spring is showing up again. No matter how many cold and snowy days this winter still produces before it gives in to Spring, we can see it coming!

5) Wordplay Giggles – So I didn’t know the word for it until this week, but some people have a knack for turning the meaning of a sentence to something hilarious. Winston Churchill was gifted at the use of something you’ve probably never heard defined but you’ve enjoyed the humor within it.  A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to re-frame or re-interpret the first part.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Photo Credit: Frustrated Boomers

  1. Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good evening’ and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
  2. Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  3. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  4. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  5. Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.
  6. A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
  7. I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.
  8. Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, you will be a mile away and he won’t have any shoes.
  9. “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” — Groucho Marx
  10. “She got her good looks from her father; he’s a plastic surgeon.” — Groucho Marx
  11. Kittens play with yarn, they bat it around. What they’re really doing is saying, “I can’t knit, get this away from me!”
  12. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to find one now.
  13. There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away. – Monty Pelerin

Paraprosdokian Fun

Steven Wright Quotes – Good Reads

Have a sweet weekend and a Happy Valentine’s Day. You are loved!

Worship Wednesday – To the Ends of the Earth – Hillsong United

Blog - To the Ends of the Earth - Jesus I believe in you - Worship Wednesday - Hillsong - SlideplayerPhoto Credit: Slideplayer

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, Selah, that Your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You! – Psalm 67:1-3

 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb… – Revelation 7:9

What would possess us to have life-altering, death-defying good news…and then keep silent about it? Does fear motivate us? A lack of love? What keeps us silent?

How does one keep to herself the most beautiful truth and person ever encountered in life? With both freedom of speech and freedom of religion, how is it that I speak so little of Jesus? This Jesus who turned my life around so many years ago…and continues to transform me in ways beyond imagination.

I want to be done with that kind of silence.

After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, and, some 40 days later, just before he ascended to the Father, he spoke a powerful charge to his followers:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:19-20

I’ve always loved that sending of Jesus’ followers. It was given to those with him that day…and every one of us since. Simple and clear, we are called to:

  1. Go. [next door and to the nations]
  2. Make disciples. [give witness in word and deed to the truth of the Gospel]
  3. Baptize them. [as an expression and witness of a life surrendered to Christ]
  4. Teach them to observe/obey all Jesus commanded us. [in word and deed, life on life, following Jesus]

Then he gives this wonderful promise at the end:

“I am with you always.” His great declaration of “I AM”.

This week a documentary debuted around the US. The film The Insanity of God was taken from the book, by the same name, authored by Nik Ripken with Gregg Lewis.

It follows the lives of a missionary couple, Nik and Ruth Ripken…and then the focus turns to people they meet, from many nations, who chose to follow Jesus. Often against great resistance.

Ripken tells the story of a Russian pastor named Dmitri. This pastor, refusing to recant, was imprisoned for his faith for 17 years. Every morning, Dmitri would come off his cot, look toward the eastern sky, raise his hands, and sing to God. It was his own heartsong, asking for strength for the day. Blog - The Insanity of God - Dmitri

On the day his execution was set, and the guards walked him out of his cell, the prisoners all around him stood at the door of their own cells, raised their hands and sang that very song. Dmitri did not die that day but was miraculously released and restored to his family.

[Also watch Todd Smith’s story-song of Dmitri’s life [“Dmitri’s Heart Song – Jesus Is Alive“]

“”For us, persecution is like the sun coming up in the east. It happens all the time. It’s the way things are. There is nothing unusual or unexpected about it. Persecution for our faith has always been—and probably always will be—a normal part of life”…Those who number themselves among the followers of Jesus—but don’t witness for Him—are actually siding with [the persecutors]…of the world. Believers who do not share their faith aid and abet Satan’s ultimate goal of denying others access to Jesus. Our silence makes us accomplices.” – Nik Ripken, The Insanity of God

Watching that film and hearing story after story of people who loved God more than their own lives…rekindled the fire in my own heart. I do love God…grateful for his forgiveness of my sins, and the love He showed me in the person of his son, Jesus. He is worthy of both our worship…and our witness.

Worship with me to Hillsong United‘s “To the Ends of the Earth“.

Love unfailing
Overtaking my heart
You take me in
Finding peace again
Fear is lost
In all you are

And I would give the world to tell Your story
Cause I know that You’ve called me
I know that You’ve called me
I’ve lost myself for good within Your promise
I won’t hide it
I won’t hide it

Jesus, I believe in You
And I would go to the ends of the earth
To the ends of the earth
For You alone are the Son of God
And all the world will see
That You are God
You are God*IMG_8531Movement Church

*Lyrics – To the Ends of the Earth – Hillsong United

Blog - The Lord Bless You and Keep You - in Arabic and English

5 Friday Faves – a Favorite Charity, Tablescaping, Brunswick Stew, Christmas Commercial, and Thanksgiving Songs

Blog - Friday Faves

What a week, huh?! The world is all a-chatter about how to wisely and compassionately respond to the needs of displaced peoples…especially Syrian refugees right now. I want to write about this soon, but for now, the blogosphere is full of solid commentary on how we might respond and what’s at stake. For today, I will focus on lighter fare…except for #1.

  1. Favorite Charity – Baptist Global Response is a relatively small charity with a wide reach. It is the disaster response/humanitarian relief arm of the Southern Baptist Convention and partners with many other local and global agencies. Their work alone with Syrian refugees (and other internally and externally displaced peoples) means so much to me. Consider BGR in your Christmas giving – it’s a start in touching the lives of Syrian and other refugees.

Blog - Baptist Global Response - refugeesPhoto Credit: GoBGR.org

2. Tablescaping – A beautifully set table is its own art form. So many meals these days are plated and eaten in front of the T.V. or computer. Sitting together, face-to-face, around a table makes for a very different communal experience. This week, I attended Mt. Vernon’s Women’s Christmas Event. The theme was The Sights, Sounds & Flavors of Bethlehem. Each banquet table was prepared by different tablescapers. Beautiful.2015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0692015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0702015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0652015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0482015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0382015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 042

3. Brunswick Stew – A favorite restaurant of my childhood in Georgia was Old Hickory House. Some of the restaurants have since closed, but at least one remains. I remember well the tangy sweet barbecue and Brunswick stew. This week I discovered a blogger who also knew Old Hickory House. He gifted us with the recipe for that hearty stew. Blog - Friday Faves - Brunswick Stew

4. Christmas Commercial – I love Hallmark Christmas commercials and you can find a bunch here.  This week a different annual favorite came to my attention. The John Lewis Department Store, in the U.K., puts out its own Christmas commercial each year.  I came across this video through a Country Living blog on how old people have so little contact with others. This is a sweet metaphor on that.

5. Thanksgiving Songs – There are some church hymns we only sing on their respective holidays. Thanksgiving songs aren’t usually sung in more contemporary evangelical churches, and I miss them. My favorites are We Gather Together and Come Ye Thankful People, Come. Maybe updated versions would bring them back in our worship services (up for arranging them, Nathan?).

Two other Thanksgiving Songs by Mary Chapin Carpenter and Brianna Haynes are also lovely…didn’t know them until this week.

What were your favorites this week? I’m closing with a quote from C.S. Lewis – seems appropriate as we struggle in the U.S. over our response to the current world crises. Great weekend, Friends.

Blog - Friday Faves - C. S. Lewis on Love - slideshare.netPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

Is Our Yes Still on the Table? Re-Visiting What It Means for Us to Follow God

Blog - Yes on the Table“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us? Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8

Over two decades ago, my husband and I put our “Yes” on the table. We have been praying and thinking a lot about this lately – is our “yes” still on the table?

As a teenager, I thrilled to the words of Isaiah’s response to God’s inquiry. “Here am I. Send me!” Sitting around a campfire with other teens, challenged about our life direction, and singing “I Surrender All“…I first put my all-in “yes” on the table. At 15, tears of joyful release washing down my cheeks, it seemed the only response possible to a God who loved me so much. Today, “all” seems different, more complicated. Or is it my heart that’s changed?

We’re revisiting our “yes”. All I can think of is Jesus’ response to His Father’s will. Hours before He would give His life for us on a cross, He wrestled with the meaning of that “yes”. Jesus, this One who was from before the beginning, part of the Triune God, sinless, and perfect, poured out His human heart to His Father:

He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”Luke 22:41-42

In that moment, He revealed two huge truths to us who follow Him. 1) No matter what God’s will is, (fill in your own blanks here), He is worthy of following. How glorious to spend our lives in His redemptive will – so much larger and full of love and purpose than we might, on our own, choose for ourselves.

2) Because of how big God is and how small we feel in our human frames, there will be times  we bend toward a different road, a cleaner path, with plenty of shade (Jonah 4:5-6). Jesus is kind to show us that struggle…yet without sinning in it.

This “yes” on the table has also been described as giving God a blank check. Essentially telling Him we acknowledge His Lordship in our lives. There are some reading this who may chafe at that. He has given us minds to make thoughtful, impactful decisions. For me, the idea of signing my name to a “blank check” and giving the checkbook back to Him is a test of my heart, and the affections and motivations of that heart.Blog - Blank Check

I love how Simon Peter responded to Jesus during a point in their journey when others left them, having second thoughts:

So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”John 6:67-69

“Lord, to whom shall we go?” – There is no other life I want apart from knowing and following the God who pursued me through Jesus . No. Other. Life.

Still, we revisit our “yes”, our “blank check” when God confronts us with a possible course change – a turn in the road that could take us away (again) from family and friends we cherish, colleagues we choose, and work we have loved. Blog - Yes on the Table (2)

We have been in this place before…and we receive it again. I may be at this desk in this place, clicking keys a year from now…or more. Or we may be in a very different place. Wherever we are, there is grace for us (and for you), and glory for God…and all will be well.

Today, again, with trembling hands and resolute hearts, we lay the “yes” on the table. Whatever, wherever, God, we are trusting You, as we’ve trusted You before (even just minutes before this) to do what only You can do with our lives when they are wholly Yours. With wet-palmed excitement, deep joy…and peace…our “yes” is Yours.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6

[P.S. There will still be times that peace is shaken…it could be today…but I know from God’s Word, an old hymn, and experience that perfect peace can be ours as we keep our hearts fixed on Him. Fixed.]

A Blank Check – Randall D. Kittle

A Blank Check – A Devotion by Chris Hendrix

8 Reasons for Leaders to Give God a Blank Check – Chuck Lawless

Remembering 9/11 – and the Day Before – A Story of God and a Girl – a girl whose “Yes” was always on the table, a life gloriously lived.

Going to vs. Being Church – It’s Not Just About Sunday, But Sunday Matters, Too

Blog - Attending vs. Being Church 8Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:23-25

This morning, I was heading out of my neighborhood, later than usual, and on my way to gather with my church family. I carefully passed by this tiny little girl pedaling her bike alongside her dad who was walking their dog. Sunday morning. No plans for church, it seemed. It made me a little sad.

I was late myself, so it seemed clear they weren’t attending a church this morning. I wondered, turning out of the neighborhood, what idea that little girl had of church. Then it hit me that I was unconsciously defining church as attending vs. being.

God in Scripture does not define church as an event or a place, but rather a people. We are to gather (Acts 2:42, 46-47) as His people –  to encourage each other, to serve and pray for one another, to worship God, and to support the work of the church (not the place as much as the people). There is a gathering of the church, but there is also a scattering of the church.Blog - Attending vs. Being Church 5Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

As we go out through the week, being the church, we are commanded by God to love Him and to love each other. (Matthew 22:37-40) Why a command? Our default is self. In His kindness, God points us to an upward focus and an outward focus.

      “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 13:34-35Blog - Attending vs. Being Church 3Crossover Parkville Baptist baseball clinic Stephen Arrington (yellow shirt), Suffolk VA, FBC Monroe, outreach pastorVictor Schloss, SEND City Coordinator for San Diego. With Jason Esparza in gray t-shirt, Stephen Dixon in white and Rachel Field.

As our culture trends more and more toward being post-Christian, we as believers in Christ must make more intentional choices regarding church.* Not making a decision is making a decision.  Are we attending church, not attending church, or being church?

Attending church maybe allows us to check something off our lists, but it’s not what being a true follower of Christ is. In fact, just attending is difficult to continue because our hearts and lives are not invested. It becomes easy, with all the distractions of life, to just not go.

Not attending church doesn’t get us to the place of being church either. When we make a series of decisions where we essentially become unchurched, we are in danger of falling away from God and His people. This is where the urging in Hebrews 10 (at top) is so vital.

Being church is what God calls us to ultimately. He means for us to gather and He means to send us out.

And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him [Jesus]. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” – Luke 4:17-19

Being church means so much more than just being church attenders. It means that we are part of a group of Christ-followers. Partners. Both locally and globally. Loving God and each other deeply and taking that love to our neighbors and the nations.

The little girl on her bike, and her daddy beside her, might delight in this idea of church…and the God of this church.

[Jesus speaking] Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20

Salt Shaker Ministry: Being the Church vs. Going to Church – Live Oaks Church – Powerpoint & Bible Study

Going To vs. Being [Church Edition]

Doing Church vs. Being Church

The Local Church – Minimum vs. Maximum by John Piper

I Don’t Go to Church – I Am the Church by David E. Bish

Going to Church vs. Being the Church – RagamuffinGospelFan

*7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America

Attending Church for the Wrong Reasons

Do You Go to Church or Do You Go to Jesus?

Why Is Church Attendance/Going to Church Important

Photo Credits (above) – bpnews.net

Blog - ChurchBlog - Church People

10 Quotes by Jon Acuff on Developing New Skills & Sharpening Old Ones – Part 3 of Do Over Series

Nathan at guitarPhoto Credit: Nathan Mills Guitar

There’s this guitarist I know. His music is a work in progress. Not his music itself, because he hones his craft daily. Still, his career in music is a study in skill development. No industry stands still. The ability to silence a room with the sound you bring out of a guitar does not a living make. Usually.

There are so many other skills called to bear in a successful career in music today. Composing, arranging, teaching, performing, collaborating, marketing, production, diversifying style or instrument. Whew!

Then there’s your day job (by necessity, or for other reasons). Wisdom is to bring the same disciplines and desire, of that skilled musician, to work every day. To be the best asset you can be for your employer or your company. Shirking entitlement and nurturing an attitude of graciousness and gratitude.

Who is this person?!

Jon Acuff talks about becoming such a person in his book Do Over. He tackles the subject of sharpening and developing skills as imperative to any career, and especially to break through a Career Ceiling.

Have you ever gotten stuck in a job? No, I’m not talking about being ungrateful or feeling entitled to a better situation. I’m talking stuck – as in getting to a place in your job where you can’t see being able to ever advance or be more creative or grow professionally?

Acuff invites us readers to take a good look at our skills to see what exactly we uniquely bring to your job. This would include skills we might have discounted or even forgotten we had.

Below are 10 bits of wisdom from Jon’s section on skills:

  • Relationships get you the first gig, skills get you the second.
  • When you hit a Career Ceiling, skills will be the hammer you use to break through.
  • Don’t let fear hide a skill you’ve always had or wanted to pursue. Just because you’re afraid of doing something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
  • Small skills have the tendency to add up to big careers.
  • Master the invisible skills – Go to work; add value; own your attitude.
  • When you have a bad attitude it flavors every part of your performance.
  • If you want to get better at something, it always costs time. If you don’t have any, steal some from…Facebook or any number of things that are requesting that resource without paying you anything in return.
  • I’m convinced that fear beats the “You don’t have enough time” drum because it never wants you to invest in your career. This is a lie.
  • Your willingness to discipline one part of your life creates freedom in another.
  • You will need skills most when you find yourself stuck. The ceilings are designed to filter out the lazy and uncommitted. Every skill can be a hammer. Start banging. Career Ceilings were meant to be broken.

Like with looking at our relationships, he calls for us to use note cards and list (one per card) all the skills we can think of – whether currently using them or only in the past; whether work-related or not so much. Once we’ve exhausted our ideas on skills then, he says to look for patterns.* It’s so easy to settle into a rut of doing the same thing every day. Going after new skills and sharpening old ones help us to be good at our jobs and, at the same time, love our work.

Whether you are a musician, a teacher, an I.T. guy or a caregiver, you have skills and you can build on those skills. Determining to be diligent to grow your skills and grateful for the opportunities to learn will take you farther than you know. Right through that career ceiling.

“You know who we should fire, that guy who keeps learning how to do his job even better,” said no one ever. – Jon AcuffBlog - Do Over - Jon Acuff

Photo Credit: Forbes.com

*A Simple Two-Step Exercise for Figuring Out What You’re Really Good At – Jon Acuff, Business Insider Start Your Do Over Today

Start Your Do Over Today! – Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff: Why Most People Don’t Reach Their Full Potential And How You Can

Nathan Mills on Vine

Crosstrain at Habitat for Humanity - Aug 30 2014Learning new skills on-site with Habitat for Humanity