Category Archives: God

Worship Wednesday – Build My Life – Holy, There Is No One Like You – Housefires

Photo Credit: Heartlight

There is none like You, O LORD. You are great, and Your name is mighty in power. Who would not fear You, O King of nations? This is Your due. For among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like You. – Jeremiah 10:6-7

Lord, there is no one like you among the gods, and there are no works like yours. – Psalm 86:8

Earlier this evening, a small group of friends were gathered. Our hosts were refugees from a war-torn country which they fled over a year ago. We were celebrating a late Christmas/New Year’s together… One Christian friend was describing the “why” of giving gifts at Christmas. Crossing cultures and languages, the conversation was peppered with polite exchanges of where our beliefs were similar and where they were not. It happens…close friends who all consider themselves believers, but in very different experiences of faith.

I was reminded of a letter I wrote after a difficult conversation with a dear friend who wanted me to believe in God as she believed…just as I wanted the same for her…to believe as I did.

[As you read the letter, remember I’m writing to someone I loved very much and didn’t want to offend by my words. So keep that context in mind. To this day, she is as dear as ever. Precious to me. Still loving me as I love her…still two people who love God from different faiths.

Dearest Friend,

You’ve asked me why can’t I follow your way…the way you believe.  I know you spoke that from your heart, and you know I love you for it.  You also know how much I love you as you love me.  Since our conversation, your question has weighed heavily on my mind, and I want to try to give that question the answer you deserve.  Thank you for loving me enough to risk asking that question. Now, I hope you will hear my love through this answer.  We think very differently on these things, but I don’t think I will be telling you anything that we haven’t already talked about. Also, I want you to clarify anything for me that I’m in error on regarding your religion. I commit to you the same in our talks about what I believe. So what I write below is the answer to your question, “Why?”  And it’s written with all my love.

  1. First, I already see myself as one “submitted to God”, in the deepest sense of the word you’ve defined for me. My greatest desire is to know God and to surrender to Him in all areas of my life.  It’s been the imperfect but deeply personal pursuit of my life. My hope is to follow Him as He reveals Himself to me, both through His Word and by His Holy Spirit.
  2. As I understand your question, to follow your way would require me to leave the way I now follow.  That would be impossible for me.  I wasn’t born Christian.  I became a believer as I understood His revelation of Himself (through the Bible, the witness of others, and the stirring of my heart by the Holy Spirit). This is a relationship with God that I would never or could never sever.  To remove a portion of Who I believe He’s expressed Himself to be, both to and for His creation, would be unforgivable.  He has come near to us, and I am thankful to know Him, as One both Holy and Humble.  I would be sad to believe in a God whose holiness and judgment distance Him far from His people.  Am I wrong in my understanding of your experience of God?
  3. To have to face the burden of a life of sin would be more than I could bear.  I believe, by His Word, that He has forgiven me and continues to forgive me, as I confess my sins, repent of them, and live for Him.  I can’t imagine life where I was responsible to do good works and more good works in hopes to cancel some of my sins and hopefully to win His mercy.  My understanding of what is required in your faith may not be altogether correct on this point, but it’s what I see practiced.  Help me with this, if I am wrong.
  4. To live not knowing whether I would spend eternity with God or in Hell would be very painful…unimaginable, to be honest. Such terrible uncertainty! His Word tells me that I can know – not because of my good works but because of His good work for my sake.  I take great comfort in knowing that I will be in the presence of God forever.  It is also a great comfort to know I will see my Mom and Dad again, my brother and others who have gone before me, confident in God’s promises to them through His Word.
  5. To have to deny the sinless life of the Messiah, to deny His death on the cross, and to deny His resurrection would be the greatest dishonor to God that I could ever commit in life.  I would never be willing to deny this, and if this is required to be a good believer in your faith, then I am helpless to go that way.
  6. I could not require my children to follow any religion.  I do prefer for them to be believers in God by way of the Messiah, and I would be heart-broken if they denied God in their lives.  However, to be in a religion that requires them at birth to be identified with that religion seems beyond my right as a parent.  It is up to God how He moves in a person’s life.  I cannot demand it, no matter how much I would wish it a certain way.
  7. There are tenets of faith in your religion that I agree with wholeheartedly.  I think it’s a very good thing to have calls to prayer.  I actually also prayed, (when we lived in the same country), when I heard the calls to prayer, so in that we are alike.  I also agree with giving money to the place of prayer (for me, the church) for its service to the community.   I also think the intention of a month of fasting is a good thing.  To sacrifice food, drink, cigarettes, etc. to understand better what it’s like to be poor, and then to give that money to those less fortunate is a reasonable service for believers.  I think pilgrimages are also good opportunities to draw closer to God.  I do struggle with a pilgrimage that is not really accessible to every believer. 
  8. Like you, I believe that God is One…but I cannot ascribe to a faith that places a messenger of God in a preeminent position. You say that is what I do with Jesus, even to the point of making him equal, or a partner to God. This is where we differ greatly, and I know it divides us which makes me the saddest. We have books we believe to be holy which speak very differently about Jesus, even though Jesus is called Messiah in both. He is also said to be without sin in both. This is not a small thing.
  9. I don’t understand the concept of a holy war.  I do understand dying for one’s faith, and my hope is that if I have to die for my faith in God, that I will do it courageously and for His glory.  That part I understand.  To kill others, even infidels, and martyring oneself in doing so, seems morally wrong.  God doesn’t need my help to deal with infidels.  I know there are examples in the Torah of God calling His people to battle with those who stand against His people, and He shows His glory by miraculously giving them victory.  I don’t see God when people take matters into their own hands.  I don’t believe God would give me greater rewards for killing people rather than to try to reason with them to become true believers.
  10. Last, but not least, is that to follow your way, I would have to give up parts of the Bible to believe everything in the book you hold sacred.  I can’t do that.  It would be great sin for me to deny any part of God’s Word.  I believe every word is true.  I know you think I am deceived.  All I know, is that there was a time in my life that I wasn’t a Christian, and it was a dark time for me.  God revealed Himself to me through His Word, through the example of others whose lives had been changed by God, and through the movement of His Holy Spirit in my life.  Now, I know the experience of a changed life.  I am free, because His Truth has set me free.  It would be impossible for me to leave His guide for my life.  This person that you know and love is that person, only because I am walking in the Light of His Word.  We all struggle with the presence of sin, but we can have victory through His Word and by His Power.  Since I believe what He says about His own Word, I cannot leave His Word, any more than I can stop breathing.

As I write this, my heart aches, because, of course, I would love for us to be on the Way together.  I have answered your question.  Maybe, you’ll answer the same question for me sometime.  No matter what, if you let me, I will love you all the days of my life.  You are my friend, my sister, and my daughter.  You are one of the greatest gifts the Lord has given me, and I am so grateful.  Sometimes His gifts require a price.  He gave Himself for us, that we may be with Him forever.  My hope is that our friendship won’t require a price.  I never want us to be apart…although we’re not exactly traveling on the same path.  My prayer will always be that we reach Home together….and I know you pray the same for me.  Only God can answer both our prayers.

That letter was written years ago…to a friend who is even more dear to me today than decades ago. My faith remains unchanged…because God has not changed. He is worthy of our praise…He is worthy of our very lives. The song “Build My Life/Holy, There Is No One Like You” (by Housefires) speaks my heart today.

Worship with me:

[Verse 1] Worthy of every song we could ever sing
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe
We live for You

[Verse 2] Jesus, the Name above every other name
Jesus, the only One who could ever save
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe
We live for You
Oh, we live for You

[Chorus] (Holy)
Holy, there is no one like You
There is none beside You
Open up my eyes in wonder
And show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me

[Verse 1] Worthy of every song we could ever sing
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe
We live for You
Oh, we live for You
Jesus

[Verse 2] Jesus, the Name above every other name
Jesus, the only One who could ever save
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe
We live for You
Oh, we live for You

[Chorus] And holy, there is no one like You
There is none beside You
Open up my eyes in wonder
And show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me
Holy
Holy, there is no one like You
There is none beside You
Open up my eyes in wonder
And show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me*

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Blog-Isaiah-45-4-6-none-beside-me.jpg

Photo Credit: Heartlight

*Lyrics to “Build My Life/Holy, There Is No One Like You” – Songwriters: Pat Barrett, Brett Steve Younker, Karl Martin, Matt Redman, Kirby Elizabeth Kaple

Worship Wednesday – The Wonder of God – “So Will I” – Hillsong Worship

[Adapted from the Archives]

Photo Credit: Cedar Ridge Community Church

Christmas time is full of wonder…of a mystery of Jesus’ coming, not just as a man but, as a baby. God drawing near to us, in love and long-suffering. Immanuel – God with us. What a wonder!

Several years ago, I spoke at a homeschooling conference on the role we as parents have in modeling wonder and training worship. Our children are born with this huge sense of wonder, and then as the years go by, it can be dampened by the harder things (or people) in our lives. However, we, as adults, can model our own grown-up wonder. What follows, then, as we remind our children the source of the wonder…is worship.

In preparing for the conference, I was reminded of the apostle Peter’s exclamation below…his own wonder at a question Jesus asked. At that time in Jesus’ ministry on earth, some of his followers fell away. He then asked his closest followers if they would leave him (John 6:67-69):

“Lord, where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

 Where would we go? There’s nowhere…no one…like the Lord. The Creator and Sustainer of this beautiful world…

“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? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings; You crowned him with glory and honor.”Psalm 8:3-5

“Even the darkness is not dark to You, but the night shines like the day, for darkness is as light to You. For You formed my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well.” Psalm 139:12-14

“So if you cannot do such a small thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow: they do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!”Luke 12:26-28

In thinking of how, as parents, we might protect and nurture our children’s sense of wonder, we rouse up our own sense of wonder.

Why We Must Protect and Nurture Our Children’s Sense of Wonder – Linda Akeson McGurk

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement…I should ask that [a] gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life. If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

What happens to our wonder? How do we pass it along, or keep it flourishing in our kiddos?

It’s helpful to spend a bit of time in reflection on some of what causes us to wonder:

  • Babies. Full-stop.
  • Cracking open a perfectly ripe watermelon – the color, how it smells, how it tastes.
  • Flowers coming from the tiniest of seeds (Dave has gardened in 4 different countries – pots on balconies when necessary).
  • The sky, night or day, and the vastness of space.
  • The water lines on the mountains of the Sinai Desert – no other way they could get there but a world-wide flood.
  • Forgiveness.
  • The wonder of sleep – lights out & alone with our thoughts & God; also sleep interrupted from anxiety but then the wonder of waking in the morning after miraculously falling back to sleep.
  • God’s answering Mom’s prayer – preferring for Him to be glorified in her cancer more than being healed from it, this side of Heaven.
  • The wonder of a virgin birth, of obedience even in death, of a resurrection.
  • the wonder of loving God – and that we are heard, known, understood, and forever received…by Him.

“Does the resurrection mean anything for your life now? Oh my, yes. [Because Jesus is the one bringing the kingdom of God – “shalom – complete healing of all the relationships in creation. We will be reconciled to God; to nature; to one another; and to ourselves…This broken world is not the only world we’re ever going to have…In the resurrection life we will dance perfectly, know perfect love, full satisfaction. The joy of your glory will be that much greater for every scar you bear”.Timothy Keller, Jesus the King

If we aren’t careful we falter in our wonder because of the seeming weight of our responsibilities or the distraction of our differences one with another. God never meant it to be this way.

“In a world full of pragmatic ‘older brothers’ it is easy, even in church, to forget the love that wants to stream between us. Instead we allow our heads and backs to bend under the weight of all that needs to be put right.Teresa McCaffery

“The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. –  C. S. Lewis

This is just a taste of the wonder we will know in Heaven…and what is our response to the wonder that surrounds us…the marvel of God Himself reflected in this world…and in His image-bearers? Gratefulness.

Photo Credit: Alan Chen, Good Free Photos

Gratefulness flows out of wonder and moves us to worship. We parents model wonder for our children & train them to turn their hearts in worship toward God…at Christmas and every “ordinary” day.

Worship with me in wonder as these days unfold toward Christmas – to Hillsong Worship‘s So Will I:

God of creation
There at the start
Before the beginning of time
With no point of reference
You spoke to the dark
And fleshed out the wonder of light

And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapor of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made
Every burning star
A signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I

God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice

And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You say
Every painted sky
A canvas of Your grace
If creation still obeys You so will I

If the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I
For if everything exists to lift You high so will I
If the wind goes where You send it so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy
Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times

God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created
The light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die

And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I can see Your heart
Eight billion different ways
Every precious one
A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I

Like You would again a hundred billion times
But what measure could amount to Your desire
You’re the One who never leaves the one behind*

“Lord, what a world you’ve given us! Our senses are full of the wonder of Your creation. Even more than that, the wonder of You. How You love us is beyond our understanding or comprehension. Your provision for our lives…the people You have brought close to love and to be loved by. The work You have given us…we are so privileged. Life eternal and abundant that we have both here and in the Hereafter. We are amazed, Oh God. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

*Lyrics to So Will I – Songwriters: Joel Houston Benjamin Hastings & Michael Fatkin

YouTube Video – (Star of Wonder) We Three Kings by The Roches

5 Friday Faves – Fortnite Revisited on Classical Guitar, Spring Rain, Habits of Love, Andy Crouch on Shame, and Wonder – Deb Mills Writer

Father, thank You for sending Jesus,
our rescuer, redeemer, and hope.
Fill my mind with wonder and awe
at the deep truths of Christmas.
Help me to celebrate and share the
good news of Your grace with others
whom you bring across my path.C. S. Lewis Institute, Advent Prayer

Monday Morning Moment – Sins of the Fathers – Neglect and Abandonment – It Stops Here.

Photo Credit: William James, Heartlight

My older brother was 10 when he handed off our infant brother into my small arms in the backseat of the car, as Mom drove us away. 4 kids driving away from my biological father. I was five years old.

That father didn’t disappear from our lives just after the divorce. He already had, while still living in the house. Mom was the sole provider, and she hired babysitters for us because, although our father didn’t work, he also didn’t take responsibility for caring for us.

The three smaller of us kids have no memories really of those years. My older brother has since died, but I wish I had asked him about growing up with our dad. He never shared any positive memories in those years following that day of leaving. He actually shared no memories and he, at 10,  was old enough to have some.

The Father I Never Knew – On Father’s Day – Deb Mills

I have written about the topic of generational sin previously, but I wanted to return to this subject, maybe one last time (maybe not). The reality of sin passing through generations is sobering. When we have experienced harm, or at the very least, a lack of care from a parent or parents, we are at risk of repeating that exact same harm in our own children’s lives. As a parent myself, I want any generational sin to stop right here!

Engaging with Someone Who Has Harmed You – Part 1 of a 4-part Series – Adam Young Counseling

We don’t want to linger in the past, nor do we want to disparage a parent, especially one who has since died. “They did the best they could” is often what we say and hear. I’m not at all about blaming parents for ill treatment of their children, but I do think when we refuse to acknowledge the wrong or harm done to us, then we may find ourselves repeating those same patterns with our own children – patterns we learned too well ourselves growing up.

We can change the course of our lives…and that of our children…and it’s not just through distancing ourselves from parents who harmed us. Otherwise all we teach our children is how to disengage. We don’t give them the skillset to recognize harm and disarm the situation. When we feel the victim, we too often teach our children more what that looks like, rather than how to turn it around for our sake and theirs…and maybe even for our parent(s).

Monday Morning Moment – As Adults We Still Need to Feel Safe, Seen, Soothed, and Secure – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Generational Sin and Trauma – Don’t Trip Over What’s Behind You – Deb Mills

The Sins of the Fathers Visited Upon The Children – S. Conway

When a Father Abandons a Child

In my family’s childhood home, neglect and abandonment happened even with both parents in the home. Mom was working; she had to work. Given that, she had no choice but to place us in the care of others. Somehow I felt a strong attachment to my Mom following those years (maybe even during those years living with our dad). I’m not sure if my brothers had the same experience, since their dad just wasn’t there for them. Was it harder for them because their same-sex parent wasn’t bonded to them?Photo Credit: Gabor Mate, dr_anniephd, Instagram

We are not left without help these days. Even on social media, we can find solid counsel (even when we can’t afford or feel awkward going to a counselor in person). Check out the full thread of Dr. Nicole LePera’s below (she posts helps every day).

Photo Credit: Dr. Nicole Lepera, Twitter (Thread)

Dr. Nicole Lepera Twitter Thread of November 15, 2022

Whether we experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment from our fathers, or our mothers…the impact of their lives continues with us through ours…either steering us along the same course or moving us to take a very different one. We can keep our distance from those sinful patterns as adults without necessarily sacrificing those relationships. That’s a whole other pattern we can guide our children in – that of understanding, humility, and forgiveness.

Photo Credit: James 4:17, Heartlight

Fathering – Celebrating Men Who Did It Well; Forgiving Men Who Didn’t – Deb Mills

My father disappeared from our lives. The neglect and abandonment present in our preschool years became permanent. We would never know him…what his own growing up years were like…why he couldn’t seem to love us. We would never know. What spurs me on is the profound love of a great mom and a steadfast God. I know my siblings and I have experienced some sort of imprint from previous generations, but recognizing it is a huge step forward. We then can steer clear of its negative impact on us and our children.

If you experienced harm from a parent, you may not be able to do anything to change that situation, but you can be an instrument of change in your own life…and for the sake of your children.

Also, even with the gift of a deeply loving and bonded parent, like our Mom, don’t be surprised if she/he hasn’t endured trauma from their own childhood home. Be aware of that generational connection.

Understanding the possibility of intergenerational transfer of trauma is not to make victims of a future generation. Understanding allows us to recognize if we have vulnerability and to set in place healthy barriers against the impact of our parents’ trauma.

I actually don’t know what my father’s childhood was like. My mom grew up with an alcoholic father who vented his frustrations about life on his wife and children. Mom stood against his abuse of her own mother and brothers. Her fighter responses were tempered as an adult when she became a believer (follower of Christ). Still that quickness to take offense and wariness of mean-spiritedness were reactions she had to fight all her life. I see that also in myself. – Deb Mills

In The Lord of the Rings, there is a powerful scene of Gandalf standing between those in his care and a monstrous enemy. He called out to this evil creature: “You shall not pass!” When it looked as if he had victory over the beast, he turned his back away from him. This turned out to be disastrous (minute 1:50 into this scene below). There’s a lesson here that just ignoring trauma, even when it feels like we’ve put it behind us, won’t keep it from rearing up again. We are wise to be alert, aware, and prepared for its circling back around.

The Season of Small Ones – Mothering, God, & Gandalf – Deb Mills

Boundaries are talked about a lot these days. Forgiveness also… True forgiveness is actually its own boundary. It keeps our hearts tender and our minds free to take a better path in parenting and in relationships, in general. Like in Gandalf’s situation, we would be unwise to prematurely think we have conquered the evil of generational sin. That sin that may have been transferred to us, if not genetically then familially.

Not to despair. Being vigilant is wise in two areas: 1) guarding our hearts against bitterness and hatred toward our parents and 2) caring for and leading our children in the same ways. We have vast resources available to us these days, and we have a God who does not turn away from us as we seek to love as we are loved. No matter what kind of love we received (or receive) from our earthly parents.

“He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5b-6

Photo Credit: Dr. James Lamb, Heartlight

Finally, I want to leave you with this encouragement of steps you can take towards bringing an end to the “sins of the fathers” – at least detoxifying it for the rest of your life and future generations.  What would you add to this list? [Share in Comments.]

  • If you are willing, pray for the person who has harmed you. Not necessarily for them to change but for God to bless them. Weird, right? The winsomeness of this sort of prayer is the impact it has on our own your own care for that person. Our hearts are tendered when we pray.
  • Tell your story. All of it. To someone you can trust. Someone who will not just sympathize or take up an offense against that person but who truly cares for you and your own healing.
  • If abuse is part of your story, sort out boundaries without building walls. The walls not only keep that person out; they imprison us within. They also teach our children that walls are the way to go when harm happens…more prisons.
  • Recognize the sin in “the sins of the fathers”. You may already see a leaning toward it in your own life as an adult. Put safeguards (accountability) in your life to help you choose another path.
  • Seek understanding (you may need a counselor or that trusted friend above). For health and healing, don’t try to figure this out by yourself.
  • Remember the one who harmed you may have also been similarly harmed. The sins of his/her own fathers and grandfathers could be imprinted on his life and actions. Not justifying the behavior here but recognizing it might not have started with his relationship with you.
  • Resist blaming. We want to avoid living as a victim. This is definitely contagious for our children. The person who harmed you did wrong. Calling it sin is a start, then, rather than blaming, forgive. No small thing. When we blame, we carry the brunt of the sin with us into our adult life…with the pain we experienced as a 5 y/o, or 15 y/o. As an adult we can look at that pain with mature eyes. It was wrong, but blaming empowers the sin to continue hurting. We are grown now and don’t have to come under that hurt anymore.
  • Pursue peace, as much as you yourself can (Romans 12:18; Psalm 34:14; Hebrews 12:14-15. Reconciliation is extremely hard work. We resist it. That work of resisting, trying to ignore that person, carving out our lives away from that person, pretending it doesn’t matter – so much more exhausting and debilitating. Reconciliation requires at least two people, but it can start with one and hopefully the door stays open for future possibilities.
  • Don’t be deceived thinking you will not fall into the same hurtful pattern you experienced. We can pass that onto our children without even trying…hard warning here. It may look different but it is not gone without our determination to end it with us.
  • Acknowledge that more people are affected by this sin (for me, neglect and abandonment) than just you and your dad. What is your hope, your goal? If it is just to lessen your own pain (which matters), those who love you will join into the work of that…and its burden. What can you do to lessen that burden on yourself and those around you? [This is a big step forward.]
  • Increase your capacity for tolerating negative emotions. [See link below.] They do not have to disrupt your joy or destroy your peace. They are indicators for what’s going on under the surface. You don’t have to live in them. They are actually helpful in pointing to next steps.

Growing in Negative Emotion Tolerance – Brad Hambrick

  • Do what you can to nurture the relationship. Don’t expect your father (or mother) will have the same skillset nor understanding that you have developed over time. Give grace.
  • When we give grace, we experience the bountiful good of it ourselves, and our children learn a huge life lesson that benefits them as well.
  • In the end, we seek to forgive. We can say we forgive but if we keep putting bricks in the walls between us and the one who harmed us, there is no fruit in that “forgiveness”. The fruit is not just for your father/mother, it’s for you and your children. Forgiving doesn’t let that one off the hook; really, it keeps that hurt from dominating our lives (or that of our children’s). Check out resource below on this.

If I Forgive, Doesn’t That Let Them Off the Hook? – Clare Bruce and David Reay

Photo Credit: Mark Groves, Facebook

Okay, I’ll close out now. Not a counselor but one who’s lived this and done a lot of work towards my own health and healing and hopefully it shows. Much love. Thanks for staying to the end.

Monday Morning Moment – In or Out – Your Choice, but You DO Choose – Deb Mills

Sins of the Father – Bible Verses

Worship Wednesday – Remembering Dad at His Passing – Grateful to God – This celebrates the dad who became my father later in life.

Fathers Who Give Hope – John Piper

Just Like Mother: How We Inherit Our Parents’ Traits and TragediesApril Dembosky

Worship Wednesday – I Will Carry You – Ellie Holcomb

Photo Credit: Heartlight

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.Isaiah 40:11

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you go through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.Isaiah 43:1-3

“Even to your old age, I will be the same, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you, and I will carry you; I will sustain you and deliver you.”Isaiah 46:4

We are carried. From before we were born until we are delivered, after death, into our forever home…we are carried.

Not only by a finite, flawed human being but by the God of the universe, Creator of all things. We are carried by One who both transcends and enters into every element of our lives.

Singer/songwriters Ellie Holcomb and Benjamin Glover wrote a song entitled “I Will Carry You”. Originally meant to describe the deep love of a parent for their child, the writers found it actually described something much greater. God had inspired lyrics demonstrating His own love for His children.

“When I wrote this song with Ben Glover, we wanted to write a song for our daughters, but as it turns out, it ended up being a song that we desperately needed to hear for our own hearts,” the mother of three shares. “My hope for every listener who hears this song — no matter what they’re carrying in their lives or in their hearts right now — is that they would be reminded that they are carried by the God who made them and loves them.” – Ellie Holcomb

Last night a friend of mine shared this song with me…she shared it from her own deep dependence on her Savior. A Savior who is carrying her through a divorce, a hard extended family situation, and a long recovery from childhood trauma. At the end of our conversation about the struggle she is facing right now, she introduced to me this song I’d not heard before. God is good to His children. Suffering does not separate us from His care…we see even more clearly how He carries us through it…who He is and how He sees us…most beloved and treasured.Photo Credit: Katie Faris, Elisabeth Elliot

Worship with me.

I know you’re tired, I see it in your eyes
All that anxiety that rules your mind
I’ll be your shield when you don’t feel
Like you’ve got strength enough to fight
I’ll stand by your side

I will carry you
Through your darkest night
When you’re terrified
I will carry you
When the waters rise
When your hope runs dry
I will carry you

You are not the sum of your mistakes
You don’t have to hide the parts of you that ache
I choose you as you are a million times
‘Cause I am not ashamed of you
I won’t walk away from you

I will carry you
Through your darkest night
When you’re terrified
I will carry you
When the waters rise
When your hope runs dry
I will carry you

Up and over the mountains
Valley deep as the oceans
When you can’t keep going
I will shoulder your burdens
Up and over the mountains
Valley deep as the oceans
When you can’t keep going
I will shoulder your burdens

I will carry you
Through your darkest night
When you’re terrified
I will carry you
When the waters rise
When your hope runs dry
I will carry you
(I will carry you, carry you)
(Through the darkest night) You
(When you’re terrified)
(I will shoulder your burdens)
(I will carry you, carry you)
(When the waters rise) You
I will carry you*

“…no matter what you are experiencing, sweet or bitter, good or evil, no matter how long it has lasted, he has not left you alone (John 14:18). He is with you (Psalm 23:4), he is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28), and he will be with you to the end (Matthew 28:20).” – Jon Bloom

He is carrying you. Drop your shoulders. Relax your body. Rest your mind. Refresh your spirit. In the care of a wholly trustworthy, fiercely loving Shepherd and Savior.

[P.S. That friend of mine above…the one with so much going on…in the midst of all of it, there is a radiance about her…an unmistakable hope…in her heart, she KNOWS she is being carried. So thankful for that. Thank You, God!]

Photo Credit: Heartlight

*Lyrics to I Will Carry You – Songwriters: Benjamin Glover & Ellie Holcomb

Ellie Holcomb Shares the Song She Wrote for Her Daughter, “I Will Carry You” – Lindsay Williams

How Involved Is God in the Details of Your Life? – Jon Bloom – Desiring God

The Condescension of Christ – Charles Spurgeon

7 Timeless Verses Where God Promises to Carry Us – Diana’s Diaries

YouTube Video – Carry Me – Josh Wilson (written with Benjamin Glover)

YouTube Video – Steady My Heart – Kari Jobe (co-writers: Ben Glover & Matt Bronleewe)

Worship Wednesday – You Are a Shining Light – Rend Collective

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” – Psalm 27:4

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”Matthew 5:14

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5

Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

My mom instilled in me a love for colored glass. She filled beautiful old wine decanters with color-tinted water and set them in our windows at home. On sunny days, the rooms dazzled with rainbow light. Such delight for us children! Then she discovered depression glass and again placed these translucent colored pieces on window ledges as well as our dining table, making special occasions even more special.

[Incidentally, today marks the 20th anniversary of Mom’s Homegoing. She brought so much beauty into our lives…so much beauty.]

Finishing Strong – On the Anniversary of My Mom’s Glorious Homegoing – Deb Mills

My kitchen reflects my Mom’s influence with colored glass.

It wasn’t until I became an adult that stained glass windows became a real experience. Their wonder and beauty is mesmerizing as they change with with the light.

Over the course of the last several years, my family has had opportunity to see some of the beautiful churches in the world…and right here in our own city. Below are just a few samples:

Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Richmond, Virginia

Stained glass windows evoke “the presence of the holy in our worship spaces” (in the words of artist Elizabeth Devereaux).

We know from Scripture that God is with us wherever we are. We count on that. Still, in a culture that cries against His very existence, being surrounded by sweet reflections of His light and beauty can lift our eyes up…to Heaven, to Him.

Stained glass relies on a light source for its characteristic vivid illumination. [It] is specifically designed to be highly translucent. This quality allows a great deal of light to pass through it which highlights its colors beautifully. That is why stained glass is particularly bright when viewed from inside a building on a sunny day or from outside the building on a night when there is ample light within. Stained glass works with the light to create its powerful effect…the color and brightness of the glass clearly has immense aesthetic appeal. That beauty often triggers powerful emotions within us – joy, inspiration, elation, humility, gratitude, and virtually anything else along the human emotional spectrum. – Steven L. Yarbrough

What Makes a Stained Glass Window Shine? – Steven L. Yarbrough

Our gathering space may be such that it has to work for multiple purposes – worship, concerts, conferences, suppers together. When we worship, visual art forms can set a tone for us to corporately and intimately connect with God

Stained glass windows are such an art form.

Stained Glass and the Book of Revelation – Msgr. Charles Pope

Our church building in Richmond (Movement Church) actually has stained glass windows. They weren’t on our wish list; they were part of a great gift to us by Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.

They are beautiful and we are grateful.

As Yarbrough says above, stained glass windows transmit light – either from outside during the day, or from inside during night hours. They speak to us of the great impact of God’s light in our daily lives and our darknesses.

Movement Church, Richmond, Virginia

As beautiful as stained glass windows are from the inside, they call us to worship at night as well. A church near our home has stained glass windows, and I love when they have services at night. Driving by, glancing over, I am transported by the colored light streaming through into the dark night reminding me. Not of differences in religions, or worship preferences, or negative religious experiences. No…none of that. I am reminded of the light and beauty of God. Joyfully.

We may be coming back around, the church today, to a preference of a more classic and sacred worship space…a place where stained glass windows draw our eyes and hearts up toward Heaven and all the hope and joy it reflects.

Our teaching pastor, Cliff Jordan, is currently preaching on 1 John. Sunday’s sermon concentrated on 1 John 1:5:

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5

I wanted to reflect on stained glass today as a vehicle for beautiful light. As we think on the Lord, we are like these stained glass windows – reflecting His light. We each have a particular make-up meant to give special glory to Him as He permeates each one of us with His light and love. That’s the church – a beautiful stained glass window – with broken pieces joined together in ways that make the whole even more exquisite than the parts…especially when His light shines through.

As the days fast approach another December 25, we pulled out our Christmas music and are playing on repeat every day, as opportunity allows. The Christian band, Rend Collective, from Northern Ireland, has several such albums. Today’s song Shining Light and the anniversary of Mom’s Homegoing inspired me to again celebrate Jesus, the light of the world.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship with me to Rend Collective‘s beautiful Shining Light:

Roman candles that burn in the night
Yeah, you are a shining light
You lit a torch in the infinite

Yeah, you are a shining light
Yeah, you light up my life

You have always been a thorn in their side
But to me you’re a shining light
You arrive and the night is alive
Yeah, you are a shining light
Yeah, you light up my life

We made a connection
A full on chemical reaction
Brought by dark divine intervention
Yeah, you are a shining light

A constellation once seen
Over royal Davids city
An epiphany you burn so pretty
Yeah, you are a shining light

You are a force, you are a constant source
Yeah, you are a shining light
Incandescent in the darkest night
Yeah, you are a shining light

We made a connection
A full on chemical reaction
Brought by dark divine intervention
Yeah, you are a shining light

A constellation once seen
Over royal Davids city
An epiphany you burn so pretty
Yeah, you are a shining light

Roman candles that burn in the night
Yeah, you are a shining light
Yeah, you light up my life*

In closing, I want to display the only pieces of stained glass I have at home – each piece is a reminder of the Lord’s great gift of a Godly mom gone from us now 20 years. A mom who taught us the Word and brought so much beauty into our lives – including a garden full of irises. God’s beautiful light shown through her to us…now, we have the privilege to do the same to those around us as well.

*Lyrics to Shining Light – Songwriter: Tim Wheeler

A Bright Shining Light: Five Things Revealed to us by John’s Jesus – N. T. Wright

Worship Wednesday – Stained Glass Windows – Reflecting the Light and Beauty of God – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Below find one of the videos of the sweet band Rend Collective.]

Worship Wednesday – Thanks Giver – Crowder Music

Photo Credit: Facebook, Frances Moon

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

It’s Fall, Y’all! My favorite season (here in the US). Now…as for holidays: my favorite holiday is Christmas followed by Thanksgiving, as a close second.

Family, family, family. That’s what it’s about for me. Those two holidays bring families together for all that comes with family gathering…the lovely, the crazy, and the memory-savoring and making.

Yet what brings us all together is the reason for those holidays: 1) celebrating the birth of Jesus, our Savior, and 2) thanks giving for all the good in our lives, Him being at the top of the list.

Most of us have an order to these celebrations – first Thanksgiving (US Thanksgiving) in November followed by Christmas in December. I try to keep that order, except for one thing.

Christmas music starts around here in October. Sacred and secular. There is just a wealth of music from so many years past and right up to latest releases this month. If you love the nostalgia of Christmas music and the richness of the lyrics of many of those songs, then you may be one of us (tuning to it much earlier than most).

Speaking of new releases (the topic of this blog today) is David Crowder‘s Milk & Cookies: A Merry Crowder Christmas.

Photo Credit: Nevin Martell, Open Table

This album has something for everyone. Quirky new songs about elves and Mrs. C. (which when you hear the song could also refer to Mrs. Crowder and not Mrs. Claus). Then you’ll hear some beautiful standards as only Crowder and friends can do them. Finally, included in the album, are original songs glorifying Christ and pointing us to all we have in Him. Powerful!

Photo Credit: K-LOVE, Pinterest

The album is unique in its production having an ethereal feel of a vinyl record, including some brief narration sounding like it could have come from a film like It’s a Wonderful Life.

So the track above is the first track on the album, but the one below fits the blending of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s early, I get it…but don’t miss this album, and don’t miss the sweet messages of the song “Thanks Giver”.

Worship with me:

It’s getting cold
I’m driving home
On interstate 3-0

It’s getting cold
I’m driving home
On interstate 3-0

It’s getting cold
I’m driving home
On interstate 3-0

It’s getting cold
I’m driving home
On interstate 3-0
Mama’s calling, “Where you at?”
The turkey’s almost done
I hang up the phone, tear in my eye
Moments like these I realize
God You’re so good to me

You make joy out of simple and ordinary things
You fill life up with stories I’d never think to dream
So this holiday
I wanna praise
The One who’s making a saint
Out of this sinner
The One who’s turned me into this thanks giver

Just took the pumpkins off the porch
The wreath is on my door
There’s something sacred ’bout the time
Of year when You were born
The Street’s alive, it’s Christmas again
But moments like these, hope I don’t forget
God You’re so good to me

You make joy out of simple and ordinary things
You fill life up with stories I’d never think to dream
So this holiday
I wanna praise
The One who’s making a saint
Out of this sinner
The One who’s turned me into this thanks giver

Thank You for this life and all the joy that’s in this heart
For when I get to hug my dad and punch my brother in the arm
Thank You for the grace I know I’ll never have to earn
All because You chose to come down here and save this crazy world

You make joy out of simple and ordinary things
You fill life up with stories I’d never think to dream
So this holiday
I wanna praise
The One who’s making a saint
Out of this sinner
The One who’s turned me into this thanks giver

You’re the reason
You’re the reason
Why I’m a thanks giver

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Sonoma

You’re the reason
You’re the reason
Why I’m a thanks giver*

*Lyrics to Thanks Giver

Crowder Announces Holiday Album Milk and Cookies Out Oct. 21 – Abby Young

Crowder Releases ‘Milk & Cookies: A Merry Crowder Christmas’ – Ross Cluver

Worship Wednesday – Big Love, Small Moments – JJ Heller

Photo Credit: Heartlight

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.”Luke 10:27

“I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received: with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, and with diligence to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”Ephesians 4:1-3

What beauty we know in the love of Jesus – talk about BIG LOVE!

Even from the cross, He appealed to the Father to forgive those who sought to destroy him saying, “Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing!” [Luke 23:34] He calls us to that same kind of love.

Often, big love is rolled out in one small moment after another small moment after another. We’ve all experienced that and hopefully we’re all in lives of executing those small moments for others.

I’d like to showcase two sets of folks who demonstrate such love. I don’t know them personally but they loom large in my social media.

1) Tony and Karen Vick were married in 2015. Two years later, Tony was diagnosed with ALS. I came across their story on Instagram @thekaregiver. Karen is her husband’s primary caregiver and also manages her own small business. Every day she posts videos (on their various platforms) – videos that give a glimpse of small moments in their lives. Whew! So much love. Both from Karen to Tony and vice versa. Even a devastating, terminal disease like ALS can’t keep us from communicating love to others. They both do this so beautifully. Pray for them, too, as you get to know their stories.

Photo Credit: Russell Colburn, Twitter

The Karegiver on Facebook

Photo Credit: The Karegiver, Facebook

Tony and Karen Vick – Faith Over Fear – Video

2) Stan MitchellStan Mitchell is a pastor and the son of this beautiful lady in the picture. His mom, Mrs. Shirley, was a church organist for 40 years but now struggles with dementia. Still, with minimal prompting, she sings the beautiful old Gospel songs many of us grew up with. Such a blessing in these waning years of her memory…and life. [Check out Rev. Mitchell’s Facebook page for some of that sweet singing of hers.]Photo Credit: Stan Mitchell & his mom – Facebook

Rev. Mitchell founded GracePointe Church in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2003. Under his leadership, in 2015, GracePointe moved to be completely inclusive of LGBTQ+ persons in the church family. Then a great upheaval followed within the church body. The church has survived and flourished, in a different direction than the beginning.

I’m not really sure what all Stan Mitchell does professionally but he seems to work with churches around our country in consultation to help them love better those in the LGBTQ+ community. Rev. Mitchell describes himself actually as progressive and liberal, cis-gender and heterosexual. He is also the fortunate son of Mrs. Shirley.

How I first came across Rev. Mitchell I couldn’t tell you. Maybe it was through a mention from seminary professor and thought leader Karen Swallow Prior. Ever how he came to my awareness, in our fractured world, I am learning from him on a big love within small moments. He has the wordsmith skills of a writer and preacher. He is quite clear in what he believes and his goal seems to be prompting us, as Christ-followers, to love those in the LGBTQ+ community …bigger.

[Most all of you who read this blog regularly know I’m fairly conservative in my thinking. I take the Scripture quite literally. In some camps of Christian theology, there does seem to be a disconnect, unfortunately, in the truth and grace conversation. We either lean heavily one way (toward truth/knowledge) or the other (toward grace/mercy). I want to learn how to love well (big) without compromising the truth of God’s Word. That gets revealed by our focus and decisions made in the small moments of every day life. There is the challenge.]

Worship Wednesday – Until Unity – Francis Chan – Deb Mills

Stan Mitchell’s Facebook posts pop up often on my Facebook newsfeed…thanks to that unknown social media giant’s algorithm. I read them to see the videos of his visits with his mom. Hearing her sing those old Gospel songs, even with memory darkened by dementia. I read them for what he says about people with whom he has counseled in and about the LGBTQ+ community. He is probably not someone I’d know, but he is giving me food for thought about how to love big…a particular population of people who don’t feel loved by churches who also love the Scripture.

We have these two commandments that Jesus calls the greatest. Just two.

  • Love God.
  • Love people.
How we learn to love big…to love like Jesus…is in moment-by-moment obedience to Him. We refuse to be stalled out by self-loathing or self-righteousness. We do what is needed…by a husband who can’t do everything for himself, as with Karen and Tony. Or by Pastor Stan who is spending these days treasuring his mom in this most vulnerable time of her life and extending the love of at least his church to the LBGTQ+ community. As with the Vick’s, pray for Rev. Mitchell and his mama.
I have been convicted by both the Vick’s and the Mitchell’s – to seek God’s face and His Word in bringing His large love into the lives of those closest to us…and to those who are not drawn so much to people like us. Whoever is on your heart right now, may they know the love of Jesus…it’s the biggest love available to us…and He is not diminished by an ideology, theology, or worldview.
Christian singer, songwriter JJ Heller gave us the captivating piece below – “Big Love, Small Moments”. She doesn’t call the name of Jesus…but He is there. His big love in all the small moments.

Catch this song (lyrics and music here) with the Lord in mind.

Heartbeats only happen one at a time, one at a time
You can’t rush a moment so don’t even try, don’t even try
There’s a symphony you’re missing
If you only listen you’ll find…

Big magic in the mundane
The big picture in a small frame
Everything is sacred when you take time to notice
Big love happens in the small moments
Big love happens in the small moments

There’s no use in chasing nickels and dimes, nickels and dimes
Riches all around you, open your eyes, open your eyes
You can’t buy the peace you’re after so don’t even try
‘Cause you’ll find…

Big magic in the mundane
The big picture in a small frame
Everything is sacred when you take time to notice
Big love happens in the small moments
Big love happens in the small moments

Feel the rain on your skin, feel my hand in your hand
You can’t do it all, so just do what you can
Feel the rain on your skin, feel my hand in your hand
You can’t do it all, so just do what you can

Feel the sun on your face (Feel the sun on your face)
Bare feet on the ground (Feet on the ground)
I know you’ll see beautiful things if you look around, yeah
Just look around
And you’ll find

Big magic in the mundane
The big picture in a small frame
Everything is sacred when you take time to notice the…
Big magic in the mundane
The big picture in a small frame
Everything is sacred when you take time to notice
Big love happens in the small moments
Big love happens in the small moments*

[Closing with some small moments that make our hearts swell with big love. God is so good. His love shapes our world. It is His. We are as well. Hallelujah!]

[We have other grands, who are not on social media or the internet, but are loved big as well. Just adding that to be clear. :)]

*Lyrics to Big Love, Small Moments – Songwriters:  Dave Heller, Cason Cooley, Jennifer Heller

Big Love, Small Moments – a blog post by JJ Heller

Big Love, Small Moments – Katrina Kenison

Monday Morning Moment – Loneliness in Isolation – Fighting Against It and Occasionally Successful

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Just last night I was confronted again with one of the tolls of the COVID epidemic. That toll being a physical isolation that has grown into a lingering social isolation. A friend texted me about her sense of feeling disconnected, even unseen, in the midst of her church community, of all places. She is reaching out but has not yet found her people. I tried to encourage her to keep reaching out and she would eventually find those friends, that connection for which she is longing. This isolation, this loneliness, is something I, too, was fighting against and occasionally successful.

She told me this had to be my next blog (title) and so it is…although I don’t have answers…but will share what I’m learning from my own journey and from wise others.

“Here’s what we do: We spend hours alone in our crowded, noisy, screen-lit worlds, we invest only sporadic time with acquaintances, and then we expect close friends to somehow appear in our busy lives.”Jennie Allen, author of Find Your People: Building Deep Community in a Lonely World
Being retired from my usual work has afforded me much discretionary time…time which can be lavished on others or on disciplines like study, prayer, and writing. Too often…this time on my hands has taken me to places too quiet…where I get lost in my thoughts. That is an excellent description of this loneliness that comes from isolation.
We think too much maybe. Get lost in those thoughts and become slow to respond. Instead of going after friends, we wonder where those friends are…is it us? Is it them? We look for reasons for the unsought solitude we find ourselves in yet we can’t seem to fight off the sluggishness of too-long isolation. We text instead of call. We do electronic meetings instead of face-to-face ones. We cling to smaller rhythms instead of restoring larger lives.
OK…is that just my issue? I don’t think so. The phrase “new normal”, no longer in vogue, is a misnomer. It deludes us into a posture of waiting…rather than seizing on what’s right in front of us. Whatever is the present normal…that is what we have. This present normal.
This present that we have is fleeting, temporary…but the people  around us are not. Yet, relationships require some level of intentionality. A wise counselor once told us, during a season of multiple moves for work, to “put down your roots as deeply as you can – wherever you are”. COVID mediation has pushed us toward shallow relationships. We don’t want to miss people in the dullness of this odd season.
My beautiful friend above is already on the way to an answer to her loneliness because she is recognizing the “what’s not right” about her current situation and she’s not holding on to the status quo. That is forward motion right there. I am hopeful for her and for myself.

Writer, speaker, and mom Kari Kampakis wrote a fascinating post on Instagram and Facebook. It was titled: “What Middle School Girls Should Know About Friendship”. She wrote to girls but the lessons are redeeming for all of us, especially in this world that’s become COVID-isolated.

“What Middle School Girls Should Know About Friendship” – Kari Kampakis – Blog

“Friendships change.” Following you will find Kampakis’ 10 thoughts (abbreviated from her blog) on the struggle – written for middle school girls but applicable to any of us. Especially as we face loneliness and isolation and want to either jump-start or strengthen our friendships:

1. It’s normal for friendships to evolve and change.

2. Everything will be okay. – Be patient, pray for good friends, and pray to be a good friend.

3. Rather than focus on finding the right friends, concentrate on being the right friend. – When you treat people well, you’ll attract friends who treat you well too. By holding yourself to high standards, becoming the friend you wish to find, and choosing to be an encourager rather than a critic, you set yourself up for positive and long-lasting relationships.

4. Even when you find your “people”, always leave room at the table to invite someone new in. – Kampakis lamented: “One regret I have from high school and college is not reaching out more beyond my circle and letting God open the door to unexpected blessings.”

5. Love your friends well, but keep a loose grip. Give them space to explore new friendships and explore new friendships yourself.

6.Remember that everyone is learning and gradually maturing. Just because you don’t click with someone now doesn’t mean you won’t click later. 

7. The biggest friendship killers are jealousy, comparison, insecurity, and fear – fear of rejection, fear of being left out, and fear of being alone. Acting on these emotions can turn you into someone you’re not. – By being aware of your negative emotions yet learning the self-control to not act on them.

8. Form your own opinions about people, and don’t believe everything you hear. – Treat everyone like a friend until they give you a good reason not to, and when possible, give people the benefit of the doubt.

9. Know the difference between committed friends and casual friends. – Committed friends are the kind you carry through life. They have your back and will stand in your corner even if they’re your last friends standing. Casual friends are the kind you have for a season of life, maybe a few seasons.

10. Be kind, and keep in mind that kindness is more important than popularity.  

Photo Credit: Kari Kampakis

“What Middle School Girls Should Know About Friendship” – Kari Kampakis – Blog

Those 10 points were written for middle schoolers. It was a great reminder to me of the sweet simplicity of pursuing friendship. Both in rekindling neglected relationships and sparking new ones.

The world won’t all of a sudden become warm and welcoming…but I am ready to stretch again. It feels almost like a hungry bear coming out of a long hibernation.  It’s possible to shake off the sleep of shallow relationships. To be more present with people – not just on my terms but open to enter into their space…both heart and head.

Even if it’s one person at a time.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Life does not stand still for us. I have friends and family that are dear to me and yet we rarely see each other. Do we think that is going to happen somewhere down the road? Magically? There’s a place for urgency in dealing with the habitual loneliness we have come to know in recent months. My friend above is taking steps as am I. Cautiously, awkwardly…but occasionally successfully.

How about you? What’s your story? [Comment below.]

[Sidebar: If you’ve read this whole piece and wondered what’s the issue because you have great friendships – current and satisfying – maybe see Kampakis’ #4 again.  “Leave room at the table for someone new.” Don’t circle the wagons. If you are basking in the experience of an inner circle, turn around – someone who may need you, or you them, may be just outside. Invite her in.. New friendships can be costly but the benefits are worth the expense and the risk. *]

*Monday Morning Moment – Real Friendship – on Friends Who Wound, Fierce Friends, Friends Who Turn Around, and Friends Who Stay – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship Wednesday – The Steadfast Love of the Lord – On Repeat

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Psalm 118 – it was the focus of my devotional reading over the last few days. Not unusual in the Psalms, several attributes of God were repeated in this great chapter. Not only His character but how His character draws us out in utter worship and awe.

These repeated phrases reminded me of my days in church youth camp (as a camper and a counselor). All of us sitting around a smoky fire pit, someone with a guitar, and us singing familiar choruses. Camp songs often have repeated phrases, driving the truths of who God is into our youthful hearts. Those songs are still with me today… along with newer worship songs using less repetition…no need. As older believers, we know personally the enduring faithfulness of God and His unfailing love.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Wednesday Worship – Raising Up Worshippers – the Old Songs & the New – Deb Mills

Below you will find (bulleted) the repeated phrases from Psalm 118. The writer isn’t given, but it sounds like King David. Ever praising God for His deliverance, vanquishing the enemy.

When we feel the squeeze of our circumstances, as David must have, we cry out to God and He delivers us to freedom. Even freedom from our sins…thanks to Christ Jesus.

Let’s take a moment and reflect on these points of praise (links to songs if you’d like to use them as part of this time – both newer songs and some old church camp classics).

  • “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.” – Psalm 118:1, 29

YouTube Video – Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart

YouTube Video – Forever – Chris Tomlin

YouTube Video – His Love Endures Forever – Michael W. Smith [same song as above; different rendition]

  • “The LORD is for me.” [“The LORD is on my side.”]Psalm 118:6,7

YouTube Video – God Is For Me – JPCC Worship

YouTube Video – Steffany Gretzinger – Christ the Lord is With Me

YouTube Video – You Are My Hiding Place – Selah [Years ago, when Dave and I were first dating, we would sit at the piano and sing this one together. It was as much our song as the one that became our couple song (“I Only Have Eyes for You” – in case you would wonder.)

  • “I destroyed them all with the authority of the Lord [in the name of the Lord].” Psalm 118:10, 12, 13

YouTube Video – Authority – Elevation Worship

YouTube Video – Blessed Be the Name of the Lord – The Name of the Lord is a Strong Tower

  • “The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things!”Psalm 118:15-16

YouTube Video – Jon Reddick – God, Turn It Around (Feat. Matt Maher) – couldn’t find a worship song for this passage. This is just a beautiful reminder of His sovereignty. Someone needs to write such a song for “the strong right arm of the Lord”. If you know one, please comment its title/link below.

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I’d like to close with a part of Psalm 118 – verses that weren’t repeated but are so strong they make their own anthem to a God of love who is worthy to be praised with all our hearts:

“I will not die; instead I will live to tell what the LORD has done:

…The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing. and it is wonderful to see. This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”Psalm 118:17, 22-24

Until the day we do die and enter our Heavenly Home, we have this witness, this Gospel message. God, through Christ, made a way to restore us to Himself. This day! This day Jesus paid our sin debt with His own life. This day God made. This was His doing…and in this day, we will rejoice and be glad! Hallelujah!

Psalm 118 – Bible Teaching Notes – Omar C. Garcia

YouTube Video – I Will Call Upon the Lord/We Exalt Thee – Petra

Youth Worship Songs – 23 Praise Titles Teens Will Love to Sing – Stephanie Martin

17 Songs Every Youth Group Kid Still Knows By Heart – Jessica Misener

Praise the Lord, all you nations. Praise him, all you people of the earth. For his unfailing love for us is powerful; the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever. Psalm 117

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Monday Morning Moment – Abuse – Where Does It Begin and How Do We Respond?

Photo Credit: South Mountain Works

My childhood memories have gaps. A year ago, I began exploring the possibilities that there were memories being kept hidden in my brain. Reading and working through the three books of Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson moved me to consider the power of shame in keeping my memories silent. Dr. Thompson encourages his clients (and book readers) to write down our life stories, in long-hand. Journaling the decades. Especially working on recalling our childhood. Bringing those memories into the light.

My preschool years are still mostly devoid of memories. My mom had told me later that our rarely employed biological father neglected us such that she had to employ a babysitter daily while she worked. Whether neglect is abusive or not, I have no recallable memories of my father from those years. Mom divorced him by the time I was 6.

In doing the exercise of writing out my life, one childhood memory that I was able to re-remember started out happy. It was a neighborhood “garden party”. I was maybe 7 or 8. These so-called garden parties were a gathering of family and friends to process the harvest of large vegetable gardens – for canning and freezing. Those who came enjoyed lively conversations, engaging stories, and finally a large meal together. The adults were caught up in the moment, and the children wandered in and out…and farther away.

I’m not sure who all ended up with me in a large barn some distance away from the home of our hosts. In that barn, an older boy (trigger, sorry) talked me into letting him touch me in inappropriate ways.

I had put that memory far back in my mind.

In remembering it, I also recalled telling my mom that evening and her taking action by going to talk to the parents of that boy. That’s where it ended, I believe.

Later in my childhood, I would discover my older brother’s (I suppose) hidden stash of pornographic magazines. [We didn’t have internet pornography in those days, and this sort of perusing seemed an expected coming-of-age pastime.] Page after page of naked or scantily clothed women in sexually provocative poses. Even as a pre-teen, it drew me in, even though it felt dirty and shameful. I don’t think I understood the power of taking such images into my brain. It is what pornography does and why it is so toxic.

[Could this sort of pornography be a launch-pad for girls who, seeing those images, become sexually aroused, then thinking she might be  same-sex attracted? Especially if it happened today in our current culture…I wonder.]

Being exposed to pornography as a child isn’t abuse, of course, but it forces an unhealthy peering into an adult world. I wish I hadn’t stumbled on it and hope parents take seriously the availability of porn on the internet. OK…done with that topic.

At the age of 13, my parents invited a young co-worker of my step-dad’s for a cookout. He must have been 18 or 19. He stayed long into the evening. I have no idea what my parents were thinking at the time (and they were excellent parents), but they went to bed and he was still there. This seemed to set up a green light for him, and he became very aggressive physically. My 13-year-old sensibility was at first enthralled at his interest in me and then frightened, too timid to cry out or get away. If my older brother hadn’t returned early from a date, and sent him on his way, I’m not really sure where that would have ended. So thankful for my brother that night.

Where does abuse begin? Did it start with the neglect of a father? Even with an incredibly loving and supportive mom, she couldn’t be everywhere all the time. Was I vulnerable to the attention of boys (and men) growing up because of a father who started out uncaring and became increasingly absent (don’t remember seeing him after my early childhood years). Even with the love of a dear step-father, did I struggle with needing approval, wanting to feel special, absorbing the very adult messaging of pornography geared toward adult men?

[I’ll stop my story here for now.]

My extended family has known the searing pain of abuse. The abuse of power, the deceitfulness of sin (protecting the perpetrator), the isolation that comes with shame, and the complicit nature of silence.

In fact, with the statics (of sexual abuse alone), in the US, we’re talking as many as 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused by the age of 10 and 1 in 6 boys.

How do we respond to abuse? How do we even consider such atrocities? Put aside sexual abuse for a moment. It comes in many different ways.

Dr. Henry Cloud, in his book Changes That Heal, talks about the role of crossing personal boundaries in abuse…when people step over a line, a boundary, wounding another person.

“The essence of boundaries and limits is knowing what we own and what we do not own…when we do not own ourselves as separate people from the ones we are bonded to, we develop unclear boundaries, and we allow people to cross those boundaries when we should be saying no”. –  Dr. Henry Cloud, Changes That Heal

One thing we could all assess within ourselves is our own understanding of personal boundaries – where we stop and another person starts. Abuse can happen with overreach (in parenting, marriage, friendships, and the workplace) or a lack of understanding or ownership of our own personhood.

This boundary breach leading to abuse can happen with strangers, but, more often than not, it happens with people we know – parents and children, spouses, other family members, trusted teachers or clergy.

Abuse Is Never the Victim’s Fault – video – Dr. Henry Cloud

Abuse can be subtle…still with the impact of intimidation or silencing. Even something we are all familiar – the silent treatment – is its own form of abuse.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

I’m not going to cover what we need to do comprehensively in handling abuse. Resources abound in this area. However, my work on memories coming back to light (and processing them as an adult, not as a child) helped me understand some attitudes and behavior that affect my sense of self and relationships today.

So in brief, I would say:

  • Do a journey of self-discovery (with a counselor or trusted friend) – examining and reframing painful childhood (or early adulthood) memories.
  • If abuse is still a part of your current life – get what distance you can from it, as you develop coping skills to protect yourself but also the generations coming after you. Building forever boundaries between you and that person/those persons can be its own abuse. It is a stop-gap measure and still holds the abused in bondage to the abuser.
  • Don’t be silent. Talk to someone. Tell your story.
  • For those who suspect abuse in another, don’t be complicit in the abuse, by your silence. Prayerfully, carefully, come alongside the abused. If you have a relationship with the abuser, reason with that person, if you can.
  • Isolation is a product of shame for the abused and the abuser. It also works to keep the abused more vulnerable. Shame, isolation, and secrecy.  Don’t ignore isolation (even in these post-pandemic days when it may be harder to detect). Be vigilant in surveilling those in your circles – your family, neighborhood, workplace, and friend group.
  • Finally, be aware of “vicarious trauma” – for those helping, caring, mentoring persons – experiencing a secondary trauma because of your leaning in and coming close to the trauma of another. You may need help from another as well, choosing not to leave the room but needing support yourself.

This is just a start.

Again, there are so many resources. Curt Thompson’s books and podcasts. Dr. Diane Langberg‘s website and YouTube channel. Adam Young Counseling podcasts and videos. Counselor Matthias Barker podcasts. Just to name a few.

I’d appreciate your thoughts in Comments below. Please…don’t keep silent. There is help…and healing.

Photo Credit: Connecting Paradigms, Matthew S. Bennett

15 Trauma Therapy Techniques to Implement to Help You Heal From Trauma – Gala Gorman

Understanding Trauma – Loretta Grieve

Monday Morning Moment – Generational Sin and Trauma – Don’t Trip Over What’s Behind You – Deb Mills