Category Archives: Legacy

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

[From the Archives]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This God…and this girl.  Genessa

 I Long for the Day by Dennis Jernigan

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

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

And anyway You come will be alright with me

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

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

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

Chorus:

When I get to see You face to face

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

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

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

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

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

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

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

And anything You say will be alright with me.

You see my heart’s greatest need

You and me, walking intimately.

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

When You call me to Your side eternally.

(Chorus Repeat)

Lord, I celebrate You!

Forever with You! No crying there.

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

My heart is anticipating eternally with you celebrating You!

Forever with You I long to be;

Forever worshipping, knowing You intimately!

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

I’ll spend forever just celebrating You.

I’ll see all my loved ones gone before

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

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

Together we will be celebrating You!

Together we’ll worship You and sing.

Forever praising Lord Jesus, our Savior and King.

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

Enter your rest, and start celebrating, too.

Forever Lord, I’ll be celebrating You.

Chorus Repeat:

When I get to see You face to face

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

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

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

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

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

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

Monday Morning Moment – a Wave of Nostalgia and 3 Lessons Taken

This weekend, we had some family time with our children and the grands. In picking up some stray items last night, I discovered one of the littles must have been playing with a globe from a basket in our hallway. As I put it back in its place, I realized that to have reached the globe, (s)he would have had to reach over the picture of my older brother…who left us at the age of 61, 12 years ago.

At that moment, I was overcome by this wave of nostalgia…of gladness and ache, reminded of a dear person and a sweet time – in the past. To our little grandchildren, the picture was of someone they didn’t know. My older brother has been a huge part of my whole life – either in real time or through memories and processing life since he died. It wasn’t always pretty either, but I learned so much through loving him and trying to understand him during hard stretches.

One day, when they are older, I will tell them about their great-uncle Robert. They would have given him so much joy…and he, them. He was always great with children…even when we had our share of struggles as adults. Knowing him was worth that struggle.

That moment set in motion a whirlwind of thought – stirred by three other junctures in the last 24 hours that prompted three lessons learned in nostalgia.

1) Nostalgia is deeply personal. It wraps itself around a particular experience, idea, or person(s). Two people experiencing the exact same thing can have very different emotions about it in the moment and as time passes. What is important for us as we reckon with our own memories and that of others is to be gentle with and respectful of the experience and its meaning to us and to others.

Classical guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar recently posted his arrangement of a medley of themes – by composer Jason Hayes – from the classic video-game World of Warcraft. I personally know very little about this game, except the music (thanks to his arrangement).

My stirred emotions, in listening to this music, have everything to do with Nathan’s performance. However, there are thousands out there who listen to this piece (and those below) with strong nostalgia. The comments on his videos and Patreon Discord channel reveal the sweet memories of all those young people now grown who loved playing that game – waxing nostalgic through the music attached to that experience.

Why Do We Feel Nostalgia? – VSauce – YouTube Video

YouTube Video – World of Warcraft: Legion – Anduin Theme Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – World of Warcraft – Warbringers: Jaina – Daughter of the Sea – Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

2) Nostalgia reminds us of the past and who we were in the past. Some writers on nostalgia talk about how our memories are glowing, more positive than what was real at the time. I don’t overthink that. When we are reminded of something or someone from our past, and a sweet nostalgia follows, we should just enjoy the moment and its association. Whatever it was in the past, if our memory of it does us good, then that’s enough.

Today, two old friends of mine have birthdays. Now, we rarely talk these days (unfortunately for me) but our seasons together were glorious. At least how I remember it. Working on projects together, praying with each other, laughing at the craziness of life, and talking deeply on things that mattered. These are my memories. Just seeing a birthday reminder refreshes an incredible connection with them. I loved those seasons when we were closer.

You know those times when we meet up with someone and it’s like the time melts away? We are ourselves together…as whenever we were last? That’s the gift of nostalgia…untested. Just a delightful reopening of a vault of treasured memories…of those kinds of friends.

It just so happens that one of these friends is in town this week, and we made plans to visit. The other lives farther away, and it’s been years since our last visit. Still, I’m hoping to move that nostalgia into real time and get her on the phone.

The Incredible Powers of Nostalgia – Jeanette Leardi

3) Nostalgia brings to the present what we learned in the past – to consider again.

Something brings my mom to mind every single day. Along with that comes all the lessons she taught her children. Her wisdom far surpasses mine, but the nostalgia of memories of her gives me hope to be more wise. She taught us so well. Working outside the home all our lives, she somehow redeemed the time. When she enters my thoughts, the emotions that follow are empowering and full of love.

One day, we olders will be part of what sparks nostalgia for our children and grandchildren. I hope we will have made memories together that will remind them of who they are and who they can be…to God, to us…to all around us.

Last night, on a twilight walk in the neighborhood, I enjoyed a flock of geese flying over. Their honking and precision of flight have always stopped me in my tracks…just to watch. Memories wash over me of times with Dave’s family on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Geese seem often in flight there over the Chesapeake Bay. Maybe these geese last night were migrating south as we move into Fall. Whatever the occasion, I’m always reminded of Lessons from Geese – what we can learn from geese to get where we need to go…together.Photo Credit: iTS Leadership

[If you don’t know that short piece Lessons From Geese – take a look, either in the link above on teaming or this pdf. Or the video below.]

All this is part of the nostalgia that makes me this person today, having lived in that past…with the memories that surprise me in the present…and could help to forge a better future.

Thoughts? Please comment below. Thanks.

The Psychological Benefits – and Trappings – of Nostalgia – Krystine Batcho

Why Nostalgia Is Good for You – Matthew Hutson

There Are Two Different Types of Nostalgia – Ashley Hamer

Monday Morning Moment – A Store Opens and a Business Thrives – Thanks to a Decades-Old Business Philosophy Still Relevant Today

In all the years I’ve known Dave’s Uncle Bob, he made grocery shopping and restaurant meals more like field trips. He was a grocer for many years and then owned and operated restaurants later in life. Never meeting a stranger and one of the most kindly and engaged men I’ve ever known, he would talk to anyone who was willing. About the store/restaurant design, why the particular products or menu items, taking everything in through his experienced and cultivated senses. Then we would talk about it. “Do you see how they….?” “You know what she said about….?” I learned so much from him about customer service, product presentation, and business practices. He had a terrific understanding about what makes for excellence.

I think Uncle Bob and Mr. George could have had great talks.

George W. Jenkins, Jr. was the founder of Publix Supermarkets. He opened his first Publix food store in 1930, during the Great Depression. He and his store associates managed to make it through that trying time when so many businesses suffered or closed.

Last week, I attended the family night before the Grand Opening of another Publix Supermarket in Richmond, Va. We now have them all over the city, but they only arrived here in 2017. Richmond has several grocery store chains, and I wasn’t sure how Publix would do…but…it has prospered.

I learned much about the store at that pre-grand opening family night (store employees are called associates and the family night was for families of this latest store’s associates). The store was ready to go. Groceries, produce, prepared foods, meat and dairy were all in place in gleaming cases. For the families, snack stations were set up all over the store. It was yummy! Then we were gathered for the welcomes and introductions of different department leads. There was a prayer which I thought unusual but special. Then Mr. George’s name was often spoken as different individuals talked about how special Publix was to them through the years. The company seems not to have experienced mission drift in all these 89 years since the first store opening.

Todd Jones, the CEO of Publix Supermarkets, was present as well as several other regional executives. There was much applause as he asked for a show of hands of those who had worked for Publix from less than a year on up. Two persons had worked for 45 years at Publix. One of them had started as a bag boy, like Todd Jones himself. Whenever possible, Publix promotes from within. It was neat to see how employees could very naturally rise to the top as they took opportunity for training and leading over years of work.

I picked up a little booklet at the welcome table. It was entitled Lessons From Our Founder – Publix’s Founder George W. Jenkins. Here they are listed below:

  • Invest in others. – Publix is the largest employee-owned grocery chain in the US. Every employee (even parttimers after 1000 hrs. can buy stock. Ownership brings its own desire for excellence.
  • Give back. – Mr. George was a philanthropist throughout his life as a successful businessman. Once asked, “Mr. George, how much do you think you’d be worth today if you hadn’t give so much away?” His immediate response was: “Probably nothing.”
  • Prepare for opportunity. – Publix employees, or associates, have opportunities from the beginning to apply themselves toward excellence and future job advancement.
  • Be there. – Mr. George knew the importance of being present in his stores. CEO Todd Jones follows his example in attending store openings and celebrating associates’ advancement. Being there, at all levels, matters.
  • Respect the dignity of the individual. – Mr. George also always had an open door policy. He welcomed ideas. He allowed for mistakes. He cared about the associates. Each person brought something special to the work.
  • Treat customers like royalty. – This, for all of us customers, is the best part. No matter how beautiful the stores are or how good the food is…how we are treated is why we come back.

Do the right thing. – That was Mr. George’s summary on his business philosophy.

What company out there would not profit from such a corporate philosophy?

Finally, in case you don’t have a Publix in your city but run across one in your travels: the best cakes and fried chicken in our town now!

In the Words of Mr. George – Jennifer B.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Why We Need the Truth More Than Ever – Matt Brown

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

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Photo Credit: Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Amazon

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

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

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

And this…from the hilarious Jeff Goldblum:

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

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

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

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

___________________________________________________________________________

Bonuses:

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

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

Monday Morning Moment – CDs Are So Yesterday…Or Are They? And Do They Tell a Cultural Story?

Yesterday, I had a strange cultural experience.

During a girl time with some great friends (all admittedly younger than me), I remembered an old CD collection that was headed out of my house to a favorite charity thrift shop.

A family member had shared them with me since we are big music enthusiasts. They previously belonged to her mom and dad who also loved music. These beloved parents have passed and she finally was letting the CDs go herself.

My family here chose CDs for their sound systems (not playing the CDs themselves but converting them to MP3s for their particular listening devices). This collection contained some sweet old classics – a wide genre of music. Fun to just look through…if you love music.

So here was the rub yesterday. Either my friends were not music enthusiasts at all – OR – they were put off by the stacks of CDs temporarily “cluttering” my dining room table. There was no rush right over to check it out. No, “Wow, let me see what you have.”

No curiosity.  No nostalgia. No “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Almost to a person, it was “Who even plays CDs any more!?” “I don’t think I know how to play them anymore.” “New cars don’t have CD players anymore.” “I’m getting rid of stuff!” “Why, when I can download whatever I want.”

Who knew?!

It turns out my offer was laughable. Thanks again, Marie Kondo.

I actually wasn’t offended. Just amused. Looking in on a culture I loved (well the beautiful women in that room, for sure)…from the outside.

‘Hipster Kryptonite’: Will CDs Ever Have a Resurgence?” – Jumi Akinfenwa

I remember when CDs replaced vinyl records…no, sorry, that demise happened earlier. CDs replaced cassette tapes. Now, that was my season as a girl. Djs at dances with silos of cassette tapes ready to make an evening magical. Friends making cassette tapes for each other of songs we captured off the radio. Fun times!

[Before cassette tapes, I remember my big brother practicing dancing with me before the prom one year with his vinyl records that I was forbidden to touch.]

Anyway…wonderful memories of each medium for playing music.

Dave, my music lover husband, is a slow adopter. Cautious. He finally packed up his vinyl records and built an amazing CD collection…and then we went overseas… He let go of that collection as we downsized our lives. I thought he was so brave.

The Life and Times of the Late, Great CD

Of course, in time, a new collection was birthed. All kinds of music, between his likes and mine, and growing children with different interests altogether.

If someone brought a box of CDs into the room and offered them up, I would have walked over, just to see what was there. Just to share in the experience. What in that collection was once loved by someone else? What did the CD liner notes include? What treasure might I take as a gift and figure out how to play and convert it – for an even longer season of its musical loveliness?

Different generation. Lovely generation. With far less “baggage” than my own.

Anyway, hope this made you smile. Based on my friends’ rejection of yesterday’s CDs, I’m thinking they aren’t just yesterday, or last week…but extinct! Unlike with vinyl record collectors, we may not see a revival of CD owners. However, one can’t predict. Whether there is anything to play them on or not, they make very tiny art pieces reminding us of the music of an era…past but pretty perfect.Photo Credit: Instagram, @kttaekey, also from the piece below by Hussein Kesvani

P.S. Two old souls among my young friends did take advantage of my re-gifting. Maybe for their mothers…Enjoy!

CDs Are Dead!…or Are They? – Bobby Owsinski

The Youths Are Bringing CDs Back – Hussein Kesvani

Wednesday Worship – On Being Woke and What It Means to This Believer – Amazing Grace

Photo Credit: Statement on Social Justice

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice: blessed are all those who wait for Him.”Isaiah 30:18

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.Job 1:22

When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.
 – Matthew 9:36

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”Micah 6:8

The journey to being “woke” has been kin to my learning to drive. Dad taught me on his standard transmission pickup truck. A lot of starts and stalls as I learned how to manage the stick (gear) shift,  the clutch, and gas pedal (for you younger ones in America – probably a never needed skill).

Being “woke” has some strong, politically and sociologically polarizing applications, but the simplest definitions are captured below. It means “being aware of what is going on in the community; being aware of the social and political environments regarding all socio-economic standings”.Photo Credit: Slideshare, Mike Maccarone

[My description of this process of becoming “woke” may be offensive – I don’t go as far as some of my friends and you readers may think appropriate, but part of the “how far” comes out of many years working in the inner city where no amount of government aid seemed to get those we served where they dreamed or hoped of going…nor added to the dignity to whom they were as people. Like I said, with the driving illustration, I’m still learning.]

I’d like to tell you a quick story. Then I will hope off anything political and onto the place I’ve landed as a believer.

Earlier this week, we traveled back to Richmond from a conference in Oklahoma. During the time there, I had the opportunity for a road trip across the Eastern part of the state. It was my first experience of the Native American nations in Oklahoma. Part of my “woke” journey now has this experience folded in. Except for the links below on tribal history and The Indian Removal Act, this topic will be for another day…but it speaks to “wokeness” as well.

Walking to baggage claim from our gate, we were surrounded by other travelers from the Atlanta flight. Either visitors to our city or, like us, residents returning home. In front of me for much of the walk was a youngish African-American man. He was sharply dressed in khaki pants and a dazzling white t-shirt, and he had all the paraphernalia of someone who travels a lot. A professional appearing man who could easily put a sport-coat on over his white t-shirt and show up for work in some executive suite.

Photo Credit: Augusta Native

It is telling of this man’s experience of his country, this society, and the politics of the day. The slogan first caught my eye (with its particular spelling of America), then the hangman’s noose, and then the list of losses…

[Hard to read because I am grateful to be American. Its history, like so many country, has dark terrible times in it. I don’t want to forget that…but how to respond to it…]

On his right forearm, this man had a large tattoo in bold capital letters: #BLM (Black Lives Matter – for those reading and not aware of American culture these days).

He was a walking billboard for “wokeness” as an African American with a loud cry against the injustice he lays on his country.

This man is still very much in my head…and heart as I write today. Being white and privileged (two descriptors it took me a long time to embrace as real things affecting my life experience), I don’t think that fellow traveler and I will ever have a conversation. For sure, it felt unwanted that day – an intrusion from a stranger…but I do want those conversations. For now, it begins with my response to him…and others.

In praying through this experience (and others), here are four points of action in this being “woke” for a follower of Christ:

  1. Listen. I’ve been learning to make it a practice to listen with intentionality to people who feel marginalized – for whatever reasons. To hear them, we have to come within hearing. It can be uncomfortable as you know. That’s why we want to avoid it or rationalize or downplay it.
  2. Consider. In nursing school, we learned that Pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he/she says it does” (McCaffery). The same can apply to what we hear of people’s pain – whether in their present experience or a past horror either theirs or others (with whom they feel a kinship). Again, reacting in a way that rationalizes or shifts blame only pushes away. Consider humbly what they are saying.
  3. Separate political from spiritual. When injustice occurs, we are called by God, as believers, to respond. Even better, we are to stand alongside the marginalized to protect them, when possible, from the injustice for which they are vulnerable. Lots could be said about this, but for today, just a check in our thinking. Our government may or may not act in definitive ways. We as the church have a very different call…and loving action is always a part of that call.
  4. Act. Again, so much could be said here, but today a brief take on it. For sure, we know that the Lord doesn’t require us to cover for the sins of others. Nor does He allow us to put our heads in the sand and ignore the suffering of others around us. To move forward we must leave the terrible wrongs of the past to the righteous justice of the Lord. He calls us to act today on behalf of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized…in front of us, all around us. Jesus acted on our behalf; we are to act on theirs.

Previously I wrote the following about finishing strong in this life:

An imperative key to our finishing strong is humbling ourselves before God and in relationship to those He places in our lives.

An example of this humility worked out in relationship is the friendship between John Newton and William Wilberforce. Newton, a British slave ship captain until his conversion to Christ, would become a spiritual mentor to Wilberforce, who strongly influenced the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. Wilberforce was able to use his governmental authority to aid in abolishing slavery, but he was also a man of prayer and action in his personal life as well. Blog - Finishing strong - historicalmoviesPhoto Credit: Historical Movies

Jonathan Aitken, author of the biography John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, writes about the relationship between Newton and Wilberforce:

“Humanity will forever be in Newton’s debt for mentoring Wilberforce…their relationship was of pivotal importance for both historical and spiritual reasons.”

Jesus mentored us, His followers, so well. Who are we mentoring in this “wokeness”? Who are we learning from today?

Worship with me today through this lovely hymn, Amazing Grace, written by John Newton. His lyrics speak to being “woke”: I once was lost, but now I’m found; Was blind, but now I see. Consider watching the 2006 film Amazing Grace with your family or friends (who somehow missed it the first time around).

How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine.

Worship Wednesday – Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) – Deb Mills

What’s Wrong With Woke? – Tom Ascol

Slavery, by the Numbers – Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“This Is All Stolen Land”: Native Americans Want More Than California’s Apology – Sam Levin

Half the Land in Oklahoma Could Be Returned to native Americans. It Should Be. – Rebecca Nagle

Oklahoma Tribal History

Reparations for Japanese-Americans

Worship Wednesday – Independence Day Reflection – You Say I Am Free – Lauren Daigle’s How Can It Be

Photo Credit: My God and My Dog

This week we Americans celebrate our Independence Day.

Food, fireworks, and freedom. That’s what it’s all about. Family, too, and/or friends gathered. It’s a big day around here.Photo Credit: PixabayPhoto Credit: NeedPix, Martinique Le Prêcheur

Today I’m reflecting on freedom.

American Independence Day (4th of July) commemorates our declaration of freedom (July 4, 1776) from the rule of Britain. We declared our own freedom.

On July 4, we celebrate the freedom we continue to have as Americans because of the many wars fought to hold onto freedom.

How much more transforming when the Lord Himself declares us free!

On Sunday, we were in Dave’s family’s home church – Grace Church in Seaford, Delaware. Their pastor is teaching a sermon series on Avoiding Colossal Mistakes. This Sunday’s sermon centered on the cross of Christ (podcast here).

During the worship service before the sermon, this lyric really penetrated my heart:

“You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free.”

When you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14

As we celebrate our Independence Day, we have a far greater celebration in the cross of Christ. Apart from receiving His death for our sin, His righteousness for our own unrighteousness, we would be dead in our sins today. Still in bondage, enslaved.

We, in the US, have a dark history of slavery. No matter how deeply we are grieved by it, the stain of that great sin is forever a part of our nation’s fabric. Try as we may, we cannot wash that stain out.

Those who lived as slaves in this country, like those who are enslaved today through human trafficking, did not bring their bondage on themselves. It was/is a wrong done to them.

Many anti-trafficking organizations have a key strategy:

Reach, Rescue, & Restore

This is exactly what Jesus has done for us. In our sinful state, He reached out to us. He rescued us through the cross, and He restored us to Himself.

As we think about the freedom we have in Christ and the freedom we have as Americans, I pray we don’t forget our own bondage, or that of others – spiritual bondage, and for some…the physical bondage of being trafficked, forced into slavery even today.

We must reach. We must rescue. We must restore.

Worship with me, as we celebrate freedom, to the Lauren Daigle song “How Can It Be“:

I am guilty
Ashamed of what I’ve done, what I’ve become
These hands are dirty
I dare not lift them up to the Holy one

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be

I’ve been hiding
Afraid I’ve let You down, inside I doubt
That You could love me
But in Your eyes there’s only grace now

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be

Though I fall, You can make me new
From this death I will rise with You
Oh the grace reaching out for me
How can it be
How can it be

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be*

He himself [Jesus Christ] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude. Colossians 2:6-7

*Lyrics & the Story Behind the Song “How Can It Be” performed by Lauren Daigle – Songwriters: Paul Mabury, Jason Ingram and Jeff Johnson

The Victory of the Cross – Chuck Smith Sermon Notes – Blue Letter Bible

Colossians 2:14-15 – Commentary – Precept Austin

Monday Morning Moment – a ‘Mean Girl’ Culture – Modeling Inclusion and Resilience for our Daughters

Photo Credit: Mean Girls Film, The Daily Targum

When we think mean girls, the 2004 film Mean Girls probably comes to mind. Such a classic story of teen drama, it has also been adapted to the stage as a Broadway play. The expression mean girls brings to mind girls, in middle school and through college, who will do whatever it takes to be most popular in their school or circle.

I’m not sure girls intend to be mean…it just happens in the climb to the top. Others get pushed down in the process.

Growing up, my experience with mean girls was fairly limited. We had a neighbor girl who for a season chose me to be her bullying target. We never came to blows (the one fight I decided to finish – she would have laid me out if it had happened – was aborted when my mom providentially came home from work early that day. In high school, she and I (Gail was her name) actually became good friends.

I do remember early in middle school getting in trouble for talking in class. One of the really popular girls had asked me about an assignment, but the teacher only saw me answering her. In an attempt to use me as an example, the teacher shamed me in front of the class. The girl who triggered the situation just sat there and smiled as others snickered. It was on me that I talked…and it taught me a big lesson.

In high school, I was fairly nerdy. A few of us outsiders hung together happily for those four years. The exclusivity and cliquishness of the really popular girls didn’t really affect me…until Senior year. At that time, I was dating one of the football players which drew me into the popular girl circles…superficially. I was voted to be secretary of the Senior class as well as being chosen as my class representative to the Homecoming court. Later I would find out these two things came my way because one of the uber-popular girls had campaigned for me so that another popular girl she was at odds with wouldn’t get those honors. Sigh… A little story from my high school years. It worked well for me…but it gave me a view inside a mean girls world.

Our daughter saw the Mean Girls movie while she was in college. She was that girl new to American culture having grown up in Africa. Fortunately, she like her mama didn’t personally experience much of that exclusive girls’ clique shtick.

As moms, we can help our daughters (and sons) to overcome the sort of insecurity and identity politic that goes into becoming mean girls/guys. On the flip side, we can also guide them through the experience of being hurt by such a tribal situation. Lastly, we can model and mentor our children to be includers rather than excluders.

Photo Credit: LibQuotes

This week I discovered a 2-part piece on raising includers. Written by therapist Lisa McCrohan, the coaching article was helpful in confronting the whole mean girl phenomenon.

Raising Girls Who Are “Includers” Instead of “Mean Girls” (Part 1) – Lisa McCrohan

I Was That New Kid Sitting Alone at the Lunch Table (Part 2) – Lisa McCrohan

Photo Credit: Lisa McCrohan

In brief, here is a summary of her counsel:

I want to talk straight with you. It’s time now to make a difference in your child’s life, in your community, and in our world.  We can create a more compassionate world – starting within our homes.

Here are six ways we can help our children rise with resilience, feel connected, and believe that they matter — and prevent bullying:

1. Get off our phones.

2.  Be present.

3.  Keep reflecting our children’s light and their goodness. – “We are the ones who have to send them the message that they belong, they matter, and they are loved. Always.”

4.  Teach our children responsibility. 

5.  Teach our children to be the one who risks kindness. – “We can model this. In your family, make this a motto: be the first one to be kind… The ‘first one to be kind’ is the leader. A strong, effective leader. Others will follow suit. Let’s teach our children the skills of empathy and courage to stand up for what is right.”

6.  We have to own our stuff to heal. – Lisa McCrohan

McCrohan gives much more commentary in her articles so read them in full when you have the time.

Her point #6 reminded me of a time when our children were in a small American school overseas. Our youngest has some learning issues as did the daughter of another mom in the school. One day I was subbing in her daughter’s class, and the mom just happened to come to the door during a math quiz. I had just walked away from her daughter’s desk after helping her get back on track with a complicated problem, and when the mom showed up, her daughter had begun to cry. For years after that, her mom and I had a strained relationship. She had made an assumption that I had left her daughter without the help she needed…which was not true. Our children struggled with some of the same learning issues, and we could have been such a support to each other, but…it wasn’t meant to be. Somewhere along the way, that mom had her own “stuff to heal”. It still bothers me today. That we couldn’t be friends because of a misunderstanding.

Was that mean girl stuff? No,but I do think those of us who tend to wall ourselves off from others or who have to be “the best, most popular” have some sort of wound that needs healing…before we pass it along to our children.

Anyway, ’nuff said. Our kids have been raised to be inclusive almost to a fault. Are they inclusive? No…not always, but neither am I. Still, understanding the value of “drawing circles” that welcome others in is a strong foundation on which we build relationships.

[If you have mean girls stories, either on the receiving end or that of being the one bullying, I’d love for you to share your experiences, counsel, etc. in Comments below.]

YouTube Video – Mean Girls – Best Scenes (Warning: some language)

Inner Circles – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills

5 Friday Faves – On Being Sober, A State in Mourning, Favorite Podcast, National Cancer Survivors Day, and a Call to Prayer

Happy Weekend! Here are my favorite finds for this week:

1) On Being Sober – Writer storyteller Brené Brown posted this incredible piece this week entitled: What Being Sober Has Meant to Me. I didn’t know she had had a drinking problem. Her story resonates with my own. Here’s a bit of her take on it:

“At first I struggled to feel ‘drunk enough’ to belong at AA. The DUI-divorce-got-fired stories made me wonder if I was in the wrong place. As a rule-follower, I found a sponsor and asked her if I was in the right meetings. She diagnosed me with “a Pupu platter of addictions”— not too much of any one thing, but enough of each one to be concerned. Her advice was to quit drinking, quit smoking, quit emotional eating, and quit trying to control and manage my family’s crises. Awesome. On it.” –  Brené Brown

Photo Credit: Brené Brown, Facebook

My mom never drank alcohol. She grew up impoverished with a dad who was drunk more than not. She saw the destructive nature of addiction and steered clear. I had a short season of social drinking in my 20s. It ended at a party when, after finishing the one glass of wine I had intended to drink, my best friend’s husband appeared immediately with another. He was all smiles, and said, “And here I thought you were a goodie two-shoes about drinking.” A very old expression but his remark burned into my soul. My whole character seemed defined by my stance on alcohol!!

Recently I was having dinner with a friend in her 20s who had decided to stop drinking. Her reason was she found that when she drank she pretty quickly moved into this personality and looseness (for lack of a better word) that were not who she was normally. She decided she much preferred to just be herself, and not drinking was the solution for her. I resonated with her on that (everyone has to determine if this is something to consider for themselves ).

Read Brown’s article – it is NOT shaming but rather encouraging and empowering. One last quote from her for today:

“Over the past two decades, food and work have emerged as my real drugs of choice. Like most addiction, they’re fueled by shame and the “not enough” gremlins. They’re also tricky addictions because I’m good at abstaining but not so good at moderation. Food and work don’t lend themselves to abstinence…If I stay in fit spiritual condition — boundaries, vulnerability, honesty, authenticity, connection to God, healthy food, exercise, and sleep — I won’t be running toward or away from cold beer or warm carbs.” – Brené Brown

What Being Sober Has Meant to MeBrené Brown

Mary Karr Names Names – Nina Puro

Everybody Knows: 10 Lessons from 10 Years of Sobriety Without AA – Mishka Shubaly

2) A State in Mourning– [This demanded a moment of recognition even though it certainly isn’t a usual favorite find for me. it is for us to grieve.] Flags are at half-mast around our state this week because of three separate incidents where a total of 17 people died, including a 9 y/o girl. Our local newspaper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch gave the details of a random shooting, a workplace shooting and a church van accident. A sad week as we, in Virginia, mourned their loss.

3) Favorite Podcast – On a lighter note, my friend and podcaster Kevin Prewett, delivers every single week. Not just entertainment but great counsel on work and life through his Rising Tide Startups podcast.

Kevin’s focus is to help those of us who are dreaming of or actually launching a startup of some sort. His guests come from a wide range of disciplines, from musicians to project managers to business coaches. Through the podcast, each tells her story and gives insight to those on a similar path. Kevin also brings mini-courses to his listeners. His guests present specialized content in a 5-minute segment, like we would have to pay for in another setting.

I have gained so much from his various guests, and starting up a business isn’t on my radar. Just learning volumes from these folks’ life and business experience.

An example of one of his guests is website builder Chris Parker, founder of What Is My IP Address? Here is the podcast and transcript of his interview. So fascinating.

Rising Tide Startups

Rising Tide Startups – YouTube Channel

4) National Cancer Survivors Day – The first Sunday of June each year is National Cancer Survivors Day. It gives us the opportunity to celebrate those who survive their cancer experience (diagnosis, treatment, and recovery).

Photo Credit: National Cancer Survivors Day, Facebook

This week marks 3 years since my diagnosis with Stage 1 lung cancer. That was a shocker! I’m so thankful to have been diagnosed so early in the course of the disease…and to be well today.

We all have loved ones we lost to cancer and we want to honor them always. This commemoration of cancer survivors is also a right thing to do.

National Cancer Survivors Day also calls for celebrating all those who helped us come out the other side of cancer. Our family and friends, colleagues, and the medical personnel involved with our care.

A friend and fellow writer, Ann Lovell, has survived cancer twice. Her dad, Bob Anderson, wrote a beautiful poem about these “angels of mercy”:

Angels of mercy
Their faces aglow
May visit among us
We can’t really know

But we know divine purpose
And power unfold
With struggle reflected
Through luminous souls.

Ann posted: “I am grateful that we never walk alone — that God’s Spirit always carries us, sustains us, and protects us; that God places people in our lives to be the hands and feet of Jesus just when we need Him most….Thank you to the many “angels of mercy” who walked alongside us then and now. I am grateful.” – Ann Lovell

Me, too.

5) A Call to Prayer – Finally, I am struck by the many calls to prayer we hear in life. A sick little boy, a friend in a troubled marriage, the grief of losing a beloved grandmother, the need for a new job, etc. etc.

Many of the world’s religions have a call to prayer as part of their religious practices.

Jesus counseled his disciples to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41)

Photo Credit: Front Royal Church of Christ

I am so thankful that God calls us to prayer. Not because He doesn’t know already what we desperately need, but because He wants us to bring our needs to Him…He hears, He sees, and He will draw near to us as we draw near to Him.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”Hebrews 4:14-16

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That’s it for me this week. How about you? Any favorite finds? Please share in the Comments. Hope you get to rest…and be blessed.

Bonuses:

Indicators of Human Trafficking

On The Time We Have Left With The People Who Matter Most to Us

Why Simplifying May Protect Our Children’s Mental Health

A View From the Other Side

C. S. Lewis Still Has Much to Offer Us – Daniel Peterson

Photo Credit: Marc Merlin, Facebook

Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, is featured this month in the East Carolina University alumni magazine.

Monday Morning Moment – Memorial Day Remembering

[Adapted from the Archives]

“Happy Memorial Day” isn’t a greeting that really fits this day.

Our commemoration of this holiday in America is a bit complex. I get the parades, and the setting flags on tombstones, and the sepia portraits of our military heroes past displayed on Facebook pages. Grandfathers, fathers, husbands, brothers…and, these days, their female counterparts.

The grilling and road races and t-shirt giveaways at baseball games? I don’t get so much. Yet, like our fellow Americans, we will grill and we will celebrate a day off…and through all that we will remember. We will remember the sacrifices of those who died to preserve our freedom.Photo Credit: Wikipedia, Normandy Landings

Writing helps me remember. The many lessons of life, the travels, all the people we’ve known along the way, and the great provisions of God. It has helped me to write them down.

Memorial Day is a somber remembrance. The soldiers I’ve known personally who fought in wars survived them. Still, I have friends who lost loved ones serving in devastating situations. I stand alongside to remember. To remember those of our own who died and to remember those families who also lost their loved ones on the other side of battle. There’s always the other side of war…the family side.

How ever you spend your Memorial Day…whether with a burger or fasting or at work or play, stopping and remembering is the first order of the day. We have much to be grateful for. On this day and every day.Photo Credit: Paul Davis On Crime

[Added from Comment when this blog first posted: That gravestone graphic leaves out the deadliest war in our history for some reason. Civil War – 620,000 dead. What a strange omission. – John]

Vietnam War is the war of my youth. We didn’t understand why we were there. I participated in protests but it didn’t take me long to realize how that wasn’t honoring of those of our country fighting for us. We thought we were communicating to “Bring them home!” but when Vietnam vets did return there really wasn’t a “Welcome home!” So short-sighted of us.

[Letters from penpals, soldiers in Vietnam, who shared details of what they experienced there. Sacred writings for me now.]

Take the time today to watch the PBS Memorial Day Concert. We watched last night and it was powerful! Stories of those who gave their lives in battle, honoring the different branches of service, and glorious music. Here is Christopher Jackson performing “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”:

If someone you loved died in one of these recent wars or in any service to our nation or community, please comment below with their names and any details you choose to include. I would be pleased to help honor them in this small way.

In closing, I’d like to add this clip from the 2002 film The Four Feathers – the brief and beautiful speech of a returning soldier who described why they fight:

Independence Day in the USA – Remembering that Freedom Is Not Free – Deb Mills Writer

Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – What Are You Remembering About God Today? – Deb Mills Writer

Worship Wednesday – Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – Part 2 – Deb Mills Writer

E. John Mills, US Navy, Dave’s DadGeorge T. McAdams (in center), US Army, my Dad