Category Archives: Thanksgiving or Gratefulness

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.

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Genessa-with-team1.jpg

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)

Worship Wednesday – Singing in the Dark – Hymns, Psalms, and Worship Songs

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Years ago, we would play outside until dark. Especially in summer. I remember those evenings fondly…until the moment we started being called inside. My house was farthest away. Walking that dark street home alone was sometimes scary for this youngster. It was then that I would quote verses of Scripture or sing some hymn chorus or two. That practice would remind me of the nearness and protection of God… even in the dark.

Fast forward to today, and this came across my Twitter feed:

Photo Credit: Twitter, Matt Smethurst

[When you click on the link in the photo credit, you will find numerous comments answering the question. Some humorous, some serious. So many songs listed, old and newer. Some you may not only recognize but that will gladden your own heart.]

There’s probably not a person reading this who hasn’t been comforted by the singing of a hymn or worship song. Alone in the dark. At the dying of a loved one. Or during an unsettling time of another sort.

When my mom was dying, a friend of ours came and sang  Above All just for her. She loved that song and the young man who sang it to her.

So back to that tweet above…We all have cell phones now, and, if need be, can look up any song (if we can remember its title or searchable lyric)…to sing in the dark…To sing over someone we love…or to comfort our own hearts.

How wonderful, though, to have songs tucked away in our hearts and minds. Songs we can recall – to remind us of truth; to recall the Lord of Light; the Lord of our salvation (Psalm 27:1).

A church acquaintance of ours is teaching her children some of the great hymns of old. I heard them (5 y/o and younger) sing recently. The song was My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less (Solid Rock) written by British pastor Edward Mote in 1834. Loved it!

This is one of those songs that would come to mind when I was a child, singing in the dark, on my way home.

This same song actually also stirs many more memories. One, in particular, was hearing it sung by Filipino teens from a shanty town church group in Surigao City, Philippines. A team of us from the States would spend our summer there with the goal of helping that small congregation have its own church building. The pastor and family would make their home in the loft of the building. It was a long journey for us to get there. Flying into Manila, and then boarding a ship to the island of Mindanao. When we arrived in Surigao, we were transported on a bus to the building site. It was a tiny lot with more tidal pool than land showing. Seeing the seemingly insurmountable task before us, we were encouraged by their singing in English. A song familiar to all of us. Especially as they sang out the chorus: “On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand.”

At summer’s end, a church building was standing on that site.

Worship with me, to this great old hymn as true today as then:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
And I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
Yeah

His oath
His oath, his covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
Yeah

When he shall come with trumpet sound
O may I then in Him be found!
Dressed in his righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne!
Faultless to stand before the throne!
Faultless to stand before the throne!

Yeah, You are our rock
Yeah, You are our rock
You are rock
You are our rock
Yeah, You are our rock
Jesus
Yeah, Jesus

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand*

Do you have a playlist for those “singing in the dark” times? What Psalms help? Other Scripture verses that have become your own heart songs? What hymns or worship songs? Please comment below.

*Lyrics to On Christ, the Solid Rock, I Stand – Written by Edward Mote, as sung by Charlie Hall

10 Songs to Play on Repeat to Get Through Fear & Worry

5 Friday Faves – Overdose Awareness, Quiet Influencers, Primary Physicians, Habits of Purpose, and Museums for All

1) Overdose Awareness – August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. Let’s have the goal of #NotOneMore loved one lost to drug overdose.

“May you never get that call. I did on October 24, 2010. Worst day of my life. I was lucky…he survived………..so many don’t…….These people are someone’s daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, friends…….Don’t judge. Listen to their stories. We need change. Many people need help and there is not always help out there.”Jeanne Barney

Overdose Day Website

Photo Credit: Facebook, International Overdose Awareness Day

“National Overdose Awareness Day! It still surprises me on how many people I talk to seem oblivious to this epidemic in our country and throughout the world. In 2017 the official number of deaths was over 72,000 people [in the US]. More in 2018. These 72,000 people were Mothers and Fathers, Daughters and Sons. Aunts and Uncles. Just think about how many peoples lives were affected by 72,000 deaths. Addiction is real……..Addiction kills……..Lets all get together and find ways to talk about this beast that kills more people than car accidents, guns, breast cancer, The Vietnam War. I pray that my Facebook friends never have to be touched in anyway by the Overdose of a loved one. Unfortunately, the math says …………..you more than likely will.”Jeanne Barney

2) Quiet Influencers – We have all had them in our lives: these quiet influencers. People who gave us their best without needing to be center stage themselves. People who helped us to mature into people of influence ourselves…for some even, people of significant power or renown. These quiet influencers could be our parents. Or peers who saw in us maybe someone we couldn’t imagine ourselves.

Writer Rachel Pieh Jones urges us to capture the stories of our quiet influencers:

Power resides not only in the obvious leaders, the loudest voices, or the wealthiest donors, but also in the quiet influencers.

Search out these leaders, collaborate with them, use their own words, be wise in the details emphasized, and be mindful of how the story will be heard. Pass the mic to these influencers and do your part to elevate their voices. – Rachel Pieh Jones

How (and Why) We Should Be Telling the Stories of Quiet Influencers – Rachel Pieh Jones

I personally am so thankful for the many quiet influencers in my life and work. They are many and they are “just a little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8:5).

Thanks to Jones, I am feeling the need to capture some of their stories…so hopefully you’ll read about them here. How about you? Please comment about your quiet influencers in the Comments below. It’s a good start.Photo Credit: Facebook, Julie McGowan

3) Primary Physicians – You know you’re getting some age on when your doctor retires…especially when he is not so old, or so it seems.

Not everyone in the world has the privilege of having a family doctor. One who both cares for you and possibly your own adult children.

For over 10 years, we have had Dr. Bill Harrington as our primary physician. He’s been with us through all sorts of life transitions…as well as quite a few medical scares. I won’t go into the details here, but a physician who can get a hunch and follow it through – to discover cancer or a potentially life-threatening cardiac malfunction – is a tremendous asset. That is the kind of person Dr. Harrington has been to us. Wise, funny, thoughtful, and intuitive. We will miss him.

I’m counting on him still writing the poetry we have gotten to read – which he began writing just a short time ago. Definitely models for his patients how good life can be around every corner. Retirement blessings, Dr. H. Well-done!

4) Habits of Purpose – I’ve written about Justin Whitmel Earley. He is a very successful attorney who is now also a writer, speaker, and life coach.

Photo Credit: Joshua Straub

His book The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction has become one of my favorites. Below you can find a graphic that gives his habits of purpose in brief (some are daily practiced and some are weekly).

Earley’s website has lots of free helps on it and now he has produced a video series (also free) to help us move our lives more toward purpose. I’m hoping to gather a group of friends to have weekly evenings of watching the short video and talking about how we might incorporate those ideas into our lives. Good stuff!

The Common Rule – Book Review – Darryl Dash

5) Museums for All – We have a family membership to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Photo Credit: Visit Richmond Va

My daughter, grandchildren, and I visited the garden earlier today. It was a marvel, as always!

As we were leaving, I commented what a privilege it was to be able to afford a membership to such a beautiful place. It was then my daughter told me about the Museums for All program.

It flows out of an initiative of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) based in Washington, D.C. For anyone who has an EBT card (for supplemental food assistance), that person can buy and individual annual membership for a museum for $1 or a family membership for $5. That is an incredible benefit for those in our city who couldn’t afford a membership otherwise. So, yay for Museums for All!

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s it for this week. Although we still have days in the 90s, with the start of school and the small but clear changes in the environment around us, Fall is coming! I will leave you with a few images we all look forward to. Have a sweet weekend peopled with those you love.

Bonuses:

For you guitarists out there: Beyond the Guitar Academy

The Surprising Benefits of Talking to Strangers

On slavery in North America 400 years ago this August and slavery in the world today:

Photo Credit: Twitter, D. B. Harrison

The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes &

 

Photo Credit: Gzero Media

U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory: Marijuana Use & the Developing Brain

Perfect dessert at a friend’s house after we shared lunch. Fruit in a bowl from North Africa:

Photo Credit: Amazing Things, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – Heal Our Land – Kari Jobe

Photo Credit: Rachael M. Colby, Tattoo It On Your Heart

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. For I have now chosen and consecrated this temple so that My Name may be there forever. My eyes and My heart will be there for all time. 2 Chronicles 7:14-16 

“Then let this be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone’. Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”Acts 4:10-12

Dave’s Mom, my sweet mother-in-law, prays. Every day. Through the day. In her 80s, Julia carries the baton of her own Godly mother who has long since gone to be with the Lord. She prays not out of duty or self-interest. She prays in obedience to God and out of love for Him, for her family, her church, and her country.

As long as Julia lives, I know that daily our names echo in the great halls of Heaven before the God of the universe. When my own mom died, now 17 years ago, a silence sounded in our lives that I had never experienced before. She, like Julia, was a prayer. Mom prayed faithfully for us, her children and grandchildren. She also had hope borne out of prayer for the church and our country. Since Mom died, I am trying to run the race she left for me…praying for those God has lovingly and strategically placed  in my life to lift up to Him.

Photo Credit: Kirtland AFB

In the US, we are moving into the season of political rallies with widely varying displays of patriotism, anticipating the election year ahead. The news media is full of disheartening reports on our country’s status in the world, its moral and cultural decline, and partisan viewpoints on what’s the cause and who’s to blame.

God is not surprised by anything. Nor is He disinterested. He loves all peoples and He has certainly not forgotten those who call themselves Americans.

We as believers search for meaning in the chaos we see around us. We, too, want to assign blame.

What if…what if the cause of our country’s racial and sociopolitical divides…the violence and opioid epidemic…abortion and poverty…related less to politics and more to prayerlessness?

God doesn’t seem to mind small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10). He is also a world-shaking finisher (Philippians 1:6). As I write, our Julia is sitting in her favorite spot, Bible open in her lap, praying. She knows the God who draws her to prayer is at work. One person, one of His daughters, trusting Him with what He lays on her heart.

What if two or more of us gather agreeing and pray (Matthew 18:20)? For each other, our church leaders, our country, the nations. God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10).

Movement Church has this tiny ministry we call Play ‘n Pray. It’s moms and grandmothers with little ones who come together each week briefly to pray. Our vision is a God-glorifying movement of prayer that will spread through our church, extending into our community, city, and the world. It’s a small beginning but with a great God.

Many of the world’s spiritual revivals began with just a handful of believers. It can happen here…

“One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.” John Piper

Worship with me to the Kari Jobe‘s call to prayer “Heal Our Land”:

You take our lives
Flawed, yet beautiful
Restore, refine
Lord, You’re merciful

Redeem, revive

Spirit of God
Breathe on Your church
Pour out Your presence
Speak through Your word
We pray in every nation, Christ be known
Our hope and salvation, Christ alone

New power, new wine
As divisions fall
One church, one bride
Jesus, Lord of all

With one voice we cry

Spirit of God
Breathe on Your church
Pour out Your presence
Speak through Your word
We pray in every nation, Christ be known
Our hope and salvation, Christ alone

So, God we pray to You
Humble ourselves again
Lord, would You hear our cry
Lord, will You heal our land
That every eye will see
That every heart will know
The One who took our sin
The One who died and rose
[x2]

And when Your kingdom comes
And when at last You call
We’ll rise to worship You alone

Spirit of God
Breathe on Your church
Pour out Your presence
Speak through Your word
We pray in every nation, Christ be known
Our hope and salvation, Christ alone

Spirit of God
Breathe on Your church
Pour out Your presence
Speak through Your word
We pray in every nation, Christ be known
Our hope and salvation, Christ alone*

*Lyrics to Heal Our Land – Songwriters: Scott Ligertwood, Brooke Gabrielle Fraser, Karie Jobe, Cody Carnes

YouTube Video – Heal Our Land – Kari Jobe (Song Story)

If My People – Tony Evans

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Monday Morning Moment – Leveraging Our Limitations – in Real Time

Photo Credit: Grace Covenant

This expression “leveraging our limitations” is brand-new to me. Fresh as today, in fact.  Best-selling author Jeff Goins talked about it in this week’s e-newsletter (worth your subscribing for his wisdom as a writer but also in tackling any challenge).

Before I jump into Goins’ take on leaning into our limitations, Let me describe the situation today where my limitations all but glowed.

Last Fall, (to give context), I took a course through the non-profit  Embrace Richmond. Wendy McCaig, executive director of Embrace, taught the course entitled Mission Shift: Assets-Based Community Development (ABCDs). Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig

“ABCD builds on the gifts, talents and passions of neighborhood residents and strengthens communities from the inside out.” – Embrace Richmond

Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig

Through a Communities in School (CIS) program in a local county, I was able to become a mentor for a high school student trained on how to interview and gather information from various members of a community. Their answers would add to a body of work on both what residents love about their neighborhood and what they wish they could change. This listening project will hopefully culminate in a “dream team” of neighbor influencers, potentially including this student…all who could participate in engineering a plan for change if needed.

Student-Led Listening: Strengthening Our Schools in Partnership With CIS Chesterfield – Wendy McCaig

It was a joy for me to enter into the experience of adult neighbors and their like-culture student interviewer. Even the time we needed out of their day seemed a thing gladly given. We all want to be heard…and for these several minutes, the student and I were listening with full attention.

I was both wholly in the experience and also observing the experience. The women interviewed were so gracious. Children in tow sometimes. Their responses were so insightful and authentic. Even speaking with strangers. It was surprising and lovely. These women clearly were influencers in their own right…in the small sphere of their world.

The one man we interviewed was the most surprising. He had just gotten home from work and his wife was leaving at the same time (I didn’t understand if it was to her job or for something personal). He still invited us in for the interview. Still holding his lunch bag, and his supper prepared for him and getting cold on the table, he answered our young interviewer’s questions. This man was so elegant and articulate. I could see him, in a different life situation, capable of being a town mayor or other community leader. Without English as a first language and an immigrant in this country, his opportunities to lead have been diminished. I hope through this project, he (they) can have a voice at the table.

This, for me, was hopefully the first of many such afternoons, accompanying a high school student engaging her community in a very different and deeper way.

For me it was extraordinary.

Finding this eletter from Jeff Goins on arriving home, its timing couldn’t have been more perfect…and what he had to say about leveraging our limitations…enthralling.

Part of his message today:

“How often do we think something cannot be done until someone else does it?

Sometimes, the trick isn’t to work harder. It’s to recognize the opportunity in the obstacle.

These days, I think of limitations as leverage. My greatest breakthroughs come not when I ignore my challenges or even try to overcome them, but when I learn to use them. Turns out, this is a pretty good strategy for doing work that’s worth noticing: Don’t be better, be different.

How many limitations am I not leaning into?

How many obstacles am I trying to overcome when really I just need to own them?

When we lean in to our limitations, we create work that is for someone, not everyone...When those few see it, they instantly know it is for them. –  Jeff Goins 

You see, for some time now, I’ve wanted to figure out how to confront the staggering problems of poverty and race relations in our city. How could someone like me help in a healthy and sustainable way? One person with so many limitations.

  • Being an outsider.
  • Having little influence myself.
  • Not knowing the language (Spanish or Mixteko – the two languages in the neighborhood of our listening project).
  • Nor the culture.
  • Nor having the experience of an immigrant.
  • Only a beginner’s understanding of ABCD.

Jeff Goins’ piece pushed me to read more and Angela Lee Duckworth‘s quote on grit popped up.

Photo Credit: Angela Lee Duckworth, Thriving Intentionally

Leaning into our limitations…leveraging our limitations can make us more authentic and approachable. More determined to not let our limitations to define us or hinder us.

Did I want to quit several times this afternoon? Absolutely. Did our amazing high schooler? Totally. Today we didn’t quit…hopefully we won’t. We construct our comfort zones to protect our limitations… to not have to face them. It’s not conscious necessarily, but it just is.

So here’s to leveraging our limitations. Ready to lean in…another day.

Leveraging Your Limitations – Steve Brown

Leveraging Your Limitations – Thriving Intentionally – Erin

Worship Wednesday – Hope that Inspires Response – God of This City – Chris Tomlin

Photo Credit: YouTube

This is what the LORD says: “Administer justice and righteousness. Rescue the victim of robbery from his oppressor. Don’t exploit or brutalize the resident alien, the fatherless, or the widow. Don’t shed innocent blood in this place.”  Jeremiah 22:3

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.”Matthew 23:23

It’s easy to get entangled in the negative, life-sucking conversations that bombard us through the mainstream news and social media.

Not today!

There was a time, not too long ago, when friends and coworkers would tell me that I inspired hope. That even when situations seemed hopeless, I could find the glimmer of light still present. The possibility. The “could happen”.

Somehow I have let that hope for our country…and world…flicker and dim.

Today, a light went on for me. A God-inspired remembrance. A hope that goes beyond but also includes us as individuals. A hope that answers the question, “What can one person do?”

I live in this beautiful small city in America. Richmond, Virginia.

Photo Credit: Flickr

It is a city of innovation and renovation. Once the capital of the Confederacy, there is also a history that divides the city.Photo Credit: Flickr, Taber Andrew Bain

Homelessness, poverty, racial discrimination, food insecurity, violence, crime, urban housing and education challenges, and addiction issues are all part of this city’s deep-seated problems.

While we rant about our country’s larger struggles, we sometimes forget that we are very present in the communities we call home.

We may not be able to do much about our nation’s troubles, but right here…right here in Richmond, we can make a difference. God is present and we are His people. In both the Old and New Testaments, He gives direction. It’s for us to act, prayerfully, with authority, and in love. To see our city as He sees it, and to love it accordingly.

I am certain that I will see the LORD’s goodness in the land of the living.  Psalm 27:13

Worship with me – hope with me – to Chris Tomlin‘s God of This City:

[Verse 1]
You’re the God of this city
You’re the king of these people
You’re the lord of this nation
You are

[Verse 2]
You’re the light in this darkness
You’re the hope to the hopeless
You’re the peace to the restless
You are

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

[Chorus]
For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city

[Verse 1]

[Verse 2]

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

[Chorus]
For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here

There is no one like our god
There is no one like you, God

[Chorus]
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here*

*Lyrics to God of This City – Songwriters: Aaron Boyd, Andrew Mccann, Ian Jordan, Peter Comfort, Peter Kernaghan, Richard Bleakley

Story Behind the Song – God of This City also YouTube Video Bluetree God of This City Story

The Lessons of an Innercity Hospital – God Loves Us All the Same – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Do Something by Matthew West – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – God of This City (by Bluetree) – Fishermen’s Project//Cover

YouTube Video – God of Justice – Tim Hughes

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 – In You Alone, I’m Satisfied – About a Mile

Image result for SatisfiedPhoto Credit: Journey Church, Gillette

I saw the Lord ever before me; because He is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices. Moreover, my flesh will rest in hope, because You will not abandon me in Hades or allow your holy one to see decay. You have revealed the paths of life to me;
You will fill me with gladness in your presence.Acts 2:25-28, Psalm 16:8-11

Is there a difference between being satisfied and being content?

A couple of days ago, I came across a friend’s Facebook post about struggling with contentment.Photo Credit: Jordan Smith, Facebook

She and her family had just returned from a trip states away where she caught up with her parents and siblings. It must have been a lovely visit because her Monday morning post ached with the longing of being nearer to the rest of her family. Over her coffee, she lamented that longing and wondered at her discontent.

I so resonated with her struggle as I have long had a similar one. The whole of our marriage has been spent being states away from parents and siblings…sometimes even countries away. Even with all the lovely good in our lives, that missing the close proximity of extended family disturbed my contentment on a regular basis.

Now we have the joy of living in the same city with our grown children and grandchildren, but the longing of being near our other family persists.

Wanting to spend time with those we love is a good thing. It is a desire that must please the Lord. He has prepared an Eternity for us to redeem the times of separation here – from Him and others we love.

My friend got me thinking about the difference in contentment and satisfaction.

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippian church gave excellent counsel about contentment. It was something he learned over his life:

I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13

We take heart that through life, we can learn contentment, too. Through life and relationship. Paul could wrestle with and win over discontent because of Jesus. Jesus gave him the strength to be content.

What I think the difference is between contentment and satisfaction is the focus or object. Various assaults may come against contentment for us – missing family, work disappointments, the drudgery of routines…and the list goes on. Contentment is very fluid. We can have some measure of contentment in every moment of our lives.

Satisfaction goes deeper, I think. When we take our eyes off of the disturbances of heart and mind and fix them on Jesus, we are satisfied. He is enough.

It is a matter…a discipline or habit…of returning to the only One who can wholly satisfy our hearts. Then whatever caused our discontent fades or, at least, perspective is restored.

The beautiful young friend above, with her Monday morning coffee and struggle with contentment, still gives witness to a heart satisfied with Jesus. That is one thing I know about her… The rest will work itself out.

Worship with me to Satisfied by brother band About a Mile:

Let Your song be the song I sing
Through the blessing and burdens this life will bring
In You alone I’m satisfied

Through the struggles I face
When contentment starts to fade
Through the constant wondering
When my doubt is crippling
This will be my, this will be my prayer

Let Your song be the song I sing
Through the blessings and burdens this life will bring
In You alone I’m satisfied
In You I’m satisfied

I’m letting go of my fears
And believing that You’re here
No matter what my future holds
You are God, You are in control
And this will be my, this will be my prayer

Let Your song be the song I sing
Through the blessings and burdens this life will bring
In You alone I’m satisfied
And all I need is Your sacrifice
I have more than I deserve
You gave me Your life
In You alone I’m satisfied

No matter the cost
I’ll take up my cross
And run to You, run to You
No matter the cost
I’ll take up my cross
And run to You, run to You

This will be my, this will be my prayer
This will be my, this will be my prayer

In You alone I’m satisfied*

Lyrics to Satisfied – Songwriters: Casey Brown, Adam Klutinoty, Jonathan Smith

On Being Content – Slideplayer

Satisfied in Jesus – Rick Higgins

Story Behind the Song – Satisfied – by About a Mile

About a Mile – Band Website

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

5 Friday Faves – Best Of’s – Building a Great Organizational Culture, Naming Our Grief, Habits of Mentally Strong People, Book of Opposites, and the Story of God for Postmoderns

[Not much time this week for discovering or writing – here are some of my favorite faves, going  back a ways.]

1) Building a Great Organizational Culture – a Podcast – 5 Leadership Questions about Building a Great Organizational Culture – This is a great conversation between Barnabas Piper, Todd Adkins, and Eric Geiger on organizational culture. They define culture as “shared values beneath the surface that drive behavior”. Aspirational values (what takes place on the wall) are distinguished from actual values (what takes place in the hall). What is your workplace culture? “We don’t treat people like that here”. Like what? What culture do you have or hope to build?Blog - Organizational Culture - slideshare.netPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

Also see Organizational Culture and Climate – SlideShare.

2) Naming our Grief – Grief always has a name and naming our grief helps us to heal. Having lived overseas for many years, we understand “Hellos-Goodbyes-Hellos” – both the sorrows and the joys of them. As the years go by, we experience job changes, relocations of friends and family, and deaths of loved ones. This November will be the 17th anniversary of my Mom’s Homegoing, and every day I still think of her. That grief definitely has a name. Sometimes grief feels more vague, like a sadness with a cloudy source.

When I found this piece Because Grief Has a Name by Abby Alleman, it touched my heart. She says it well:

“Naming grief is our heart acknowledging its significance and place in our lives. In this way, grief is a friend, like Sadness from the movie Inside Out. Photo Credit: Aepadillablog

It teaches us the shape of our own unique story and guides us to tastes of the ‘fullness of joy’ found in God’s presence. Acknowledging and entering grief also guards our hearts from the calcifying effects of the denial of pain, hurt or loss. Instead of resentment, bitterness or hatred, we get healing, strength and hope. We also become those who grieve well with others. This is a true gift.” – Abby Alleman

3) Critical Habits of Mentally Strong People Travis Bradberry published a super helpful article on mental toughness. He lists 15 critical habits of mentally strong people. Take a minute to go to this article for some quick, clear counsel on building up your mental muscle. – not just for work, also for anything where mental toughness (not hardness) would help.Blog - Friday Faves - Habits of Mentally Strong People - slideshare.netPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

4) Book of Opposites Jennifer Kahnweiler has written a fascinating book on Introversion-Extroversion. The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together. My  husband is a  introvert  and I am an extrovert. We have been married 35 years and have worked together many of those years. We have learned a lot of Kahnweiler’s wisdom on our own…and after quite a few years of struggle. This book is very helpful and empowering for any partnership between introverts and extroverts.

Blog - Friday Faves - Genius of Opposites

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Skip Pritchard wrote a great review here.Genius-card-front-1Photo Credit: SkipPritchard.com

5) The Story of God for Postmoderns – How would you answer the question, “What is the Bible all about?” If you were to prepare an answer of this question for a Post-modern, you might be disappointed. A true post-modern is probably not going to ask you that question. However, what if our friends could get hold of the idea that the Bible is not just a grand story that Christians have concocted? The Bible, in truth, is a winsomely unified story God actually tells about Himself from the first page to the last. Dr. David Teague, in the article, The Biblical Metanarrative, lays out the clearest explanation I’ve ever read of the Story of God – of how the Bible is God’s own revelation of Himself to His people. Don’t miss this gem.Blog - Friday faves - Peanuts & Postmoderns

Photo Credit: Peanuts, ParkingSpace23.com

Bonus: Phenomenal Classical Guitarist – This guy. Nathan Mills – related to us? Nathan at guitarPhoto Credit: Duy Nguyen

Yes. I get to be Mom to this amazing young man… Because we are related and it’s not always comfortable for him how effusive I am about his music…I restrain myself. Unsuccessfully. Right now, he’s fairly new to that larger world of music, but he’s playing, teaching, arranging, and composing. One day, you will know him if you don’t already… Mark it down.

A video from his early days with Nathan Mills Guitar:

…and his latest arrangement (June 2019) on his Beyond the Guitar YouTube channel: