Category Archives: Redeeming & Restoring

Worship Wednesday – Our Eyes Fixed on God, He Flips Our Shame – “Look What You’ve Done” – Tasha Layton

Photo Credit: Heartlight

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

For I have every confidence that nothing–not death, life, heavenly messengers, dark spirits, the present, the future, spiritual powers, height, depth, nor any created thing–can come between us and the love of God revealed in the Anointed, Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:38-39

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

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:7

For many years we lived in a part of the world where you were either Muslim or Christian. You were born that way, and supposedly you would die that way. As I learned the local language (Arabic), I wanted to be able to communicate that, “No, I wasn’t born a Christian. It was a choice I made in response to God’s Spirit drawing me to Himself.”

Recently I found my testimony in English and Arabic. The very first lines spoke to the shame I had, even as a little girl, at my frustrated longing to be good for my mama. She carried a heavy load of responsibility in life, and I didn’t want to add to it. Unfortunately, “being good” was something I failed at daily…to the point that I knew I couldn’t be good. I wasn’t good.

Shame – that often silent companion that shows up unexpectedly to rob our joy and wreck our confidence. The Enemy loves to accuse us …to draw our attention away from God and onto ourselves. We spend enormous mental energy keeping shame hidden. At times, we turn our own shame into shaming someone else. It’s their fault. They are to blame. “Look what THEY did.”

In psychiatrist Curt Thompson‘s book, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves, he talks about how “love and shame [are] competing for our attention, wrestling for authority over our memory, emotion, sensations and behaviors.”

If we focus on our own sense of shame or how shameful someone else has been to us or someone else, we miss God. We miss His redemptive work in our lives, to draw us out of shame and into His love…extended to us and through us to others. If we keep our eyes trained on the Lord, we see ourselves as He sees us. We see others, even those we would want to shame, with His eyes of love and forgiveness. Our stories are altered, and the shame fades.

It begins with fixing our eyes on God.

“Ultimately we become what we pay attention to, and the options available to us at anytime are myriad, the most important of which being located within us. Paul, in his letter to the Romans knows this, stating flatly, ‘Those who live according to the flash have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace’ (Romans 8:5-6). To have one’s mind set on something is essentially about paying attention.  What do I pay attention to? Paul says that what we pay attention to doubles back and governs us. Hence our attention is deeply associated with either death or life. So much of the biblical narrative is the story of God working hard to get our attention.” Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves
To this God, whom we meet in Jesus, we must direct our attention if we are to know the healing of our shame. We must literally look to Jesus in embodied ways in order to know how being loved in community brings shame to its knees and lifts us up and into acts of goodness and beauty.”
Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Last week, on listening to Tasha Layton‘s song, “Look What You’ve Done”, I heard it with new ears. It felt new to me…and full of hope. I had actually written a blog centered on it just a few months ago but have learned so much about shame since then, devouring Curt Thompson’s books on the same. God is using these revelations to point me to Him and to embolden my hope that we can rewrite our stories. Like how Scripture can be fresh and new when we are desperate for truth, the same can happen with worship songs.

This song right here is where I am this week. Maybe you, too? So together, we fix our eyes on Jesus, and He flips our shame on its head. With our eyes fixed on Him, we can receive His forgiveness and we can also forgive. No more shame. Eyes on Him. Hallelujah!

Worship with me.

Look what you’ve done
How could you fall so far?
You should be ashamed of yourself
So I was ashamed of myself
The lies I believed
They got some roots that run deep
I let ’em take a hold of my life
I let ’em take control of my lifeStanding in Your presence, Lord
I can feel You diggin’ all the roots up
I feel Ya healin’ all my wounds up
All I can say is hallelujah
Look what You’ve done, look what You’ve done in me
You spoke Your truth into the lies I let my heart believe
Look at me now, look how You madе me new
The еnemy did everything that he could do
Oh, but look what You’ve done
Suddenly all the shame is gone
I thought I was too broken, now I see
You were breaking new ground inside of me

*Lyrics to Look What You’ve Done – Songwriters: AJ Pruis, Tasha Layton, Matthew Joseph West, Keith Everette Smith

YouTube Video – Tasha Layton “Look What You’ve Done” – (Live)

American Idol’s Tasha Layton Shares Testimony in New Single, ‘Look What You’ve Done’

Story Behind the Song ‘Look What You’ve Done’ – Kevin Davis with Tasha Layton

Tasha Layton’s “Look What You’ve Done” – Truth of Scripture Hidden in Today’s Popular Christian Music

Monday Morning Moment – Moral Suasion – the Pathway of Truly Changing Minds – in Remembrance of MLK Day

Photo Credit: Alpha Coders

Don’t be put off by an unusual phrase. Moral suasion.

Photo Credit: YouTube, What Does That Mean?

We find ourselves in a cultural climate of power dictating more than it should. “Should”…well…who am I to judge, but I’m still saying it. For sustained change to happen, we are meant to wrestle together in the arena of conversations within community. This is where real and lasting influence lies.

We can take hope in that.

The phrase “moral suasion” is new to me. I discovered it in a piece by George Yancey entitled Breaking Up Fights and Race Relations. He defines it as:

“Moral suasion is when we convince people to do what we see as a moral good because they see that moral good as good…Moral suasion is best done working with someone to do the right thing instead of forcing that person to do what we want because of our power. Research has shown that the best way to engage in moral suasion is through relationships. In those relationships, we can build rapport, find areas of agreement, and clearly understand the other person’s perspectives. If we want people to change at the intrinsic level and not simply conform to pressure, then we should use the techniques of moral suasion instead of just overpowering that person.” – George Yancey

Breaking up Fights and Race Relations

[Is there a difference between persuasion and suasion? In the simplest terms, they are considered the same, but I do sense a difference. Persuasion is more an action of influencing another party to come to your reasoning or way of thinking. Suasion, especially moral suasion, is more a consideration that two or more parties have a sense of rightness about an issue/subject but differ in their opinion. Moral suasion works through dialog to seek and hopefully find common ground – a way forward together to do a right thing.]

Yancey’s article appears just ahead of his latest book (March 2022) –  Beyond Racial Division: A Unifying Alternative to Colorblindness and Antiracism. The publisher offers a brief summary of Dr. Yancey’s book: “an alternative approach to racial relations where all parties contribute and are mutually accountable to one another for societal well-being. He provides empirical rationale for how collaborative conversations in a mutual accountability model can reduce racial division. History and societal complexity mean that different participants may have different kinds of responsibility, but all are involved in seeking the common good for all to thrive.”

“There are times when power is necessary. But the temptation to use power to consistently solve our racial problems brings with it power struggles and the need to build up our own ability to force conformity. Different groups have contrasting ideas about what we should do. The temptation is to try to force others to accept the solutions we want to promote. But this power-driven approach is short-sighted and will not produce intrinsic changes. Those changes will not happen until we engage in moral suasion consistently rather than seeking power to force compliance.

That effort would be time-consuming. It is easier to just use power. Easier but not lasting…We must sit down with those with whom we disagree and try to understand their perspectives. We must seek out answers that meet their felt needs and show them respect. I find that few in the racial conversation want to do this. Until we are willing to have those conversations, we will continue to foster greater racial polarization in our society.”

It’s easier to just use power…but not so effectual.

Are you as tired as I am of the power plays in motion around us? …Not just regarding race relations, but in so many other areas of human experiences together. Life together.

Laws are laid out. Mandates put forward. Rules and regulations abound.

I miss conversations on the stuff of life. The stuff that matters most. That’s why I’m often one of the ones who raises their hand, offers a space, takes a corner of the table if given opportunity. Not to just say my piece but to hear yours.

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote

Today is the day in 2022 when we commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy. Certainly Dr. King was a man who exercised the great power of influence…not elected to a public office but commanding in his pursuit of a passion he believed possible.

We know him most from his speeches and some from his sermons. I wonder what his conversations were like. My hope is they were of moral suasion. In the last couple of years, we have gone through a huge transformation as a nation…to what end? Some change has come (for better and for worse). More positive, enduring change will come if we choose to reason together…across the lines that seemingly divide us but do not have to forever.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Monday Morning Moment – a New Day – It’s Gonna Be OK – Deb Mills

20 Quotes About Faith From Martin Luther King, Jr. – Jennifer Graham

Worship Wednesday – The Cause of Christ Revisited in 2022- Kari Jobe

 

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. – the Apostle Paul, Acts 20:24

Entering year three of COVID, who would have thought?

I wonder how much time each day we spend talking about, reading about, and altering our lives to prevent COVID. So. Much. Time. On a phone call with a friend yesterday, she observed that we seem to all place ourselves somewhere on a continuum of tired or terrified. Which is it for you?

Then I come across a tweet that snaps me into a new consciousness.

Photo Credit: Spence Shelton, Twitter

“Secluded comfort” has lulled us into a false sense of safety from COVID. Also a spiritual dullness which (as Spence Shelton states) downplays “gospel urgency and gospel sacrifice”. Whoa! I certainly have experienced some of this.

My mom was tireless in serving God and others right to the moment she lost consciousness in her last hours on earth. She always amazed me. Never too busy to be interrupted. Never too tired to respond to a need. Just never. She amazed me.

Toward the end of her battle with cancer, I asked her (you’ve heard this story before) if she heard God speak to her. In years past, she struggled with whether God was guiding her or she was on her own. It was something she fretted over at times. In the hard days of cancer, I was hoping maybe that had changed… Again, when I asked if she heard God when she prayed, and she trained those clear blue eyes on me. With a smile that comforts me still, she said, “All the time.”

A different generation? A time before COVID? Did fighting cancer sharpen her sense of the presence and purposes of God? Is it possible COVID is meant to do the same? What can we draw from “such a time as this”…this right now?

On Sunday, at Movement Church, we sang The Cause of Christ by Kari Jobe. In the setting of church gathered, the Holy Spirit moved my heart deeply with the purpose of this life. This song reminded me of God’s will for us, not matter the externals in our lives, to persevere and refuse to keep silent.

My heart’s best desire is to be wholly about God’s purposes and to radiate, in word and deed, the love and person of Jesus Christ. Seasons come (as with COVID) when this desire is dampened by fears, distractions, and cultural cloyings that disguise lies for truth. I have not always lived for the God who saved me…definitely have not been always faithful to speak the glorious truth of who God is and what He has done for us.

Oh…the awful silence of choosing my own comfort over the cause of Christ.

What joy in those occasions when we enter into the cause of Christ and share the truth of God, in word and deed. He takes our feeble attempts and, through His Holy Spirit, gives us the opportunity to point to love and life in Him.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.Ephesians 2:8

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.John 3:16-17

How can we keep silent?

It is not fame that I desire
Nor stature in my brother’s eye
I pray it’s said about my life
That I lived more to build Your Name than mine*

Before we worship together with the singing and meditating on Kari Jobe’s The Cause of Christ, I’d like to post and pray (with you) pastorJohn Piper‘s prayer, from his book Coronavirus and Christ.

“Father, at our best moments, by Your grace, we are not sleeping in Gethsemane, we are awake and listening to Your Son’s prayer. He knows deep down that He must suffer but in His perfect humanity, He cries out, “If it is possible, let this cup pass.” In the same way, we sense deep down that this pandemic is appointed in Your wisdom for good and necessary purposes. We, too, must suffer. Your Son was innocent. We are not. Yet, with Him, in our less than perfect humanity, we too cry out, “If it is possible, let this cup pass.”

Do quickly, oh Lord, the painful, just, and merciful work You have resolved to do. Do not linger in judgment, do not delay Your compassion. Remember the poor, oh Lord, according to Your mercy. Do not forget the cry of the afflicted. Grant recovery. Grant a cure. Deliver us, Your people, helpless creatures, from these sorrows, we pray. But do not waste our misery and grief, oh Lord. Purify Your people from powerless preoccupation with barren materialism and Christless entertainment. Put our mouths out of taste with the bait of Satan.

Cut from us the roots and remnant of pride and hate and unjust ways. Grant us capacities of outrage at our own belittling of Your glory. Open the eyes of our hearts to see and savor the beauty of Christ. Incline our hearts to Your word, Your Son, Your way. Fill us with compassionate courage and make a name for Yourself in the way Your people serve. Stretch forth Your hand in great awakening.

For the sake of this perishing world, let the terrible words of Revelation not be spoken over this generation, ‘yet still they did not repent’. As You have stricken bodies, strike now the slumbering souls. Forbid that they would remain asleep in the darkness of pride and unbelief. In Your great mercy, say to these bones, live and bring the hearts and lives of millions into alignment with the infinite worth of Jesus. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.” – John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ

Worship with me for the cause of Christ (music in the link):

The only thing I want in life
Is to be known for loving Christ
To build His church, to love His bride
And make His name known far and wide

For this cause, I live
For this cause, I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

He is all my soul will prize
Regardless of the joy or trial
When agonizing questions rise
In Jesus, all my hope abides

For this cause, I live
For this cause, I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

Jesus, my Jesus
For Your glory, for Your name
Jesus, my Jesus
I will only sing Your praise

For this cause I live
For this cause I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

It is not fame that I desire
Nor stature in my brother’s eye
I pray it’s said about my life
That I lived more to build Your Name than mine*

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

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*Lyrics to The Cause of Christ – Writers: Kari Jobe, Benjamin Hastings, Bryan Fowler

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe – interview starts at 4:45 [also how to play the song]

What Is the Cause of Christ?

A Cause Worthy of Your Life – Andrew Corbett

What Does It Mean to Be Saved? – Steven J. Cole

For the Cause – Getty Music

YouTube Video – When It’s All Been Said and Done – Robin Mark

Finishing Strong – Mildred McAdams – (our mom) – 1927-2002

Worship Wednesday – The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe

Photo Credit: Heartlight

5 Friday Faves – One Small Step, A Father’s Good Gifts, Gossip, Blended Families, and Mission BBQ

Happy New Year! Whew! May 2022 be a reprieve from the struggle of 2020 and 2021. May we see the fruit of new wisdom and sound actions taken toward a healthier future and a closer community across our world. Thank You, God, for this new year and getting us through the last. Here are my favorite finds from this first week of 2022.

1) One Small Step – A couple of years ago, Dave and I had the privilege of listening to Dave Isay, the founder and president of Storycorps. He is a strong advocate of the power of telling our stories (to each other, face-to-face). [See his TED Talk on this here.] Given what we’ve been through the last couple of years (with our country divided over politics and trying to keep our balance with COVID), his One Small Step Initiative has been incredibly timely. Isay has a vision of bringing our country together (and maybe yours as well if you live elsewhere) through the experience of face-to-face dialog. We may have some sharp disagreements and consider ourselves enemies, but we can find common ground and common values…if we keep (or start) talking to each other. StoryCorps has made a platform where strangers can engage. Strangers who would not usually, given their differences, talk together. This One Small Step Initiative is actually being highlighted on this week’s CBS TV show 60 Minutes. Don’t miss it (or catch it later).

Photo Credit: RVA Library, Ben Himmelfarb 

P.S. Two phrases that speak to the above…and positive, healing communication, in general, are contingent communication and contact hypothesis. They are both worth taking note of and considering:

Contingent communication – Face-to-face conversation with a determination of deep listening, strong affirmation, and the mutual sense of “feeling felt”. Dr. Curt Thompson describes it as “communication, in which two individuals, through both their spoken dialogue and non-verbal cues, each affirm the other as they interact”.  (Anatomy of the Soul, p. 139)

Contact hypothesis“suggests that prejudice and conflict between groups can be reduced if members of the groups interact with each other”. In this article, Dr. Elizabeth Hopper goes on to say that “One especially promising possibility is that contact between groups might encourage more powerful majority group members to work as allies”. Instead of talking around each other, we come together. One conversation at a time.

2) A Father’s Good Gifts – This week I discovered an article by Jon Bloom entitled A Father’s Good Pleasure. Bloom talks about the joy we as parents have when we participate in generating joy in our children’s life.

One example of this for me is how my sweet step-dad continued to travel overseas to see us after Mom died. This was not a thing on his bucket list He came because he loved us and he came because he knew the joy it would bring to us.

“Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” – Jesus (Matthew 7:9–11)

“Give them [your children] good things — things they value as good and really want. And really, authentically enjoy doing it. It has God’s endorsement, since he too takes great pleasure in giving good gifts to his children…Become, through your joyful, affectionate generosity, an opportunity for your children to experience [and you with them…what C. S. Lewis calls] transposition  — to see and savor the higher, richer pleasure of God in the natural pleasure of their father giving good gifts to them.

Become a student of what gives them joy.”Jon Bloom

I love that Jon posted this piece the first week of January – when we are reeling with all the “stuff of Christmas”, including the credit card bills coming in this month. It is a joy to give our kids what they want when we can (and that is carved deeply in our western Christmas culture). It is also a joy to give our kids joy in deeper ways.

Our youngest son eats lunch with us on some Sundays. Often it is just him and us; his older siblings and families joining us occasionally. When Dave and I are most attuned to him, we just take the opportunity to affirm him and take joy in him. He feels that joy.

Have you Buried Your Gifts? – Jon Bloom

[Sidebar: The piece above talks about the gifts that we have and how our abilities and capabilities (the strength to operate out of our abilities) go hand in hand. Don’t want to bury my gifts because of a lack of gumption.]

Photo Credit: Nancy Tillman, Facebook

3) Gossip – What we may consider processing (with a friend or spouse) could be just plain old gossip. Pastor, writer Scott Sauls calls it in a recent tweet.

Photo Credit: Scott Sauls, Twitter

Such a wake-up call about gossip helps us think about the damaging impact of it on relationships. Gossip (which we too often call processing or ranting) makes us think we’re doing something about the dysfunctional relationship we have, when really we’re causing it further harm. What we’re doing is something called triangling. When we have a problem with one person but complain about that person to another. It is passive-aggressive and if we aren’t coached to go to the person missing from the conversation, then it just remains complaining. The relationship continues to be dysfunctional.

We aren’t to just bury a struggle, but we can deal with an offense with care and respect…even if it feels undeserved. This is the beginning of a healthy connection in the place of dishonoring and dismissing complaining.Photo Credit: Heartlight

A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us Against Them – Scott Sauls

Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen: How God Redeems Regret, Hurt, and Fear in the Making of Better Humans – Scott Sauls (Publish date June 2022)

4) Blended Families – Step-families, or blended families, can provide safe and loving refuges for children of divorce. As an adult child of divorce, I remember well the shame of being a child whose dad just seemed to forget his children over time. When Mom remarried a man also divorced (with children of his own), we experienced the positive (and negative) of being in a step-family.

Photo Credit: Pixabay, John Hain

As older adults, both children sets have issues of parental neglect mixed in with loving relationships. Every step-family is different, of course. Many are healthy. For those who struggle, there is always help and hope…if we reach for it.

[Just some of my large blended family…including some friends who are family…for which I’m so thankful.]

A podcast I would recommend for step-families who have had broken or painful relationships is therapist Ron Deal‘s Family Life Blended. The podcast (and other resources) is a help for any family but especially for blended families. The link below is an excellent example.

Ridding Your Soul of Shame – Family Life Blended Podcast – Ron Deal with Curt Thompson

Photo Credit: Pixabay, Ben Kerckx

5) Mission BBQ on a MissionMission BBQ is one of our favorite restaurants in Richmond. Their generous customer service (even in this era of COVID) and consistently delicious food are super special. http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/IMG_6824.jpg

We are members of their birthday club and receive a free barbecue sandwich when our special day rolls around each year. Besides that, we will get an email occasionally inviting us in for another free sandwich. Today we redeemed our “Merry Christmas” freebies.

The food is great, but it’s also an uplifting in-restaurant experience. Mission BBQ sets the bar high in honoring first responders and members (and families) of the military. In fact…they make all their customers feel honored. Sweet. And very unique.http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/IMG_6827.jpg

In fact, if you’re in the Richmond area (or have a Mission BarBQ in your area, and are thinking about heading over on Monday, they will be closed.  It’s their National Day of Service when they feed homeless veterans around the city.

The Restaurant Dishing Up Patriotism with a Side of BarBQ 

If you have one in your town, don’t miss it. If you don’t, can you suggest your own exceptional business (in Comments below)?

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Those are this week’s Faves. How about you? Please also use the Comments to share some of yours. Thanks for stopping by. You are a blessing.

Bonuses:

Endangered Attention: How to Guard a Precious Gift – Scott Hubbard

One big mistake people repeatedly make is focusing on proving themselves right, instead of focusing on achieving the best outcome. This is the wrong side of right. The Wrong Side of Right

Top 10 Surprising Lessons on the Genealogy of Jesus – Joshua Infantado

A Facebook post by a friend of mine in January 2020 – still speaks:

Photo Credit: John Williams, Facebook

“I make my bed every morning because it’s a gift that I get to open at the end of every day. A gift that not everyone has. So while I’m wrapping my bed in the morning and I’m unwrapping it at night I’m reminded of what a great blessing my bed really is in my life. When we stop viewing what we have as little, insignificant or not enough then we get to see what we do have as gifts we get to enjoy, great blessings in our lives and provision for our needs.”Theresa Nicely McCoy, Facebook

 

 

 

Worship Wednesday – Epiphany or Three Kings Day – Kings of the Earth From “Saviour”

Photo Credit: Epiphany, Office Holidays

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled… – Matthew 2:1-3a

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”Isaiah 60:1-3

The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together, against the LORD and against His Anointed One…[Then He rebuked them] “I have installed My King on Zion, upon My holy mountain.” I will proclaim the decree spoken to Me by the LORD: “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father.  Ask Me, and I will make the nations Your inheritance, the ends of the earth Your possession.” – Psalm 2:2, 6-8

The celebration of Christmas 2021 actually draws out to January 6, 2022. 12 days of Christmas climaxing on Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. We are reminded of the kings (wise men) who searched out the young child Jesus.

In Matthew’s Gospel, we read of three different types of kings:

  • Jesus, only begotten Son of God, born King of the Jews…and King of Kings.
  • King Herod – one of the “kings of the earth” – serving his own ego, threatened by the news of King Jesus, responsible for the deaths of all those boys under the age of two, in his attempt to kill Jesus.
  • the Magi (Wise Men) who sought the prophesied birth of a king, following a star, until they found Jesus and worshiped him.

I personally love the 12 Days of Christmas because the parties and gifts are finished, and in the quieter days afterward, reflection is easier to come by.

The kings who did the work of study and watching for signs were rewarded by an actual visit with the Savior. They traveled a long way to see him, even altering their return visit to avoid betraying him to another king…Herod. We don’t know when, for sure, that they visited the Christ child. Their bringing gifts came just at the time needed for the flight to Egypt to avoid evil King Herod’s wrath.

How thankful we are to God for these persevering, worshipful Eastern kings!

What Does the Bible Say About the Three Wise Men (Magi)?

Did the Wise men (Magi) Arrive 12 Days After Jesus’ Birth? Or Was It Much Later? – Shari Abbott

How thankful we are also when we see the hardships caused by modern-day King Herods. We know from Scripture that the reigns of these kings of the earth will come to an end.

The Kings of the Earth – a brief and excellent study

In Revelation, the Apostle John wrote about the New Jerusalem where we hear one final time about “the kings of the earth”.

“I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its lamp. By its light the nations will walk, and into it the kings of the earth will bring their glory…And into the city will be brought the glory and honor of the nations. “Revelation 21:22-24, 26

As we celebrate the last day of Christmas 2021, a beautiful concert came to mind. In the performance of Saviour, we are reminded of (ok…not of the kings who visited the Christ child…but) the kings of the earth. Those rulers and authorities who wage war against the Kingdom of God. We are reminded that their days are numbered. Hallelujah!

May we reflect Epiphany – and those ancient Magi – seeking and receiving the Savior and celebrating the forever rule of the King of all Kings.

Worship with me.

[Saviour – written/created by Bob Farrell & Greg Nelson]

The kings of the earth and the kingdoms built by man
Rise up in their glory then go back to dust again
The kings of the earth who rule with might and power
Will bend their knee to God when time concludes its final hour
That day will come

The kings of the earth and their power to rule the land
Was founded by the Lord in His covenant with man
But the kings of the earth would make their own decree
They set themselves above their God and His authority
They mocked their God

Their empires feed upon the souls of men
And their lust for power becomes their sacrament
They rail the people with their cries of peace
But there is no peace

The kings of the earth and the kingdoms built by man
Rise up in their glory then go back to dust again
But The kings of the earth who rule with might and power
Will bend their knee to God when time concludes its final hour
That day will come

Take heart, ye children of the Promise
For God will not be mocked
For the Lord will repay,
and His Kingdom remains

Blessed are His children.
Blessed are His covenants
Blessed is His mighty Kingdom
And blessed is the Name of the Lord

Blessed the name of Lord
Blessed the name of Lord
In power, in glory His Kingdom, His Kingdom will come!
His Promise is now and forever and ever Amen!

Blessed is the name of the Lord!
O, blessed is the name of the Lord!*

*Lyrics to The Kings of the Earth

Below is a performance of Saviour with Wintley Phipps as special guest – it starts at 9:45 minutes in. So powerful!!

5 Friday Faves – New Year’s Resolutions, Habit Planner, Year-End Review, Word for the Year, and the Last Days of 2021

2021 is rapidly winding down. Whew! Here are my Friday Faves to get us ready for the new year…hopefully a joyful one!

1) New Year’s Resolutions – 2021…the end is in sight. What do we do with this new year ahead? Do we revisit those habits we thought about changing up in this tumultuous year? Maybe so. Or maybe we didn’t alter course so much for good reason. Let’s give pause a moment and consider…

Photo Credit: David Lose

Monday Morning Moment  – 2021 Come On! – New Year’s Resolutions

Are We Doing New Year’s Resolutions After a Year as Lousy as 2020? There’s One I think We Need More Than Ever – Heidi Stevens

How to Make Healthy, Attainable New Year’s Resolutions During COVID-19 – Ashley Welch, Healthline

Are You Making a New Year’s Resolution This Year? Readers Weigh In – Sarah Fielding

I take New Year’s resolutions very seriously. They have served me well through the years in shaking up troublesome habits as well as galvanizing better ones. New (or restored) habits that nurture the body, the spirit….and, when possible, family and community.

New Year’s resolutions are not always exercises in futility. They can be excellent pathways to help us get off to a strong start into the next year. Some of my family and friends treat resolutions with disdain…they never work; they never last. Oh, but not always!

They are really very energizing. Whether we meet our goals or not, there is great promise within the resolution for resetting our thinking. A keen sense of self, or self-awareness, aids in our understanding of habits and true habit change.

Without knowing it, I have actually used a practice of habit change that Ken Sande writes about on his blog, Relational Wisdom 360. He first influenced my life years ago with his work on conflict resolution through his Peacemaker Ministries. He is a gentle guide in many of the issues that complicate our lives.

His article on Seven Principles of Habit Change came at a great time. Sande talks quite kindly about how we develop habits and what it takes to change them. His first principle of habit change gives us a look at the cycle of habits – the cue, the routine (or response), and the reward. I actually followed Ken Sande’s principles below (without knowing the wisdom of it).

  1. Every habit has three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
  2. You can change an undesirable habit by keeping the cue and reward but learning a new routine.
  3. The best way to overcome the temptation to revert to old routines is to have a detailed action plan.
  4. Habit change builds momentum if you can change a single “keystone habit” and then continue to build on consecutive “small wins”.
  5. Will power is like a muscle: it can be strengthened and yet needs to be exerted strategically.
  6. Faith is an essential part of changing habits.
  7. Habit change is more likely to occur within a community (even if it’s just two people).Ken Sande

Self-awareness is a huge factor relating to habit change. I can see that more now having come through seasons of looking at my own habits.

“Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of oneself; it’s a stepping stone to reinventing oneself, learning to make wiser decisions, and helps you tune into your thoughts and feelings. So often we place blame on externalities because it’s the easiest excuse, when in fact we should be thinking about our thinking, reflecting, trying on different perspectives, and learning from our mistakes.”Paul Jun

It is possible to affect true habit change if we are willing to take a studied look at ourselves – our awareness and our engagement with making choices/decisions and within relationship. I used to think that self-awareness was morally charged, i.e., it drove us to become more self-centered. That doesn’t have to be the case. When we take time to really examine where our minds go, through the day, we can train our thinking toward what matters most – related to people, resources, and life purpose.

New Year’s Resolutions and Reality Checks – Wally Bock

When we are willing to do that, New Year’s resolutions can become much more transformative than just a few weeks of good intentions. These habit change principles can apply to anger issues, pornography, other addictions, and pretty much any habitual process that negatively affects your work, relationships or general peace of mind.

Consider these questions as you think on resolutions for 2022:

  1. What do I want to keep from the changes I made to cope with the pandemic?
  2. What do I want to reclaim from the pre-pandemic time?
  3. How would I “build back better” if I were in charge of the world or my neighborhood?Katherine Arbuthnott

Four years back, our pastor Cliff at Movement Church challenged us to commit to some resolutions to the Lord…together [podcast of 12/31/2017 here].  I have kept the resolutions made that day in a visible place, to be reminded of the good change in life, and the struggle… I still have them in view…four years out. Still relevant to now. For 2022, on it again…plus prayer for wisdom how to be creative and intentional, given COVID’s continued intrusion. And also added this year: writing my life’s story (capturing the memories and maybe restoring/refining some as I write).

Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th century preacher and theologian, definitely understood the importance of praying through and writing out resolutions that would inform his daily life. Over the course of several months, he composed seventy resolutions for life. You can read them here. The five resolutions I made during church on a New Year’s Eve are weighty enough for me…can’t imagine 70! Edwards just gives an example of a man who, even as deeply devoted as he already was, did not want to miss God in a busy life of ministry. Nor did he want to miss the people God placed in his life.

Resolutions help us to keep the main thing the main thing. Sure, we may struggle to keep our bodies and houses in order. Those are temporary situations. Where we hope most to be successful is in keeping our hearts tuned to what matters most. Going deep with God and others. Even in the face of a continuing pandemic...if we are ruthless and wise, and don’t give in to another year of listlessness and waiting.

We’ve already enough of that…coming up on two years.

I am resolved…

Photo Credit: Reformed Outfitters

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Do You Want to Change Your Habits? – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Habit Change is a Team Project – Ken Sande

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

Why Self-Awareness Is the Secret Weapon for Habit Change– Paul Jun

RW Acrostics in Action– Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Ten Questions for a New Year – Don Whitney – Desiring God

Need Help With Your New Year’s Resolutions? – David Lose

Understanding True Habit Change and Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions – Deb Mills Writer

2) Habit Planner –Anyone who knows the writing of Justin Whitmel Earley knows his commitment to a life well-lived. He is determined to live intentionally, not leaving the substance of his life to outside powers or sloppy habits.

Unlike resolutions, we actually become our habits. There are no changed lives outside of changed habits. And if we want to actually change, we need to take a sober look at where our habits are leading us.”Justin Whitmel Earley

Habits are the little things we do over and over without thinking about them. And the tiny and subconscious nature of habits makes them powerful. Why? Because they create our “normal.” Normal life is what stays with you from January through December. Normal life is what shapes your kids, your body, your schedule, and your heart.”Justin Whitmel Earley

His two books – The Common Rule and Habits of the Household – lay out a simple path for examining our current lives and then setting strategy for habit change. So accessible and engaging whatever our preferences for methods are. If spreadsheets help, he has one for you. If you need a more fuzzy-boundaried approach (that would be me), you can glean from his wisdom, and alter course accordingly.

Below are his own examples of the habit planner. I appreciate his heart so much. He helps us all he can (in his books and free resources):

Photo Credit: Justin Whitmel Earley, Screenshots

Habits of the Household – Habit Planner – pdf – Justin Whitmel Earley

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

Unlock the Power of Family Habits in 2022 – Justin Whitmel Earley

3) Year-End Review – Business writer Stephen Jones shares author Tim Ferriss’ practice of doing a quick past year review. Ferriss prefers this over new year’s resolutions, and Jones gives a quick snapshot of his 5 steps.

Below is Tim Ferriss’ guide for a past year review from his own blog (and podcast):

  1. Grab a notepad and create two columns: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE.
  2. Go through your calendar from the last year, looking at every week.
  3. For each week, jot down on the pad any people or activities or commitments that triggered peak positive or negative emotions for that month. Put them in their respective columns.
  4. Once you’ve gone through the past year, look at your notepad list and ask, “What 20% of each column produced the most reliable or powerful peaks?”
  5. Based on the answers, take your “positive” leaders and schedule more of them in the new year. Get them on the calendar now! Book things with friends and prepay for activities/events/commitments that you know work. It’s not real until it’s in the calendar. That’s step one. Step two is to take your “negative” leaders, put “NOT-TO-DO LIST” at the top, and put them somewhere you can see them each morning for the first few weeks of 2022. These are the people and things you *know* make you miserable, so don’t put them on your calendar out of obligation, guilt, FOMO, or other nonsense.

We do a year-end review but not in order to plan out the next year. Mostly to celebrate the year rapidly coming to an end and to reflect on how we might reorder the course of the next year (re the negatives).

A creative friend of ours put his “year-end review” into a cool video:

Photo (Video) Credit: Todd AO, Facebook

4) Word for the Year –A year ago, I read Debbie Macomber‘s book One Perfect Word. She tells fascinating stories of persons’ choosing a word to guide their year. Finishing her book and praying a bit, the word compassion became my focus. 2021 was a good year for that as we dealt with so many divisions over COVID, race, politics, etc. Compassion for all on both sides of each issue.

At first I wasn’t going to do “a word” for 2022, and then a rapid series of “coincidences” drew me to the word: joy. As this year ends, I’ve become negative and even a bit cynical. Still having faith in God but not so much in humans, including myself. Even after a year of compassion!!

It dawned on me that I haven’t been “counting it all joy”. Or remembering that “the joy of the Lord is my strength”. Now my heart is resolved to be set on joy in 2022…no matter what.

Lord, help us to be people of joy,

to notice joy in this day and to hope for joy in days to come,

to look for light and share it with others this Advent season,

to see beauty in creation and the people we encounter,

to laugh heartily with childlike glee,

to feel true joy in your presence.     Amen.

Photo Credit: Prayer @inthecoracle, Instagram

5) The Last Days of 2021 – As may have been many of your experiences, we had people we know and love dealing with COVID in this last week of 2021. Still managed a sweet end-of-year. Hope yours was as well.

 

Now on to 2022!! Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot to me.

Bonuses:

Vimeo Video by Rodrigo Souza – Heart – with Nathan Mills, Beyond the Guitar

How to Stop All Procrastination: Dear You Trying to Do that Hard Thing in the New Year – Ann Voskamp (great piece on procrastination and perfectionism – both keeping us from presenting the gifts God’s given us)

Photo Credit: Samantha Reynolds, @Bentlily, Instagram (w/ permission)

52 Week Bible Reading Plan – Michael Coley

What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) and Tips for Building One

Photo Credit: Facebook

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar on a Lava Me 3, Christmas Poems, Overcoming Anxiety, and Which Is It? Christmas or XMas?

The countdown is done. Christmas Day looms. For those with an Eastern Christmas, there is still a week to go. We loved celebrating two Christmases when we lived in Egypt. Then there are the 12 days of Christmas still ahead until Epiphany (or Three Kings Day). So we continue to celebrate. Sweet especially for those of us dealing with COVID interruptions or other struggles (loss, holiday work,etc.). Here are my faves this week. Please share some of yours as well …and Happy Christmas!

1) Beyond the Guitar on a Lava Me 3Nathan Mills‘ most recent piece is an original composition entitled “Dreams”. He plays it on this amazing smart guitar – the Lava Me 3 guitar. Check it out below:

2) Christmas Poems – Christmas is the kind of holy day that inspires poetry. This week, I had the opportunity of catching the online program A Christmas Celebration: Theater, Song, & Scripture. Created and produced by the Fellowship of Performing Arts, it was a lovely mix of classic Christmas songs, poems, and monologues. Some surprisingly humorous and some deeply spiritual. Two poems, both by Scottish poet George MacDonald, were powerfully performed.

Photo Credit: Poem Hunter

Photo Credit: Poem Hunter

My absolute favorite Christmas poem is “Little Jesus” written by English poet Francis Thompson. It’s a bit long but such a treasure.

LITTLE JESUS

by Francis Thompson (1859 – 1907)

Little Jesus, wast Thou shy

Once, and just so small as I?

And what did it feel like to be

Out of Heaven, and just like me?

Didst Thou sometimes think of there,

And ask where all the angels were?

I should think that I would cry

For my house all made of sky;

I would look about the air,

And wonder where my angels were;

And at waking ’twould distress me–

Not an angel there to dress me!

Hadst thou ever any toys,

Like us little girls and boys?

And dist Thou play in Heaven with all

The angels that were not too tall,

With stars for marbles? Did the things

Play Can you see me? through their wings?

And did Thy Mother let Thee spoil

Thy robes, with playing on our soil?

How nice to have them always new

In Heaven, because ‘twas quite clean blue!

Thou canst not have forgotten all

That it feels like to be small:

And Thou know’st I cannot pray

To Thee in my father’s way–

When Thou was so little, say,

Couldst Thou talk Thy Father’s way?–

So, as a little child, come down

And hear a child’s tongue like Thy own;

Take me by the hand and walk,

And listen to my baby-talk.

To Thy Father show my prayer

(He will look, Thou art so fair),

And say: “O Father, I Thy Son,

Bring the prayer of a little one.”

And He will smile, that childrens’ tongue

Hast not changed since Thou was young!

3) Overcoming Anxiety – Even as lovely and magical a time as Christmas can be, we can experience anxiety. Over family gatherings, or under-performing on gift buying, or just a creeping loneliness. Whatever our anxiety, the 4-step approach for overcoming anxiety is a healthy practice. Thanks to NICABM.

Infographic: A 4-Step Approach for Overcoming Anxiety – NICABM

4) Healing From Harm – We hope as parents that we do no major harm to our children. Unfortunately, there are relationships between parents and children that can go terribly wrong. Counselor Adam Young tackles this topic (and others) really well in his podcast . I listened to Episode 23 this week where he interviewed a woman named Autumn, on her relationship with an abusive mother. The title of this episode is “How to Engage a Parent Who Has Harmed You”. Her story gives hope. The dialog between her and Young is both instructive and prescriptive. To be able to get actual help from a podcast is a blessing. Especially in a time when counselors are hard to find (not enough of them or over-scheduled in these days of heightened mental health issues thanks to COVID).

One of Young’s free resources is “How to Write a Story”. I’m excited about this assist, because writing the story of my life since my earliest memories is actually on my list for 2022. Not that my parenting was harmful – I had a wonderful mom and step-dad, but my biological father was neglectful and then eventually just disappeared from our lives. I know the wounds of that have had impact, and actively recalling my growing-up years seems a way to take hold of anything that has harmed and can still be having impact on my family. By the way, this is not an exercise in blaming parents. We all have failings in this area. It’s an exercise to reframe memory such that it doesn’t control us.

Words That Harm, Words That Heal: A Short Guide for Parents – Justin Coulson

Any resources you recommend for healing from harm? Please comment below.

5) Which Is It? Christmas or XMas? – The great thinker and writer C. S. Lewis became a Christ-follower at the age of 33 (in 1931). He did not come to this decision lightly having first rejected God altogether, as a public and punishing atheist, and then a theist, and finally a Christian…the most reluctant convert. He never looked back. His writing and teaching since then have greatly influenced generations to follow. Even the most uncertain have been riveted by his works on the beauty and reality of God, and Jesus, the Son and Savior.

Again, in watching A Christmas Celebration: Theater, Song, & Scripture, I heard, for the first time, Lewis’ essay Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter From Herodotus. He writes of the irony of Christmas celebrated in the two ways done in the West – the sacred and secular – and how we as Christians blend the two. It is a rich narrative, short and very much worth the read. He targets the United Kingdom but it could be about the US as well. We rush around buying, buying, buying, and then partying, partying, partying. To the point, we end up in a heap on Christmas Day with the children wondering aloud “Is there anything else?” As they are practically covered over with wrapping paper and presents. Our little grands said themselves, so wise for so small, “It’s Jesus’ birthday, but we get all the presents”.

I don’t mean this as a rant…just wanted to point to the brilliant, short piece by Lewis…and maybe to call for a pause in the rush. I’m almost past caring that I get equally amazing gifts for the grands. It’s ok for the other grandparents to shine. I’m just thankful to have them all in my life.

So…have a happy Christmas, Dear Ones. For those who get caught up in the maddening rush without the transforming experience of Christ in it, watch for the Hound of Heaven …In the flurry of activity to make Xmas happen, you might chance to notice, like C. S. Lewis did finally, that persistent wooing of God to draw us to Himself…out of His deep love for each of His created ones.

‘Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’

Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly,

‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He Whom thou seekest!” – Francis Thompson (1859–1907)

Bonuses:

Labor to Give (Or Take) No Offense – Jon Bloom

5 Keys to a Great Apology (and Why Leaders Need to Apologize First) – Carey Nieuwhof

Photo Credit: Greg Mathias, Twitter

One of my favorite “Christmas songs”:

The most beautiful and powerful Christmas cantata I’ve ever heard: “Saviour – The Story Of God’s Passion For His People” – written by Greg Nelson and Bob Farrell – the cantata itself begins 9:45 minutes into the video. 

[Product description: Saviour is a pop-classical oratorio created by Bob Farrell and Greg Nelson, in performance around the world since 1994. Recorded live at Gateway Church, this spectacular performance features full orchestra and choir with standout solo performances by Steve Green, Twila Paris, Wayne Watson, Larnelle Harris, and Keron Jackson. – Available on DVD.]

Funny pic captured by our daughter – vultures at Voter Registration – must have gotten wind of the rumored registering dead voters:

Pic below from my dear friend Marc Merlin who captures the most fascinating images at a favorite cemetery – Oakland in Atlanta:Photo Credit: Marc Merlin, Instagram

A favorite Christmas tradition – canstruction for the food bank:

All the candles lit – focused on the coming Christ:

The Christmas cactus – somehow it knows – just days ago, nothing, no buds, nothing – and then…it blooms.

Worship Wednesday – We Need Christmas – Matthew West

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. – 2 Corinthians 13:11

And once more, Isaiah says: “The Root of Jesse will appear, One who will arise to rule over the Gentiles; in Him the Gentiles will put their hope.” Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:12-13

As we move to the close of Advent, and all the candles are lit, we are struck by what we have been given in the coming of Christ. The four candles symbolizing hope, peace, love, joy. Salvation and eternal life. All we need for life and Godliness. A forever relationship with the God of the universe…the God of perfect love.

It gives pause.

This beautiful God. This Jesus who came so near to us, as low as we are. He condescended Himself for us to know Him…and to know His unmerited forgiveness…to learn how to walk with Him and with each other.

In this Christmas of 2021, we pull these truths close around us. The world has become so divided and full of hate. Yet, not so full of hate that God cannot draw us together and to Himself. I’m reminded of an old carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”.

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

We take hope in the person of Christ, the promises and purposes of God untouched by whatever darkness surrounds us.

The candles have been lit and we are days away from Christmas. We lean into the hope, peace, love, and joy that God has already given us in Christ. As we lean in to Him, we draw those around us closer.

With the Christ of Christmas in mind, we can choose to put away hatred, unforgiveness, and those personal preferences that divide us. We can love like Jesus loves (John 13:34-35). Be at peace with those around us (Romans 12:18). Take joy in His provision for good (2 Corinthians 9:8). Hope in what is possible in Him, even when it feels impossible to us (Matthew 19:26).

We are not alone in this. “Emmanuel” – God is with us!

This Fall, singer/songwriter Matthew West released the We Need Christmas album. It is a mix of new music and great old standards done as only he can do them. He describes his inspiration below:

“These past couple of years have felt like peace is in short supply, hope has been hard to find, and love and joy have been lost for so many,” shares Matthew West about the inspiration for his new project. “Christmas is a time when our hearts can be powerfully reminded that the peace, hope, love, and joy we all need can still be found in a saviour.”Matthew West

Worship with me to this sweet song. “We need Christmas..now more than ever to bring us together.”

Lights that twinkle red and green
Charlie Brown on the TV screen
Hugs from friends and family
That’s what we need right now
Zipping up on a winter coat
Truck tires down a snowy road
That’s the sound of coming home
That’s what we need to right now
This world could use a little healing
And our hearts could surely use something to believe in

We need Christmas
Now more than ever to bring us together
We need Christmas
Come on, December, help us remember
The joy, the peace and the hope that love can bring
Cause we need Christmas

Singing carols in the living room
That’s Grandma’s favorite thing to do
And Grandpa reads Luke, chapter 2
That’s what it all about
It’s Red Salvation Army can
Reaching out a helping hand
Looking after your fellow man
That’s what we need right now

We need Christmas
Now more than ever to bring us together
We need Christmas
Come on, December, help us remember
The joy, the peace and the hope that love can bring
Cause we need Christmas
Oh, we need Christmas

This world could use a little healing
And our hearts could surely use something to believe in

We need Christmas
Now more than ever to bring us together
We need Christmas
Come on, December, help us remember
We need Christmas
Now more than ever to bring us together
We need Christmas
Come on, December, help us remember

The joy, the peace and the hope that love can bring
And the bells hear ’em ring
Let every angels sing
Cause we need Christmas*

*Lyrics to We Need Christmas – Songwriter

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

5 Friday Faves – Epic Spanish Romance Guitar Cover, Languishing, From Sad to Mad, Christmas Events, and I.O.U.S Acronym on a Divided Heart

Christmas week is upon us! This past week’s Friday Faves finally:

1) Epic Spanish Romance Cover– Get ready for one of the most beautiful pieces ever written for classical guitar. The composer is unknown. The arranger for this piece is  Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar. Enjoy.

[One of his subscribers on YouTube asked him to do for Niel Gow’s Lament what he did to the Spanish Romance. Here in his college days, Nathan plays that piece. Hope he does put his own touch to it again…all these years later. A funny sidebar to the piece below: Nathan’s sister wanted him to play this for her wedding. He said something to the effect that the whole title of the piece is “Niel Gow’s Lament For the Death of His Second Wife” so Nathan played other pieces instead. Didn’t seem a good fit for a wedding day. ]

2) Languishing– Who even knows what this is?! Well, author and organizational psychologist  Adam Grant does. He defines it as:

“Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it may be the dominant emotion of 2021.

As scientists and physicians work to treat and cure the physical symptoms of long-haul COVID-19, many people are struggling with the emotional long haul of the pandemic. It hit some of us unprepared as the intense fear and grief of last year faded.

In psychology, we think about mental health on a spectrum from depression to flourishing. Flourishing is the peak of well-being: You have a strong sense of meaning, mastery and mattering to others. Depression is the valley of ill-being: You feel despondent, drained and worthless.
Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It appears to be more common than major depression, and in some ways it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness.

So what can we do about it? A concept called flow may be an antidote. Flow is that elusive state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or a momentary bond, where your sense of time, place and self melts away. During the early days of the pandemic, the best predictor of well-being wasn’t optimism or mindfulness. It was flow. People who became more immersed in their projects managed to avoid languishing and maintained their pre-pandemic happiness.” – Adam Grant

There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing – Adam Grant

I’m very thankful to come across this article by Dr. Grant. He has much more to say both in the above piece and in his TED talk below. We can learn how to move from languishing back to flourishing.

The links below point to a varied and fascinating reach into languishing. Worth your time.

The Neglected Child of Mental Health – Bruce Isdale

The Neglected Child of Mental Health – Caron Leid

The High Cost of Calm – Why Relaxing Is So Much Work

I’m a Short Afternoon Walk and you’re putting way to much pressure on me – Emily Delany

How to Describe Our Pandemic State(s) of Mind – WNYC Podcast

Why You Need to Address Languishing to Retain Your Talent

3) From Sad to Mad – In the midst of a sweet time of year for some of us folks, I have found my capacity for sadness stretched super far. With a background in cancer nursing where loss was always part of life, and with all the hello-goodbyes in our overseas season as a family, and finally having lost very significant people in the last few years…sad is stretched. What has surprised me of late is how fast my “sad” goes to “mad”. I get angry at the losses – deaths to COVID, marriages broken, families estranged from each other, moral failures…and more. Mad is not where I want to be. “Righteous indignation” never stays righteous. It gets mean way too quickly.

Photo Credit: Pexels, Serkan Goktay

From Sad to Mad: How Suppressing Your Sadness Invites Anger – Joshua Nash

The piece above helped me immensely. Therapist Joshua Nash offers helpful steps (go there if this has become an issue for you as well). The main take-away for me is that I shift from sadness at a loss to anger at the injustice of it. What is better for my emotions, body, and relationships is to stay in the sadness. Feel it, examine its impact, mourn the cause. Sadness will subside. Moving into anger (as natural as it is in grieving a loss) mucks up the sadness. Anger is punishing (to yourself and others). As hard as staying in the sadness is, we (and our relationships) will be better for it.

Christmas Bitter and Christmas Sweet – Tim Challies

4) Christmas Events – December is practically glutted with events to celebrate Christmas. In a month when meditating on the mystery of a virgin birth and the long-anticipated coming of a Savior King, quiet is hard to come by. We make room for it…alongside all the fun of this month. Below is a photo array of just some of this past week for us.

  • Christmas Cookie & Ornament Exchange (us women):
  • Old-fashioned Carol Sing (mostly in our own basement):
  • VCU Holiday Gala with our favorite alum and his little son: 
  • Tacky Lights RVA:
  • Ethnic lunch out (#Mezeh) with our youngest:
  • Quiet times in front of the fire (quiet on the schedule AND with cookies & coffee):
  • Christmas with The Chosen:

[If the recording of Christmas With the Chosen: The Global Live Event becomes inaccessible, you can find it on The Chosen app.]

5) I.O.U.S Acronym on a Divided Heart – This morning I was struck afresh how little undivided attention is exercised in my day. Even my introverted husband will spill out all sorts of wise and wonderful words – when I am wholly there. Fixed. Not leaving the room mentally. These moments are more rare than I’d like to confess…all because of the struggle to focus.

Author theologian John Piper tackles this issue with our heart toward God. We struggle with all sorts of noise and clatter pulling us in directions that leave off the wonder of deeply knowing Him.

Photo Credit: John Piper, Quote Fancy

Piper uses an acronym that is hugely helpful in this (setting us in a positive direction for the New Year):

I.O.U.S. – [From John Piper’s Divided Heart article linked below]

“The embattled heart is typical of the Christian life. None of us has a consistently united heart in longing for God.”

  • “The letter I stands for incline. “Incline my heart to your testimonies,” we pray with Psalm 119:36. We ask God to take away resistance. We ask God to incline us toward God and his Word instead of away from God. And so we admit all our inclination toward God is a work of God. The psalmist would not be praying like this if the inclination was ultimately within our own power. If it were, he wouldn’t be asking God to incline his heart. We plead with God to take our hearts in his hands and to incline them, bend them, toward his Word.
  • Then the letter O stands for open. Psalm 119:18 says, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” We need God to work a miracle on the eyes of our heart so that we can see the truth, beauty, value of who he is right there in his word. If we are left to ourselves while meditating on God’s word, we will see nothing of his spiritual beauty and worth.
  • Then comes the third letter, U. It stands for unite. Psalm 86:11 says, “Unite my heart to fear Your name.” What an amazing prayer: “Unite my heart.” So what’s the problem that this psalmist is praying to solve? The problem is a divided heart.”

Plead Psalm 86:11 in prayer: ‘O God, unite my heart to fear your name.’Is It Normal to Have a Divided Heart? – John Piper

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Bonuses:

The Last Word – A one-minute video speaks volumes about our country, the media’s impact on us all, and one decision to step away. 62 y/o news commentator Brian Williams stepped away from a 28-year career with NBC/MSNBC. His last show was December 9, and he announced his resignation in this powerful short statement. We can all take something away from this, whatever our politics or nationality. There comes a time…

How to Engage a Parent Who Has Harmed You with Autumn – Podcast 23 – Adam Young Counseling

Photo Credit: Instagram, Adam Young Counseling

Women & Work Book Club – The Common Rule by Justin Whitmel Earley – Check out previous books reviewed and discussed with the authors.

Did Chevrolet Have to Make America Cry With Its New Christmas Ad? – Joe Cunningham

The Great Challenge of Every Marriage

9 Habits that the World’s Healthiest and Longest Lived People Share – Dan Buettner

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Contemplative Monk, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – I Know that My Redeemer Lives – Handel’s Messiah & Nicole C. Mullen

Photo Credit: Heartlight

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27

We are in the third week of Advent. On Sunday the joy candle was lit, and Pastor Cliff preached on “Hope Deferred”.

“We live in a period of already but not yet, a time of deferred hope. With the Holy Spirit active in our lives, we can take part in God’s kingdom here on earth. However, the kingdom will not reach its fullest expression until Jesus’ return.” – Erin Franklin, Our Hope Has Come

Sometimes we have to wait on answered prayer…on someone’s forgiveness…on a cure…on peace to be restored to our hearts. Hope deferred. Yet, in every situation of life, we have His Word to remind us that waiting (and suffering) is but for a season, and with it comes great gain.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:1-8

“While we were still sinners…” Not after we’d cleaned up our act, but while we were in the muck and mire of our lives. What a Savior!

In our small group tonight, we processed Cliff’s sermon and the whole concept of hope deferred. Our group leader asked us what Scripture verses encourage us when our hope is weakened. We all had our favorites…Romans 8 has several treasures.

I wish I could transport you to that moment…friends gathered in our living room, warm inside on a cold December night, Christmas lights aglow, recalling Scripture after Scripture on the hope we have in Christ. It recalled still another account in Scripture when grief-stricken followers of Christ (journeying home after his crucifixion) encountered him after his resurrection.

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us as He spoke with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, gathered together and saying, “The Lord has indeed risen”…!Luke 24:32-34a

Finally, one of our friends reminded us of Job…that Old Testament saint who lost so much and yet clung to his God. What a huge testament of the goodness of God even in the midst of suffering and hope deferred. Job 19:25-27 tells us that Job knew his Redeemer lived and he would see him one day.

As we read the passage in Job, a song bit came to mind. It was “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s Messiah.

Glory! How thankful I am that Jesus died for me…to take the penalty for the awful sin in my life. He was my substitute, and now He is my Savior.

Worship with me to Nicole Mullen’s “My Redeemer Lives”. Not as difficult to sing as Handel’s Messiah but every bit as true.

Who taught the sun
Where to stand in the morning?
And who told the ocean
“You can only come this far”?
And who showed the moon
Where to hide till evening
Whose words alone can
Catch a falling star?

I know my redeemer lives
I know my redeemer lives
All of creation testify
This life within me cries
I know my redeemer lives
(yeah)

The very same God
That spins things in orbit
Runs to the weary, the worn and the weak
And the same gentle hands
That hold me when I’m broken
They conquer death to
Bring me victory

Now I know my redeemer lives
I know my redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
Let this life within me cry
I know my redeemer

He lives to take away my sins
And He lives forever, I proclaim
That the payment or my sins
Was the precious life He gave
But now He’s alive and
There’s an empty grave

(repeat chorus over and over)*

Advent: The Journey to Christmas – Redemption for Deferred Hope – Rod Lindemann

Photo Credit: River Valley Mission

*Lyrics to My Redeemer Lives – Songwriter: Nicole Coleman Mullen

A Little Preview! (Job 19:25-27) – The Bereans Blog

YouTube Video – Nicole C. Mullen: “Call on Jesus” (33rd Dove Awards) – more goosebumps at this reminder of the presence and power of Jesus

YouTube Video – The God Who Sees – Kathie Lee Gifford & Nicole C. Mullen