Category Archives: All Good Gifts

Worship Wednesday – I Have Seen the Light – The Cathedral Quartet

Photo Credit: Flickr

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness.Isaiah 9:2

Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12

The first night of a camp-out is a challenge. Trying to sleep in a strange bed, for one. Then it seems the night is long. Getting settled earlier than usual sans electricity, extra tired from hiking in, we turn in before our normal sleep time…and wake up still in the dark. It is always so dark in the woods.

Then the light begins to dawn. One memory looms large. We left the tent, in darkness. The birds were waking and singing, so we knew it wouldn’t be long until sunrise. We groped our way through the tangle of small trees, with our sleeping bags wrapped around our shoulders, keeping out the cold. The brush opened at the edge of a small slope, and the Atlantic Ocean just ahead could be more heard than seen in the pre-dawn light.

Sitting on the slope, huddled together, we watched for the sunrise.

Glory! Always.

Light is a constant theme in the Word of God – from Genesis to Revelation. Christ, as creator, separated light from darkness, from the beginning of time (Genesis 1:3-4). Jesus called Himself “the light of the world”, and then he commissioned us, His followers, to be “lights to the nations” (Acts 13:47).

Years ago, I first heard the Southern Gospel group The Cathedrals. They are gone now, but for decades they lit up the concert stage with great harmonies and big songs declaring the wonder of God.

“I Have Seen the Light” (as sung by The Cathedral Quartet) was my favorite song of theirs. We have an audio file of it but I don’t even know what which album it comes from (anyone?).

Worship the God of Light with me via this powerful song. I couldn’t even find The Cathedrals’ rendition of it, but below you will find links to the song performed by a US church, and international church and a university,

I had been blinded; I couldn’t see –’Til the Star in Bethlehem sky opened my eyes.

(Chorus)

I have seen the Light shining in the darkness

Bursting through the shadows, delivering the dawn.

I have seen the Light Whose holy name is Jesus.

His kingdom is forever; He reigns on Heaven’s throne.

There in a manger, an innocent Baby — Who could believe He was the One?

I can believe it.  I know it’s true–He changed my life.  He is the Light.  He is God’s Son!

We must tell the world [we must tell the world] what we’ve seen today in Bethlehem.

He’s the promised King [Hallelujah!].  We bow down and worship Him.

We will worship Christ the King!

Hunter Street Baptist Church’s I Have Seen the Light

The Geneva International Christian Choir and Orchestra (this song starts at 1:35 min.)

Back to that camping trip now. The sunrise mesmerizes then dazzles the eyes. Finally, sunlight becomes the normal of that day. We easily make our way back to camp in the light of day. Coffee, conversation, and preparations for the day follow. Nothing obstructs because now we can see. We just take the light for granted.

In John 9, the account  is given of Jesus healing a man who had been blind since birth. That man was interrogated by the religious leaders of the day because they hoped to prove he was never blind and that Jesus was a fraud.

That man, marvelously healed shut the questioning down finally with this:

“One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I can see!” – John 9:25b
Once we were blind…but now!

5 Friday Faves – Adulting, Employee Newsletters, Sears, Mission BBQ, and the Rest of the World

Happy New Year!! Still practicing writing 2019. Here are my five favorite finds of this week.

1) Adulting – Adulting is a funny little word, but finding the cartoon below got me thinking on what those small happy things are in adulthood. In her article on adulting, Kay Steinmetz‘s quotes linguist Ben Zimmer: “Adulting tends to be used by those ‘who find themselves doing adult things for the first time and feeling like an adult’…It is very much attached to people coming of age, where they’re thrust into having to take things more seriously. [Every generation] comes to grip with aging in their own way.”

I would love to hear what makes being an adult a joyful thing for you. For me, it includes grandchildren, being out of debt, friendships that have endured time and distance, being taken seriously…and sometimes not-so-seriously (but it doesn’t matter as much). Adulting…what does that mean for you? Comment, please.

Photo Credit: Just Eat Real Food Facebook page, Hedger Humor

2) Employee Newsletters – Sounds so old school, right? Does your company even have an employee newsletter anymore? When a company has to downsize to maintain their bottom line, often communications, especially internal communication outlets, suffer. The employee newsletter is often sacrificed. Too bad, because this is a great diagnostic of the core values of a company. The ones I like best are those that are filled with employee stories, accomplishments, and dilemmas shared and solved with other colleagues. Employee newsletters can be living documents that connect people and give the reader a sense of the health of the organization. The images below are of two such newsletters. Photo Credit: Campaign Monitor

We don’t need the generic, one-page wellness coaching that we see on the inside of the bathroom stall door. We need lively, engaging stories written by those we rub shoulders with at work. These kind of newsletters give us opportunities to celebrate personal and professional benchmarks…they make our companies human.

Bananatag Internal Communications offers a webinar on How to Write Employee Newsletters. Fascinating and encouraging.

Photo Credit: HuaMConry

3) Mission BBQ – Already a previous Friday Fave, Mission BBQ is one of our favorite restaurants. Their generous customer service and quality food are unique. 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. Sweet. 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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4) Sears– Here’s to  Sears! When I was growing up, Sears was that dependable department store and mail-order business that our parents trusted. They had everything. Clothing, toys, appliances, tires, and tools. You could count on Sears for quality products and solid customer service. Photo Credit: CNN

The Sears Christmas catalog, the Wish Book, was the most delightful experience for us kids. We would pour over the pages of toys, writing down our wish lists for Christmas.Photo Credit: Pinterest

We don’t buy from Sears very often anymore. Walmart, Target, and Amazon all dominate our day-to-day shopping world. Today, I needed a particular service of Sears and drove there to find that it was closing!!

It made me sad.

“Sears was the Amazon of its day.” In years past, Sears gave wide access to merchandise, especially for those more marginalized consumers in our country – farming families and African-Americans in the era of Jim Crow. When the giant Sears shut down its mail-order business, within a couple of years, Amazon took off. The decision-makers for Sears did not take into account the influence the internet would have on consumers. Amazon is hopefully taking note of its own greatest competitor right now, China’s Alibaba. Staying ahead of the market. Forsaking the hubris that can bring down a retail giant.

What Amazon Can Learn from Sears – Yes, Sears! – Lisa Lacy [may require a subscription if you read from a mobile device. I had free access from my computer.]

Amazon vs. Alibaba – Who Is Winning? – Chris Dunne – includes fascinating infographic comparing the two (hopefully you will be free to read the whole article without subscribing).

Thanks Sears…for all those shopping years.

5) The Rest of the World – In the US, we seem absorbed by our own news…what our government is doing, which celebrity is making headlines again, what sports team will make it to the championship. Sometimes you have to search intentionally for what’s happening in the rest of the world. I try to find other news sources that don’t slosh too much bias on their reporting…it’s challenging. Worth the search.Photo Credit: Facts & Trends

Any suggestions you have on good sources for news on the rest of the world? Please share.

Rest of World News – The Times of India

The World in 2019 – Daniel Franklin – The Economist

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Have a restful weekend. Some weeks can be really long and full. Make some space for yourself and for what might come if you look up.

Bonuses

The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts.A. Solzhenitsyn

Real Productivity – Getting the Right Things Done – Hugh Whelchel – Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics

A funny take on New Year’s Resolutions by Comedian Dustin Nickerson:

Who’s In the Office? The American Workday in One Graph – Quoctrung Bui

No Star Wars movie this Christmas…we have to wait until the end of 2019:

Worship Wednesday – Joy to the World – For King and Country

Photo Credit: YouTube, For King & Country

Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.
 – Romans 12:12

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

Who’s heard this strange and woeful adage: “The world is going to hell in a hand basket.”? It’s a saying that’s been around a long time, and I’m thinking it originated around a holiday family dinner table.

This Christmas we were having one of those conversations about the mess the world is in…we were a multi-generational family gathering of teens to our eighty-somethings. All beloved by each other.

As our conversation spiraled down, I looked around the table at these precious young ones. This was more their world we were talking about than our own. This was the world we were handing them.

Then the realization washed over us all again as our conversation turned. This world pales in comparison to some of the other eras in history…and survived. This world is not beyond the care of God…not beyond His reach…not beyond His ability to save.

We may not take joy in the political chaos we see nor the hardships that surround us, but we can always take joy in knowing that what we see is not the whole story.

The Lord has come! He comes every day into this beautiful, messy world. He created it in perfection, and we have had our sinful way with it. Still, He comes. He shows up every single day in our lives and in the circumstances of the peoples and governments of this world.

For King & Country, one of my favorite Christian bands, has taken the Christmas standard Joy to the World and reminded us of this very truth…Christ has come, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Worship with me on the new beginning of another year…who knows what God will do? Joy…

Joy to the world the Lord is come
Let Earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing
Joy to the world the Saviour reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy
He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love

It’s remarkable isn’t it?
As Luke said that this baby boy
No family of promotion
No city of impressive nature
Just a manger
No social media campaigns
No presidential campaigns
No private aeroplanes
But he rose up with twelve ragamuffins
And He turned B. C into A. D.
Flipped the world on its head
He’s the most famous name around the globe
The most read book ever written

And the most beautiful news the world has ever known is this
That He reconnected us to heaven
He offered us redemption, a fresh start
Freedom, so that we can hold our heads high
And march through this life knowing,
My friends, that we are never alone
And that’s the greatest news the world has ever known
So let’s stand to our feet tonight
And let’s sing this like we mean it
Joy to the world the Lord has come

Joy to the world the Lord is come
Let Earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing*

“When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.” – C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

*Lyrics to Joy to the World – For King & Country

Joy to the World – Isaac Watts – original lyrics

YouTube Video – The One Hour for King & Country Christmas Concert, Phoenix, AZ

10 Bible Verses for a Joyful Spirit – Taylor Yenko

YouTube Video – Joy – For King & Country (Official Music Video)

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar Christmas, a Prayer for the Grieving, Experience and the Brain, Complaining Exposed, and Gift Giving

It’s Friday! Days before Christmas. So no time to lose…here’s this week’s five favorite finds:

1) Beyond the Guitar ChristmasNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has given us 4 sweet Christmas videos over the years. The latest is a medley of 3 Christmas movie classics on guitar. Watch it here:

A Star Wars Christmas – a Classical Guitar Mashup

December Song (Peter Hollens) – Classical Guitar Cover

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (w/ Surprise)

2) A Prayer for the Grieving – This Christmas more than any other I can remember is marked by multiple losses…friends who have died and family members of friends. Words are tricky when you want to reach out to those wounded by loss. Writer Dena Johnson Martin‘s prayer for the grieving at Christmas is a just-right-to-share piece for these dear ones who are still in the throes of grief right now. Especially those looking to God for help but don’t have the words either.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Dena Johnson Martin

A Prayer for Christmas Hope – Dena Johnson Martin [another prayer]

20 Messages of Advice for Suicide Loss Survivors During the Holidays – Sarah Schuster

What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas – Nancy Guthrie

3) Experience and the Brain – You know the saying, “Practice makes perfect”? Well, that has been found to be true only with the right kind of practice. Another saying “Use it or lose it” however does continue to hold true. Exercising our brain and building our brain through experiences are both still vital for brain health and aptitude – from childhood through old age.

Author and brain injury survivor Debbie Hampton has given us 5 Ways Experience Changes the Brain. [It is a ton of cool science. I decided not to list those points out because you really need to read it – to glean just how we can power up learning through experience, intentional and meaningful experience, from early childhood through late adulthood.Photo Credit: Experience Life, Jon Spayde

Neuroplasticity is a fascination of mine. It is defined as “the ability of the brain to change throughout an individual’s life, e.g., brain activity associated with a given function can be transferred to a different location, the proportion of grey matter can change, and synapses may strengthen or weaken over time.”

“It refers to the physiological changes in the brain that happen as the result of our interactions with our environment. From the time the brain begins to develop in utero until the day we die, the connections among the cells in our brains reorganize in response to our changing needs. This dynamic process allows us to learn from and adapt to different experiences.” – Celeste Campbell (n.d.).

What I love about the potential of experience’s positive impact on brain function is that we can be strategic in our own actions and responses. Building healthy and meaningful mental responses rather than being passively reactive to whatever stimuli comes our way.

What Is Neuroplasticity? Definition + 14 Brain Plasticity Exercises

Use It or Lose It – Exercising Your Mind Becomes Even More Important in Old Age – Dawn C. Carr

Upgrade Your Brain – Jon Spayde

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life – Deb Mills Writer

4) Complaining Exposed – When it comes to complaining, we all think of someone else who does it…not us. It is an irritating habit, and (like we saw in #3 on neuroplasticity), it only gets worse if unchecked. Poet writer Anne Peterson talks about complaining and how it flows out of 6 heart attitudes. Complaining reveals that:

  • We feel entitled.
  • We are impatient.
  • We hold on to resentment.
  • We compare ourselves to others.
  • We don’t think life is fair.
  • We are conformed to this world/culture.

Read her article for the particulars. Be prepared to rip the excuses off your complaining.

What Your Complaints Actually Reveal About Your Heart Anne Peterson

Photo Credit: Gary Vaynerchuk

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk writes about how his mom and wife seem to be incapable of complaining and it’s one of the things he loves about them: “Complaining has zero value. Looking at the negative, seeing the glass as half empty, and complaining are some of the biggest wastes of time a human being can engage in. Instead, tackle the problem head on. Assess it, see what you can do about it, and then do just that. ‘Woe is me’ is truly one of the biggest things that can stand in the way of success both professionally and personally.”

Gary Vaynerchuk

One of the Few Things I Complain About: Complaining – Gary Vaynerchuk

5) Gift Giving – My shopping for Christmas is probably about as done as it will get. As for what I want for Christmas? Forgive the song reference, but all I want for Christmas…is you.Photo Credit: Facebook, Kelly’s Treehouse

When you can’t always have your family around…if you have friends who are generous and genius gift-givers, you can still wrap up all cozy with your family [photo fleece] anyway.

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Happy Christmas, y’all. Thanks for spending this bit of time here. It means a lot to me. May God’s richest Christmas blessing find a place in your heart.

Bonuses:

Who Is Jesus? – Explore God

Marwencol – the website and the feature-length film: Welcome to Marwen – What a story!

2018 Lights on Canoe Brook – The Greatest Showman

I Fit the Description – The Good Men ProjectPhoto Credit: Steve Locke, The Good Men Project

Photo Credit: Facebook; Pal’s Blountville

Photo Credit: Facebook, Christmas comes to Aleppo, Syria under reconstruction.

Photo Credit: Twitter, Music Notes

December Daffodil and Narcissus shoots in December at Lewis Ginter Botanical GardenPhoto Credit: Lewis Ginter Twitter

Worship Wednesday – Our God Is With Us, Emmanuel – Steven Curtis Chapman

2013 December Christmas with Grandparents & Christmas Town 048

[Adapted from the Archives]

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.Isaiah 7:14

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.  But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:  “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”Matthew 1:18-23

I worship in my car. You know when you are stopped at a traffic light, and your windows are buzzing with the sound of the bass in the car next to you? You look over and they’re rocking out to some cool song? Well, I sometimes do the same…on a quieter less rockin’ level…but there’s still a lot going on in my car, too. Just for an Audience of One.

When Steven Curtis Chapman’s song Our God Is With Us comes on the radio at Christmas, my thoughts rein in to this great truth. We are not alone. God is always present with us.

He brought that reality as near to us as possible in the birth of Jesus, the God-Son, born to the virgin, Mary, over 2000 years ago. God revealed Himself personally through Jesus. I am no theologian, but this is very clear to me – everything I have read in Scripture on the life of Jesus, and everything I have experienced of Him myself. My heart resonates with the words of this song. Jesus is the “Immanuel” – He came to be with us – to save, to heal, to restore us to Himself. Hallelujah!

Worship with me…

One of us is cryin’ as our hopes and dreams are led away in chains And we’re left all alone. One of us is dyin’ as our love is slowly lowered in the grave, oh, and we’re left all alone.

But for all of us who journey through the dark abyss of loneliness There comes a great announcement, we are never alone. For the maker of each heart that breaks, the giver of each breath we take, Has come to earth and given hope its birth.

And our God is with us, Emmanuel He’s come to save us, Emmanuel and we will never face life alone. Now that God has made Himself known as Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel, oh.

He spoke with prophets’ voices and showed Himself in a cloud of fire But no one had seen His face. Until the One Most Holy revealed to us His perfect heart’s desire and left His rightful place.

And in one glorious moment, all eternity was shaken as God broke through the darkness that had kept us apart. And with love that conquers loneliness, hope that fills all emptiness, He came to earth to show our worth.

And our God is with us, Emmanuel He’s come to save us, Emmanuel and we will never face life alone. Now that God has made Himself known As Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel, oh So rejoice, oh rejoice, Emmanuel has come.

And our God is with us, Emmanuel He’s come to save us, Emmanuel and we will never face life alone. Now that God has made Himself known as Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel.

Our God is with us, Emmanuel Our God is with us, oh Emmanuel Our God is with us.*

*Lyrics to Our God Is With Us – Songwriters Steve Curtis Chapman & Michael W. Smith

YouTube video of Our God Is With Us – Full song – 6:43 minutes

YouTube video of Our God is With Us – shortened audio, with lyrics

Website for Steven Curtis Chapman [Our God Is With Us was a title on his first Christmas album, 1995, The Music of Christmas]

The Title Emmanuel and the Name Jesus

God Is One – the Wonder of Trinity [Tri-Unity] – God the Father, God, the Son, God the Holy Spirit – a simple lesson on an amazing reality

“Best of all, God Is With Us.” – John Wesley [for more great God-glorifying quotes by the John & Charles Wesley, click here.]

Worship Wednesday – How Many Kings? – Marc Martel with Downhere

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[From the Archives]

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Two out of so many favorite December experiences are Christmas songs on the radio and Christmas cards in my mailbox. For some maybe, all that Christmas music on various stations gets old…but for me, it’s a continual feast. Then those old-fashioned cards in red or green envelopes transform our mailbox from bill and junk mail holders to a wonder of news from friends and family.

[Most of the images you see on this blog are from treasured old Christmas cards.]

As to Christmas songs…there are so many beautiful ones – both standards and newer ones. Songwriter Marc Martel‘s How Many Kings, out since 2009, performed by the Canadian Christian band Downhere is one such song. My favorite radio station pops this one up often during the Christmas season. The lyrics allude to a visitation of some number of wise men from the Far East. Through their knowledge of both the ancient Scriptures (Micah 5:2)and the stars of Heaven, they were able to chart a course right to the baby Jesus, in his home in Bethlehem. How Many Kings speaks of their amazement and wonder…and ours…at the coming of the Christ Child. It is the story of such love as God had…has…for us in that even His own son He would not withhold from us…to make a path for us back to Him.IMG_0048

God sent His son to us. Our triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – perfectly One in unity through the ages – would somehow include 33 years of life on earth to bring Himself close to us. God with skin on – that we might understand better what love looks like and how we can live because of that love… Glory! Blog - Worship Wednesday - What KingsPhoto Credit: Quotesgram.com

Worship with me:

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe, after all we’ve projected, A child in a manger?
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother’s shawl – Just a child – Is this who we’ve waited for? ’cause…

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that is torn all apart – how many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior All that we have, whether costly or meek because we believe.
Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure and myrrh for the cross he will suffer Do you believe?
Is this who we’ve waited for?

Only one did that for me
All, all for me…
All for you…

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I am not sure Downhere is even performing together currently, but thank you, Brothers, for this song…and thank You, God, for giving Your Son…for us all.Blog - How Many Kings - DownherePhoto Credit: Downhere.com

Lyrics to How Many Kings – Songwriters – Marc A. Martel and Jason Germain

Story Behind the Song How Many Kings

Downhere Band Website

Bethlehem Skyline – album including How Many Kings

5 Friday Faves – Red Dead Redemption 2, National Day of Mourning, More Christmas Adverts, Holiday Musical Evenings, and Family Gatherings

Here we go! My 5 favorite finds of this week:

1) Red Dead Redemption 2 – A Western-themed video game, Red Dead Redemption 2, debuted this Fall. The score written by Woody Jackson has a classic feel to it – reminiscent of old western films some of us grew up with. Beyond the Guitar, Nathan Mills‘ classical guitar arrangement of the video game themes does justice to the romance of the Old West featured in the score. Have a listen:

2) National Day of Mourning – For one day, the ugly partisanship in our country fell silent in the shadow of a gracious leader’s life. The 41st US president, George H. W. Bush, died this week. On Wednesday, December 5, 2018, a national day of mourning was called for us to remember him. A two-time vice-president under Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush would only serve one term as President himself. How he will be remembered in history, only time will tell. I remember him as gracious, always gracious. The eulogy for him by his son, 43rd US President George W. Bush, was beautiful and gave the reflection we all needed of a “kinder gentler” man and time in America. May it be so again…Thank you, President Bush.

YouTube Video – Alan Simpson  Eulogy for Preside George H. W. Bush

Bret Baier – George H. W. Bush – a Letter to Live By

3) More Christmas Adverts – I couldn’t resist pointing to a few more Christmas adverts. So sweet and fun. Take time to watch. They will lift your day if you’re having a hard one.

This Hallmark Crown keepsake ornament commercial made me cry:

4) Holiday Musical Evenings – There is nothing like little children, in angel or shepherd garb, singing Christmas songs. We are all proud of them, whether they belong to us or not.Photo Credit: Weldbham, South City Theater

This week marked an annual musical tradition for our family – the VCU Holiday Gala. This evening of rich sacred and secular Christmas songs performed by most all of the current musical groups at VCU is a feast for the ears…and eyes. The students and faculty fancy up nicely. http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Blog-VCU-Holiday-Gala-John-Patykula-2.jpg

I would love to share video of the VCU Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, under the direction of Dr. Terry Austin – best performance ever. Since that’s not possible, you just have to come. For the moment enjoy the versions by the United States Marine Corps Orchestra and André Rieu ‘s Johann Strauss Orchestra. Mark it on your calendar, if you’re local, for next year!

Also if you’re local…there’s still time for more. Here’s one not to miss:

Annual Advent Lessons and Carols – Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

Any of your favorites? Please give a shout-out in the Comments.

5) Family Gatherings – My growing-up family had its times – good and not so good. We have always had strong beliefs, and sometimes even stronger opinions…and we were not shy about them. As the years have gone by, we have gentled the opinions for the sake of relationship. We have lost some precious family members, too, which has made us more conscious of the fragile nature of life and the gracious gift of family. We’re none perfect but we belong together. That’s why we block out time on the calendar, buy the plane tickets, and soak up family in all its craziness. The young adults we’re so proud of, the sweet new babies, the siblings and spouses.

We don’t always get to see everyone (so we will buy more plane tickets)…nor do we get to see all the friends…but the hope of “next time” is something we build on.

Along with the family time is the Christmas festiveness alongside. My sister-in-law goes all out for us, and we welcome her welcome.

How about you? Home for the holidays?

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That’s my five (plus the quick bonuses below). Any of your own you want to share? My hope for you this month is you savor the good in your life and let go of what are lesser things. We can’t get it all done. So…no matter. We can be gentle with ourselves…and each other.

Bonuses:

Henrico Christmas Mother – my favorite local community outreach:

The Birth of Jesus in the New Testament – One Event, Four Narratives – Dr. Corne J. Bekker

Eating Cheese and Butter Every Day Linked to Living Longer – Kashmira Gander

This Holiday Season, $16 Billion Will Be Wasted on Unwanted Gifts – It’s Time for a New Approach – Joshua Becker

Raising Children Near Their Grandparents Is One of the Most Valuable Gifts You Could Ever Give Them – [We didn’t raise our children near their grandparents; so thankful for siblings & siblings-in-law who did. What a blessing for both grandparents and the kids/grandkids.]Photo Credit: Elisabeth Elliot, Facebook

How to Declutter Your Home to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Jimmy Stewart’s Beautiful Short Film on the Nativity (a comment on the YouTube video: “From IMDB: James Stewart approached the scene where Mr. Kreuger talks to the infant Jesus very seriously. Before filming this scene, he told the producer Michael McLean, “I’ve got only one of these in me. Everyone who doesn’t need to be here, get them out. Tell them I want this to go well. I can do other takes, but this will be the right one. There will only be one.” After the scene was finished, McLean asked the cameraman, “Did you get it?” “I hope so,” was the reply, “because I was crying.””)

 

[Cyber] Monday Morning Moment – Conquering the One Downside of Christmas

Photo Credit: Nerdist

Christmas is huge to those of us who love it. The beautiful upside to Christmas is Jesus Himself – celebrating His entry into the human world as an tiny baby. Because of Jesus, any of us feeling lonely or unloved this time of year can hopefully be sorted out…because we are loved, and we are not alone.

Strange then that the one downside (wait for it) would be so silly, really, in contrast. It does however exist for some and can make us a bit distracted and discombobulated…at least for awhile.

That downside is the quest for just the right present for each person on our Christian gift list.  For some fortunate ones that is actually a thrilling challenge and a worthy cause. These shopping wizards and crafting geniuses already have their presents sorted out before Thanksgiving. Black Friday is the occasion to finish off their lists, not start them.

For some of the rest of us, not so much.

Back when our kids were kids, we used to watch this funny little film Jingle All the Way. It tells the story of two good dads who love their families but procrastinated in buying Turbo-Man for their boys – that film story’s prototype of the most-sought-after toy each year that sells out early to the smartest of shoppers. The film focuses on their Christmas Eve race (with each other) to find one last Turbo-Man somewhere in the city. It is both funny and anxiety-provoking.

I love Christmas but this downside of it looms large right now. In recent years it the need to find that perfect Christmas present (or experience) is heightened by the addition of sweet grandchildren – and hoping to choose the gift both the little ones and their parents will love.

Just this weekend, we were doing a craft at the table in Sunday School, and the kids in my class began talking about what their grandparents were buying for their siblings. They, of course, don’t know for sure what THEY themselves are getting, but based on their wish-list and what their siblings are getting, they seemed confident of a nice haul. It was impressive.

Today is Cyber Monday, the last great post-Thanksgiving sale event where we can take advantage of sales online. Shopping made easy, in our pajamas, fortified with hot beverage of choice. I’m in my annual panic of what to buy for our precious little ones. What to buy…such that when they open their presents, a nervous tic won’t develop in their parents’ eyes. We have the instructions of not to buy too much, and yet, we don’t want to be the only grandparents who abide by those instructions… Aarrgghh!

Deep breath.

So this is today’s quandary…my Monday Morning Moment’s lament. Once the gift-buying is finished, Christmas loveliness will be restored. Whatever happens on Christmas morning will be wonderful, either way. It’s Christmas after all. By then, I’ll be at peace with it. In fact, by then, it will be more than fine that the grandkids get super fun presents from others who love them and money toward their college education from us… They know they’re loved, and that’s what matters.

For today,  I will stare at screen after screen of parent-preferred educational toys, latest greatest children’s books, and local family-friendly “experience” possibilities.

Then…whatever ends up under the Christmas tree for our grandchildren, we will still have play dates, and snuggles in front of the TV, and walks together with the neighbors, and joy at all the wonders of life.

Here’s to the grandparents who don’t wait until Christmas Eve to sort this dilemma out…who know their grandchildren so well they can scout out that perfect present…and who have their own sweet times with these kiddos.

You are rock stars and super heroes.

Anybody else out there with the same struggle as mine? Comment below…and any advice on this downside of Christmas is welcome.

Grandparent Giving: Unspoken Secrets You Must Know Before Giving Gifts – Dave Ramsey

Giving Mistakes that Grandparents Must Avoid

The Downside of Christmas – Sharon Woods Harris

The Pros and Cons of Christmas

How to Faithfully Celebrate Christmas in a World of Materialism – Lia Martin

Friday Faves – Black Friday Bonus – Many More Than the Usual Five

Sometimes life just gets busy. Writing and compiling favorite finds, in particular, get pushed to the back burner. Today, I’m just posting all my faves of the past 3 weeks. Choose what looks interesting to you… and leave the rest for another time. Blessings on you all for visiting today.

1) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest Arrangements

2) #Ephesians429Darrell B. Harrison is definitely a voice crying in our cultural wilderness. He is a writer, speaker, podcaster and brings a very different view for our consideration. Earlier this month he proclaimed a day  #Ephesians429. This comes from a Bible verse: No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.Ephesians 4:29 We could use more days when we use our voices for only the good of others, and not ill.

3) Comedian Dustin Nickerson – Comedian and podcaster opened for John Crist on tour earlier this month in Richmond. So good. Clean comedy. Hilarious.

4) First Responders – The California wildfires and those displaced by them are much on our minds these days in America…and in our prayers. So thankful for all the fire-fighters and other first responders – which include local church pastors. Here’s one story.

5) First Snows – One image from a friend – Fall and Winter combined.Photo Credit: Lara Fraser, Facebook

6) Growing Older and Growing Newer at the Same Time – Thought-provoking piece on growing older without wasting that season on just being old. “The benefit of a renewed mind is that it’s the only way to make peace with an aging body.” – Abigail Dodds

Photo Credit: Get Old

7) Holiday Sweetness – With American Thanksgiving just past and Christmas coming, we will be met with many cultural messages that target and touch our hearts. Here’s one:

Also this sweet idea: No Stress, No Fuss Christmas Pageant & Worship Part I

[Please post some of your holiday favorites in the Comments so we can all enjoy.]

8) This Is Us – the Missing Piece – Husband Dave watches little TV. The one show he has watched with me over the last couple of years is This Is Us. There is just about no stone un-turned in this gripping story. Family, death, adoption, infertility, parenting, foster care, obesity, depression, addiction, divorce, marriage, race, job loss, fame…and I could go on. Only thing missing? Religion. Beautiful, beautiful story…except for not one mention of God. Odd, really. Photo Credit: TV Line

9) Lauren Daigle – a rockstar in the contemporary Christmas music arena. Her voice and the songs she writes have touched our hearts.   She now has received national attention with appearances on The Ellen Show and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. You sing, Girl.

10) Madame Guyon – Over my adult life, this 17th century French woman and Catholic mystic, Madame Guyon, found her way into my devotional life. She has influenced many Christian leaders through the years by her writing and her life itself. I discovered her, quoted often in many of the books I’ve read. When a short biography of her came to my attention, this week, she became even more intriguing to me as she lived two very different lives – that of a vain and wealthy young woman and also, in later years, a completely transformed believer in Christ. She spent many years in prison for her faith and still wrote volume after volume which we can still enjoy today.Photo Credit: iPerceptive

Perhaps her own Christian experience is best described in the following words from her own pen:

 “To me remains nor place nor time ;

My country is in every clime ;

I can be calm and free from care

On any shore since God is there.” – J. Gilchrist Lawson, Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians

So…a couple of weeks of faves. Hope after the blast of family and friend fun at Thanksgiving (if you’re American), you can have a day or two to recuperate. For those who hail from elsewhere, the weekend is here…hope you can spend it in joyful ways.

Much love. Please share in Comments what are your favorite finds of late.

Bonuses:

Vacation Books – Every time I pack my bags to go anywhere, books are tossed in. Whether I read them all or not is irrelevant, but books are part of the pleasure of days out of the routine. I was thrilled recently to meet best selling author Grace Greene. She writes books perfect for vacation. Her books are set in the locations we prefer when we have time away. She actually lives right in our same city which I didn’t know until we met. These are two of her books out of many more. One will be my next vacation read…

Jonathan Franzen’s 10 Rules for Novelists – Jonathan Franzen

Melting Pot – The Voices of Melting Pot

There’s Got to Be a Day After [The Midterm Election] – Bill Wilson – Intercessors for America

Thanksgiving Memories – All Good Gifts

2006 -- Nov -- Thanksgiving table

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17

[Adapted from the Archives]

For most of 20 years, we lived in North Africa where a Thanksgiving holiday was a foreign concept. “Eid el Shukr” (“Feast of Thanks” in Arabic) was understood but not a day set aside. We, along with other expat Americans, brought Thanksgiving with us and invited our local friends into the experience. On the surface, American Thanksgiving has pretty much three constant components – food, family, and football.

Back in the States, the old traditions are changing and yet stay sweetly familiar. My Mom, who always laid out an incredible Southern-style feast on the kitchen counter at home in Georgia, is no longer with us. As with some of you, I’m sure, I miss her still every day and how she lavished love on us through these family times together. Our children are grown now and establishing their own traditions with more families and friends added into the mix. Each year, we find ourselves re-working our own traditions as well.

Thanksgiving is again, for us, all about food, family, and football…but there’s also another element…faith… I am grateful every day for the kindnesses of God and those he’s placed in our lives. Celebrating Thanksgiving allows us to put an exclamation point on being grateful. It’s not just about a table full of food, although food is clearly a focal point. Thanksgiving, even as a national holiday and not a religious one, focuses our sight beyond ourselves. There is an object in Thanksgiving beyond ourselves.

Over 30 years ago, a funky little Broadway musical was turned into a film – Godspell. It was an adaptation of the life of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew. At that time, I was in the season of life that young people pass through of searching out what exactly I believed. It wasn’t going well at that time. Praise God, He did not forget me during those days when I had all but forgotten Him. Watching the film Godspell was one of the occasions God used to wake me up. There’s a wonder and delight in the young followers of Jesus in the musical. It reminded me of what I had once with God…and what could be again.

All the songs in the musical Godspell are lovely. Composer and Lyricist, Stephen Schwartz, beautifully captured some of Jesus’ teaching and the depth of love and rightness between Him, His followers, and creation, in general. All Good Gifts, adapted from an old hymn, is one such song and is a pure and proper doxology of praise for Thanksgiving.

Worship with me.  [Here’s the YouTube video from Godspell to give you the melody.]

All Good Gifts*
We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land..
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand..
He sends us snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain…
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain…

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love…

We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seedtime and the harvest, our life our health our food,
No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts
But that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts!

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love..

I really wanna thank you Lord!
All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love..

2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 010Food – Family Favorites in Mom’s Kitchen2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 012 a (2)

Football – on T.V. or out on the street with cousins and friends2010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 204

Family – Time together…savoring every minute2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 015

Happy Thanksgiving…

Oh…just in case Thanksgiving is a struggle…and it isn’t all happy family fun…I pray you take courage and rein in your heart to remember that God sees and loves you. We can be a Thanksgiving blessing to each other…if you’ve read this far…you are a blessing to me. Wish you were at our table…maybe one day you will be. You are definitely welcome at God’s table.

YouTube Video – Take Courage – Kristene DiMarco

*Lyrics and Story Behind the Song – All Good Gifts (Godspell)

YouTube Video – All Good Gifts (Godspell 1990)

YouTube Video Clip – All Good Gifts (Godspell original cast 1973)

Wikipedia article on original hymn/lyric – We Plough the Fields and Scatter (1862)