Category Archives: Christmas

5 Friday Faves – Twitter Gold, Refusing to Not Care, Psychiatrist Dr. Curt Thompson, Christmas Comes Early, and a Message to President Trump

1) Twitter Gold – Social media definitely has its pluses and minuses. Twitter has taken a lot of hits lately, and deservedly, for its censorship of persons and content. It can be very negative and even mean-spirited. I’ve had the pleasure of following and learning from men and women whom I’d never have the opportunity to meet. They have taught me much about the varied positions of partisan politics, racial unrest, faith and work. Below are just a couple of the kind of tweets that have encouraged me and made me think. Who do you follow on Twitter (or other platforms) that have made a difference in your thinking.

2) Refusing to Not Care – The American Thanksgiving is this next week and many of us are looking forward to being together with family. At the same time, the CDC and many of our elected officials have advised not to travel and not to gather. What do we do?

Of course we care about those we love and even those we pass on the street or on those quick trips into stores or businesses.

We can refuse to not care. I know that is awkward wording, but it is what’s before us. We will take precautions, but to leave our elderly loved ones isolated still is not right and the lockdowns themselves can do harm as well.

We don’t want to be reckless with those we love. We also see the double standard in some of our nation’s recommendations as crowds gather for various self-interests, and yet the private citizen is urged to stay apart.

As our COVID winter continues, we will be wise to search the conflicting and ever-evolving science on prevention and mediation.

We will continue to physically distance, wear masks around others, but we will also cautiously spend time with our family over the holidays. We will not stop caring.

3) Dr. Curt Thompson – Recently, I listened to a podcast on shame with Jennie Allen and Dr. Curt Thompson. Jennie Allen’s book Get Out of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts is one of the best books on flipping negative thoughts into healthy ones. Really excellent resource. Dr. Thompson has written extensively for online purposes. His book The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves is also an excellent resource to help us shake off negative thinking.

In fact, anything that Dr. Thompson has written (or spoken to via podcast or YouTube video) you will find enormously. He is a Christian psychiatrist who teaches and counsels on shame, belonging, and interpersonal neurobiology. What a blessing to have this kind of access to a psychiatrist’s helps in such an isolating, disorienting time as COVID has given us.Photo Credit: Curt Thompson Associates

His teaching on COVID fatigue and how to successfully deal with it is excellent. Also he teaches about the differences in our right and left brain function and how we can develop our ability to process information in a much healthier way (neuroplasticity). Fascinating stuff.

Did you know that when we feel danger, our tendency is to isolate (sounds like what we’re doing now with physical distancing)? Yet, our brains need human connection. Video calls help but they are exhausting because we are taking in all the faces 1) without the many other physical cues we’re used to and 2) without always making a real personal connection with anyone.

Thompson also talks about how our left brain is more focused on the past and the future. In fact, we are actually rewarded when we think more out of our right brain (analytical, rational, problem-solving, etc). Our right brain, however, focuses on the present…the moment. Picking up all the little details, and the beauty of our surroundings, including the faces of those all around us (differently than on video calls). Our right brain helps us create. These days we consume much more than we create. We might want to try to turn that around.

Photo Credit: Janice Tarleton

Below are links to several great talks/articles by Dr. Thompson, but you’ll find many more online.

Transformed By the Renewing of Your Mind – Dr. Curt Thompson

Toxic Shame Has Its Own Neurobiology. The Gospel Offers a Cure. – Werner Mischke [ a Review of Curt Thompson’s book The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves]

Good Friday, Families and Hospitality (Dr. Curt Thompson, Part Two) – Conversation with Center for Christian Civics – exploring what Good Friday has to do with hard conversations about politics in the church

Spirituality, Neuroplasticity, and Personal Growth – Dr. Curt Thompson

4) Christmas Comes Early – OK, so first we will have American Thanksgiving which I have lovingly written about here.

Thanksgiving won’t be missed, even with COVID restrictions, but it feels like Christmas needed to come early this year.

When our children were little, we put on a family Christmas play. Now our children have children, and thanks to a friend who can envision and execute the sweetest Christmas costumes, we’re getting another generation ready for this year’s family fun.

Then we put up the Christmas trees and lay out the nativities. Every ornament has its own memory attached. The nativities do as well – coming from around the world or crafted by a daughter.  

The very best part of Christmas, after celebrating the birth of the Messiah, is communicated on this ornament: Gather together. Can’t wait!

5) A Message to President Trump

Dear President Trump,

I’ve never written you before, although your staff has received emails from me about the issues I cared most about in your four years of office.

My hope for a pathway to citizenship for the Dreamers hasn’t happened, nor has our immigration process been improved (fixed) unfortunately. Other issues…

Until the lawsuits have run their course, it is not completely settled, but it appears, if all things stay the same, that Vice-President Biden will be taking your place in the White House. I’m sure you will do the right thing for our country, as you have tried over these four years in office.Photo Credit: Wikipedia, Shealah Craighead

President Trump, I want to thank you for all you have done to benefit our country. We don’t hear much about it in the news, but you were determined to keep as many of your promises as you could (given the checks and balances of our country’s government). Your accomplishments (at least many of them) are listed here, here, here, and here.

I have prayed for you these four years (as we must for all our presidents). There have been times when your words and actions have brought calamity on you and on us…it may have cost you your second term. However, your willingness to call out people for their own behavior has actually been refreshing.

You’ve been called a liar by the media…and yet, what if we find you have actually been telling more the truth?…albeit in an unpopular way…

You have seemed to really care about the regular guy. Your policies and presence weren’t just about the elites of our society. So many people seemed to feel seen and valued by your administration. You could see that in the rallies…and in the surprising (to the media) voter turnout.

I loved your State of the Union addresses. Whoever your speech writer was really helped you demonstrate your most human side. All presidents brag on themselves during these addresses, but you also pointed out person after person who deserved the spotlight on them for a moment. You were generous to share that with them and with all of us watching. It made me sad that many of our elected officials treated you with such contempt by boycotting your addresses, and even tearing up your speech.

Having lived in countries with far less freedom than we enjoy, it has shocked me the disrespect and disregard our media has shown you over these four years. That would have never happened where we lived. How you were able to keep your focus and keep at the important work of your office, with daily ridicule and push-back, is mind-boggling.

I’m ashamed of how you were maligned…not guilty myself, but ashamed as part of a nation. Why people didn’t try to figure out how to work with you is astonishing to me. We have all had bosses we didn’t prefer, but we do what we can to get along and get the job done.

It is also appalling how the First Lady was not revered as she should have been. Her courage and tenacity are a credit to her.

Anyway, I’ll repeat this in a real letter to you, but I just wanted to say as simply as possible, thank you. We, as a nation, have much to be grateful for in this Thanksgiving season…even in the very hard economic times of COVID. Thank you for trying to help people keep their jobs and hold their families together.

I’m also appreciative of the people, the ones I respect, who either love you or hate you. I’ve learned from them both. How strange that decent people can have such opposing views. I wonder what you think.

You have been more silent in these days since the election than in all the rest of your time in office. We pray for your health and the resolution of our current tangle. We pray God has become more real to you in these years like none other in your life. We pray these next weeks also will be some of the most productive and profitable for these United States, as is possible for a sitting President. I know you will try.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia, Jette Carr

God bless America, and God bless you, Mr. President.

Bonuses:

Taming Technology: Three Healthy Steps For Reclaiming Control – Jedd Medefind

Why or Why Not with the [Benjamin] Watson’s Podcast

I Met Jesus in My Right Brain – Janice Tarleton

Kayla Stoecklein On Losing Her Husband to Suicide – Christine Hoover PodcastPhoto Credit: Kayla Stoecklein, Amazon

When women get together…

5 Friday Faves – Amazing Grace on Guitar, Visual and Auditory Feasts, Be Comforted, Pumpkins, and “Gone Fishing”

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Happy End of the Week! October has flown by, right? This weekend there is so much going on. Halloween or Reformation Day whichever way you’re inclined to celebrate. November 1 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Daylight Savings Time ends so we have an extra hour of sleep to prepare for Sunday (do small children actually ever sleep longer?). Then in the US also, the countdown to our Election continues – praying for peace.

1) Amazing Grace on GuitarNathan Mills (of Beyond the Guitar) surprised us this week with his arrangement of the great old hymn Amazing Grace. This hymn was written over 240 years ago by John Newton, a slave ship turned minister after he himself was captured and captivated by the amazing saving grace of Christ.

What Nathan does with this old standard (often rendered on bagpipes) will really touch your heart. He takes a melody often used to comfort the bereaved at funerals, and gradually moves it up-tempo to a march of triumph. Just beautiful!

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
Than when we first begun. – Harriet Beecher Stowe (added the final verse to the hymn)

YouTube Video – 50 Countries Affected by COVID-19 Sing Amazing Grace

[Amazing Grace has inspired at least four of my blogs. When you have time to read…so much beauty and fortitude for life in this hymn.]

Worship Wednesday – #Woke – What It Means to This Believer – Amazing Grace – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Finishing Strong with Amazing Grace – Deb Mills

Amazing Grace – On the Edge of Our Seats – Will She Remember? – Deb Mills

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

2) Visual and Auditory Feasts – Sometimes our senses are just wowed from multiple simultaneous sources. Our memories of holiday meals, for instance, attach visual, auditory, and olfactory experiences with them. Concert performances (either in-person or online) van be an assault on our senses or a beautiful feast. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing/hearing For King & Country in concert. Their use of various instruments (especially their drums) is winsome and effective, and their light shows are spot on.

A few years ago, they introduced their own version of Little Drummer Boy. To be honest, until their version, I wasn’t a big fan of that little song. Now…if you haven’t heard it, prepare yourself for a feast!

Another video of the song from the 2019 CMA Country Christmas (I’m thinking their light show team also did the lighting for this one):

YouTube Video – The Blessing (Global Choir) – Live From Elevation Ballantyne – Elevation Worship

YouTube Video – King’s College “Once in Royal David’s City”

YouTube Video – King’s College “O Holy Night”

By the way, For King & Country’s latest album just released – A Drummer Boy Christmas – a much softer, worshipful album, but again…wow! Here’s the video of the title song.

3) Be Comforted – What can we learn from our childhood memories that will help us in our relationships as adults? Writer/counselors Milan and Kay Yerkovich‘s book How We Love – Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage ask an interesting question:

“Can you recall being comforted as a child after a time of emotional distress?”

They continue to coach about comfort or the lack of it.

“We are looking for a time when you were significantly upset and a parent offered consolation and relief…Sometimes people who haven’t experienced real, soul-level comfort have trouble understanding what exactly it is.”

“Related to the comfort question is this: How was conflict handled in your family? If distressful feelings were soothed or problems were resolved when you were a child, you experienced comfort and relief.”

The Yerkovich’s offer three elements as essential parts of comfort:

  • Touch
  • Listening
  • Relief

“Comfort is not possible unless an emotional connection was made.”

[If you have no childhood memories of being comforted or you missed an emotional connection with your parents growing up,] “We’re not trying to turn you against your parents or give you a target at which you can shoot arrows of blame. Most of our parents did the best they could and were simply working with the tools they had.”

These quotes from the “How We Love” book launched the reader into a journey of discovery on how our experiences with being comforted have impact on how we comfort those we love. An excellent resource for married couples but also a help for extended family, friendships, and even coworker relationships.

I’m just digging in but really anticipating learning and growing.

4) Pumpkins – ‘Tis the season. Our church throws a pumpkin patch event every Fall for the enjoyment of our community and in support of a local ministry to homeless. This Fall, with COVID and all, we almost didn’t….but we rallied. Just a few pics celebrating the beauty and variety of pumpkins.

5) Gone Fishing – My husband loves fishing…being outside and on the water, hanging out with a friend or family member, improving his catch. It’s a joy for him. For me? It’s a once-a-year outing. I do however love nature…and time with him, of course. This Fall morning last week started with a thick fog that paled the color of everything but broke with the shimmering sun pushing through.

I did catch a fish (score!) and he caught many more…it was a beautiful day and I wanted to share it with you.

[OK, full disclosure: the sunset pic was taken by our son, Nathan, who took my place in the boat in the afternoon. He and his sweet son. It was a good day both in and out of the boat.]

Enjoy your weekend. Thanks for stopping by. By the next Friday Faves, we’ll know how the US elections went. Praying!

Bonuses:

Quote for Today:

“We are participating in the orderly transfer of administrative authority by the direction of the people. And this is the simple magic which makes a commonplace routine a near miracle to many of the worlds inhabitants: the continuing fact that the people, by democratic process, can delegate this power, yet retain custody of it.

Perhaps you and I have lived with this miracle too long to be properly appreciative. Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.”Ronald Reagan, Inaugural Address as Governor of California, 1967

How the humility required to apologize restores & heals

Yard Visits – During COVID, drive-bys and yard visits have been so life-giving. We have been so blessed by planned and impromptu visits with friends. This week, our friend, Thiago, dropped by. He is an entrepreneur/film producer in California now…so such a visit is rare. And a complete joy.

The Lost Art of Having a Chat: What Happened When I Stopped Texting and Started Talking – Rebecca Nicholson

100 Frugal Habits to Live By If You’re Trying to Save Money – Shifrah Combiths

 

Worship Wednesday – Son of God – Michael W. Smith

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.Isaiah 9:6-7

I really have no words today…just want to focus this busy mind of mine on the quiet exquisiteness of God. To reflect on His love and provision for us. To lean in and trust Him whom we know to be wholly trustworthy.

Songwriter Michael W. Smith‘s simple but majestic song Son of God centers us on the goodness and greatness of God.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.Philippians 2:5-7

Worship with me.

Son of God, purest light, Lord on high is here tonight
Stamping through, this sacred sky suddenly our eyes behold
Heaven’s perfect plan unfold, Son of God

Son of God, love divine, timeless one, steps in to die
Who could dream of such a thing with us now the King of Kings
Man and angels bow and sing, singing Hallelujah, Hallelujah

We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
We’re singing Gloria

We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
(We’re singing Gloria)

We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
(Emmanuel)
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah
(Emmanuel)
We’re singing Gloria, Hallelujah

Our God is with us
Emmanuel, our God is with us
(We’re singing Hallelujah)
Singing Gloria*

*Lyrics to Son of God – Michael W. Smith

Worship Wednesday – Christmas in October – Peace on Earth – Casting Crowns

Photo Credit: Casting Crowns, YouTube

Adapted from the Archives

[Our family begins singing/listening to Christmas carols in October. Too many beautiful, God-glorifying songs to fit in one month. So…Christmas in October starts tomorrow…and we sure need it …Him.]

“See, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the Messenger of the covenant you delight in—see, he is coming,” says the Lord of Armies.

You have said, “It is useless to serve God. What have we gained by keeping his requirements and walking mournfully before the Lord of Armies?  So now we consider the arrogant to be fortunate. Not only do those who commit wickedness prosper, they even test God and escape.”

At that time those who feared the Lord spoke to one another. The Lord took notice and listened. So a book of remembrance was written before him for those who feared the Lord and had high regard for his name.  “They will be mine,” says the Lord of Armies, “my own possession on the day I am preparing. I will have compassion on them as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. Malachi 3:1, 14-17

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord… And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” – Luke 2:10-11, 13-14

In December, 1863, American poet and scholar Henry W. Longfellow received his wounded son home from battle. It was Christmas time, and the U.S. Civil War raged on. Having already lost his wife years earlier, Longfellow nursed his son, Charley, back to health. His own thoughts, in turmoil over all that was happening around him, he poured out in the poem “Christmas Bells”.

Longfellow clearly took comfort from God as he wrote, ending the poem with this stanza:

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

I Heard the Bells is a Christmas carol, not a worship anthem. Yet, given continuing wars and current hardships, we must tend the fires of our hope. God is the “lifter of our heads” (Psalm 3:3). He is the One who gives strength to our “weak hands and shaking knees” (Isaiah 35:3). He will do as He’s promised. He is faithful.

We desperately need those bells of Christmas ringing over our cities and countrysides.In fact, wouldn’t it be a lovely concert to hear church bells ringing together over the din of divisiveness right now.

We, in our fleshing out the love of Christ, are the Christmas bells in our culture. May we never be the noisy gong or clanging cymbal of those without love! May we, like Longfellow, nurse those we love, wounded in this world’s battles, back to wholeness and a living hope in Christ.

When you hear the bells ring where you are, take heart in that. We will continue to pray for His peace on earth…and in our own hearts.  We can be vessels of His good-will toward our neighbors, both very near…and far away.

Worship with me…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Lyric video)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

And the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
In my heart I hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir singing (Peace on Earth)
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep (Peace on Earth, peace on Earth)
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they’re ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
And with our hearts we’ll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they’re ringing? (Peace on Earth)
The life the angels singing (Peace on Earth)
Open up your heart and hear them (Peace on Earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men*

* Lyrics to I Heard the Bells – Casting Crowns – Writers: Mark Hall, Dale Oliver, and Bernhard Herms

YouTube Video – Casting Crowns performing I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall On Christmas (Teaching Vignettes)

Christmas Carol Soldier – Story of Charley Appleton Longfellow & the occasion for H. W. Longfellow’s writing of the poem/lyric

The Story Behind I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day – Tom Stewart

*Longfellow’s poem Christmas Bells

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar Loveliness, Spoiling Our Children, Answered Prayer, the Gentling Nature of Christmas, and a Bunch of Great Reads

Happy New Year! With travel and a family illness, I have been more out-of-pocket than usual. It will show in my Friday Faves. Some of them are carry-overs from previous weeks but not to be missed. Hope your New Year is off to a grand start.

1) Classical Guitar Loveliness – Since it’s been a bit, this Friday Faves includes 3 videos by Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar. Enjoy!

  • The Witcher 3: The Slopes Of The Blessure – composed by Piotr Musial.  Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

  • Netflix “The Witcher”: Toss A Coin To Your Witcher – composed by Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli. Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

  • FRIENDS – “I’ll Be There For You” – composed by The Rembrandts. Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

2) Spoiling our Children – What does that even mean really? We all want the best for our children…at least we want to want it, for sure.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Wikimedia

As parents we have many layers of responsibilities plus we are faced with our own inadequacies and outright fatigue. How do we keep from disadvantaging our children by our parenting? Everyone has an opinion – some more educated and well-thought-out than others. Here are two:

The Silent Tragedy Affecting Today’s Children – Victoria Prooday – Prooday is an occupational therapist and educator on parenting all-round healthy children. This article sets up her premise that parents are the most instrumental in providing their children with the foundation for growing up resilient. Her bullet points are easily accomplished in most situations: technology-free meals, chore assignments, time outside, training children in emotions, and teaching them manners are just some of what she advises. Read and consider the other of Prooday’s points. Being invested and emotionally connected ourselves to our children is crucial.

Do You Agree With This Viral Post About the “Silent Tragedy” of Spoiled Children? – Jessica Suss – English teacher, writer Suss sounds a cautious rebuttal to Prooday’s article. She agreed with much of what she prescribed, but she objected to the tone of the “Silent Tragedy” piece. Suss argues that Prooday was talking to wealthier parents rather than those who might not have the means to carry out all her prescriptions. “Healthy food at every meal is a great goal, so long as you can afford it. But when more than 100 million people in America are food insecure, getting anything on the table is a better goal. Playing outside is also great, but if you live in the city or in an area that’s unsafe (as many lower-income families do), you’re not going to be able to complete the daily, hour-long hike Prooday says is necessary for a healthy child. And family game nights and dinners are all well and good, but when parents are working two jobs (or nontraditional hours), that might not be feasible.”

Two viewpoints – one prompting parents to be more intentional and the other giving a pass to parents – depending on the day and the situation, we need both.

10 Alternative Parenting Styles That Might Be Right For You – Samantha Steiner – Interesting Read; 10 parenting styles? Still, interesting.

3) Answered Prayer – I mentioned at the top about family illness. Our youngest granddaughter was very ill for about a week.

I can’t say enough of what it meant that so many prayed for her. We are so thankful for answered prayer and that she is back to her fun, lively self. When life takes us and those we love into the back of ambulances and down corridors of emergency departments of hospitals…we never know what will happen next. So thankful for those who wait with us, and encourage us, and serve us…all when they have their own situations that need attention. Thank God, thank you, and thank God for you.

4) The Gentling Nature of Christmas – It’s long since passed, both Western and Eastern Christmas. We still have our Christmas lights up…just because. It’s winter and feels darker than the rest of the year. Those lights warm the world where we are, so we have no rules as to exactly when we put away all the decorations.

Whether we celebrate Christmas or not, I think it’s true that there’s a gentling nature in this holiday. People are more thoughtful of others, more generous, more willing to give space to others. In general. Even in politics…well, sometimes.

I wanted to just include three short videos with Christmas themes that speak to the beautiful and connecting nature of Christmas. One is a scene from The Andy Griffith Show. The second is a performance of Saviour – The Story of God’s Passion For His People. [On the second video, 14 minutes in, you hear the singer Wintley Phipps. Any opportunity to hear him sing is magical.] The last video is the 2019 John Lewis Christmas advert…so darling.

5) A Bunch of Great Reads – It’s been over a month since I’ve posted my Friday Faves. Lots of stuff that has influenced and enlightened me. I didn’t want to miss sharing it all with you. Photo Credit: Needpix

So here goes. 10 of my favorites from the last few weeks – all very different – take your pick.

10 Simple Ways to Take Care of Yourself

We’re Treating Friendships Like Transactions and It’s Ruining Relationships – Ephrat Livni

What Happened to Richmond’s Thriving Black Community of Navy Hill?

10 Books to Give You Superpowers in 2020 – William Treseder

Emily Norton Opens Up About Battling Depression as a Caregiver – Alikay Wood

What Widowers Wonder at Night – Erich Bridges

Q & A with Sherry Stout – Building Capacity and Collaboration for Energy Resilience [Sherry Stout is a dear friend of ours. Fun to see her in print.]

No One Wants Your Used Clothes Anymore – Adam Minter

The Curse of the Honeycrisp Apple Deena Shanker & Lydia Mulvany

Who Killed the Knapp Family? Nicholas Kristof and

Bonuses:

The True Story Behind Your Thanksgiving Cornbread – Adina Steiman

Enneagram & Coffee Facebook Page

Photo Credit: Facebook, Country Girls Do It Better

Worship Wednesday – This Is Christmas – Kutless

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! – John 1:1, 14

This is Christmas. So many beautiful and as well as a few hard memories attached to it. My dad died on Christmas Day in 2016. He loved Christmas and made it all the more fun for all of us.

I wanted to write today…but like many days recently, the words are not coming. Writing takes time…and thought. Life itself takes precedence even though writing can be life to us writers.

Life is precious and calls for us to notice it and to savor every moment, and every person within those moments. It’s been 3 1/2 years since my breath-taking cancer diagnosis, I am fortunate. 3 1/2 years out is a very good thing.

My writing will come back, but for today it will be just a moment with you…a moment, a few pictures, and a worship song.

Merry Christmas. If it’s not your holiday, enjoy its gentling nature.

What is Christmas?

Wonder…of children, grandchildren, and the birth of one special baby…the Christ child.

Christmas Music – so varied and glorious we start listening in October.

Family – both with us and not able to be.

Friends – near and far.

Food…so much food.

Serving others.

Traditions – favorite books and movies, all the lights, treasured ornaments on the Christmas tree, outings…and those quiet staying in times.

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown:

Worship with me to the song This Is Christmas by the band Kutless:

Do you find it hard to sleep tonight
Resting by the Christmas lights?
Could there be something you forgot?
Beyond the bows, and mistletoe
The tree with presents wrapped below
There’s more to this than you had ever thought?
Have we lost the reason that we celebrate each year?

[Chorus:]
What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas without Christ?

Remember how the story goes
God’s gift was wrapped in swaddling clothes
Beneath the star, one great and holy night
The shepherds heard the angels sing
The wise men brought an offering
Peace on Earth began in Bethlehem
Have we lost the reason that we celebrate each year?

[Chorus:]
What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas?
If the angels never sang ‘Glory to the new born king?’
What is Christmas without Christ?

There’d be no
Glo-oo-oo-oo-ria
In excelsis deo
Glo-oo-oo-oo-ria
In excelsis deo

What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas without Christ?
This is Christmas
It’s all about the Savior wrapped in a manger
This is Christmas
Because of Jesus Christ
This is Christmas
Because of Christ
Because of Christ*

I pray your Christmas is filled with all the good of this day. Whether words come or not…that you may know the love meant for you in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. May we also take every opportunity to “give it away“.

[Video above featured Samaritan’s Purse which is a great organization. We personally support the smaller Baptist Global Response. Both give us opportunities to give to world’s neediest.]

*Lyrics to This Is Christmas – Songwriters: Jon Micah Sumrall, David  M. Lubben

A Christmas Letter to Every Mama – Sally Clarkson

When Christmas Is Hard – the God of Comfort and Joy – Deb Mills

Merry Christmas, from Dave & me

Worship Wednesday – Connect the Dots to Christmas – O Magnum Mysterium

“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6

“Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” (which means, “God with us”). – Matthew 1:23

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” –  Galatians 4:4-7, ESV

Christmas. At this time of year, it is everywhere. The folding together of secular and sacred. The parties. The music. The food. Gift-buying, giving, and receiving.

Whatever our take on Christmas…whatever we believe…one thing is clear. No matter how hard some will try to blur the message…even Christians in our own small endeavors to insist on our observances…one thing is clear.

There would be no Christmas apart from the coming of Christ.

Our teaching pastor, Cliff Jordan, powerfully preached this message during our recent Advent service. After his welcome to the church, he railed for 5 minutes (to make the point) on the tangle of Christmas distractions. The stuff of Christmas that can make us anxious and fearful of not getting it right – for ourselves, our families, and God Himself.

[Here’s the link to the sermon podcast, and here’s the link to the service from Facebook Live.]

Then (hang in there, past that 5 minutes), and Pastor Cliff launches into a beautiful challenge of how we have the privilege of connecting the dots of how the Lord Jesus permeates all that is Christmas.

“What if we just acknowledge and see the joy that everything that happens during the Christmas season is literally a direct or indirect response to one person – the person of Jesus. He is literally the linchpin of all that we get right and all that we get wrong, whether people know it or not. Without Jesus, there is no Christmas. There is a ton of joy that we can, at least, just acknowledge…that all of this is literally connected back to Jesus.” – Cliff Jordan, Movement Church

He called us to connect the dots of how Jesus is celebrated in the  great lyrics of the Christmas hymns. Even in the holiday programs of schools today – we can take the secular and remember the sacred.

We connect the dots – from the cradle of Christ to the cross…and to the commission He has given us in the culture of our day. Not in weird “Christiany” ways, but lovingly leaning into others’ lives, as Jesus did. Inviting those in our circles into the story of Christ…the story of Christmas…connecting the dots.

Rather than offering a song of worship today, I’d love to suggest a few moments of quiet. Reflecting on the wondrous nature of this season…this world-transforming birth of Jesus. It doesn’t really matter when he was born…it matters that he separated himself from the eternity he has always known to become human, for our sakes. For our sakes.

American composer Morten Lauridsen‘s O Magnum Mysterium is one of my favorite Christmas sound experiences. It is not intrusive. The lyrics in Latin don’t distract. It can be a call to quieten our hearts and to breathe in the great gift of Jesus to a world so in need of him.

YouTube Video – O Magnum Mysterium – Morten Lauridsen – Kings College

Connecting the Dots at Christmas – Ken Shigematsu

Photo Credit: Todd Carey, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – Advent – Is He Worthy? He Is – Andrew Peterson

[Adapted from the Archives]
We live in a “not so much”,  “couldn’t care less” world.
Our senses are bombarded with the material – the stuff we think adds value. The “too cool for school” attitude of self-importance pushes past high school into adulthood. We think highly of ourselves, and the coolest of us settle into tight tribes – actually cool or not, we find our people and tuck ourselves in.
Advent gives pause. Even for those who do not celebrate Christmas, the presence of a God-child, a baby like no other, must be grappled with…even for a transformative moment. For believers and non-believers alike, we can stop the show of our lives…and consider Jesus.
Who is he? What is there in him that must be, at least, examined?
Consider.
So much of Scripture is plain and clear in its teaching such that any of us could follow it and apply it to our lives. The last book of the Bible, Revelation, written by the Apostle John under the direction of the Holy Spirit…is not like any other text. It is full of the mystery of God and yet can yield great truth to the least theological of us. Read what John, in his last days on earth, wrote about Jesus:

“Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides, sealed with seven seals. I also saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or even to look in it. I wept and wept because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or even to look in it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Look, the Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered so that he is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.

Photo Credit: The Henry Luke Journey

Then I saw one like a slaughtered lamb standing in the midst of the throne… He went and took the scroll out of the right hand of the one seated on the throne.

When he took the scroll…they sang a new song:

You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slaughtered,
and you purchased people
for God by your blood
from every tribe and language
and people and nation.Revelation 5:1-9

The passage above from Revelation 5 is derived from a God-infused vision that John experienced and then transcribed for us to learn from it.  We don’t know for sure what the scroll represents – is it the purposes of God? Is it the finale of world history? Is it the judgment for the sins of all humankind? We don’t know for sure, but what we do know, is the scroll could not be opened…except by One worthy. Not just able to open it, but worthy to open it.

Jesus, the sinless Savior, was/is worthy. He is given many names in Scripture. The spotless Lamb of God is one. The perfect sacrifice. He alone could give His life for ours. He alone could pay our debt to a holy God. He, without sin, gave Himself in our place for us to be reconciled to God. Jesus is also called the Lion of Judah. One day He will come for us in the might and majesty of a conquering king – this lion of God, unmatched by any foe, wholly able to deliver us to the Father.

During the weeks of Advent this year, our praise team at Movement Church is leading us through this beautiful song, considering Jesus: Is He Worthy?

Singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson wrote this song for a congregation to participate responsively with the worship leaders. The reading or singing of this song is liturgical in form…something I’m not used to…but appreciate.

“One of the things I like best about liturgy is the more or less constant involvement of the congregation. The word “liturgy” means “the work of the people.” It’s not so much about us coming to sit while the pastor and the elders do everything, but about all of us together rehearsing the story of redemption, edifying each other by reading Scripture aloud, reaffirming what we believe, embodying worship by kneeling or singing together—all of it culminating, of course, in the Lord’s Supper. I can’t overstate how much I crave the moment at the end of the service when I kneel at the front and a friend of mine places the unleavened bread in my open hands, looks me in the eye and says, ‘Andrew, this is the body of Christ, broken for you.’

Every week my wayward, hungry soul is confronted by the love of Jesus. Like clockwork.” – Andrew Peterson

Photo Credit: GodTube, Andrew Peterson

Let’s worship together with this glorious anthem by Andrew Peterson.

[Verse 1]
Do you feel the world is broken? (We do)
Do you feel the shadows deepen? (We do)
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? (We do)
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? (We do)

[Verse 2]
Is all creation groaning? (It is)
Is a new creation coming? (It is)
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? (It is)
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? (It is)

[Chorus]
Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave

[Refrain 1]
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy of this?
He is

[Verse 3]
Does the Father truly love us? (He does)
Does the Spirit move among us? (He does)
And does Jesus, our Messiah hold forever those He loves? (He does)
Does our God intend to dwell again with us? (He does)

[Chorus]
Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave

[Bridge]
From every people and tribe
Every nation and tongue
He has made us a kingdom and priests to God
To reign with the Son

[Refrain 2]
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?
He is!
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
He is!
He is!*

[Sidebar: If you worshiped God with the help of this video, you saw a sea of white faces as the singers. Andrew Peterson wrote an apology worthy of your time. Let’s none of us falter from what he calls a misstep and miss the larger message of this beautiful song.]

Jesus…You are worthy.

“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slaughtered,
and you purchased people
for God by your blood
from every tribe and language
and people and nation.”Revelation 5:9Photo Credit: The Rabbit Room

*Lyrics to Is He Worthy? by Andrew Peterson

Story Behind the Song Is He Worthy? by Andrew Peterson – Kevin Davis

Waking Up to Is He Worthy?: an Apology – Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson’s New Song for the People – The Gospel Coalition – Andrew Peterson

Revelation 5 – The Lion, the Lamb, and the Scroll – Commentary – David Guzik

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar Star Wars, Christmas Music, Adult Children, Christmas Happenings, and the Perks of Walking

Happy Weekend! Well, I should ask how was your weekend as Friday Faves posts on the Monday after. These Fridays come so fast! Anyway, if you have a minute, there’s a lot of Friday joy here for your Monday.

1) Star Wars Classical Guitar – We are Star Wars geeks around here. This movie franchise is part of our Christmas tradition through the years, going together to see the latest film coming out. Those of you who, like me, are fans of Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar, may remember his holiday mashup A Star Wars Christmas.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Of course, if you are Star Wars fans, you have probably already listened to Beyond the Guitar’s library of various themes. So much sweet nostalgia.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Thanks to Disney+, we have a Star Wars space western that we can stream between the big screen escapades. The Mandalorian. If you love Star Wars, you will love it. Here is Nathan’s rendition of the main theme:

2) Christmas Music – It’s been our jam since October, and still need more time to savor it all. From the ridiculous to the rapturous. Love most all of it. How about you? Do you have favorites to share? In Comments, please.

December is full of way too many music events to take them all in. Community sing-alongs of The Messiah, King College styled Lessons and Carols performances, spontaneous Christmas pageants, just to name a few. One of our family’s annual traditions is the VCU Holiday Gala. This Friday night, one of our littles also joined us. A next generation joy.

On a larger scale, the Christmas band for King & Country performs an amazing Little Drummer Boy. A drumming feast for the senses!

3) Adult Children – If we have grandchildren, then we have adult children. Loving them both in ways they understand is a crucial part of our life journey. This week I came across 3 very different but thought-provoking articles that were meaningful to me and you may also find them to be so for you (the adult children or you parents of same).

  • Alison Wright‘s The Death of the Family Gathering – We’re in a season when extended family gatherings only happen over a funeral or wedding. My birth family never did reunions but they always looked so fun. We would, from time to time, gather at grandparents at the same time, but it was never planned. Wright’s article touched my heart. Then a great-niece wrote a beautiful Facebook post about the same article… We work to make family dinners happen once a month and a family vacation each year. Worth the battle with busy schedules.
  • Deb Wolf‘s How to Love Your Adult Children Really Well is pure wisdom and worth your read. https://countingmyblessings.com/love-your-adult-children/
  • Daniel Kurt‘s Long-term Care Insurance – Is It the Right Move for My Aging Parents? This may seem an odd post for a Friday Fave, but for ever how much time long-term care insurance is still around, it is definitely a consideration for us to give ourselves and our adult children…or invest in a family compound of some sort where everyone cares for everyone else. Either way, it’s a chunk of change, but worth it.

4) Christmas Happenings – Beyond the Christmas music events, so much goes on in the month of December around here. Henrico Christmas Mother is a charitable venture that helps needy families, the elderly and the disabled of our county. I only minimally volunteer for this, but it is an incredible experience to see how people and organizations come together to help those less advantaged have a happy Christmas.

In Richmond, we have the Tacky Light Tour which makes driving around the city at night a shimmering, and sometimes silly, wonder.

Gatherings with friends and family or nights at home when overwhelmed or just needing a quiet place…all part of Christmas.

Then…then there are the platters, boxes, small bags full of Christmas cookies – made with love, shared.Photo Credit (last pic): Facebook.com – Cookies by Patricia Good Eckard

5) The Perks of Walking – So after all the Christmas cookies, I’ll close with this helpful piece on the perks of walking. We all know the perks actually, but we’ll be doing more walking come the New Year, for sure.

6 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Walk Every Day

Have a great week! I have to tell you that sometime during the night I woke with the wonderful realization that we are still over 2 weeks away from Christmas. I went to bed thinking it was just 10 days away. When trying to squeeze all the glorious goodness of this special time of year, the days fairly fly. It was a pre-dawn gift to know that…there is still time.

Bonuses:

Team of Retired Navy Seals Are Saving Teenagers From Human Trafficking – Mark Pygas

Zipper Mergers Are a Target for Road Rage, but They’re the Ones Doing It Right, VDOT Says – Joann Kimberlin

Do You Take Hours to Make Simple Decisions? You May Have FOBO (Fear of Better Options)

The Problem with “Hey Guys” – Joe Pinsker

What Makes You “Multicultural” Stacey Fitzsimmons, Davina Vora, Lee Martin, Salma Raheem, Andre Pekerti, C. Lakshman

Worship Wednesday – Our Best For Him – The Little Drummer Boy – For King & Country

Photo Credit: YouTube, The Little Drummer Boy Movie

Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being, for the Lord and not for people.Colossians 3:23

He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind This is the greatest and most important commandment.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”Matthew 22:37-40
“For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.Colossians 1:29
Whew! We’ve just finished the protracted Christmas shopping push of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Now, we sift through lists of what we still need to buy for those we love and to supply the various events that fill the days ahead. Three weeks until Christmas.
In celebrating the birth of Christ, our December fills to the brim. For those of us who struggle at this time of year and pull away from the  crowding of the days, it is nearly impossible to stay clear of the insatiable noise of cultural Christmas.
We scurry around trying to buy and do for those closest to us…which is not a bad thing at all, but Christmas…for us…is most about Him. He deserves our best gifts… This is consummately freeing for us, His children.
This song – The Little Drummer Boy performed by For King & Country – was a highlight of this year’s CMA Country Christmas TV special.

What I love about this song is the crazy cumulative talent of the guys in this band! Drumming is something they do unlike any other music group I know. To translate that drumming into this little Christmas song made the lyrics even more meaningful.
Many of us have seen the 1968 animated film The Little Drummer Boy. That little movie tells a story of the journey of the wise men to see Jesus. A poor drummer boy forced to accompany them was then present as they presented their extravagant gifts to the baby king. He, too, wanted to give to Jesus…his best gift was his drumming.

What is our best for Him this Christmas? Maybe it is something different than we think. We can ask Him…in the quiet of our hearts, never mind the bustle of December days… He will receive what we offer Him…like a parent gladly receives the simple gift of a child.

As the Bible verses referenced above remind us, He empowers our giving. Whatever we give, however we serve, with Him and His purposes as our focus – He is at work in us and through us. Glory!

Worship with me to the joyously ebullient version of The Little Drummer Boy by For King & Country, with all “their best” drumming.

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A newborn King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
Rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum
So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum
When we come

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gifts to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give a King, pa rum pum pum pum,
Rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum
Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
Rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum*

*Lyrics to The Drummer Boy – as performed by For King & Country – Songwriters: Katherine K. Davis, Harry Simeone, Henry V. Onorati

YouTube Video – For King & Country – Little Drummer Boy (Rewrapped Music Video) (Live)

YouTube – A for King & Country Christmas – the One Hour Concert, Phoenix, Arizona