Category Archives: Holidays

Jesus and Holy Week – Saturday, Day 7 – Black Saturday – the Silent Tomb

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Holy-Week-Black-Saturday.jpgPhoto Credit: Catholiclane.com – Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

[Adapted from the Archives]

As I write this morning, it is quiet outside. Very quiet. Lonely quiet. This is the morning of exhausted grief. Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Sent One; His Only One lay dead in a tomb. Dead. How is this possible? The disciples, his family…those followers whose lives were transformed must have been numb with the stark reality that he was not with them…not on that Saturday. What would they do without him? What would happen to them? What? What? What?

There is only one scriptural reference to this day and it relates to the threat of Jesus’ power and influence, even in death:

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. – Matthew 27:62-66

For the Jews, days begin and end at sundown. Most probably this visit with Pilate occurred Friday night. At his command, guards were placed. The tomb was sealed. Jesus would be no more trouble….

“He is dead: this man from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the world.

With His dying breaths, He spoke words of forgiveness, finality, and faith.

But now the breathing has ceased, and the lungs that exhaled forgiveness are deflated. My Jesus – dead.”* – Trevin Wax

Read the rest of his poem here.

We today have the great knowledge of the risen Christ, but his followers, on that Saturday, only had dim recollection of his words of promise. Shrouded in grief, they found themselves quite “in between” – in between the death of their Savior and the life of his glorious promises.

“Because of the interval that is Holy Saturday, the hope of Psalm 139 is now grounded in Jesus’s own experience: “If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” (Psalm 139:8). Jesus descended into death. He made all that darkness his own. Death captured Jesus as he entered it fully. But then, in the great reversal, Jesus captured death. In his rising, Christ filled that darkness with the light of his presence. He dispelled that gloom forever for those who trust him. So when we consider the crossing into of death, we can now hold fast to the truth, “Even darkness is not dark to you” (Psalm 139:12). Just as Jesus took our sins, so he has taken all our lonely dying as his own.”Gerrit Scott Dawson

“Saturday is the “in between” day: in between despair and joy; brokenness and healing; confusion and understanding; death and life.”John Ortberg

A dear friend of ours, Beth Wayland, shared with us this message by John Ortberg (quote above and passage below) from a conference where he spoke on Black Saturday, well, “Saturdays” in general. He describes so well this day in between.

“Saturday – the day between the crucifixion and the resurrection. What do you think the disciples were doing on Saturday? Here they have seen their friend and their Master killed the day before but also have this vague promise, which probably seemed ludicrous at the time that he would rise again. So what do you think they were doing on Saturday between the tragedy and the promise?

Most of life is Saturday. We`re in a terrible position, but we have a promise from God that we only half believe. It`s after the doctor tells us we have cancer, but before we`re cured or find a new depth of faith to cope with it. It`s after the marriage breaks up, but before God heals the grief. It`s after we`ve been laid off, but before God uses our gifts in a new place. Most of life is Saturday. It`s waiting in faith and hanging onto the promise that God is going to come through for us in spite of how bad things look. Most of life is Saturday. — I don`t know where you are this Holy Week. Maybe you`re in a Palm Sunday kind of mood wanting God to get on board with an agenda and maybe he will, but if he doesn’t, know that his plans are always good. Maybe you`re feeling a little unlovable because of something you`ve done or haven`t done. Maundy Thursday means that God loves us no matter how dirty our uniform gets from the game of life. Maybe you`re in a Saturday kind of place – between a hard time and a promise you only half believe. Know this for sure that God`s Easter irony is still at work, and he can use even the worst tragedies for good, and he always has at least one more move left. No matter how bleak and dark Saturday gets, Sunday`s coming, and it`s coming sooner than you think. “John Ortberg

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Garden-Tomb-from-imb.org-Holy-Week-Black-Saturday.jpgPhoto Credit: IMB Resources

Holy Week – Day 7: Saturday in the Tomb – Mary Fairchild

Question: What is Holy Saturday?

Spotify Playlist for Holy Week Beth Wayland

The Day Jesus Stayed Dead – Waiting in the Heartache of Holy Saturday – Gerrit Scott Dawson, Desiring God

YouTube Video of John Ortberg on “Saturdays” – American Association of Christian Counselors Conference, October 2011 (starting 5 minutes in)

*My Jesus – Dead by Trevin Wax

On This Holy Saturday: Here at the End of All Things (Triduum Series) – Tea with Tolkien

Experience Easter – Somber Saturday – KLove

YouTube Video – Jesus Paid It All (lyric video) – Fernando Ortega

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us written by Stuart Townend – with David Wesley

Story Behind the Song How Deep the Father’s Love For Us by Stuart Townend

YouTube Video with lyrics – In Christ Alone  written by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

Jesus & Holy Week – Day 6 – Good Friday – His Trial, Crucifixion, & Burial

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Holy-Week-Good-Friday.jpgPhoto Credit: GoodFridayQuotes2015.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

It was a day like no other day in history. For years we lived in countries where Christianity was a minority religion. While the few of us passed this week in reflection and wonder, it was, of course, just another week for most of our friends and colleagues. Easter had its name – Eid Al-Qiyama (“Feast of Resurrection”) – but Good Friday where we lived was shrouded in the ordinary. For Jesus, and all who have experienced life through his teaching, example, and sacrifice, this day was and is wholly extraordinary.

Good Friday – good for us, hard for Jesus. The events of his trial, crucifixion, death, and burial are all recorded with great detail in the four Gospels. They are riveting accounts of this terrible and triumphant day – Matthew 26:57-27:61, Mark 15Luke 22:66-23:56, John 18:28-19:42.

Jesus had no opportunity to sleep in the hours of night before this dawn. From the garden where he prayed, he was forcibly taken into the custody of the high priests. Through the early morning hours, he was bounced brutally between the Sanhedrin, the high court of Israel, and the Roman authorities (Pilate and Herod Antipas). While in their custody, Jesus endured hostile interrogation, false accusations, trumped-up charges, relentless attempts at public humiliation, and repeated beatings. Yet, he somehow retained his full faculties, responding to the authorities, when necessary, with great wisdom and understanding of both the proceedings and the people. In the midst of all this trauma, he even made eye contact with one of his dearest friends and followers, Peter, who was hiding nearby…in his own painful moment.

The outcome of all the wrangling between the Jewish and Roman officials was an unwarranted, undeserved death sentence. Execution by crucifixion. Pilate even washed his hands of the matter, literally, declaring Jesus innocent but still consenting to the death sentence. He didn’t know then but the “blood” he tried to wash off his hands was truly innocent. Still, it wasn’t Pilate who put Jesus on that cross, nor was it Caiaphas, head of the Sanhedrin. Not a Roman, nor a Jew.

Jesus’ death, that day, was an outworking of a divine plan. We cannot begin to understand the holiness of the Father, the resolve of His Son, or the steadfastness of the Spirit. This three-in-one God orchestrated a path for us, His fallen and broken people, to be restored to Him. That we, though wrecked by sin, can be whole again and one in Him, in that unity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (John 17:21) is a miracle of grace.

Jesus gave his life for us that day. It was not taken from him. He laid it down. For us. Though completely undeserving, we are ransomed and redeemed. At such a great cost. This Jesus. This life. This cross.

It Was My Sin That Held Him There – Greg Morse

Jesus spoke seven times during the three hours he hung on that cross.  Each time he spoke, as in all the other times his words have been recorded, there was something for all of us. If you don’t know what he said, in those seven brief cries from the cross, read them and discover more about him…and about us.

Just before he died, he cried out, “It. Is. Finished.” What? What was finished? His life…oh no…not at all…that story comes later. His work? Not completely…for he continues interceding for us (Romans 8:34). What was finished? The perfect sacrifice – the lamb without spot or blemish – his life for ours. “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Hallelujah!

‘Finished’ – What the Son Cried as He Died – Scott Hubbard – Desiring God

There is so much more to say about this day and the people present. Pilate’s wife who warned Pilate about ruling against this innocent man. Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, who tried to return the money and killed himself in remorse that same day. Simon of Cyrene, a pilgrim, who was drawn into the dreadful drama of that day to carry Jesus’ cross when he could no longer. Barabbas, a notorious criminal, who gained his freedom, through a strange twist of the day. The nameless thief on the cross who cried out in repentance to Jesus. The Roman centurion who in his witness of Jesus all those hours professed faith in him.  John, Jesus’ closest disciple, and Jesus’ mother to whom Jesus gave each other. The women, lives changed by their faith in Jesus, who stayed at the foot of the cross through all the horror of his crucifixion. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a Christ-follower, who tried to appeal for Jesus with the Sanhedrin. Joseph of Arimathea, another believing Pharisee, who went to Pilate to receive Jesus’ body for burial, to place in his own tomb.

So many stories of lives changed. Good Friday. This marked the day of Jesus’ trial, his death, and his burial, but it does not mark the end of the story. It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.*

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Good-Friday-from-popgodblog.jpgPhoto Credit: popgodblog.com

[Postscript: In the links are several beautiful songs of worship. Tributes to the Lord on this day. Don’t miss the articles and the great sermon “It’s Friday But Sunday’s a Coming” by Rev. S. M. Lockridge.]

After a Crash-and-Burn Year, Why Care…About Good Friday? – Ann Voskamp

Holy Week – Day 6: Good Friday’s Trial, Crucifixion, Death, Burial – Mary Fairchild

The Cross – Billy Graham 2020

The Way of Jesus #3: Unless a Seed – James Nored

The Way of Jesus #4: Who Do I Say Jesus Is? – James Nored & Phil Ware

It Wasn’t Nails that Held Him to the Cross – Blog by Michele Perry

Good Friday – Bible Study

Spotify Playlist for Holy Week – Beth Wayland

YouTube Video – It is Finished – Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Forever – Kari Jobe

YouTube Video with Lyrics – The Wonderful Cross by Chris Tomlin & Keith Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – The Power of the Cross – Kristyn Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – Lead Me to the Cross – Hillsong

*YouTube Video – It’s Friday but Sunday’s a Coming – S. M. Lockridge

YouTube Video – Skit Guys – Good Friday

YouTube Video – Passion Song – The Story of Holy Week (Lyric Video) by @scartermusic – powerful.

Photo Credit: We Love the Bible, Pinterest

Jesus and Holy Week – Thursday, Day 5 – Passover Celebration & His Last Supper Before the Cross

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Holy-Week-Last-Supper.jpgPhoto Credit – Baptist Press – Courtesy of DeMoss News Pond

[Adapted from the Archives]

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

The Thursday before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion was the awaited celebration of Passover. In this day, we have a picture of Jesus, in all his humanity, and in all his deity. All four of the Gospels written about Jesus’ life have an account of this day’s events (Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14; Luke 22:7-65; John 13:1-18:27).

After sunset, the Jewish people would take the Passover meal together – as families usually. They would share the Seder and remember how God protected them during the days of their slavery in Egypt. Photo Credit: Seder Meal, Robert Couse-Baker, Flickr

When Jesus and his disciples gathered around this meal, there was not just looking back, but also a looking forward. The disciples still may not have understood that Jesus was hours away from dying. However, I’m sure they listened carefully to his teaching in those sacred moments together.

Today this particular Thursday is known as Maundy Thursday. Maundy means “commanded” and also can refer to the ceremonial washing of feet.  Jesus took upon himself to wash the dusty feet of his disciples, modeling for them his command to love one another (John 13:34-35).Photo Credit: Heartlight

After Jesus and his disciples finished their meal together, he would then enter the garden Gethsemane to pray. They were all with him, except Judas Iscariot, who had stolen away during the meal. He would bring Jesus’ enemies to trap him there in the garden. Jesus prayed long into the night. He wrestled with his heavenly Father over the need for him to die. “Oh my Father, if it is possible, let this cup [of suffering and death] pass from me.” Then, settled in his obedience, “O my Father, if this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” [Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:42]

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/80/Giorgio_Vasari_-_The_Garden_of_Gethsemane_-_Google_Art_Project.jpgPhoto Credit: Wikimedia

Sometime during that dark night of the soul, he turned his attention toward his disciples and all the rest of us, across the ages, who would follow him. His prayer to the Father, recorded in John 17, is exquisitely beautiful, especially in the context of this difficult night. [Take time to read it in full, but I’ve included a part of it below.]

“Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.  I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

Then out of the darkness, Judas came to betray Jesus. He was leading a group of the religious leaders, along with a huge company of soldiers. Although Jesus’ disciples wanted to resist his arrest, Jesus refused their intervening and surrendered himself…not to the mob but to the will of the Father.

The betrayal was complete. His disciples fled (although those closest to him would soon return to follow after him). He would spend the rest of the night in the tormenting custody of his enemies. The countdown to the cross has begun in earnest. A countdown that actually began at the Fall of humanity, and, under the careful watch of God, our Father…a countdown toward restoring us back to Himself.

One more day…

YouTube video – Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn) by Keith & Kristyn Getty

Spotify Playlist for Holy Week Beth Wayland

The Way of Jesus #3: Unless a Seed – James Nored

Holy Week – Day 5: Thursday’s Passover, Last Supper – Mary Fairchild

Experience Easter – From Genesis to Revelation – K-Love

What Is Maundy Thursday?

Maundy Thursday 2015: The History Behind The Holy Thursday Before Easter – Also enjoy the beautiful Lent Meditations Slideshow at end of article.

Jesus Prays for His Disciples…and For Us – Ralph F. Wilson

https://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Blog-Maundy-Thursday-Speak-Life-April-18-2019.jpgPhoto Credit: Speak Life UK

Palm Sunday – Day 1 of Holy Week – Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on the Way to the Cross

[Adapted from the Archives]

For anyone who considers herself a critical thinker, this week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one worthy of analysis. No matter our religion or non-religion, this Jesus, in these days, warrants examination, related to anything we may think of God. The core beliefs of a Christ-follower, not just a person known as Christian, are illuminated here. In the study of Jesus’ life and his followers, in just this one week, we can see a deep distinction between “the religious” and “the redeemed”.

[Sidebar: I taught a World Religions course some time ago in a Moroccan high school. In that course, we studied all the major religions. The students were challenged to think critically of each religion. They were to study each one in this way:

  • putting themselves in the perspective of one who believes (i.e., a true follower, using eye witness/historical accounts and Scriptures/holy writings when available), and then
  •  analyzing each belief/tenet of faith critically and its impact on their lives/culture.

Any of us can benefit thinking through Holy Week this way; none will come away the same by examining the life of Jesus.]

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Palm Sunday is celebrated as the “triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem, just days before he would endure a mock trial and then be crucified. He and his closest followers, disciples, came to Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover. Passover was an annual remembrance of God’s protection and deliverance of Israel during a time of slavery (Exodus 12:26-28). Jesus would celebrate Passover on Thursday of that coming week, but he did not come to Jerusalem for that reason alone.

Jesus knew from his Father God why he came to Jerusalem, and he tried to prepare his disciples for what was coming.

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.Matthew 16:21

As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death,  and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.” Matthew 20:17-19

I can’t even imagine what those disciples must have felt, being so close to Jesus, as he predicted his own death. They loved him and had pledged their lives to him, even to death. They believed him to be the conquering king, sent by God, to deliver the Jews from Roman rule and to restore the nation of Israel. Although they had soaked up three years of his teaching, this “end of the story” was more than they could bear. Just a week later, they would gloriously understand that it would not be the end of the story of Jesus’ life…but the emotions of this Sunday, this week, must have been disorienting and overwhelming.

On this Sunday, before the Passover, Jesus would enter the great city of Jerusalem, teeming with crowds there to celebrate. He entered, riding a donkey*, as was foretold by the Hebrew prophet Zechariah:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

Imagine the scene as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Some in the crowds did recognize him, and then the word spread of the arrival of this great teacher, this healer, this man whose teaching was like none before him. Palm branches were pulled to wave in tribute to him, as others flung their cloaks on the dusty road before him, welcoming him:

Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna** to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?”Matthew 21:8-10

“Who is this?” For those who did not know him, the wild welcome for him must have been confusing and captivating. For the religious authorities in Jerusalem, who did know him and were unwilling to welcome this “king of the Jews”, his popularity was infuriating.

The clock began ticking as they plotted against this man Jesus.

Over that bright hopeful day of palms hung the shadow of the Cross – the Cross that would bring even greater hope to all people. The “Hosanna” of Palm Sunday would change to cries to “Crucify!” just five days later. Jesus had no ambition to please the crowds; he was resolutely on task to redeem those who could not redeem themselves – the whole world.

[Each day in this week, the posts will mark the journey of Jesus of Nazareth through the last week of his earthly life. Join me please. Because of the need for continued physical distancing, the remembrance of this week may look differently. Some churches are doing drive-by giving of palms for the children. This is actually the first Sunday since the start of COVID in the US that we will attend the Sunday service at church. Vaccinations onboard.]

*Matthew 21:1-11 & Commentary

The Way of Jesus #1: Truly See the Coming King –  James Nored and Phil  Ware – Heartlight

**”Hosanna” means “God saves”.  YouTube lyric video of Hosanna – Hillsong

YouTube Video – Passion Song – The Story of Holy Week (Lyric Video) by @scartermusic – powerful.

Spotify Playlist – From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Beth Wayland

Photo Gallery: Egypt’s Coptic Christians Celebrate Palm Sunday in Cairo – Our family remembers this well from our days in Cairo.

5 Ways to Celebrate Palm Sunday at Home This Year – Meg Bucher

Holy Week Devotions – Mission Lakewood

Holy Week Timeline – From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Mary Fairfield

Look, the World Has Gone After Him: Prelude to Palm Sunday – Jon Bloom

The Significance of Palm Sunday in Relation to Passover – Doug Eaton

Kings Riding on Donkeys? What?

Sunday Grace – A Valentine’s Day Reflection on the Deep, Deep Love of God

Photo Credit: Heartlight Gallery

[Adapted from Archives]

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7

I love Valentine’s Day. Maybe, more than anything, it is a bright red, shiny day that punctures the darker gray ones of winter. Being married now for many years, the season of longing for love should be long forgotten. It is not. I remember.

The curious thing about the years of singleness – the many Valentine’s Days spent more with great girlfriends than with a guy – was the weathered joy in those years. The loneliness and seeming “not belonging to someone” brought keen awareness of the contrasting actual truth that I was NOT alone. Indeed, I was loved deeply, more deeply than ever possible by another human as needy as me.

On Valentine’s Day, I’m drawn back to an old hymn. One actually that only became familiar to me during our years in Egypt, worshiping with British expats. They brought their beloved hymns into our collective worship experience.

Englishman Samuel Trevor Francis penned,  in King James English, a beautiful hymn extolling the love of Christ. The lyrics are so powerful and life-giving. You can just hear the great church organ of the past pounding out the beat and breadth of the melody…and the message of love we find in Jesus.

On this snowy winter day, please worship with me. The Christian band Selah has prepared an updated version for us, retaining the feel of the old hymn. The lyrics and music to accompany are found here.

1 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
vast, unmeasured, boundless, free,
rolling as a mighty ocean
in its fullness over me.
Underneath me, all around me,
is the current of Thy love;
leading onward, leading homeward
to my glorious rest above.

2 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
changeth never, nevermore!
How He watcheth o’er His loved ones,
died to call them all His own;
how for them He intercedeth,
watcheth o’er them from the throne.

3 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
love of ev’ry love the best;
’tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’tis a haven sweet of rest.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’tis heav’n of heav’ns to me;
and it lifts me up to glory,
for it lifts me up to Thee.*

The trappings of Valentine’s Day will leave you a little empty… unsatisfied, no matter your situation. Find in the great love of God the refuge and shelter He means to be for each of us.

He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield.Psalm 91:4

Photo Credit: Kensington Gardens

*Lyrics to O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus – S. Trevor Francis

Postscript: Another favorite hymn of mine is How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – below find Selah’s version of this one as well.

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Selah – YouTube Lyric Video

5 Friday Faves – Big Birthdays, Long Life, Words on Inauguration Day, the Life and Wisdom of Hank Aaron, and Bonuses Make 5

Fastest week ever. Here I am late again for Friday Faves, but they have to be posted. It was a beautiful and amazing week for this woman here. Hope you will find something through which you are encouraged or amused. Happy week ahead!

1) Big Birthdays – I had a big birthday this week. Big. One of those with a 0 in the 1’s place. Another year, it would have been celebrated by a beach somewhere. With a dinner in a nice restaurant or a movie out with Dave and a family-size buttered popcorn. COVID. So…my kids planned a birthday lunch for me, and that would have been sweet enough. Coming so close after Christmas, I just couldn’t come up with any gift ideas. It was going to be ok…just being thankful for life and with my little family. Well…this birthday turned into a one-day-after-another, full of surprises huge hurrah!! Dear friends and neighbors showed up in so many sweet ways. In so many humbling and satisfying ways. That birthday joy was spread through a full week. Wow! So many thanks to you who knew this was going to be a bit bewildering for me. Can we do this again next year?!

2) Long Life – During my younger years, the Bible verses promising long life to those who honored their parents were easy to grab hold of. My parents were easy to honor. It just wasn’t much work for me. In fact, it was a joy.

Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
 – Deuteronomy 5:16

Here’s to long life! And wonderful parents! Especially after one of those “big” birthdays.

3) Words on Inauguration Day –  Every four years, this large day is observed in the United States of America. The peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next (after a two-term presidency or if the incumbent doesn’t win the second term). There are speeches, songs, and oaths. Many highlights. The most special for me? The 22 y/o poet laureate Amanda Gorman asked to recite one of her poems for President Biden…as the rest of the world listens.

Below is just a bit of her poem. Click on the video for the whole.

“We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished.”

‘Not Broken But Simply Unfinished’: Poet Amanda Gorman Calls for a Better America – Camila Domonoske – NPR

Caleb McDaniel – What Is America? Is It a Place? Is It a People? Is It an Idea?

4) The Life and Wisdom of Hank Aaron – Baseball great Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron died this week. He was a great athlete and a great man. my Dad loved the Atlanta Braves…so much so that whenever they lost in the playoffs, the World Series no longer had interest for him. Hank Aaron spent most of his baseball career with the Atlanta Braves, and I grew up watching him and hearing Dad talk about him.

I should have known, but didn’t, how much racism Hank Aaron endured. Especially as he edged closer to beating the homerun record of national hero Babe Ruth. Aaron could bring homeruns…Photo Credit: Hank Aaron, AZ Quotes

…all day long. Hammerin’ Hank. He was a champion and a man with deep character. How is one’s character forged? With Hank Aaron, he probably learned it from a mom and dad, but he also unfortunately learned it through suffering. [“…suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”Romans 5:3-5]

I thank God for Hank Aaron – for enduring the racism of that era without bowing to bitterness. He was a shining light to so many.

Please find below some of what Hank Aaron said about life and baseball:

“In playing ball, and in life, a person occasionally gets the opportunity to do something great. When that time comes, only two things matter: being prepared to seize the moment and having the courage to take your best swing.”

“I need to depend on Someone who is bigger, stronger and wiser than I am. I don’t do it on my own. God is my strength. He gave me a good body and some talent and the freedom to develop it. He helps me when things go wrong. He forgives me when I fall on my face. He lights the way.”

“What you do with your life and how you do it is not only a reflection on you, but on your family and all of those institutions that have helped to make you who you are.”

“I am very proud to be an American. This country has so much potential, I’d just like to see things better, or whatever, and I think it will be.”

“The way I see it, it’s a great thing to be the man who hit the most home runs, but it’s a greater thing to be the man who did the most with the home runs he hit. So as long as there’s a chance that maybe I can hammer out a little justice now and then, or a little opportunity here and there, I intend to do as I always have — keep swinging.”

Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream (1995 film)

YouTube Video – Vin Scully Calls Hank Aaron’s Historic 715th Home Run

5) Bonuses Make 5 – The week flew by. Any of the following could have been #5, but you can choose. I could not.

I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world! – Langston Hughes
“A high school class learning about the Salem Witch Trials, and their teacher told them they were going to play a game.
“I’m going to come around and whisper to each of you whether you’re a witch or a regular person. Your goal is to build the largest group possible that does NOT have a witch in it. At the end, any group found to include a witch gets a failing grade.”
The teens dove into grilling each other. One fairly large group formed, but most of the students broke into small, exclusive groups, turning away anyone they thought gave off even a hint of guilt.
“Okay,” the teacher said. “You’ve got your groups. Time to find out which ones fail. All witches, please raise your hands.”
No one raised a hand.
The kids were confused and told him he’d messed up the game.
“Did I? Was anyone in Salem an actual witch or did everyone just believe what they’d been told?”
And that is how you teach kids how easy it is to divide a community. Some adults can learn a bit about this too.”

Worship Wednesday – Celebrating the Giver and Sustainer of Life – Life Song – Casting Crowns

Photo Credit: Bible Study Tools

Every four years, my birthday and the US Presidential Inauguration are celebrated on the same day. This year was one of those years.

Now, my birthday was one of the big ones, drawing a lot of exclamations from friends when they find out which one. So that either says I look or act younger than my age, or I’m way older than they thought. I’m wondering at my age, as well.

Not so much that this birthday isn’t getting celebrated – like a rock star! Bring on the flowers, the cake, and the meetups [COVID-altered but undaunted]. Yay, for birthdays.

Peaceful transfers of presidential power are also worthy of huge celebrations. It is the American way, and it’s happening again.

We may have mixed feelings about birthdays…and even about inaugurations. If we raise our gaze just a little higher, we can thrill to what is going on in the spiritual realm.

Whatever we might think about life right now…us getting older, or times getting stranger…we can take heart.

Perhaps we were born for just such a time as this. [Esther 4:14b]

Photo Credit: Salvation Army

God is not surprised, nor is He hindered in giving life or sustaining life. Certainly, He is able to equip us and keep us on track – in the works He has given each of us from the beginning of time (Ephesians 2:10).

Isn’t that astounding?! For us, yes; for Him, no.Photo Credit: Daily Verses

I take great comfort in the passage in John 10 above. Nothing can snatch us out of His hands. Nothing. No one. Forever we are His.

In thinking about birthdays and inaugurations, we celebrate the God who gives us life and sustains us through it.

Facing a new decade of life, I look up. To the God who keeps His promises…who gives us life day to day straight on to eternity…and sustains His children through it all.

As for the Inauguration and a new US President…we are not saved by any political party or president, we are saved by a King. With a forever kingdom…and it stands in beauty and power and glory.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29

I love Gill’s Commentary on this great God being a consuming fire: “…here it is our God, our covenant God, our God in Christ; not that he is so to the saints, or to them that are in Christ: he is indeed as a wall of fire in his providences, to protect and defend them, and as fire in his word to enlighten and warm them, to guide and direct them, but not a consuming fire to them; this he is to their enemies, who are as thorns, and briers, and stubble before him.”

Oh that our lives bring a smile to the face of our Creator and Sustainer God! [As the picture the Casting Crowns‘ song paints below].

May we take birthdays and inaugurations in stride, and in the context of a larger Kingdom…and a God who is very much in control.

Worship with me:

Empty hands held high
Such small sacrifice
If not joined with my life
I sing in vain tonight

May the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to You

Let my lifesong sing to You
Let my lifesong sing to You
I want to sign Your name to the end of this day
Knowing that my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to You

Lord I give my life
A living sacrifice
To reach a world in need
To be Your hands and feet

So may the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to You

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Let my lifesong sing to You

*Lyrics to Life Song – Casting Crowns – Songwriter: John Mark Hall

Behind the Song: Casting Crowns Shares the Heart Behind Their Hit Song “Lifesong” – Abby Young

Monday Morning Moment – A New Day – It’s Gonna Be OK

Sometimes rolling out of bed is an act of faith. I’d been awake for an hour already. Trying to clear the dark thoughts out of my head. Praying. Remembering what is true and distinguishing what is only speculation. This time it had to do with a family concern…what could we do to help? What could I do? Only God could do anything at this point. So I prayed.

Prayer can clear the mechanism, for sure. Going to God when we are distracted beyond good sense, disoriented by the noise in our heads, worried that nothing good is coming down the pike. By concentrating our thoughts into a cry to God, we gain clarity. Maybe on how to deal with an issue ourselves, or finding no clear answer, on the goodness of a holy and wise God.

So I rolled out of bed, had coffee, spent a bit of time in Scripture, got my clothes on, and headed out the door.

What a sky! Past the vivid colors of sunrise, but still with the hint of pink, streaking the clouds. It was beautiful! In a split second, taking in the largeness of the sky and the clean slate of a Monday morning, I head out…with hope…and peace in my heart.

Just like the sky changes through the day, so do our thoughts. Is the family concern still real and present? Yes. As far as I know. Do I have a clear path to help? No. However, it’s a new day. Anything could happen.

Dark clouds are rolling in, and just a hint of blue remains before the rain starts.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. No big celebrations this time because the 2021 US Presidential Inauguration is in two days. This year our United States capital as well as state capitals, are under high alert for armed protests. Parades are just not happening.

FAQs: 2021 inauguration plans after Capitol riot, amid pandemic

Even since last year, when I wrote here on Martin Luther King Jr., our country seems changed. Divided, blaming, hostile, cautious. Remembering Dr. King is a good thing. He did much to bring us together, even as divided we were across racial and ideological lines.

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote, Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the car this morning, a song came on, unfamiliar to me. It was “Into the Sea (It’s Gonna Be OK”). By singer/songwriters Tasha Layton and husband Keith Everette Smith.

Perfect for reflecting on the action by which God had rescued me from my own thoughts. Giving me the will and determination to take on a new day.

The songwriters created this song from the Biblical text below.

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah  – Psalm 46: 1-3, 10-11

The song above, “It’s Gonna Be OK”, was born out of dark times for the songwriter couple, through which God brought them into light. A song just right for us going through COVID and this year of 2020.

We may not have any idea what “OK” is going to look like…but we can grab hold of it, and take each new day as both promise and possibility.

YouTube Video – Look Up, Child – Lauren Daigle

Clear the Mechanism: Finding God in the Middle of Anxiety – Joshua Crawford

For Love of the Game

5 Friday Faves – “Beyond the Guitar” Doing What He Does, From Cynicism to Delight, the Glad Game, a Great Life & a COVID Death, and Life’s Comforting Rhythms

Happy Weekend! Staying on the positive in my finds this week.

1) Beyond the Guitar Doing What He Does –Classical guitarist Nathan Mills, on the platform Beyond the Guitar, arranges and performs themes from movies, TV shows, and video games. The last couple of weeks he has showcased two arrangements of his that display his genre at its best.

YouTube Video – The Mandalorian/Force Mashup – Classical Guitar Cover

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, YouTube

YouTube Video – Spider-man: Miles Morales (PS5) Main theme on Guitar

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, YouTube

Nathan teaches privately and via his Arrangers Academy (membership opens twice a year). His music (videos, sheet music, and MP3s) are why we are patrons. Well, and because we love the guy playing the guitar. Beautiful, nostalgic themes. Heart-soothing on every level and on any day.

2) From Cynicism to Delight – With that noise of social media and biased news media, we struggle to know what to believe about what’s going on around us. The tendency is to gradually go cynical, thinking ill of others, moving toward mistrust. Our thinking becomes negative, and we become suspicious of motives, questioning authority, and even disbelieving people trying to do right by others.

Negativity can become a habit…a negative habit.

This is no way to live. Cynicism dulls our thinking and darkens our heart.

How do we upend cynicism? Writer Jennie Allen talks on a podcast about how we can move away from cynicism and toward delight. Now, that is a surprising and almost old-fashioned idea. Delight is defined as “a high degree of gratification or pleasure; joy; giving keen enjoyment”.

Jennie Allen Podcast – Cynicism vs. Delight

What do you take delight in? It requires a measure of savoring, pausing to take note, considering a different possibility. We rush around in life, or at least in our thoughts – flipping channels, scrolling endlessly, moving from class to class or meeting to meeting with little notice to what’s going on around us (or in our own heads). What if? What if? We stopped, or slowed down, our minds and just took note.

Allen talks about the importance of what we put into our minds. Do we even think about it? 20 minutes on social media (depending on those we friend/follow) could begin a stubborn funk in our thinking. What about the people in our lives? She doesn’t encourage cutting people off, but guarding our conversations against the negative –  gossiping, complaining, criticizing, thinking ill.

In the space we intentionally gain from the guarding above, we can begin practicing delight. At how well things are going instead of how badly, for instance. How beautiful the weather is, thoughtful your neighbor, generous your colleague, wise your mom or dad…This isn’t putting our heads in the sand; it is just considering life from a different angle…just as true/real as the negative, cynical take.

Allen encourages taking note of art as a fast track to delight. Whether it is music, or poetry, or painting. The world is full of beauty. We forget that sometimes in our “screened-in” lives. Many of us live in a place of four seasons. There’s always something to marvel at in nature. For many years, we lived in a part of the world with only two seasons. In each was still a myriad of beautiful discoveries. I have always enjoyed watching people, taking in all that’s there for the observer, without intruding. Then, of course, there is the wonder of God. How he continues to infuse our lives with good and possibility.

“The opposite of being cynical is being life-giving, and some might call you naive for it, but for the most part, people just need that in their lives. Most people will want to go to coffee with you because they need someone to speak life into them and actually believe it.”Jennie Allen

Photo Credit: Empowered Living, Facebook

3) The Glad Game – There is so much we can learn from sweet Pollyanna and young Anne of Green Gables. Either through the book about Pollyanna or the movie. Or Anne: the books or the movies/TV series.

Both these girls were orphans, and both had figured out a way to thrive in their circumstances. Very different ways, but fascinating.

Ten Things Anne of Green Gables Taught Me – Samantha Ellis

Anne of Green Gables vs. Pollyanna – (In the Battle for My Mind)

I was reminded (see Friday Fave #2 above) of Pollyanna’s Glad Game. She was determined to find something good in every situation… something to be glad about.

YouTube Video – Pollyanna and the Glad Game

YouTube Video – You Surely Will (Pollyann’s conversation with the minister)

“When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will.” – Abraham Lincoln

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Abraham Lincoln

If Your Behavior Is Contagious, What Will People Catch?

Networking Lessons from Pollyanna and Anne of Green Gables – Marzena Podhorska

4) A Great Life and a COVID Death – As we continue to physically distance during this pandemic, we are beginning to know people who have died from COVID-19. The nearest one to us died just before Christmas. Reverend David Pickard. He was just 76. One of the pastors Mom wanted to preach her funeral. He did. The pastor who officiated at Dave’s and my wedding close to 40 years ago. 

Pastor David has always held a special place in my heart. So full of joy. A smile and presence that would shake the chill off any roomful of people. He genuinely loved God and people. Generous and good, this man.

He always made time. That meant so much to us as first our mom became ill with cancer, and then years later, our dad with Alzheimer’s. Pastor David was no longer in their church, but he continued in their lives.

We have been in separate countries (for awhile) and states now for many years. When we heard he was in the hospital with COVID, we prayed hard like everyone else who loved him. It wasn’t meant to be. His time here was done, but not without leaving a wide wake of love and Gospel truth to everyone he had a bit of time with. He is so missed.Pastor Dave and his sweetheart for life, Mrs. Dottie.

5) Life’s Comforting Rhythms – Here’s to all the rhythms of our lives that we count on and continue to bless us. Christmas cards, even in 2020 (although most of them arrived in 2021 through a weary postal service).

Christmas cactuses blooming right on schedule (how do they do it?).

Kale planted in the Fall still yummy in January.

Daffodils and irises pushing up through the soil with the promise of blooms in the Spring of this new year.

Sharing hot soup on a cold day with old friends (the lunch location altered somewhat by COVID)

And birthday greetings [this one from a lifelong friend who hung with me through our many losses and gains, and my lapses in communication] and a memoir by someone we have also shared through the years – through radio and concerts. #Garrison[Karen, hope you don’t mind. Your note says it all. Especially getting through all the latest hards.]

That’s it for this Friday Faves.  Please comment yourself on the rhythms that comfort you and the things that bring you delight. Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Ten Habits of People Who Lose Weight and Keep It Off – Gina Cleo

7 Good Things That Came Out of 2020 (It Actually Wasn’t All Bad)

Here’s How to Get Stronger After 50 – Abigail Barronian

5 Things People With Tidy Homes Don’t Do

What If We Have Another Year Like 2020 – Nice Lessons Leaders Should Already Have Learned – Eli Amdur

Amazing Image of Unborn Baby at 18 Weeks Is Called the Photograph of the Century – Micaiah Bilger

Image may contain: 1 personPhoto Credit: Eric McCool, Facebook

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

Photo Credit: David Lose

[Adapted from the Archives]

2020…the end is in sight.

What do we do with this new year ahead? Do we revisit those habits we thought about changing up in this tumultuous year? Maybe so. Or maybe we didn’t alter course so much for good reason. Let’s give pause a moment and consider…

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

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

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

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

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

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

A couple of times in my life, I resolved to go off sugar. It was a successful endeavor for over a year each of those times. Excluding sugar from my diet. Never having really lost the weight from my first pregnancy, I decided to remove sugar from my diet for the pregnancy of our second-born. In those days, there was a chapter of Overeaters Anonymous in our town, and that group was a great help in my dealing with pretty much a sugar addiction.

The second time I “gave up” sugar was over 4 years ago, and I stayed the course of that habit change for over 1 1/2 years. Less accountability but even more resolve. Although I am back having dessert or sugary snacks sometimes, I am still operating with more self-awareness than ever before. Self-awareness, not self-condemnation. A very different experience.

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

His article on Seven Principles of Habit Change came at a great time. Sande talks quite kindly about how we develop habits and what it takes to change them. His first principle of habit change gives us a look at the cycle of habits – the cue, the routine (or response), and the reward. For me, in eating sugar (or in overeating, in general), the cue could be a number of things – fatigue, anxiety, loneliness, the mere presence of yummy food. It never takes much to send me to the refrigerator or pantry. The routine: feed the cue, whatever it is…with high-carb oral gratification. The reward: a brief soul satisfaction and temporary relief from whatever was the cue.

In my two seasons of not eating added sugar, I actually followed Ken Sande’s principles below (without knowing the wisdom of it).

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

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

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

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

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

Consider these questions as you think on resolutions for 2021:

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

Three years back, our pastor Cliff at Movement Church challenged us to commit to some resolutions to the Lord…together [podcast of 12/31/2017 here].  I have kept the resolutions made that day in a visible place, to be reminded of the good change in life, and the struggle… I still have them in view…two years out. Still relevant to now. For 2021, on it again…plus prayer for wisdom how to be creative and intentional, given COVID.

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

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

We already had a year like that.

I am resolved…

Photo Credit: Reformed Outfitters

New Year’s Day – Resolved – Deb Mills Writer

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

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

Habit Change is a Team Project – Ken Sande

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

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

RW Acrostics in Action – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

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

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

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