Category Archives: Holidays

5 Friday Faves – A #COVID Walk with a Friend, Monopoly Money, Thanksgiving Memory Making, and Back to School (Please)

1) A #COVID Walk with a Friend – We planned a walk and then my friend thought of the conference she had attended days before, and decided it was safer for me, potentially, for us to walk together “remotely”. It was lovely.

We did our walks in our own neighborhoods while talking on the phone with each other.

Took selfies after the walk in our respective neighborhoods – not our best look but exhilarating the time outside and “with” each other

What have you done to stay in touch with friends/family during these days of COVID? Please comment below. I saw just this week how one extended family connects over zoom once a month, playing games they have adapted to a screen. Seems we can come up with lots of memorable ways to stay closer in touch. We await your ideas.

2) Christmas Commercials (Adverts) – Some of the best ads are the ones that pop up over Christmas. Greetings from stores, companies, and other organizations. Here are just a few (have a cup of tea/coffee sometime and do an internet search for these (both past and present). Lovely, some funny, some nostalgic – all commentate on culture as well, through the years.

So much Santa Claus (sigh…) but had to include this one also – longish but beautiful visuals and a determined dad:

Do you have favorite Christmas adverts? Please share in Comments.

3) Monopoly Money – It wasn’t so long ago that special grants of money for disaster response from the government measured in the millions. Those days are long gone. Now we talk trillions.

For some time now, I have at the top of my issues for the Office of President these three: Life/Abortion, Supreme Court, and national debt. Now, our debt seems completely off the radar. Whew…

Some of us were talking about this issue and the phrase “Monopoly Money” came up. That’s what it’s like…as money poured out, in response to the COVID-induced economic response, to almost everyone in the US, regardless of need. Where does that money even come from?

Our current President didn’t seem to have national debt on the top of his promises (many of which he kept), and certainly our President-elect isn’t concerned with debt by all the very expensive promises he is making. The whole idea of targeting the wealthy for tax increases is short-sighted. The wealthy aren’t stupid. They can move their operations where the tax base will be more in their favor. If the highest-eschelon wealth-owners (the supposed “1%” in the US) care about those in need, they are already assisting in their own ways.

End of rant. Note the links below. Fascinating.

Coronavirus Is Going to Be Expensive. Too Bad the Government Is Already in Massive Debt – Eric Boehm

How the Federal Reserve Literally Makes Money – William J. Luther

Be Informed: National Debt

4) Thanksgiving Memory Making – Masks on and physical distancing, it was a tender time.

Lewis Ginter GardenFest of Lights with as many of the grands as were available:

Then Thanksgiving Eve, we did our annual crazy family picture experience (thankful for friends who provided the behind the camera entertainment for the children). Here’s just one of the many pics taken. Our kiddos. The rest of the pics wait for Christmas.

On schedule the Christmas cactus begins to bloom. 

Thanksgiving morning, we had brunch with our kids. They did all the cooking. It was splendid – both the food and the time together. I will never take that for granted.

Then onto Delaware to spend the rest of the holiday with Dave’s mom and brother’s family. Sweet times on the Eastern Shore.

MomMom with her two boys.

The grandson who had to miss because of work came for a visit still.

Facetime with the big and little cousins:

#TurkeyLoveliness the day after Thanksgiving:

Home again – sunrise over the Eastern Shore and then Christmas lights that night back home in Richmond:

10 Ways to Connect Deeply at Thanksgiving – Ken Sande

5) Back to School (Please) – Both the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci agree that students need to be back in school. We all probably have very strong feelings about this. We don’t want our children to lose a school year with online learning (with the best efforts of their children). Nor do we want them infecting school staff or bringing the disease home. If we “follow the science”, it seems our concerns regarding COVID are unfounded. What do you think?

Save the Children – Kevin Roche

In-Person School During COVID-19 – Healthy Children

It’s Not Just ABCs – Preschool Parents Worry Their Kids Are Missing Out on Critical Social Skills During the Pandemic – Michele L. Stites & Susan Sonnenschein

Operating Schools During COVID-19: CDC’s Considerations

Photo Credit: The Micro Mama, Facebook

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Hope your weekend is relaxing and full of good health and sweet times. Thanks for stopping by here.

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Bonuses:

How to Get Smarter Every Day, According to Neuroscience – Jeff Haden

Feeding Nashville – feeding those in need and putting restaurant employees, whose jobs have been affected by COVID, back to work

Covid-19: Politicisation, “Corruption”, and Suppression of Science

God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

Prayers in Time of Infectious Disease

Prayer in Time of Plague

Prayers Amidst Coronavirus Crisis – The London Oratory

A Prayer in the Time of Plague – Rabbi Martin S. Cohen

Below is a Facebook thread from a friend of mine – she spoke with exquisite clarity on what it is for Christians in the US right now if we are not aligned politically with what is deemed the most popular opinion at the moment:

2020 US Presidential Election – tucking this in here at the bottom of Bonuses. No matter our political party, this election was the first one in my adult life when some of the states just stopped counting the votes election night. That was confusing, with no real rationale.

When to Expect Election Results in Every State – Fascinating graphics

Anyway, it’s been a strange ride for all of us. The certification of all the states’ votes is in process as is are the legal cases involving some of them. I do believe we will have a peaceful transition of power if President-Elect Biden continues to hold that position. It doesn’t hurt that our electoral process is being scrutinized. As a nation, we must all be able to trust our electoral process. It’s fundamental to our values in the US.

Reasons Why the 2020 Presidential Election Is Deeply Puzzling – Patrick Basham

Anomalies in Vote Counts and Their Effects on the 2020 Election

Fact Check: Vote Spikes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania Do Not Prove Election Fraud

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…

Monday Morning Moment – Gratitude and the Brain – All Good Gains

Photo Credit: Twitter

Have you noticed the increased expressions of gratitude on your social media? At least in the US, we are gearing up for Thanksgiving. Some of us take this occasion as an opportunity to daily and publicly express our gratitude. Based on what we know from research, this could make November one of our happiest and least stressful months of the year.

Below you’ll find quotes from some of these authors, reporting on both clinical research and anecdotal data that support how the practice of gratitude can actually alter our habits of thinking and our sense of well-being. It’s all good for us and those around us.

“Our brain is always on alert to threat and is more predisposed to look at the negative side of life [stress response]. There are many things that happen to us everyday that are positive but we don’t notice them because we are always looking for the next threat to us. Now these actions are below our level of awareness. It takes some concerted effort to get our brain to move to the positive side of life. And that is where paying attention and expressing gratitude plays a role in establishing that positive mindset. When we start to place attention on the positive events in our life our brain responds by producing the neurotransmitter dopamine…We do feel better when dopamine is flowing but that also makes are brain wanting more – so it becomes the motivating neurotransmitter also…In addition, the brain loves confirmation bias: it looks for things that prove what it already believes to be true. Dopamine then strengthens that action. So if you start seeing things in your life that you are grateful for, your brain will start looking for more things to be grateful for.”Patricia Faust, How Gratitude Affects the Brain

Six Habits of Highly Grateful People – Jeremy Adam Smith

  1. Once in awhile, they think about death and loss. – As we think of past losses and future losses (say of those we love), we remember and reflect on the good we’ve known in those situations or relationships. Of future losses, we then take action to savor and bless those persons while we have them near.
  2. They take time to smell the roses. – Whether our current situation feels difficult or just mundane, we look for the beauty.
  3. They take the good things as gifts, not birthrights. – We see entitlement for the life-diminishing thing it is.
  4. They’re grateful to people, not just things. – We can be thankful for great food, for blue skies, for warm clothing, but we go beyond that to the one(s) who provided the good we have.
  5. They mention the pancakes. Being grateful for the specific little things disciplines us to enlarge our gratitude for the greater things in our lives. Those things that can cause stress if we don’t remember the value and significance in them.
  6. They thank outside the box. Even in adversity or hard times, we can find things for which to be grateful. Gratefulness doesn’t minimize the difficulty; it actually strengthens us to endure.

What Gets in the Way of Gratitude? – Robert Emmons

“Given its magnetic appeal, it is a wonder that gratitude might be rejected. Yet it is. If we fail to choose it, by default we choose ingratitude. Millions make this choice every day.

Why? Provision, whether supernatural or natural, becomes so commonplace that it is easily accepted for granted.  We believe the universe owes us a living. We do not want to be beholden. Losing sight of protection, favors, benefits and blessings renders a person spiritually and morally bankrupt.  It’d be hard to improve upon the words of our 16th President in 1863:

‘We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation ever has grown; but we have forgotten God! We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.'” – What Gets in the Way of Gratitude? – Robert Emmons

8 Ways to Express Your Gratitude

  1. Keep a gratitude journal.
  2. Write a gratitude letter to a past mentor or teacher.
  3. Count how many things you can find to be grateful for in each room of your home.
  4. Listen to a guided gratitude meditation [my suggestion if you don’t prefer guided meditation: spend some time in the Psalms].
  5. Start business meetings with a “what went well” one-sentence reflection.
  6. Savor receiving thanks.
  7. Take a daily photo of something you are grateful for and post to Instagram or Facebook, tagging it with #365project.
  8. Try a gratitude jar or tree.        – Tamara Lechner, The Neuroscience Behind Gratitude: How Does Cultivating Appreciation Affect Your Brain?

So…what are you grateful for at this moment?

How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain – Joshua Brown, Joel Wong

How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times – Robert Emmons

Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy – Nancy Leigh DeMoss

The Science of Gratitude – a White Paper – UC Berkeley

Photo Credit: Robert Emmons, Greater Good, Daily Good

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

https://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Blog-Friday-Faves-006-2.jpg

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 – 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

Monday Morning Moment – Remembering on Memorial Day

[Adapted from the Archives]

“Happy Memorial Day” isn’t a fitting greeting for this day.

Our commemoration of this holiday in America is a bit complex. I get the parades, and the setting flags on tombstones, and the sepia portraits of our military heroes past displayed on Facebook pages. Grandfathers, fathers, husbands, brothers…and their female counterparts.

The grilling and road races and t-shirt giveaways at baseball games, I don’t get as much. Yet, like our fellow Americans, we will grill and we will celebrate a day off…and through all that we will remember. We will remember the sacrifices of those who died to preserve our freedom.Photo Credit: Wikipedia, Normandy Landings

This year’s celebration is even more complex than usual. With the losses of COVID-19 casting their own shadow over this day of remembrance. The socially distanced gatherings will be small, but the grief will be large with us.

Photo Credit: Twitter, The New York Times

Memorial Day 2020: Grieving Another COVID-19 Death Count Milestone – Alan Cross

Writing helps me remember. The many lessons of life, the travels, all the people we’ve known along the way, and the great provisions of God. It has helped me to write them down.

Memorial Day is a somber remembrance. All the soldiers I’ve known personally survived the wars they fought . Still, I have friends who lost loved ones serving in devastating situations. I stand alongside to remember. To remember those of our own who died and to remember those families who also lost their loved ones on the other side of battle. There’s always the other side of war…the family side.

How ever you spend your Memorial Day…whether with a burger or fasting or at work or play, stopping and remembering is the first order of the day. We have much to be grateful for. On this day and every day.Photo Credit: Paul Davis On Crime

[Added from Comment when this blog first posted: That gravestone graphic leaves out the deadliest war in our history for some reason. Civil War – 620,000 dead. What a strange omission. – John]

Vietnam War is the war of my youth. We didn’t understand why we were there. I participated in protests but it didn’t take me long to realize how that wasn’t honoring of those of our country fighting for us. We thought we were communicating to “Bring them home!” but when Vietnam vets did return there really wasn’t a “Welcome home!” So short-sighted of us.

[Letters from pen-pals, soldiers in Vietnam, who shared details of what they experienced there. Sacred writings for me now.]

Don’t miss the PBS Memorial Day Presentation. So powerful! Stories of those who gave their lives in battle, honoring the different branches of service, and glorious music. Here is Christopher Jackson in last year’s performance of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”:

If someone you love died in one of these recent wars or in any service to our nation or community, please comment below with their names and any details you choose to include. I would be pleased to help honor them in this small way.

In closing, I’d like to add this clip from the 2002 film The Four Feathers – the brief and beautiful speech of a returning soldier who described why they fight:

Independence Day in the USA – Remembering that Freedom Is Not Free – Deb Mills Writer

Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – What Are You Remembering About God Today? – Deb Mills Writer

Worship Wednesday – Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – Part 2 – Deb Mills Writer

E. John Mills, US Navy – Dave’s DadGeorge T. McAdams (in center), US Army – my Dad

Thank you for your service.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Tim Wink

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. The few Christians in those places 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 was shrouded in the ordinary. For Jesus and all who have experienced life through his teaching and example, this day was and is wholly extraordinary.

Good Friday – good for us, hard for Jesus. His mockery of a 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 the night before, 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, hiding himself 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 of 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. We, though wrecked by sin, can be whole again and one in Him, in that unity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (John 17:21). It 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 are 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 his wage of betrayal 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 no longer could. 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. Mine included… saved from my sin through Jesus’ sacrifice. 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 S. M. Lockridge.]

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

The Cross – Billy Graham 2020

YouTube Video – Passion – What’s So Good About Good Friday?

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.

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

Good Friday – Bible Study

I Did It His Way: A Collection of B. C. Religious Comic Strips – Johnny Hart

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Blog-Cross-Good-Friday-Wikimedia.jpgPhoto Credit: Wikimedia

Jesus and Holy Week – Maundy 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.

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).

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 stole 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. “O 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 follow). He would spend the rest of the night in the tormenting custody of his enemies. The countdown to the cross had 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

Experience Easter – From Genesis to Revelation – K-Love

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

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

Photo 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 not 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 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 social distancing, the remembrance of this week may look very differently. Some churches are doing drive-by giving of palms for the children. For us, we just gathered some fronds for our gate…and will worship this Sunday in our home.]

*Matthew 21:1-11 & Commentary

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

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

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

Holy Week Devotions – Mission Lakewood

Experience Easter – From Genesis to Revelation – K-Love

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

Kings Riding on Donkeys? What?

Photo Gallery: Egypt’s Coptic Christians Celebrate Palm Sunday – When our children were young, we lived in Cairo, and bought palm fronds to make some of these crafts along with our Egyptian friends.

Worship Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – the 40-Day Lenten Road to Easter

Photo Credit: Flickr

[Adapted from the Archives]

“How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your Resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death? Yes, Lord, I have to die—with you, through you, and in you—and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your Resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess…. I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen.”Henri Nouwen  (From A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, Orbis)

It wasn’t until I was six years old that church even came on my radar as a thing. My mom worked all the time in those days, and finally, after a last-resort divorce, she settled us into a different life of meager means and lavish love. It was in those days that we responded to an invitation to church from neighbors. A weary single mom and four eager children met the welcome care of a loving church. Our experience was small town Bible-Belt Baptist, and that set the foundation for my understanding of God, and I am grateful.

My understanding of religion then was that it was Christianity only.

Years later, when I signed up for a World Religions course as a college freshman, I actually thought it would be a survey course on… Christianity.

[Even within the context of Christianity, I knew very little of its practice outside the realm of Southern evangelicalism. Now being older, I understand the difference in religion and faith. – that there are many religions. However, who the Person of God, and who we are as followers, is more about relationship than religion.]

My first experience with Lent was through a college friendship. One Wednesday long ago, I caught up with my best friend after she had disappeared from our usual daily routine. We met for lunch and she had this mysterious, ashen cross smudged on her forehead. I resisted the urge of just lovingly wiping it off for her, thinking she was unaware of it. Pointing it out instead, she taught me my first lessons about Lent – lessons on repentance, fasting (sacrifice), the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. All of that was gloriously real for me already, except for setting aside 40 days of resolve prior to the celebration of Easter.Blog - Lent - Ash Wednesday - from article by Jim DenisonPhoto Credit: Jennifer Balaska via en.wikipedia.org

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust – Preparing for Ash Wednesday – Pastor Kirk Thorson

For years, I still didn’t take Lent very seriously and still don’t know quite how to incorporate it into my life…except that my thinking has changed. In this world gone mad, I am more convinced than ever that we as the Church need to stand together for the sake of the nations and for the glory of God. If in Lent, I can find elements that help me see God, and our corporate and personal need for Him, more clearly, then I want to integrate some measure of Lenten practice into my life.

Month-long fasting (one part of Lent) has never been a draw for me, as I was always completely sure it would be a fail. While we lived in North Africa, and especially in Egypt, fasting was very much a part of our Muslim and Christian neighbors’ lives. Even those Christians who were evangelical (from Coptic backgrounds) saw the importance of fasting. Their awareness of the evil of sin in the world and the need for drastic measures lined up solidly with Jesus’ own life and teaching on this.

As I write this, my penitent friend with the ash smeared on her forehead comes to mind again. Decades later, on this day, I’m sure, wherever she is, she has a new ashen cross applied. Reminding her of the sin in her own life that Christ paid for Himself with His death on the Cross.

[We like our foreheads clean, don’t we? Being reminded of the dark and dirty smudge of sin in our lives is not something we want to carry around with us publicly. Especially in this post-Christian world of ours. Even with the message of the Cross as the only response to that sin…it’s just too public, too culturally “in your face” so to speak.]

Many may see Lent as extra-Biblical and therefore unnecessary to add to our countdown to commemorating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For me, at least, it gives a bit narrower road to walk for forty days – examining our own frailty, our sin, and the brevity of life alongside the magnificent perfection of the life and love of a wholly surrendered Christ.

Bible Gateway extends a free invitation to receive devotionals daily through Lent – A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’ll be going through that as part of my reading these 40 days until Easter.

Also for the past several years, during Lent, I have read British writer Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. It was a gift from a good friend during our years living overseas. There’s a lot in this world that’s frightening these days. Yet God is still God and is at work in the midst of so much crazy. I believe Him at His word. Full stop. We have a role in dealing with what we see in the world. As Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 17:21), there is evil that we can only battle with prayer and fasting. This is a power unleashed in a true observance of Lent.Blog - Lent - Easter (3)

As we grieve so much death around us in these days, and as we look to Easter, I would like to close with a prayer from Adrian Plass’ book:

“Loving heavenly Father, I want to try to tackle this business of loving enemies. First of all I’m going to sit quietly here and go through a mental list of the folk who I would call my enemies. Help me to be really honest…I don’t want to leave anyone out….I’ve done it, Lord. There are rather a lot, and some of them I really hate. But You made it quite clear that You can’t forgive me if I don’t forgive them, so I’ll start the process, even if it takes a long time to mean it. Love them for me, Lord, and please accept my prayers for their welfare and safety. Soften my hard heart as the days go by, until I begin to see them through Your eyes. Thank You for forgiving me. Amen.”

For these forty-plus days before Easter, my resolve is to:

  • read A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer;
  • refer back to the book-marked portions of The Unlocking;
  • reflect on God and the goodness and wisdom He displays through Jesus’ life and teaching
  • resist (fasting from) those money- and time-stealers that distract me from larger issues;
  • repent of the sins of neglect and indifference;
  • remember to pray and
  • reach out to God and those around me as His vessel for His purposes among the nations.

May the days of Lent roll on naturally into the rest of our days…

Preparing for Easter – 50 Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Forever Marred by School Shooting – One Mom Reaches Out to Comfort – Deb Mills Writer