Category Archives: Neighbors

Worship Wednesday – Godspeed – Just a Closer WALK with Thee

Photo Credit: Screenshot from Godspeed

Then the man and his wife heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the breeze of the day, and they hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called out to the man, “Where are you?”Genesis 3:9

The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary; His understanding is beyond searching out. He gives power to the faint and increases the strength of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall. But those who wait upon the LORD will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:28-31

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast [stand firm], immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Spiritually speaking, I’m a runner…oh not in the champion circle kind of runner (at least not yet)…but definitely one eager to be in the thick of things, even if it’s “slow and steady wins the race” plodding.

It’s not because I’m old and time seems to be flying, although that does factor in. I’ve always had a sense of urgency, a fire in my bones, about the lost, the unreached, the displaced or marginalized, and those who “fall through the cracks”.

Because of this, it happens sometimes that I may run ahead of God and exhaust myself at pulling at the reins or rubbing against the yoke the Lord calls “easy”. In my fits and starts, I make a burden out of what’s not meant to be.

let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.Hebrews 12:1

In the Scriptures above, the Lord calls to mind a pace in heart and life that is more in accordance with His will and His character. In the Garden, after Adam and Eve had sinned, the Lord came walking and called out to them. “Where are you?” Of course, He knew where they were…but the question implies a distance from Him. They had determined to go their own way…bad news for them and the rest of us.

What’s the lesson? The Scripture is full of pacing and direction. When we are out of step with God, we are truly on our own…off helter-skelter deceived that we’re about His work (or maybe not caring really, just checking off the boxes of a “good life”).

We will at times, in our journey with the Lord, walk, run, even fly. Other times, He calls us to stand firm in the heat of battle, and He also calls us to rest, sheltering us from the heat.

This is our God…the One whose pace, which can seem exceedingly slow but, is perfectly measured. For our good and His great glory.

Just this week, I confess a chafing in the instruction of our dear pastor. He was calling us as small group leaders to take a summer break. To relax… I honestly have no idea what he said over the next few sentences because the word “relax” triggered a brain freeze. Knowing him, and without following up (to be honest), I believe he meant that the programming can be relaxed and we can enjoy an opportunity to change things up…to go deeper…to truly get to know one another in different ways (including other ‘one anothers’ with whom we don’t usually share space).

So thanks, Pastor Cliff.

Below you will find some resources that aren’t meant to be extra but actually the core of this Worship Wednesday. Take time to check out all of them – short time commitment and long impact. The short film Godspeed – the Pace of Being Known is amazing! This whole idea of giving ourselves to God and each other – where we can truly be known and know one another– is both healing and life-transforming. So… don’t necessarily slow down, but find God’s pace…let’s do it together.

Take that walk with God. Find Your People. Find your parish.

An article, a podcast, a short film, and, finally, a song:

Godspeed – Mark Buchanan – don’t miss this short article. So good!

Made for This Podcast – Jennie Allen – Life in Scotland with Pastor Matt Canlis – this podcast is the story of Pastor Canlis’ journey to Godspeed.

Godspeed – the Pace of Being Known – documentary – Matt Canlis – Watch this! Beautiful, every bit of it.

YouTube Video – Just a Closer Walk with Thee – Alabama – old song, slowed down and lovely.

[All screenshots above taken from the documentary Godspeed]

5 Friday Faves – Catwoman on Classical Guitar, The Ethical Skeptic & Lying, Notes to Self, Celebrating, and American Idol Highlights

Here we go! My faves of the week that flew by! What were some of yours? Post them in Comments so we can learn from you.

1) Catwoman on Classical GuitarThe Batman is the latest film in the franchise. Catwoman is one of Batman’s crime-fighting partners. I didn’t see the film and probably won’t. Too dark for me, but the music…wow! Composer Michael Giacchino worked his magic again in laying down the emotional themes for this movie. Beyond the Guitar‘s Nathan Mills does his own magic covering the Catwoman theme. Enjoy!

2) The Ethical Skeptic & Lying – I like Twitter. It has an underbelly for sure but I have found all sorts of knowledgeable influencers there that news/social media would never highlight. One such person is @EthicalSkeptic. He doesn’t name himself for professional reasons, but he helped me with some of my own misgivings about our mitigation of COVID.  Just looking at the problem globally, we seemed not to have done as well as we should given our technology and wealth.

The Ethical Skeptic is, by his Twitter bio and his writing, as he calls himself, skeptical. His focus on ethics is compelling. I actually never read his blog until just now. His latest piece, The Antiwisdom of Crowds, was fascinating. He draws on the research on lying done by the Paul Ekman Group (link below) and takes it farther in regards to crowd thinking and behavior.

Why Do People Lie? – 9 Motives for Telling Lies – Paul Ekman

Lie to Me – award-winning TV series inspired by Dr. Ekman

Photo Credit: Paul Ekman Group

The Ethical Skeptic writes:

Specifically, people lie in order to

  • attain or preserve something precious,
  • win or preserve the admiration of others, or
  • exercise power over others by controlling the information their target can access.

When a group in authority, seeks to exercise or preserve that authority, all these ubiquitous human factors not only come into play, but moreover become part of the re-enforced culture of the club itself. It’s alright to lie a little. After all, it’s for the club, it’s for science, it’s for virtue, and besides everyone in the club is also doing it.

…over time a syndicate or collective party will therefore be more likely to also be inhabited by a number of accrued false paradigms. Tangled webs which themselves must also be protected by means of more lies. This is what makes the silence of embargo a much more sustainable tactic than mere lying. Individuals then are innoculated by this collective antiwisdom…

This is just a taste of The Ethical Skeptic’s thinking. I don’t agree nor understand all of what he is saying in his substantive body of work BUT I resonate with much of it. If you want a good sense of how deep your vocabulary is, read his blog (rather, essays). He actually often gives definitions because honestly, it is stretching (or at least for me) to grasp all of what he is saying.

Lying has become a common and horrifying problem in our culture. Is it possible people don’t believe each other anymore? Or don’t trust what we’re saying when all we want is to be faithful to what is true? Or is it possible that people {the “crowd”] believe too easily what someone is saying? I would love to hear your take on this.

[Sidebar: the link below, including the comments that followed, shows something of an ethical experience he had involving the church, as well as some of his thinking about God and the Scriptures. It is hard to say how I feel about the whole of it…but his thinking is intriguing…so as not to confuse my readers, the God of the Scriptures and the Book itself have never led me down a bad path. Ever.]

The Riddle of Sin – The Ethical Skeptic

3) Notes to Self – So there’s this sock company called Notes to Self. Laura Schmidt is the owner/creator of this brilliant venture – “What you say to yourself matters!” I LOVE the idea of notes to self because it’s actually a daily habit of my own. Wearing socks that give affirmation for the day is a very sweet idea. Now they aren’t cheap ($15/pair, but like many companies, the price you pay helps others who can’t). Full disclosure: I got my socks by way of a charity thrift situation. They are wonderful socks! High quality! Comfy and encouraging! May reconsider the price tag as Christmas comes closer. Great socks and, again, a super sweet idea.

 

4) Celebrating – This weekend we’ll be celebrating moms (dates vary depending on country, of course). It’s a true phenomenon because 1) we all have a mom, and 2) many of us are moms or act in some mommish role. AND it mostly gets celebrated.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Sarah DeJarnette

Just the commercialism of this day greases the tracks for celebrating. I wish we celebrated more…not just moms, but dads, aunts and uncles (either real or stand-ins), children (born and not yet born), as well as great work teams, volunteers, and neighbors.

Celebrating is tremendously humanizing and the time it takes is so little compared to the outcomes. If the celebration is genuine and much-deserved. It’s one of those efforts that, like the tide, “raises all boats”.

Here’s to the two closest moms in my life – my own and the one I got when I married. So grateful for them.

Here’s to the moms I also get in marriage (my two married kids’ moms-in-law). Again, so grateful for them.

Finally here’s to the kids who made me a mom. So grateful for them!

5) American Idol Highlights –This is the 20th season of reality TV show American Idol. The young contestants are vying for a record contract and, even for those who don’t win, national exposure of their amazing musicianship. The music is really good, and we learn about genres we wouldn’t normally listen to. Below find a couple of highlights from a recent show, as well as one of the videos from a previous American Idol winner Scotty McCreery. I need to listen to more country music.

That’s it for this week. Thanks so much for stopping by. Much love!

Bonuses:Photo Credit: Picture Quotes

For the Joy!! – Kattie Normand, Facebook

8 of the Best Cognitive Therapy Exercises to Sharpen Your Mind – Eva Lewis

Being Known Podcast – Season 4, Episode 10: Healing Trauma: the Power of Presence – Dr. Curt Thompson & Pepper Sweeney

YouTube Video – Introduction to 8 Keys to Safe Trauma RecoveryBabette Rothschild

8 Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery – Babette Rothschild – Review by Ruby Usman

Why Make Your Life So Complicated? [25 Ways to Simplify Your Life] – Frank Sonnenberg

40 Random Pieces of Advice for the Christian Life

Jesus and Holy Week – Tuesday, Day 3 – A Long Day Teaching & Countering Religious Opposition

Photo Credit – slidesharecdn.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

When He [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?”Matthew 21:23

On this long day, Jesus would demonstrate in one situation after another that he spoke and acted with the authority of God Himself. The barren fig tree cursed by Jesus the day before had indeed withered and died. The disciples saw it themselves that morning as they walked again from Bethany to Jerusalem. Jesus spoke to them of faith, which they would need all the more in the days ahead (Matthew 21:21-22).

Again and again…in Jerusalem, in the Temple, and on the busy streets during Passover, Jesus was confronted by the religious leaders.

It’s amazing that he even gained entry to the Temple after overturning the market just the day before. Again, another sign of his authority. He was untouchable, until he gave himself over to his own death on the cross…for us.

The religious leaders were determined to trap him in some sort of blasphemous teaching or interpretation of the law. It would not happen, yet they were set on his destruction one way or another.

In an attempt to test Jesus’ understanding of the law, a legal advisor to the Pharisees asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment in the law. The Pharisees emphasized strict adherence to the laws of the Torah, all 613 of them! They were not prepared for Jesus’ response:

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” –   Mark 12:29-31

Two commands: 1) Love God with your whole being; 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. Some might say that a third is presumed in that you must love yourself in a right and wholesome way in order to truly love others.

Jesus’ love for the Father and his love for all people were in perfect unity. Loving God, with all we are, gives us perspective and capacity to love those around us, whomever they are, as we have experienced love ourselves, from the God who loves us perfectly and completely.

The Pharisees, Sadducees, and other Jewish leaders grew more angry at Jesus and were vexed as to how to destroy his popularity and influence with the masses of Jews loyal to him. All their trickery failed this time. Jesus was not intimidated by them, and in fact, spoke some of his strongest words against them while teaching that day.

His 8 “woe to you” pronouncements against the Pharisees are listed at bottom of this page. When I read them, the song from the original Godspell film comes to mind as the Jesus character stands against the religious “machine” of his day – those “hypocrites”, those “blind guides” of the people.

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Blog-Holy-Week-Pharisees.jpgPhoto Credit: www.faithbibleministries.com

Finally, leaving Jerusalem that day, Jesus stopped on the Mount of Olives (Olivet) to speak about the future. He talked at length, to his disciples and all those who followed, about the end times. He cautioned them about false teachers and the evil that would rise up in those last days. What it must have been to listen to Jesus, the Messiah, on that Tuesday – filled with a mixture of faith in him and fear of what could lie ahead for them, and the generations to come.

When Jesus and his disciples returned for the evening to Bethany, Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, stole away and met with Jesus’ enemies. [Matthew 26:14-16] In the dark of night, he would betray Jesus to them. He acted as a coward, away from the crowds who would have strongly objected…

For 30 pieces of silver, Judas would seemingly take history into his own hands, but the clock was already ticking, and Jesus would finish what he came to earth to do.

Postscript:

8 “Woe’s” Spoken by Jesus Against the Pharisees (Matthew 23:13-30)

1- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of Heaven against men.

2- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you devour widows’ houses, and pray at length as a pretense.

3– Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

4- Woe to you, blind guides, who say, “Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.”

5- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.

6- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.

7- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

8- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.”*

Holy Week – Day 3: Tuesday in Jerusalem, Mount of Olives – Mary Fairchild

YouTube video Alas for You from the original film Godspell

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

The Way of Jesus #2: Unsettling the Religious Status Quo – James Nored & Phil Ware

Experience Easter – From Genesis to Revelation – K-Love

Reasoning Why Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree – Sam Shamoun

Jesus and the Pharisees

*8 Woes Upon the Pharisees – Curtis Kittrell

Great Texts of the Bible – The Two Commandments – commentary by James Hastings

Jesus’ Olivet Discourse about Two Future Events – Ronald W. Leigh, Ph.D

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s Spider-Man Theme Mashup, Engaging a Person Who’s Harmed You, True Community, Going Through Closets, and Spring Flowers

Friday Faves – super fast!

1) Beyond the Guitar’s Spider-man Theme Mashup on Classical GuitarNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar arranged and performed the three big themes of the three Spider-Man franchises of the last 20 years. So much to love in these movies, in particular the ones starring Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, and Tobey Maguire. You’ll welcome the nostalgia and the heart-filling beauty of what Nathan does with the classical guitar.

Which did you love the most? Share in Comments.

2) Engaging a Person Who Has Harmed You – Who is this person? A parent…a spouse…a child…an employer…a supposed friend? We have a way forward toward healing.

Engaging With Someone Who Has Harmed You – Part 1

I discovered Adam Young Counseling a few weeks back and have dived in to many of his podcasts. His 5-part series above on engaging with someone who’s harmed you was like sitting in a therapist’s office…a GREAT therapist’s office. We have all been harmed by someone, and we ourselves have harmed others, often without knowing or without intending. Still, to have counsel on how to take positive steps toward healing in such a scary situation is amazing. Adam Young has experienced trauma himself, and he has redeemed that trauma in so many ways, in particular his love and help for others.

In these podcasts, Adam Young distinguishes between the garden variety sinner, a wicked person*, and an evil person. I appreciated that he said we do well not to judge people as permanently in those states because God can move to transform any of us. He did however encourage those of us who have been harmed to determine if we are dealing with a wicked or evil person…and act accordingly. His helps are empowering and transformative if we have the courage to walk through them.Photo Credit: Alistair Begg, Truth For Life

*Dr. Young spends much counsel on engaging a wicked person who has harmed us. It helped me to be reminded that a person who is behaving wickedly can, on the whole, be a decent person. What causes a person to act despicably toward us could be generational sin – not to discount that person’s responsibility in harming us, but to strive for understanding and grace (which multiplies toward us, not just to the one who harmed us). Thoughts?

When we have been harmed by someone, we need safe people to counsel with in order to be wise in our engaging others with whom we don’t feel safe. Walling ourselves off from them, trying to just put the harm behind us, or claiming forgiveness when we haven’t – none of these things get us to healing. If you have been harmed by someone, spend some time in these podcasts. Seriously. It will make a difference.

Photo Credit: Adam Young Counseling, Instagram

3) True Community – We desperately need real or true community. Whatever the problem loneliness and isolation were for us before COVID has been severely compounded. We need one anther…not in a surfacy, thin-veneered way, but in a deep well of fellowship with each other. Jennie Allen has written a hopeful and provocative book about this in Find Your People.

The need for true community is neither new nor specific to our culture. It’s been written about, researched, and explored for decades. Two great thinkers and authors Jerry Bridges and M. Scott Peck (both now deceased) are quoted below.

Photo Credit: Jerry Bridges, Quote Fancy

“If we are to master the scriptural principles of true biblical community, we must master this one: True greatness in the kingdom of heaven involves serving one another. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26)…Fellowship is much, much more than food and fun and even more than reading and studying the Scriptures with another believer. Fellowship at times may involve blood, sweat, and tears as we stand side by side with our persecuted brothers and sisters…It implies a responsibility to fulfill our function in the body. We usually don’t think of fellowship in terms of fulfilling a responsibility, but that is because we have lost sight of the biblical meaning of fellowship. Fellowship is not just a social privilege to enjoy; it is more basically a responsibility to assume...But this is what servant-hood within the fellowship of believers is all about: being alert to the little things that need to be done and then doing them.” – Jerry Bridges

True Community: the Biblical Practice of Koinonia – Jerry Bridges

“In genuine community there are no sides. It is not always easy, but by the time they reach community the members have learned how to give up cliques and factions. They have learned how to listen to each other and how not to reject each other. Sometimes consensus in community is reached with miraculous rapidity. But at other times it is arrived at only after lengthy struggle. Just because it is a safe place does not mean community is a place without conflict. It is, however, a place where conflict can be resolved without physical or emotional bloodshed and with wisdom as well as grace. A community is a group that can fight gracefully.”~ M. Scott Peck

Photo Credit: One Community Global

The Four Stages to Building True Community

Do you experienced true community – where you are willing to serve sacrificially and receive that kind of care as well? We need to go after it for ourselves and one another.

4) Cleaning Closets- I’m not a spring cleaning kind of person, although, these days, we are so often called on to declutter, let go, and be free in the area of stuff management. Still we have two closets (among others) where things just get randomly tossed up onto the shelf. I decided to clear them out to know exactly what is stored there. One closet now contains my journals of the last 30 years!! Whew!

Haven’t re-read any of them but lined them up by date and found this little note from my sweet mama in the front of one of them (from many years ago). A treasure…

5) Spring Flowers – The month of March is bringing Spring along here in the US. With temperatures warming, trips to the park are becoming more regular. The glory of Spring is not lost on the kiddos.

I just want to share a few flower pics of recent days. Hope Spring is coming your way (of course, I get that’s only for the Northern Hemisphere…for you Southern Hem. folks, Happy Fall! 

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Thanks for a quick stop-by. It means a lot to me. Hope you’re surrounded by and creating beauty wherever you are…we sure need it in this world today…really every day.

Worship Wednesday – Somebody’s Prayin’ – John G. Elliott

Photo Credit: Heartlight

 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.1 Timothy 2:1

When we lived overseas, one of my greatest joys was to pray, on the streets doing errands. In Cairo, Tunis, Sfax, and Casablanca. Just walking in and out of stores. Praying for people as they came across my path. Strangers with lives of which I had no knowledge. Except for those things we all hold in common. Work, health, family, and some understanding of God. I felt such a connection with these people who I might never really know…or maybe I would…one day.

Praying.

What a privilege also to pray for those near to us…family, friends, neighbors, colleagues. Near…and far. Those in power and those far removed. Those who deeply need prayer in the moment as well as those who discount their need…but it is still there.

In the early 90s, an album by singer, songwriter John G. Elliott found an enduring place on our playlist. Let All the Thirsty Come (1988). Beautiful lyrics and Elliott’s voice brought these heartsongs to life for us. In particular, our favorite song is his Somebody’s Prayin’. Not surprisingly, he is on staff today at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri.

My Mom was a great pray-er, and we, her children, are still buoyed on the wings of those prayers. Now, my praying mentor is my treasured mom-in-law. She is praying, early morning and through the day, for many somebodies…us included. [She won’t love the image below that I captured without her knowledge. For me, it is a beautiful, albeit early-morning-grainy image for me of one before the throne of God.] So thankful for her and for the God who draws her to Himself.

If you wonder sometimes if anyone is praying for you…take that wondering to God and with it your own prayer for someone else. Keep in mind that in our loneliest, most isolated times, Someone is always praying for us…His name is Jesus.

Who is there to condemn us? For Christ Jesus, who died, and more than that was raised to life, is at the right hand of God—and He is interceding for us.Romans 8:34

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship with me (lyrics and music in the link. This cover done beautifully by Ricky Skaggs).

Somebody’s prayin, I can feel it
Somebody’s prayin’ for me
Mighty hands are guiding me
To protect what I can’t see
Lord I believe, Lord I believe
That somebody’s prayin’, for me

Angels are watchin’, I can feel it
Angels are watchin’ over me
There’s many miles ahead ’til I get home
Still I’m safely kept before Your throne
‘Cause Lord I believe, Lord I believe
Your angels are watchin’ over me

Well, I’ve walked through barren wilderness
When my pillow was a stone
And I’ve been through the darkest caverns
Where no light had ever shown
Still I went on ’cause there was someone
Who was down on their knees
And Lord. I thank You for those people
Prayin’ all this time for me

Somebody’s prayin’, I can feel it
Somebody’s prayin’ for me
Mighty hands are guiding me
To protect me from what I can’t see
Lord I believe, Lord I believe
Somebody’s prayin’ for me*

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I hope you know you’re prayed for…thanks for those of you who have prayed for me over the years.

*Lyrics to “Somebody’s Prayin’” – Songwriter: John G. Elliott

John G. Elliott – Bandcamp – Music

The Heart of Songwriting – John G. Elliott – International House of Prayer, Kansas City

Our Top 10 Blogs of 2021 – International House of Prayer, Kansas City

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Saturday Short – My Mom – a Lifetime Full of Love Notes – Her Birthday Just Ahead of Valentine’s Day

[Today is Mom’s birthday – 19 of them now in Heaven. This blog adapted from the Archives. ]

Our little family never lived close to the grandparents. This was not easy…for any of us. Before I married, I lived close to home, and Mom was my best friend. She died almost 20 years ago, and I miss her every day still. To people who knew her well, I would often say  “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.

Mom and I shared a weakness for words…they are probably excessively important to us, delivering both positive and (sometimes) negative weight. She was an amazing encourager. She rarely missed an opportunity to lift another’s spirit or to speak loving truth to someone desperate for God’s touch.

Mom pictures for website 012

When I moved away to take a teaching job, she and my dad helped me with the move. New Haven, Connecticut would be a 2-day drive from Georgia. At that time, it was the farthest I had ever wandered from home. She stayed a week to help me settle in.  While there, she was such great company. We explored the city together and laughed over a new culture and cried at the missing that was ahead for us.

She filled my freezer with her baking, and, while I was at work, she wrote notes. Then she hid them everywhere. After she flew home, I began finding them. In my coffee mug. Under my pillow. In the pocket of my coat. Among my reference books. Behind my music books on the piano. She was with me in the love notes she left, and it made the distance between us…less.IMAG2720 (2)

My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I have kept every one of her notes. These from that move over 30 years ago are fading…red ink on pink paper. There is a lifetime of notes between Mom and me. The tradition she started on that first move has become a life-long tradition for our family. Our visits back and forth, across the US and then the globe, have been papered by these little notes.

Our children, from the time they could write, entered into this tradition much to the joy of their grandparents. Before we would leave from visits with them, these three young ones would write of their affection for their grandparents and hide them all over their houses. I delighted in their cooperation in this conspiracy of love.

Mom always wrote notes…not just to us but to so many. She and her Sunday School Class ladies would send cards every week to the sick ones or the sad ones. She had a special burden for the elderly, for widows (including functional widows, deserted by husbands) and for fatherless children (again including those “orphaned” by still-living fathers). She inspired me by her humble ambition .

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27

I am so thankful for my mom’s bits of paper…for her love…and for her perseverance in encouraging and serving others. Her generation is sadly almost gone, and it is for us to pick up these traditions, or traditions like them. Passing them on somehow to the next generations…Maybe there won’t be bits of paper or love notes like in the past. I do hope we still take the time to write. Definitely, the call to serve and to encourage is as current as ever. My life continues to be rich with those, young and old, who reach out with words of kindness and encouragement. Written or spoken, they are love notes to the heart.

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

Memory-of-Mildred Byrd McAdams

Worship Wednesday – Authority in Prayer – Come Alive (Dry Bones) – Lauren Daigle

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Climbing up the steps of our church stage, I kept in the shadows. One of our pastors had asked me to close our service in prayer for two refugee families we were sponsoring for resettlement. We have been praying for them for weeks now.

Coming forward to the podium, I had a strange experience.

I became timid…almost afraid, preparing to talk to God…and not at all sure why.

As if standing in front of my own church family was a scary thing. I don’t know what was off-putting about it, but it has given me pause over these last few days.

When we pray we have only good before us in the person of Almighty God. He calls us to prayer and He bestows upon us the authority to pray believing in the One True God.

The Scripture is full of descriptions of the magnificence of Christ and the power of prayer, in obedience to God.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:9-11

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me [Paul] in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.”Ephesians 6:10-19

When we pray, we enter into an arena where God shows Himself mighty on our behalf. Praying can be scary because it is the stuff of miracle and mystery.

As often happens in preparing to write Worship Wednesday each week, God gave me a song. Sometimes it’s the passage of Scripture first, but today it was a song. Lauren Daigle‘s “Come Alive (Dry Bones)”. Then I was carried back to the Scripture. The Valley of Dry Bones.

In Ezekiel 37, The Lord spoke to the prophet (Ezekiel) during the Babylonian captivity of Israel. God’s people had rebelled (again) and they were dead to Him…They felt the deadness inside themselves and cried out to God, even in their hopelessness…as if God couldn’t raise them back to life.

Yet He is the only one who could save them.

The passage below is long, but don’t miss the vision God gave Ezekiel:

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’ “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. ‘I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.”’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’ “Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. “Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. “I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,” declares the LORD.’” Ezekiel 37:1-14

This vision was a metaphor, symbolic of what was to come. God would forgive the people of their sin. He heard their cries, restoring  them to Himself, and eventually restored them to their homeland. He pointed Ezekiel to what He would do for Israel…in that Valley of Dry Bones.

Prayer is our witness to the just and merciful authority of God. He speaks to us and we tune our ears to Him. He regularly does the miraculous in our lives, and we don’t want to miss it.

I was nervous praying in front of church family. Maybe it was because I was afraid the words wouldn’t come. The words I needed to ask God on behalf of these refugee families who had lost so much. God already knows what they need…maybe it’s what we need from Him that He calls us to settle…and to trust Him with.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Worship with me.

Through the eyes of men it seems
There’s so much we have lost
As we look down the road
Where all the prodigals have walked
One by one
The enemy has whispered lies
And led them off as slaves

But we know that you are God
Yours is the victory
We know there is more to come
That we may not yet see
So with the faith you’ve given us
We’ll step into the valley unafraid, yeah

As we call out to dry bones
Come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts
Come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes
Let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones, come alive

God of endless mercy
God of unrelenting love
Rescue every daughter
Bring us back the wayward son
And By your spirit breathe upon them
Show the world that you alone can save
You alone can save

As we call out to dry bones
Come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts
Come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes
Let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones come alive

So breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe, oh breath of God
Breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe

Breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe, oh breath of God
Breathe, oh breath of God, now breathe

As we call out to dry bones
Come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts
Come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes
Let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones come alive, yeah
We call out to dry bones, come alive

Oh come alive!*

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So…if we struggle with timidity, or doubt, or even some unbelief… we know what to do. Come. Come alive. Wake up afresh to the saving power of Redeemer God.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

*Lyrics to “Come Alive” – Songwriters: Michael Farren & Lauren Daigle

What Is the Meaning of the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37?

The Meaning of the Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones – Ezekiel 37:1-14, Part 3 – Joel Kine

Ezekiel: Valley of Dry Bones – Sean Koos

YouTube – Indescribable – Chris Tomlin

YouTube Video – Even If – MercyMe

Worship Wednesday – My Father’s World – God Is the Ruler Yet – Maltbie Babcock

[Adapted from the Archives]

Ask the animals, and they will instruct you; [ask] the birds of the sky, and they will tell you. Or speak to the earth, and it will instruct you; let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? The life of every living thing is in His hand, as well as the breath of all mankind.Job 12:7-10
On our walk through the neighborhood this morning, we talked of things heavy on our hearts…of family members struggling financially, of conflict, of the condition of our country, of transitions coming in older age.
As we talked and walked, we were surrounded and comforted by the beautiful of Fall.

 

Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will he do for you?Luke 12:27-28

Whatever is happening in our lives, glorious in its beauty or fearful in the hard…God is present at every turn of life.

Walking through our backyard gate, His creative wonder captured my attention. Changes leaves everywhere, splashed with morning light, shouting God’s glory. Reminded all over again, that whatever is happening in our lives…God’s got this.

“Oh, Lord GOD! You have made the heavens and earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You!Jeremiah 32:17

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” –  Matthew 19:26

Photo Credit: GodTube

Worship with me to this great old hymn “This Is My Father’s World” as performed by Fernando Ortega. I’m reminded today to keep my eyes open to God and what He wants to do – and what He is doing – in us and all around us.

  1. This is my Father’s world,
    And to my list’ning ears
    All nature sings, and round me rings
    The music of the spheres.
    This is my Father’s world:
    I rest me in the thought
    Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
    His hand the wonders wrought.
  2. This is my Father’s world:
    The birds their carols raise,
    The morning light, the lily white,
    Declare their Maker’s praise.
    This is my Father’s world:
    He shines in all that’s fair;
    In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
    He speaks to me everywhere.
  3. This is my Father’s world:
    Oh, let me ne’er forget
    That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
    God is the ruler yet.
    This is my Father’s world,
    The battle is not done:
    Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
    And earth and Heav’n be one.*

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These words…

This is my Father’s world:
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

We have options in the ways we engage with God and each other.

  • Look up.
  • Reach down.
  • Draw near.
  • Bring it in.

So…thanks to this beautiful Fall speaking the might and glory of God, my mind is cleared. Look outside…walk outside if you can…there’s so much more to our lives than fear, worry, anxiety – there is God: still Ruler of this world, and the battle is not yet done. When it is, it will be won.

We are not here to play, to dream, to drift,
We have hard work to do, and loads to lift,
Shun not the struggle; face it;
’Tis God’s gift.
Maltbie D. Babcock

*Lyrics to This Is My Father’s World – Songwriter: Maltbie D. Babcock

History of Hymns: “This Is My Father’s World”

The Story Behind This Is My Father’s World – GodTube

Thoughts for Every-Day Living – Maltbie Davenport Babcock (read book online here)

Monday Morning Moment – Isolation and Community

Photo Credit: Jackie Hill Perry, Art of It

After one-and-a-half years in COVID, we all have grappled with a need for social distancing and isolation. What happens then when the diligent pursuit of physical safety causes a loss of community?

None of us want to get COVID or its latest variant. However, we also desperately need community. It is on each of us to make creative and persistent decisions toward going after community. Especially the most vulnerable of us, or we will suffer more than the health impact of COVID [see links below].

The dilemma with isolation is somehow it has brought a social lethargy with it. We are becoming more solitary and our community has shrunk to the lowest and tightest we can manage.

Not necessarily out of fear of COVID, but out of a growing incapacity for community. Real community. “Iron sharpening iron” relationships.

I know I am not alone in the need for such community. We have probably all thought of how altered our relationships have become over the last several months. Not the closest maybe, but especially those that spurred us toward a higher accountability, responsibility or integrity. Those relationships where we are helped to make better decisions or extend kindnesses (especially toward those outside our inner circles).

[Whether introvert or extrovert, we can easily sink down into a solitary life of less. And less is not always more. This less can breed a sort of self-serving life where we gauge our relationships by our own gains and extend ourselves by our own comfort levels. Been there, done that. Ugh! ]

COVID or not, we still need other people, and they need us. Whether on a work project better served with team problem-solving or a family crisis that could use “all hands on deck”. Death and divorce are still happening, but life celebrations are also still with us – all calling for the touch of our community.

In the Wiki fandom Mary Shelley article, we read a fascinating take on the impact or lack of community on the characters of Shelley‘s novel Frankenstein.

In the novel, Victor Frankenstein is a brilliant scientist. He is overwhelmed by a series of losses and the grief, as well as his increasingly unhinged genius, drive him into isolation. He decides to make a human-like creature who would be like a son to him.

It did not turn out well. The creature, because of the rejection and isolation he himself felt, was determined to be a monster.

Both Victor and the creature Frankenstein, throughout the story, are plagued with isolation and a terrible lack of caring community.Photo Credit: Pixabay

The theme of isolation in Frankenstein raises many questions about the role of community and its importance. Many characters in the novel find themselves in isolated positions, and a few suffer grave consequences because of it. Characters suffer from both physical and emotional isolation, although, as in the case of the monster, the isolation is not always self-inflicted. Victor Frankenstein, on the other hand, chooses to isolate himself from his family, his peers, and even the monster he created.

In Frankenstein, horrible things happen when a character is isolated from the others. When Victor’s knowledge and ambition are unchecked by his peers, a monster is created…the destructive power lies not in the monster or his creator, but in solitude. Shelley uses this theme and its manifestation in her characters to pose questions about community, knowledge, and its role in society. Is unbridled knowledge always dangerous, or is there a middle ground? Should one abandon his or her pursuits if they are driving him or her away from a community? 

Shelley makes it clear that there are two different types of isolation: self-inflicted and societal. We see self-inflicted isolation manifested in Victor; he detaches from his world and the people he loves and as a result, everyone suffers tremendously. Rejection from society is demonstrated in the monster’s life. Again and again, he is turned away from love and companionship, which what he has longed for since he was first brought to life.” – Wiki-Fandom Analysis of Frankenstein – Mary Shelley, an Academic Wiki

Of course, this is a novel, but incredibly insightful as a tale of human nature. We need community…we are made for community.

Somehow we must rally during this protracted social experience of COVID. What is your mindset on this and what are your intentional actions toward community and away from isolation? The kind of isolation that eventually diminishes us and our relationships. Please comment below.

In closing, I do want to affirm an Isolation in Community. We may have to deal with social distancing for sometime still. Especially those most vulnerable to severe illness from COVID. For some isolation can’t be avoided, but there is an isolation in community. Where we take steps toward and lean in to deeper community. Even if it isn’t always in person. This takes a different sort of effort, but we know it is possible. Fortunately. For me, it’s actually using the phone for conversations (including Facetime). It’s not stepping out of responsibilities (work or community service) because of a need for social distancing, but figuring out alternate ways to serve, or get a job done. I have also experienced the fruit of it, thanks to your efforts. Our mail is less junk mail and more actual real connections through cards/letters. Thanks for that. Again, please comment below what your experience has been here.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Isolation – Good Therapy

Isolation and Community – Helen Thorne – Biblical Counseling UK

Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions – CDC

Creative Communities Are Addressing Social Isolation – Maryjoan Ladden

Monday Morning Moment – We pray…and We Don’t Give Up.

Photo Credit: David Sanabria, Flickr

I really don’t have words this morning.

Scott Sauls gave me the words below.

The blaming takes us nowhere. The hating definitely diminishes all.

Some think of prayer as a soft and impotent action. Not so! The God who hears our prayers is mighty to save. His purposes are not thwarted. He calls us to prayer and we, and those of the this broken world, are best served when we obey.

Do we do other things? Like sending our resources and opening our communities to those no longer with a home. Absolutely. However… if we don’t pray, we neglect the greatest salvation…and the greatest Savior in these seemingly hopeless situations.

The blaming and hating change nothing and care for no one. It is a dreadful waste and dishonors both God and humankind.

So…we pray.

…and we don’t give up.

Photo Credit: The Fellowship Site