Category Archives: Remembering

Worship Wednesday – A Long Obedience in the Same Direction – Eugene H. Peterson

Photo Credit: Eugene H. Peterson, Quotes.pub

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” – Jesus – John 14:15

We tear down arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.2 Corinthians 10:5

This is love: that we walk according to his commands. This is the command as you have heard it from the beginning: that you walk in love.2 John 1:6

With four grandchildren, five years old and under, learning obedience is a part of their every day life. It’s a blessing to an older mom to watch adult children guide their little ones toward the wisdom of obeying and acting on what is right.

Jesus, in his great goodness and mercy, lived and taught obedience. So often we are drawn to act out of our emotions or in reaction to the actions of another (or a whole tribe of others). God calls us to a more even and measured walk in life. He calls us to choose obedience in Him. He calls us to trust Him with the outcomes of our obedience.

Writer and theologian Eugene H. Peterson may be best known for his rendering of the Bible in contemporary English. It is entitled The Message. It made the Scriptures understandable and beloved by many. Those many includes Irish singer/songwriter Bono (the friendship between him and Peterson – and their faith – has been highlighted in the documentary The Psalms.

Blog - Psalms & Bono & Eugene Peterson

Among Peterson’s many other published works is the 1980 book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society.

I have not read the book yet and, in fact, did not know about it until recently. Last week, a notice popped up on my Twitter feed about a set of articles by writer Barnabas Piper. He posted 52 of his favorite quotes from Peterson’s classic book.

The Best Quotes From “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” – Part 1 – Barnabas Piper

The Best Quotes From “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” – Part 2 – Barnabas Piper

Out of Piper’s 52 quotes, I have pulled 14, listed below. Dear Dr. Peterson died in 2018. What a blessing he has been and continues to be to the Church, individual Christ-followers, and the Kingdom of God.

  1. On truth – “The moment the word God is uttered, the world’s towering falsehood is exposed—we see the truth. The truth about me is that God made and loves me. The truth about those sitting beside me is that God made and loves them, and each one is therefore my neighbor. The truth about the world is that God rules and provides for it. The truth about what is wrong with the world is that I and the neighbor sitting beside me have sinned to refusing to let God be for us, over us, and in us. The truth about what is at the center of our lives and of our history is that Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross for our sins and raised from the tomb for our salvation and that we can participate in new life as we believe in him, accept his mercy, respond to his love, attend to his commands.”
  2. On repentance – “Repentance is not an emotion. It is not feeling sorry for your sins. It is a decision . . . Repentance is a realization that what God wants from you and what you want from God are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things, thinking the same old thoughts. Repentance is a decision to follow Jesus Christ and become his pilgrim in the path of peace.”
  3. On faith – “Faith is not a precarious affair of chance escape from satanic assaults. It is the solid, massive, secure experience of God, who keeps evil from getting inside us, who guards our life, who guards us when we leave and when we return, who guards us now, who guards us always.”
  4. On the Gospel – “The reason many of us do not ardently believe in the gospel is that we have never given it a rigorous testing, thrown our hard questions at it, faced it with our most prickly doubts.”
  5. On the content of our lives – “We speak our words of praise in a world that is hellish; we sing our songs of victory in a world where things get messy; we live our joy among people who neither understand nor encourage us. But the content of our lives is God, not humanity.”
  6. On discipleship – “Discipleship is a decision to live by what I know about God, not what I feel about him or myself or my neighbors.”
  7. On sowing the seeds of the Gospel – “The hard work of sowing seed in what looks like perfectly empty earth has, as every farmer knows, a time of harvest. All suffering, all pain, all emptiness, all disappointment is seed: sow it in God and he will, finally, bring a crop of joy from it.”
  8. On the rightness of work – “Our work goes wrong when we lose touch with the God who works ‘his salvation in the midst of the earth.’ It goes wrong both when we work anxiously and when we don’t work at all, when we become frantic and compulsive in our work (Babel) and when we become indolent and lethargic in our work (Thessalonica). The foundational truth is that work is good. If God does it, it must be all right. Work has dignity: there can be nothing degrading about work if God works. Work has purpose: there can be nothing futile about work if God works.”
  9. On the fear of the Lord – “To guard against all such blasphemous chumminess with the Almighty, the Bible talks of the fear of the Lord—not to scare us but to bring us to awesome attention before the overwhelming grandeur of God, to shut up our whining and chattering and stop our running and fidgeting so that we can really see him as he is and listen to him as he speaks his merciful, life-changing words of forgiveness.”
  10. On hope – “Hoping does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. It means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions. It is not compelled to work away at keeping up appearances with a bogus spirituality. It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulation, of scurrying and worrying.”
  11. On temptation and trials – “When an ancient temptation or trial becomes a feature in the culture, a way of life that is expected and encouraged, Christians have a stumbling block put before them that is hard to recognize for what it is, for it has been made into a monument, gilded with bronze and bathed in decorative lights.”
  12. On the past and the future – “If we define the nature of our lives by the mistake of the moment or the defeat of the hour or the boredom of the day, we will define it wrongly. We need roots in the past to give obedience ballast and breadth; we need a vision of the future to give obedience direction and goal. And they must be connected. There must be an organic unity between them.”
  13. On the God who sees and knows – “Everything we learn about God through Scripture and in Christ tells us that he knows what it is like to change a diaper for the thirteenth time in the day, to see a report over which we have worked so long and carefully gather dust on somebody’s desk for weeks and weeks, to find our teaching treated with scorn and indifference by children and youth, to discover that the integrity and excellence of our work has been overlooked and the shoddy duplicity of another’s rewarded with a promotion.”
  14. On the connection of our bodies and hearts – “You can lift up your hands regardless of how you feel; It is a simple motor movement. You may not be able to command your heart, but you can command your arms. Lift your arms in blessing; just maybe your heart will get the message and be lifted up also in praise. We are psychosomatic beings; body and spirit are intricately interrelated. Go through the motion of blessing God and your spirit will pick up the cue and follow along.”

Today we worship with the words from our older brother who long followed the Lord, in obedience.

[Postscript: Usually our Worship Wednesday time together includes a song to enjoy together. With so many beautiful words posted above, basking in them before the Lord is today’s worship. For our “worship in song” lovers, below you will see linked three songs – the first from my childhood in revival services with long calls to the altar, the second from my youth inspired by Keith Green, and the third a more contemporary standard from Chris Tomlin. Do you have a favorite song on obedience? Please post in Comments.]

YouTube Video – When We Walk With the Lord (Trust and Obey) w/ lyrics

YouTube Video – To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice – Keith Green

YouTube Video – I Will Follow – Chris Tomlin – w/ lyrics

How Eugene Peterson Has Blessed Christianity – and 20 of His Most Powerful Quotes – Debbie McDaniel

Jesus Gives Us Reasons to Obey – Steve Fuller – Desiring God

Photo Credit: Eugene H. Peterson

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s Batman Theme, The Good Ones, Some Favorite Thinkers, The Human Library, and “This Is Your Time”

Lightning fast read. Thanks for stopping by.

1) Beyond the Guitar’s Batman Theme – Nathan Mills posted two arrangements this week – super nice for his fans and community.

The Batman Teaser – film scheduled for release October, 2021

Plus this one:

Brawl Stars

2) The Good Ones – Let’s celebrate those “good ones” in our lives. Country artist Gabby Barrett was inspired by her husband Cade Foehner) to write The Good Ones.

YouTube Video – The Good Ones – Official Video (watch it to the end – sweet story of a couple dealing with her paralysis).

Your good one may be a spouse…or it could include a parent or friend. Thank God, for those who love us well. May we love well also.

3) Some Favorite Thinkers – Fake news abounds these days. Social media gurus don’t deny it. In fact, documentaries are being produced about how we are being manipulated by news and social media makers – The Twisted Truth and The Social Dilemma are two.

As conversations heat up about politics, racial unrest, and COVID (heading toward the US Presidential election), we should check our news sources for where we get our opinions on all the above. Even if we try to sample a mix of liberal and conservative sources, we still have to wonder if what we hear is true. How deep does news and political bias go?

We need to seek out thinkers who themselves are burdened by the state of our streets, our politics and policies, and the next generation. Just thinking we’re right and resting on those laurels will no get us to a better place. Reasoning, thinking deeply, listening, talking together (especially with those with whom we don’t necessarily agree)…we need people who will help guide us through to higher understanding and healthier actions than we see around us.

Glenn Loury and Coleman Hughes are two of those men who currently influence my thinking. You can find them at least weekly in some conversation on their own podcasts or others. Blogging Heads is one of my favorite platforms.

Another fascinating person (on Twitter and his/her own blog) is @EthicalSkeptic. I’m not smart enough to understand most of what he says, but it gives pause (especially related to COVID).

The thing about thinkers…you may not always agree with them but what they say can be a check of your own thinking. Are you teachable? Are you listening? Are you willing to consider?

Three, among the many Christian thinkers I follow these days, are Scott Sauls, Karen Swallow Prior, and Jackie Hill Perry.

Who do you follow? Listen to? Read?

4) The Human Library– Twenty years ago, this non-profit was established in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Human Library was designed to give people an opportunity to just tell their stories to other people. For the purpose of understanding, inclusion, and dealing with prejudice or bias. From what I can gather from the website and this Facebook page, people can gather in a library environment and, instead of reading books found there, they share and listen to life stories. The people are “the books”. I want to know more about this…maybe even figure out how to create such an environment or event.Photo Credit: Facebook, Wieteke Koolhof, Facebook

5) “This Is Your Time”  – The recently deceased actor Chadwick Boseman spoke at the commencement service at Howard University, his alma mater, in 2018. He was magnificent. Boseman told stories about his life – powerful stories of his experiences as a student, a young black man, and a believer in God. He quoted the Bible ( Jeremiah 29:11), about God’s plans for our lives. He urged the graduates to steer clear of victimhood but to move toward their purpose with faith and fortitude.

“…Sometimes you need to get knocked down before you can really figure out what your fight is and how you need to fight it…When I dared to challenge the systems that would relegate us to victims and stereotypes with no clear historical backgrounds, no hopes or talents, when I questioned that method of portrayal, a different path opened up for me — the path to my destiny. When God has something for you, it doesn’t matter who stands against it…God will move someone that is holding you back away from the door and put someone there who will open it for you…if it’s meant for you. I don’t know what your future is, but if you are willing to take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes, the one that’s ultimately proven to have more victory, more glory, then you will not regret it. Now…this is your time.

[In the tweet below, you’ll find the closing comments of this speech.]

YouTube Video – Chadwick Boseman’s Howard University 2018 Commencement Speech – 7 minutes into the video is the beginning of his 28-minute powerful speech.

Bonuses:

6 Ways We Make Life Harder Than It Needs to Be – Paul Tripp

De-Escalating a Conflict – Scott Sauls

Are Christians More Confident in Politics Than in Christ? – Eugene Park

Coronavirus: Tests ‘Could Be Picking Up Dead Virus’ – Rachel Schraer

Photo Credit: Of Verona, Facebook

7 years ago, a friend of ours taught English in China for a year. She offered names of her American friends as ways her students could address each other so they could learn name pronunciation, too. This beautiful little girl picked my name. I wonder where she is today and how she’s doing.Photo Credit: Hailey Mullins, Facebook – September 2013

5 Traits of People with High EQ [Emotional Intelligence] – Peter Economy

Monday Morning Moment – a Time Capsule of a Sort

A few days ago, I retrieved an old jewelry box that had been stashed in a closet for decades. During the years we worked overseas, Dave’s mom had stored some of our things…a great number of our things. We have been gathering them – sorting, giving away, and keeping the things still precious to us.

This jewelry box I’ve had since high school. Nothing valuable…except for the memories. Most everything in the box was from those high school and college years. An occasional trinket was added later. Especially those times we returned overseas and left memorabilia behind in the States.

It was a walk down memory lane, and you know I have to share it with you. The best of the lot is displayed; the rest will go out of the house.

So here we go:

  • a pink stone – round and perfectly smooth.
  • a scarab bracelet and a gold hand of Fatima pendant (little did I know as a teen that one day, living in Egypt, these would worn by all my friends).
  • the cross necklace I wore every day all through school.
  • a pink gemstone necklace and a gold heart necklace (for special occasions).
  • a silver locket (with our family picture in it).
  • a music medal from school and my school of nursing pin (Emory University).
  • a “children of the world” pin.
  • my Dad’s pocket watch (one of many he had; plain but precious) – I wound the stem and it started working again after decades of being still. Looked at it just now. Still the correct time.
  • a quilt-and-button pin made by a friend and a cancer support group I.D. button.
  • an Egyptian necklace also made by a friend in Egypt.

Thanks for letting me just take you down this path for a moment.

Finally, I found two charm bracelets. The first was just a souvenir from a visit to New Orleans, Louisiana. That was the start of my journey of discovery in many of the world’s cities.

The other charm bracelet was actually a lost treasure that I had wondered what ever happened to it. Every charm has a story of what mattered to me as a teen and young woman – among them a Cherokee drum, a globe, a drama mask (my favorite club in high school), a heart, a piano, praying hands, Duluth High School Wildcats (my alma mater), a grizzly bear (Smokey Mountains), a dog (my favorite pet growing up), a a couple of charms from my Girls’ Auxiliary days in church.

My family wasn’t in church until I was in first grade. It was all new and exhilarating for me. Girls’ Auxiliary (G.A.’s), the girls’ organization later known as Girls in Action, had a huge impact on my young life and right through to today. Most of the Bible verses now hard-wired in my brain were learned while in G.A.’s. We were immersed in serving our community and learning about the world beyond our small county. It was an amazing, formative experience …thus having its place on that charm bracelet.[I’m in the Queen Regent-in-Service regalia, brunette on left, and my beautiful mom is standing over my right shoulder. This was an end-of-year “coronation” – crowning a year of serving in our community. Not something you see very often anymore – if ever – even in Southern church life.]

How about you? With COVID and spending more time in our houses in recent months, have you found time capsules of a sort? We would love to hear about them. They are anchoring experiences – these moments when the past converges with the present.  Sometimes it feels like two different lives.

That young person…and the older present one.

Life is precious and fleeting. Even in days of hardship, we can remember the gifts still with us (either literally in an old pocket-watch, or the memories of kind and funny father).

I hope you come across both old things and old friends in these days. Or maybe put a time capsule (of a sort) together yourself, tuck it in a closet…and one day, it could be a happy discovery, or re-discovery.

Blessings.

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

Photo Credit: Statement on Social Justice

[Adapted from the Archives]

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice: blessed are all those who wait for Him.Isaiah 30:18

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.Job 1:22

When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.
 – Matthew 9:36

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”Micah 6:8

In today’s context, “woke” is a word  that I may never understand or fully embrace. However, it is concept that compelled me to research it and consider it.

Being “woke” has some strong, politically and sociologically polarizing applications, but the simplest definitions are captured below. It means “being aware of what is going on in the community; being aware of the social and political environments regarding all socio-economic standings”.Photo Credit: Slideshare, Mike Maccarone

I’d like to tell you a quick story. Then I will hop off anything political and onto the place I’ve landed as a believer.

Last summer, we traveled to a conference in Oklahoma. During the time there, I had the opportunity for a road trip across the Eastern part of the state. It was my first experience of the Native American nations in Oklahoma. Part of my “woke” journey now has this experience folded in. Except for the links below on tribal history and The Indian Removal Act, this topic will be for another day…but it speaks to “wokeness” as well.

We flew back to Richmond, with those experiences still very fresh in my mind.

Walking to baggage claim from our gate, we were surrounded by other travelers from the Atlanta flight. Either visitors to our city or, like us, residents returning home. In front of me for much of the walk was a youngish Black man. He was sharply dressed in khaki pants and a dazzling white t-shirt, and he had all the paraphernalia of someone who travels a lot. A professional appearing man who could easily put on a sport-coat over his white t-shirt and show up for work in some executive suite.

Photo Credit: Augusta Native

It is telling of this man’s experience of his country, this society, and the politics of the day. The slogan first caught my eye (with its particular spelling of America), then the hangman’s noose, and then the list of losses…

[Hard to read because I am grateful to be American. Its history, like so many countries, has dark terrible times in it. I don’t want to forget that…but how to respond to it…]

On his right forearm, this man had a large tattoo in bold capital letters: #BLM (Black Lives Matter).

He was a walking billboard for “wokeness” as a Black person with a loud cry against the injustice he lays on his country.

I don’t think that fellow traveler and I would ever have a conversation. For sure, it felt unwanted that day – an intrusion from a stranger…but I do want those conversations. For now, it begins with my response to him…and others.

In praying through these recent experiences, here are four points of action in this being “woke” as a follower of Christ:

  1. Listen. I’ve been learning to make it a practice to listen with intentionality to people who feel marginalized – for whatever reasons. To hear them, we have to come within hearing. It can be uncomfortable as you know. That’s why we want to avoid it or rationalize or downplay it.
  2. Consider. In nursing school, we learned that Pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he/she says it does” (McCaffery). The same can apply to what we hear of people’s pain – whether in their present experience or a past horror either theirs or others (with whom they feel a kinship). Again, reacting in a way that rationalizes or shifts blame only pushes away. Consider humbly what they are saying.
  3. Separate political from spiritual. When injustice occurs, we are called by God, as believers, to respond. Even better, we are to stand alongside the marginalized, when possible, doing what we can to lessen injustice. Lots could be said about this, but for today, just a check in our thinking. Our government may or may not act in definitive ways. We as the church have a very different call…and loving action is always a part of that call.
  4. Act. Again, so much could be said here, but today a brief take on it. For sure, we know that the Lord doesn’t require us to cover for the sins of others. Nor does He allow us to put our heads in the sand and ignore the suffering of those around us. To move forward we must leave the terrible wrongs of the past to the righteous justice of the Lord. He calls us to act today on behalf of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized…in front of us, all around us. Jesus acted on our behalf; we are to act on theirs.

To be “woke” as a believer is to see the world with God’s eyes and His heart and to engage and respond, in the power of His Holy Spirit. Previously I wrote the following about finishing strong in this life:

An imperative key to our finishing strong is humbling ourselves before God and in relationship to those He places in our lives.

An example of this humility worked out in relationship is the friendship between John Newton and William Wilberforce. Newton, a British slave ship captain until his conversion to Christ, would become a spiritual mentor to Wilberforce, who strongly influenced the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. Wilberforce was able to use his governmental authority to aid in abolishing slavery, but he was also a man of prayer and action in his personal life as well. Blog - Finishing strong - historicalmoviesPhoto Credit: Historical Movies

Jonathan Aitken, author of the biography John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, writes about the relationship between Newton and Wilberforce:

“Humanity will forever be in Newton’s debt for mentoring Wilberforce…their relationship was of pivotal importance for both historical and spiritual reasons.”

Jesus mentored us, His followers, so well. Who are we mentoring in this “wokeness”? Who are we ourselves learning from today?

Worship with me today through this beautiful old hymn, Amazing Grace, written by John Newton. His lyrics speak to being “woke”: I once was lost, but now I’m found; Was blind, but now I see. Consider watching the 2006 film Amazing Grace with your family or friends (who somehow missed it the first time around).

How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine.

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

What’s Wrong With Woke? – Tom Ascol

Slavery, by the Numbers – Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“This Is All Stolen Land”: Native Americans Want More Than California’s Apology – Sam Levin

Half the Land in Oklahoma Could Be Returned to native Americans. It Should Be. – Rebecca Nagle

Another Anniversary – a Walk with God as Much as With Each Other

2009 April May Trip to Georgia 112 (2)

[Adapted from the Archives]

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.  – Colossians 3:15-20

36 years.

The flight of years shows in our bodies and minds, but for us, it is most apparent in the launch of adult children into their own lives and marriages. Then…it comes back to just the two of us…and I am grateful for his company.

IMG_0001 (5)IMG_0009 (2)

Our marriage has never been the stuff that would draw much interest on Instagram  or even Facebook. My husband and I married best friends. We were polar opposites in many ways, except our faith and being raised in Southern families. Opposites. “Read and follow directions” marrying “fly by the seat of her pants.” It was definitely a match made in Heaven because we would need the God of Heaven to keep us on course as we figured marriage out…both without and, later, with children.

This morning we woke to the last winds and rains of Hurricane Isaias (downgraded to a tropical storm, thankfully). As we shared breakfast, Dave observed that we came through the storm intact.

“Intact through the storm” is a great picture of the hard times in our marriage. I journalled all of it, through the years. In fact, our daughter has been advised about future days when she reads my journals (which she would more than the boys, probably). I told her to read with grace her mom’s emotional and angsty processing of the early years of marriage. [If Dave journalled such things, his would hold as much or more struggle with marriage to me.] We weathered those years, because we were more committed to God than even each other…and we hoped not to leave our children with the legacy of vows broken and relationships torn. God has given grace.

[I know it takes two to hold a marriage together, and there are people we love who suffered divorce never wanting it…so I write carefully, knowing the hardness of that…in my own birth family and with friends persevering past the pain of divorce.]

I’ve often quoted Elisabeth Elliot on love and marriage. Two thoughts come to mind. She speaks of love as being a “laid-down life.” She also talks of marriage as being good for Christians to mature in their walk with God, because [in marriage] “there’s so much scope for sinning.” My husband has taught me a lot in both of these areas, and I, him – hopefully more on the lines of laying down our lives for each other, rather than the scope for sinning part…sigh.

2005 December - Christmas with Mills & Halls 089a (2)

Whatever these thirty-plus years have produced with us together, the best of it has been 3 great young people (and the extra children who’ve joined our family through them, so far)…and GRANDCHILDREN! Alongside those treasures is the unalterable way the Lord has knit us together, my husband and me, with each other and with Him.

2012 December family snapshot 014

I have no idea what is ahead, except for what is promised through God’s Word. Whatever is ahead, I am so grateful for what I’ve learned through this man who married me 36 years ago. He has given me a face of one who does not give up, of one who fights for what is right, of one who is tender toward the weak, of one who loves no matter what. I have been both the recipient of this and the one on his side as he extends himself to others.

Now, we are two again…as in the beginning of our relationship.  Yet we are at a very different place. God has shown Himself to be ever-present in all these years of our lives. He’s given me exactly what I needed in this husband of mine – a man as true as steel in his walk with God and with his family. We count on him; he counts on God. Whatever happens out there in front of us…I have peace, on this 36th. anniversary that God will be there for each of us, to show us how to live…as He has in all these years thus far.

Through the Years – YouTube video of Kenny Rogers Ballad

YouTube Video – Jesus and You – Matthew West

YouTube Video – Will the Circle Be Unbroken – Beyond the Guitar

Sacred Marriage – What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy – by Gary Thomas – Such a great book!

An example of Elisabeth Elliot’s counsel to one marrying – Always forgive.

Elisabeth Elliot Quotes

Thus Far the Lord has Helped Us – Lisa Nichols Hickman

5 Friday Faves – John Lewis’ Funeral, Resistance, Viola Davis, Neighborhoods, and Wedding Vows

Here’s to weekends…and Faves of the week. Five of mine follow:

1) John Lewis’ Funeral – Shortly before he died of pancreatic cancer (on July 17, 2020), civil rights activitistCongressman John Lewis, D-Ga., wrote an essay for the New York Times. He asked for the piece to be published on the day of his funeral.Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Here is an excerpt from the essay John Lewis wrote, read at his funeral:

“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.”

I was glad to have watched Representative Lewis’ funeral, seeing him honored by old friends, sweet family, and loyal staff. Then fellow politicians, including three past US presidents. Of the politicians, my favorite tribute came from President George W. Bush. No agenda. No barbs. Just all John Lewis.

2) Resistance – When George Floyd was killed, we heard, experienced and even shared in the national outcry. As the protests have turned into riots and looting, some of us are beginning to wonder when will it be enough…or too much. Not the cries for reforms in law enforcement or other changes needed to address those hurting in our country…but taking the protests to a whole different place – that of disrupting and destroying what is good and decent as well.

This Friday night after midnight, on the streets of Portland, Oregon, a group of protestors kindled a fire with Bibles. This city, like many around the US, has been the site of protests for over 60 days. Here and elsewhere, the body count rises of people killed in the riots. Personal properties destroyed. People divided…all in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

This isn’t right. Resistance to a corrupt system is appropriate, but violence just for violence’s sake is not the “good trouble” John Lewis encouraged.

When the Bibles were burned, it stirred a different kind of mad. There is a place for resistance, but there is also a place for resistance against resistance that hurts people…that hurts our country…that impunes whole groups of people.

I read the following article this week. It is definitely partisan in ways and is a hard read, given we all have people we care about on both sides of our political aisles. However, it delivers a critical, and thought-provoking exposé of modern-day Marxism. The YouTube video also linked is a longer, more comprehensive treatment of the subject by the same author/speaker Larry Alex Taunton (13 points instead of the 8 in the article).

Understanding What Is Happening in America: A Christian Response – Larry Alex Taunton

“Evil will not have the last word. Good will ultimately triumph. God is sovereign. As St Thomas Aquinas put it, ‘God is so powerful that he can direct any evil to a good end.’”Resisting Evil, Bible in One Year

Photo Credit: Organic Runner Mom

Thoughts on Resistance and Forward Progress  to Your Goals – Organic Runner Mom

3) Viola Davis – When you think of someone as beautiful, elegant, and articulate as actress, producer Viola Davis, you might be a bit starstruck. I know I am. You may not be aware of the incongruence also present in her life – a childhood of poverty and abuse. This exquisite woman should give hope to all of us.

Today, she is using her fame and professional platform to give back. One way is the documentary she narrated, “A Touch of Sugar”. She is a spokesperson for prevention and treatment of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.

4) Neighborhoods – We all have favorite places and spaces …Richmond, Virginia, is one of those favorite places of mine. It is a patchwork quilt of very different neighborhoods. Once upon a time, Monument Ave., in the Museum District of Richmond, was considered one of the most beautiful streets in the world. Those who thought so were probably not negatively affected by the several monuments of Confederate military generals.

Now the monuments are coming down. The houses on Monument are still beautiful and historic. We’ll see what happens next, after the monuments are gone.

Like in other cities, we continue to have protests, riots, and destruction/defacing of properties. Recently, I made an unfounded comment, “Those rioting probably aren’t even from here, and do they even visit the neighborhoods beyond this one? The neighborhoods where Blacks should hear up-close that their lives do matter.” Again, like I said, it was not a fair statement.

[I wrote here previously the monuments including a local teen’s take on what would help more than monuments coming down here. Original piece by Matt Chaney here.]

Still, I felt compelled to take a trip to some of the neighborhoods of Richmond beyond the Museum District. It had been awhile since my last visit…more beautiful, resourceful, and peaceful than I had remembered.

My own neighborhood is tucked in the near suburbs of Richmond. 10 minutes to downtown. Quiet, safe, middle-class.

When I heard the news of a Tweet that our President made toward suburban home owners not needing to worry about subsidized housing coming our way, I was surprised and saddened. He is known for his tweeting, but this seemed more caustic than usual. Or was it?

In an election year, what would motivate an incumbent to say such a thing unless there was something deeper…something the casual reader might miss?

Pondering this, I came across an article by columnist Eric Levitz which birthed one of those “Aha!” moments.

Those of us Twitter readers who were aghast at our President’s comment would never outwardly show should exclusion of the poor…and yet…

Our city and county schools are in the process of a redistricting campaign (county school redistricting and city school redistricting). As far as I know the decisions have been postponed because of COVID. Still the battle-lines are drawn based on what redistricting will mean more for those homeowners who bought houses to be in a school districts with high ratings. The re-districting, in order to change up the student body percentages in predominantly black schools and predominantly white school, could alter that for them.

Really fascinating. That tweet then takes on a whole new meaning – exposing our not-so-generous motives. Politics can be so twisted it is hard to know what legislation is actually good for the citizenry at large and what is totally related to special interests.

By the way, our neighborhood, as much as I love it, has property values negatively affected by schools with low ratings. We are in the throes of the above school redistricting decision. I, for one, would be glad to see our schools improve in whatever ways seem feasible. Not for my property value’s sake, but for the sake of the children. Also, bring on affordable housing for all…where people can own their own homes and be our neighbors.

Thoughts?

5) Wedding Vows – Let’s happily end on this. Dave and I were married over 35 years ago. As our anniversary comes up again, thinking back over our vows is good for us. We didn’t write them from scratch, but they are totally what we believe…they are our own and we mean to keep them…with God’s help.

This week I came across this sweet little video of last year’s wedding between American Idol finalists Gabby Barrett and Cade Foehner. In this wedding season, with COVID changing young couples’ plans and dates…the most important part of the day is that they make their vows to each other – whether in front of 3 people or 125. You’ll love this. <3

Watch Cade Foehner’s and Gabby Barrett’s Wedding Vows – Jill O’Rourke

That’s it for me…please share your own favorite finds in the Comments. Thanks for pausing here awhile.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Debbie Hampton, Twitter

Photo Credit: Oswald Chambers, Facebook, Pat Findley

This Is Why You Can’t Remember Yesterday – Markham Heid

The World’s Longest-living People Share This Hobby – Why Studies Say It Can Help Add Years to Your Life – Minda Zetlin

Worship Wednesday – No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus – Steffany Gretzinger

Photo Credit: The Cove

But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:8

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.Ephesians 3:14-19

For almost 60 years, Rev. Billy Graham preached to huge throngs of people. Thousands of people would gather nightly in stadiums and convention centers to hear him preach and George Beverly Shea sing. Cliff Barrows would prepare choirs from local churches and lead the singing for the meetings. The whole experience was awe-inspiring – between the powerful preaching of Dr. Graham, the grand musical specials, and the glorious responses of many in attendance every single night.

I grew up with Billy Graham preaching on TV.  Those great meetings were televised from all around the world. Mom and Dad would suspend whatever their plans were when they had the opportunity to watch Dr. Graham preach. Early in our marriage, Dave and I participated in one of these meetings in Hartford, Connecticut.

George Beverly Shea singing “No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus” was my first time hearing of that anthem. I sat mesmerized at his voice, for sure, but more at the truth of the lyrics.

No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus was written in 1932 by evangelist Charlie Weigle after his wife told him she was leaving (story and song here).

I haven’t thought of this song in years, until I saw on social media a notice about a song by the same title. It immediately drew me in.

No…it wasn’t the same song actually but one written this year…published in the midst of COVID-19 isolation. Sung by one of its writers, Steffany Gretzinger, this song has so deeply touched my “socially-distancing” heart.

In these troubling days, she reminds us, in this song, that Jesus and His love for us is unchanged. We can rise above whatever circumstances we find ourselves and hold fast to a love that never lets us go. Never. Ever. Lets. Us. Go.

Billy Graham ever faithfully preached about Jesus and His love. Cliff Barrows drew us all into worship as he pulled together choir after choir together – all with one heart, one song. George Beverly Shea sang the sermon before Dr. Graham preached. “No one ever cared for me like Jesus.”

They are all gone now. All with Him. All having their steadfast faith turned to glorious sight. They see Jesus who cared for them like no other.

Beautiful Jesus who pierces through every hatred and every hurt we’ve ever know.

We don’t have the opportunity to hear that old song much any more, but we can bask in the hope and love of this new song…and place our life and love in Him…whatever this strange year 2020 brings.

Worship with me:

If my heart could tell a story
If my life would sing a song
If I have a testimony
If I have anything at all

No one ever cared for me like Jesus
His faithful hand has held me all this way
And when I’m old and gray and all my days
Are numbered on the Earth
Let it be known, in You alone
My joy was found
Oh my joy, my joy

Let my children tell their children
Let this be their memory
That all my treasure was in heaven
And You were everything to me

No one ever cared for me like Jesus
His faithful hand has held me all this way
And when I’m old and gray and all my days
Are numbered on the Earth
Let it be known, in You alone
My joy was found
I found my joy

I’m still in love
You’re still enough for me
Still all I want
You’re still my everything
I’m still in love
You’re still enough for me
Still all I want
You’re still my everything

No one ever cared for me like Jesus
His faithful hand has held me all this way
And when I’m old and gray and all my days
Are numbered on the Earth
Let it be known, in You alone
My joy was found*

Photo Credit: Facebook, Elisabeth Panrucker

*Lyrics – No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus – Songwriter(s): Jason Ingram, Steffany Gretzinger, Dante Bowe, Chandler Moore

Jesus’ Love – Bible Reasons

Photo Credit: Jeremy Hunt, Douglass Leadership Institute

Sunday Blessing – The Church Segregated – Black & White – Erskin

Photo Credit: Church Leadership

[From the Archives, 2017. Today we are going through a raw and painful season, hopefully that will lead to real change in how we extend love to one another and how we work to heal the hurt in our society. I made very few adjustments in the text…because it is as true today as it was then.]

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
 – Galatians 3:28

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.Ephesians 2:14

Racial segregation in the church must break the very heart of God. How is it that we, who love Jesus and want to live as He modeled and taught us, continue to live and worship apart from one another racially?

We live in a racially complex city. Richmond, Virginia, was once the capital of the Confederacy. Even now, the racial divide is shamefully wide. The church, both black and white congregations, has Christ’s mandate to come together. To be reconciled. To live at peace with one another. To enjoy community together.

My family is part of a church that has a vision to reach Richmond. Our city is ethnically diverse. To reach Richmond includes figuring out how to not just be another white church in the neighborhood.

Erskin Anavitarte is a Christian songwriter. On his website, he also identifies as a diversity spokesman and adoption advocate. He is a Kingdom builder and a reconciler. This is a man who calls us to enlarge our lives and our churches to include one another.Photo Credit: Erskin Music

He wrote a little song Black & White which really touched my heart this week. Simple and yet profound lyrics.

“One song may not make much difference, but my prayer is that we remember that God made us all and perhaps bridging the gap begins by focusing our eyes on Jesus. That’s the message of this song.”Erskin Anavitarte

After our country’s last election, I was burdened afresh how racially polarized we are as a nation, and even in the church. This can’t be the case, in daily life, for Christ followers. Not in daily life. Not in corporate worship. How do we come together?

As we worship the Lord today, we ask Him for wisdom and for opportunity. We ask for compassion and understanding. We determine to “love beyond the limits of our prejudices…to speak love and embody love” (Rev. Michael Walrond, Jr.).

Today, God loves both the black church and our essentially white church, both in the same neighborhood. Oh God, help us – to join together with each other – with those who love God also…and who love this city in a way that can stretch our own love…Maybe it could go beyond the reach of either of us. Just maybe.

[Let’s close in worship now. Check out the super helpful links below, later.]

Worship with Erskin and me, would you?

The most segregated time in our country

Is Sunday morning 11 o’clock

Black churches, white churches

Right next door

They’re on the same block.

Both with hands raised high for Jesus

Still a million miles between us

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

We all want to walk with Jesus

We all want to be about His will

How do we break down the unseen walls

Where bridges need to be built

This song may not change your mind

Jesus won’t let me keep it inside.

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Maybe it all begins

By not focusing on ourselves

Fixing our eyes on Him

Living our lives as friends.

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal.

Photo Credit: James Estrin, The New York Times

YouTube Video – Erskin – Black & White – Official Lyric Video

A Shift in Demographics at a Church in Harlem – Samuel G. Freedman

YouTube Video – Global Spirituality: Pastor Michael Walrond at TEDxHarlem

They’re Playing Our Song – The Secret Multiracial Churches Know About Music – Michael O. Emerson

7 Key Characteristics of Diversity-Oriented Churches – Brian Leander

Racial Reconciliation in Richmond, Virginia? – Wendy McCaig

[Links below showcase Christian comedians who help us with some of the things that unnecessarily make us uncomfortable with each other’s church cultures…although I couldn’t find one that caricatured white church worship for blacks. Could someone help me?]

YouTube Video – Gary Owen – My First Time at a Black Church

YouTube Video – Unwritten Black Church Rules – KevOnStage

YouTube Video – Black Church Phrases Explained – KevOnStage

Monday Morning Moment – Searching Out the Truth in All the Voices

Photo Credit: Dunk, Flickr

I was talking to a friend recently about longing to be in dialogue where I can actually sort out what is true in all the public outcry.

She said, “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” It went right to my heart. I would find out later that this quote is credited to social activist Maggie Kuhn.

My shaky voice has kept me from writing, and even speaking on some of the issues we are facing today. Yet, the voices all around us are getting louder and louder.

We are in a season (I’m determined it is a season and not a new normal) where voices on the streets, messages on signs, even on facial masks are persuasive and divisive.

I’m committed to listening and searching out the truth of what people are saying…but.

Here’s the but:

As long as I’m still free to choose, I can’t support an organization or movement that seems to stir up hatred as part of its strategy. That might not be the intent, but…hatred bubbles up. Hatred for those seen as enemy, as culprit, as guilty with no presumption of innocence.

In the last month, my understanding of our society has grown enormously. Too many times, I’ve had to acknowledge: “I didn’t know.”

Watching the documentary 13th was riveting. This feature-length film exposes how after the passing of the 13th amendment on the abolishing of slavery, and then, decade after decade, the governmental and cultural undermining that decision right through to today. [If you aren’t inclined to watch “13th”, then take 10 minutes and watch Ryan DavisThis Is America.]

I have started realizing that the truth is although I wasn’t consciously racist, somehow culturally and spiritually, I have enjoyed privilege and have been indifferent to many in our country who are hurting.

This broke my heart. Even after years of working in a large public hospital in Atlanta, years working in community development, and years of what could be called Christian service. I lacked the compassion and critical thinking that, ironically, should have been clear and obvious in a life of following Jesus.

So where does that leave me…us? Have you struggled with the cultural messages you are hearing…about yourself, in particular, if you’re white? Have you wholeheartedly agreed with the messages? That we are at fault for all the terrible suffering we are seeing now (if we didn’t see it before), and we have to make it right? I don’t have an answer here…only more questions.

Systemic Racism Explained – Ryan Davis

I am so ready for an advancement of good in our country.

Dialogue. Civil discourse. Reasoning together. Searching for solutions…sustainable, dignifying solutions.

Here’s where I am right now. Listening to friends. Asking questions. Watching news reports and reading commentary. Looking for people who are speaking on the problems in our country, without power or profit agendas. People who seem to care, truly care, for the hurting, but who refuse to go the way of hatred.

An example of what helped to clear confusion for me was discovering the operating strategy of cultural Marxism.

“A collectivist application of Marxist class warfare along a far broader spectrum of identities, such as race, gender, and sexuality, as opposed to solely along class lines; intersectionality.
First, Marxism only spoke to the oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, but now men oppress women, whites oppress blacks, heterosexuals oppress homosexuals, the able-bodied oppress the disabled, & cisgendered folk oppress trans folk; WHO you are is irrelevant, all that matters now is WHAT you are, which groups you are a member of, your personhood reduced to your arbitrary characteristics, to that of an object; this is Cultural Marxism. –  Urban Dictionary

That is what I’m seeing in the loud and angry voices in the public arena right now. Class warfare. One group against another group. This is not the disruption that will enlarge any of us as Americans. We are all objectified by this kind of identification/definition. No justice in this. Only destruction and disunity.

The video below by theologian educator Dr. Voddie Baucham was enormously helpful for me to understand cultural Marxism. [I will warn you: he takes issue with the politics of a very popular US president.] His teaching actually gave me hope. Truth sets us free.

Be encouraged.

We can be a part of a redemptive work. Even with shaky voices and shaky knees. Our only recourse is NOT what the loudest voices call for…but we do need to listen to those who genuinely represent the hurting. And, most urgently, the hurting themselves.

Before closing, here are some of the voices that have encouraged and emboldened me in recent days. They are not all alike in their message, but they speak reason, love, and hope.

Rayshawn Graves. Bryan Stevenson. Scott Sauls. Anthony Bradley. Rolland Slade. Glenn Loury. Bevelyn Beatty. Senator Tim Scott. Darrell B. Harrison. Virgil Walker. Karen Swallow Prior. David Lyle. Jackie Hill Perry. Coleman Hughes. Jared Burwell. Tim Keller. Shelby Steele. Michael Catt. Keith Smith. John McWhorter. Voddie Baucham. Just to name a few.

I’d love to close with a few of the lyrics of Andrew Peterson‘s A White Man’s Lament for God’s Beloved:

“…the mercies of the Lord
Will be the chords to every song…
…it begins as I repent
And bow my head as I lament this broken world
‘Cause every victim, every villain
Was a precious little boy or little girl
This is me and this is you
This is the truth, if you believe it or not
You have always been beloved
They have always been beloved

George, Breonna, Ahmaud
All beloved of God

5 Ways Christians Are Getting Swept Into a Secular Worldview in This Cultural Moment – Natasha Crain

Monday Morning Moment – Protests, Pleading, and Prayers

Photo Credit: John Englart, Flickr

What kind of world do we call home where we can actually watch a man die in minutes, in handcuffs, begging to live? George Floyd died May 25, 2020. We hear of such things in other nations – public murders, executions – but to see them in the US awakens us more to the injustice and the utter wrongness of such situations. No wonder there is so much outrage right now. How we respond to that pain and anger matters…moving us either toward needful unity or worsening division.

How do we respond?

1) Protests – In the US, we have the Constitutional right to right to peaceably assemble and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.  There is a way to protest that gives pause; that rivets our attention; that demands a hearing. A protest that doesn’t destroy its very own cities.

Photo Credit: David Sanabria, Flickr

In Richmond, Virginia, friends on the police force see themselves on the streets, during these protests, there to protect the protesters. So they may be heard.

Whatever turns the protests to violent, destruction raids on businesses and neighborhoods makes the loss of George Floyd and others even more painful.

That’s Not Going to Bring My Brother Back’: George Floyd’s Brother Calls for End to Violence – Janell Ross

Atlanta is where I was born. Hear from this city’s police chief:

2) Pleading – As a mom myself, I’m so thankful for other moms who use what platforms they have to cry out against the evil in this world and call us together for the sake of our children. So many are doing this right now. We have to put our politics aside. People matter more. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms used her office to plead with her fellow Atlantans to “go home”. Don’t miss her impassioned appeal below.

Dear White Moms, Here’s What I Need You To Know – Jehava Brown

Now, I don’t believe Senator Susan Collins is a mom but she is a  fearless advocate for change, standing her ground for what she believes is right. Here she is speaking from the Senate floor on killing of George Floyd:

3) Prayers – The Scripture gives us clear direction in this response to the division in our country right now: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”2 Chronicles 7:14

We need to take God’s call to prayer seriously. He calls us to come to Him. He will listen. He will act.Photo Credit: Needpix

Songwriters Andy and Rachel Graham, on a visit to our own divided city, wrote this beautiful prayer song in response:

Cry Out – Susan Lafferty

Photo Credit: Facebook, We Are That Family, Brick House in the City

“Oh God, help us to listen. To You. To those in so much pain around us. Help us to listen. Our words take up space that needs to go to others right now. Help us to listen, Lord. Right now, we see in the news the chant “Take the knee” as police and protestors confront each other. Heavenly Father, we would all do well to take the knee, in humility, before a just and loving God. Forgive us our sin toward each other. Forgive our sin toward You. Thank You for the life of George Floyd. Have mercy, Lord. We need You now. We’ve always needed You…in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Monday Morning Moment – Martin Luther King Jr. Day – Where Are We Now? – Deb Mills

Today’s reading with our grandchildren…