Category Archives: Remembering

Worship Wednesday – It Is Not Good To Be Alone – I Am Not Alone – Kari Jobe

Blog - I am Not Alone - Kari Jobe FacebookPhoto Credit: Kari Jobe, Facebook

[Adapted from the Archives]

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.”Genesis 2:18

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. “For I am the LORD your God.” Isaiah 43:1-3

In all the good that God had accomplished in creating this world (Genesis 1), He Himself points out the one “not good” thing. “It is not good for the man to be alone.

Pastor Cliff is preaching a series on Genesis, and this was where we landed this past Sunday. He talked about that aloneness as being something we experience apart from intimacy with God and His human provision for us. Not just marriage, but family, close friendships, and genuine community.

What Does Genesis 2:18 Mean?

Our hardest battles are the private ones…the ones in which we feel alone. We could be surrounded by coworkers, family members, friends, yet we can’t really bring to words the terror in our hearts…the questions…the sense of isolation, of aloneness. We are not usually overcome by such things; it’s not who we are. Yet, there are days when it seems, seems, that we are alone. Everyone else is rocking with the latest turn in life…but me. It seems I am somehow alone in this.

First…if we could speak it out loud, we would find others with questions and wondering. We are not alone. Especially in the deepest places. Then, remembering again: we have great and many promises that God is with us through all of where He takes us. Most importantly, He sometimes orchestrates these places of weakness for us to remember His strength. It is for us to learn afresh to trust Him. His desire is for us to see and manifest His glory meant for our good and for those around us. This sometimes comes through those dark, desperate times of seeming aloneness. We. Are. Not. Alone.

Several years ago, I heard a seminary professor, Chuck Lawless, teach on spiritual warfare. He reminded us, through passage after passage from God’s Word, that our battles belong to God. He will fight for us. We are not alone.

“We turn to Job when our own life hits the wall. Job 1:20 – Job worshipped. I hope if I lost everything, I would still worship God. In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. Spiritual warfare – It’s not escaping from the battle; it’s worshipping God in the battle.  Job is in a battle he can’t win. He trusts the Lord anyway. And we must as well.

It is in our weakness that we find victory. When the noose is around our neck. When we can come to a place where we’re content with the worst…then Satan can’t affect us. We lean on God in our weakness – we lean on God. We can say, “I’m o.k. with this.” We don’t like spiritual warfare because we want to hang on to our stuff – our dreams, our idea of ourselves, our position – whatever it is. Hang on to God. Alone.”

When our job is on the line or we are facing an uphill battle in our work, when we face a devastating diagnosis or diminishing health in our elder years, when our marriage is in a hard place or there seems no hope for marriage for us…whatever our situation. We are not alone.

As I listened to Dr. Lawless back then and to Pastor Cliff on Sunday, I looked around the room and my heart filled with love for those people God had placed in our lives. We may be unaware of the struggle…but we know a God who knows and joins us together with Himself and each other…in our struggles.

We have this amazing spiritual privilege, a divine work: to take each other to God in prayer…preemptively. Proactively not just reactively. The more we do this, the more quickly we will remember that the battle belongs to the Lord. [2 Chronicles 20:14-18] Satan would have us divided against each other, feeling on the outside of whatever is the preferred inside, stuck in thinking we are missing whatever is the better part. Not true! God loves us and He fights for each of us. Remember the Truth; cling to Him. We can pray confidently, knowing that we are not alone. Ever.

“The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You.”Kari Jobe

Worship with me to Kari Jobe‘s beautiful, full-of-truth song I Am Not Alone:

When I walk through deep waters
I know that You will be with me
When I’m standing in the fire
I will not be overcome
Through the valley of the shadow
I will not fear

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

In the midst of deep sorrow
I see Your light is breaking through
The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You
Lord, You fight my every battle
And I will not fear

You amaze me
Redeem me
You call me as Your own

You’re my strength
You’re my defender
You’re my refuge in the storm
Through these trials
You’ve always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul.*

13 Truths About Spiritual Warfare for Leaders [or any of us] – Chuck Lawless

Chuck Lawless on Spiritual Warfare – Website

God is Always with Us

Kari Jobe Explains Story Behind ‘I Am Not Alone’; ‘God Fights for You…You Need Only to be Still’

YouTube Video – Kari Jobe – I Am Not Alone (Live)

YouTube Video – Kari Jobe – I Am Not Alone (Lyric Video/Live)  – walk through a forest

YouTube Video – I Am Not Alone – Kari Jobe – Worship Video with Lyrics

YouTube Video – Psalm 23 (I Am Not Alone) [Live at Linger Conference] People & Songs ft Josh Sherman

*Lyrics to I Am Not Alone – KLove – Songwriters: Kari Jobe, Marty Sampson, Mia Fieldes, Ben Davis, Grant Pittman, Dustin Sauder, and Austin Davis

5 Friday Faves – Marvel vs. DC Comics, Answering Your Email, Healing After Divorce, Recognizing Domestic Violence, and a Life Well-lived

Friday has come and gone this week…and as you read, you will see how it might have taken longer to wrap my mind around these.  Hope you’re doing well and taking each day as the colossal gift it is.

1) Marvel vs. DC Comics – This week, classical guitarist Nathan Mills arranged and performed a mashup/medley of movie themes from the Marvel  and DC Comics  franchises. The melodies are beautiful and powerfully reminiscent of the superheroes they bring to mind.

Beyond the Guitar

2) Answering Your Email –My favorite organizational psychologist, Adam Grant, wrote an excellent piece on timely response to email: “No You Can’t Ignore Email. It’s Rude.”

Photo Credit: Flickr

Email can be overwhelming and time-consuming, but not answering it communicates a lack of care for the person on the other end…and could also reveal something about one’s character overall.

“When researchers compiled a huge database of the digital habits of teams at Microsoft, they found that the clearest warning sign of an ineffective manager was being slow to answer emails. Responding in a timely manner shows that you are conscientious — organized, dependable and hardworking. And that matters. In a comprehensive analysis of people in hundreds of occupations, conscientiousness was the single best personality predictor of job performance. (It turns out that people who are rude online tend to be rude offline, too.)” – Adam Grant

“Email is not household clutter and you’re not Marie Kondo. Ping!” – Adam Grant

3) Healing after Divorce – I’ve known Sarah since she was just a little girl. She was in a class I taught at church when she was 9. That little dreamy sparkling girl was always a delight. When she was still a teen, we moved away. She finished school and got married.

Two sweet children later, her Facebook page revealed the sad news of divorce. I was shocked. How could anyone walk away from this one? [Even after all these years, and too many divorces of people I love, it was still unbelievable to me.]

Sarah has always been one of these guileless, gloriously goofy girls who just lays life out there…and she did on Facebook. The goofy faded a bit…with the single mom reality of her life. Still I was glad to have news of her, even just on Facebook.

The deep hurt of betrayal and divorce no longer defines at least her public face. She is beautiful and joyful. I’m sure there is still hard but it seems outweighed by what’s good in her life now. Wonderful to see for those of us who love her.

With her permission, the following Facebook post tells a poignant and tender and hopeful part of her journey. Yay, Sarah!

With time comes reflection, with reflection comes growth. Today I am reminded of a time in my life that I honestly do not like to talk to many people about. A time I was my most broken. A time I never thought I would survive. When I was first divorced I felt so empty and hopeless. Trivial thoughts would run through my mind that would cripple me with depression. One specific thought that crippled me was, “I will never receive flowers ever again.” Looking back I laugh at such a trivial thing being so important to me at the time, but for some unknown reason this broke my heart. I remember the self-loathing and the self-hate talk I poured out onto myself as I told myself how much I was truly alone.
At this time I was allowing a single mom and kids use my bathroom, shower, and laundry when I was at work or whenever, because they had no bathroom that worked in their home.
Nightly, I would come home and fall on my face at the front door and lay there crying and mourning a lost relationship. I was so tired of the daily dance of faking being the upbeat Sarah that was o.k. (which I honestly sucked at). Many a night I remember lying there at the front door with snot, tears, and hiccups, wiping my eyes, feeling sorry for myself about flowers. One night I remember looking up and noticing a dozen roses in a gorgeous vase sitting on my kitchen table. I then began to hysterically laugh at the irony of the situation.Photo Credit: Flickr
In my most brokenness God chose to show me in a funny way that He was real and present and the only constant in my life. No one had known I had these thoughts of never receiving flowers, and I did not know the single mom I allowed to use my bathroom was a florist.
Looking back now a few years later I see how God had me in His hands all along. I would not trade these experiences in my life with anyone because stories like this one and many others are what makes me who I am.Sarah Morgan LaDuke

4) Recognizing Domestic Violence – This has been a tough week. On Wednesday, we lost Dave’s father (after a massive stroke following years with Parkinson’s). Also on Wednesday, a woman, very dear to many in a community we still call home, died…killed at her workplace by her estranged husband.

I have known both Kelly and her husband for around 30 years. Now, most of those years, we lived overseas. Still, thanks to social media, occasional visits, and keeping up through mutual friends…we thought we knew them…as happily married with a beautiful family and adorable grandchildren being added.

The “happily married” is hard to know for any of us…but to come to the place that one spouse would kill the other…devastating all those children…those grands…a whole community of people…how does that happen?

Unseen.Photo Credit: Kelly Sterling, Facebook

My early childhood years were marked by a neglectful father, but not an abusive one. As an adult there were times that I suspected abuse in the lives of people I loved. It’s very risky to get to the heart of such a situation. You can lose a friend. You could possibly escalate the situation. You could be wrong. Or terribly, horribly right.

I have no answers here for myself or others. Just sadness over Kelly and all who love her. Sadness also for those in-laws who are living this nightmare too…for the friends and coworkers tormented by “Could we have done more?”

That question is never satisfied… The one thing we can do for sure is be a safe place for that person…After that, we can keep learning about domestic violence, keep listening to those in our lives, and lean in wherever we can…wherever we are allowed.

Kelly, you are so loved and we will do what we can to help your family heal and to learn from your life.

Domestic Violence Against Women; Recognizing Patterns, Seek Help – Mayo Clinic

Support a Friend or Family Member Experiencing Domestic Abuse

5) A Life Well-Lived – John Mills is my husband’s dad. For the last several years, he has battled with Parkinson’s. Julia, his wife of over 60 years, was his wingman and first mate. Over quite some time, she and he have lived faithfully “in sickness and in health”.

This week, as I mentioned above, John died. Not of Parkinson’s as we had feared he would…but of a massive stroke. He lived one week after the stroke. Julia brought him home and we all cared for him with her. Just for those days, after she had done the caring for much longer. It was hard seeing him so helpless after knowing him strong for all the years before Parkinson’s.

We all hope to finish strong…to live a life worthy of the years we’re given. John lived well. He didn’t require a lot. He worked hard for his family because it was what men are to do. He was a quiet man; an elegant man; a gentle man. He cared deeply about things. God. His family. His country. He had no ambition for center stage or the head of the table. His integrity, dependability, and goodness placed him in leadership, but he never strove to be a leader. He would be just as happy out in the woods with his rabbit dogs, or fishing on the Chesapeake Bay, or picking summer vegetables or flowers for Julia.

Marrying into the family, I learned something of these simple pleasures from John…as well as how to love long over a lifetime, and how to wait patiently for what comes next…To be honest, I’m still learning. He, however, has finished…well.

How can some of these be my faves for the week? Well…they are here because I wanted to mark them…those hard passings shaped this week more than anything else…and will for some time to come. They are where my head and heart are today. Hope your weekend was a sweet one…lean in whenever you can.

Bonuses [Because I missed last week’s Friday Faves because of travel, you will find bonuses also on the NFL and on abortion from previous weeks]:

Photo Credit: Gregg Swanson, Facebook

Starting Your Day on the Internet Is Damaging Your Brain – Srinivas Rao

Dr. Ross Greene, Educating Kids Who Haven Been Traumatized – Cissy White

Patrick Mahomes’ MVP Highlights the NFL Honors Awards – James Brady

Black History Month

Photo Credit: Facebook, Tymm Hoffman

Article in Harvard Law Journal concludes: The preborn child is a constitutional person

 

 

Photo Credit: Kirsten Hill Schueler, GSBC Women [Phone Lockscreen]

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

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Recently, flying back to Richmond, the inflight entertainment included the Spike Lee film BlacKkKlansman. The film is based on the Ron Stallworth book written about his experience (in 1979) as an undercover policeman investigating a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. John David Washington and Adam Driver are the lead actors in the film. The movie trailer was funny and won the film a place on my “gotta see” list.

It was definitely entertaining, but more serious than funny. As well as deeply thought-provoking. Spike Lee highlighted Civil War images, lynchings and other Jim Crow era horrors, Civil Rights era leaders, as well as real-life footage from the more recent Charlottesville riots.

To think that Ku Klux Klan membership (along with other racist groups) could be on the rise again gives pause. Full. Stop. Pause.

This social disease…racism…is not the fault of one man, one government administration, one political party. Minister and social activitist, Martin Luther King, Jr. called racism a moral issue, a sin problem, an evil of our society. None of us are immune to it or the hatred that both births racism and is borne out of it.Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery, Alpha Stock Images

He was murdered for his non-violent stand for people and against racism…or was he murdered simply because he was a black man?

Fast forward 50+ years, and we are still struggling with the real societal ill of racism. Fortunately, we also have voices like Martin Luther King, Jr.’s stirring us to act in truth and in love. One of those voices in my life is that of a young local minister, Rayshawn Graves.

Some time ago, Rayshawn preached out of Ephesians 2:11-16 on the reconciling of Jewish and Gentile believers. He also preached on Galatians 2:11-16 on how racism can creep into even the most devout believers if we aren’t careful. My takeaways from his sermon follow:

  • Racism is a sin which will always be present. It separates and isolates us from God and each other.
  • Jesus died for that sin as for all other sins.
  • Through Him, we can have the guilt of that sin removed. We can all be free to live in unity with God and each other.
  • Our identity in Christ is above every other identity we may have.
  • We don’t have to live out guilt (as whites) or the hurt of racism (as blacks). We belong to Christ and we are called to live that out – loving God, loving others, making every effort to keep and preserve the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2-3).
  • We are called to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) – within the church and with marginalized peoples especially. Unless we come close to each other, and have heart conversations, how will we know what those burdens are?
  • Because our identity is in Christ, and we love Him and want to be like Him, we make a habit of being proactive in pursuing reconciliation.

You can listen to Rayshawn’s sermon in entirety here. So helpful.

Martin Luther King, Jr. preached to the church on racism but he also spoke to the world.

I take hope in Dr. King’s words…and in those of today’s influencers like Rayshawn.

In closing, excerpted below are just a few of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s observations on what was happening in his day. He wrote these to a group of white pastors who had expressed concern about his actions.  He wrote from the Birmingham jail where he was imprisoned for nonviolent demonstrations against segregation.

[Bold emphases are mine. Read his letter in its entirety here.]

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.
“Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate…the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice…
I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist in love? — “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice? — “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ? — “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist? — “Here I stand; I can do no other so help me God.” Was not John Bunyan an extremist? — “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a mockery of my conscience.” Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist? — “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.”  Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist? — “We hold these truths to be self – evident, that all men are created equal.” So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love?

“For those who are telling me to keep my mouth shut, I can’t do that. I’m against segregation at lunch counters, and I’m not going to segregate my moral concerns. And we must know on some positions, cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” Vanity asks the question, “Is it popular?” But conscience asks the question, “Is it right?” And there are times when you must take a stand that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but you must do it because it is right.Martin Luther King, Jr.

King’s Letter

Photo Credit: Slate, Patheos

Monday Morning Moment – On Being White in a #BlackLivesMatter America – in Remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr. – Deb Mills Writer

Don’t Just Blame the Cops: Who Is responsible for America’s Killing Fields? – John W. Whitehead – Huffington Post

Racial Reconciliation and National Covenant – Gerald McDermott

YouTube Video – If Someone Doesn’t Understand Privilege, Watch This

YouTube Video – A Biblical Response on Race – Sermon by Tony Evans

Providence Is No Excuse: Exposing a Reformed White Supremacist – Daniel Kleven

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice

Photo Credit: The National Lynching Memorial

Monday Morning Moment – New Year’s Eve Reflection – Auld Lang Syne

Photo Credit: Pixabay

[Adapted from the Archives]

Happy New Year! As this year winds down, we all look to the next with anticipation and hope. For many, tonight will be a partied out with friends. For us, this year, it’s spent with family…full of food, laughter, games and movies, huddled closely, filling all the sofas in Mommom’s living room.

We’ve already reflected back over this past year…we’ve written out resolutions for the one coming…and now, we mark the few hours remaining until this year is finished and the next begins.[I’m going back to this year’s resolutions to drive them deeper into my heart for 2019.]

When the clock strikes midnight, a song will ring out, for sure in the English-speaking world. That song is Auld Lang Syne. We don’t even know all the lyrics or its exact origin, but it stirs our hearts to remember the gift of old friends. What a gift they are!

Old friends…including the one I’m spending this New Year’s Eve with…

Auld Lang Syne: Should Old Lyrics Be Forgot…What the Song Means, and Eight Things You Didn’t Know About It – Alice Vincent

Auld Lang Syne celebrates those relationships that get us through whatever a year brings. Old friends. Sometimes we find those friends in our families…and sometimes across oceans.

One thing I love about this song is how the melody also lends itself to different lyrics…especially when the lyrics call to remembrance the finest friend it is possible to have in one’s life.

Our lives can take a myriad of turns that take us far from the friends we love. Fortunately, wherever we are…no matter how peopled or solitary our seasons are…there is a friend who is near to us always.

Two Christian bands have put lyrics to this melody and those songs follow. Take heart in these words in a familiar tune. Celebrate with me – as this year closes and a new one begins, there is One unchangeable in His love for us. Constant. A friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Happy, happy New Year.

1) For All That You Have Done by Rend Collective

Your grace will never be forgot
Your mercy all my life
Will be my source forever song
My story and my light

From mountain top to valley low
Through laughter and through tears
Surely the goodness of my God
Will follow all the years

For all that You have done for us
For every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that you have done

You know our failures and regrets
You always led us home
Redemption’s arm has raised us up
Our triumph in the storm

For all that You have done for us
For every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that you have done

(You’re faithful through the ages)

In unity we’ll stand as one
As family we’ll go
Shoulder to shoulder
Hand in hand
Into the great unknown

For all that You have done for us
For every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that you have done*

Lyrics to For All That You Have Done – Rend Collective

2) All Glory Be to Christ – Kings Kaleidoscope

Should nothing of our efforts stand
No legacy survive
Unless the Lord does raise the house
In vain its builders strive

To you who boast tomorrow’s gain
Tell me, What is your life?
A mist that vanishes at dawn
All glory be to Christ!

[Chorus]
All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign we’ll ever sing
All glory be to Christ!

His will be done, His kingdom come
On earth as is above
Who is Himself our daily bread
Praise Him, the Lord of love

Let living water satisfy
The thirsty without price
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet
All glory be to Christ!

[Chorus]
All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign we’ll ever sing
All glory be to Christ!

When on the day the great I Am
The faithful and the true
The Lamb who was for sinners slain
Is making all things new

Behold our God shall live with us
And be our steadfast light
And we shall e’er his people be
All glory be to Christ!

[Chorus]
All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign we’ll ever sing
All glory be to Christ!*

*Lyrics to All Glory Be to Christ – Kings Kaleidoscope

Worship Wednesday – How Many Kings? – Marc Martel with Downhere

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[From the Archives]

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Two out of so many favorite December experiences are Christmas songs on the radio and Christmas cards in my mailbox. For some maybe, all that Christmas music on various stations gets old…but for me, it’s a continual feast. Then those old-fashioned cards in red or green envelopes transform our mailbox from bill and junk mail holders to a wonder of news from friends and family.

[Most of the images you see on this blog are from treasured old Christmas cards.]

As to Christmas songs…there are so many beautiful ones – both standards and newer ones. Songwriter Marc Martel‘s How Many Kings, out since 2009, performed by the Canadian Christian band Downhere is one such song. My favorite radio station pops this one up often during the Christmas season. The lyrics allude to a visitation of some number of wise men from the Far East. Through their knowledge of both the ancient Scriptures (Micah 5:2)and the stars of Heaven, they were able to chart a course right to the baby Jesus, in his home in Bethlehem. How Many Kings speaks of their amazement and wonder…and ours…at the coming of the Christ Child. It is the story of such love as God had…has…for us in that even His own son He would not withhold from us…to make a path for us back to Him.IMG_0048

God sent His son to us. Our triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – perfectly One in unity through the ages – would somehow include 33 years of life on earth to bring Himself close to us. God with skin on – that we might understand better what love looks like and how we can live because of that love… Glory! Blog - Worship Wednesday - What KingsPhoto Credit: Quotesgram.com

Worship with me:

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe, after all we’ve projected, A child in a manger?
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother’s shawl – Just a child – Is this who we’ve waited for? ’cause…

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that is torn all apart – how many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior All that we have, whether costly or meek because we believe.
Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure and myrrh for the cross he will suffer Do you believe?
Is this who we’ve waited for?

Only one did that for me
All, all for me…
All for you…

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I am not sure Downhere is even performing together currently, but thank you, Brothers, for this song…and thank You, God, for giving Your Son…for us all.Blog - How Many Kings - DownherePhoto Credit: Downhere.com

Lyrics to How Many Kings – Songwriters – Marc A. Martel and Jason Germain

Story Behind the Song How Many Kings

Downhere Band Website

Bethlehem Skyline – album including How Many Kings

Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart – Part 2 – Caring

[Today’s blog is Part 2 of 3 – excerpts from a talk given at an ISBC Women’s Ministry Holiday Dinner with the theme: Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart. See Part 1 – Capacityhere and Part 3 – Constancyhere.]

We’re talking about matters of the heart – the kind of character our Godly mothers, grandmothers, and great-aunts demonstrated…that we learned and want to pass onto next generations.

From building capacity, we can move to that character trait of genuine caring. Caring that comes from a heart full of love. We all love…it’s part of our nature. This kind of caring isn’t the love that we in our human effort alone can make happen. This is a love that comes from Jesus to us…and then through us to others.

Every morning, I wake up to this view – my bedside table and the wall beyond it. A framed print hangs right where I see it first thing – a little cherub nestled in an open heart with the words inscribed: “Heart full of love”. A dear friend gave this to me before we went overseas. Like other keepsakes from so many of our friends and loved ones, it reminds me of their caring, and inspires me to be and do likewise.

The Bible is full of calls to love. God is perfect in His own love for us and He then commands us to care for one another. Through every season of our lives. The earliest God-fearers mentioned in the Old Testament were taught to 1) love God and 2) love each other as they would themselves. Jesus also taught these two very same greatest commandments.

The night before He was crucified, in a room with his closest friends and followers, Jesus took that commandment up a notch: “A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another just as I have loved you; you also are to love one another.”

Without Jesus filling us with such love, we could never even fathom how to love others like He loves us. Laying down our lives for one another as He laid his life down for us.

It is obvious how we all benefit from such great love received by Him and lavished on others. During that last supper together, Jesus and those dear to Him, He went on to give one more incentive to love – one more world-shaking incentive. “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Photo Credit: The Fellowship Site

As we love God, and receive His love, we are moved to keep our eyes on Him and allow Him a place in our lives to display His love in all kinds of ways…we can care for others as He cares for us.

“We love because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19

In all the seasons of our lives, we deal with people not like us, people we consider haters or spoilers. People who hate us so we are tempted to hate them right back. There are also those people who are just plain indifferent to us or to those we love. Lastly, there are those who are stranger to us. We don’t know them; we don’t need to know them, we think. Whether we believe we are this way or not… how we act toward others is telling.

We were living overseas when 9/11 happened. We came home a year later, and we discovered an America that had suffered so much loss. It was like we as a people had circled our wagons. Even in the South, people didn’t make eye contact, or chat with store clerks or strangers on the street, or generally engage people they didn’t know. It seemed just easier, less risky, to be home with just a few people. Us four and no more, right?

Jesus calls us to care for those closest to us, those easy to love, those who care for us. It’s a joy to love them. His call goes much farther, though…for our own sake and that of all we encounter.

God calls us to care…to love…as He does.

This is the largest sincerity check of our lives. The life of the Christ-follower is a life of love…of deep caring…of caring beyond comfort.

We have all heard the response “Well, it’s not about you.” In our flesh, we totally want it to be about us…but…

When we make the substance of our lives about ourselves, our lives get very small. They seem big to us because of all the responsibilities we carry; all the cool stuff we get to be about. However…what could our lives be like if we cared, truly cared, about others…any others, all others?

“To fill up on God, you begin to have more than enough love for others and yourself because the God Who IS love is operating on the inside of you.”Cassia Glass

Photo Credit: Jill E. McCormick

We can be the people through whom the world sees Jesus. Because of our love, our care, for each other.

This kind of caring is costly. It cost Jesus everything. Whatever the cost is to each of us, young or old, we gain so much more than we give. A 19th century missionary, Amy Carmichael, spent her whole life serving orphans in India, cast-off little girls who would come to know God’s love…through Amy. She had this to say about what caring costs and what we gain in caring:

“Let us not be surprised when we have to face difficulties. When the wind blows hard on a tree, the roots stretch and grow the stronger, let it be so with us. Let us not be weaklings, yielding to every wind that blows, but strong in spirit to resist.”

Photo Credit: AZQuotes

I want to just stop right here a moment. You…you women right here have shown yourselves to be this kind of Christ-follower. You have built capacity for God to show up through you. You love through all kinds of hard. You know from God’s Word that our battle is not against one another…the Evil One wants to break us and divide us and tarnish what the world sees of God in us. You stay strong, Dear Ones…and keep tending the embers of love, in the midst of this hard place. God will keep showing up.

Photo Credit: QuoteFancy, John Groberg

Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart – Part 1 – Capacity

This past weekend, I was privileged to speak at a women’s holiday event in Kingsport, Tennessee. 150 women gathered to bring in a vintage Christmas together. Photo Credit: ISBC Women’s Ministry, Facebook

The food was delicious, the company was old friend-comfortable, and the memories wrapped around us like a Tennessee quilt.

The Festival of Tables was amazing – designed by the women hostessing. Just a few of the table toppers shown below:

[Today’s blog and the next two – Part 2 and Part 3] are taken from the talk I gave that evening on “Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart”. The following are excerpts of the talk because some who couldn’t come wanted me to post. Though written for Christian women, there is much to apply to any of our lives.]

“Vintage” can mean something very different to each one of us, depending on our ages and life experiences.

Vintage…one day our grandchildren and great-grands will look way back to our Christmases and call them vintage. They will look back on us as the women of old in their lives – the grandmothers (and great-grandmothers) of their faith.

What do we see when we look back? What will they see when they look back?

When I look back to my growing up years, it’s my Mom and women like her who come to mind. Godly women – tirelessly serving their families, church and community and pointing us to Jesus.

In thinking about Vintage Christmases and matters of the heart, God has placed three character traits on my mind. Three qualities we probably saw in our Godly grandmothers and great-aunts.

Strong and steely traits that we can develop across a lifetime walking with God. These traits are all matters of the heart. We see them in the life and character of Jesus. As we wrestle with them in each season of our lives, we can hope to carry them forward to future generations.

The first is capacity defined as the maximum that something can contain or produce.

In every season of our lives, we have those moments or days of coming to the end of ourselves. We feel like we just can’t do one more thing. We are DONE. When I talk about capacity, it’s not about adding more stuff to lives that are over-packed or over-scheduled lives. God doesn’t call us to be Energizer Bunnies…until we burn out, or dry up, or give in to the busy.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Capacity isn’t just about getting a lot done. Nor is it, on the flip side, about shaking up those of us in seasons of life that have been downsized –  intentionally or unintentionally. Unless God is speaking into that…which He sure did with me.

Building capacity means to look to God to order our days and to watch for Him to show up in our schedules and “chance” encounters.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve come through both a cancer diagnosis and a couple of cardiac emergencies that could have taken my life. Having half a lung removed diminished my physical capacity for awhile. Then moving into retirement diminished my other capacities even further. I felt old. In our previous work circles and in our church, whatever purpose or identity I had before seemed to fade with time and age. It wasn’t pretty.

Maybe you have experienced this sort of thing, whatever your age is. A situation where you have passion or desire to be a part of something but the doors seem to all be closed. When it seemed there was no way forward, I just settled into a slowed-down, lesser life.

In the middle of all this, the Lord in His great kindness, pretty much asked me, out right, “Is that it? You’re done?” I sure didn’t want to be done. With age and what seemed to be dwindling opportunity, life had become small for me.

Or did I do it to myself? Was I looking to people for opportunities to serve…or to God?

Now those of you with heavy academic loads, small children or big responsibilities in your work may not even be able to imagine this…but think with me a minute. Is our capacity such that God could show up and do as He wills in us…or are we pretty much maxed-out or turned-in?

Does God have our hearts? Or is our capacity dulled because He is more a tenant in our hearts rather than the Lord?

Is there space in our hearts He would fill if we didn’t already have them packed with other stuff?

Now, we all have responsibilities in life. For some, papers have to be written, babies must be fed, and payrolls managed…fill in the blank in your thoughts of where you have to show up every day…

What happens when we show up with our eyes on Jesus and the possibility of what He might do in and through us?

That realization from the Lord that “if I wasn’t done, then what?” started a spiritual journey for me… Last December, as part of a New Year’s resolution, and in response to our pastor’s challenge, I determined to make God’s voice the first voice of my every day. I’m a morning person, so quiet times before dawn may come easier for me than for some. Still for God’s to be the first voice does require me NOT to pick up the cell phone, or sit down at my computer, or turn on the TV news. In my season of life, there are no children to feed or to get schooled, so you with children have different challenges of making God’s voice first.

Whatever our challenges, it doesn’t change our great need of hearing Him speak truth and love into our hearts. Early. Every day.

When God did get first voice, He began helping me to clear out the clutter in my heart which changed the contents of my conversations and my calendar…Bit by bit, God added space to my life. Space to hear Him speak and to “interrupt” the rhythms of my day.

The discovery that I seemingly had more time wasn’t magic…it was God.

The visual below is so perfect of Christ flooding our heart with His love and all the good things God has for us, and in turn our hearts are cleansed, cleared of all the junk that distances us from Him, and then the contents of our hearts pour into others. Jesus talked to the religious leaders of his day about this very thing: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”Photo Credit: HolyTrinityPTC

Another way to look at this is related to what we hold in our lives as treasure. Jesus taught us that “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Photo Credit: Heather C. King

You can guide your heart with your treasure. Wherever you put your treasure or whomever you make your treasure, your heart will follow. Your treasure leads your heart.

This was so helpful for me because I had stored up quite a bit of self-absorbed treasure in recent years – my own significance being one part of that. Even wanting to be useful to God somehow had become an idol. That sort of thing just happens when we take our eyes off Him and onto ourselves. Right?

Days turned to weeks of God being the first voice each day in my life. I started doing life more in present tense with Him, listening for His voice through the day. Like a real conversation. Sometimes it would be a prayer; sometimes a complaint; just being in His presence. The barriers keeping life small seemed to start coming down. Such that, even when life was small, I was becoming more content. We keep our eyes on God, and He guides…sounds too simple, I know…but it has given the most mundane day or situation a sense of the divine.

The prophet Isaiah captures this so well when he says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it”. [Isaiah 30:21] Of course, we may not hear God speak audibly, but He will lead us just that clearly as we tune our hearts to His voice. We’ve all experienced that. To walk daily like this builds capacity…

Photo Credit: Francis of Assisi, Brainy Quote

We start by doing what’s necessary…this is sometimes where we stop…short.  If…we keep our hearts on the Lord, the necessary can open up to being a part of something only possible with God in it…and then…the impossible.

 If we are faithful to make a capacity for Jesus…He will fill that capacity with Himself.  “Make of yourself a capacity and I will make myself a torrent!” – Catherine of Siena

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Quotemeal

[Part 2 on Caring and Part 3 on Constancy]

Worship Wednesday – You Say – Lauren Daigle

Photo Credit: Living All In, Cheryl

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.2 Timothy 1:7

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?Numbers 23:19

The most deceiful thing Satan does is to distract us from our love for God by tempting us to focus on ourselves. That “self” that is not enough, or is utterly broken, or is, in another direction, worthy of all good things. Satan even uses the first person pronoun such that it sounds like we are acknowledging those lies…those lies about ourselves that fill our minds and cloud the truth of both who God is and who we are in Him.

Anxiety and depression are both a storm of thoughts that draw us down and make us small. Not the small of we decrease such that He might increase…no. Small in a way that He is made smaller still.

Pastor David Jeremiah recently preached about how we lose ground emotionally and spiritually by taking our eyes off God…and believing lies about our situation or identity. He uses a study of Elijah’s life to demonstrate this. In his sermon, The Aftermath, Pastor Jeremiah recalls how Elijah in what should have been a triumphant time of his life was drawn down by exhaustion and fear (1 Kings 19). As Elijah struggled with discouragement, he was vulnerable also to the lies of Satan. He was convinced that he was alone and was right to fear…even for his life. Dr. Jeremiah referred back to a book he had read by Martin Seligman about how our problems can feel personal, pervasive, and permanent. When our eyes turn away from God and onto our selves, we lose perspective and our thinking turns negative and even abusive at times.

Lauren Daigle‘s song You Say is not one I would usually highlight because its focus is more on God’s view of us rather than our focus on Him. However, it has really touched my heart in the honesty of what happens when we lose sight of the great God we serve who loves us perfectly and completely.

Daigle tells the story behind the song here. This is an excerpt:

I think a lot of times we build these complexes based on insecurity, based on fear, based on rejection, and lies that we have to constantly overcome. And so this song for me was just a reminder of identity. It was a reminder that I know when I’m weak, He’s strong—so how do I change that and bring that into my every day life? When I feel inadquate how is it that there’s always these moments where I feel like God just steps in and supercedes my inadequacies. This entire song was so every single day I would get up on stage and remind myself—no, this is the truth, this is the truth, this is the truth. Don’t get buried in confusion. Don’t get buried in waywardness. Just remember to steady the course, steady the course.

That’s the story behind “You Say.”Lauren Daigle

Please worship with me…this good God of ours.

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
And when I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity, o-ooh

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
And when I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
Oh, I believe

Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet
You’ll have every failure, God, You’ll have every victory, o-ooh

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

Oh I believe, yes I believe
What You say of me
I believe*

Oh God, today, I will believe what You say about me…and what You say about all of us…and more than that, I believe what You say about Yourself. Thank You, Lord, for the truth you wrap around us. I stand in that. We stand forever with You. You are enough.

*Lyrics to You Say – Writers: Jason Ingram, Paul Mabury, Lauren Daigle

Lauren Daigle – Story Behind the Song ‘You Say’

When God Fights Your Battles…the Good News Is That You Win – Anne Peterson

YouTube Video – David Jeremiah – July 24, 2018 – The Aftermath – Turning Point Radio

Sheryl Sandberg Says the ‘3 P’s’ Have Helped Her Become a Stronger Person After Her Husband’s Tragic Death – Shana Lebowitz

Worship Wednesday – Thou, O Lord, Are a Shield for Me – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Photo Credit: Christ Community Church Music

“The enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead….I stretch out my hands to You.”Psalm 143:3, 6a

Although my spirit is weak within me, You know my way. Along this path I travel they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see: no one stands up for me; there is no refuge for me; no one cares about me. I cry to You, Lord; I say, “You are my shelter, my portion in the land of the living.”Psalm 142:3-5

“You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah.” Psalms 3:3-4

This wasn’t how it was supposed to turn out. God had anointed David to be king. Yet, here he is, hiding deep in a cave…hiding from the current king, Saul. Hiding for fear of his life.

In this desert cave Adullam, David retreated. He then cried out to God, as he sorted out his confusion. God meets us all in our caves – some we bring on ourselves and others we’re driven into by those who mean us harm. God enters the darkness with us and draws us to the truths of who He is and who we are in Him.

The darkness is pierced by His light. The fear and fretting are overcome by faith. A faith that is forged in emptiness, helplessness, and self-pity. As we pray, He reveals Himself. Our eyes turn away from our circumstances into His large presence before us.

The cold dark of our situation, when we see God in it, changes to something altogether different…beyond anything that’s just human. No darkness can extinguish the light God brings to us (John 1:5).

Crouching quiet in the blackness of that cave, David was able to get his sight back. As with many of his psalms, his woeful cry of distress turned into a shout of praise. He remembered God…he remembered that God never forgets His children.

David, in his humanness, hid from Saul, believing his life was in danger. The truth was that God had already anointed David king… David’s life was in the hands of almighty God. He was supernaturally shielded from anything a mere man might attempt against him.

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sings a powerful rendition of this song Thou, O Lord, Are a Shield to Me. What a reminder of His care for us…wherever we might find ourselves.Photo Credit: The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Worship with me, please. One day voices will be raised to Him – from every people, tribe and tongue – and it will be even more glorious than the mighty choirs of Brooklyn Tabernacle or Parkland Baptist Church (choir in the lyric video linked above).

Many are they increased that troubled me
Many are they that rise up against me
Many there be which say of my soul
There is no help for him in God

But thou, oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
Thou, oh Lord are shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
(Repeat)

I cried unto the Lord with my voice
And he heard me out of His holy hill
I laid me down and slept and awaked
For the Lord sustained, for he sustained me

Thou, oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
Thou, oh Lord are shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head (Repeat)*

Hallelujah!

After this I looked and saw a multitude too large to count, from every nation and tribe and people and tongue, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. And they fell face down before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength to our God forever and ever! Amen. Revelation 7:9-12

*Lyrics to Thou, O Lord

From a Cave Named AdullahKaren Smith – Christ Community Church Music – so good! Don’t miss it.

Cave Principles, Practices, and Perspectives: Psalms 34, 57, 142 – Bob Stone – Eagle Flight – also really excellent!

5 Friday Faves – Harry Potter vs. Lord of the Rings, the Thai Cave Rescue, Pizza Memories, Friends Through Thick & Thin, and Returning the Favor

The weekend is here! My favorite finds of the week are below. Add your favorites in the Comments below:

1) Harry Potter vs. Lord of the Rings – From books to movies, we have a favorite between these two – Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. They fall in a similar genre of stories about exploits, wizards and wonders. We happen to be Lord of the Rings fans. Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has arranged a mash-up of melodies from both films. All the feels.

For those of us who follow Nathan’s career, he was also featured again this week on the Rising Tide Startups podcast. Check it out here.

2) The Thai Cave Rescue – We all celebrate the Thai Cave Rescue where national and international forces came together to accomplish the impossible. The rescue of 12 boys and their coach, from deep in a mountain cave, trapped by rising waters. Photo Credit: CBS Philly

Engineers, divers, doctors, and so many others turned this story from tragedy to triumph. A miracle, really. Not without loss. A former Thai Navy Seal diver, Saman Kunont, died while they they were setting up oxygen lines for the rescue. His death most assuredly helped those who would later be successful in bringing the boys and their coach to safety.

Did the World Care More About the Boys in the Cave Than Other Kids in Crisis?Malaka Gharib & Marc Silver

3) Pizza Memories The food we enjoy often has memories attached to it. Biscuits and gravy are a comfort food that takes me all the way back to childhood. My mom, on her days off, happily making up homemade biscuits and gravy – patting out the biscuits onto the pan and, while they cooked, standing over the gravy, constantly stirring it into perfection. Just the mention of Tang orange drink takes me back to Red Sea family respites from our crazy Cairo life. We stayed in quite affordable hotels offering the loveliest local food. What looked like orange juice on the breakfast buffet was Tang, and it meant we were away from the big city – with all the nurture of blue sky and fresh sea air.

Pizza memories return us to places and people that continue to be endearing. My years of teaching at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, included lunches and suppers out, lingering over the great food of local eateries. New Haven pizza is well-known through the US. The culinary styles of pizza vary from the thin charred crust of New York and Chicago pizza to the cheesy, deep dish Greek pizzas.

My best food memories of New Haven center on an old campus favorite with the unlikely name of Clark’s Dairy (it was also an ice cream shop). Name changed to Clark’s Family Pizza & Restaurant.  There our order was always the same: coffee and the Feta cheese and sausage pizza. Photo Credit: Yelp

Your Guide to the Best Pizza in New Haven – Munchies

Tony and Lucille’s Little Italy Restaurant – Best calzones I’ve ever tasted

Where do your favorite pizza memories take you?

4) Friends Through Thick & Thin – “Don’t forget to crowd your calendar with depression this week”, said no one ever. I was really looking forward to this week…then dark thoughts and their resulting lethargy fell over me like a suffocating wet blanket. I could still manage most of the usual stuff, but the very things that would have lightened my heart required me to get myself there…and it just didn’t happen.

Friendship that endures, over time and trouble, is an amazing gift. People you know will be there, not just for you, but for those you love also, are such a treasure. I hopefully am a better friend because of those who have stuck with me through the years, even when I wasn’t at my best. Friends like this one who missed me…when a no-show.

No judgment. No advice. No rejection. Just care. The note went on to give updates about her family which were a delight to hear/read.

In her bestselling book Kitchen Table Wisdom, Rachel Naomi Remen writes:

“I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. And especially if it’s given from the heart. When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they’re saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it.” – from Therese Borchard’s 8 Ways to Help a Friend or Family Member With Depression

When we struggle and seemingly remove ourselves from others… maybe we do need to be left alone for awhile. Mostly, however, we just need to be invited in, even in our diminished states. Does this resonate?

Keeping Friends When You Have Depression Is a Challenge – Jennifer Smith

What If Everything You Know About Depression Was Wrong? – Now This (Op-Ed)

Six Ways Jesus Fought Depression – John Piper

5 Things Christians Should Know About Depression and Anxiety – Brandon W. Peach

5) Returning the FavorMike Rowe is this funny, larger-than-life TV show host and writer. He currently stars in a web series entitled Returning the Favor. The goal of this production is to discover and showcase the lives of regular folks who are doing good in their neighborhoods. Then Rowe, through various means, surprises this local heroes with some sort of monetary gift and national recognition. I never knew about him or his work until this week, so now, except for the money part, I want to return the favor and recognize the good he does.

These are my five favorite finds. How about you? Anything that energized your week, brought a special kind of joy, or you just found funny? Share it with us.

Have a splendid weekend with those you love or those who could do with a bit of your love.

Bonuses

[First fruits of a summer garden – thanks to Dave.]

We Really Need to Stop Complimenting People on Weight Loss – Abby Langer

Grey’s Anatomy Give Peace a Chance – Derek & Isaac – Season 6, Episode 7 – a great script, on being a surgeon and on being a patient who has already endured terrible suffering but putting his trust in the surgeon:

How to Write With Style: Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Keys to the Power of the Written Word – Maria Popova

Justice Is a Gospel and Ecclesiastical Issue – Chip M. Anderson

The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice

Oley Brothers Are New Owners of Richmond’s Westhampton Pastry Shop – Tammie SmithPhoto Credit: Yelp