Category Archives: Grace

Worship Wednesday – Hills and Valleys – I Am Not Alone – Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: Heartlight

I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber.
Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.

The Lord protects you; the Lord is a shelter right by your side.
The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night.

The Lord will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life.
The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever.Psalm 121

Hills and valleys. They are part of our lives.

A week ago, I sat silent in the car by this beautiful friend, her face blotched and shining with tears. It had been a low time for her, and, for the moment, she just needed to cry. We were together for her wedding day – the loveliest of high times. There have been other shared mountain-top experiences since…as well as valleys.

When we have those big positive experiences, the valleys are forgotten – that ache of loneliness or undoneness in the times of helplessness or disappointment. Still, we need people in both those experiences…More than that, we need God.

Several years ago, along with some friends, our family visited Mt. Sinai. Dave’s Mom and Dad also joined us, visiting from the US. It was an incredible time. We traveled up toward the summit on donkeys via a camel trail. The last 750 feet we climbed on foot. The view was spectacular. Just under 7500 ft. high, Mt. Sinai is a sentinel in Egypt’s eastern desert. Majestic, beautiful, changing in appearance with sun and shadow. Awe-inspiring.

Even more so, as we think this could be the place that Moses met with God, so many years ago. It is considered a holy mountain by Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Looking out over the desert below, we got lost in our thoughts, reflecting on history and God and the privilege just to be there. It was more a solitary experience, although surrounded by loved ones and strangers. One group of tourists started singing “How Great Thou Art” in a language I couldn’t understand. We joined in, in English. It was truly an obvious mountain-top experience.

Then, the climb down. The camel trail would be slower, so we decided to take the faster route – the Steps of Repentance. Stones placed as stairs from the summit to the valley floor (legend goes that one monk placed them all as an act of repentance). 3750 stone steps. Uneven, rough-cut, some deeper or narrower than others. All requiring care in descending.

[Click on this blog for pics of Mt. Sinai’s summit and the valley below as well as a look at the Steps of Repentance – 3750 steps down to the valley.]

Plodding our way to the valley, step by step, wasn’t taxing at first, but that didn’t last long. As hundreds of steps took their toll on our knees, we started feeling shaky and unsure of our footing. Hoping not to fall or injure ourselves. It helped that we were in a group, in case we needed each other.

On that walk down, I got to see a tenderness in my husband that fit perfectly the situation. He saw his mom was struggling and came alongside her to get safely down to the valley. His dad was fine enough, as was I, although shaking from the pounding down descent. Being careful not to fall. It turned out to be harder than we thought.

Valleys are like that, in general. Ofttimes, harder than we think. We need each other and most importantly we need God. To bring us through the journey that takes us low. To give us the grace to deal with what is in front of us.

Our pastor Cliff Jordan preached on prayer a few Sundays back. Prayer and the postures of prayer. When we are experiencing a mountain-top moment or a downward spiral to a spiritual valley, we pray. As God’s children – for different reasons and with different postures. Remembering that we are not alone. Never. Not ever.Photo Credit: PixabayPhoto Credit: 163atkw.aug

Singer/songwriter Tauren Wells‘ has given us a song about this very thing. Hills and Valleys.

“When you’re on the mountaintops of life, learn to bow low. and when you’re in the valleys of life, learn to stand tall….No matter where we’re at, we’re standing in God’s grace, and that no matter what we have, His grace is enough.” Tauren Wells

Worship with me.

I’ve walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak
And I’ve seen the brighter days
And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven
From my lowest place
And I have held Your blessings
God, You give and take away

No matter what I have, Your grace is enough
No matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone

I’ve watched my dreams get broken
In You I hope again
No matter what I know
I’m safe inside Your hands

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone

Father, You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all You will remain
Over it all
Father, You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all You will remain
Over it all
On the mountains I will bow my life, yeah
In the valley I will lift my eyes
Ohhh, ohhhh

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
No, I’m not alone
I know, I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills
And I am not alone
God of the hills
The God of the valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone*

*Lyrics – Hills and Valleys – Songwriter: Tauren Wells

YouTube Video – Hills and Valleys (Story Behind the Song)

Hills and Valleys – Behind the Song – Kevin Davis

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed to Be a Blessing – Andy Flannagan

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” – God to Abraham –  Genesis 12:2

We are so blessed. It is not a cliche. It is truth. Even those who don’t believe that God is will still use the expression of being blessed.

I wonder, “by whom?”.

Earlier this week I wrote about silence as punishment…withholding our words, ourselves, from others. Today we focus on the opposite – blessing others, through our words and actions. Reaching out, drawing in. Speaking life and love. Listening close. Blessing.

We are blessed to be a blessing. From the beginning of time, when God instructed His first man and woman. Especially to childless Abraham who would receive that promise in faith…blessed to be a blessing.

Writer Tina Boesch has written a beautiful book on blessing: Given: the Forgotten Meaning and Practice of Blessing. The first page of the book begins with a Scottish blessing:Life be in my speech, sense in what I say…the love Christ Jesus gave  filling me for every one.” Boesch writes about how, no matter the situation or the persons in front of us, we can bless them, because He has so utterly blessed us.

Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.Colossians 3:17

From a young British friend’s Facebook page sometime ago, I was introduced to songwriter Andy Flannagan and Reverend Kevin Lewis. They both love Jesus and sing and write about blessing…

They cheer us on to shake off the weight of self-interest and reach out to a broken world…that those desperate for love will find it in the same Savior we know…and show by our love – our words and deeds – that He loves them, also.

Worship Wednesday – the Name and Person of Jesus – Various Artists

Photo Credit: UEChurch

“Let this be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which ha become the cornerstone’. Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”Acts 4:10-12

God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11

I didn’t start life in a Christian home. My religious education started sometime after I was 6 or 7. We had not attended church (or any other religious establishment) previously. Neighbors invited us to their church and we finally accepted their invitation.

It was then that I heard the astonishing account of a holy God who made a way for a messed-up people to enter a right relationship with Him. Somehow, as a young child, the idea of trying to be good (especially for my Mom) seemed the right thing. I so wanted to be good for her…but it rarely worked out that way.

To hear of God as one-in-three-persons was a huge concept for me as a child. Yet, it made sense the older I got – God, the Father; God, the Son; God, the Holy Spirit – Especially how Jesus was present with the Father, co-existing from the beginning, before His brief time on earth, participating in the creation of the world and all in it. When Jesus returned to Heaven, after the crucifixion and resurrection, He assured His followers He would leave with them a comforter – this Holy Spirit who was one with God the Father and God the Son.

A Moroccan student of mine raised a fascinating topic in our World Religions class years ago. He said we are all destined to follow the religions of our parents. A lively discussion was borne out of that comment.

My mother, if she was a Christian then, did not guide us toward a faith in God when we were little. As a single parent, working long hours, it was all she could do to keep us fed, with a roof overhead. However, for all of us, those years following, in church and under Biblical teaching, changed our lives.

Maybe if our neighbors had taken us to a mosque or a Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish temple, I would have a different story. All I know, for sure, is this:

What I learned about the one God – the Father, Son, Holy Spirit – three-in-one – I embraced at the age of 9. What Jesus did for me, in complete and perfect unity with the Father and Holy Spirit, transformed my life…from that day on.

He is not the Father of Christianity. He is not the founder of the world’s largest religion. He is not just a legend of a man or a myth.

Jesus came to earth on mission. He came to redeem a sinful people back to God. He provided a sinless ransom for a people who could not save themselves. He was not killed by a Roman court, or the religious authorities, or a fickle mob. He laid His life down for us.

He is God. Worthy of the praise that God alone deserves.

I grew up with great hymns of worship like All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.

When our children came along, we wanted the greatness of God and the love of Jesus to resonate in their hearts and minds. From babyhood onward. We sang them lullabies about Jesus and we worshiped together with songs of truth they could understand and cherish all their lives. [See links below.]

Worship Wednesday – All These Babies – Raising Up Worshippers – Lullabies – Deb Mills Writer

Wednesday Worship – Raising Up Worshippers – the Old Songs & the New – Deb Mills Writer

In more recent years, as the children grew into adulthood, we would sing In Christ Alone and Be Thou My Vision…and so many others.

Today, the music of worshippers continues to change, as does culture…but the object of our worship does not change.

Jesus, the same…yesterday, today, forever. Thank You, God.

Worship God with me in the name of the One who made a way for us to know God and be with Him forever. Choose from any of the songs below or above, or one of your own favorites. The rest of our day can wait a few minutes.

The Power of Your Name – Lincoln Brewster (with Darlene Zschech) – YouTube Video

Jesus Messiah – Chris Tomlin (lyrics) – YouTube Video

Something Happens (When We Call Your Name) – Kurt Carr

King of Glory – Third Day – w/ lyrics – YouTube Video

At Your Name – Phil Wickham, Tim Hughes – w/ lyrics – YouTube Video

Let It Be Jesus – Christy Nockels – w/lyrics – YouTube Video

[Please comment below with one of your own favorite worship songs – from another decade or from right now.]

Name of Jesus Songs – Worship Together

10 Biggest Lies About Yeshua, His Jewishness, and What Some Call ‘Jewish Christianity’

7 Reasons to Praise the Lord – Todd Gaddis

Worship Wednesday – Grace Got You – MercyMe featuring John Reuben

Photo Credit: Heartlight

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.Ephesians 1:7

It’s feeling like Fall around here. As I climbed into the car from an appointment, the temperature was upper 70s, low humidity, and breezy. Turning on the engine, this sweet MercyMe song was mid-play and immediately got me moving to the music. Drumming on the steering wheel. Singing like a rock star…well, like I didn’t care who was listening.

MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard said this about the song: “Grace Got You is just a song that makes me smile. The whole idea that once you realize that God’s grace has you…no matter what comes your way, you can live your life as if you’ve already read the last page of the book and know how the whole thing turns out. Our eternity is set! On your worst day, Christ is OK with you. He adores you. He’s pleased with you. How is that possible? No clue, but it is. That’s the most amazing news of all!”

How that’s possible is because of what Jesus did for us…what God the Father did in Him and through Him.

We talk a lot about grace. Years ago I learned this acronym for grace: God’s riches (or redemption) at Christ’s expense. Grace.

Behind the grace that Millard and MercyMe sing about is the mercy and justice of a righteous and holy God. We are sinful people and have no way to stand before God except that our sins are cancelled out. Only One without sin can pay for our sin. Jesus is that One.

We can’t truly bask in the great grace that comes to us through faith unless…until…we stare into the abyss of the sin that separates us from God. Apart from Christ.

Christ satisfied the justice and judgement of God. We are made clean through what Jesus did on the cross for us. Clean. Pure.

https://thebibleproject.com/explore/justice/

In this world we will still struggle with sin, but His grace helps us to reckon with it for what it is, and cling to Him and His promises that His sacrifice was enough. Enough.

That truth should fill us with such joy…we might dance in the streets…or at least in our cars.

As we celebrate and rejoice before God, as David and the Israelites did (2 Samuel 6), we pass on the inheritance of our faith to generations yet to come.

When our lives are touched by the love of God, His grace flows into this world through the channel of our love, healing it, straightening its twistedness, mending its brokenness, and enlightening its darkness. That is the celebration of the Christian life – to touch the lives of others and so invite them to experience the blessings of God.

Let us express God’s praise in every breath we take. Let us be a people who celebrate the goodness of God.

May God’s Spirit enable us to be free in our celebration of Him who saves us, and who dwells in our midst.”Ferdinand Funk

Photo Credit: YouTube

Worship with me.

Have you ever met those who
Keep humming when the song’s through?
It’s like
They’re living life to a whole different tune
And have you ever met those that
Keep hoping when it’s hopeless
It’s like
They figured out what the rest haven’t yet

The second when you realize
What you have inside
It’s only just a matter of time… ’til you

Sing, so the back row hears you
Glide, cause walking just won’t do
Dance, you don’t have to know how to
Ever since, ever since Grace got you
Laugh, ’til your whole side’s hurting
Smile like you just got away with something
Why? Cause you just got away with something
Ever since, ever since Grace got you

So when you’re standing in the rain again
You might as well be dancing
Why? Cause there ain’t no storm that can change how this ends
So next time when you feel blue
Don’t let that smile leave you
Why? Cause you have every reason just to

Sing, so the back row hears you
Glide, cause walking just won’t do
Dance, you don’t have to know how to
Ever since, ever since Grace got you
Laugh, ’til your whole side’s hurting
Smile like you just got away with something
Why? Cause you just got away with something
Ever since, ever since Grace got you
Ever since, ever since Grace got you
Grace got you

[John Reuben:]
Got away with something, bubbling inside of you
Spilling over cause your life is full, how incredible
Undeniable, monumental like the Eiffel
Uncontrollable, let the joy flow through – ha ha
Giddy oh but pretty pretty please
Let me see your hands in the air with you out your seats
Warm it up, let go, shout it out, celebrate
When you can’t articulate just say Amazing Grace

The second when you realize
What you have inside
It’s only just a matter of (only just a matter of)
It’s only just a matter of time… ’til you

Sing, so the back row hears you
Glide, cause walking just won’t do
Dance, you don’t have to know how to
Ever since, ever since Grace got you
Laugh, ’til your whole side’s hurting
Smile like you just got away with something
Why? Cause you just got away with something
Ever since, ever since Grace got you
Yeah yea yea yea yea yea
Ever since, ever since Grace got you
Yeah yea yea yea yea yea
Grace got you
Yeah yea yea yea yea yea
Ever since, ever since Grace got you
Yeah yea yea yea yea yea
Grace got you
Yeah yea yea yea yea yea
Yeah yea yea yea yea yea
Grace got you*

*Lyrics to Grace Got You – Songwriters: MercyMe, David Garcia, John Reuben, Ben Glover, and Solomon Olds

YouTube Video – Grace Got You – Story Behind the Song

5 Friday Faves – Overdose Awareness, Quiet Influencers, Primary Physicians, Habits of Purpose, and Museums for All

1) Overdose Awareness – August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. Let’s have the goal of #NotOneMore loved one lost to drug overdose.

“May you never get that call. I did on October 24, 2010. Worst day of my life. I was lucky…he survived………..so many don’t…….These people are someone’s daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, friends…….Don’t judge. Listen to their stories. We need change. Many people need help and there is not always help out there.”Jeanne Barney

Overdose Day Website

Photo Credit: Facebook, International Overdose Awareness Day

“National Overdose Awareness Day! It still surprises me on how many people I talk to seem oblivious to this epidemic in our country and throughout the world. In 2017 the official number of deaths was over 72,000 people [in the US]. More in 2018. These 72,000 people were Mothers and Fathers, Daughters and Sons. Aunts and Uncles. Just think about how many peoples lives were affected by 72,000 deaths. Addiction is real……..Addiction kills……..Lets all get together and find ways to talk about this beast that kills more people than car accidents, guns, breast cancer, The Vietnam War. I pray that my Facebook friends never have to be touched in anyway by the Overdose of a loved one. Unfortunately, the math says …………..you more than likely will.”Jeanne Barney

2) Quiet Influencers – We have all had them in our lives: these quiet influencers. People who gave us their best without needing to be center stage themselves. People who helped us to mature into people of influence ourselves…for some even, people of significant power or renown. These quiet influencers could be our parents. Or peers who saw in us maybe someone we couldn’t imagine ourselves.

Writer Rachel Pieh Jones urges us to capture the stories of our quiet influencers:

Power resides not only in the obvious leaders, the loudest voices, or the wealthiest donors, but also in the quiet influencers.

Search out these leaders, collaborate with them, use their own words, be wise in the details emphasized, and be mindful of how the story will be heard. Pass the mic to these influencers and do your part to elevate their voices. – Rachel Pieh Jones

How (and Why) We Should Be Telling the Stories of Quiet Influencers – Rachel Pieh Jones

I personally am so thankful for the many quiet influencers in my life and work. They are many and they are “just a little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8:5).

Thanks to Jones, I am feeling the need to capture some of their stories…so hopefully you’ll read about them here. How about you? Please comment about your quiet influencers in the Comments below. It’s a good start.Photo Credit: Facebook, Julie McGowan

3) Primary Physicians – You know you’re getting some age on when your doctor retires…especially when he is not so old, or so it seems.

Not everyone in the world has the privilege of having a family doctor. One who both cares for you and possibly your own adult children.

For over 10 years, we have had Dr. Bill Harrington as our primary physician. He’s been with us through all sorts of life transitions…as well as quite a few medical scares. I won’t go into the details here, but a physician who can get a hunch and follow it through – to discover cancer or a potentially life-threatening cardiac malfunction – is a tremendous asset. That is the kind of person Dr. Harrington has been to us. Wise, funny, thoughtful, and intuitive. We will miss him.

I’m counting on him still writing the poetry we have gotten to read – which he began writing just a short time ago. Definitely models for his patients how good life can be around every corner. Retirement blessings, Dr. H. Well-done!

4) Habits of Purpose – I’ve written about Justin Whitmel Earley. He is a very successful attorney who is now also a writer, speaker, and life coach.

Photo Credit: Joshua Straub

His book The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction has become one of my favorites. Below you can find a graphic that gives his habits of purpose in brief (some are daily practiced and some are weekly).

Earley’s website has lots of free helps on it and now he has produced a video series (also free) to help us move our lives more toward purpose. I’m hoping to gather a group of friends to have weekly evenings of watching the short video and talking about how we might incorporate those ideas into our lives. Good stuff!

The Common Rule – Book Review – Darryl Dash

5) Museums for All – We have a family membership to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Photo Credit: Visit Richmond Va

My daughter, grandchildren, and I visited the garden earlier today. It was a marvel, as always!

As we were leaving, I commented what a privilege it was to be able to afford a membership to such a beautiful place. It was then my daughter told me about the Museums for All program.

It flows out of an initiative of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) based in Washington, D.C. For anyone who has an EBT card (for supplemental food assistance), that person can buy and individual annual membership for a museum for $1 or a family membership for $5. That is an incredible benefit for those in our city who couldn’t afford a membership otherwise. So, yay for Museums for All!

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s it for this week. Although we still have days in the 90s, with the start of school and the small but clear changes in the environment around us, Fall is coming! I will leave you with a few images we all look forward to. Have a sweet weekend peopled with those you love.

Bonuses:

For you guitarists out there: Beyond the Guitar Academy

The Surprising Benefits of Talking to Strangers

On slavery in North America 400 years ago this August and slavery in the world today:

Photo Credit: Twitter, D. B. Harrison

The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes &

 

Photo Credit: Gzero Media

U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory: Marijuana Use & the Developing Brain

Perfect dessert at a friend’s house after we shared lunch. Fruit in a bowl from North Africa:

Photo Credit: Amazing Things, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – We Must Go – Justice of God – Tim Hughes

Photo Credit: Heartlight

He has shown you, O mankind, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?  Micah 6:8

For several weeks now, I’ve been reading the Scripture with God’s justice on my heart. It’s strange how I missed that in the past…sort of read over it. Struggled with it, so just chose (without thinking) to ignore it. In thinking about salvation, I had made it a matter of mercy rather than justice. My sins had separated me from God. Apart from relying on what Jesus did for me, those sins would have forever separated me from a holy God. What God did on the cross was justice… and mercy. Jesus who was without sin took my sin, all of it, upon Himself. Because of him, before God, I am justified. “Just-as-if-I’d” never sinned. Because of him, I can now live forever knowing God and being with Him…forever. It is an incredible reality this justice and mercy woven together.

God says something like this: Because I have saved you from Egypt, you should live like people who have been saved from Egypt. In the New Testament, Paul teaches the same way. He says that Christians are ‘dead to sin.’ Because they are ‘dead to sin,’ they should live like people who are dead to sin by putting sin to death (Rom 6:1-11). What God has done for us is the basis of what He commands us to do. The basic command is: Be the kind of people that the Lord has made you; live up to who you are. [Peter J. Leithart, A House for My Name: A Survey of the Old Testament (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2000), 79]

Micah 6:8 gives us direction on what God calls us to be and to do – He has given us so much – forgiveness of sins, abundant and eternal life, a right relationship with Him and the possibility of the same with each other, and work on this side of Heaven to point others to Him.

What does that look like? Micah 6:8 – Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. He calls His people to be like Him and to be His image-bearers in this world. To “be the kind of people that the Lord has made [us]; live up to who [we] are.”

How different our world might be if we as individual believers and the church at large walked humbly with God, acted justly toward others and loved mercy?

British songwriter/worship leader Tim Hughes has given us some great worship songs, including Here I Am to Worship. His call to justice and the God of Justice in the song below was new to me until this week.

Let’s worship together.

God of Justice, Saviour to all
Came to rescue the weak and the poor
Chose to serve and not be served

Jesus, You have called us
Freely we’ve received
Now freely we will give

We must go live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

To act justly everyday
Loving mercy in every way
Walking humbly before You God

You have shown us, what You require
Freely we’ve received
Now freely we will give

We must go live to feed the hungry

Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out Lord (x4)

Acting humbly
Loving mercy
We must go, we must go
To the broken
And the hurting
We must go, we must go

We must go live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go*

Whatever the “go” means for our lives each day, it can’t just be out of duty or self-interest. We go in obedience to God, and out of a deep love and gratitude. Oh Lord, thank You, that we can know you, and love others because You love them.

Let’s pray:
O God, you are always more ready to hear us than we are to call on you.
Hear us now as we turn to you.

We pray that you will help us truly be your church by seeking to serve
those who are little, last, least and left behind.

We pray for our world in which many starve and struggle to survive
while others have far, far more than they need.

We pray for our nation and our leaders, that the cries of injustice
will be heard above the clamor of corporations,
the needs of the vulnerable will come before the desires of the lobbyists,
the priorities of the poor will come before the positions of the powerful.

We pray for our communities, that we move from complacency to caring and action.
We pray for ourselves, for the courage to care when discouragement overtakes us,
for the energy to act for justice when day-to-day demands occupy us.

Ever present God, you have heard our prayers in the silence of our hearts and you hear us now.
We confess that we have dulled our ears to the cries of all who are hungry.
We confess that we have hardened our hearts to the plight of millions
living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet.

We confess that we have dimmed our hopes for a more just world
and our ability to make a difference.

Sharpen our ears we pray, to hear the voices of injustice and your call to us.
Sharpen our hearts to show compassion to all who are struggling.
Raise our hopes for how we can help bend the arc toward justice
and work for the world that you intend. 

These things we ask in the name of Jesus who sided with the poor
and reflected your intentions for the reign of God.
Amen.

Prayer adapted from “How Long Must I Cry for Help Bending the Arc for God’s Vision of Justice for Children” Children’s Sabbath, Children’s Defense Fund

*Lyrics to God of Justice/We Must Go – written by Tim Hughes

What Does It Mean to Do Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly (Micah 6:8)?

The Politics of Confrontation and Promise – Micah 6:1-8 – Benjamin Kautzer

Worship Wednesday – Why God? – Austin French

Photo Credit: YouTube

Suddenly a powerful wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on the young people so that they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you!” Then Job stood up, tore his robe and shaved his head. He fell to the ground and worshiped, saying: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of the Lord.” Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God for anything.Job 1:19-22

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” – John 6:66-69

This has been a week of disorienting grief across the U.S. Weekend shootings in El Paso, Dayton, and Chicago have rocked our country with so many dead and wounded…and everyone asks the question “why?”.

The answers to this question are complicated…beyond political, beyond ideological. As believers, we don’t look to government to answer because the losses we are experiencing go deeper than what a government can fix.
We go to God. How He must grieve at the madness happening in America right now. His grief must be ever so much greater than our own.

Singer songwriter Austin French, in introducing his song “Why God?” talks about the hard questions:

Why, God, do people have to die? Why does tragedy still have a place in the life of a Christian? Why another school shooting? God, why? Are You even here? Are You with us? These are real questions that inspired my song ‘Why God’ on my upcoming record. I believe that our God is a good father and we are his kids and He’s not scared of our questions. In those moments there’s tons of things in this life that we do not understand, but maybe we’re not supposed to. Maybe we’re supposed to need God, need a father who knows all things and holds all things in his hands. And that’s ok.” – Austin French

Photo Credit: Facebook, Austin French

When hard things happen in our lives, we grieve. We adjust to a new reality. We do what we can to make life better, to make the world better…to make things right.

For me, walking away from God is not an option. Where would I go? God is good even when the world is not. Even when the world has gone wretchedly wrong.

Worship with me.

Why God
Do people have to die
A daughter or a son
Sudden and so young
Long before their time?

Why God
Do people fall apart
A promise and a ring
Becomes a broken thing
A road that got too hard?

I don’t understand
But I understand

Why God I need You
It’s why God I run to Your arms
Over and over again
It’s why God I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life
And I find You are right by my side

Why God
Do we feel so alone?
Every single day
Fighting through the pain
Hoping there is hope

I don’t understand
But I understand

Why God I need You
It’s why God I run to Your arms
Over and over again
It’s why God I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life
And I find You are right by my side, ooh…

Give me a faith stronger than I have
I need to know when it hurts this bad
That You hold my heart when it breaks
And I’m not alone in this place

That’s why God I need You
Why God I run to Your arms
Over and over again
It’s why God I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life
And I find You are right by my side
Always right by my side
Even here in the why… God*

*Lyrics to Why God – Songwriters: Jeff Pardo, Mia Fieldes, Austin French, Jacob Harrison

Austin French Asks God Why

Austin French Music

El Paso and Dayton Mass Shootings – Christians Must Act As Well As Pray – Jamie D. Aten

I’m a Shooting Survivor – If You’re Going to Pray For Us, Here’s How – Taylor Schumann

Christian Leaders React to Mass Shootings: We Can’t Keep Going On Like This

5 Friday Faves – The Lion King, Ethnic Food, Biblical Justice, Raising Men and Women, and the iGeneration

Friday Faves – lightning fast. Hope your weekend is slowed-down – I’m counting on it!

1) The Lion King – Just released, The Lion King (2019) film is making all kinds of news because of it’s computer-animation (it all looks so real!). Best part of the movie is the nostalgia of the music score (by Hans Zimmer) updated from the original (1994) film. Here Nathan Mills arranged and performed the stunning instrumental piece, the main theme, “This Land”. Again, it is amazing how this guy can take a single classical guitar and move the hearer as the full orchestra did in the film. Goosebumps.

2) Ethnic Food – We all have our own version of ethnic food. It’s the food that calls the mind and heart back to our moms and our childhood homes. For our children, their sense of ethnic foods includes the biscuits and gravy of the southern US, tamaya (falafel) sandwiches of Egypt, couscous of Tunisia, tajine in Morocco, and authentic Mexican cooking of a dear friend transplanted in Morocco as well. What ethnic food resonates with you?

Egyptian Falafel Best in the World: BBC Report – Al-Masry Al-Youm

3) Biblical Justice – With all the cry for social justice in our world today, I’ve been immersing myself in the study of Biblical justice. Trying to figure out how we are to best respond to the poor and oppressed around us.

Author and New York City pastor Tim Keller has written a book entitled Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. In it, he calls the church, corporately and as individual believers, to answer God’s call for us to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). We are reminded of the two greatest commandments in the whole of Scripture: to love God with everything in our being and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).

Photo Credit: By Their Strange Fruit

“We instinctively tend to limit for whom we exert ourselves. We do it for people like us, and for people whom we like. Jesus will have none of that. By depicting a Samaritan helping a Jew, Jesus could not have found a more forceful way to say that anyone at all in need – regardless of race, politics, class, and religion – is your neighbour. Not everyone is your brother or sister in faith, but everyone is your neighbour, and you must love your neighbour.”Tim Keller

True Biblical justice will never be satisfied with government programs or tax increases to the rich. God’s call to us to act justly is very personal. We will default to always think the government doesn’t do enough or the rich are always people richer than us.

When we consider our role in our neighbor’s life…we look beyond those like us or those we like…we look for the neighbor who needs the same grace that we need(ed) from God…and, in obedience to Him, we extend grace as far as it has been extended to us.

World-changing. Life-changing. Our own, and our neighbor.

4) Raising Men & Women – We all hope to raise up our children to be men and women who care about people and put themselves out there for others. Raising Men Lawn Care Service was founded in 2015 by Rodney Smith, Jr.. He began this service out of a compassion for people who struggled with taking care of their lawns. Single moms, disabled, elderly, and veterans. He mentors boys (AND girls) in extending care to these by cutting their grass for free. Or shoveling snow, raking leaves, etc. Like with martial arts, he gives these young people t-shirts that distinguish them by how many lawns they have cut for free. This is his 50-yard challenge.

From his website, Smith says, “We are completely confident in the fact that we can provide a very inspirational program that focuses on channeling the energy that youths have in a positive way as well as helping those who need it the most. We know that sometimes youth want to help the community and sometimes people need it, but it can be hard to know who, why and where. We focus on getting all of this sorted out while also helping people around the area to care for and maintain their lawns.”

Watch the video and consider donating on his Amazon wish list.

Maybe more of us can start this sort of thing in our own communities.

5) The iGeneration – My husband and I are Baby Boomers and we have raised three Millennials – although in ways all three are old souls and resonate in ways with Generation X’ers and us. The youngest people being studied these days for common characteristics have been identified as Gen Z or iGeneration. They are the first to be born who will have neverknown a world withou internet connectivity. Author Eric Geiger wrote a summary piece on this generation, entitled Who Are the iGeneration and What Does Research Tell Us? He notes the research examined by Dr. Jean Twenge in her book iGen.

Photo Credit: NPS

In the piece above and its subsequent Part 2 on these precious young ones, he describes a generation that demands more care and careful direction from us olders. I won’t list all 12 of his characteristics (worth your read) but will list a few that have concerned me (for them and those in their future).

  • Because of the almost continual connection with electronic devices, they just don’t read as much as earlier generations.
  • Geiger gives an example of the yearbook day many of us older folks experienced growing up. In the Spring, we all got photobooks that captured our year – mostly highlights but the occasional losses – we signed each other’s books as a testament that we were there and we cared…or didn’t (depending on the friendship). These days, every day is yearbook day, and the highs and lows of that visual and emotional bombardment undermines the happiness of these young people. With unhappiness comes depression that seems too much a part of their experience.
  • With eyes riveted to screens, iGeneration young people have neglected social skills like eye contact, conversation, situational awareness, etc.
  • Less connected, in general. Less connected to community, to political party, to religion. Just less connected. Again, related to electronic device usage and the deluge of so much information and conflicting and argumentative opinion.

These are four out of the 12 that Geiger lists. Again, worth a read, especially if you have these young ones in your life.

Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z – Explained – Kasasa

That’s it for me for this week. Blessings on you. Thanks for taking the time to read what I post. Hope it encourages you as you do me.

Wednesday Worship – On Being Woke and What It Means to This Believer – Amazing Grace

Photo Credit: Statement on Social Justice

“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

The journey to being “woke” has been kin to my learning to drive. Dad taught me on his standard transmission pickup truck. A lot of starts and stalls as I learned how to manage the stick (gear) shift,  the clutch, and gas pedal (for you younger ones in America – probably a never needed skill).

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

[My description of this process of becoming “woke” may be offensive – I don’t go as far as some of my friends and you readers may think appropriate, but part of the “how far” comes out of many years working in the inner city where no amount of government aid seemed to get those we served where they dreamed or hoped of going…nor added to the dignity to whom they were as people. Like I said, with the driving illustration, I’m still learning.]

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

Earlier this week, we traveled back to Richmond from 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.

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 African-American 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 a sport-coat on 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 country, 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 – for those reading and not aware of American culture these days).

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

This man is still very much in my head…and heart as I write today. Being white and privileged (two descriptors it took me a long time to embrace as real things affecting my life experience), I don’t think that fellow traveler and I will 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 this experience (and others), here are four points of action in this being “woke” for 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 to protect them, when possible, from the injustice for which they are vulnerable. 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 others 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.

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 learning from today?

Worship with me today through this lovely 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

Oklahoma Tribal History

Reparations for Japanese-Americans

Worship Wednesday – In You Alone, I’m Satisfied – About a Mile

Image result for SatisfiedPhoto Credit: Journey Church, Gillette

I saw the Lord ever before me; because He is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices. Moreover, my flesh will rest in hope, because You will not abandon me in Hades or allow your holy one to see decay. You have revealed the paths of life to me;
You will fill me with gladness in your presence.Acts 2:25-28, Psalm 16:8-11

Is there a difference between being satisfied and being content?

A couple of days ago, I came across a friend’s Facebook post about struggling with contentment.Photo Credit: Jordan Smith, Facebook

She and her family had just returned from a trip states away where she caught up with her parents and siblings. It must have been a lovely visit because her Monday morning post ached with the longing of being nearer to the rest of her family. Over her coffee, she lamented that longing and wondered at her discontent.

I so resonated with her struggle as I have long had a similar one. The whole of our marriage has been spent being states away from parents and siblings…sometimes even countries away. Even with all the lovely good in our lives, that missing the close proximity of extended family disturbed my contentment on a regular basis.

Now we have the joy of living in the same city with our grown children and grandchildren, but the longing of being near our other family persists.

Wanting to spend time with those we love is a good thing. It is a desire that must please the Lord. He has prepared an Eternity for us to redeem the times of separation here – from Him and others we love.

My friend got me thinking about the difference in contentment and satisfaction.

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippian church gave excellent counsel about contentment. It was something he learned over his life:

I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13

We take heart that through life, we can learn contentment, too. Through life and relationship. Paul could wrestle with and win over discontent because of Jesus. Jesus gave him the strength to be content.

What I think the difference is between contentment and satisfaction is the focus or object. Various assaults may come against contentment for us – missing family, work disappointments, the drudgery of routines…and the list goes on. Contentment is very fluid. We can have some measure of contentment in every moment of our lives.

Satisfaction goes deeper, I think. When we take our eyes off of the disturbances of heart and mind and fix them on Jesus, we are satisfied. He is enough.

It is a matter…a discipline or habit…of returning to the only One who can wholly satisfy our hearts. Then whatever caused our discontent fades or, at least, perspective is restored.

The beautiful young friend above, with her Monday morning coffee and struggle with contentment, still gives witness to a heart satisfied with Jesus. That is one thing I know about her… The rest will work itself out.

Worship with me to Satisfied by brother band About a Mile:

Let Your song be the song I sing
Through the blessing and burdens this life will bring
In You alone I’m satisfied

Through the struggles I face
When contentment starts to fade
Through the constant wondering
When my doubt is crippling
This will be my, this will be my prayer

Let Your song be the song I sing
Through the blessings and burdens this life will bring
In You alone I’m satisfied
In You I’m satisfied

I’m letting go of my fears
And believing that You’re here
No matter what my future holds
You are God, You are in control
And this will be my, this will be my prayer

Let Your song be the song I sing
Through the blessings and burdens this life will bring
In You alone I’m satisfied
And all I need is Your sacrifice
I have more than I deserve
You gave me Your life
In You alone I’m satisfied

No matter the cost
I’ll take up my cross
And run to You, run to You
No matter the cost
I’ll take up my cross
And run to You, run to You

This will be my, this will be my prayer
This will be my, this will be my prayer

In You alone I’m satisfied*

Lyrics to Satisfied – Songwriters: Casey Brown, Adam Klutinoty, Jonathan Smith

On Being Content – Slideplayer

Satisfied in Jesus – Rick Higgins

Story Behind the Song – Satisfied – by About a Mile

About a Mile – Band Website