Category Archives: Grace

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

Photo Credit: The Cove

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship with me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Facebook, Elisabeth Panrucker

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

Jesus’ Love – Bible Reasons

Photo Credit: Jeremy Hunt, Douglass Leadership Institute

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

Photo Credit: Church Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship with Erskin and me, would you?

The most segregated time in our country

Is Sunday morning 11 o’clock

Black churches, white churches

Right next door

They’re on the same block.

Both with hands raised high for Jesus

Still a million miles between us

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

We all want to walk with Jesus

We all want to be about His will

How do we break down the unseen walls

Where bridges need to be built

This song may not change your mind

Jesus won’t let me keep it inside.

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Maybe it all begins

By not focusing on ourselves

Fixing our eyes on Him

Living our lives as friends.

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal.

Photo Credit: James Estrin, The New York Times

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

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

YouTube Video – Global Spirituality: Pastor Michael Walrond at TEDxHarlem

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

7 Key Characteristics of Diversity-Oriented Churches – Brian Leander

Racial Reconciliation in Richmond, Virginia? – Wendy McCaig

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

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

YouTube Video – Unwritten Black Church Rules – KevOnStage

YouTube Video – Black Church Phrases Explained – KevOnStage

Worship Wednesday – If I Stand – Rich Mullins

Blog - Rich MullinsPhoto Credit: azquotes.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

In these turbulent days, we are called to take our stand with or against. No middle ground. Seemingly no choice in the matter but with or against. Our culture seeks to define our choices. As believers, we once experienced the drawing of the Holy Spirit in a choosing of a loving Lord. Now we choose every day to shut out the noise that draws us away from Him, and to listen to that still small voice to choose life…to choose love…to choose Him.

This morning I want to focus on those in our lives who reflect this great God to us. Those who’ve gone before and in our lives today. Influencers. Not the ones in our culture who seek to tear down and condemn…but those whose own loving and steadfast hearts remind us of Jesus.

We stand “on the shoulders of giants” (attributed to Isaac Newton, but not original to him, standing on giant shoulders as well). How thankful I am for praying women, Godly teachers, sincere encouragers, true friends, and kind strangers. Among these as well are musicians who wrote and sang about the God they knew.

Worshipping God is something I long to do better. He is worthy of so much more. Fortunately for us, He has given heartsongs to a faithful few songwriters who put words to how we know, or want to know, God. Keith Green was one of those influencers in my life. I actually remember where I was when he died – working on a construction site in Surigao City, Philippines, over 30 years ago.

Another such influencer is…was Rich Mullins. His songs always help me shake off self and soar to worship God. He also died young in 1997. His legacy to us is song after song of gut-honest worship and wonder. He struggled in his own personal brokenness and that of our world. Yet he turned that into praise to a God who created all the beauty of this world for us and lavished His love on us, no matter what. Listen to this worshipper speak truth to you himself:

“The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart…It is not the collection of pretty little anecdotes mouthed by pious little church mice — it does not so much nibble at our shoe leather as it cuts to the heart and splits the marrow from the bone. It does not give us answers fitted to our small-minded questions, but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask.”  ― Rich Mullins

“God did not give Joseph any special information about how to get from being the son of a nomad in Palestine to being Pharaoh’s right hand man in Egypt. What He did give Joseph were eleven jealous brothers, the attention of a very loose and vengeful woman, the ability to do the service of interpreting dreams and managing other people’s affairs and the grace to do that faithfully wherever he was.”Rich Mullins

“I had a professor one time… He said, ‘Class, you will forget almost everything I will teach you in here, so please remember this: that God spoke to Balaam through his ass, and He has been speaking through asses ever since. So, if God should choose to speak through you, you need not think too highly of yourself. And, if on meeting someone, right away you recognize what they are, listen to them anyway’.”  ― Rich Mullins

“And then he [Job] went to God and wanted to know why the righteous suffer. And Beuchner points out, God never gave him an answer. That God merely gave him Himself. And when Job had encountered the Almighty, the questions lost their power over him. And I think that a lot of us are real interested in some easy answers, and some ‘Wow, if I can, if we can come up with some kind of an easy answer to make life comfortable…’ We’re much more interested in answers than we are in the Truth. And the Truth is always going to be a mystery. It will always be a paradox. It will always be a little beyond our grasp. And if we’re uncomfortable with that, that’s okay, because a little bit of discomfort will keep us moving.” — Rich Mullins

“Never forget what Jesus did for you. Never take lightly what it cost Him. And never assume that if it cost Him His very life, that it won’t also cost you yours.”Rich Mullins

Worship this beautiful, loving, just and merciful God with me:

There’s more that rises in the morning
Than the sun
And more that shines in the night
Than just the moon
It’s more than just this fire here
That keeps me warm
In a shelter that is larger
Than this room

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the giver
Of all good things

CHORUS:
So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

There’s more that dances on the prairies
Than the wind
More that pulses in the ocean
Than the tide
There’s a love that is fiercer
Than the love between friends
More gentle than a mother’s
When her baby’s at her side

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver
Of all good things

CHORUS(2x)

And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home.

“Like Thoreau, I love to suck the marrow out of the bones of life.  People want to know God’s will for them. In one of his most explicit statements on the subject, Christ said, ‘I come that you might have life and have it abundantly.’ One day it won’t make any difference how many albums I sold, but I will give account of my life to God. What I think He’ll be most pleased with is to see that we truly lived, that we were the person He created us to be.” Rich Mullins

Please share, in a comment below, someone who has influenced your experience of God because of how he/she knew Him. Thanks.

Blog - Rich Mullins 2Photo Credit: azquotes.com

Film- Ragamuffin – the True Story of Rich Mullins

Rich Mullins’ Biography – Wikipedia.com

*Rich Mullins’ Biography – ChristianMusic.com

YouTube Video – Interview with Sheila Walsh – 16:32 Rich Mullins talks about truth and comfort and then the extraordinary experience of the love of God. Don’t miss this vulnerable and personal look into the God who transformed his life…and music.

Worship Wednesday – You Will Never Stop Fighting For Me – Riley Clemmons

Photo Credit: Mazur, Flickr

“For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” – Deuteronomy 20:4

“Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you.” – Deuteronomy 3:22

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

I have struggled to find voice in recent days. We are bombarded, in recent weeks, by images of violence and hatred, of grief and bewilderment. Unbelievable the unrest in our country right now.

To what ends? Clearly something must happen to prevent further wrongful deaths…we have to figure out how to prompt change without destroying our neighborhoods. Fear is palpable. Fear and anger. Confusion and chaos.

As the church we are called to stand with each other, to show love without bias, to right wrongs, and to reflect the personhood of a holy and just God.

In our current situation, how to do this is not so clear. Even as clear as Scripture is. As clear as the life of Jesus is for us to follow.

Today, though, I have found some words. Hope has stirred. While the rioters burn, loot, vandalize and criticize, real transformative conversations are happening all around…beyond the noise of agitators. The church is listening.

A 60-minute Conversation on Race in America – SBC Executive Committee – Facebook

Our greatest hope comes from this: even though we might have thought being “color-blind” was a way to show love, even though we came late to understand something of the pain that others feel in this country, even though we rejected that we were racist or had “privilege”…God is showing us the way through to a reconciliation with Him and with each other. We may not outright hate people, beautifully made in His image, but indifference and closing our eyes to the pain of others is its own sin for which we need repentance. (Romans 12:3-5, 9-18)

God is faithful. He loves us. He stands up for us. He gives grace when our strength is gone. He forgives. He is for us, and He fights for us.

As we look to Him, we will see each other as He sees us…and we can love and stand with each other, as He does the same with us.

Worship with me to Riley Clemmons‘ anthem of praise to the God who fights for us and stands with us:

I need the kinda love
That can outlast the night
I need the kinda love
That is willing to fight

When the going gets tough
And my strengths not enough
I see You showing up like never before
This battle for my heart
You took on from the start
You are the peace when my mind’s at war
And oh

You will never stop fighting for me
When I can’t fight for myself
Every word is a promise You keep
Cause You love me like nobody else
You stand up for me in the darkest night
When my faith is weak You’re still by my side
You will never stop fighting for me
You will never stop fighting for me

In the perfect timing
You make all things right
You paint a silver lining
In this heart of mine

When the going gets tough
And my strength’s not enough
I see You showing up like never before
This battle for my heart
You took on from the start
You are the peace when my mind’s at war
And oh

You will never stop fighting for me
When I can’t fight for myself
Every word is a promise You keep
Cause You love me like nobody else
You stand up for me in the darkest night
When my faith is weak You’re still by my side
You will never stop fighting for me
You will never stop fighting for me

Your love
Is winning me over
Your heart
Is pulling me closer
Your love
Is winning me over
Your heart
Is pulling me closer

You will never stop fighting for me
Fighting for me
Every word is a promise You keep, oh

You will never stop fighting for me
When I can’t fight for myself
Every word is a promise You keep
Cause You love me like nobody else
You stand up for me in the darkest night
When my faith is weak You’re still by my side
You will never stop fighting for me
You will never stop fighting for me*

Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel, not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance–and this is from God. Philippians 1:27-28

“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – Jesus John 13:35

*Story Behind the Song Fighting for Me – NewReleaseToday – Kevin Davis

YouTube Video – Riley Clemmons – Fighting For Me – Piano Version

When Life Is Hard: 9 Reminders That “The Lord Fights For You” – Debbie McDaniel

Worship Wednesday – Standing Firm, Side by Side, Not Afraid – in God’s Strength and His Salvation

Photo Credit: Philipp M., Pexels

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. – the Apostle Paul to the Philippian Church Philippians 1:27-28

God’s Word is powerful and freeing. We are emboldened and sustained by it – for life, for love, for forgiveness, for endurance.

When I read this passage again a few days ago, a charge from these words sizzled through me like electricity. Goosebumps and all.

Another translation of Paul’s writing introduced the above Scripture passage with the phrase “Just one thing”. We are living in confusing and shaky times, but God is unchanged. His truth is as riveting and reliable as when first written for us.

For months now, we have been kept apart by the social distancing of COVID-19. Since last week, we have been brought together by the terrible loss of George Floyd. Brought together and at the same time torn apart. Protests and a pandemic. Racial unrest and a radical disease.

A group of friends and I are going through a Bible study together which has turned out to be incredibly timely. We can’t be together so we meet over a video call, working through Jennie Allen‘s Get Out of Your Head. In this book, Allen talks through our struggle with the kind of thoughts that spiral downward taking us with them. The text she takes her readers through is Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He was in prison and yet wrote this short life-transforming letter to encourage the church experiencing its own hardship.

In confusing and chaotic times, our thoughts can be our worst enemy. We juggle the “what if’s” until they become more than we can manage. We question what’s right, what’s true, what’s our place in all of it…what’s God’s place. We become suspicious of others’ motives, and even sometimes our own. We grow weary of sorting it all out. We can withdraw…making six feet apart way too easy.

Jennie Allen reminds us that we have a choice; we can flip the downward spiral. We can make our aim, in all things,God’s glory and His headship. Keeping our focus on God, we then seek peace, do justice, love even our enemies, and trust God with our lives (whether the threat is COVID and or violence in the streets).

“As theologian and emeritus professor D. A. Carson has observed, People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”Jennie Allen
So how do we avoid that drift Dr. Carson talked about above?
In community. Standing firm, side by side, not afraid – in God’s strength and His salvation – Philippians 1:27-28.
However, even if community is shaky, God never is. We remind ourselves and each other that He is our refuge and we never have to be shaken...no matter the situation.

Psalm 62 – Trust in God Alone

For the choir director; according to Jeduthan. A psalm of David

I am at rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will never be shaken.

How long will you threaten a man?
Will all of you attack
as if he were a leaning wall
or a tottering fence?
They only plan to bring him down
from his high position.
They take pleasure in lying;
they bless with their mouths,
but they curse inwardly. Selah

Rest in God alone, my soul,
for my hope comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will not be shaken.
My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock.
My refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts before Him.
God is our refuge. Selah

Common people are only a vapor;
important people, an illusion.
Together on a scale,
they weigh less than a vapor.
Place no trust in oppression
or false hope in robbery.
If wealth increases,
don’t set your heart on it.

God has spoken once;
I have heard this twice:
Strength belongs to God,
and faithful love belongs to You, Lord.
For You repay each according to his works.Psalm 62

Monday Morning Moment – Protests, Pleading, and Prayers

Photo Credit: John Englart, Flickr

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

How do we respond?

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

Photo Credit: David Sanabria, Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cry Out – Susan Lafferty

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

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

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

Today’s reading with our grandchildren…

Worship Wednesday – On Being Kind – and the Goodness of God

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

The LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.  Isaiah 30:18

Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor.  Romans 12:10

Photo Credit: Knowing-Jesus

You can spend hours reading all the passages in the Scriptures on kindness, graciousness, compassion, and love. Just soaking up the goodness of God and how He calls us to this same life of kindness to one another. Even, as the Romans 12 passage says above, outdoing each other in showing honor.

Last night I went out to help Dave with a chore in the driveway. Walking back into the garage, I found this sweet plant beside the door. It was a gift given without a name, “[Co]rona Make You Smile.” It did make me smile.

A sweet gesture for which I can’t even thank the person personally. So I will thank you here. You went out of your way to bless my life. Whoever you are…I felt the love of Jesus in this act of kindness. I felt your love whoever you are. Thank you. Thank God for you.

Kindness is so appreciated…so needed…in these socially distanced days. We can be kind to strangers, friends, and family alike. It becomes a way of life. For some, you beautiful, creative, generous souls, it seems completely natural…we learn from you who show kindness to all (or pretty much all), not just to those closest to you.

Do we only do kindness to those who deserve kindness?

Showing honor to only those who are clearly honorable?

No.

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

On this Worship Wednesday piece, I want to take and give opportunity to post shout-outs to those many acts of kindness we are receiving during this COVID-19 season. In so doing, we worship God as the source of the goodness we reflect and see reflected in others. We bear His image most radiantly as we lay down our own lives – our agendas, our preferences, our very selves – for others… in the name of Jesus.

  • Gifts of food (both receiving, participating in, and watching others blessing with food)
  • Human contact (phone and video calls, cards/letters, drive-bys, and 6 ft. apart visits in driveways, at doorways or windows)
  • Surprise gifts/special events (we have sweet and creative neighbors who major on this sort of expression of love – they are hard to keep up with but we all feel the energy of that challenge)
  • Providing service in creative ways
  • Using social media to encourage and empower (including video) – be bold; we welcome it.
  • Prayer

[Please use the Comments section below and post your shout-outs for kindnesses done to you or those done to others that inspired or uplifted you as well.]

Image may contain: Karen Walker, outdoor[A friend chalked a Bible verse on our driveway.]

Our married kids have socially distanced themselves for our sakes and so we can still see them and the grandchildren. Priceless. They are working at home so that helps, of course. Our youngest is considered an essential worker and has kept his distance from us, out of love. We miss him and do our own drive-bys talking together from the car as he visits from his yard. His kind of sacrificial love is also amazing.

These many weeks, with our schedules so altered, I’ve been keeping a journal of occasions of folks being kind. Sometimes it was my taking the opportunity, but more I have known the kindness of others. Never want to forget this brighter side of our pandemic experience. We could all use that God-infused kindness more than ever right now…both in reaching out and receiving.

I’ll close with this bit of a poem from many years ago but so resonates with this season.

Perhaps some future day, Lord,
Thy strong hand will lead me to the place
Where I must stand utterly alone;
Alone, Oh gracious Lover, but for Thee.

I shall be satisfied if I can see Jesus only.
I do not know Thy plan for years to come.
My spirit finds in Thee its perfect home: sufficiency.
Lord, all my desire is before Thee now.
Lead on no matter where, no matter how,
I trust in Thee. by Elisabeth Elliot, in her college years

5 Surprising Truths About Biblical Kindness – Davis Wetherell

6 Acts of Kindness During the Coronavirus Outbreak That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity – Kelsey Hurwitz

5 Friday Faves – Growing Up with Pixar, Pursuing Unity, Bringing Hope, Agility in Today’s Realities, and Making Music Happen

Happy Weekend! With so many of us either working remotely or with otherwise altered work situations, some rhythms are shifted. One for me is writing. I miss it. Please bear with me…and stay with me…as I carve out time and temperament to write something worth the read. You give me courage.

1) Growing Up with Pixar – Classical guitarist Nathan Mills (of Beyond the Guitar) knows exactly how to take any film song he chooses and draw out every bit of emotion possible. Related to Pixar, he did that previously with medleys of both the happy theme songs and the sad ones. This week, Nathan arranged and performed the heart-wrenching Randy Newman song “When She Loved Me”. You will recognize this song from the film Toy Story 2. It’s the poignant story of Emily and her cowgirl toy Jessie. At first, little girl Emily adores her toy and Jessie feels so loved, through their tireless play. Then…Emily grows up. Jessie ends up in a cardboard box donated to a charity. Many of our children have grown up with Pixar and have had lessons on life reinforced – love, loyalty, friendship, and determination – through these films. Nathan’s sweet rendition of this song will take you back.

Also check out his latest podcast on The Truth About Going Viral.

2) Pursuing Unity – We live in a world torn by division. Whatever our political ideology or religious fervor, we don’t have to just sit by and watch it burn. I am reminded of one who prayed for unity for us. One who died the next day in a world divided.

“May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.”Jesus, John 17:21-23

I want to align myself with those who choose unity…those who keep reasoning together, and refuse to hate, and who are determined to forgive and to find answers and to love no matter what.

Photo Credit: Wallpaper Flare

A veteran officer of the United States Marine Corps and a teaching pastor, Grant Castleberry, wrote exquisitely about pursuing unity. Here’s a bit of his article:

“The New Testament emphasis, over and over again, is that true Christian unity is only built on a right understanding of the gospel. No matter our national allegiance, economic background, political party, or ethnicity, the gospel unites believers in one faith, one ‘body’ (1 Cor 12:12, 17)…The family of God outstrips all our other allegiances and affiliations. This includes our allegiance to a political party or ethnicity. Identity, and therefore unity, in the New Testament is almost always linked to the fact that we have been united to Christ in faith through the gospel…we should be defined by a spirit of love and forgiveness…In our divided culture, unity in the Church will be only nurtured and maintained, using the methods and principles that Jesus and the Apostles have outlined for us in the New Testament…These bodies of believers, from diverse backgrounds and idealogies, will serve as beacons of unity in a divided world.”Grant Castleberry

3) Bringing Hope – What kinds of things have brought you hope in these days? I have experienced and observed so many acts of kindness – simple ones and costly ones. People being creative and hopeful themselves and lavishing it generously on others.

Actor writer John Krasinski is one of those persons. He created this little YouTube channel with the focus on Some Good News (in the face of all the bad). Only eight episodes in total but he celebrated so much in those eight weeks – health care and other essential workers, our beloved sports teams, and the big Spring events that have been disrupted (graduations, proms, weddings, etc) secondary to COVID-19.

John Krasinski Fights Back Tears During Emotional Some Good News Finale – Emily Belfiore

Column: What I’m Glad to Say Goodbye to John Krasinski’s ‘Some Good News’ – Mary McNamara

I guess John Krasinski has some projects coming up because he ended his broadcasts after the eighth episode. Or maybe with the opening up of our countries, we will be making even more good news. Like visits with beloved grandparents after three months of “social distancing”. Now that’s some good news!!!Photo Credit: Facebook, Eryn Cobb

Finally, the most hope-bringing message: “Jesus loves me/you; this I know!”

4) Agility in Today’s Realities – We often think of agility in terms of sports – that ability to change directions quickly, but it’s that and so much more. What does agility mean in life and work?Photo Credit: Gunther Verheyen, Scrum

We hear a lot these days about a “new normal” after we come out of the COVID-19 crisis. Maybe we are better off thinking not new but real – what is real now and how could it change or be changed?

Wisdom is taking what we are learning about this virus and maximize prevention and sound treatment while, at the same time, figure out how to still do life…work…all that matters to us.

Try things. Experiment. Think in teams. Acknowledge the fails. Try something different. Strengthen the successes. Broaden them.

I’m talking very simplistically here, but we have a lot of smart and innovative people out there. Let’s figure out how to be agile in our decision-making.Photo Credit: Facebook, TobyMac

5 Disruptive Leadership Trends that will Rule 2020 – Carey Nieuwhof

The Original 2020 Is History. 7 New Disruptive Church Trends Every Church Leader Should Watch – Carey Nieuwhof [insight beyond churches as well]

5) Making Music Happen – I had an opportunity years ago to direct a Christmas program in a tiny church in New Haven, Ct. It was a magical experience – for me for sure. Then years later, I had another opportunity to produce a fine arts program in a school in Casablanca, Morocco. Again, to bring singers and musicians together to make something beautiful was an incredible experience. Below are two videos of music that we might not have had except for COVID-19.

Also the following are now-famous songs from the film musical The Greatest Showman. They are “in the making” versions and bring us close to what it’s like for the singers to create something musical and joyful for us all. In the middle you’ll find another “virtual ensemble” bringing to life one of those great songs during the social distancing of today.

Bonuses:

Blue Bloods’ Reagan Family Dinner:

MercyMe’s Hurry Up  and Wait

Core Values List: 115 Values That I Filtered on Practicality – Darius Foroux

30 Days in the Shire – Adapted for Use in the Midst of Coronatide – Tea with Tolkien

“And people stayed at home
And read books
And listened
And they rested
And did exercises
And made art and played
And learned new ways of being
And stopped and listened
More deeply
Someone meditated, someone prayed
Someone met their shadow
And people began to think differently
And people healed.
And in the absence of people who
Lived in ignorant ways
Dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
The earth also began to heal
And when the danger ended and
People found themselves
They grieved for the dead
And made new choices
And dreamed of new visions
And created new ways of living
And completely healed the earth
Just as they were healed.”

The above poem was published on March 16, 2020, by writer Catherine O’Meara (aka Kitty O’Meara)

Photo Credit: Facebook, Elaine M. Lechanski

Photo Credit: Facebook; Wonders of Nature, Robert E. Saddler

Worship Wednesday – Something So Much Bigger Than Our Fear – Your Presence, Lord – Francesca Battistelli

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Where does fear come from? That fear that tears at our insides and causes our thoughts to scatter and light on the dreaded “what if’s”. That fear that draws us away from the promise of God’s constant care to the wrong thinking that we are left alone…to fend for ourselves and those we love.

It doesn’t come from God. I’ve written several times on one of my favorite and most fear-busting Bible verses, 2 Timothy 1:7. The Apostle Paul reassures us that God isn’t the One who causes us to fear. On the contrary, He actually gives us “power, love, and self-control/sound thinking”.

When we are tempted to fear, the struggle is against three “enemies of the soul” – the world, the evil one (Satan), and/or our own flesh (humanness).

We are presently hemmed in by a pandemic. COVID-19 has many of us on a sort of house arrest. It would be so easy to give into fear. Fear of the disease…fear of one another…fear of our own death or giving the virus to someone else.

Listen to what a pastor friend of mine says about how our core values as Christ-followers can be shaken as we are torn between living “safe” and living obedient to God.

“It is NOT NORMAL to view other humans (or ourselves) as potential carriers of death who must be avoided. To live and maneuver as if there was something so intrinsically deadly about people that we must constantly protect ourselves? This isn’t how human interactions and relationships are supposed to be! Make no mistake, this covid-19 stuff is causing relational trauma and teaching us things we will have to un-learn.

We are going to need time to readjust our thinking and prepare our hearts to be with people again. To allow ourselves to be (at least to a degree) unguarded and open. To look people in the eyes and communicate welcome and warmth, to mirror one another’s body language. To allow ourselves to be soothed by relationship, not threatened by it. To remember that God plans to use people in our lives for good.

We are not designed to adjust to a “new normal” that doesn’t allow for human connection. True, connection might look different for awhile. But we aren’t just biological cells prone to viruses; we are humans – image bearers – who are meant for relationship. Let’s not forget this!”Jared Corrie Burwell, Facebook

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

A couple of days ago, I finally got some needed dental work postponed for two months because of the social distancing. It was a chipped molar requiring a crown.

I am afraid of dental work. Afraid the pain will rip through the anesthetic. Afraid I can’t endure a long procedure. Afraid I could contract a deadly virus. You name it, I could fear it related to dentists.

Does that exhibit “power, love, or sound thinking?” Well, no. God knows this struggle and He keeps his promises. I am the frail one; not Him.

So I prayed…

During that longish time in the chair, I was supposed to be calmed by the repeat video on the screen in front of me. Beach, waves, blue sky. If fear is your foe, that scene can make you want to scream after awhile. Then the playlist…it was actually relaxing. Standard rock music of the 70s and 80s. Oddly, early in the “drilling” part of that experience, a familiar refrain, not from that era, penetrated my focused-elsewhere hearing.

“Your presence, Lord.” From a song I had heard often since it debuted in 2014.

Worship with me today, as I worshiped that day in the dentist chair:

There’s nothing worth more that will ever come close
Nothing can compare, You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free and my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen, of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free, and my shame is undone
By Your presence, Lord

Let us become more aware of Your presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness*

God is so kind to His children.

Whatever is causing us to fear at the moment – be it a dentist chair, an alarming symptom for which we await a doctor’s appointment, a complicated marriage, our sense of inadequacy with our children, or the visitation of COVID-19 itself on us or someone we love.

The world is full of stuff to fear, but God is with His. His presence ever with us. He will take us through whatever comes. He will rescue us.

I wish dentists would tell you, “We’re about halfway through…we have about 10 minutes and then you’ll be done.” “Almost over.” That didn’t happen at this visit. Just about the time I was about to ask for “a moment”…to stretch my back, calm my rising panic, and let my mouth relax from all the stretching…one more refrain broke through the 70s-80s songs.

It was the words “I will rescue you.” From singer songwriter Lauren Daigle‘s song “Rescue”.

And then, it was over. Oh, the dental visit lasted a bit longer, but I was calm again.

Some who read this may think I’m such a baby. In light of the huge threat in our world from this pandemic.

Maybe I am a baby…but, thank God, I’m His baby. These baby steps through small pains, small threats, small fears prepare me/us for the larger ones. Remembering that He is with us and He will rescue us… one way or another. Hallelujah!

He will never be shaken.
The righteous one will be remembered forever.
He will not fear bad news;
his heart is confident, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is assured; he will not fear.
In the end he will look in triumph on his foes.Psalm 112:6-8

Photo Credit: Roy T. Bennett, Twitter

Do you struggle with fear? How are you handling it? [Comment below.] Believe me, I’m aware of the struggle. Praise God, He is present with us.

*Lyrics to Holy Spirit [Your Presence, Lord] – Songwriters: Bryan Torwalt, Katie Torwalt

Worship Wednesday – My Fear Doesn’t Stand a Chance When I Stand in Your Love – Bethel Music – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – You Say – Lauren Daigle – Deb Mills

Mother’s Day – On Mothering and Grandmothering – a Life of Love, Launching, and Lifting to God

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Mom-pictures-for-website-0122.jpg

[Adapted from the Archives]

“She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31: 27-30

 My Mom was a treasure – a lavishing of God’s grace on four undeserving children. She was my best friend, and I miss her every day. She taught me the most important lessons of life – the value of hard work, loving and serving others no matter what, and a life of following God. I have written, not well enough, about her (here, here, and here, etc.). She was my hero, and, though she is in Heaven now, she still informs much of how I live life.

Whether we are mothers or not, we all have/had mothers. I hope yours was/is lovely, and Godly, and inspiring. Whichever is your situation, we have an opportunity to honor those who mother well and we have other opportunities to love and forgive those who didn’t so well. My children are grown, but “mothering” them still flows out at times. Now that their childhood is over, I miss those years (we forget the hard days, right?). Still, like my mom, I encourage and pray and marvel at how God moves in their lives. Grand-parenting is a sweet dividend to mothering – a season of pouring into those little hearts – wonder, love, and grace.

Today, I share a bit out of Ruth Bell Graham’s lovely book Prayers from a Mother’s Heart. Wife of Billy Graham, with the Lord now, Mrs. Graham compiled some of her own poetry, her daughter’s, and that of other Godly moms. She touches on all seasons of growing up and mothering. May your seasons, mothers and mothered, be touched by God’s deepest wisdom and dearest kindnesses.http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Blog-Mothers-Day.jpg

Prayers for Our Little Ones

“Lord, as I stand beside this crib, watching this little boy fall asleep…

his blond curls sticking to his small, damp forehead, his chubby fingers wrapped tightly around his blanket,

my heart is filled with emotion, wonder, and awe. I have so many dreams and ambitions for him.

Please help me to remember that he is first of all Yours, and that the most important thing of all is that he grow to love You and follow You. So, Lord, tonight I put aside any and all prayers that could have their roots in selfish motherly desires, and pray these words for him,

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/IMG_0022.jpg

Beloved child, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. (1 Cor. 15:58)

Because, Lord, if this prayer is answered, then one day I will be able to say with John that my greatest joy is knowing that my children are walking in the truth.”Gigi Graham

“Lord, remind me often that parents are intended to be a mooring post, a safe place to stay, a sure place to cast anchor come wind or weather. It is not the time for me to worry about the storms beyond the bay, for now we have the gift of a little time called childhood; tethered to love, the little boat bobs and weaves about the post – happy and secure!”Jill Briscoe

A Prayer for Hurting Mothers“Be tender, Lord, we pray with one whose child lies dead today.

Be tender, Lord, we plead for those with runaways for whom moms bleed.

But be tenderest of all with each whose child no longer cares…is out of reach.”Ruth Bell Graham

Turning Children’s Cares Over to God

“Lord, I think it is harder to turn the worries and cares of my children over to You than my own. For, through the years, as I have grown in faith, I have learned that You are merciful and kind.

Not one time have You failed me, Lord – why do I fear You will fail mine?” –  Ruth Bell Graham, Prayers from a Mother’s Heart

Happy Mother’s Day, Dear Ones. May this day not just be about flowers, cards, or dinners not made by our hands. May this be a day that’s full of encouragement for moms “to go deep into their gifts, to focus on their Maker or to see how we’re made and who we’re made to be. …to live out faith in daring, dangerous ways…to know God better.” (Caryn Rivadeneira)

Love You Forever.

Dedicated to my mom-in-love, Julia – who loves us with bold devotion and fierce determination – giving us an example to do the same…http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/MomMom-Nathan-Daniel-2015.jpg

and to my fellow moms-in-law with whom I get to share a sisterhood in love.

Prayers from a Mother’s Heart compiled by Ruth Bell Graham

Mother’s Day Sermons…Ugh

Surprised by Motherhood – Lisa-Jo Baker’s Must-Read for All Women and the Bravest of Men

Mother’s Day 2015 – Top Favorite Quotes, Bible Verses, and Holiday History

A Long Motherhood – A Poem for Mother’s Day by John Piper

My Mom – Mildred Byrd McAdams – Memorial

Celebrating the Faith and Work of Our Mothers

A Prayer for Young Moms of Little Ones – my archives

The Season of Small Ones – Mother, God, and Gandalf – archives

Mothering Through the Seasons – Eyes on God and His on Me – archives

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch & Sheila McGraw

Blog - Mother's Day - Love You Forever

“I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.”