Category Archives: Attending or Focus

Worship Wednesday – Godspeed – Just a Closer WALK with Thee

Photo Credit: Screenshot from Godspeed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So thanks, Pastor Cliff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[All screenshots above taken from the documentary Godspeed]

Monday Morning Moment – Empowered People – Reckoning with a Victim Identity

Photo Credit: The Minds Journal

We hold the doors open for each other.

In recent days, I’ve marveled at common spaces we share in the world.

Out early in the morning, we pull into Wawa for coffee,  and gas if we need it (maybe where you are the gas station/convenience store has another name). On the way to our jobs or appointments. We wait on each other topping off our coffee per personal preferences. We share spaces. We check out together.

We hold the doors open for each other.

In the line at UPS, we wait. We are there to mail packages, return items, or maybe get a passport picture. We wait together. Young and old. Latino, Asian, Black, White. We wait and we hold the door open for each other.

Sitting or standing in the crowded reception area of the local free clinic, we wait to be seen. Again, a wide mix of people. All of whom, except for me, were not born in the US. [I was there with an Afghani refugee lady, helping her get medical services.] All of us there having successfully jumped through the hoops of obtaining that first appointment. We have this in common. We share this comradery.

We hold the doors open for each other.

In all these situations…and others…we are people with stories not necessarily known and yet with common threads. We have our stories. Both victim and victor stories. We do not have to choose to be defined by them…especially not the victim stories.

By definition, a victim is someone who has been injured, harmed, has suffered as a result of circumstances or what we consider to be disrespectful behavior from others. Linda and Charlie Bloom

The Victim Identity: Signs and How to Recover – Linda and Charlie Bloom [Quick read in 3 parts. Excellent resource.]

Maybe it’s different where you are in the world, but in our current socio-political system and culture, we are grappling with critical theory – the push to believe that all of humanity is either in the oppressor camp or the oppressed camp.

Deconstructing Critical Theory: Oppressed and Oppressor – Kevin Watson

Are there oppressors in the world? Absolutely. Are there those who are or have been oppressed? Unfortunately, also yes.

However, we, as peoples, are neither only oppressed or oppressor, in our fullest identities. We can rise up; not pointing fingers at each other, but in a larger understanding of one another. Not being subservient to either worldview.

Overcomers…

For those of us who have capacity and capability to help others, we help most effectively and comprehensively by influencing a pathway forward for those who have identified themselves as victims.

Or maybe the victim mindset was thrust upon some. A very wise person said to me just this morning, “If you want to ‘control’ people, convince them they are victims”.

Think about it…that is definitely oppressor behavior…and yet sometimes it is communicated by those in positions of power or influence who seem the most benevolent.

  Photo Credit: Courtney Wadley

As for doors? Most doors are closed; that’s their nature. That is their purpose. No added meaning. Sometimes, oppressors lock doors and control who goes through. Those who primarily think of themselves as victims may feel intimidated or persecuted at the prospect of prying open the door. If we look at doors as both giving access and protecting from evil (whatever that is), we use them accordingly. Most people, thankfully, hold the doors open for each other…and will continue to do so no matter how culture changes.

How we self-identify matters, in terms of a way forward. When we see ourselves as victims, our sense of agency or self-empowerment is diminished by our own mindset. Then there are the myriad of messages calling us to align ourselves with victimhood. These messages come from both well-meaning people and those who would seek to pigeon-hole us in ways we can be exploited.

All the scenarios mentioned at the start of this piece have stories attached to them. I don’t know those stories, but I do know many others. We all do. Telling and living our stories truly make for real legacy, for ourselves and our children.

Bad things have happened to us (some more than others). We can learn from each other if we are willing.

A victim mindset imprisons both the one who was harmed and the one who did the harming…as well as those in between who want to help but may not know how…yet. What a difference if we can empower rather than impoverish. Embrace CommunitiesWendy McCaig trains people to understand and operate with this worldview. Away from identifying victims and just doing “for” people as if they can’t possibly do for themselves. She lives and teaches to do “with” people, together discovering giftings and orchestrating opportunities to express those giftings (along the way, strengthening their families and communities).

In this way, we hold the doors open for each other.

Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig, Embrace Richmond, Embrace Communities

YouTube Video – TED Talk – How I Stopped Being a ‘Victim’ and Restarted My Life – Arman Abrahimzadeh

How to Know if Your Victimhood Has Become Your Identity – Rick Thomas

Monday Morning Moment – Building and Re-building Community – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Steps Forward in “We the People” Becoming True for All Americans – Deb Mills

Sunday Reflection – Am I My Brother’s Keeper? On Neglect – Part 1  and Part 2 – Deb Mills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Paul Ekman Group

The Ethical Skeptic writes:

Specifically, people lie in order to

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Riddle of Sin – The Ethical Skeptic

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

 

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

Photo Credit: Facebook, Sarah DeJarnette

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonuses:Photo Credit: Picture Quotes

For the Joy!! – Kattie Normand, Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

40 Random Pieces of Advice for the Christian Life

Worship Wednesday – Remember – Maverick City Music x UPPER ROOM

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Jeremy Taylor

From the mouths of children and infants You have ordained praise on account of Your adversaries, to silence the enemy and avenger. When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place – what is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him?Psalm 8:2-4

Let’s just start right here. It’s been difficult for me to write a Worship Wednesday this week because the news has been so distracting and demoralizing, even defeating at times.

How do we let that happen? Given the God we know who also knows us (1 Corinthians 8:3). Nothing in our world right now is a surprise to Him. Is He angry at how sin is abounding? Absolutely. A pure and measured anger. An anger that accompanies His perfect compassion for the suffering of His children.

Gentle and Lowly – the Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers – Dane Ortlund – highly recommend this for our comfort in knowing Jesus

In this season of distress, our own compassion is matched by our accompanying anger at the wrongs around us. Our attention is drawn to what’s seen and we forget the glorious unseen.

Author, pastor Tim Keller‘s tweet helped me clear my head.

Photo Credit: Twitter –  @timkellernyc

Oh Lord, help us remember You. You are near and You are wholly and perfectly feeling the pain this world is experiencing. Your plan is in motion…whether we see it or not. You are moving in our lives today. We do not need to fear. Our eyes are on You right now.

Maverick City + UPPER ROOM‘s song Remember applies well to these moments of upheaval and struggle. It reflects Jesus’ command to remember Him through the Lord’s Supper and takes it farther to a daily sacrifice of praise. What He did for us we could not do for ourselves or each other. The Lord Jesus is still our advocate and intercessor. Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: Timothy Keller, Quote Fancy, Get Wallpapers

Worship and remember with me.

We see You on the cross
And You’re beautiful, God
The blood speaks a better word, yeah

The bread, Your body
The wine, Your blood
Sweet communion
You set a table for us
The crucified Jesus
No greater love
Than the bread, Your body
Than the wine, Your blood

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember
Yes, we will, yes, we will
Yeah

The holes in Your hands
And the wounds in Your side
Thirty-nine lashes
Brought me back to life
And before resurrection
There was a grave
In hell, there was a battle
And my life was saved

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

Yes, we will, yes, we will (Hey)
Oh, we can see it now
And we can see how (Mmm, yeah)
Oh, Your blood made a way
Your blood made a way
Hey, hey

And this is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, would you look at Him?
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him

And oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, would you just look at Him? Look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, would you just look at Him?
Oh, our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, won’t you look at Him?
Oh, our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him (Look at Him)
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him (Look at Him), oh (Hey)

Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (Look at Him, look at Him)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (Look at Him, look at Him)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His eyes like fire)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His hair like wool)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His feet like brass)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (He’s beautiful)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His eyes like fire)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His hair like wool)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His feet like brass)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (He’s beautiful)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him, oh

Oh-oh, we will remember (Oh, hey)
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, hey, we will remember

And how could we forget?
After what we’ve experienced
Oh, it’s unforgettable (Woo)
It’s unforgettable
Oh, how we could forget? (Look at Him)
After what we experienced
Oh, up from the muck and the miry clay
He lifted me (He lifted me)
Up from the muck and the miry clay
He lifted me (He lifted me)
Oh, I remember, I won’t forget
How He took my life from the pit (Hey)
I remember, I won’t forget
How He took my life from the pit, oh
We remember, we won’t forget (Yeah, yeah)
How You took our lives from the pit
We remember, we won’t forget
Look at where we are now
Look at where we were back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our life from the pit (Hey)
Oh, we remember, we won’t forget
Look at where I am now
Look at where I was back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our life from the pit (Yeah)
We remember, we won’t forget
Look at where I am now
Look at where I was back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our lives (From the pit), hey
We remember, we won’t forget
(Look at where we are now)
Lift your voice, lift your voice

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior (Oh, just to know you)
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember*

We are far from unmoved by the news of the day – war, wildfires, abortion battles, soaring prices, drug deaths, and racial divides. Yet, in the midst of being the church in these situations, we turn our eyes to Jesus, fix them on Him…and remember.

*Lyrics to Remember by Maverick City x Upper Room

YouTube Video – Remember (Shortened Version) – Lyric Video

Photo Credit: Timothy Keller, Quote Fancy

Photo Credit: Heartlight, C. S. Lewis

Monday Morning Moment – Who Needs Sharpening?

We lose our edge sometimes.

Once a month I volunteer to teach in the children’s program at church. Second through fifth graders. They happily burn through a lot of activities in a short amount of time, for sure. When I opened the supply cabinet to retrieve colored pencils for them, the image above is what I discovered. Now, to be sure, we still had enough colored pencils, but it struck me with the thought of how life itself renders us in need of sharpening.

We lose our edge sometimes with the press and pressures of daily responsibilities and relationships. We get dull, and we don’t even see it in ourselves. What a blessing to have people in our lives who not only know and love us enough to speak truth to us, but who also lean in and help us out of the ditches or ruts in our lives…before we decide just to stay camped there.

Counselor, writer Barry Pearman posted a practical and easy read: Sharpening: A Spiritual Habit for Better Mental Health. He tackles this topic of sharpening and offers a 5-point solution:

  1. Recognize our need for help. This may come from another’s assessment or our own awareness of a growing fatigue and disengagement.
  2. Lean in to sharpening with someone you trust. Once our quality of life or relationships gives notice that we have gotten ourselves into a rut, ditch, or dull place, we may be able to turn it around without help. However, having a partner in “sharpening” our lives speeds and enhances the whole process.
  3. Beware of how the past shapes our responses (and dulls our edge – these can be past inclinations, besetting sins, defaults – the ruts and ditches we’re prone to fall into). Pearman asks what is our true north and where are we on that thinking compass.
  4. Develop habits of sharpening. What practices each day can be a refresh for us? [This is what Stephen Covey prescribed in his classic book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The article by The 10-minute Leader gives quick helps for habit formation in this area of sharpening.
  5. Keep accountable within community. Seek out a small group of like-minded and like-focused individuals who practice iron sharpening iron with each other. “Sharpening the saw”, as Covey calls it, will make sparks fly. We need people who are committed to each other in such a way they just don’t leave the room.

If you got a bit tired reading these 5 points, you may need sharpening. Not to improve productivity necessarily (that’s not what we’re talking about here), but to improve your well-being. Your joy in life. Your relationships. No judging here, by the way. We all need sharpening as part of life. We can’t always see it ourselves…but once recognized, we can act on restoring beauty and balance in our lives.

Photo Credit: FranklinCovey, Stephen Covey, Kim Kerrigan

Would you consider it? Talk to someone you trust. As for the problem of pencils above? I actually think some of them were still usable. For the others? I ordered a best-of-the-best electric pencil sharpener…we’ll see how long it lasts. [Comment below if you want to recommend one…for the next time our sharpener dies. Fortunately for us, when we need sharpening…no purchase is necessary.

10 Ways to Sharpen the Spiritual Saw – Jean Wise

The 7 Habits: Sharpening the Saw – Brett & Kate McKay

Jesus and Holy Week – Thursday, Day 5 – Passover Celebration and His Last Supper Before the Cross

Photo Credit – Baptist Press – Courtesy of DeMoss News Pond

[Adapted from the Archives]

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

The Thursday before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion was the awaited celebration of Passover. In this day, we have a picture of Jesus, in all his humanity, and in all his deity. All four of the Gospels written about Jesus’ life have the account of this day’s events (Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14; Luke 22:7-65; John 13:1-18:27).

After sunset, the Jewish people would take the Passover meal together – as families usually. They would share the Seder and remember how God protected them during the days of their slavery in Egypt. Photo Credit: Seder Meal, Robert Couse-Baker, Flickr

When Jesus and his disciples gathered around this meal, there was not just looking back, but also a looking forward. The disciples still may not have understood that Jesus was hours away from dying. However, I’m sure they listened carefully to his teaching in those sacred moments together.

This Thursday is known as Maundy Thursday. Maundy means “commanded” and also can refer to the ceremonial washing of feet.  Jesus took upon himself to wash the dusty feet of his disciples, modeling for them his command to love one another (John 13:34-35).Photo Credit: Heartlight

After Jesus and his disciples finished their meal together, he would go into the garden Gethsemane to pray. They were all with him, except Judas Iscariot, who had stolen away during the meal. He would bring Jesus’ enemies to trap him there in the garden in the dark of night. Jesus prayed there for a long time that evening. He wrestled with his heavenly Father over the need for him to die. “Oh my Father, if it is possible, let this cup [of suffering and death]pass from me.” Then, settled in his obedience, “O my Father, if this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” [Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:42]Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Sometime during that dark night of the soul, he turned his attention toward his disciples and all the rest of us, across the ages, who would follow him. His prayer to the Father, recorded in John 17, is exquisitely beautiful, especially in the context of this difficult night. [Take time to read it in full, but I’ve included a part of it below.]

“Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.  I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

Then out of the darkness, Judas came to betray Jesus. He was leading a group of the religious leaders, along with a huge company of soldiers. Although Jesus’ disciples wanted to resist his arrest, Jesus refused their intervening and surrendered himself…not to the mob, as much as to the will of the Father.

The betrayal was complete. His disciples fled (although those closest to him would soon follow after him). Jesus would spend the rest of the night in the tormenting custody of his enemies. The countdown to the cross had begun in earnest. A countdown that actually began at the Fall of humanity, and, under the careful watch of God, our Father…a countdown toward restoring us back to Himself.

One more day

YouTube video – Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn) by Keith & Kristyn Getty

Spotify Playlist From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Beth Wayland

Holy Week – Day 5: Thursday’s Passover, Last Supper – Mary Fairchild

Maundy Thursday 2015: The History Behind The Holy Thursday Before Easter – Also enjoy the beautiful Lent Meditations Slideshow at end of article.

Worship Wednesday – Jesus & Holy Week – Day 4 – A Day of Quiet Before the Storm – & We Worship

Photo Credit: Baptist Press

[Adapted from the Archives – search blog under Holy Week for the description of the other days of this history-changing week.]

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels…fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.Revelation 7:9-11

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”  – Revelation 5:12

There appears to be nothing recorded in Scripture of events surrounding Jesus on the Wednesday before his crucifixion. Nothing. After two difficult days dealing with his enemies and accusers, it is quite possible that he took a rest. A Sabbath rest. Given the terrible nature of what was ahead of him, starting just the next day, he could surely use a day to rest and reflect. To remember how the Father had sustained him through all the strains of his public life. To refresh himself in prayer and in the company of those on earth who loved him most – his disciples, his friends, possibly his family. We know no details of that day.

Silent Wednesday.

Since we also know what is coming for Jesus…and all for our sakes…we pause today, as well, to worship. He is the perfect lamb, without blemish, perfectly fit to be offered as a sacrifice for our sins. God provided a ram for Abraham to take his son’s place in that strange and amazing sacrifice on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:1-14). This was a foreshadowing of our own need for a Savior. We also can be saved by the blood of “the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Photo Credit – Baptist Press

Jesus was not killed on that Friday, two days hence. His life was not taken. Not by the Jewish or Roman authorities. He gave his life…for us…there are no words adequate to respond…worship is all we have.

Photo Credit – Baptist Press

Worship with me:

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, Holy, is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s Mercy Seat
[Repeat 2x]

(Chorus)
Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And I will adore You…!
Yeah!

Clothed in rainbows, of living color
Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor, strength and
Glory and power be
To You the Only Wise King,
Yeah

(Chorus)

Filled with wonder,
Awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your Name
Jesus, Your Name is Power
Breath, and Living Water
Such a marvelous mystery
Yeah…

(Chorus)

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come,
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And – I – will – adore YOU…

(Chorus)

(Repeat a cappella)

Come up lift up His Name
To the King of Kings…
We will adore YOU Lord…
King of heaven and earth
King Jesus, King Jesus
Aleluya, aleluya, aleluya!
Majesty, awestruck Honor
And Power and Strength and Dominion
To You Lord,
To the King, to King
To the King of Glory

Chorus (Repeats)*

*Lyrics to Revelation Song written by Jennie Lee Riddle

Story Behind Revelation Song – Jennie Lee Riddle’s vision of the Church wholly united in worship of God – here as we will be one day in Heaven

YouTube Lyric Video – Revelation Song – Kari Jobe – Passion 2013

Holy Week – Day 4: Silent Wednesday – Mary Fairchild

Spotify Playlist From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Beth Wayland

How is Jesus the Lamb of God?

Podcast – Easter and Hymns with Keith Getty – Rainer on Leadership

Holy Week Timeline Graphic

YouTube Video – Is He Worthy (feat. Chandler Moore & Nate Moore) – Maverick City/TRIBL

 Photo Credits – Baptist Press

Palm Sunday – Day 1 of Holy Week – Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on the Way to the Cross

Photo Credit: Knox United Vancouver

[Adapted from the Archives]

For you critical thinkers, this week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one worthy of analysis. No matter your religion or non-religion, this Jesus, in these days, warrants examination, related to anything you may think of God. You will better understand the core beliefs of a Christ-follower, not just a person known to you as Christian. For in the study of Jesus’ life and his followers, in just this one week, you will see a deep distinction between “the religious” and “the redeemed”.

{Sidebar: I taught a World Religions course some time ago in a Moroccan high school. In that course, we studied all the major religions. The students were challenged to think critically of each religion. They were to study each religion in this way:

  • trying to put themselves in the perspective of one who believes (i.e., a true follower, using eye witness/historical accounts and Scriptures when available), and then
  • analyzing each belief/tenet of faith critically.

Any of us can benefit thinking through Holy Week this way; none will not come away the same by examining the life of Jesus.]

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Palm Sunday is celebrated as the “triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem, just days before he would endure a mock trial and then be crucified. He and his closest followers (disciples) came to Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover. Passover was an annual remembrance of God’s protection and deliverance of Israel during a time of slavery (Exodus 12:26-28). Jesus would celebrate Passover on Thursday of that coming week, but he did not come to Jerusalem for that reason alone.

He knew from his Father God why he came to Jerusalem, and he tried to prepare his disciples for what was coming.

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.Matthew 16:21

And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved. – Matthew 17:22-23

As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death,  and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”Matthew 20:17-19

I can’t even imagine what those disciples must have felt as Jesus predicted his own death. They loved him and all pledged their lives to him, even to death. They believed him to be the conquering king, sent by God, to deliver the Jews from Roman rule and to restore the nation of Israel. Although they had soaked up three years of his teaching, this “end of the story” was more than they could bear. Just a week later, they would gloriously understand that it would not be the end of the story of Jesus’ life.

On this Sunday, before the Passover, Jesus would enter the great city of Jerusalem, teeming with crowds there to celebrate. He entered, riding a donkey*, as was foretold by the Jewish prophet Zechariah:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

Imagine the scene as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Some in the crowd did recognize him, and then the word spread of the arrival of this great teacher, this healer, this man whose teaching was like none before him. Palm branches were pulled to wave in tribute to him, as others flung their cloaks on the dust before him welcoming him:

Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna** to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?”Matthew 21:8-10

“Who is this?” For those who did not know him, the wild welcome for him must have been confusing and captivating. For the religious authorities in Jerusalem, who knew him and were unwilling to welcome this “king of the Jews”, his popularity was infuriating.

The clock began ticking as they plotted against this man Jesus.

Over that bright hopeful day of palms hung the shadow of the Cross – the Cross that would bring even greater hope to all people. The “Hosanna” of Palm Sunday would change to cries to “Crucify!” just five days later. Jesus had no ambition to please the crowds; he was resolutely on task to redeem those who could not redeem themselves – the whole world.

[Each day in this week, the posts will mark the journey of Jesus of Nazareth through the last week of his earthly life. Join me please.]

*Matthew 21:1-11 & Commentary

**”Hosanna” means “God saves”.  YouTube lyric video of Hosanna – Hillsong

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

Holy Week Timeline

Look, the World Has Gone After Him: Prelude to Palm Sunday – Jon Bloom

The Significance of Palm Sunday in Relation to Passover

Kings Riding on Donkeys? What? – Christopher Mark Van Allsburg

Photo Gallery: Egypt’s Coptic Christians Celebrate Palm Sunday – When our children were young, we lived in Cairo, and bought palm fronds to make some of these crafts, as well as buying them ready-made.

Worship Wednesday – Most Beautiful/So in Love – Maverick City Music

Photo Credit: Do Not Depart

One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple…When You said, “Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek.”…I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD! – Psalm 27:4, 8, 13-14

Walking through our local botanical garden today, I was reminded of the exquisite beauty of God. The tulips. The flowering trees. So much color. The bluest of skies and the sun breaking through the white clouds. My friends and I were surrounded by such natural splendor that it would be easy to get lost in it.

Flowering Trees at Spring in NYC Parks

Yet, at every turn, we had opportunity to worship God. He is the source of all this beauty. Creator God. How loving and kind of Him to bless us with this profusion of Spring! I’m sure He loves it even more than we do. 

As white petals fell like snow from the Callery pear trees, the beauty of it all filled our winter-weary hearts. So thankful for this perfect day…authored for our pleasure by a loving Father.

This afternoon, I found this little poem by Charles Johnson:

Look at the trees
And what do you see?
The beauty of God.Look at the flowers
And what do you see?
The beauty of God.Look at the sky
And what do you see?
The beauty of God.Now, look in the mirror
And what do you see?
The beauty of God.It’s easy to see the beauty of God in tree and flower. Harder to see it in ourselves sometimes…yet we are made in His image.

In reflecting on His beauty, it’s evident in every mercy. Every grace. Every redeemed moment of our lives. In joy and in sorrow, He demonstrates His great care for us. It’s such a beautiful thing.
He is beauty…infinite beauty. We will enjoy Him forever. Today and forever.
Maverick City Music collaborated on the song Most Beautiful/So in Love. It’s a love song to our beautiful Lord and Savior.

Worship this beautiful God, with me (lyrics and music in link).

We’re in love with You
No one else can take Your place One thing I desire
Only this I seek
Just to dwell, dwell, dwell
Here forever This will be my posture
Laying at Your feet
Oh just to dwell, dwell, dwell
Here forever Dearest Father
Closest Friend
Most beautiful
Most beautiful (You are)
Dearest Father
Closest Friend
Most beautiful (You are, You are)
Most beautiful One thing I desire
Only this I seek
Just to dwell, dwell, dwell
Here foreverThis will be my posture
Laying at Your feet
Oh just to dwell, dwell, dwell
Here forever(Dearest Father) Dearest Father
(You are) Closest Friend
Most beautiful
(Your presence) Most beautiful
(You are Dearest Father) Dearest Father
(Closest Friend) Closest Friend
(Your face) Most beautiful
(Your love) Most beautiful
(Dearest Father) Dearest Father
(No one more loving) Closest Friend
(You are) Most beautiful
(Only You) Most beautiful
(Dearest Father) Dearest Father
Closest Friend
Most beautiful
Most beautifulThere are no words
There’s nothing left
So our love sings to You (Hallelujah)
Oh-oh-oh (Hallelujah, hallelujah)
There are no words (Yeah, yeah)
There’s nothing left
Our love sings to You
Oh-oh-oh (Oh-oh-oh)
(There are no words) There are no words
(To describe Your love) There’s nothing left
(Our love) Our love sings to You
(That’s all we have left to offer) Oh-oh-oh
(Are no words) There are no words
(There’s nothing left) There’s nothing left
(Our love) Our love sings to You
(Oh-oh-oh) Oh-oh-oh
(There are no words) There are no words
(To describe Your presence) There’s nothing left
(Our love) Our love sings to You
(Oh-oh) Oh-oh-oh
(There are no words) There are no words
(To describe Your presence) There’s nothing left
(Our love) Our love sings to You
(Oh-oh) Oh-oh-oh

Dearest Father
Closest Friend
Most beautiful (Only You are)
Most beautiful (Just one glimpse at Your face, You are)
Dearest Father
Closest Friend (The closest Friend)
Most beautiful (You are, You are)
Most beautiful

Oh, and there are no words
There’s nothing left
Our love sings to You
Oh-oh-oh
(Are no words) There are no words
(‘Cause You’ve been that good to us) There’s nothing left
(‘Cause You’ve been that faithful to us) Our love sings to You
(My love, my life, let it sing) Oh-oh-oh
(There are no words) There are no words
(This is my story) There’s nothing left
(This is my song) Our love sings to You
(Praising my Savior, all the day long, all the day long) Oh-oh-oh
(There are no words) There are no words
(There’s nothing left) There’s nothing left
(Our love, our love, our) Our love sings to You
(Oh-oh) Oh-oh-oh
(Lift up your worship, lift up your worship) There are no words
(Yea-eah) There’s nothing left
(Yea-eah) Our love sings to You
(Oh-oh) Oh-oh-oh
(There are no words) There are no words
(There’s nothing left) There’s nothing left
(Our love) Our love sings to You
(Oh-oh-oh-oh) Oh-oh-oh

I’m so in love with You
You’re beautiful
So beautiful
I’ll fix my eyes on You
You’re beautiful
So beautiful
(I’m so in love) I’m so in love with You
(You’re beautiful) You’re beautiful
(So beautiful) So beautiful
(You’re the Author and the Finisher) I’ll fix my eyes on You
(You’re beautiful) You’re beautiful
(So beautiful) So beautiful

So with just one look
Everything changes
I’m captivated
I’ll never be the same
With just one look
Everything changes (Yes, it does)
I’m captivated (Yes, I am)
I’ll never be the same (Say it y’all)
With just one look
(Everything) Everything changes
(I’m captivated) I’m captivated
(I’ll never be the same) I’ll never be the same
With just one look (Of Your holy face)
Everything changes
(I’m captivated) I’m captivated
(I’ll never be) I’ll never be the same
(With just one) With just one look
(Everything) Everything changes
(I’m captivated) I’m captivated (Because You’re in the room)
I’ll never be the same
(With just one look) With just one look
(Everything) Everything changes
(I’m captivated) I’m captivated
(I’ll never be) I’ll never be the same
With just one look
Everything changes
I’m captivated
I’ll never be the same
With just one look
Everything changes
I’m captivated
I’ll never be the same
With just one look

With just one look
One look is enough
One look is enough
One look is enough to change everything
With just one look
My life was changed
My body was healed
My family restored
My life rescued, with just one
With just one look
[?]
My life was changed
My life was changed
My life was changed, with just one
With just one look
On Calvary, You looked at me
On Calvary, You looked at me
On Calvary, You looked at me with just one
With just one look
On Calvary, You looked at me
On Calvary, You looked at me
On Calvary, You looked at me with just one
With just one look
You’re not the only one looking
But He says, “I am looking, too”
He says, “With just one look
I see My son and daughter
And I don’t have to second guess
I don’t have to second look
With just one look
With just one look”
On Calvary, You looked at me
On Calvary, You looked at me
On Calvary, You looked at me with just one
With just one look
On Calvary, You looked at me
On Calvary, You looked at me
On Calvary, You looked at me with just one

With just one look
Everything changes
I’m captivated
I’ll never be the same
With just one look
Everything changes
I’m captivated
I’ll never be the same
With just one look*

*Lyrics to Most Beautiful/So in Love – Songwriter(s): Chandler David Moore, Tony Brown, Dante Bowe, Michael Brandon Lake, Nate Moore, Jonathan Jay, Omari Ade Walthour, Leamond Sloan Jr.

How Can I See the Beauty of God? – Interview with Jonathan King, author of The Beauty of the Lord – Theology in Aesthetics  – Do not miss this interview (either listen to the podcast or read the transcript)! So good!

The Beauty of God – A. Raleigh

Monday Morning Moment – Celebrating Those Who are the Real Deal in Our Lives

Photo Credit: Revival Centres

The real deal is defined as “A person or thing who is genuinely superior or impressive in some regard and is therefore worthy of appreciation or respect. A genuine and high-quality example of something. “

A blogger named Sarah Christine recently posted a captivating piece on determining whether something (or, in particular, someone) is or is NOT the real deal.

Something Real – Sarah Christine – Cultiv8ing Character

Why does this matter? We live in a culture that has become more and more cynical…and, superficial. Character seems no longer part of what it takes to win an election, or score a promotion, or get “to the top” of whatever the field is. If everyone lies, we just hope they don’t lie to us. Fake news and pseudo-science have prompted us to be passive in our examination of world events. Do we suspect the real deal just doesn’t exist anymore? Sooner or later, a rock will be turned over, and, even in the best of us, icky, creepy things will be exposed.

Take heart. The real deal still exists, and, in fact, maybe it’s us.

Sarah Christine points out “a three-step process…helpful for assessing whether something is the capital R-Real deal or not in [her] life, and I gotta say, it’s done a good job of rooting out the counterfeits…”

  1. Ask – “when it comes to figuring out whether something is the real deal or a counterfeit, asking people with more experience/expertise who have ‘been there done that,’ so to speak, can be remarkably helpful in discerning whether or not to pursue, sign onto, or invest in something.” Still…this isn’t 100% foolproof: “while the reviews and opinions of others can give you some helpful direction when it comes to discerning something real from a counterfeit, you can’t always just take people’s word for it. Some things require or at least invite more up-close and personal investigation.”
  2. Seek – “A really good way of assessing whether something is real or not is what happens when it gets tested. Because as much of an asset as our own eyes/experiences can be, the human mind has a tremendous capacity for self-deceit. We are… not always the most objective. Thus…when it comes to figuring out whether something is the Real Deal and not a counterfeit does not rely on the opinions/experiences of anyone else or even what we perceive ourselves. It comes down to testing the thing itself.”
  3. Knock – When you’re face-to-face with someone and a strong opinion has been voiced, you can assess whether that person truly believes it at his/her core or if it’s just something believed as true because of cultural influence. Sarah Christine advises: “All I’d have to do was ask,‘Why do you think that?’ And see, asking someone “why?” they said what they said, is the equivalent of a gentle poke if you ask me. It’s a soft knock. A nudge. A loving tap. But if something is the Real Deal–i.e. ironclad–you can more than give it a tentative push-back. You can full on hit it with a baseball bat. Because here’s the thing: Real Deals can take a beating. A solid argument can withstand even the most hostile inquisition. Someone who really loves you won’t cut out even when you act like a total– If you’re struggling to see whether or not something is the Real Deal, and you’ve asked and sought and still aren’t sure whether it is or not, my suggestion is you give it a good, solid hit and see what happens. Because Real things–True things–can take a beating and come back swinging.” – Sarah Christine

Thanks, Sarah Christine. I loved this so much. One challenge about this is how passive we’ve become in this post-COVID, anti-other (almost said anti-Christian, but it’s really anti-other). We struggle with a lethargy of a sort, a dullness in our critical thinking. Do we have it in us to go after the real deal?  Or BE the real deal?

It’s. Just. Too. Hard.

We’ve got to WAKE UP! Look around. Start asking questions and testing out where we align and with whom. Not to become more tribal but to truly find what we believe is worth fighting for…living for. And then going after it. Going after them. Determining not to miss the Real Deals out there – the people who we can learn from and the causes that matter.

I don’t know Jackie Hill Perry personally, but she is the real deal. Karen Swallow Prior is another one. We don’t agree on everything, but they have done the work to know what they believe and they aren’t wavering…and hopefully never will. My mom was (all the years I had her with me) and my mom-in-law continues to be the real deal…with no celebrity but quiet resolve to live a faithful life.

Photo Credit: Quotes in Sight

These are but a few of the many real deals I’ve had the privilege of knowing in my short life.

The most influential? Jesus, the Christ, the Creator, the Savior.

In a conversation last night with a much younger friend, we puzzled over how people can ever walk away from Jesus once they know him. The church, maybe. The Christian life, possible. But Jesus? The only answer is that people who walk away never truly knew him. As for those whose religions or non-religions take no consideration of him, I would invite you to consider digging in and knowing Him. Ask. Seek. Knock.

He’s the real deal.

A never ending test for you will be loving someone that’s failed you. The easy thing is to retreat. To put up a guard. To cuss em out and carry on with your day. Yet God says “love them anyway”. As hard as it is, love is the only way you will truly look like Jesus. Jackie Hill Perry