Monday Morning Moment – Isolation and Community

Photo Credit: Jackie Hill Perry, Art of It

After one-and-a-half years in COVID, we all have grappled with a need for social distancing and isolation. What happens then when the diligent pursuit of physical safety causes a loss of community?

None of us want to get COVID or its latest variant. However, we also desperately need community. It is on each of us to make creative and persistent decisions toward going after community. Especially the most vulnerable of us, or we will suffer more than the health impact of COVID [see links below].

The dilemma with isolation is somehow it has brought a social lethargy with it. We are becoming more solitary and our community has shrunk to the lowest and tightest we can manage.

Not necessarily out of fear of COVID, but out of a growing incapacity for community. Real community. “Iron sharpening iron” relationships.

I know I am not alone in the need for such community. We have probably all thought of how altered our relationships have become over the last several months. Not the closest maybe, but especially those that spurred us toward a higher accountability, responsibility or integrity. Those relationships where we are helped to make better decisions or extend kindnesses (especially toward those outside our inner circles).

[Whether introvert or extrovert, we can easily sink down into a solitary life of less. And less is not always more. This less can breed a sort of self-serving life where we gauge our relationships by our own gains and extend ourselves by our own comfort levels. Been there, done that. Ugh! ]

COVID or not, we still need other people, and they need us. Whether on a work project better served with team problem-solving or a family crisis that could use “all hands on deck”. Death and divorce are still happening, but life celebrations are also still with us – all calling for the touch of our community.

In the Wiki fandom Mary Shelley article, we read a fascinating take on the impact or lack of community on the characters of Shelley‘s novel Frankenstein.

In the novel, Victor Frankenstein is a brilliant scientist. He is overwhelmed by a series of losses and the grief, as well as his increasingly unhinged genius, drive him into isolation. He decides to make a human-like creature who would be like a son to him.

It did not turn out well. The creature, because of the rejection and isolation he himself felt, was determined to be a monster.

Both Victor and the creature Frankenstein, throughout the story, are plagued with isolation and a terrible lack of caring community.Photo Credit: Pixabay

The theme of isolation in Frankenstein raises many questions about the role of community and its importance. Many characters in the novel find themselves in isolated positions, and a few suffer grave consequences because of it. Characters suffer from both physical and emotional isolation, although, as in the case of the monster, the isolation is not always self-inflicted. Victor Frankenstein, on the other hand, chooses to isolate himself from his family, his peers, and even the monster he created.

In Frankenstein, horrible things happen when a character is isolated from the others. When Victor’s knowledge and ambition are unchecked by his peers, a monster is created…the destructive power lies not in the monster or his creator, but in solitude. Shelley uses this theme and its manifestation in her characters to pose questions about community, knowledge, and its role in society. Is unbridled knowledge always dangerous, or is there a middle ground? Should one abandon his or her pursuits if they are driving him or her away from a community? 

Shelley makes it clear that there are two different types of isolation: self-inflicted and societal. We see self-inflicted isolation manifested in Victor; he detaches from his world and the people he loves and as a result, everyone suffers tremendously. Rejection from society is demonstrated in the monster’s life. Again and again, he is turned away from love and companionship, which what he has longed for since he was first brought to life.” – Wiki-Fandom Analysis of Frankenstein – Mary Shelley, an Academic Wiki

Of course, this is a novel, but incredibly insightful as a tale of human nature. We need community…we are made for community.

Somehow we must rally during this protracted social experience of COVID. What is your mindset on this and what are your intentional actions toward community and away from isolation? The kind of isolation that eventually diminishes us and our relationships. Please comment below.

In closing, I do want to affirm an Isolation in Community. We may have to deal with social distancing for sometime still. Especially those most vulnerable to severe illness from COVID. For some isolation can’t be avoided, but there is an isolation in community. Where we take steps toward and lean in to deeper community. Even if it isn’t always in person. This takes a different sort of effort, but we know it is possible. Fortunately. For me, it’s actually using the phone for conversations (including Facetime). It’s not stepping out of responsibilities (work or community service) because of a need for social distancing, but figuring out alternate ways to serve, or get a job done. I have also experienced the fruit of it, thanks to your efforts. Our mail is less junk mail and more actual real connections through cards/letters. Thanks for that. Again, please comment below what your experience has been here.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Isolation – Good Therapy

Isolation and Community – Helen Thorne – Biblical Counseling UK

Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions – CDC

Creative Communities Are Addressing Social Isolation – Maryjoan Ladden

Sunday Blessing – a Son’s Birthday and a Charge, a Quote, a Poem, and a Prayer

Adapted from the Archives.

This son of ours is 32 today. We won’t be seeing him but we will be celebrating him. Today and every day of his life.

Here’s to you, Nathan.

Happy birthday, Son. Over the years, you have single-handedly taken me to my knees more often than you realize – praying to be the parent God would have me be for you; praying for you to come to faith at an early age; appealing to God for all the moves (overseas and stateside) to not be too hard for you; asking for comfort when situations were sometimes hard anyway, and thanking Him for all He’s done for you – the friendships, the opportunities, and His relationship with you from forever.

So many memories. IMG_0034 (2)

“Let’s go kill buffalo!” was your call at your Native American-themed third birthday party. Following your sister around for play ideas. Grandparent visits. Family vacations at the Chesapeake Bay. Move to Africa. Carpool buddies. Gameboy. Drawing cartoons.IMG_8751Computer games. Getaways to the Red Sea. Dreamcast. Becoming a Christ-follower. Baptism back home in Tennessee. IMG_8749

Roadtrips to the Sahara Desert. Soccer. Cousins. Airports. Naps whenever and wherever. Basketball.

2007 - June -- Nathan scoresGrumpy when hungry – feed the boy. High School Rock Band. Great friendships. Game Nights. Sleep-Overs. PlayStation. Laughter. Working out. Classical Guitar. 2006 -- Dec -- Nathan, Jeremiah, Jared

Virginia Commonwealth University. Honors College. Aletheia Praise Band. Guitar Professor Patykula.

Sharing a house with your brother, sister, and then friend Duy.Blog - Parenting 4

Met and married beautiful Bekkah. Nathan & Bekkah collection

Grad school at East Carolina. Then back to Virginia, teaching guitar, playing beautiful music, and making a home…grown. Nathan & Bekkah - New House

With being grown, comes adult friendships, some nurtured since childhood, some within the family, others without. Siblings. Cousins. With being grown, comes new work challenges, fulfilling life aspirations, and deepening your faith in God. With being grown, comes new family designations – becoming uncle to your nieces and nephew. 

Then that crazy day the summer of 2016 that you wildly trended on social media through a posting of one of your krue.tv live streams. [Krue doesn’t exist anymore but it was a springboard for your social media presence as a classical guitarist.]

Best of all…the day Titus was born…and you became a dad.Nathan, Bekkah, & Titus July 2016IMG_8050Photo Credit: Helen Phillips, Bekkah MillsNathan & Titus lookalikesTakes after his daddy – Titus (l) & Nathan (r)

And then sweet Emma.

Nathan, you are settled for now in the U.S. after so many stamps in your passport. Settled in our hearts forever. You make us laugh, and you make us think. Your grown-up heart is so worth the childhood/teen year battles. And your music…what a gift to us. Whether you’re on electric, acoustic, or classical guitar. Your music goes right to the heart. Thank you for honing the gift God gave you. – that heart of yours first, and that music flowing out of it.Nathan and guitar on stepsPhoto Credit: Duy Nguyen

As you settle into your early 30s, I leave you with a charge from God’s word to Joshua, Oswald Sanders’ quote to leaders, a poem often quoted by our friend Tom Elliff, and a prayer credited to General Douglas MacArthur.

Happy birthday, Son. I’ll love you forever.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”Joshua 1:9

“When a person is really marked out for leadership, God will see that that person receives the necessary disciplines for effective service.” – J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man.
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall praise –
Watch His method, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects;
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which only God understands
While his tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends, but never breaks,
When his good He undertakes. . . .
How He uses whom He chooses
And with every purpose fuses him,
By every art induces him
To try his splendor out –
God knows what He’s about.
– Anon. – often quoted by Tom Elliff

Build me a son - Douglas MacArthurPhoto Credit: Pinterest

IMG_8616Nathan & his Dad

Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar

Nathan Mills – Patreon

J. Oswald Sanders’ Spiritual Leadership

Part of Joni Eareckson Tada’s Testimony – Poem Drill a Man

Book Favorite I’ll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch – Before Helicopter Parenting Became a Cultural Issue

Worship Wednesday – I Need Thee Every Hour – Fernando Ortega

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Phil Ware

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…”Genesis 1:26-28

Jesus explained, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.”  – John 4:34

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”Luke 23:34

We are needy people…by design.

Years ago, husband Dave and I led a Singles Sunday School class. These young people were top of the heap – well-educated, gifted, socially astute, emotionally intelligent, independent, and committed Christians. Yet, no matter the Scripture being studied that day, Dave always managed to insert two concepts:

  • We are all worms.
  • Obedience is always where we want to land.

I was like (on the first point) “Dude! What about we are fearfully and wonderfully made“?! [Psalm 139:14] [Years down the road, “dude” and “worm” would remind me of this exclamation as “worm” in Arabic is “dooda”. Sorry for the rabbit trail.]

As for the second point – the “O” word…no right or reasonable objection there. Period. Full stop.

Being Needy Is Not a Fault – It Is a Design – Christine Chappell

Yesterday I came across an Instagram story with Jackie Hill Perry talking about our inadequacy and deep need for God. If you know Instagram stories, they seem to last a minute. I wanted to hear it again, but couldn’t. So I’ve been thinking about it and praying since about it. We all have head knowledge about our dependence on God, our need for Him…it just doesn’t always settle into our hearts.

We (ok…is it just me?) go through too much of life with Paul’s affirmation that we have everything we need for “life and godliness” without remembering the context – dependence on His power and through knowing Him, in His glory and because of His goodness. [See verse below.]

His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  2 Peter 1:3

Wow! That right there.

Our days are busy and fraught with care (different depending on each of our situations, but its there…and draws our focus). God does  expect us to show up for work, for our families, for the church, for our communities…That is necessary…but not sufficient.

“Necessary but not sufficient”

“What we do is necessary but not sufficient. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and have substantial creative capacity and we can do a lot of neat things. God expects us to use our abilities, giftings, and capacities, and to work at it as hard as we can. However, all those things fall flat apart from our dependence on God – if He doesn’t breathe His life into our efforts and make them accomplish His purposes. Our work is necessary but not sufficient. He is sufficient.” – Dave Mills

We go to God each day for those things outside our power (cancer, COVID, conflict), but we forge ahead on what we think we can accomplish on our own (including growing our own character and that of our children). What then do we miss, in treating prayer and time in His Word as a sprinkling on our day? A seasoning rather than the meat. [See again John 4:34 above.] We miss God.

We miss God in working out our budgets, in counseling with a friend in crisis, in trips to the grocery store or playground, in studying for an exam. We miss His infusion of His own character, His own wisdom, His own wonder. We wear ourselves out walking in the flesh with just a touch of Him, even though we are indwelt by the very Spirit of God.

Whose image do we take into the public square? His or our own frail self? Preaching to the choir of one here (unless you are singing along with me).

Jesus taught us by His example that He revered the Word of God, and lived in obedience to It, and basked in the Father’s presence, and understood how being human can distract from the greatest reality in our lives – a holy yet approachable God. Even from the Cross, in His greatest need, He prayed for those who participated in the unspeakable. They didn’t know, He said (Luke 23:34).

We know.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses [of my imperfections], so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

“You see, our power as Christians is not in our strength, our own performance, or our own striving towards perfection. Our power comes when we can admit our vulnerability, our weakness, our neediness, and our dependence on the Lord. It was when Paul accepted his weaknesses and his imperfections that he discovered how strong he was in God.  

It’s when we are at our wits end that we discover that His ways are higher than our ways. It’s when we can’t do something that we discover He can. It’s when we realize the power is not in us that we find our strength in Him. Our imperfection is the pathway to the grace of God. It’s in that connection that we find His grace is indeed sufficient, even in spite of our weaknesses. –  Delman Coates

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  –     1 Corinthians 1:27–29

If you feel your neediness on a regular basis, know that you are in good company. All of us are needy, all of the time—we’re just too busy being “independent” to realize it.  We easily forget that neediness is inherent. Take a high-level view of the concept by starting with our neediness in the sight of God. Think back to the garden of Eden and all that Adam required from the Lord to live. Everything Adam had, he was given. Everything he possessed—even his very body and breath—came from God (Genesis 2:7). This truth hasn’t changed since the fall.

Think about it: what do you have at this moment that God did not give to you? …There’s no kidding ourselves: we are utterly dependent upon Someone else for all the things, all the time.

Man’s reliance upon God is a healthy relational construct, not an annoying character flaw. Our neediness is forged out of God’s good design (Genesis 1:31) and is meant to foster fellowship, faithfulness, and fruitfulness. In that sense, dependence upon God and interdependence upon each other is a blessed design meant for our good and God’s glory.Christine M. Chappell

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Be encouraged as I am (after hearing Jackie Hill Perry’s brief story). How different our lives are when we see God as He truly is and see ourselves in proper relationship to Him and each other (my definition of humility, actually). Our lives are small really, no matter how cool, independent or self-sufficient we think we are. How much more beautiful to receive that smallness as a gift in our lives as we walk in the fullness as His increase (in our decrease) (John 3:29-30).

Praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) is cause for rejoicing and gratefulness. I want more of this…more of Him. AND our children and grandchildren need to know they don’t have to grow up so grand and gifted…they can grow up knowing Him in all His power and glory and goodness!

Worship with me to this wonderful old hymn by Annie Hawks. OR if your heart would prefer a newer version then sing with Matt Maher’s Lord, I Need You.

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

Refrain:
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their pow’r when Thou art nigh.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is vain.

Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

[If you prefer the newer pink and blue background, live version of Lord, I Need You, with lyrics, here it is.]

Worship Wednesday – Deep Disappointment – Lord, I Need You – with Matt Maher & Audrey Assad – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – I Need Thee Every Hour – Anthem Lights

Needy People, Mighty God – Steven J. Cole

I Need You Every Hour – Tom Norville

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Monday Morning Moment – Indistractable…What?!

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Being distractable is one of my character flaws…I guess. For awhile, I had decided it was a super-power. In that, I could jump from activity to activity or person to person, and still somehow be fully present…at least for the moment. Sigh… Interruptions or a busy schedule were not problems for me. In fact, they made for a fun and energizing day. Or so I thought.

There was a time in my life, before marriage, that my closest friends even did an intervention on me. Seriously. Maybe it was because I over-scheduled life like a crazy person (meaning that I actually believed people wouldn’t be put off by my having three different activities, with three different groups of people, in one evening).

So now I’m older and wiser. Chuckle, chuckle. I have the time but not the energy for over-packing my schedule. Nor do I have the mental capacity for deep focus in the face of all the “pings, dings, and rings” of life.

Enter tech-savvy, habits guy Nir Eyal. I caught a 25-minute podcast with him speaking on how to become indistractable. It was illuminating.

In Eyal’s book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, he removes technology as the distractor in our lives and points to the emotional states that actually drive us. Those uncomfortable emotions (boredom, loneliness, uncertainty) that we hope to silence by simply exiting whatever we’re doing at the moment and take up a different, potentially mind-numbing activity. Like scrolling through social media.

Distractability may make us feel better for the moment, but it doesn’t help us become the persons we want to be. It is a soother but not a life-sorter. It is a behavior, and what needs changing is less the behavior than what’s behind it – identifying the triggers that move us to be distractable and applying new habits to help us stay focused. . We want to be people others can trust to do what we say we will do…to have genuine integrity. How we grow in this area is the point of his book.

Being indistractable means striving to do what you say you will do. Indistractable people are as honest with themselves as they are with others. If you care about your work, your family, and your physical and mental well-being, you must learn how to become indistractable.” – Nir Eyal

Photo Credit: Pixabay

“LOOK FOR THE DISCOMFORT THAT PRECEDES THE DISTRACTION, FOCUSING IN ON THE INTERNAL TRIGGER”.Nir Eyal
Eyal talks about time management as being pain management. When we understand the discomfort which triggers us to try to escape, we can then build in a tripwire to short-circuit the distraction.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
“Ten-minute rule.” If I find myself wanting to check my phone as a pacification device when I can’t think of anything better to do, I tell myself it’s fine to give in, but not right now. I have to wait just ten minutes.” – Nir Eyal
Two of the many tools Eyal encourages are 1) effort pacts and 2) identity pacts. With the effort pact, he uses an app (the Forest app, for one) to help him keep commitments to himself. He also prescribes having coworkers, friends, or family members come alongside and help you press into a project or task until you’re finished. Accountability helps.
“Effort pacts make us less likely to abandon the task at hand. Whether we make them with friends and colleagues, or via tools like Forest, SelfControl, Focusmate, or kSafe, effort pacts are a simple yet highly effective way to keep us from getting distracted.”Nir Eyal

Eyal’s identity pact is an intentional reflecting on the person you want to be, and then using that identity as its own motivator. For me to say, “I’m a writer” requires a certain measure of discipline, with habits in place to help me actually write. If we begin using the language of identity, an accountability is applied that helps us be the person we say we’re becoming. “I am not as distractable as I once was”. “I am not side-lined by negative emotions anymore.” “My values include majoring on family, so I focus on my work at work, in order to be all there at home”.

“Only by setting aside specific time in our schedules for traction (the actions that draw us toward what we want in life) can we turn our backs on distraction. Without planning ahead, it’s impossible to tell the difference between traction and distraction.” – Nir Eyal

Lastly, I’ll mention Eyal’s use of time-boxing over a to-do list. He doesn’t deny that a to-do list is helpful, but it has its own fails built in. We default to finishing what’s easy or urgent, and, in fact, rarely are as productive as we might think we should be with a to-do list. Also, there is always this guilting about what we didn’t complete.

He actually fills a time-box calendar with what he wants to accomplish in a day. He includes things we might not consider in a to-do list like prayer, fitness, reflection, time with family, etc.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

When we have a time allotment (not just how much time something should take but when we will work on it), we are more apt to focus on just that. Eyal does encourage multi-tasking, but only if it is done using “different sensory channels”. By this, he means bundling activities that can actually be done together without diminishing either. An example is watching TV (or listening to a podcast) while on a treadmill. We have a neighbor who reads while walking. That has always impressed me, but it can be done.

Fitness coach David Rosales does a great service (to those of us who haven’t yet tackled all of Eyal’s prescriptions) by giving his own takeaways from Indistractable (including a few I mentioned above):

  1. Don’t rely on willpower – put systems in place to help you succeed.
  2. Timeboxing – rather than a to-do list, block out time on your calendar for specific tasks.
  3. Do Not Disturb as Default –put in place practices that keep you from being distracted by your phone.
  4. Batch everything – batch actions (and distractions) to avoid having your flow disrupted. [From email to Instagram]
  5. Ulysses pact – set up an app or timer or work out an arrangement with someone to help you be accountable.
  6. Take a growth mindset – bit by bit, you are learning how not to be foiled by distractions. It is a process.
  7. Identify pacts – start identifying yourself in ways that communicate you are not distractable. Make the decision of what kind of person you are determined to be, and decision fatigue is removed. You learn to just say “no”.

What do you think about all this? Maybe you are a person of focus. Please, if you are, comment below on how you make that happen.

Nir Eyal Website

Nir Eyal: Mastering Indistraction

Nir Eyal on Taking Control of Technology to Become “Indistractable”    [25-minute video]

Working Parents? Here’s How to Raise Indistractable Kids with Nir Eyal – Nir Eyal and Vanessa Van Edwards – excellent resource

Read James Williams’ excellent review and critique of Nir Eyal’s book Indistractable.

How to Do Timeboxing Right – David Sherwin

How Timeboxing Works and Why It Will Make You More Productive – Marc Zao-Sanders

The Tail End – Wait But Why – Tim Urban

Quotes from Nir Eyal’s Indistractable

PDF Summary – Indistractable – Nir Eyal

Worship Wednesday – Until Unity & Beautiful Insanity – Mercy Gordon

Photo Credit: Heartlight

“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” – Jesus – John 13:34-35

Just recently, I have been immersed in two Bible studies – one on forgiveness and the other on unity. You can read what I’ve already written on these here and here.

Studying both of these Biblical concepts together has been a gut-punch and a wake-up call. We can NOT think we are walking with God if we hold onto offense and unforgiveness, nor if we allow our own personal preferences divide us from other believers.

Writer, Bible teacher Francis Chan hammers on the deep importance of living our lives with truth, holiness, and unity all in focus. That is only possible by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.  Forgiveness and unity are also only possible with proximity.

We can’t say, “I will forgive but that doesn’t mean I have to have that person in my life”. Now, there may be times when our own physical safety or that of another is in jeopardy, so proximity is difficult, even dangerous. Also emotional trauma may require the coming alongside of family and friends. Most of the time, however, we just don’t want to have to deal with the other person in our lives…our forgiveness extends just to the limits of our own comfort.

Praise God He does not keep us at arm’s length from Him because of all our offenses. He forgives…and He chooses not to remember. He is God, and we are not. I get that…but. Our unity with one another says that we may not prefer each other, or we may not trust each other, or we may think the other is downright wrong. Still, in His strength and by His grace, we can be one as He prayed for us to be…one as Jesus and the Father are one. Wow!

God calls us to prayer…to come boldly to Him with whatever is on our hearts. Chan talks (in the video below) about us coming to God, not with our own mess all the time, but actually in “silent, reverent awe”. Instead of just bringing our list to Him, but also asking Him, “What do You want, God?” Oh, Father help us.

As we humble ourselves before the most magnificent, perfectly loving, all-sufficient heavenly Father, our hearts are changed. That proximity…that coming into His presence…just to be with Him…can change our hearts, our preferences, our willingness. To forgive. To seek forgiveness of another. To live in unity with all the rest of the Family of God.

Proximity to Him…and to each other. Hallelujah! The world needs to see this unity in us. We need to be this unity. His will be done…on earth! As it is in Heaven.

Worship with me to this beautiful song written and performed by Mercy Gordon, Chan’s daughter. [Song also starts at 8:52 of Impossible Unity video; with lyrics]

Oh Lord, reigning on high Dwelling in unapproachable light Who can stand before Your glory and Your might Oh Lord, You reign on high

Chorus: And every time I think of who You are and all You’ve done I’m captivated by the thought that You desire us. How can my heart keep from bursting at the truth of this:

Emmanuel, our God wants to be with us

Jesus, incarnate deity – The spotless lamb robed in humility. He chose to die and with His blood to buy us peace. Jesus, it’s my joy to call You King.

(Repeat Chorus)

This mystery never stops confounding me. My God wants perfect unity. I’m undone – what beautiful insanity That my God is so in love with me.

My God abounds in love for me – What beautiful insanity!

And every time I think of who You are and all You’ve done I’m captivated by the thought that You desire us How can my heart keep from bursting at the truth of this

Emmanuel, our God wants to be with us. I stand in awe, that God you want to be with us*

Photo Credit: Heartlight

*Lyrics to Our God – YouTube – Mercy Gordon

5 Friday Faves – “Where Is My Mind?” on Classical Guitar, Writers & Artists, Beach Trip, Our Old Ones, and Summer Delights

Here we are again. Friday Faves on a Monday. I’ve really wrestled with what to include in this week’s Faves. It is never my desire to put up “don’t you wish this was yours to experience?” sorts of things. That is a pretty strange fruit of social media, as we all know. How does one look back over a week that is filled with loss – Afghanistan, all the mess in our own country, family strife, broken marriages, and death – and count anything a favorite? I still will because it is a way to look away for a moment and to look up…and keep my eyes on God…praying for those in dark places right now…and holding onto hope. So…my Friday faves:

1) “Where Is My Mind?” on Classical Guitar Nathan Mills  (Beyond the Guitar) did it again. Twice a month he posts an arrangement of his, and they never come soon enough. Here’s his “Where Is My Mind?” a Pixies song from (among other places) the film Fight Club. Only Nathan can take a rocking song like this from a rough film story and turn it into an amazing classical guitar piece. Have a listen:

 

2) Writers & Artists – Let me have the pleasure of introducing to you a poet, a writer/illustrator, and a painter. You may already know them, but I LOVE their work.

First is the poet Samantha Reynolds, “BentLily” on Instagram. Below are screenshots of just three of her poems, posted daily. So good!!!

Photo Credit: Bent Lily, Instagram

The writer/illustrator is Charlie Mackesy. I also discovered him on Instagram. His book, with its wise and winsome characters, is The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse. Love it, as will you.

Photo Credit: Charlie Mackesy, Instagram

Lastly is the oil painter, Karen Hollingsworth. I came across her work on the Shain Gallery Instagram account. Below are samples of her work.

Photo Credit: Karen Hollingsworth, Shain Gallery, Instagram

As a photographer (amateur at best, but earnest about my work), I love the realism in her paintings. So gorgeous. You feel like you’re in the room, or you, for sure, wish you were.

There was something so familiar about the scene in front of the window, at the beach. Then…I realized! I ran downstairs to look at the artist name of a print I had bought at an estate sale…a few years back. The lighting in the room wasn’t great when I snapped the pic below, BUT…it is a Karen Hollingsworth print! Such a sweet surprise.

3) Beach Trip – This week, we took a very quick trip to Virginia Beach. There is something so healing…so “other” about being near an ocean. We had four generations together. I can’t post the grandchildren, but will post just a few pics of our time there…for your enjoyment, if the ocean does the same for you as for me.

Free prayer – all kinds of traffic on the boardwalk – This was sweet!

A feast from the 19th Street Italian Bistro – in the room. Including a fresh cannoli for dessert. Yum!All sorts of wildlife – dolphins, pelicans, seagulls, & folks on vacationSunrise over the Atlantic

4) Our Old Ones – I had the great surprise of being tracked down by a cousin of mine. We haven’t seen each other in over 20 years. Thankful for Facebook on this one. Gloria has always been a joy. She is one of those people who can see the light in the darkest situation.

We desperately need people like that in our lives. She got me searching for pictures of the “old ones” in our lives (most all of whom are no longer with us). What a joy this renewed connection was, with one who reminded me of some of the best in our family’s history.

This came on the heels of a visit with our only parent still living. I don’t really consider my mom-in-love as an “old one”, but tipping into her 80s makes her so, I concede. She is a delight. If you need prayer, you want her praying for you. She is tenacious and full of faith in a God who wants to show Himself mighty on our behalf. She is a continual blessing. Sturdy, funny, sharp…with the biggest servant heart. I’m so glad she continues to have good health and hope that continues a very long time.

[She won’t love the pic above, as we sat one morning waiting on the sunrise. It is so like her though – gaze fixed on the horizon. Love her.]

One of these days, Dave and I will be “the old ones”. I hope we have taught our children well the great gift of life…even in the older years. Not just to us but to our “youngers”.

Us and our “original three”, August 2021

5) Summer Delights – OK, an IKEA run may not be a summer delight for you, but it took a trip to the beach to make that happen for the first time for me. It was fun (including the Swedish meatballs for lunch) – lunch was all we bought, but the showroom was pretty spectacular. Also on the road back home, we visited Hummingbird Macarons & Desserts. The ambiance alone was worth the detour. What other summer delights? Fresh fruit cake – for any reason. Beef brisket (OK, again, not necessarily a summer thing but gathering both old and young ones at a new restaurant is a unique treat for us). The ever-changing summer flowers in Dave’s garden.

       

That’s it for me. How about you? Any faves, please comment for us to enjoy. Thanks for stopping by.

Bonuses:

David Wesley

Fear of COVID-19 in Kids Is Getting Ahead of the Data – Lucy McBride

Worship Wednesday – Forgiveness and Unity – Refusing to Offend or Be Offended

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” – Jesus – Matthew 6:12

“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” – Jesus – Matthew 24:10-13

Throughout Scripture, we are taught to forgive. How can we withhold forgiveness when Christ forgives us? How can we justify our own sin because we are offended by the sin of another? In Matthew 24 above, Jesus is teaching about the end times. We must be vigilant in how we live our lives because of 1) the temptation to pull away from the teachings of Christ and 2) the hold of entitlement and the sin of offense.

The three books above all speak to these matters. With a common theme.

The Bait of Satan: Living Free From the Deadly Trap of OffenseJohn Bevere

Until UnityFrancis Chan

Forgiving What You Can’t ForgetLysa Terkeurst

All speak of the deadening outcome of unforgiveness and its eroding impact on our hearts and relationships…with God and each other.

I wrote about offense another time. Please revisit it here. You may be surprised at the destructive nature of offense – offending and allowing ourselves to be offended.

Monday Morning Moment – Offense, Being Offended, and taking Up Offense – Deb Mills

Worship with me to Matthew West’s Forgiveness [Lyrics in the link].

Heavenly Father, thank You for this pattern of prayer that Jesus taught. Give me a gentle spirit and help me to be quick to forgive all those who have hurt or abused me… knowing that for Christ’s sake I have been forgiven of so much. I pray that I may maintain close fellowship with You, and be swift to forgive those who sin against me – in Jesus name, AMEN.” – Daily Verse

I’m going to close here. This topic on a Worship Wednesday is one that should draw us to prayer…and maybe repentance. We can’t always find ourselves in “righteous” indignation…when we look to the Cross. Are forgiveness and refusing to be offended hard? Yes, but we have the power of the Spirit of God indwelling us and making it possible, with willing hearts. Our families, churches, and communities have been too long divided. Jesus deserves better.

Photo Credit: Scott Sauls, Twitter

Scott Sauls’ Quotes and Sayings

Worship Wednesday – The Forgiven Forgive – David Crowder & Matthew West – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Until Unity – with Francis Chan – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – We pray…and We Don’t Give Up.

Photo Credit: David Sanabria, Flickr

I really don’t have words this morning.

Scott Sauls gave me the words below.

The blaming takes us nowhere. The hating definitely diminishes all.

Some think of prayer as a soft and impotent action. Not so! The God who hears our prayers is mighty to save. His purposes are not thwarted. He calls us to prayer and we, and those of the this broken world, are best served when we obey.

Do we do other things? Like sending our resources and opening our communities to those no longer with a home. Absolutely. However… if we don’t pray, we neglect the greatest salvation…and the greatest Savior in these seemingly hopeless situations.

The blaming and hating change nothing and care for no one. It is a dreadful waste and dishonors both God and humankind.

So…we pray.

…and we don’t give up.

Photo Credit: The Fellowship Site

Worship Wednesday – Until Unity – with Francis Chan

“I pray for them…for those you have given me, because they are yours…Holy Father, protect them by your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one…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.”– from John 17, Jesus’ high priestly prayer

“…Walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” – Paul, Ephesians 4:1-6

“Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction.” – Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:10

“…bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” – Paul, Colossians 3:13-14

OK…what else needs to be said, right?

We are so easily offended. So put off by others. Our preferences screaming to be acknowledged. Our spiritual sensibilities riding tenuously on our sleeves, easily jostled by the words or attitudes of another.

If anything, we are united in this frailty of ours. The unspoken (maybe) desire to be right. To be more accurate in our take on things…especially spiritual things and how church “should be done”.

Oh my!

I am stepping on my own feet here.

That’s why I bought the book Until Unity by Francis Chan. We had just finished a church-wide, months-long study of another Chan book, Multiply. It was deep and exhausting in a mind-clearing way.

I wasn’t really looking to jump into another study by this intense brother of ours…but this book scratches a worsening itch in my heart. Our desperate need, as followers of Christ, for unity.

Because of our politics (in this nation…and maybe in yours as well), we are terribly divided. Even as Christians. Between politics and preferences, we circles our wagons in way too many denominations in the Christian faith. Then there are those influencers, mega-church pastors and women writers, with huge fan bases (did I just say that?). What offends them is taken to the airways and further divides us into camps…camps of which Jesus did not call us.

Just this week, Francis Chan’s online study of the book Until Unity launched. It is so good. Free and easily accessible. I have the book, too, but the video study also stands alone for those unable to get the book.

Online Bible Study – Until Unity – Francis Chan

Chan introduces the study by calling us to hold onto truth, holiness, AND unity. Too often, we think we have to sacrifice one for another. Wrong! However, to hold onto all three requires our desire for God to work…only God has the power and plan to glorify Himself, in his church and each of his followers, through our walking together in unity, in truth, and in holiness.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.” This is the LORD’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”Isaiah 55:8-9

Chan recalled to the viewers the passage in Exodus 14 where the Israelites were in a hard place – pursued by the Egyptian army and facing the Red Sea. They had no plan. No way out. Then Moses called to them…and to us in this matter:

“Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation He will provide for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you must be quiet.”Exodus 14:13-14
We must replace our opinions with prayers. Being silent sometimes communicates that just maybe only God has the right answer on something. In being quiet, I’m not saying to be passive or yield to what is not true or right…BUT to wait on God. Pursuing both truth AND unity.

[Chan used the white board to show how high God’s knowledge is and the gap between his knowledge and ours. Whomever we are – whether it is Francis Chan or someone with greater or lesser knowledge or understanding on a spiritual subject…None of us…not of us…are anywhere close to God in this way. We must bow to Him in this. Choosing unity. Praying for Truth to win out. Looking to Him for His thoughts and His ways.]Photo Credit: Screenshots from the Introduction to the online Bible study Until Unity

When we judge our brothers and sisters, we put ourselves higher. When we preach, teach, or disciple in ways that divide, we come against even what our Lord Jesus prayed for us. Be one. As he and the Father are one. That is our high calling. We have to prayerfully figure it out.

Worship with me – the God of truth, holiness, AND unity. He is always faithful, and, praise His name, His ways are higher than ours.

Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of thy redeeming love

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I’m come
And I hope by thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

O to grace how how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above*

*Lyrics to Come Thou Fount

Hymn Story of Come Thou Fount [Lyrics written by Robert Robinson]

Worship Wednesday – On Unity and Love – Hymn Medley – Maverick City – Deb Mills

Jesus’ Prayer for Unity – Pastor Mike – really excellent sermon

5 Friday Faves – Who Is Jesus?, Procrastinators, the Silent To-Do List, On-line Study Opportunities, and Summer

Weekend! Here you go: my favorite finds of the week. One long and four super short. Hope you are encouraged!

1) Who Is Jesus? – If you read my posts, then you know The Chosen TV series has had a huge impact on my life recently. [You can find it here and on The Chosen app. Dave and I just finished Season 2, watching Episode 8 this weekend. The story of this episode is Jesus’ preparation of his Sermon on the Mount. It is a very intimate time, very critical turn in his public ministry. All his apostles, his mom,  and some other close followers are featured in the episode, in deep relationship with Jesus. Then there are those who oppose or are watchful of his growing influence – the religious leaders of the day and the Roman military charged with keeping order…keeping the peace.

In this episode, the story shows dialog between Jesus and his apostle Matthew (again, not taking the place of Scripture, The Chosen writers repeat, but fleshing out what might have happened around the accounts found in Scripture). The Sermon on the Mount is found in full in the Gospel of Matthew and it would make sense he shared it with Matthew before he faced the crowds, for Matthew to capture it for all the rest of us who would read it…hear it in the years following.

If you know nothing about Jesus, you would discover him in his teaching in this sermon.Photo Credit: Press, The Chosen

Jesus knew this pivotal and powerful teaching would set in motion his becoming widely known…and what would come out of that – those who would love and follow him and those who would seek to destroy him. In this episode, he expressed to Matthew his desire for In the introduction to the sermon, also known as the Beatitudes, to be a “map…directions where people should look to find me”.  Then as Jesus shares with Matthew “the blesseds” of the Beatitudes, we find those directions. Again, in the show, Jesus “If someone wants to find me, those are the groups they should look for”.

This may not make sense if you haven’t read Jesus’ words in the Beatitudes (you can find the scene on YouTube maybe, or read them here and be blessed by them).

Photo Credit: Pref-Tech; Leadership Lessons from the Beatitudes

[The following section is from Marty Solomon’s piece “Blessed”]

Writer, theologian Dallas Willard “once suggested that the Beatitudes are, in fact, pronouncements of God’s blessing on all the people the world thinks are missing out. In essence, this would mean Jesus starts His teaching with pronouncements that look like the following:

God is for those who are spiritually bankrupt.
God’s favor in on those who mourn.
God is for those who are meek.

…the Beatitudes might be a list of pronouncements; Jesus might be announcing to the crowds — full of Jews, Gentiles, Herodians, Pharisees, and Romans alike — that God is for the ones they think He has abandoned.

Jesus will continue teaching that we would pray for those that persecute us and love our enemies…This Jewish rabbi is serious about loving people. So buckle up, because this ministry of Jesus is just getting started… Marty Solomon

Willard and the Sermon on the Mount – Joe Skillen

Judas, Matthew, and the Sermon on the Mount – Kevin Keating

YouTube Video – The Most Beautiful Words That Jesus Ever Said – The Chosen (Behind the Scenes of Season 2, Episode 8)

There is so much to know and experience in the person of Jesus Christ. You will not be the same if you truly examine his life and teaching. In closing this, you’ll find a Facebook post below from a friend of mine on:

Who is Jesus?

[John 2]

A son
A brother
Part of a community
An attender of weddings

It’s no wonder that after He made a whip and drove the profiteers out of the temple, the Jews asked Him for a SIGN to show that He had the authority to do such a thing.

He answered, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days.” They didn’t understand and thought He was talking about a building, but He was talking about His own body. He knew exactly what was going to happen to Him!

He didn’t come to be popular. He came to be a SIGN. He was THE SIGN they were asking for. He came to show us the character, nature, and heart of God. He came to make a God who is beyond understanding, someone we could see and touch and know.

Wow.

I REFLECT JESUS WHEN MY ACTIONS POINT TO GOD AND NOT TO MYSELF.  Marlo Huber Salamy

2) Procrastinators – This is a struggle for me. If you want to explore this more, there are tons of resources on the web and your public library on this topic. I just want to quickly post Tim Urban’s humorous and telling TED Talk (which I found this week) and a few thought-provoking quotes, links, and “actionable ideas”.

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Bishop Rosie O’Neal

Photo Credit: Flickr

Why Procrastinators Procrastinate – Tim Urban

5 Things Tim Urban Taught Me About Procrastination – Andrew McDonald

Photo Credit: Flickr

8 Procrastination TED Talks to Stop Killing Time

3) The Silent To-Do List – In last week’s Friday Faves, I mention Dawn of The Minimal Mom. She really got me thinking more about decluttering again. Her manner is much more gentle and humane than other writers and bloggers so I’m going with her. In some of her videos, she mentions “the silent to-do list” that accompanies clutter.

Stress and the Silent To-Do List

She attributes this phrase to the Japanese author Fumio Sasaki who writes on minimalism. In his book Goodbye, Things, he writes about how the stuff in his life was causing him stress because it was as if all the clutter was calling out to him for attention, putting themselves on his to-do list. I actually get that. Stuff management can put a weight on us. Even if we’re doing nothing to deal with the clutter, it is there, beckoning to us with memories and the need to either store away or attend to something derived from the memory. A weight.

Here’s an example. I’m a photographer. Even in the digital age, pictures accumulate. Every time I go to and from bed, there’s a picture of a beloved aunt and cousin whom I haven’t seen in years. It’s being “left out” for a reason. I want to be back in touch with them but it might require a hard conversation. Something painful happened in our family years ago, and although it wasn’t between us, it could be the reason we have not stayed in touch. I don’t know for sure. This picture has become part of my silent to-do list. Sigh…

I’m not ready to embrace minimalism, but it is something I’m continuing to think about…and moving [ever so] slowly toward.

Photo Credit: The Heart’s Way Imagery and Insights

Goodbye, Things Quotes from Goodreads

4) Forgiving What You Can’t Forget, etc. – OK…here’s a quick one. In the US, kids are starting back to school and change is in the air. Along with that, it seems a myriad of online studies are popping up. Three below are Bible studies. I’m in the middle of a quick study with Levi Lusko on “Winning Your Inner Battles”, then this coming week will tackle the Francis Chan study on Until Unity as well as Lysa Terkeurst‘s Forgiving What You Can’t Forget”. The latter two are a few weeks long, and I’m ready for some stretching in the Word.

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'FORGIVING WHAT YOU CAN'T FORGET FORGIVING WHAT YOU CAN'T FORGET Online Bible Study Community by Lysa TerKeurst August September 19 faithgateway.com/obs'Photo Credit: Facebook, Lysa Terkeurst

What are you doing to grow these days? Please comment below any studies (any…we are life-long learners here, right?) we might enjoy as well.

5) Summer – Just some images from this week to close. All taken on a day out and about, celebrating our anniversary. Hope you’re having a sweet summer (and for you in the Southern Hemisphere, a gentle winter). Beauty abounds.

Thanks for stopping by. It means so much to me. Blessings!