Category Archives: Inspired

Amazing Grace – On the Edge of Our Seats – Will She Remember?

VBS Preview 2013_LifeWay

Children’s programs at church have such a wide scope of experience for the persons in the congregation. Depending on the choral leaders and the sound capabilities of the church, special music done by children can be almost professional. Or they can be…something altogether otherwise. Still, it’s a good opportunity for children to get up there and bring a Gospel message, of a sort, and hone the life skill (?) of performing in front of people. And make their parents proud. I’ve been among those parents. Now I’m enjoying the musical adventures of other parents’ children until the coming of grandchildren who will mesmerize me with their musical giftings.

For now, I want to tell you a story of young girl who was handed a mic on a Sunday night at a church where my husband was to speak. This story came to my remembrance after watching a video from my Facebook feed. Sometimes I regret clicking on these videos for all the time burned watching them. This one was different – a little girl singing Amazing Grace with a voice mature beyond her years and a poise also of a strikingly older girl as well.

Not so with the girl in my story. She walked up to the podium with more courage than poise. She was a 5th or 6th grader, lacking the fashion-sense of an older middle schooler. Thin, a bit thrown-together in her clothing choices, and her hair a little wild in someone’s harried attempt to bring it under control for this occasion.

I was cringing a little as the minister of music handed her the mic and positioned her on the stage. It had the feel of a darling little girl who might have asked for this opportunity, not having proved herself previously, but a decision based on kindness. Now, her eyes were wide with the reality of the moment.

She sang without benefit of words before her…and actually sang fairly well through the first two verses of Amazing Grace. Her face was expression-less as she stared out into the congregation (maybe having had the coaching of “just look at heads, not faces” to still any fear she might have had).

“Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ’d!”

And then came the third memory-making verse…she sang the first two lines as she’d sung the previous verses. Standing straight, with her little shoulders squared, staring with resolve into the audience:

“Thro’ many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;”

And then she stopped. Frozen. It was obvious she could not, for the life of her, remember what came next.

Probably every adult in that church knew what words came next. This song has been a part of church tradition for centuries. We know this song. I think every one of us sat up, leaned forward, and did all we could to will those words back in her mind. Some of us might have even prayed for her. I was searching the front of the church for her parents, a teacher, the minister of music. If there were any mouthing the words for her, she did not see them – her eyes transfixed on the crowd in front of her.

And then, after what seemed an eternity, with no observable change at all in her face or posture, she found the words:

 ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

Glory! A collective sense of relief washed over the people. And right then, if not before, we worshipped. In fact, I have probably not experienced any more rich a moment of corporate worship as when those words tumbled out of her mouth.

It’s grace. All grace really…that brings us safe thus far. And grace will lead us home.

I honestly can’t remember if she sang the last verse alone…or if we joined her. Whichever it was, with tears in many of our eyes, we silently or loudly, sang the rest with her. This little girl, with a mic, and a moment of grand deliverance. Thanks be to God.

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.”

2006 Nov 352

YouTube of little girl singing Amazing Grace

Short Documentary on the Story Behind the Song Amazing Grace

The complete verses of Amazing Grace by John Newton

Wikipedia article on Amazing Grace (with lyrics)

 

At Home with God – Abiding in Him

Blog - Prayer - abiding with God

“And now, little children, abide in Him.” – 1 John 2:28

Home. Hopefully that brings happy thoughts to you. I grew up in a home wounded by desertion and divorce, but it was also the place and family where I met Jesus. My husband and I have made a home for our children across 4 countries. One way we told them they might answer the “Where’s home?” question was to say wherever our family was at the time. Now they all have their own homes. So, in truth, where is our home?

The word “abide” means simply “remain, stay.” A small group of women I love is studying John’s epistles this summer. “Abiding” was one of the themes. Last night we talked through 1 John 2. John also wrote, in his Gospel, the familiar “vine and branch” chapter on abiding in Christ (John 15). Remaining in Christ…

As followers of Christ, children of the Father, where else would we go?

One of the young women in the study talked about how abiding in Christ is being at home with God. It’s so true. We make our abode in Him. How appropriate…the place where “a light is always on”…the place where we are loved and accepted, where we’re taught truth, where we are family.

There, truly, is no place like home. Abiding in Christ…at home with God. Even in the deepest darkness of life…there is light in Him.

John Piper’s Sermon on John 8:31 on Abiding in Him

6 Ways to Abide in God

What Does It Mean to Abide in Christ?

Sinclair Ferguson’s word on Abiding in Christ

Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray

Abiding in Him in the Last Days – article by John Piper

Bookmarked Summer – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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Summer…So many thoughts flood our mind at the mention of the word. Longer days. No more school (usually). Family vacation. Road trips. Reunions. Abundant fruits and vegetables. Cookouts. For our family, all the years our children were in school, wherever we were in the world, summer also meant a reading program. We always got a head-start on the books in their next reading level. That may sound like punishment, but it wasn’t. We all gained from each other’s reading. New characters, new places, mysteries and adventures, history unknown to us until we read about it in these books. Our summers were always marked by whatever we were reading – bookmarked.

The summer reading program is behind us all, but we still have an avid reader in our daughter. She continues to introduce our family to lovely stories, and such was the case with this strange-titled little book – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (an aunt and her niece), this little book is a historical fiction with some of the confounding twists of plot reminiscent of Jane Austen novels. This story is set in England, in 1946, shortly after the end of World War II. It focuses on the correspondence of a young writer, Juliet Ashton, and various people in her life, including her publisher, a childhood friend, a suitor, and a group of book club members on Guernsey Island.

During World War II, the tactical decision was made that the Channel Islands could not be protected from the Germans and therefore left on their own. They were occupied for most of the war by the German military. In fact, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society emerged in this isolated hardship situation.

“We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us.”

Through an odd turn of events, Juliet struck up a friendship with one of the island dwellers, and that friendship grew to include all of the remaining book club members as well as some of the other less literary islanders.

“It was so kind of you to write to me about your experiences during the Occupation. At the war’s end, I, too, promised myself that I had done with talking about it. I had talked and lived war for six years, and I was longing to pay attention to something – anything – else. But that is like wishing I were someone else. The war is now the story of our lives, and there’s no subtracting it.”

Through the letters between Juliet and her new-found friends, she was so moved by how they survived the German occupation, that she arranged a visit to Guernsey. The visit became a lengthy stay and her life was changed forever.

Blog - Guernsey Literary Society Annie BarrowsMary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows*

I loved this story. Historical fiction has never been my favorite because the details (intertwining the history of the period with the characters) usually wear me out in the reading. This story engaged my mind and heart so well that I could smell the salt air and feel the sea mist in my hair. Yet, the terror of war coupled with the consolation of friendship became as real as if I were there in that moment. It surprises me that Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows are not English (Mrs. Shaffer is from West Virginia) because they crafted the story as if it happened to them. It was deeply personal to them. Some of the beauty of the book could have come out of their love for each other, as Mrs. Shaffer’s failing health required Annie to finish the book for them both (published in 2008, after Mary Ann Shaffer died). What a legacy for them together…

The picture below is the first page of the book.

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It alludes to the curious way Juliet Ashton, the leading character of the book, came into the lives of the Guernsey islanders. My daughter recommending this book to me in the long days of this summer gave me a similar experience. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has marked not only my summer, but my life.

There is still time…don’t miss this book this summer. If you’ve had the pleasure of reading it, you know what I’m talking about.

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive—all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” 

Guernsey Occupation

Fact File: Channel Islands Invaded

Telling the Truth about the Channel Islands Cost Me My Friends 

Short Video about the book featuring author Annie Barrows

Goodreads Quotes from the book

*Photo Credit – www.anniebarrows.com

 

 

 

Worship Wednesday – Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

Blog - Music inspired by the film Amazing GraceAmazing Grace is probably the most well-known Christian hymn of all time. The lyrics are powerful, written by John Newton, an 18th century slave trader, who had a riveting experience with God that changed his life forever. Amazing Grace is a deeply personal confession which we who are followers of Christ also share with Newton. Chris Tomlin’s cover (on his 2006 album See the Morning) is an updated version of the hymn which honors the melody we all love. He also includes a last verse that Newton wrote that was omitted in previous versions. This version is also a part of the soundtrack of the film Amazing Grace.

This film (2006, Michael Apted, Director) is high on my all-time-favorite-film list. For those of you who missed it, for whatever reasons, consider watching it now. It is beautifully filmed with great performances and magnificent sound. Amazing Grace is a biopic on the life of William Wilberforce, a member of the 18th century British parliament, who fought for the abolition of the slave trade. With John Newton as his mentor and pastor, Wilberforce was personally tormented by the reality of slavery. He battled, fearlessly and tenaciously, for over 20 years in Parliament, and, before his death, saw the passage of law abolishing slavery in Great Britain.

This film shows the story of how one person can affect great change. One person. It’s very reflective of how One brought us out of slavery through His life, death, and resurrection.  Amazing Grace.

There’s the phenomenal true-life subplot in the film, as well – the friendship and shared faith and passion of William Wilberforce and John Newton.  Newton spurred Wilberforce on, encouraging him that he could do more through his political life than if he became a member of clergy. There’s a lesson here for all of us as well – that whatever our work or calling, we are meant to infuse it with the great grace and purpose God has given each one of us.

Worship with me today through this lovely hymn. Consider renting Amazing Grace to watch with your family or friends (who somehow missed it the first time around).

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine.

What’s your favorite version of Amazing Grace? Youtube or other? Share it with us in the Comments.

YouTube video of Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace with clips from film

Brief & thrilling summary of the life of John Newton who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace

Film Clip from the Film Amazing Grace – 2006 drama of political & spiritual life of William Wilberforce and his battle against slavery

Music Inspired by the Film Amazing Grace

Film Amazing Grace

Chris Tomlin Website

Youtube Amazing Grace (Chris Tomlin) with Lyrics

Amazing Grace Lyrics

 

Worship Wednesday – Listening for His Voice through the Noise

Blog - MercyMeHe who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. – 1 John 4:4

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. – Romans 8:1

All kinds of voices bang around in our heads. Some of those voices belong to family and friends who say things which wound us, whether they meant to or not. There are voices belonging to society that call us “judgers” or “haters”, when we know it’s not true. There are voices from our workplace (sounding like our own voice sometimes) that say we aren’t doing enough or doing our jobs well enough. Then there’s the voice of the Evil One speaking in the first person, with my accent, saying, “I’m too fat. I’m not smart. I’ll never get it right. I’m going to fail…again.”

There are nights when I struggle to fall asleep wondering how to fix what seems wrong, at the time, in my life or relationships. Fear, anxiety, sadness crowd out rest…but worry finally collapses into prayer. It’s then that the Holy Spirit’s quiet voice breaks through the noise, and my head clears. Reminded of what’s true. Peace restored.

In worship, the voices in our heads are silenced by the Voice in our hearts, speaking His Word to us…reminding us of who He is, and who we are, in Him…that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”; we were chosen by Him; we are forgiven; His grace is sufficient for whatever comes; nothing can separate us from His love; and He will never leave us or forsake us…ever.

MercyMe’s song, Greater, from their Welcome to the New album (2014) describes this wrestling in the lives of believers. Until the day, we leave this place for Heaven, we will struggle against what the world says about God and about us, and we’ll cling to what God says…and what we know to be true in walking with Him.

God has used this song to lift my head, and, with joy and gratitude to Him and MercyMe, I invite you to worship with me, singing Greater.

Greater

Bring your tired; bring your shame; bring your guilt; bring your pain; Don’t you know that’s not your name. You will always be much more to me.

Everyday I wrestle with the voices that keep telling me I’m not right; But that’s alright.

‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed; when others say I’ll never be enough. And greater is the One living inside of me than he who is living in the world. In the world. In the world.

And greater is the One living inside of me Than he who is living in the world.

Bring your doubts; bring your fears; bring your hurt; bring your tears There’ll be no condemnation here. You are holy, righteous and redeemed. Every time I fall, there’ll be those who will call me a mistake; well that’s ok.

(He’s greater, He’s greater)

There’ll be days I lose the battle; grace says that doesn’t matter ‘Cause the cross already won the war.

(He’s Greater, He’s Greater)

I am learning to run freely understanding just how He sees me and it makes me love Him more and more.

He’s Greater He’s Greater

My God is greater than he who is living in the world.

Mercy Me – Greater Lyrics | MetroLyrics

YouTube video of Greater with Lyrics

YouTube video of Bart Millard Telling Story Behind Song Greater

More of the Story

The Stupendous Reality of Being in Christ Jesus by John Piper

Remembered in Her Will – A Chance to Change the Future if Not the Past

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[ Continuation of the story from The Father I Never Knew – On Father’s Day ]

An aunt I never knew remembered my brothers and me in her will. She was my father’s older sister. When my parents divorced, I was not yet 6. My mom divorced my dad, and our understanding as children was that his family wanted nothing more to do with us. It seemed true as decades have passed without contact with them. Whatever childhood memories I had of my relatives on my dad’s side are gone.

Then through a search on the part of a cousin of my aunt Pauline, my father’s sister, we were found. This cousin and Pauline were very close, and the cousin, Mrs. Betty Anne, is actually responsible for our being remembered in our aunt’s will. Aunt Pauline had planned to leave some money to the children of one brother, and this cousin, encouraged her to remember her other brother’s children as well…even though she never knew us.

It turns out, as we heard the story from this lovely lady, that our family on my father’s side did want to know us, but didn’t know how…I will never know the details of that longing. My father made few attempts to see us after the divorce, and, I suppose, lost track of us…even though we grew up close by. My mom lived in the same house a county away for nearly 40 years, an address my father knew. All my wonderings about this will never be satisfied. My paternal grandparents, my father, and his siblings are all gone now.

However, there is hope in these situations, I am finding, and it doesn’t just happen to other people.

Mrs. Betty Anne, this dear cousin of Aunt Pauline, tracked us down.  In our visit with her, we talked about the family we shared that she knew well and we didn’t at all. She said our father was a good man. He always dressed well, and was handsome and charming. He didn’t work much (which we knew from our mom’s account), but he was a good man, she would say often.

What was bittersweet, during this long-awaited “re-acquaintance”, was how she talked about our aunt and how she had wanted to know us. She was 97 when she died this Spring, and probably wasn’t internet-search-savvy. We would have been easy to find really…but it did not happen. I regret her loss, and our own…to not know each other.

Now, weeks after this first visit, I’m continuing to learn about my other family through Mrs. Betty Anne. She’s been a kind and generous historian, sharing pictures of family and telling us stories about them. People we don’t know and yet are as close a relative to us as she is to them. It’s been both a joyful and peculiar experience.

I have two first cousins in Athens, Georgia, and am planning to write them. Hopefully they won’t think that too strange after all these years. I wonder what they knew of us…yet, without interest.  Maybe they knew nothing of us, as we didn’t them. I’d like to at least change this now.

Finally, Mrs. Betty Anne set me thinking about redeeming the future since I can’t redeem the past. Sometimes when there are issues between family members, they continue through generations, even when the issue itself has long-since-died, along with some in that family. I have that situation with an uncle and aunt on my mom’s side. As much as I believe in the rightness of forgiveness and reconciliation, it’s not been a priority for me to reach out to them. Mrs. Betty Anne, fresh from this experience with our Aunt Pauline, implored us to reach out to this aunt and uncle, as much for their sake as for ours.

I’m writing them tomorrow…maybe this time, the future can be changed.

 

 

Worship Wednesday – Tribute to Kelsey Kennedy & Matt Redman’s Never Once

Blog - The Kennedy Crew -  Kelsey, Chris & Alexa Kennedy

And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 31:8

I’ve never met Kelsey Kennedy, but she is dear to me. Five years ago, she was diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma. This is a rare cancer of the extremities that occurs in young people and spreads aggressively to other parts of the body. From the beginning, Kelsey must have known what a relentless cancer this was, and yet she faced it with great courage and faith. Thanks to social media (Facebook, in particular), I am a small part of a huge army of prayer warriors who have been committed for months/years to pray healing over Kelsey and grace for her husband, Chris.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been praying for her (having discovered a Praying for Kelsey page through a friend’s Facebook wall). Kelsey’s tenacity, in the face of a cancer that continued to spread despite the best treatment, was unflagging. She had so much to live for – a sweet husband, darling little daughter, family and friends who adored her, and a God she wanted to glorify for years to come…a lifetime to come.

Cancer nursing is my background, and even as I prayed for complete physical healing for her, as she had asked us all to pray, I struggled against the knowledge of what a dismal prognosis she had. Yet, she kept her focus on life and she fought for it. Not just for herself, but for those she loved. And even in this past week, what would be the last week of her life, she poured grace on all who came to encourage her. She encouraged them, and she encouraged all the rest of us – who didn’t know her, but loved her. She pointed us to her Saviour…and now she sees Him face-to-face.

I don’t understand why this lovely young mother had to die at 35 years old. It is not for us to understand. Having lost family members myself, and not sure I would be able to manage after they died, I understand the great reality that God doesn’t always heal on this side…but He heals all of us ultimately. And as we go through the dark valley of dying or watching someone we love die, He never leaves us to take this journey alone. He is very near…and that is what got Kelsey to Heaven at the end of her battle…and His presence is what will get Chris to tomorrow…and the day after. By His grace.

After hearing (through the Praying for Kelsey Facebook page) that Kelsey had died, hundreds of us expressed our condolences through postings on this page. Several folks included links to praise songs that had comforted them and hopefully would comfort Chris and the rest of Kelsey’s family. The song that came to mind for me from Kelsey’s life was Matt Redman’s Never Once.

Never Once

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we’ll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful.

[Writers: Ingram, Jason/Redman, Matt/Wanstall, Tim]

In Chris’ blog posting  the day Kelsey went to be with Jesus, he quoted a favorite short piece of mine (which I found at the time my Mom died):

“Final thing to share, as we close out the first chapter of Kelsey’s life – a neat illustration which was written in a pamphlet about the final days of life:

“I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, ‘There, she is gone!’

‘Gone where?’

Gone from sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear the load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: ‘There, she is gone!’ there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: ‘Here she comes!’

And that is dying.”

— Henry Van Dyke

Never once did Kelsey or Chris walk alone through this…never once.

So thankful for a God who never leaves us or forsakes us…ever (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Image Credit – Christ > Cancer: Kelsey’s Journey to Healing

The Kennedy Crew Blog

Kelsey Kennedy – Obituary

Never Once by Matt Redman live

 

YouTube Video – Story Behind Never Once

 

Godtube Video of Never Once – Slideshow with Lyrics

 

The Fruits of Summer…and Year-Round Deliciousness…Not to Be Taken For Granted

At our house, there are almost always apples and bananas. They are the go-to snack for my husband (when he’s trying to be healthy). Well, there is a brief period when he says, “Don’t buy any more apples. They’re out of season.” He’s talking about Honeycrisp and Pink Lady apples, his favorites. As the food shopper, I’m more aware of the seasons coming and going, not just here but other cultivated places (Chile, for instance). Fortunately, when these apple favorites are dwindling here in the Northern Hemisphere, the Southern Hemisphere orchards are bearing and apples will soon be shipped to us again.

Bananas are a different story altogether…seemingly always in season, thanks to being grown all around the world. For now, you can always find bananas, right? Inexpensive at $.49/lb, or a bit more for organic. Always there…dependable, affordable, delicious fruit. Our family did have a unique experience a few years ago, living in North Africa in 1990’s, when bananas weren’t a part of our household fruit supply. Not because there was a scarcity of them but because of the politics of the day. [See link below.] Bananas are the perfect imported fruit.

These fruits are not what we in the U.S. think of as summer fruits; they are more the old standards.

Summer fruit is a many-course feast of perfect deliciousness. Where we live, summer begins with strawberries. Then there’s the brief glorious seasons of cherries, blueberries, and blackberries. They make for handfuls of plump sweetness, and we all have our favorites.

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2014 Phone pics July-December 027

The berry season is followed by the melons – watermelon and cantaloupe – the perfect finish of every summer cookout.

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And last, for us, are the sun-bronzed peaches that drip sweet juice down your arm as you eat them over the kitchen sink or without a plate outdoors.

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Summer fruit can stand alone as clear evidence of a kind and loving Creator God.  So much goodness is fruit in season. The Bible is full of references to fruit as gifts from God and as the outcome of lives yielded to God (Psalm 1:1-6; Song of Solomon 2:3-5; Galatians 5:22-23; John 15:1-17; etc.)

I love all of these fruits, but my favorite is the cherry in its season. Cherries are completely perfect, right down to the seed pit which requires disposal, forcing us to slow down eating these lovelies, or we would eat them until they made us sick.

One of the leading national producers of cherries is Turkey, and we had the sweet opportunity of being there during cherry season one year. In the hotel where we stayed for a conference, the buffets offered huge bowls of cherries. We ate to our full every day that we were there, such that, just the memory of that culinary experience would be enough for us if it was all we would have of cherry season.

Still, at least once a summer in the US, I pay the big bucks to buy cherries trucked to us from Washington State or California. And I remember that there are places in the world, where “bad” or blemished cherries are transformed into indescribably lovely juice or cooked into pies for the pickers’ families who gathered them. Cherries are grown for those able to afford them…and at least once or twice in the season, we are among them.

Summer fruit is remarkable, really. Short growing seasons. Heat. Drought. Transport issues. We definitely should savor them (as we do) and not take them for granted.

The always-present fruit like bananas should cause us to be grateful as well. Bananas are not bound by a short season and they are enjoyed by most peoples of the world, not just the affluent. Still as I read about fruit, trying to raise this piece above just a love affair with food, I was struck by how the fruit that we just assume will always be in our supermarkets may actually not be. Not just related to drought, for instance, but also to disease. Bananas are no exception (see links below).

I am grateful for all these delicious fruits of someone’s summer – those we find locally, and those touched by hands across the globe to bring them to our market. I am thankful for the means to enjoy cherries and for those who did the work to bring these to our table.

Track Meet & Turkey Trip 04 & 05 027Our Kids in Turkey – not in Cherry Season.

 Why Do We Import Apples From Other Countries?

Michigan’s Cherry Festival

Turkey has Best Cherry Harvest of Last 20 Years – FreshPlaza: Global Fresh Produce and Banana News 

Best Blueberry Muffins ever from YaYa – “I also add one teaspoon of cinnamon & two teaspoons of vanilla and a few extra berries doesn’t hurt”

Import Duties, Internal Taxes, Local Production – Why We Had No Bananas in Tunisia in Early 1990’s

The Banana Trade War – Fruit, Economy, Society

How the Global Banana Industry is Killing the World’s Favorite Fruit

Yes, We Have No Bananas

 

Worship Wednesday — This Good Day by Fernando Ortega

O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions. – Psalm 104:24

The garden came with the house. We needed a house where we could do our living on one floor, with elder parents coming for visits. The one we finally bought was everything we needed…and more. Walking out the back door, we enter a green space beautifully tended by the previous owners. Just in the few weeks since moving in, we have enjoyed the flowering of azaleas, irises, rhododendron, daisies, lilies, and more. We are mesmerized at all the beauty and refreshed by both the new growth and old – the flowers, changing weekly, and the tall ancient trees, standing at watch over the garden.

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In the morning, when there’s time before work, I walk outside, coffee in hand, just to take in the gift of this garden – something we have the pleasure of, although we did not plant it. And I am reminded of the glorious and undeserved provisions of God in our lives. The beauty that surrounds us  reminds us of His tenderness and care.

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There’s a worship song that affects me like strolls in this garden. It is Fernando Ortega’s This Good Day. He wrote it in 1999 during a time in his career when he was touring with a band, and away from home for long periods of time. The album Home, released in 2000, came out of this journey. He recalled of this experience: “I missed being home a lot this past year, and so several of the songs reflect that, along with the recognition of God’s goodness and kindness in giving me a place I can call ‘home.'”

 Fernando Ortega - Worship Wednesday blog 2Fernando Ortega

We call this home now…this easy house, fit for old and young…and this beautiful garden. It is a glimpse of Heaven for us…and especially of the majesty of God as displayed in His creation. I love the garden best in the morning.

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My husband lays claim on the garden in the early evening after work. It seems a respite to him, even though he is the one who will tend it, like those who planted it before we settled here. It’s a quiet place…like him, and made even more beautiful by our adult children from time to time…who find their way to their father…there.

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In this place, and on this good day, I found my way to the Father there as well.

This Good Day

Morning sun and morning glories pouring down the hill, through my window I can feel the ocean breeze.  Noisy sparrows fill the oak trees.  Swallows can’t stay still, and in the glad commotion, Lord, You speak to me.

If rain clouds come or the cold winds blow, You’re the One who goes before me, and in my heart I know:

This good day – it is a gift from You. The world is turning in its place because You made it to. I lift my voice to sing a song of praise – on this good day.

I will walk to Woodman’s Cove. The fishing boats are leaving. Seagulls follow just above the water. I will wait until the sunset brings them home again, rigging lines and anchors in the harbor.

If rain clouds come or the cold winds blow, You’re the One who goes before me , and in my heart I know:

This good day – it is a gift from You. The world is turning in its place because You made it to. I lift my voice to sing a song of praise – on this good day.

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Fernando Ortega Official Website

Album Review of “Home”

YouTube video – Live Performance of This Good Day

YouTube video of This Good Day with Scripture for Worship

Give Me Jesus

 

 

What if Romans 8 was the only Scripture Portion You Had

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The Apostle Paul’s letters to the churches must have been a great treasure to those believers, as they continue to be to us centuries later. His letter to the Romans, written in A.D. 57, is rich instruction and encouragement in the things of God. For those who want to know God in the fullness of His glory and to faithfully follow Christ, the book of Romans is invaluable. How grateful I am that God has preserved this letter over the ages, as He has done with all His Word, for our sakes.

Paul’s letter to the Romans is worth examination, no matter what your religious (or non-religious) affiliations.  Sometimes when I read the Bible, the thought of “What if” comes to mind. What if I only had this portion of Scripture? How would it change my life? It’s dangerous for any of us to pull out bits of Scripture to order our lives without considering the whole counsel of God. Yet, in some parts of the world, the Bible is not available to everyone. There may come a day, when it might be censored where you live, if it isn’t already. It’s already precious, so to think we might not have it all, I read sometimes as if what I am reading is all I have of the instruction and character of God. Romans 8 was my focus this morning.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (verses 1-2, Romans 8) You have to look back to Romans 7 to see what the “therefore” is there for…but in case, we only hypothetically have Romans 8 in our hands, let’s focus on what remains in the passage. No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. No condemnation! What a glorious word for us who live under perceived condemnation (by self, Satan, or the world) every day. And with no condemnation comes the freedom we have in Christ. He has set us free. Amazing truth given our condition from birth apart from Him.

On a side note: Paul’s letter to the Roman believers also often refers to the perfect unity of God (in God the Father, God the Spirit, and God the Son). Watch for references to the Three-in-One – magnificent “Unity in Trinity”.

“But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (verses 10-11) No matter how deep our theological understanding is about life, we know that we wrestle daily with our flesh (body, sinful nature)…even as Christ-followers (not even…maybe more so). This struggle is with us until we leave this life. However, we are not alone in this. The Spirit of life (God), because Christ is in us, gives us life. Life here to choose to live according to God’s teaching and in His power…and life forever with Him. Let that wash over you this morning, Dear One.

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (verses 15-17) Here we see the witness of the unity of God in three persons as Paul further explains our position and inheritance in the Kingdom of God. We are adopted into His family. We are His heirs, fellow heirs with Christ! We share in the inheritance of Jesus which is His by divine right. Yet God the Father includes us…adopts us as His children. A casual read of this will not do. It is a mind-blowing gift from God!

On a side note: I’m sure the bit about suffering registered. Suffering is inevitable for all of us. It just is, and God tries to prepare us for it through His Word (including these great letter-writers). Yet, with the suffering comes glory. We share in the glory of Christ!

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (verse 28) This is such a familiar verse, often-quoted and sometimes misquoted in difficult circumstances of life. Still the truth of it resonates so well with us who follow Christ.  God works good out of all things…no matter what…for those who love Him and for His purposes. We can take great comfort in this promise…great comfort in the One who makes this promise.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be  against us?” (verse 31) Enough said. Hallelujah!

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (verses 35, 37-39) No matter how evil the times are in which we find ourselves. No matter what the course of our lives. Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Nothing. Nada. No matter the press of confusing circumstances or the prosecutorial arguments of the world or the evil whispers of Satan himself lying in our ears…God tells us that we are more than conquerors through Him and that absolutely nothing will separate us from His love.  That is the message Paul delivered to the Roman believers in this letter. They understood and clung to this message during a horrific time in history, and, one day, we will join them, worshipping the God of these great words.

This was my word from God this early morning…still resonating all these years after it was written. My life is steadied and course set on a foundation that is not shaken…thanks to a God who preserved His word for us to the present, and for as long as this world continues…as He purposes and in His love.

Romans 8 (and the rest of God’s Word) in Many Languages

Called According to His Purpose

The Preservation of the Bible

How We Got the Bible