Back to School – Teachers on My Mind

 Blog - Back to School

Back to School! Must be September…with all that comes with it. I have always loved the smell of newly sharpened pencils and notebooks just opened. Put me in a room full of books and I can occupy myself for hours. “Back to school” can mean delight for some and dread for others. I actually never cared for school – growing up or sending my children off to school. I liked being home, as a child, and I loved having our children home. Yet, there comes a day that vacation is over, and the work of children begins again in earnest…at school.

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The Tuesday after Labor Day marks the beginning of the public school year here in Virginia, and my mind is busy with images of kids of all ages in the latest coolest outfit with all the appropriate age-specific accessories (backpack, lunchbox, cell phone, etc.). More than even the kids, I think of the parents who entrust their loves to teachers and staff, some of whom they may not even know really…except for maybe the rushed Open House introductions.

More even than the parents, it’s those teachers, I want to focus on. How do they prepare for the onslaught of the first day of school? To receive 20-25 little strangers into their classroom. How do they begin to build order and community among these little strangers? These , coming from different home cultures, some not native English speakers. How do they sort out who needs what to help them learn best? It’s all a great mystery to me.

2011 November Christie's Class 022

Then there are those first day tears…or first day fears that are harder to recognize. These teachers just seem to know, and they work to settle these young ones and to stoke confidence in their hearts.

I have always admired the giftings of teachers – adults able to enter the world of their students and render opportunities to learn and inspire in just such a way these young ones can grasp. Not just to master content but to learn how to be good citizens in their particular community (be it 3rd grade or 10th). It’s a shame when teachers stay so long – or too long tired – in the classroom such that they lose their passion for teaching (or is it for learning?). They still have impact, and hopefully for good. Hopefully. I don’t know any teachers like that right now, and today could be a fresh start.

Right now, I am well-acquainted with some wonderful teachers who are greeting their new class of students today, and I want to say to them, “Thank you.” Thank you for thinking of these students through the summer, although they did not as yet have names or faces…yet you were already planning for a good year for them.

Thank you for preparing your classroom to be a bright and colorful place that will delight their imaginations. Thank you for filling their space with books, and floor pillows, and games, and art, and math manipulatives, and computer programming – to touch the hearts and minds of each of your students with their unique learning strengths and weaknesses.  Thanks for not taking yourself too seriously or them too lightly.  Thanks for your understanding of which students need to be drawn out and which other ones need to be settled down. Beginnings are important, and your students have so much to learn from you about starting well.

And then finishing strong. Thanks for determining to stick with them through the year. For not giving up on the ones who seem to have just too much going against them to be successful. We never know, do we? And for those students who just seem to have everything going for them, thank you for challenging them to serve others, to think critically, and to lead in ways that go deeper than popularity.

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Thank you for applying all your “super powers” for their benefit – be they  little ones or the almost grown ones – including seeing their parents (or grandparents or other guardians) as some of your best resources. It means more work for you, but it could make all the difference…not just for that student, but for their adults as well.

So thanks, teachers…it’s a new year. And you’re ready.

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3 Free Tools for a Productive September [September 1st is the New January 1st] – Ann Voskamp

Recipe for Pecan Pie Bars – to go with those Pumpkin Spice Lattes that Appear Magically in September Along with School

A Labor of Love – Hanover Habitat for Humanity – Still Sore Two Days Later But a Good Sore

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Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.  – Jeremiah 29:5

The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish pulls it down with her hands. – Proverbs 14:1

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain. – Psalm 127:1-2

The Bible is filled with references about building and building well – exact measurements and materials, strong foundations, counting the cost before building, and obeying God in building and being community together.

A team of us from Crosstrain Community Church in Richmond, Virginia volunteered a couple of days ago to help with building with Hanover Habitat for Humanity. We had been intrigued for some time on how to participate, as construction novices, in the good work of Habitat – providing affordable housing for people in need.

Their processes have changed through the years and are better than ever (in choosing candidates for homes, mobilizing and equipping building teams, and strengthening community relationships). It was amazing for us how they took a group of green volunteers, with very little experience, and guided us through a day’s work. We accomplished so much – considerably more than we could have imagined.

We had a team of 14, and the site foreman, George, divided us into three smaller teams. He asked for those who considered themselves to be “perfectionists” to do prep for vinyl siding for a house. All the guys on our team chose that work).

Crosstrain men at Habitat

Then George asked for 5 of us to paint trim all day. That might seem simple, but on-your-feet painting for 6 hours in the August sun was a job!

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Still fun though – good company, sweet music, and lots of laughter as they splashed paint on all those strips of wood.

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I was on the remaining team whose job it was to lay the plywood for the subfloor on the floor joists that were already in place. Never having done more with a hammer than hang pictures, I was more than uneasy as to what we would be doing. Fortunately, as is the case with all Habitat projects, we had “professional” volunteers leading us in the job. Our guys, Brian and Mike, knew well what they were doing and they were patient and encouraging with us.

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With these guys and a couple of others, we finished that subfloor.

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Between our three small teams, we worked on two houses that day. Both of the designated house owners were there helping as well. It was a pleasure to get to meet and work alongside the people who were most invested in building these houses that would be their homes.

Working together is always a great opportunity to build relationships and to serve others. We learn from others with differing strengths and see weaknesses in areas that we had no other opportunity to see except in unfamiliar territory. I am a hard worker and want to always do my part, but that was the absolute hardest physical work I’ve done in some time.

It was an incredible experience for me to be side-by-side with friends who shouldered up to you when the task got too hard, and your strength ebbed. A sunny day at the beach and a sunny day on a work site are two very different experiences. No wonder we see builders with huge coolers heading to their work! They must eat and drink massive amounts to stay hydrated and energized through the day. I’ve always had respect for these guys, and my experience with Habitat boosted that respect all the more.

When we left the site, at 3:30 that day, we had finished what they asked us to accomplish. All I wanted to do when I got home was eat, drink, and be horizontal…not thinking about anything. Completely exhausted. It has taken 2 days to get back to my “computer job” fit self (sigh). It’s the good sore of working hard, in community, for something that matters. Looking forward to our next day out with Habitat…hopefully in the cool of a Fall day.

2014 Phone pics July-December 084 - George & Dave (2)George (on left) – our site foreman with Habitat

Crosstrain at Habitat for Humanity - Aug 30 2014Our team (minus two) at the end of the day in front of the completed sub-floor. They are not going to love this picture but working with them that day makes me love them all the more.

 

Habitat for Humanity, Hanover County, Virginia

On Leaving – Post by Rachel Pieh Jones – So Resonant of the Goodbyes & Hellos of Life on Two Continents

Blog - Rachel Pieh JonesRachel Pieh Jones and Family

Open road stretches out before me, cornfields and forests swirl into blurry greens and yellows. The windows are down and my hair tickles my nose, the sun warms my thighs and my elbow is getting sunburned but I don’t mind, I’ll peel and the dried skin will remind of me this day, this place, this slippery moment. The radio plays U2, Beautiful Day, and I’m singing loud.

What does leaving feel like?

It feels like that drive down the freeway. Like everything is right and the world is beautiful and maybe I’m wrong, maybe nothing is right because why does it hurt? I’m heading somewhere I want to go and leaving somewhere I want to stay and I want to be in both places and so I try to force the in between to linger. Tears stream down and blow off my cheeks, stolen by wind.

My toenails were hennaed black when we evacuated from Somalia and I remember watching the black grow out with my nail. When I clipped the last sliver of nail with black swath across the narrow tip. When my body released that last vestige, no longer stamped with a reminder of where I had been. I remember it feeling like, with that one snip, we were evacuating all over again, like something had been irrevocably removed.

Does anyone else see green grass and feel dizzy? The green blades like sea snakes swaying in the summer breezes. Does anyone else notice the way leaves filter sunlight and cast glittery shadows, orbs of golden light reflected off rivers in diamonds? Is there a way to hold it? To paint it on my toenails so I can carry it until I am ready to let go?

During leaving days every interaction is intensified, every color made more brilliant. Do you know I’m going back to Africa, to Djibouti, on Thursday?  [Note: Flights delayed and a lay-over so when you read this, they hopefully will have arrived.]

You’ll want to finish reading the rest of this post at this link.

 

Tom & Jeannie Elliff – Faith, Family, Friends

Tom & Jeannie Elliff front of prayercard

Have you ever watched a video clip of someone’s family reunion on Facebook or some other social media, and you just wanted to tag yourself right in there? That was my experience yesterday, as a family gave us the chance to see them welcome home a beloved mom and grandmother. Well, they welcomed the dad/grandfather, too, of course, but the surprise was for the mom. To see the joy in Jeannie’s face, as she saw all those loves of her life (all her “favorites”), was precious to all of us who love her and Tom. 4 children (and their spouses) gathered from around the globe with almost all of the 25 grandchildren (two away at college). What a welcome home!

The day of great welcome and joy was a day of quiet reflection for me as their arrival back home was their leaving from here. Tom and Jeannie Elliff have been friends of ours for years, and 3 of those years we were in the same city…until yesterday.  In a way, we are an unlikely friendship because their lives are full of pastor friends (pastors of large churches), denominational leaders, seminary presidents and professors, and decades-long church relationships across the US. We are none of those. Yet, they invited us into their lives, as they do the countless strangers they meet and get to know in the minutes they would be together…waitresses, mowers, doctors, electricians, store clerks.

Tom and Jeannie Elliff are consummate encouragers*. They genuinely care about the people God has placed in their path. We know that because God has used them in a big way in our lives. They even pray for our children. How amazing is that? People who have seen God in all their life’s circumstances (no matter how hard) have a joy in them that goes right to the bone. Not only all the way in, but all the way out – refreshing those around them. I won’t recount here the stories of how Tom and Jeannie have seen God work in their lives. Hopefully you’ll hear those stories directly from them. They are always ready to give reasons for the hope that lies within them (1 Peter 3:15).

Today, I just want to thank GOD for them, as Paul did when he wrote his letter to the Philippian church: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy,  for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now,  being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6a).

Our walk with God has been deepened in having had the opportunity of watching the lives of these dear ones. So many Scripture passages come to mind in thinking of them and their passion for God – for Him to be known and loved and glorified.

“Therefore, I the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3, NASB).

As they return to their home in Oklahoma, we pray for what they’ve asked us to pray. If you know them, too, you are probably already praying the same. If not…would you pray right now?

Tom & Jeannie Elliff back of prayer card

Love you, Tom and Jeannie. See you down the road.

*Greek meaning of word “encourage”

A Passion for Prayer by Tom Elliff

Unbreakable – The Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family by Tom Elliff

Worship Wednesday – Wholly Yours – David Crowder

Blog - A Collision Album by David Crowder Band

As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because as it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:15-16

 

How can we be holy like God? How is that possible? These verses, and others in the Bible, on holiness have filled me with wonder both at God’s complete holiness and our frail flesh.

The Apostle Paul even said, in his letter to the Roman church, that the things he wants to do, he doesn’t, and the things he doesn’t want to do, he does. His lament over this (in Romans 7) is followed immediately by a declaration of faith: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

 

David Crowder wrote a song that revels in the holiness of God and His manifested holiness in us. It is Wholly Yours from the David Crowder*Band A Collision album (2005). The word holy means set apart, special, different from the world*. Being holy is not just about conduct or morality; being holy relates to who we are as Christ-followers. Saved from our sin by His death on the cross, and living transformed lives through the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

 

Crowder’s mom actually gave him the inspiration for the lyric of Wholly Yours. She wrote him, in a letter, about her own wrestling with how to “be holy as [He is] holy”. Then she told David how a friend sorted it out: “Covered by grace we, being in Christ, are holy as He is Holy, and thus the only hope we have for holiness is to bring the whole of our lives under the coverings of Christ. To be wholly under Christ’s rule and reign is to be found holy, as Christ is Holy.”

 

The more surrendered we are to God, the more our lives are His, moment by moment, to radiate who He is – His love, His grace, His holiness. When we are wholly His, we can amazingly be “holy as He is holy.”

Worship with me:

I am full of earth
You are heaven’s worth
I am stained with dirt, prone to depravity
You are everything that is bright and clean
The antonym of me
You are divinity
But a certain sign of grace is this
From the broken earth flowers come up
Pushing through the dirt

You are holy, holy, holy
All heaven cries “Holy, holy God”
You are holy, holy, holy
I want to be holy like You are

You are everything that is bright and clean
And You’re covering me with Your majesty
And the truest sign of grace was this
From wounded hands redemption fell down
Liberating man
But the harder I try the more clearly can I feel
The depth of our fall and the weight of it all
And so this might could be the most impossible thing
Your grandness in me making me clean

Glory, hallelujah
Glory, glory, hallelujah
So here I am, all of me
Finally everything
Wholly, wholly, wholly
I am wholly, wholly
I am wholly, wholly, wholly
Yours

I am full of earth and dirt and You.

 

Written by David Crowder ©2005 worshiptogether.com Songs / sixsteps Music (ASCAP) Admin by EMI CMG Publishing

Lyrics & Back Story

Crowder Music

What Does God Mean When He Asks Us to Be Holy as He Is Holy?

Destined to Be Holy – Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest

J.C. Ryle on Holiness

*Definition of the Word Holy in Scripture

YouTube Video – Wholly Yours w/ Lyrics

Sacred Marriage Seminar – A Morning with God, My Husband, & Gary Thomas

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I’ve been married 30 years to the same man. Well, not really. He and I have both changed considerably – not in our core values so much or our deepest heart desires, but in pretty much every other way. We grew up a lot, married to each other. I am especially thankful he hung in there with me during some of those tough early growing up years.

This past weekend, we had the joy of together attending a Sacred Marriage Seminar with Gary Thomas (sponsored by First Things First of Greater Richmond). Can’t remember the last marriage conference we participated in. One friend said, this weekend, on hearing we’d attended, “I won’t go to marriage conferences any more. until I start applying what I’ve learned at previous ones.” [Of course, we know their marriage pretty well…loving, honest, devoted to God and others…including each other.]

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Gary L. Thomas has made a deep study of marriage over many decades and his wisdom has been a great encouragement to us. Our absolute favorite book on marriage is his Sacred Marriage – What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than Happy?  Thomas is not precluding happiness as part of marriage. By no means. What he does is to encourage the reader to fix our focus on our walk with God as the true foundation for the great joys possible in marriage.

If you are single (or single-again) and hope God has marriage in your future, I would encourage you to read Thomas’ book The Sacred Search. Those single years for me could have been far less dramatic and traumatic  if I’d known then what I know now. This book is a good start in gaining wisdom for that season.

If you are married, happily for now or unhappily for a long time, you might consider reading Sacred Marriage. As in the too-frequent Sunday-to-Monday sacred-secular divide, there can be the same spiritual disconnect in our marriages. Persevere. Don’t give up. Not on each other, and especially not on God. I don’t say this lightly…dark days come to all marriages. I know. What I also know is that God loves His children, and our weakness can actually display His great strength (2 Corinthians 12:9).

[Hear my heart, if you are divorced or in a second/third marriage, there is no judgment here. Only hope for you, singly or together with your spouse, to know and love God and the glory of His love for you.]

I leave you with some of what Gary Thomas says through these books and the Sacred Marriage Seminar. Hopefully, you’ve heard from me that it’s not about Gary Thomas…but about a God who desires true intimacy for us – with Himself and with each other.

The spiritual challenge of marriage is that “We ALL stumble in many ways.” (James 3:2) — Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Marriage Seminar

“If you want to be free to serve Jesus, there’s no question—stay single. Marriage takes a lot of time. But if you want to become more like Jesus, I can’t imagine any better thing to do than to get married. Being married forces you to face some character issues you’d never have to face otherwise.” — Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Marriage

“Women, ask yourself, what will you most desire in your man ten years from now, when you have kids and a house and are sharing a life together and the infatuation has faded? Find that. Look for that.” — Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Search

“None of us is so fascinating that we can keep someone enchanted for 50-60 years. But if we’re joined in seeking God’s Kingdom [Matthew 6:33], then there’s plenty of drama for a lifetime. Selfishness is boring. Being centered on His purposes is riveting and bonding.” — Gary L. Thomas, notes from Sacred Marriage Seminar

“If I get married for trivial reasons, then I’ll get divorced for trivial reasons. If I get married to “seek first the Kingdom of God” then that never changes and my marriage is on rock-solid ground.” — Gary L. Thomas, notes from Sacred Marriage Seminar

“Couples don’t fall out of love so much as they fall out of repentance.” – Gary L. Thomas

“I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouse.” — Gary L. Thomas

“Your spouse is a child of God, too, so meditate on God as Father-in-Law. He knows His children better than anyone knows them. We need to pay attention to God in how He cares for His children – like a daddy watching out for his little girl – and love our spouse as He loves them.” — Gary L. Thomas, notes from Sacred Marriage Seminar

First Things First of Greater Richmond

Gary Thomas Website, Blog, Resources

Singles and “The Sacred Search

Excerpts from Gary Thomas’ The Sacred Search

The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas {A Book Review}

10 Essentials for Your Marriage

Sacred Marriage Small Group Bible Study Videos

Gary L. Thomas Quotes from Goodreads.com

Another word on marriage – with engaging comment section including comments by Gary Thomas

 

To My Younger Self

2009 April May Trip to Georgia 088 - Blog (3)I feel so tender toward that little girl and young woman that I used to be. There was a time, not so many years ago, that memories of my childhood through my twenties made me flush with confusion, anger and regret. I was hard on that younger self.  Growing older and deeper in love with God gives such glorious perspective.

If only I could go back and reassure myself then with what I know now….

To that school-age girlIMG_0008 (2)I would say, “God sees you. He is good. He will keep you safe. (Psalm 33)”

My parents divorced before this wee version of me was six. Lives turned topsy-turvy as Mommy sorted out how to care for four little children, and Daddy disappeared. She did take care of these little ones, and that was a glimpse for this mini-me of what I know now. God reached out to this little girl through strangers. Neighbors invited us to church, and there we learned of a good God who loved us and would never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5). I gradually trusted this Father God.

To that high-school girl – I would say, “Look at yourself through God’s eyes, Girl. See how gifted and beautiful you really are. You matter to God, and that is all that really matters.” That teen-aged version of me had the usual adolescent angst and then some. She worked so hard to please others and sought approval from her peers, approval that would never be satisfied. Those years started a pendulum swinging between the church which she loved and the world where she wanted to be loved. I want to wrap my arms around that bewildered teenaged me and plant into her heart the sweet truth of her identity in Christ. Somehow she [I] missed that message in those years…of  who we are in Christ – His child, a new creation, chosen, holy, blameless, loved, and complete in Him (John 12; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:4).

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To that young woman in her twenties – I would say, “You don’t have to make things happen. See how God has already worked…trust yourself into His hands. He’s working everything out” (Romans 8:28). That 20-something me had done well academically and was situated in a challenging and fascinating job. Life was still a bit dizzying because, not having had this talk yet (or the one I would give my teenaged self), she was still of a mind that she was messed up somehow. Maybe it was the still present father wound, or the disappointments of her teen years, but she struggled with enormous self-doubt and deep guilt. She believed one day she would be “exposed” and everyone would see that she didn’t know enough, wasn’t good enough, somehow had faked her way through life. I remember vividly the strain of these years on that younger me. I am thankful for Godly women, in those days, who loved that younger me – so driven, restless, and searching. It took some convincing, but thanks to their not giving up on her, and the Holy Spirit stirring her heart, she [I] took hold of the God who had never let go all those years.

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Those early years of pain, loss, and confusion seem long ago now. Looking back, though, I find God there with that younger me. ..so gentle and patient. I am not able to speak to that younger self, but there are younger ones in my life today that remind me of her. Listening, I speak to them.

Your Identity in Christ

Worship Wednesday – You Are My Vision – Rend Collective

Blog - Rend Collective - You are My Vision

The strongest memories I have of the song Be Thou My Vision are connected with worship across North Africa. When our children were growing up, we “attended church” – expat families who gathered once or twice a week to worship in English.  We sang great hymns, old and more modern, with guitar accompaniment, and worship leaders with more British and Irish accents than American. I remember our little family, strung out along a pew of these little churches. Our stair-step children, with shoulders squared, singing from hymnals in the early years and then words projected on the stuccoed front walls.

We sang Be Thou My Vision, this old Irish hymn, across three countries in Heliopolis Community Church (Cairo), St. George’s (Tunis), and St. John’s (Casablanca). Before our children all launched back into life in the US, we “attended” church less and became a part of house churches. There we still sang Be Thou My Vision, still with guitar…less with a British or Irish accent.

Now to Rend Collective. I heard this group for the first time on my radio about a year ago. The song was Second Chance*. I jotted down the group’s name and song (while driving…sigh) and would later buy the album** based on that one song. Have you ever done that?

When I heard You are My Vision, my first thought was how could anyone mess with such a great hymn that so truly magnifies God? As I listened, the personal nature of this version drew me in. This old Irish hymn written in the 8th century has been, not-so-much-updated but, celebrated by an Irish group of young worshippers. Not celebrating the song so much as celebrating the Saviour of the song.

Worship with me through the lyrics and music of You are My Vision.

You are my vision, oh King of mine heart. Nothing else satisfies, only You, Lord. You are my best thought, by day or by night. Waking or sleeping, Your presence, my light.

You are my wisdom; You are my true word – I ever with You and You with me, Lord. You’re my great Father and I’m Your true Son. You dwell inside me, together we’re one.

You are my battle shield, sword for the fight. You are my dignity; You’re my delight. You’re my soul’s shelter, and You’re my high tower. Come raise me heavenward, oh, Power of my power.

I don’t want riches or a man’s empty praise. You’re my inheritance, now and always. You and You only, the first in my heart –  High king of heaven, my treasure You are.

High king of heaven, when victory’s won, may I reach heaven’s joy, oh, bright heaven’s Son. Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision, oh, Ruler of all.

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision, oh, Ruler of all.

Lyrics for You are My Vision

You are My Vision – Rend Collective – Official Live – acapella part at 2:23 will seriously give you cold chills 

YouTube video of You are My Vision with lyrics

**Rend Collective Albums with You are My VisionHomemade Worship by Handmade People and Campfire

Rend Collective Art of Celebration – Album & Tour

Be Thou My Vision – Wikipedia – English Methodist Lyrics, 1964

Back Story of Be Thou My Vision

*YouTube video of Second Chance from album Homemade Worship by Handmade People

YouTube video of  Build Your Kingdom Here from album Homemade Worship by Handmade People – another favorite for another day

We Grieve Differently – We Grieve with Hope

Blog - We Grieve Differently - Iraq - Persecuted Church[Adapted with permission  -Abby Wallace – Marketplace Advance]

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The news is almost more than we can bear. Violence, war, persecution, suffering, death, seeming hopelessness. We want to look away. Yet, we know we, as Christ-followers, are to confront such matters in ways different than the world. We cannot be silent or uninvolved. We cannot turn away.

Allow the encouragement through the Scripture below help you keep perspective, guard your hearts, and stay in the battle. Remember the battle belongs to the Lord, and we are His witnesses. There are not always words. Sometimes we can’t think of a thing to say to help…and yet, we are not to stand with our hands at our sides. We come near…reach in…take hold…we refuse to be put off by the world’s struggles. Jesus died for these embattled ones around us, and we are His people…meant to extend His love.

Through Christ, we have hope, and it’s ours to share. — But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  – 1 Thessalonians 4:13

The work He calls us to, we have the capacity to do. Somehow, as we obey, He lightens the burden. — Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

We are tempted to recoil from His work, to hide, to hope someone else will speak or act. He calls us as He called Joshua. Do we trust Him? –Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

His peace is what we bring to those around us. It makes a difference. — Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. – John 14:27

Our tendency is to turn our focus on the mess the world is in rather than on the One who is at work in the mess. He is present with us…and with those He’s brought near to us. — Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:6-8

We won’t understand what God is doing always, but we must persevere in prayer for those around us. — To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. – Psalm 13:1-5

As we persevere in prayer, God clears our vision and encourages us to keep trusting Him. — I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.- Psalm 18:1-6

When hardship comes, and it will, He has given us great promises to take us through. Believe Him. — But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. – Isaiah 43:1-5

Our constancy of faith, singularity of purpose, and perseverence through trials are strengths we bring to the battle – to our circle of influence – we won’t give up on God. It’s not over yet. — Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:13-14

An example of a life of faith in grief – Job — Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. – Job 1:20-22

An example of a life of faith after grief – David — David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.” But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. – 2 Samuel 12:16-20

Our example of a life of complete obedience and love – Jesus — Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. – Isaiah 53:1-12

As Christ-followers, we are His laborers in the Harvest – we are all His laborers. The marketplace wherever we are is crowded, even in times of war, with those who desperately need Him. – we are His workers; He will redeem. — When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” – Matthew 9:36-38

Baptist Global Response

What Does the Bible Say About Grief and Sorrow

The 3:16s of the Bible – Beautiful Glimpses of the Truths of God

Blog - The 3-16s Aug 2014

I love to come across passages that resonate for us the truths of other passages. This was my experience this week in reading 1 John 3 as I prepared to lead a women’s Bible study. Meditating on 1 John 3:16, my heart was lifted to praise God again for His great love that Jesus laid down His life for us. His life was not taken from Him…He laid it down…in obedience to the Father…for us to be restored to Him again. Then in this powerful little verse, John writes that we then ought to lay down our lives for each other.

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[This reflects so perfectly the two greatest commandments that Jesus taught us to love God with all our being, and likewise, to love our neighbors in the same way we love our own selves (Matthew 22:34-40). How different the world would be if we all determined to obey these commands of Christ.]

As I lingered on 1 John 3, and verse 16, in particular, my thoughts shifted to another 3:16…the one in John’s Gospel. This verse we see on billboards and on signs at baseball games. It’s one of the first verses we memorize as children in church. We lean gratefully on the truth of this verse.

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Whoever believes…whoever believes in Him…shall not perish…but have eternal life.

Wow!

1 John 3:16 and John 3:16. Life-changing truths at similar addresses. There are actually many interesting connections intertwined in verses like these throughout the Bible. Dr. Donald E. Knuth, a brilliant mathematician and computer scientist (Professor Emeritus, Stanford University), wrote about, of all things, the 3:16s. There are 59 of them in Scripture. In his beautifully written volume, 3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated, Dr. Knuth used 59 different calligraphers to illustrate these verses as he provided commentary and context.

The Word of God is so profoundly rich; valuable beyond our understanding really. And sometimes it moves an analytical mathematician, who loves the Scripture, to capture its beauty in just this way.

3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated by Donald E. Knuth

All the 3:16s in the Bible

The Bible’s 3:16 Verses Demonstrate Like Referenced Verse Themes

When were the books of the Bible divided into chapters and verses? Who did the dividing?