Food Favorites Cross Cultures – but Not Always – Hilarious Foodie Videos

Blog - Foodie Videos  #3

“Culture, when it comes to food, is, of course, a fancy word for your mom.” – Michael Pollan

Food and culture are such an important part of each other. Our relationships and our memories are flavored by the food we share. It could be Thanksgiving dinner in our home in Morocco (photo above), or Thanksgiving on my Mom’s buffet in Georgia (photos below).Blog - Foodie - use this one too

Blog - Foodie - Use this one

When you think of holidays, certain favorite foods always come to mind. At my mom-in-law’s table at Christmas, it’s brunch together.Blog - Foodie Videos #6

Blog - Foodie Videos #8

MomMom is well-known for her strawberry salad which only sounds healthy but it’s so yummy.Blog - Foodie Videos #5

Our family had the great blessing of living in North Africa for our children’s growing-up years. With the living, came the friends, food, and memories of those wonderful places. The British are well known for their afternoon tea, and rightly so. Less may be known about a Moroccan tea, but that’s the one I know best.Blog - Foodie Videos - #13

I have learned hospitality from some of the best women in the world, in the US, and across North Africa. The Egyptian table, although very different from that of my childhood, felt very Southern to me. Blog - Foodie Videos - #16

Blog - Foodie Videos - #15

Now, that your tastebuds are all geared up and your mouth is watering, if you love food of all kinds, here is the hilarious deliciousness of cross-cultural dining.

This morning, a South African friend posted a Buzzfeed video skit portraying Americans trying South African snacks. I laughed out loud. Then, as happens with the internet, other videos followed. It was so much fun finding the videos below.

Enjoy…and I would love to hear some of your favorite cross-cultural food experiences through the comments section below. Here, in Richmond, Virginia, we don’t have a Chinatown or Arab Quarter or anything like that. However, we do have wonderful little restaurants that serve up authentic Moroccan, Armenian, Ethiopian, Bosnian, Pakistani, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Cuban, Greek and Korean food. What else, fellow Richmonders?

YouTube Video – Americans Try Southern Food for the First Time

The Way Folks Were Meant to Eat – by Ray Blount, Jr , from book Long Time Leaving: Dispatches from Up South Essay & AudioFile – Do NOT Miss This. So much fun, whether you’re from the South or not.

YouTube Video – Irish People Try Irish Stereotypical Food

YouTube Video – Chinese People Try Panda Express for the First Time

YouTube Video – Americans Try Persian Food with Their Driver

The Most Famous and Greatest Food Quotes of All Time – not sure this is necessarily so, but fun list nonetheless. My own children have made pretty hilarious comments on food over the years. Put people around a table, and you get a lot of good from it.

Blog - FoodieOualidia, Morocco – Restaurant L’OstreaBlog - Foodie #2Our first sea urchins – let the adventures roll on!

Today is What We Have – Fight for a Soft Heart Today – Praying for Kara

Blog - Kara with hairNo posts from Kara & Company over the weekend, and I was holding my breath. Kara Tippetts is one of the loveliest women I’ve never met. She is a Christ-follower, pastor’s wife, mom of 4, writer, and amazing sister and friend. How I know her is through the cancer she battles, through her faith,  and through her writing…this is how I know her and how I love her.

Today, exhaling, a post came up on her Facebook page. She was writing about a friend, Jay Lyons, who was producing a documentary about her journey through cancer. She linked to the documentary as will I.

In the documentary, she talks about having to leave the party early.

[Sidebar: I write about sad things sometimes. Don’t leave the party early yourselves, dear readers. Her life is so rich, so real; I want you to know Kara. So hang in there with me. Her journey right now is so much more than sad; she has so much to teach us about life…don’t miss it.]

Kara says, “I know I’ve got cancer. I know I’m going to die of it, but I also know I have today, and so in this today, I get to live well.”

She talks about her husband, Jason. “Jason shows me the best of what life has to offer mostly in encouraging me to fight for a soft heart.”

Finally, she talks about the cancer and her Father, God: “I want to be able to share this story, that suffering isn’t a mistake and isn’t the absence of God’s goodness, because He’s present in pain.”

When Kara talks, those who doubt the goodness of God have no place to speak into her experience. She trusts God for today.

Pray for Kara and Jason today. Pray for a soft heart…for her, for them…for all of us.Blog - Kara & Jason near the end

Kara Tippetts – Facebook page

Kara Tippetts Blog – Mundane Faithfulness

Dying with Grace – By Faith Magazine Interview with Kara

Kara Tippetts Documentary Trailer

Kara’s book The Hardest Peace

Documentary Indiegogo Project Funding

Photo Credits – Kara & Jason Before Chemo and Kara & Jason After

Worship Wednesday – Greed, Gratefulness, & the Generosity of God

Blog - Tithing pic

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” – Luke 21:1-4

Years ago, an opportunity was afforded to me to teach at a very prestigious university. It would mean relocating to a new city, leaving family and friends, and taking a cut in pay. My current job had allowed me to live very well as a single woman, but I didn’t think a drop in salary would be that much of an adjustment. Unknown to me then was how much higher the cost of living was in the city where I moved. It wasn’t long after beginning life there that my finances were a mess. Running out of money well before the end of the month, I changed as much as I could to pull out of this situation. Eating oatmeal for dinner was one of my get-to-the-end-of-the-month strategies, and stopping giving money through the church was another. For the first time in my adult life, I didn’t tithe. It did not improve my situation.

During this time, there was this young graduate student I noticed at church who seemed to eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches. As we became friends, he told me that he, too, was challenged financially, living off of a graduate school stipend. However, there was a big difference. When he received his check each month, the first thing he did was write another check…his tithe to the church. Then he lived on the rest, frugally, until the next check came. If I hadn’t noticed his simple meals, which brought us into conversation about finances, he would never have commented on his own situation. It was what it was, and he was grateful.

I would one day marry this young man.

This story was not to put him on any sort of pedestal but to consider three spiritual principles at play here.

1) Greed – Growing up, we probably all heard our parents say, “There is a big difference between want and need.” Along with that, need can turn into greed, if we are not careful in managing our heart’s desires. Through that financial downturn, I experienced great clarity. It was a scramble, but I finally got past that season of debt, bounced checks, and not tithing. Tithing is returning back a portion of our income (10% or more) to the Lord, in obedience to Him, for the sake of others in need. God doesn’t need our tithe. I need the tithe. It is a stewardship of what God has given me – obeying Him in tithing, then obeying Him with the rest of my resources follows.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-21

Where your treasure is measures where you heart is. Not only that, my husband will say, but you can use your treasure to lead your heart. When you invest your treasure (whether it’s the stock market or to BGR, for example), you are going to pay attention to what’s going on with it. Where we put our treasure is where we tune our hearts. As we remember the heart of God toward those who need Him and toward those with other great needs, the resources He gives us become an extension of His hand of love…as we release them. Somehow, in our obedience (even when our heart is not fully in it), God will change our hearts. Hallelujah!

2) Gratefulness – Our children grew up with VeggieTales. The Madame Blueberry video about thankfulness was one of our favorites. The moral of this cute story was that being greedy can make you grumpy (adult talk: never satisfied). Also, the song goes with the story that “a grateful heart is a happy heart”. There is so much more to life than “the stuff”. Being grateful is a condition of the heart that can be cultivated. There is, after all, so much for which we can be grateful.

3) Generosity of God – God is wholly and perfectly generous toward us. He even challenges us to test His generosity (Malachi 3:10). We have sure found Him faithful. There may be long and difficult times of financial leanness in life. However, as we let go of a tight-fisted control of our money and what we want to do with it, God moves. Not always in ways we may “want” (again, it’s a letting go of control), but in ways that will truly satisfy, changing our hearts to be more like that of Jesus’ heart.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue. – 2 Peter 1:2-3

Share Your Story: Tithing – The High Calling

The Open Hands of the Gospel

Generous Giving: Questions about Generosity

Gratefulness and Tithing – Unlocking the Floodgates of Heaven

Tithing – Gratitude or Greed?

Generosity vs. Greed

Tithing, Giving, and Generosity

Be Generous with Your Master’s Money

Generosity Begins at Home

 

 

 

Cancer, Hospice…and All Those Beautiful Moments

Blog - Hospice - Kara TippettsA good writer does more than draw you into her story. A good writer can illuminate parts of your own story, as you resonate with hers. Kara Tippetts is a young woman I only know through her writing, but, because of her writing, my understanding of God and life and love has become even richer. It’s improbable that we will meet this side of Heaven, but I know her as if she were a good neighbor…or even a close friend. She is that transparent…and more. Kara is luminous; she is full of light and shines that light into a dark place.

For you see, Kara has a breast cancer that will not let go of her. Still she will also not let go of God. She was diagnosed not long ago, just in 2012, but not two years later, and all the treatments have been exhausted. Barring a miraculous touch from God, she will die of this disease. Yet, Kara is one of the most alive women I have ever encountered. Read more of her story for yourself.

Where I resonate with her story, at this moment of my life, relates to her experience with hospice. When you think of someone needing hospice, you might not think of a young mom, deeply in love with her husband and four children who is still writing and squeezing every bit of good out of life. However, this is where Kara is…needing hospice.

My mom, only in the last 3 days of her life, had hospice support at home, and we were so thankful. Even after many years as a cancer nurse, it meant everything having those good and kind people around us. We leaned on them, especially I leaned on them. No matter what competency I had in care-giving…it was my mama this time, and my mind was numb. Now, years later, my dad has his turn with hospice. His cancer, diagnosed 10 years ago, has returned, and no more tests or treatments are planned for our dear 92 years young dad. Hospice is again our (and his) strong support.

Back to Kara, I want to leave you with her beautiful insight about having no more treatment options and fully supported by hospice:

It felt like a huge blow when my oncologist said it was time for me to enter hospice care. It felt like quitting. I felt like my body had failed and I was being pulled from the team and being benched. Benched in an awful permanent way…I was wrong. Hospice care has been truly amazing…It’s just an adjustment. A hard adjustment to go from treatment, tests, and fighting to not knowing and comfort…Now my fight is a passive one, now I’m fighting for good moments. My fight is for time and tenderness with my loves. My fight is to embrace the good moments hospice is giving me and loving my people well. It’s important – these moments.

Pray with us all for Kara and her family. She even signed a contract recently to write another book (or two). I so want to read that book. Also I want to express gratitude for all you who care for patients and families “in the midst of life’s hard“*. For many years, it was my joy to work alongside you. You extend the hands of God to those who need His loving touch.Blog - hospice - hero - from Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups

Photo Credits – Kara Tippetts’ Blog & Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups Facebook page

Kara’s Breast Cancer Story

*Kara Tippetts’ Book The Hardest Peace – Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard

Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups – a life-affirming cancer support system in Kingsport, Tn. Many, many years ago, I helped lead a support group called Take Time…to Help, to Heal.  Really, those patients, families, nurses, and friends taught me so much more than I did them. The Survive and Thrive groups came out of that earlier group, under the continuing leadership of Kathryn Whitt Visneski.

Blog - Blessings & Hospice

Worship Wednesday – You Love Me Anyway – with Sidewalk Prophets

Blog - You Love Me AnywayBut God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” – John 8:32

Not knowing what is ahead can be a very uncomfortable place to be. Sometimes, it could be better than knowing, but the uncertainty of not knowing sits like a rock in the pit of our stomachs. Will I have a job after this company reorganization? Will I pass this exam? Will our church survive this downturn? Will my struggling friend find her hope again? Will we ever know that we did enough…that we were truly faithful in loving God and our neighbor?

What a morning! As I was wrestling with God through these actual right now situations, and looking up the song I had planned to use for today’s Worship Wednesday…You Love Me Anyway came up in the search list.

“You love me anyway.”

David Frey and Ben McDonald of the Christian band Sidewalk Prophets wrote this song about how our sin, that of every single one of us, was borne by Jesus on the cross. Such love! He loved us knowing us completely –  every impure thought; every selfish act. He loves us anyway.

As I listened to that song, it wasn’t condemnation that brought tears to my eyes; it was the amazing truth of His love…a love that sets us free…in Him. Though we struggle with situations facing us that seem more than we can bear, what He bore for us should give us enormous confidence…and peace.

The not-knowing about jobs, exams, church, relationships is still in front of us, but peace has returned to my heart right now. The puzzle of have I done enough or will I do enough isn’t meant for me to solve. The answer to the question I didn’t ask is that “He’s done enough.” He loved us always and He loves us still…no matter what. It is the love of God through Christ that lifts our heads (Psalm 3:3).

Now…in this moment, with perspective restored, “I count it all joy” (James 1:2), and “we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:16) Beyond the cloud of these days of uncertainty shines an every-present Light – the glorious Person of God who speaks the truth of His love into every dark place of our lives. Hallelujah!

Worship with me:

You Love Me Anyway*

The question was raised
As my conscience fell
A silly, little lie
It didn’t mean much
But it lingers still
In the corners of my mind

Still you call me to walk
On the edge of this world
To spread my dreams and fly
But the future’s so far
My heart is so frail
I think I’d rather stay inside

(Chorus)
But You love me anyway
It’s like nothing in life that I’ve ever known
You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me
How You love me

It took more than my strength
To simply be still
To seek but never find
All the reasons we change
The reasons I doubt
And why do loved ones have to die?

Chorus

I am the thorn in Your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas’ kiss
But You love me anyway

See now, I am the man that called out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then, I turned away with this smile on my face
With this sin in my heart tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night, I still called out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life

Chorus

You love me, You love me
You love me, You love me
How You love me
How You love me
How You love me

YouTube Lyric Video – You Love Me Anyway

YouTube Video – You Love Me Anyway – Sidewalk Prophets

*Lyrics to You Love Me Anyway – Writers: David Frey & Ben McDonald

Story Behind the Song – You Love Me Anyway

Sidewalk Prophets Website

YouTube Video – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir – Thou, O Lord

Photo Credit: maxresdefault.jpg for YouTube Lyric Video

Blog - Sidewalk Prophets

Satisfaction & Contentment – a Journey and a Destination

IMG_0022

You open your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing.
 The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on him in truth.
 He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him; He also hears their cry and saves them. – Psalm 145:16, 18-19

Godliness with Contentment Is Great Gain – 1 Timothy 6:6

A summer day in a good book can change the course of your life…at least, your mind’s course in life. That morning, I was sleeping in a bit while our two-year-old slept on in her bed upstairs. Mine was a fitful sleep sorting through the conversation Dave and I had had the night before. Weeks away from having our second child, the CEO of our medical center had given me the opportunity of a lifetime. He offered me the directorship of the cancer center of our hospital. My husband and I had already made the decision together months before that I would stay home with our children. Having continued to work for the first two years of my daughter’s life, I was excited to dig into this new season of life. Then…the offer of an altogether different job…

Our conversation that night didn’t go well. How could I argue for a job that would take me away from our children not just during the day but into the night with other responsibilities pulling at my attention? The children are grown now, and I was with them growing up, but in those days, cancer nursing was my professional world with all that went with that. Purpose, capability, accomplishment…it was deeply rewarding and gratifying work. Mothering was still so foreign to me. Being a stay-at-home mom was a whole other life and I was afraid of it, really.

That morning, I came wide-awake, when Dave touched my arm. He was dressed and ready to leave, but he had a book in his hand. He asked me to read the chapter he marked in it, then he kissed me bye for the day, and was out the door.

It was Jerry Bridges’ book The Practice of Godliness. The place marked was a chapter on contentment. Bulls-eye! Right on the strained condition of my heart. On that sunny summer day, reading that chapter, the Lord helped me wrestle through the struggle of discontent and the idols that separated me from peace with God.

[Sidebar: This has nothing to do with whether a woman should work or stay-at-home with children. My circumstances allowed me a choice in that. We as a couple, he and I together, decided that this is what we wanted and could make happen for our family. It is possible I could have become the director, hired a nanny and a good administrative assistant, and still be on a Godly course in life…but I knew deep down that the struggle was a heart issue and a faith issue.]

Discontent was my problem and it would become my family’s, if I didn’t deal with it. Jerry Bridges wrote, “In all of the areas in which we are called upon to be content – whether possession, position, or the providence of God – the grace of God is the ultimate solution for our discontent.

I didn’t take that position, but stayed with the job of stay-at-home Mom. It was one of the most challenging, glorious undertakings of my life.  I am glad that Dave had the love and the courage to speak truth to me through that book that day. Cancer nursing is still a great love of mine, and my colleagues of those days are still heroes of mine. Still, having had these years with my children growing up, me with them, has been so much more valuable to me than the “what would have been.” I learned to be content in that and still have all kinds of impulses through life to remind me that content is where I want to stay.IMG_0068

Contentment is a destination. It applies to whatever situation we find ourselves. Satisfaction, as an experience somewhat different than contentment, is a journey. Beth Moore, in Living Free, talks about a soul hunger in all of us, created by God. She says, “The most obvious symptom of a soul in need of God’s satisfaction is a sense of inner emptiness. The awareness of a hollow place somewhere deep inside – the inability to be satisfied – ought to be a flashing caution light to every believer.”

We are meant to find our satisfaction not in possessions or position or even the providence of God*, but in God Himself. When we try to satisfy our longings in anything but Him, the emptiness continues to gnaw at us. The search for something, besides Him, to fill that void is never satisfied. A friend of mine shared with me just today how satisfaction is to contentment as joy is to happiness. It’s mining the deep riches of the Person of God. The more we know Him, the more we want to know Him. He fills us completely. He satisfies our souls. We don’t have to “chase after the wind” or try to “feed on ashes“. In times of spiritual hunger or thirst, it is God Himself who satisfies. Nothing else is ever enough.

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:11-13

Blog - Satisfaction - Beth MooreBlog - COntentment

Living Free by Beth Moore

The Practice of Godliness: Godliness Has Value for All Things by Jerry Bridges 

*Notes on Contentment from Jerry Bridges’ The Practice of Godliness

Satisfaction Versus Contentment from Watchman Nee’s book The Normal Christian Faith

Contentment Vs. Satisfaction from Seriously? No, SERIOUSLY blog by a young mom named Kas

Snow Days – Sledding & Snowcream & So Much More

 2015 Feb 16 Winter Storm Octavia - Snow 014 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.” – Isaiah 1:18

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” – Isaiah 55:10-11

The one great snow storm of 2015 in eastern Virginia has run its course. What a fine run it was, too. No school all week.Snow Days - Teachers

I love the snow…and the snow days it brings. Maybe if I endured it for months on end and had to slip and slide through it to work all winter, I wouldn’t love it. For all of us, though, there is something wondrous about fresh-fallen snow, sparkling in the morning sun, or brightening the colors of a gray winter world. Sledding and snow cream* were made for this kind of snow…new and unmarked.

My husband says shoveling snow is the adult version of playing in the snow.Dave Shoveling Snow Feb 2015

I’m not sure our sons would agree.2010 January 011

2010 January 116

Because of our Southern US family roots and our years living in Africa, we haven’t had many snow days. Once while we were back in the US with my husband doing graduate studies, we had a huge ice storm in North Carolina. Our youngest son had prayed for snow…and he got more than he prayed for. Fuji002 024

Pine trees heavy with ice dropped limbs all over the yard. One actually pierced through our roof on its way down. We heard the hit and searched out the damage. Opening our daughter’s closet door, the branches from that limb whooshed out with that beautiful scent of pine and the wet cling of ice melting on the clothes. It was straight out of C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Blog - snow days - Narnia

One winter just a few years ago, we knew the snow was coming, and we preemptively gathered our young adult children into one place for a few days. It is a sweet, sweet memory for me. Those days of “together under one roof” are rare and special, and snow days made it possible. They played and laughed together, and we drank hot chocolate and told stories in front of the fireplace.   2010 January 033

That year a beautiful young friend joined us to make snow angels and would later become part of the family.Snow Days 15 Snow Days 16 SNow Days 11

Another thing I love about snow is its whiteness. Even the Bible talks about how God makes the dreadful darkness of our sin white as snow. The white of the snow reminds me of those verses and God’s promises in those verses, fulfilled through Jesus. The sunlight glitters like diamonds on the snow in the early morning. That snow whiteness seems to highlight and sharpen all the other colors around it. 2015 Feb Phone Pics 215 Snow Days 3 Blog - Snow Days 19 Blog - Snow Days 2 Snow Days 8

Then there is the quiet of snow. Only the crunch underfoot disturbs the silence of a world stopped by the soft white lightness of snow. The shovels will come out, by necessity, and the plows will scrape and clear. The families of little ones will make all kinds of happy noise outside .  All those are welcome sounds, but there is something altogether other-worldly in the sunrise-quiet of a snowy morning.Snow Days 4

Snow Days 6

Lastly, the birds in snow are such a mystery to me. How they fluff up their feathers to stay warm, how they forage for food in such a seemingly hostile environment.  It seems a small kindness to feed the birds but in that I am reminded of how the Lord Himself cares for them (Matthew 6:26). 2015 Feb Snow & American Idol 002

Tomorrow, the highs will soar to the 50s, and rain is predicted. These snow days of 2015 will be finished. It was a great run. Now, Spring, come.2015 Feb Phone Pics 213

Snowcream Recipe

Six Best Bible Verses About Snow

Photo Credit for Lucy Entering Narnia from the Wardrobe

2009 Christmas 249

Worship Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – A Lenten Devotional by Jim Denison

Blog - Lent - Ash Wednesday - from article by Jim Denison“An evil spirit of this kind is only driven out by prayer and fasting.” – Matthew 17:21

It wasn’t until I was six years old that church became any sort of meaningful in my life. My mom worked all the time in those days, and finally, after a last-resort divorce, she settled us into a better life of meager means and lavish love. It was then that we responded to an invitation of neighbors, and a weary single mom and four eager children met the welcome care of a loving church. Our experience was small town Bible-Belt Baptist, and that set the foundation for my understanding of God. In fact, when I signed up for a World Religions course as a college freshman, I thought it would only be about Christianity.

My first experience with Lent was seeing my best friend on a Wednesday long ago, after she had disappeared from our usual routine. We met for lunch and she had this mysterious, ashen cross smudged on her forehead. I resisted the urge of just lovingly wiping it off for her, thinking she was unaware of it. Pointing it out instead, she taught me my first lessons on Lent – on repentance, fasting (sacrifice), the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. All of that was gloriously real for me already, except for setting aside 40 days of resolve prior to the celebration of Easter.

For years, I still didn’t take Lent very seriously and still don’t know quite how to incorporate it into my life…except that my thinking is changing. In this world gone mad, I am more convinced than ever that we as the Church need to stand together for the sake of the nations and for the glory of God. If in Lent, I can find elements that help me see God and my own need for Him more clearly, then I want to integrate Lenten practice into my life.

That said, Jim Denison has written a beautiful 40-day devotional for this year’s Lenten season. It’s entitled Transformed – How Stories of the Cross Are Changing the World*. A dear friend gave me the paper copy, but I encourage you to take advantage to the free download and start reading, praying, and fasting (as God leads) today.2015 Blog on Easter Lenten Devotional & American Idol 004

Corporate month-long fasting has never been a draw for me, as I was always completely sure it would be a fail for me. While we lived in North Africa, and especially in Egypt, fasting was very much a part of my Muslim and Christian neighbors’ lives. Even those Christians who were evangelical (from Coptic backgrounds) saw the importance of fasting. Their awareness of the evil of sin in the world and the need for drastic measures lined up solidly with Jesus’ own life and teaching on this.

For the past several years, during Lent, I read Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. It was also a gift from a good friend. There’s a lot in this world that’s frightening these days. Yet God is still God and is at work in the midst of so much crazy. I believe Him at His word. Full stop. We have a role in dealing with what we see in the world. As Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 17:21), there is evil that we can only battle, from our side, with prayer and fasting. This is a strength in a true observance of Lent.Blog - Lent - Easter (3)

As we grieve so much death around us in these days, and as we look to Easter, I would like to close with a prayer from Adrian Plass’ book:

“Loving heavenly Father, I want to try to tackle this business of loving enemies. First of all I’m going to sit quietly here and go through a mental list of the folk who I would call my enemies. Help me to be really honest…I don’t want to leave anyone out….I’ve done it, Lord. There are rather a lot, and some of them I really hate. But You made it quite clear that You can’t forgive me if I don’t forgive them, so I’ll start the process, even if it takes a long time to mean it. Love them for me, Lord, and please accept my prayers for their welfare and safety. Soften my hard heart as the days go by, until I begin to see them through Your eyes. Thank You for forgiving me. Amen.”

For these forty-plus days before Easter, I will be reading Transformed; referring back to the book-marked portions of The Unlocking; reflecting on God and the goodness and wisdom He displays through Jesus’ life and teachingresisting (fasting from) those money- and time-stealers that distract me from larger issues; repenting of the sins of neglect and indifference; and remembering to pray and reach out to God and those around me as His vessel for His purposes among the nations.

Denison Forum

*pdf 2015 Lenten Devotional Transformed – How Stories of the Cross are Changing the World by Jim Denison

Why is Lent Relevant for Evangelicals? by Jim Denison

Evangelicals Embracing (and Rejecting) Lent by Trevin Wax

Lenten Observances – Eastern & Western Traditions

The Coptic Church and Worship

A Catholic Homily for this Ash Wednesday in memory of the Coptic Christians killed last week [Beautiful blog – I do not believe in praying to anyone except God; still I appreciate the call to all of us to remember others caught in the cross-fire of evil in this world. Praying for their families and for those who are unfortunately enemies of the church.]

Photo Credit – Ash Wednesday – Jennifer Balaska via en.wikipedia.org

Valentine’s Day-Owning It

Blog - Valentine's Day & Love

Valentine’s Day, as a holiday, is ripe with all sorts of possibilities…and potential frustrations. It’s a day that picks at our contentment and whispers in our ears, “is this enough? this love I have? these loves I have?” I say we take this holiday, turn it on its head, and totally own it.

What do you love about Valentine’s Day? Most probably, you are women reading this blog, because men seriously don’t want any more information on how to celebrate this day. We women have this totally lovely day thrust upon us once a year to do with it how we want. ..so let’s get after it.

Here’s what I love about this day:

1) I can be as effusive and gushy as I want on this one day of the year. It’s allowed…tolerated…appreciated even. Cards, phone calls, and social media shouting out to those we love…there’s a lot of relational muscle pumped on this day…wouldn’t hurt to keep this going through the rest of the year. Words. Are. Powerful.Blog - Heart & Love Much

2) It’s a golden opportunity to hang with our best buddies. Not just husbands or boyfriends, but moms, grandmoms, the widow neighbor down the street. Those glorious women in our lives… Valentine’s Day is a fine excuse to have lunch together, cake together, movie night together. Whatever. How thankful I am for the great women in my life…from lots of places in the world.Blog - Morocco friends

Blog - Friends

2014 Phone pics July-December 119

3) This day lends itself to a total indulgence (guilt deferred) of sugary delights. My favorites are Hershey’s kisses, strawberries dipped in chocolate, conversation hearts, and heart-shaped Peeps. I know, right? Valentine’s Day blesses all excesses. [This particular love has sort of flattened for me because I haven’t eaten chocolate in over a year…that’s another story.] Whether I eat those foil-wrapped happy little candies or not, they still generate lovely thoughts for me on this day.Blog - Valentine Goodies

Blog - Valentine Hearts

2013 Feb Valentine's Day 004

4) I love how cheery people are toward each other related to Valentine’s Day (kind of back to the gushy/effusive side of this day). Whether it’s decorating a colleague’s cubicle wall or lavishing gifts on your child’s teacher…it can make for a sweet day. Whether there’s a dear man in our lives or not, we can use this day to bless others…just for the fun of it (for them AND for us).Blog - Valentines on a cubicle by Heather TeaterPhoto Credit: Cublical Decorating – Heather Teater2013 Feb Valentine's Day 001

 5) Last thing I love about Valentine’s Day is its celebration of love itself. The history of Valentine’s Day is far from the romance and roses we expect today. Yet, if there is something worthy of setting aside a day, it is love – real, deep, sacrificial and satisfying love. Maybe it’s a stretch to consider that sort of love on a day that’s been riddled with commercialism, but that’s where I would like to end. Today, more than anything I celebrate the God of love who teaches us best how to love. First loving Him and then, because of Him, loving each other as we love ourselves. Blog - Valentine #2

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-39

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;   does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;   bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Happy Valentine’s Day, Friends.Blog - Friends - Valentines #1

Worship Wednesday – He Knows – Jeremy Camp

Blog - Jeremy Camp - He Knows

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:14-16

Alone. No, we are not alone.

In our grief. In our fear. In our frustration. In our anxiety. We are not alone. The temptation is to feel alone, to feel the gnaw of loneliness, the panic of helplessness, the clinching fear of failure. We are not alone in these desolate places. God knows…He knows.

He knows because He put on skin for our sakes. He came so close to the human experience that He endured all that we endure…He was tired and hungry and misunderstood. He lost people he loved; he was betrayed by closest of friends. He disappointed those who wanted more from him, different from him. He was between worlds, at home with those he loved here, and, at the same time, missing Home. He can wholly sympathize in the deepest possible way with our struggles and our longings.

When singer/songwriter Jeremy Camp’s first wife, Melissa, was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer, they were not yet married. During their honeymoon, she began experiencing pain again. The cancer had returned, and they began a very different journey than the one they had planned. Still, their faith remained strong, and deepened as God drew near to them in those difficult days. He knew and lavished mercy and grace on these young children of His. Melissa was 21 when she went to be with the Lord, whom she loved more than life.

Whatever we are going through, God knows and is deeply attached to us in that circumstance. I reflect on the losses we have endured – people we love, places we’ve lived where we won’t again, the tough goodbyes our children especially endured as we moved with work. We can’t even say we have suffered, because the unfathomable nearness of God penetrated the darkness and confusion of those days.

One of my favorite authors, Marilyn Gardner, wrote recently about suffering that resonates with our experiences:

“There is something about suffering that longs for someone to sit with us, to sit with us through the pain. It’s the fellowship of suffering. It’s the unspoken words ‘you are not alone’ put into action. The sitting bears witness to our pain.” – Marilyn Gardner, Toward a Fellowship of Suffering

Take heart, Dear Ones, if you are facing something that feels so much bigger than you can carry.  The seemingly relentless waves of trouble in our lives break on the rocks of His mercy.Blog Oualidia - He Knows (2)

Jeremy Camp knows that from his own experience and shares that with us through his songs:

“There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears. There will be a day when the burdens of this place, will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face. But until that day, we’ll hold on to You always.”*

He KnowsWorship with me:

All the bitter weary ways
endless striving day by day
you barely have the strength to pray
in the valley low

how hard your fight has been
how deep the pain within
wounds that no one else has seen
hurts too much to show

all the doubt you’re standing in between
And all the weight that brings you to your knees

HE KNOWS, HE KNOWS
EVERY HURT AND EVERY STING
HE HAS WALKED THE SUFFERING
HE KNOWS, HE KNOWS
LET YOUR BURDENS COME UNDONE
LIFT YOUR EYES UP TO THE ONE
WHO KNOWS
HE KNOWS

we may faint and we may sink
feel the pain and near the brink
but the dark begins to shrink
when you find the one who knows

the chains of doubt that held you in between
one by one are starting to break free

every time that you feel forsaken
every time that you feel alone
He is near to the broken hearted
every tear
He knows…**

YouTube Video – He Knows (Lyric Video)

Jeremy Camp – He Knows – Story Behind the Song

Testimony of Jeremy & Melissa Camp’s Brief Lives Together for God’s Glory

YouTube Video – There Will Be a Day (Lyric Video)

*Lyric from There Will Be a Day -KLove

** Lyrics from He Knows – KLove

Jeremy Camp – Bio