Remembering 9/11 – and the Day Before – A Story of God and a Girl

 

Genessa & April

Today marks the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in the US, and we all have our stories of where we were when we heard that terrible news. I heard the news as an elevator door opened in a hospital emergency room in Cairo, Egypt. The surgeon watching for us to deliver the patient walking into the elevator, saying, “I am so, so sorry.” I thought he was referring to the precious one on the stretcher beside me, so small and injured from a terrible bus accident the day before. It turns out he was talking about the news that traveled instantly from the States about the bombings. I’d like to go back to the day before. For us, it would help to go there, before I can ever process the grief of this day that we all share.

It was like any other Monday, that bright, warm September 10th in Cairo, Egypt…until the phone call. Janna was on the other end of the call, telling me that Genessa and April had been in a bus accident on the Sinai. April had called her and relayed their location, at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh. These were girls in our Middle Eastern Studies Program, and they were finishing their time with us, taking a vacation together. They would re-trace some of their experiences in Bedouin villages across the Sinai and then enjoy a few days on the Red Sea. They were to return that Monday, traveling in on one of the over-night buses across the desert.

Details will have to wait for another time, but with this information, my husband, Dave, left immediately with Janna and a local Egyptian friend who was also one of our language coaches. He took these two women because of their relationship with each other and with all of us. He also understood that there were two injured friends hours away in a hospital who would need women to minister to their needs. I would be praying and on the phone the rest of the day with families, other friends, US Embassy people, and our other young people in the program. I can’t begin to describe the emotional nature of that day…not knowing, hoping, praying.

When Dave and our friends arrived at the hospital, he was directed to April. She had painful, serious injuries, but none life-threatening, praise God. Then he was escorted into the critical care area to see Genessa. To his horror, it wasn’t Genessa. It was another young woman, unconscious – an Italian tourist, who rode in the same ambulance with April. April, lucid and still able to communicate, had tried to comfort her on that long dark ride to the hospital. Personal belongings were all scrambled at the wreck site, and the authorities made the mistakened decision that because April was speaking to her, she was Genessa.

Then Dave went on the search for our dear one…somewhere else in the Sinai. He back-tracked toward the site of the accident, checking other hospitals where other injured were taken. At this point, he was also talking to US Embassy staff, as he drove through the desert. Just shortly before he arrived at the hospital where he would find Genessa, the staff person told him they confirmed her identification from a credit card she had in her pocket…in the morgue of that small village hospital.

Dave and Janna, that friend who received the first phone call, stood beside this precious girl’s body, to make the formal identification…to know for sure that this was Genessa. And it was…and yet not. She, the luminous, laughing, loving girl we knew, was gone. It was more than any of us who loved her could take in on that Monday evening in Cairo, Egypt…the day before 9/11.

Genessa with team

As they left the hospital to return to April, two more friends joined them from Cairo to help. For any of you who have been completely spent in every way by such a day, you can understand what it was for them to look up and see Matt and Richard getting out of a car. God in His great goodness alerted them, stirred their hearts to drive all those hours…and then to arrive…just when they were most needed. So many arrangements had to be made…and most importantly, at that moment, to get April back safely and quickly to Cairo for surgery.

She came into Cairo on a plane near the middle of the day of 9/11. By the time we got her from the airport in an ambulance to the specialty hospital to get the further care she needed, a series of horrific events had begun taking place in the US. We would hear of them from this caring Egyptian surgeon…who had no idea how numb we were from losing Genessa and how concerned we were that April got what she needed as soon as possible. We were already so drenched by grief, this unfathomable news about the bombings washed over us without understanding the scope of it…the pain of it…for all the rest of America.

Later in that day, with April receiving the best care possible, and me watching by her side, I could take in some of the loss coming at us on the small t.v. mounted in the hospital room. Egyptians were telling us how so, so sorry they were for us (as Americans). If they only knew, they were our mourners for our loss of Genessa, too. In the din of world-changing news, and a country brought together in grief…we grieved, too, a continent away…for the losses of 9/11 and the day before.

That was 13 years ago…April healed from her injuries (only she and God know what all that took on the inside), the other young people in our program have gone on to careers and families across the US and around the world. We have also gone on…back to the US for now, and to other work.

Two things have not changed…a beautiful girl, who fell asleep by the window of a bus in the Sinai night and woke up in Heaven…and the God who welcomed her Home. There is so much, much, more to this story, but I have to close with this. As her family back in the US were pulling the pieces of their lives back together, and going through Genessa’s things, they found a little cassette player on her bed…there left by her, two years before, as she left for Cairo. In it was a cassette where she’d made a tape of her singing one of her favorite songs, I Long for the Day, by Dennis Jernigan. If we look at Genessa’s life through the lens of some American dream, then we would think how tragic to die so young, so full of promise. Look through the lens of how much she loved God, and knowing Him was what mattered most to her…and all who knew her knew His love through her.

This God…and this girl.  Genessa

 I Long for the Day by Dennis Jernigan

I long for the day when the Lord comes and takes me away!

Whether by death or if You come for me on a horse so white

And anyway You come will be alright with me

I long to just hear You said, “Now is the time. Won’t you come away?”

And I’ll take Your hand, surrendering completely to You that day!

And no, I can’t contain the joy that day will bring!

Chorus:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment I’ll be celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

 

O Lord, while I wait, I will cling to each word that You say.

So speak to my heart; Your voice is life to me, be it night or day.

And anything You say will be alright with me.

You see my heart’s greatest need

You and me, walking intimately.

You’re my only love, and I am waiting patiently for Your call.

When You call me to Your side eternally.

(Chorus Repeat)

Lord, I celebrate You!

Forever with You! No crying there.

Forever with You! No burden; no more worldly cares.

My heart is anticipating eternally with you celebrating You!

Forever with You I long to be;

Forever worshipping, knowing You intimately!

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

I’ll spend forever just celebrating You.

 

I’ll see all my loved ones gone before

I’ll get to be with them, laugh with them, hold them once more

There’ll be no more separating! [No separating]

Together we will be celebrating You!

Together we’ll worship You and sing.

Forever praising Lord Jesus, our Savior and King.

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

Enter your rest, and start celebrating, too.

Forever Lord, I’ll be celebrating You.

Chorus Repeat:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment of celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

Dennis Jernigan, from the album I Belong to Jesus (Volume 2)

 

Worship Wednesday – Everything You Are is Good – Jaime Jamgochian

Blog - Worship Wednesday - EverythingYouAre

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28

Everything You Are strikes so many chords in my heart. It was written in 2012 by Hope Darst and Jaime Jamgochian. The story of the song speaks to a season when Jaime was disheartened by how God was answering some of her prayers, and her friend, Hope, spoke His truth into her struggle.

Thank God for friends like Hope and Jaime who love God and love each other…and then put that message into a song that encourages the Church.

I love worship songs that talk right to God…because that’s what worship is about. We are called to worship God, and to speak out His character and His promises through the words of this song ministers to my heart. I’m sure it pleases Him to hear His children agree together, in worship, that He is working everything out in us. He has our past, present, and future covered by His love and according to His purposes.

I love the friendship that speaks truth in love…and how this song sets us singing right to God. Lastly, I love how honoring it is to Jesus. It baffles me that the whole world doesn’t love Jesus…if anyone did a critical study of His life, they would see how good He is…and how GOD He is. Each of us has this life He’s given us…these moments passing through…to reflect Him to those who don’t yet know Him…and to lavish both truth and love on each other, like Hope and Jaime in the writing of Everything You Are.

Worship with me.

Everything You Are

You promise a hope and a future
You promise good
You’ve given life everlasting
You’ve spoken truthChorus:
Everything You are is everything I need, Jesus
Everything You are is good.
Everything You are is everything I need, Jesus
Everything You are is so good.You offer love and forgiveness
You offer peace
You’ve given strength for my weakness
You’ve rescued me

(Repeat Chorus)

(Bridge)
You’re my rock, My salvation
In You I’m not shaken
You work all things for good
There’s no shadow of doubt that can silence my shout
For I know that You are good.

Everything You are is everything I need

How I need You.
Whoa
Everything You are is everything I need Jesus
Everything You are is so good
I believe
Everything You are is everything I need Jesus
Everything You are is good
So good
I need You
God I need You
All your ways, all Your plans,
Everything is in Your hands.
You’re good, so good, so good.

YouTube Video with Lyrics – Everything You Are

Story Behind the Song Everything You Are

Jaime Jamgochian – Worship Leader

Piano/Guitar Chord Tutorial for Everything You Are by Jaime

Surprised by Motherhood – Lisa-Jo Baker’s Must-Read for All Women and the Bravest of Men

Blog - Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker

I just finished re-reading Surprised by Motherhood, because I wanted to write about it,  When I first heard about this book, this Spring, it wasn’t a title that would have captivated me. My children are grown now. Yet, I am surrounded by mothers and see them doing battle to raise their children up to know God and to be honoring in their relationships and responsibilities. I also see the battle fatigue in parenting, in mothering. Lisa-Jo Baker wrote this book for you, Dear Ones. Surprised by Motherhood is not a “how to” book; it is a “go through” book –  a story of life and family and God in the midst. You will find it full of shared experience; wrestling with what’s important; discovering joy in the chaos; laughing and crying and resting in Him.

Lisa-Jo Baker is a real woman – bright, funny, intuitive, and capable. I also envision, from her writing and the images on her blog, that she struggles with our same messy stuff of life that comes with little ones. Sticky table-tops, full laundry baskets, and very public, sometimes embarrassing displays of emotion by our kiddos. Yet, as you read, she speaks grace on herself, and on you.

I like her. We both are third-culture adults (people whose hearts are knit to two continents, at least). We both see God in the craziness of our lives…and have grown closer to Him as moms. We both have two sons and a daughter, and our passionate second-born sons have taught us both the most about ourselves. We both had children in our later 30’s. Our hearts have also been broken by the terrible problem of human trafficking in the world, and we want to change that. We have both spent much of our lives without our moms, her more years than me, but I resonate with that heart-ache of missing them. Her mom-in-law and I are both Debbies and we both pray for our children. I’m glad Lisa-Jo has such a woman in her life.

If you’re not a mom, or if you’re a man who has actually read thus far, I hope you’ll consider this book as well. There is so much to gain from her story. I leave you with just a taste in her own words:

About her mom: “She made room for people, so I never noticed how the house looked or what food she was serving. I saw how they all wanted to be with her. People stayed. The kids swam. Watermelons were split for dessert.” (p.23)

About church: “When I was growing up, church was a consistent, resilient heartbeat for our family…Church was a love language that spoke peace and comfort and home over my childhood.” (p. 32-33)

About a friend who entered their grief at the death of her mom: “Alex blew into the kitchen where we were trying to decide if we were hungry. The world felt like it was underwater, and it was hard to stand up, impossible to make decisions…We sat around that old pine table…as he cut hunks of bread, spread out meats and cheeses and tomato slices, and fed our empty parts. I didn’t know I was hungry until he arrived.” (p. 48-49)

About her 2y/o Micah who clung to her at church (and most all the time): “I rocked him and sang praise for his Maker…And suddenly, all those great and powerful phrases like ‘sacrifice’ and ‘loves like a hurricane’ and ‘blessed be the name of the Lord’ took on Technicolor meaning. With this boy wrapped in my arms, clinging to me, I understood what the God parent feels for me. To die for this love – yes, it made sense…In the music, in the rocking of the baby who was becoming a boy, I poured out my gratitude. And my arms – how they ached with the weight of it.” (p. 128-9)

On lessons learned in parenting – “I didn’t know I was selfish until I had kids…But I believe God loves us too much to leave us flailing in our self-centered universes, so He delivers these tiny reflections of ourselves into our homes with earthquake effectiveness…Oh God, how I need You.” (p. 187-188)

There is so much love in this book. So much acceptance. So much real. I hope you pick up a copy and read the story of Lisa-Jo’s journey into motherhood, and through motherhood to a deeper walk with God and a sweet healing place for herself and her family…that is available to all of us Surprised by Motherhood…or just life itself.

Meet Lisa-Jo Baker – your cheerleader, friend, sister

Surprised by Motherhood Book Club – First 3 Chapters Free

(In)courage – “A bit like a beach house – a place where women could feel welcome without pretense, valued just the way they are. A place where we could put our sandy, dirty feet up on the coffee table and tell our real, hard stories. A place where people would listen. A place where women were brave enough to be vulnerable.”

Mighty – Mother’s Day Video by JourneyBox Media

Habakkuk’s Response to the Incomprehensible Goodness of GOD

Blog - Habakkuk 3, 17ff

A Hymn of Faith – Habakkuk 3:17-19

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.

Reading the book of Habakkuk, we are spellbound by the devastating situation where the people of God find themselves.  Habakkuk wrestles with God over this, and finally yields in faith to the God he trusts…no matter what. Whether in hunger or high places.

The thought of being completely without food is pretty frightening. The stories we hear in the news of displaced peoples, who had to flee their homes and villages and figure out how to survive on foot, are heartbreaking. I can’t fathom that situation, yet I know it’s real for far too many right now.

I’m also afraid of heights. When we fly, I always get an aisle seat, and treat the experience as if I’m on a cross-country bus trip. I love to look at mountains, but being up in them, on narrow roads or cliff-edge paths, is not what I would choose for transportation or relaxation.

Reading through the short account of desperate times, as recorded by the prophet Habakkuk, reminds me of the raw nature of life sometimes. What is that situation for you that would be the worst you could imagine? The loss of a person or the lack of a provision?

Is there anything that could so devastate me that I would take my eyes off God?

I pray not…and Habakkuk gives me hope. He cried out to God, cried out against God, in the beginning, because of the horrific circumstances of his people, God’s people. Yet,  when we besiege the throne of God with our desperate requests, He hears His children and answers us. Not always in ways that suit us at the time, but He responds, with the wisdom of One who sees how all of life, all of history, fits together.

As we pray, whatever He does in answer to our appeals is up to Him – a perfectly loving, merciful and just God. Yet, there is a glorious spiritual transaction that happens, if we keep our eyes on Him. He restores our joy; He brings peace; He gives strength.

I love the passage in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are trying to describe Aslan, the lion who symbolizes Jesus in the Narnia stories. Lucy and Susan ask if Aslan is safe. Mr. Beaver responds, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God is completely good. That does not mean that He keeps us always in comfortable places. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yet, as we look over the shoulders of Habakkuk, and see the world as he saw it…he still came around to seeing the goodness of God. We can also choose to rejoice in whatever situation we find ourselves. That is the faith that plants our feet surely on any path where God leads.

The Faith to Rejoice – A sermon on Habakkuk 3:17-19 by Coty Pinckney, Community Bible Church, Williamstown, MA

The Choice To Rejoice – A sermon by Richard Bray

When God Alone is Sufficient – A sermon by Jeff Miller, Trinity Bible Church, Richardson, Texas

Precept Austin Bible Study Helps for the book of Habakkuk

Aslan – Is He Safe?

 

 

On the Eve of a 25th Birthday – A Charge, a Quote, & a Rhyme

IMG (4)How can it be that you’re 25 years old tomorrow? I really don’t have the words…and you’re probably glad. Over the years, you have single-handedly taken me to my knees more often than you realize – praying to be the parent God would have me be for you; appealing to God for all the moves (overseas and stateside) to not be too hard for you; asking for comfort when situations were sometimes hard anyway; and thanking Him for all He did for you – the friendships, the opportunities, and His relationship with you from forever.

So many memories. “Let’s go kill buffalo!” Following your sister around for play ideas. Grandparent visits. Family vacations at the Chesapeake Bay. Carpool buddies. Gameboy. Drawing cartoons. Computer games. Getaways to the Red Sea. Dreamcast. Baptism back home in Tennessee. Roadtrips to the Sahara. Soccer. Cousins. Airports. Basketball. Grumpy when hungry – feed the boy. High School Rock Band. Great friendships. Game Nights. Sleep-Overs. PlayStation. Laughter. Working out. Classical Guitar. VCU. Aletheia Praise Band. Sharing a house with your brother, sister, and then Duy. Met and married beautiful Bekkah. Grad school at East Carolina. Now back to Virginia, working and making a home…grown.

Settled for now in the U.S. after so many stamps in your passport. Settled in our hearts forever. You make us laugh, and you make us think. Your grown-up heart is so worth the childhood/teen year battles. And your music…what a gift to us. Whether you’re on electric, acoustic, or classical guitar. Your music goes right to the heart. Thank you for honing the gift God gave you.

IMG_006818IMG_0047 (2)Feb 04 - Kids 042Feb Mar 04 0982006 February -- Rabat BBall Tourney turtles  bike 2972006 -- Dec -- Nathan, Jeremiah, Jared2009 December 0942011 May Dan's birthday & Nathan's graduation 11320110318-DSC_008320110413-DSC_0097-Edit-1 - Copy

As you round the bend on this first quarter-century, I leave you with God’s word to Joshua, Oswald Sanders’ word to leaders, and a poem often quoted by our friend Tom Elliff.

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

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

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

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

Nathan Mills Guitar

J. Oswald Sanders’ Spiritual Leadership

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

Book Favorite I’ll Love You Forever Before Helicopter Parenting Became a Cultural Issue

 

 

 

 

 

Quotes from Between Worlds – Essays on Culture and Belonging – by Marilyn R. Gardner

2014 Phone pics July-December 319

In this bookmarked summer of mine, Between Worlds brought a refreshing wash of memories for me of living cross-culturally. I miss the years we spent as a family in North Africa. Marilyn Gardner writes in colorful strokes of her third culture kid (TCK) experience of growing up in Pakistan. She also described vividly what it was like as an adult raising children (her own TCKs) back overseas. Read Between Worlds and you are transported to the places she lived as a child and again as an adult. She speaks of her family’s years in Cairo, Egypt, and I am also taken back to one of my favorite cities in the whole world. The smells, sights, and sounds are there…you will be enchanted.

Marilyn also shares with clarity and vulnerability that experience of living essentially between worlds. Of living among peoples not your own and yet you feel they are. Of returning to the US and appearing to be like all around you, and yet you are an “invisible alien”…not fully of this world either. Her stories are marked with lessons of deep living cross-culturally. We can all gain from these lessons – whether we’ve lived a third culture life or not.

Her stories I will leave for you to read in your own personal places…but some of her wisdom I share with you through these quotes from Between Worlds.

Home is where our story begins.” For a third culture kid who questions the definition of home, this is both reassuring and sad. If home is where our story begins, what happens when we cannot go back?” (p. 4)

“I read in Psalm 84: ‘Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage…They go from strength to strength until each appears before God in Zion.’ In my journey, this Psalm makes ‘Home is where your suitcase is’ a spiritual reality.” (p. 8)

“I was raised on chai…It was not just the taste; it was the full experience of comfort that nourished body and soul.” (p. 21)

“There can be strength in remembering…Perhaps writing helps keep some of the bricks intact, because memories are precious and if used properly give strength to the present.” (p. 26)

“Turns out identity isn’t about a place you live at – but a Person you live in.” (p. 44)

“Those childhood wounds that brand us, that tell us lies about who we are and what we’ll become, are not strong when they come up against the Image of the God who made us.” (p. 55)

“Pieces of childhood are important foundations to building adults…in the pieces of childhood there is grace and a Father God who delights in putting together the pieces.” (p. 71)

“When I finally stopped grasping at success, at confidence, at belonging, I inexplicably found it.” (p. 87)

“If you don’t start kids on the road or plane when they are young then too soon they, and you, will move into a place and state of mind that sees all the obstacles instead of the benefits.” (p. 102)

“It is amazing how much waiting there is in a life of movement…Above all, we wait for God. We move forward in faith, only to be stopped in transit. So we wait. It’s not time. We sit tight. There are dozens of ways that God moves in and orchestrates our plans, our movements…For waiting is nothing new in the work of God.” (p. 109)

“Behind every third culture kid is a parent – a parent who wishes, hopes, and prays that they are doing the right thing.” (p. 120)

“God chooses ‘place’ to reveal himself to people, to show who He is, to remind them of his love, his care, his sovereignty, to call them to himself.” (p.138)

“Cultural humility gives up the role of expert, instead seeing ourselves as students of our host culture. I puts us on our knees, the best posture possible for learning.” (p. 193)

“May I forever hurt with the goodbyes that I say. May I forever remember the strength of the words ‘God Be With You.'” (p. 202)

Whether you’re a chai or coffee drinker – you will want a cup of one or the other, as you savor this book of life Between Worlds.

To Purchase Between Worlds

Follow Marilyn Gardner on Twitter

Author Blog – Communicating Across Boundaries

Worship Wednesday – With Every Act of Love by Jason Gray & Jason Ingram

Blog - Worship Wednesday - With Every Act of Love

[Image from www.richmond.com/www.homewardva.org]

“Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”        – Matthew 6:10

In downtown Richmond, Virginia, you will see people standing on corners with cardboard signs. The signs tell stories of veterans needing jobs, homeless begging food, the down-and-out asking for spare change. Signs made out of pieces of cardboard held out to the drivers stopped at intersections. Those of us in the safe insulation of our vehicles size up these requests and wonder if they speak to real life. Do these sign-holders look needy enough? Is it real destitution born out of hardship thrust on them or is it out of circumstances they brought on themselves? We try not to look into their eyes as the seconds tick by before the light changes to green, and then we accelerate past them and our discomfort fades as they do in our rear-view mirrors. God forgive us.

There have been times I’ve responded with some money, or staples from a grocery store trip, or some food from the order I just placed at the drive-through window a block away. Still, a little money or food or conversation or prayer only scratches the surface of what must be going on in the lives of people willing to stand exposed, with a cardboard sign, on a city street. Responding in any way that “leans in” is at least moving in the direction of Kingdom living…Kingdom building…but we must not stop there.

Jason Gray explains how he came to write the lyrics of this song, “The Gospel is clearly a theology of deeper engagement and restoration and redemption ….Yes, the Kingdom will come, but the Kingdom is coming, day by day, moment by moment, and that we’re invited to play a part in that Kingdom coming, right now, right here, with every act of love we do…With every act of love, we get to be a part of God’s Kingdom coming. I love that.”

BLog - Jason Gray #2

Dear God, help us to know and practice authentic love for You and for “the least of these” whoever they are. Also we pray that we  infuse every moment of our lives with the love You’ve given us. Given not just for our pleasure but meant to bless the nations – our own children, and these whom You know and love on the streets of our cities…and in places far from us, but not far from You. Give us wisdom, God, and hearts like Yours.

Reaching out to the poor and displaced can be complicated, but we all were poor and displaced, and God reached out to us. My prayer is that we wrestle with this daily in a way that stirs our hearts to prayer and surrenders our hands and feet (and finances) to a good and generous God. If we build margin in our lives for the needy, God will grow capacity in us to serve them in ways that bring them the Kingdom.

Worship with me…

With Every Act of Love [Lyrics] – lyric video below

Sitting at the stoplight
He can’t be bothered by the heart cry
Written on the cardboard in her hand
But when she looks him in the eye
His heart is broken open wide
And he feels the hand of God reach out through him
As Heaven touches earth

(Chorus)
Oh – we bring the Kingdom come
Oh – with every act of love
Jesus help us carry You
Alive in us, Your light shines through
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come

There’s silence at the table
He wants to talk but he’s not able
For all the shame that’s locked him deep inside
But her words are the medicine
When she says they can begin again
And forgiveness will set him free tonight
As Heaven touches earth

God put a million, million doors in the world
For his love to walk through
One of those doors is you
I said, God put a million, million doors in the world
For his love to walk through
One of those doors is you

Oh – we bring the Kingdom come
Oh – with every act of love
Jesus help us carry You
Alive in us, Your light shines through
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come

Publishing: © 2013 Centricity Music Publishing, Nothing Is Wasted Music (ASCAP) / Sony-ATV Timber Publishing, Open Hands Music (SESAC)

Writer(s): Jason Gray, Jason Ingram

With Every Act of Love – Official Lyric Video

Life Will Have the Final Word album by Jason Gray

Story Behind With Every Act of Love

Derry Prenkert’s Notes from 2014 Global Leadership Summit – Brian Loritts on God’s intent for the Church in doing good

Baptist Global Response to the Tragically Displaced

Jason Gray Music

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.

2014 June Christie's 3rd grade class 024

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.

2014 Phone pics July-December 083 - Brian & Mike (2)

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.