Tag Archives: Ann Voskamp

Monday Morning Moment – Walking and Engaging with People…Again

Once upon a time, we didn’t have smartphones, or tablets, or Netflix.

Once upon a time, life slowed down to include exploring new towns, meeting new people, listening to stories nothing like our own.

“Once upon a time” can still be now. When we put aside our screens, and get ourselves out the door…be it our house, dorm room, or office…we can engage with real people.

If we don’t take social precautions, COVID will turn us into hermits. Even if we are out full-time, in work or school, we may still have tuned-down sensitivities to what’s going on around us.

Our situational and social awareness has about a 6-ft. circumference. Beyond that, we don’t notice. Also, isn’t it odd how masks seem to dull our hearing and sight? We don’t look into people’s faces or start up conversations with those around us, like we did once upon a time.

So…what measures can we take to tune in more intentionally?

Here’s one big one: commit to walking. Not just in our neighborhoods, although that’s a good place to start…but anywhere there are people.

When we leave our screens somewhere out of reach, our vision and our mind clear.

Now that I am back in stores and other buildings (post-vaccination), I’m trying to speak to people, ask questions when appropriate, and really listen to what they’re saying. I want them to know they are seen, heard, and they matter.

The walking part means I had to get up out of my comfy chair and go where people are. We can do so much online now, we don’t need to see faces. So unfortunate.

Walking requires intentionality. Engaging with people, the same.

We can calendar such things to get started. A walk in the neighborhood could include a friend…or a neighbor. If alone, look for neighbors in their yards. It’s ok to stop and talk a bit.

When calendaring your life, what kinds of interchanges that you might do online or on the phone can be changed to in-person, face-to-face? I know it takes more time…but the time would be well-spent.

Besides all the social benefits of walking and engaging with others, we get tremendous health and memory benefit as well (see links below).

So…enough said. Getting out the door myself. Have a great Monday!

Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain – Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D.

This Is Why You Can’t Remember Yesterday – Markham Heid

The World’s Longest-living People Share This Hobby – Why Studies Say It Can Help Add Years to Your Life – Minda Zetlin

In a Pandemic: Walking as Healing, as a Spiritual Discipline for these times

Jesus & Holy Week – Day 6 – Good Friday – His Trial, Crucifixion, & Burial

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[Adapted from the Archives]

It was a day like no other day in history. For years we lived in countries where Christianity was a minority religion. While the few of us passed this week in reflection and wonder, it was, of course, just another week for most of our friends and colleagues. Easter had its name – Eid Al-Qiyama (“Feast of Resurrection”) – but Good Friday where we lived was shrouded in the ordinary. For Jesus, and all who have experienced life through his teaching, example, and sacrifice, this day was and is wholly extraordinary.

Good Friday – good for us, hard for Jesus. The events of his trial, crucifixion, death, and burial are all recorded with great detail in the four Gospels. They are riveting accounts of this terrible and triumphant day – Matthew 26:57-27:61, Mark 15Luke 22:66-23:56, John 18:28-19:42.

Jesus had no opportunity to sleep in the hours of night before this dawn. From the garden where he prayed, he was forcibly taken into the custody of the high priests. Through the early morning hours, he was bounced brutally between the Sanhedrin, the high court of Israel, and the Roman authorities (Pilate and Herod Antipas). While in their custody, Jesus endured hostile interrogation, false accusations, trumped-up charges, relentless attempts at public humiliation, and repeated beatings. Yet, he somehow retained his full faculties, responding to the authorities, when necessary, with great wisdom and understanding of both the proceedings and the people. In the midst of all this trauma, he even made eye contact with one of his dearest friends and followers, Peter, who was hiding nearby…in his own painful moment.

The outcome of all the wrangling between the Jewish and Roman officials was an unwarranted, undeserved death sentence. Execution by crucifixion. Pilate even washed his hands of the matter, literally, declaring Jesus innocent but still consenting to the death sentence. He didn’t know then but the “blood” he tried to wash off his hands was truly innocent. Still, it wasn’t Pilate who put Jesus on that cross, nor was it Caiaphas, head of the Sanhedrin. Not a Roman, nor a Jew.

Jesus’ death, that day, was an outworking of a divine plan. We cannot begin to understand the holiness of the Father, the resolve of His Son, or the steadfastness of the Spirit. This three-in-one God orchestrated a path for us, His fallen and broken people, to be restored to Him. That we, though wrecked by sin, can be whole again and one in Him, in that unity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (John 17:21) is a miracle of grace.

Jesus gave his life for us that day. It was not taken from him. He laid it down. For us. Though completely undeserving, we are ransomed and redeemed. At such a great cost. This Jesus. This life. This cross.

It Was My Sin That Held Him There – Greg Morse

Jesus spoke seven times during the three hours he hung on that cross.  Each time he spoke, as in all the other times his words have been recorded, there was something for all of us. If you don’t know what he said, in those seven brief cries from the cross, read them and discover more about him…and about us.

Just before he died, he cried out, “It. Is. Finished.” What? What was finished? His life…oh no…not at all…that story comes later. His work? Not completely…for he continues interceding for us (Romans 8:34). What was finished? The perfect sacrifice – the lamb without spot or blemish – his life for ours. “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Hallelujah!

‘Finished’ – What the Son Cried as He Died – Scott Hubbard – Desiring God

There is so much more to say about this day and the people present. Pilate’s wife who warned Pilate about ruling against this innocent man. Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, who tried to return the money and killed himself in remorse that same day. Simon of Cyrene, a pilgrim, who was drawn into the dreadful drama of that day to carry Jesus’ cross when he could no longer. Barabbas, a notorious criminal, who gained his freedom, through a strange twist of the day. The nameless thief on the cross who cried out in repentance to Jesus. The Roman centurion who in his witness of Jesus all those hours professed faith in him.  John, Jesus’ closest disciple, and Jesus’ mother to whom Jesus gave each other. The women, lives changed by their faith in Jesus, who stayed at the foot of the cross through all the horror of his crucifixion. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a Christ-follower, who tried to appeal for Jesus with the Sanhedrin. Joseph of Arimathea, another believing Pharisee, who went to Pilate to receive Jesus’ body for burial, to place in his own tomb.

So many stories of lives changed. Good Friday. This marked the day of Jesus’ trial, his death, and his burial, but it does not mark the end of the story. It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.*

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[Postscript: In the links are several beautiful songs of worship. Tributes to the Lord on this day. Don’t miss the articles and the great sermon “It’s Friday But Sunday’s a Coming” by Rev. S. M. Lockridge.]

After a Crash-and-Burn Year, Why Care…About Good Friday? – Ann Voskamp

Holy Week – Day 6: Good Friday’s Trial, Crucifixion, Death, Burial – Mary Fairchild

The Cross – Billy Graham 2020

The Way of Jesus #3: Unless a Seed – James Nored

The Way of Jesus #4: Who Do I Say Jesus Is? – James Nored & Phil Ware

It Wasn’t Nails that Held Him to the Cross – Blog by Michele Perry

Good Friday – Bible Study

Spotify Playlist for Holy Week – Beth Wayland

YouTube Video – It is Finished – Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Forever – Kari Jobe

YouTube Video with Lyrics – The Wonderful Cross by Chris Tomlin & Keith Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – The Power of the Cross – Kristyn Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – Lead Me to the Cross – Hillsong

*YouTube Video – It’s Friday but Sunday’s a Coming – S. M. Lockridge

YouTube Video – Skit Guys – Good Friday

YouTube Video – Passion Song – The Story of Holy Week (Lyric Video) by @scartermusic – powerful.

Photo Credit: We Love the Bible, Pinterest

Worship Wednesday – The Hope of Christmas – Matthew West

Photo Credit: Harriet Long, Facebook

Out of the depths I call to you, Lord!
Lord, listen to my voice; let your ears be attentive to my cry for help.

I wait for the Lord; I wait and put my hope in his word.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning—
more than watchmen for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord. For there is faithful love with the Lord, and with him is redemption in abundance.Psalm 130:1-2, 5-7

Writer Ann Voskamp talks about Advent and the healing hope we have in Christ.

“I thought I lost hope when life tore a hole in my back pocket of my heart, and my creased and worn-out hope fell out when the bottom of things fell out — you know: when the door clicked close for the last time.  When that email landed and kicked hard right in the gut.  When the doctor shook his head slow and the room kinda spun, when too many mattering things felt impossibly wrecked, and it’s your life that can feel sorta totaled, and how do you keep going on hoping — when it’s the important parts of your life that are write offs?

But who knew that folded and creased Hope unfolds into wings?

Turns out: You can think you’ve lost hope, or you can try to shield yourself from it, abandon it, mock it, guard against it or try to trash it.

But hope is a rising thing and flies to you.

No matter where you are — in the unknown and unfamiliar — Hope is like a homing pigeon that knows how to find its way back home to you. Because Hope has an inner map and will always wing its way back to you.” – Ann Voskamp

Hard to Keep Hoping? The Secret to Finding a Way Forward – Ann Voskamp

Worship with me, considering the truth of singer songwriter Matthew West’s The Hope of Christmas.

Take me back to eight years old
The little church on a dead-end road
With a candle flicker in one hand and dad’s hand in the other
Take me back to Silent Night
My heart was full and the world was right
Cause right now the world looks nothing like those innocent Decembers
These days peace on earth is hard to find
And I need you to remind me one more time

You’re still the hope of Christmas
You’re still the light when the world looks dark
You’re still the hope of Christmas
And You’re still the hope of my heart

Watch the snowflakes falling down
Like a blanket on this town
For a moment we can hardly see the pain this year has brought us
May the sick find healing’s touch
May hatred’s fight be won with love
And may every heart make room for you the One who came to save us

You’re still the hope of Christmas
You’re still the light when the world looks dark
You’re still the hope of Christmas
And You’re still the hope of my heart

I bowed my head to pray tonight
Felt my little girl by my side
She slipped her tiny hand in mine
And we both talked to You
And it took me back to eight years old
My daddy’s hand and a story told
About Heaven’s love in a manger low
And a promise that’s still true

You’re still the hope of Christmas
You’re still the light when the world looks dark
You’re still the hope of Christmas
And You’re still the hope of my heart*

Put your hope in the Lord. For there is faithful love with the Lord, and with him is redemption in abundance.” – Psalm 130:7

*Lyrics to The Hope of Christmas – Songwriter: Matthew West

5 Friday Faves – Amazing Grace on Guitar, Visual and Auditory Feasts, Be Comforted, Pumpkins, and “Gone Fishing”

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Happy End of the Week! October has flown by, right? This weekend there is so much going on. Halloween or Reformation Day whichever way you’re inclined to celebrate. November 1 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Daylight Savings Time ends so we have an extra hour of sleep to prepare for Sunday (do small children actually ever sleep longer?). Then in the US also, the countdown to our Election continues – praying for peace.

1) Amazing Grace on GuitarNathan Mills (of Beyond the Guitar) surprised us this week with his arrangement of the great old hymn Amazing Grace. This hymn was written over 240 years ago by John Newton, a slave ship turned minister after he himself was captured and captivated by the amazing saving grace of Christ.

What Nathan does with this old standard (often rendered on bagpipes) will really touch your heart. He takes a melody often used to comfort the bereaved at funerals, and gradually moves it up-tempo to a march of triumph. Just beautiful!

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
Than when we first begun. – Harriet Beecher Stowe (added the final verse to the hymn)

YouTube Video – 50 Countries Affected by COVID-19 Sing Amazing Grace

[Amazing Grace has inspired at least four of my blogs. When you have time to read…so much beauty and fortitude for life in this hymn.]

Worship Wednesday – #Woke – What It Means to This Believer – Amazing Grace – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Finishing Strong with Amazing Grace – Deb Mills

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

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

2) Visual and Auditory Feasts – Sometimes our senses are just wowed from multiple simultaneous sources. Our memories of holiday meals, for instance, attach visual, auditory, and olfactory experiences with them. Concert performances (either in-person or online) van be an assault on our senses or a beautiful feast. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing/hearing For King & Country in concert. Their use of various instruments (especially their drums) is winsome and effective, and their light shows are spot on.

A few years ago, they introduced their own version of Little Drummer Boy. To be honest, until their version, I wasn’t a big fan of that little song. Now…if you haven’t heard it, prepare yourself for a feast!

Another video of the song from the 2019 CMA Country Christmas (I’m thinking their light show team also did the lighting for this one):

YouTube Video – The Blessing (Global Choir) – Live From Elevation Ballantyne – Elevation Worship

YouTube Video – King’s College “Once in Royal David’s City”

YouTube Video – King’s College “O Holy Night”

By the way, For King & Country’s latest album just released – A Drummer Boy Christmas – a much softer, worshipful album, but again…wow! Here’s the video of the title song.

3) Be Comforted – What can we learn from our childhood memories that will help us in our relationships as adults? Writer/counselors Milan and Kay Yerkovich‘s book How We Love – Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage ask an interesting question:

“Can you recall being comforted as a child after a time of emotional distress?”

They continue to coach about comfort or the lack of it.

“We are looking for a time when you were significantly upset and a parent offered consolation and relief…Sometimes people who haven’t experienced real, soul-level comfort have trouble understanding what exactly it is.”

“Related to the comfort question is this: How was conflict handled in your family? If distressful feelings were soothed or problems were resolved when you were a child, you experienced comfort and relief.”

The Yerkovich’s offer three elements as essential parts of comfort:

  • Touch
  • Listening
  • Relief

“Comfort is not possible unless an emotional connection was made.”

[If you have no childhood memories of being comforted or you missed an emotional connection with your parents growing up,] “We’re not trying to turn you against your parents or give you a target at which you can shoot arrows of blame. Most of our parents did the best they could and were simply working with the tools they had.”

These quotes from the “How We Love” book launched the reader into a journey of discovery on how our experiences with being comforted have impact on how we comfort those we love. An excellent resource for married couples but also a help for extended family, friendships, and even coworker relationships.

I’m just digging in but really anticipating learning and growing.

4) Pumpkins – ‘Tis the season. Our church throws a pumpkin patch event every Fall for the enjoyment of our community and in support of a local ministry to homeless. This Fall, with COVID and all, we almost didn’t….but we rallied. Just a few pics celebrating the beauty and variety of pumpkins.

5) Gone Fishing – My husband loves fishing…being outside and on the water, hanging out with a friend or family member, improving his catch. It’s a joy for him. For me? It’s a once-a-year outing. I do however love nature…and time with him, of course. This Fall morning last week started with a thick fog that paled the color of everything but broke with the shimmering sun pushing through.

I did catch a fish (score!) and he caught many more…it was a beautiful day and I wanted to share it with you.

[OK, full disclosure: the sunset pic was taken by our son, Nathan, who took my place in the boat in the afternoon. He and his sweet son. It was a good day both in and out of the boat.]

Enjoy your weekend. Thanks for stopping by. By the next Friday Faves, we’ll know how the US elections went. Praying!

Bonuses:

Quote for Today:

“We are participating in the orderly transfer of administrative authority by the direction of the people. And this is the simple magic which makes a commonplace routine a near miracle to many of the worlds inhabitants: the continuing fact that the people, by democratic process, can delegate this power, yet retain custody of it.

Perhaps you and I have lived with this miracle too long to be properly appreciative. Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.”Ronald Reagan, Inaugural Address as Governor of California, 1967

How the humility required to apologize restores & heals

Yard Visits – During COVID, drive-bys and yard visits have been so life-giving. We have been so blessed by planned and impromptu visits with friends. This week, our friend, Thiago, dropped by. He is an entrepreneur/film producer in California now…so such a visit is rare. And a complete joy.

The Lost Art of Having a Chat: What Happened When I Stopped Texting and Started Talking – Rebecca Nicholson

100 Frugal Habits to Live By If You’re Trying to Save Money – Shifrah Combiths

 

5 Friday Faves – Some Good News, Final Fantasy VII on Guitar, Sound Thinking, Coronavirus Survival Tips, and Busting with Bonuses

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Hey Everybody! Hope you’re faring well through these days of Coronavirus and social distancing. Many of you may be still going out to work, and we are grateful for all your essential services keeping us supported in our different living situations.

I didn’t post Friday Faves last week. So we have Friday Faves from two weeks today. Hope you’re finding joy in this odd journey of ours right now. We may be physically distanced, but we are together in this (that’s almost become cliche except for it’s still true).

1) Some Good News – We can find it, or create it if need be. Some good news. Actor John Krasinski has done just that. He is scripting and posting a weekly YouTube video entitled appropriately Some Good News. His first post focused on the 15th anniversary of the American TV show The Office. Below you will find Episodes 2 and 3.

Please share in the Comments your own brush with good news this week and any good news you made happen for others. Let’s safely crush this physical distancing experience!

YouTube Video – SGN Prom with John Krasinski and Friends

2) Final Fantasy VII on Guitar – If the lilting music of the Final Fantasy videogame franchise has special meaning to you, then Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar gets it. The chief composer of the Final Fantasy themes is Nobuo Uematsu. Nathan’s latest arrangement from the franchise is Aerith’s Theme from Final Fantasy VIIHere it is:

YouTube Video – Final Fantasy XV: Valse di Fantastica – Classical Guitar Cover

YouTube Video – Final Fantasy XV: Main Title Theme (Somnus) – Classical Guitar Cover

YouTube Video – Final Fantasy X: To Zanarkand – Classical Guitar Cover (Beyond the Guitar)

3) Sound Thinking – One of my go-to Bible verses in scary situations is 2 Timothy 1:7 where the Apostle Paul states: For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” Some translations use sound mind or self-control for the phrase “sound judgment”.

Either way, there is such a thing as sound thinking, and it is worth determining whether we are pursuing and exercising that level of reason…or not. Otherwise, we will continue to keep passing each other in conversations, even good friends, shaking our heads when we disagree with ideologies. Preferring to discount, blame or revile, rather than understand each other’s take on something that matters to both of us. Especially in today’s super-charged political conversations and in our government’s decision-making.

Photo Credit: Trainer Collective

In my wondering on sound thinking, I found a very helpful book chapter by author Martin H. Levinson. The 2006 book (its revised edition just released) is Sensible Thinking in Turbulent Times and the chapter was General Semantics: Sound Thinking for Every Day Life.

In this chapter, Levinson offers Ten Blocks to Sound Thinking – with General Semantics “Correctives”. The blocks follow; read the succinct and incredible helpful correctives in this rapid read chapter. I would love an opportunity to sit around a circle with friends and associates of mine who think vastly differently than I do on a range of topics and sort out how we might come more to the center using these helps.

10 Blocks to Sound Thinking (Martin H. Levinson)

  • Allness Attitudes [communicating as if we know all there is to know about a subject]
  • “Knee-jerk Reactions
  • Either-or Thinking
  • Rigid Evaluations
  • Projection Problems [stating opinions as if they were facts]
  • “Useless” and Poorly Structured Questions
  • Elementalism [assuming there is only one cause of something]
  • Jumping to Wrong Conclusions
  • Relying on Common Sense [taking assumptions for granted]
  • Labeling and Category Errors

So much to consider. I will close this with a quote, measured and sound, from a friend of mine, Helen Phillips, on the topic of our country’s mediation of the Coronavirus pandemic:

“We’ll never know whether these drastic measures have spared us from a fate we cannot fathom with thousand or tens of thousands more people sick and dying, or not. If the stats tempt you to feel indignant, and a false sense of ‘perhaps the whole thing was a big fat overreaction’, how do you claim to know which is which? Who can be certain what’s ‘real’ and what’s successful mitigation through extreme precaution as intended. Everyone is speculating, everyone is claiming someone else is wrong, everyone has an opinion and a conspiracy theory from the cheap seats with no ‘skin in the game’.

At the end of the day, who among us bends under the burden of tremendous responsibility? Who among us truly believes they have solutions for the world’s problems? Who among us rarely sleeps, evaluating the deluge of evolving data? Who among us thinks they know what’s best for an organization, a state or a nation?

Perhaps instead of feeding the dragon of obsession and negativity, maybe we should do a little more soul searching, heart checking, gratitude evaluating, neighbor loving and realize the roots of our faith are growing deeper.”

What  a 16th Century Mystic Can Teach Us About Making Good Decisions – Annmarie Cano

4) Coronavirus Tips for Survival – Have we exhausted this subject yet? I can’t imagine we have. Fortunately, I have a good friend who is also a cancer nursing specialist. She helped me devise a survivorship plan after my bout with cancer. She is also the source of much of my plan for staying healthy and hopefully surviving COVID-19 should I contract it. First a little musical respite with DJ Brinson and Emily Gardenire:

I have listed several sources below with a wide range of viewpoints on keeping COVID-19 at bay or surviving it should you get hospitalized. The tips are just based on what I’ve read and what conclusions I’ve made. Not scientific, not tested, etc., etc., etc.

  • Pray, trusting God isn’t finished with me yet…or if my time is done on earth, then trusting Him for grace for me and for my family.
  • Be aware of what surfaces I’m touching (especially outside of my home environment) and wash my hands often and thoroughly. Hand sanitize regularly.
  • Keep my hands off my face.
  • Social distance. Stay 6 feet apart from those not in my “stay at home” environment. Only gather in very small groups with others abiding by same rules (family, close friends, colleagues when necessary).
  • Although social distancing, be creative and purposeful – serve others and stay in contact. Pray for those around you and far from you.
  • During social distancing, make time to complete or update an advance medical directive.
  • Vitamin C.
  • Learn to sleep on my abdomen and sides (this may be necessary if I end up hospitalized).
  • If hospitalized, up to being put on a ventilator, I want it all (oxygen, of course; hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin (if available); testing and treatment for cytokine storm syndrome; red blood cell and plasma infusions; whatever else is the latest and greatest.
  • Have whatever contact is possible with my family.
  • Ventilator…not at all sure about this one.

Here’s a Playbook for Stopping Deadly Cytokine Storm Syndrome

Being Prepared in the Time of COVID-19 – Three Things You Can Do Now – The Conversation Project

Why Some COVID-19 Patients Crash: The Body’s Immune System Might Be to Blame – Geoff Bromfiel

Covid-19 Had Us All Fooled, But Now We Might Have Finally Found Its Secret – LibertyMavinStock

YouTube Video: Empowering Talk: Protecting Families During COVID-19 Pandemic – Dr. David Price – New York City

Nightmares, Flashbacks, Uncertainty: A 29-year-old Recovers After Coronavirus Brought Him Near Death – Marissa J. Lang

Coronavirus Survival Tips from a Doomsday Prepper

Deaths Delayed – Carl R. Trueman

John Piper on the Coronavirus and Christ – Podcast & Transcript – Collin Hansen

Do you have any tips for us about staying well? Please comment below.

Photo Credit: The Jeff Katz Show, Facebook

5) Busting with Bonuses – I couldn’t decide on a fifth favorite so will leave you with these bonuses as the fifth. The Spring here is spectacular and I’m especially grateful having been “staying at home” for over a month now. Hope you’re doing well. Thanks for reading and keeping company with me.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor

Don’t Waste Your Ruined Plans – Gaye Clark

You Can Thrive in the New Normal – Here’s How – Matt Monge

Fight Songs (The question was asked by a friend, “What is your fight song?” – this week I had two. They follow below.)

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp

The book titles below (left to right, first row and then second) tell a story. #CoronavirusPhoto Credit: Casual Christian Comedy 2, Facebook

5 Friday Faves – Happy Tunes with Beyond the Guitar, Hunkering Down, Some Good News, Holy Week, and Surprising Twitter Benefits

We made it! Another Friday, another weekend. Stay safe, Dear Ones. Thanks to all those serving in essential capacities. We are grateful. Praying for you.

1) Happy Tunes with Beyond the GuitarNathan Mills is bringing a lift to all our hearts in these days with this sweet medley of Disney/Pixar movie themes. Enjoy!

2) Some Good News – Actor John Krasinski has redeemed his time at home during the COVID-19 crisis by producing his own news program. Some Good News. It is funny, and celebratory, and nostalgic. Don’t miss it (Episode 1 and waiting on Episode 2 in the next week). In the meantime, we can catch bits of good news on his Twitter and Facebook pages – some he finds and some posted by others of us with good news. Bring it! Thanks, John!

[Sidebar: Can you believe it’s the 15th anniversary of the American TV show The Office?!]

John Krasinski Reveals the Conversation that “Saved” His Relationship with Emily Blunt – Randee Dawn

3) Hunkering Down – This week in the US, we are seeing state after state giving mandates to Stay at Home. As we watch the numbers of new cases of and deaths from COVID-19 continue to escalate, the motivation for social distancing is high. Essential workers still go to work and others of us work from home. The economy has been hit hard, but if we can contain COVID-19, things should get better. Return to normal? Who knows what the new normal will look like? We must stay hopeful.

I have struggled with anxiety and fear, but thankfully focusing on God, praying, and reaching out (appropriately) to others as much as possible have all been restorative in the stress of these days.

Being proactive and cultivating new positive habits will help us endure and thrive through whatever our current circumstances are. Many of us now have friends and family who have contracted this disease. We want to keep the impact of this disease as low as possible…worrying or panic will not help them or us. So…we hunker down.

Photo Credit: Senior Airman Alexa Culbert,  AETC

Photo Credit: Science Museum of Virginia

Photo Credit: Georgia Health News

[Even as I posted the above graphics, the thought came how we’ve all seen maybe more graphics on COVID-19 than we hope ever to see again…we can social distance…we can encourage and stay connected in creative ways and we can pray.]

This Is a War and Where Are the Prayer Warriors to Win This Battle? #PandemicPrayers – Ann Voskamp [included free is a powerful prayer bookmark]

Be calm and shelter on.

Just maybe a sweet daughter-in-law will bring the grands for a drive-by. Hope so.

4) Holy Week – It’s hard to believe that Lent is almost over, and Holy Week starts on Sunday. With our battle against Coronavirus, Lent and Easter will be very different in some ways…hopefully not in the most important ways.

[There is also the breaking of the anxiety, instilling some by humor like the joke going around “not planning to give up quite this much for Lent”.]

We will still observe what happened this week and commemorate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It will be in much smaller gatherings (at home)…not in the church buildings. In fact, I hope since the church “left the building”, we are reaching out to our neighbors and the world, even more in the way Jesus did when he was here in the flesh.Photo Credit: Jared Burwell, Facebook

#HopeNowHopeAlways

Below are two resources for celebrating this Holy Week. I will also be posting daily blogs, as in years past, to mark the history of this last week of Jesus’ earthly life.

Holy Week Devotions – Mission Lakewood (Family, this is nephew/cousin’s Jeremy’s church)

Experience Easter – From Genesis to Revelation – K-Love

Holy Week Timeline – From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Mary Fairfield

5) Surprising Twitter Benefits – Twitter has been a great benefit to me. Some excellent thinkers post their ideas and opinions on there… Of course, there are some profane, divisive, self-absorbed folks who regularly darken the Twittersphere as well. I have been very deliberate in whom I follow and whom I don’t. Now, I do follow people very different from me, but they are good teachers of whatever makes up “the other side”.  Below are tweets from six different persons – no politics involved – four of whom I met through Twitter. Enjoy.

YouTube Video – Italian Music – Background Chill Out

YouTube Video – Italian Restaurant Music – Italian Dinner, Background Music, Folk Music from Italy (2 Hours)

Bonuses:

The Three Kinds of Leaders You See in a Crisis – Carey Nieuwhof

Finally, a few Spring beauties from our friend, Marc Merlin.

5 Friday Faves – Moment of Lament, Anxiety and Depression, John’s Crazy Socks, Relapse/Recovery, and Alex Trebek

Welcome to the weekend! Here in a flash are my week’s faves:

1) Moment of Lament – This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first landing of ships carrying African peoples, destined for slavery or servanthood, to American soil. [See link for some of the controversy around this anniversary.] A Moment of Lament organized by For Richmond is scheduled for several churches in our city to mark this anniversary, and to thank God for those who endured this terrible offense and have profoundly contributed to our country’s identity and character.

Photo Credit: For Richmond, Facebook

2) Anxiety and Depression – Two connected and chronic human struggles in society today are anxiety and depression. None of us is immune to these, and we all have loved ones who are especially caught in the battle against either anxiety or depression or both.

A favorite author of mine, Frank Sonnenberg, has written on 30 distressing habits we can develop over time that lead us to anxiety and depression.  Some of these include keeping bad company, prizing possessions over relationships, holding onto anger, bowing to others’ agendas for your life, and entitlement. Just to name a few. Check out his list, see if you’ve fallen into some of these, but don’t let his list guilt you (another one of his 30). Understanding how we can fall into these habits can help us climb out of some of our struggles.

Journalist Johann Hari has written on addiction, anxiety and depression. [Hari, earlier in his career, came under attack for his ethics and journalistic practices. What he said in the TED Talk below is so spot on, it warrants our consideration.]

Hari has long struggled himself with anxiety and depression. In preparation for writing his book on the subject, he took a literal journey of discovery. Traveling across the world to interview a myriad of specialists on the subject of anxiety/depression. The TED Talk is worth your 20 minutes. In short, he talked about how sometimes medication is necessary for the chemical imbalance some of us have making us vulnerable to anxiety/depression. Many more of us, however, don’t have a chemical imbalance. Our struggles with anxiety and depression relate more to “unmet needs”. The needs for meaning, purpose, community, connectedness. He talks about how we have allowed false values (recognition on social media, fame or celebrity, individual effort) to replace larger values of actually being present in our world, touching lives as only we’re able to do, connecting with life (and I will add God, here).

14:22 minutes into the TED Talk, he offers an exercise that can make a difference in the quality of our lives. An exercise that’s meant to be done in community.

Johann Hari – Quotes – Goodreads

Depression and Diet – WebMD

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp, #WorldKindnessDay, and Facebook

3) John’s Crazy Socks – Socks for Christmas, right? Always a good idea. John Lee Cronin and Mark X. Cronin are the co-founders of John’s Crazy Socks. Mark is the dad and John is the son. The whole concept of these socks is so special that you need to see the story:

Whether you buy socks at Walmart or pay the extra for John’s Crazy Socks is not the issue. What counts is that some folks have made this a very successful business, and it is much deserved! Thanks, Mark and John. You’ve definitely made us happy just knowing you a bit.

4) Relapse/Recovery – For any of us who have friends or family in recovery from drug addiction, we know the dread of relapse. One of my best friends is a recovered alcoholic. She has spent most of her life sober…to the point, in fact, that she feels God has cured her of alcoholism. However, does she ever drink? Absolutely not.

She just doesn’t go there.

Someone else in our lives has relapsed. After several years drug-free. I will protect their privacy, but the relapse has been devastating. For us, and I’m sure for them.

It happens. Not always, but sometimes. However, it still doesn’t define the person. That person, after recovery, has a job, and a family, and hopes and dreams. When a relapse occurs all those things are threatened.Photo Credit: PxHere

With the opioid epidemic, incarceration is not the answer. Drug rehab residential programs are less costly and more effective, but also are not without risks. After years of drug-free recovery, a person who relapses is more vulnerable for overdose and death because of lowered tolerance for the drugs.

Relapse also leaves the family vulnerable…emotionally and socioeconomically.

For those of us who love these wrestling with the work of recovery and the risk of relapse…we learn what we can and we rally around them and their families in healthy and truly helpful ways.

Heroin Addiction Recovery Program – Redeption, Recovery in a Chesterfield Jail – John Adam

What Happens If I Relapse? – Addiction Center

Guide to Cocaine Rehab

Slip vs. Relapse – What’s the Difference?

REAL LIFE Opens Women’s Home for Recovering Addicts Released From Jail – Jeremy M. Lazarus

5) Alex Trebek – A quiz show on TV that millions of Americans watch every day is Jeopardy. We wait to call Dave’s mom until after Jeopardy is off. Alex Trebek, the show-host, is as much a household name is any celebrity in our pop culture. He makes the show even more interesting and sometimes funny and treats his guest contestants with honor.

We were all saddened to hear of his cancer diagnosis earlier this year. Pancreatic cancer. Thankful to hear he was determined to fight it, and he has! Alex Trebek instills confidence and if anyone can successfully stave off pancreatic cancer, he can. He announced recently, during this beloved show, that he was going back on chemotherapy, we were stunned. Even one of the contestants forfeited his opportunity to win more prize money to show support for Alex.

Here’s the video of what happened…including Alex’s emotional response – #WeLoveYouAlex – Praying for you.

Bonuses:

We heard Bob Costas speak recently at Richmond Forum – a real national treasure.

A Prayer to Remember – God Fights For You Today – Debbie McDaniel

Faking It – Could I Go From being an Introvert to an Extrovert in One Week? – Sirin Kale

A Christmas Classic and a Couple of Musical Collaborations:

Photo Credit: Facebook, The Fabulous Fifties

Learning About Someone

Jon McCray’s very fair take on John Crist’s current situation:

Worship Wednesday – Kara Tippetts – Suffering as an Instrument of Love and Worship

Photo Credit: Mundane Faithfulness

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.2 Timothy 4:6-7

Kara Tippetts is one of the loveliest women I’ve never met. She died of cancer four years ago this month. Although cancer sharpened her experience of life, it did not define her life. She was a Christ-follower, pastor’s wife, mom of 4, writer, and amazing sister and friend. How I know her is through the cancer she battled, through her faith, and through her writing…this is how I know her and how I love her (from my earlier blog on her life).

On March 22, the documentary The Long Goodbye is released. Directed by Jay Lyons, it is an intimate story of Kara’s last months of life here on earth. It is a story of deep love, crazy humor, hard yet sweet moments, and forever faith. [See trailer here.]Photo Credit: Hallels

Some of my friends here in Richmond are joining with me for a premier party to watch the documentary together. I am excited to introduce them to Kara. It will be sad but also funny and supremely victorious.

Premiere THE LONG GOODBYE with your Friends! — Limited Time Offer

Over the course of Kara’s cancer, she wrote three books (with the help of friend Jill Lynn Buteyn). I remember the blog she wrote about signing contracts for the two last books just weeks before she died. Her determination to leave this legacy was buoyed by a husband, family, and friends who helped her keep living the life she loved until the end. These books are so beautiful. I spent a couple of decades doing cancer nursing and those experiences forged an understanding of the rare and beautiful gifts found in suffering. Walking through it with God. Kara has captured so much of that and shares it with us in these sweet, sometimes hard stories.

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

Just Show Up: the Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together – Kara Tippetts & Jill Lynn Buteyn

And It Was Beautiful: Celebrating Life in the Midst of the Long Good-bye – Kara Tippetts

By the way, there is way more joy than sorrow in her story. Her love for her family and friends. Her joy in the beauty that surrounded her. Her confidence in the God who loved her. It’s all there.

In her last book, And It Was Beautiful: Celebrating Life in the Midst of the Long Good-bye, she writes a brief letter to the cancer:

“…So here we are. The truth is that now you are in my bones, my bone marrow, my blood-making place. I did not want you there. I asked you not to go there. But you did it anyway. But here’s something. You will never separate me from the Holy Spirit. He’s watching you, every single cell of you. He’s the One giving me all this peace that confounds you. You won’t take my joy, cancer. You won’t keep me from living as close as I can to my people. And I know you think you are killing me with all your fast-growing cell business, but you are not the boss. The day I breathe my last is exactly numbered. You don’t have a say in that, sorry. And when that day comes, and it will come, my people will be kept safe in God’s beautiful arms…I do hate you, and I’m still here.”Kara

Photo Credit: Deb Mills Writer from Mundane Faithfulness

This year during Lent, I’m reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s 40-Day Journey. He writes beautifully about what it is to be a true disciple of Jesus. Here is one excerpt:

Luther translates the Greek word for what is blessed with “to bear suffering.” The important part is the bearing. The community of disciples does not shake off suffering, as if they had nothing to do with it. Instead they bear it. In doing so, they give witness to their connection with the people around them. At the same time this indicates that they do not arbitrarily seek suffering, that they do not withdraw into willful contempt for the world. Instead, they bear what is laid upon them and what happens to them in discipleship for the sake of Jesus Christ. Finally, disciples will not be weakened by suffering, worn down, and embittered until they are broken. Instead, they bear suffering, by the power of him who supports them. The disciples bear the suffering laid on them only by the power of him who bears all suffering on the cross. As bearers of suffering, they stand in communion with the Crucified. They stand as strangers in the power of him who was so alien to the world that it crucified him. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever. Psalm 30:11-12

Kara, in your living and your dying, you taught me so much about being a disciple of Jesus. You knew/know Him so well. Thank you. Photo Credit: Life News

My Other Blogs on Kara – Here, Here, Here & Here

**Memorial – Mundane Faithfulness – read Kara’s blog – her story and her God will change your life.

Wednesday Worship – the God Worshipper – Psalm 15

Photo Credit: Knowing-Jesus

Worship. Such a tension to keep the focus on the Lord and not on our own preferences, our own pleasures.

King David had his own slippery slopes through life, but worship that pleases the Lord was clearly something he understood. Psalm 15 came up in my regular Bible reading this week and is still working its work on my heart.

Lord, who can dwell in your tent?
Who can live on your holy mountain?

The one who lives blamelessly, practices righteousness,
and acknowledges the truth in his heart—
who does not slander with his tongue,
who does not harm his friend
or discredit his neighbor,
who despises the one rejected by the Lord
but honors those who fear the Lord,
who keeps his word whatever the cost,
who does not lend his silver at interest
or take a bribe against the innocent—
the one who does these things will never be shaken. Psalm 15

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

Who is that person?! That person who lives a life of worship as if he enters the “holy of holies” as he would enter his house or his workplace or his church.

What we do briefly on a Sunday morning matters to God, for sure. What we are about through the week (including Sunday morning) is the substance of the life of a worshipper. There is no separation of sacred from secular. Of daily or divine. We all know this in our hearts.

Psalm 15 puts me on my knees. Let’s break it down. How does the psalmist describe one who essentially lives in the presence of the Lord?

10 rules are laid out in Psalm 15. The first three are in verse 2. These only God can see whether we live by them or not. Now others may see our actions but these verses pertain more to the content or motivation of our hearts. The other seven are listed in verses 3-5. These are straight-up actions toward those we encounter each day.

Here they are in Easy English*, these rules or habits that mark a true worshipper:

1) She “makes no mistakes”; lives a life of integrity and uprightness. Consistent. Honest. What you see is what you get.

2) She does what is right and fair. Practices righteousness. In fact, he works righteousness into every situation, as one would knead bread.

3) He speaks out loud what he knows to be true in his heart. She does not withhold the truth in timidity, but acknowledges the truth with courage.

4) She tells no lies about another. In fact, even if something seems true, she reminds herself that telling it won’t help the person or the situation. He refuses to speak ill of others. No slander. No back-biting.

5) He does nothing harmful to his neighbors. No mean intentionality. Nor cruel or indifferent neglect.

6) She does not harm others with words. She makes no slurs nor discredits them. He does not make slurs or gossip about others. [Similar to #4; the repetition shouldn’t be lost on us. Our mouths can betray what’s in our hearts which can disqualify us for true worship.]

[Sidebar: If we can determine to speak truth in love, the temptation to talk about others INSTEAD of to them would be less a problem. What do you think?]

7) He does not keep company with bad people. He despises those who show themselves despicable. She does not seek the favor of those who reject God.

8) He gives honor to those who fear God. She serves those who serve God.

9) She keeps her word no matter what it might cost her. He is dependable and trustworthy.

10) He uses money to bless not to profit. She is generous. He remembers the poor.

*A Place for You – Psalm 15 in Easy English – Gordon Churchyard

Psalm 15 – the Character of the One God Receives – David Guzik

We look at these rules and spiritual habits and wonder how we can offer pleasing worship to the Lord…ever. We are imperfect and follow Him imperfectly. The key is the aim of our hearts. If we tune our hearts toward God as a matter of life, we set our aim on Him. In such a way, that the arrow of our lives hits the center of the target of these habits…these disciplines…these practices.

I always loved Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God. He was a monk who struggled against the mundane of serving God and the brothers in his monastery. Then he caught onto the idea that God was in the mundane…as in any of the holy sacraments.

Writer and farm wife/mother Ann Voskamp wrote about this in her blog How to Practice the Presence of God. In her critique, she posed the question of how can you practice His presence. “God’s presence needs no practicing because God’s presence has no end. God presence needs no practicing because it’s perfect and it’s present everywhere.” 

What she says is true, but we are frail in our faith and too often distracted by the many tantalizing imperfections of life. We miss God if we don’t make seeing Him a practice. It’s less like practicing the piano and more like practicing medicine. Less works. More faith. Faith in a sure truth and great God. Worthy of worship in every aspect of our lives.

We know Him and we live in ways that reflect knowing Him.

No song today through which we might worship together. Songwriter Hoss Hughes has penned a sweet response to Psalm 15 (see link below).

YouTube Video – “Never Shaken” – Psalm 15 worship song personalized by Hoss Hughes

I do love how the psalm ends.

“The one who does these things will never be shaken.” Hallelujah!

How to Live the Psalm 15 Life – Kenneth Copeland

Singing with Jesus – Psalm 15 – Acceptable Worship

When Christmas Is Hard – the God of Comfort & Joy

On this predawn Christmas morning, my thoughts are heavy remembering a year ago when Dad died about this time. He died after a long goodbye with cancer and Alzheimer’s. He died under the tender care of my brother and sister-in-law who had already lost her own dad just days before.

Dad is in Heaven, and joy comes thinking of seeing him, Mom, and others there one day. The heaviness of my heart is just to be endured for now…I can’t seem to fix it. It’s been a year of not quite what it should be. Hard to even write those words because I am deeply grateful to God for even being here, in front of this keyboard, able to reflect on His goodness and provision.

Dad, in his sweet and generous heart, was one of those provisions. The only dad I ever knew, even though he wasn’t our biological father. He loved Christmas and brought to it a gleefulness that I can’t find this year.

Maybe some of you are struggling with Christmas this year. Away from family or with them in the shadows. Or there is something else going on…I don’t really want to string a series of possibles here. You know for yourself what is making Christmas hard.

If this is not your situation, just be glad in it. Most years, I have known that kind of Christmas and will again.

Sadness makes it hard to reach out to others (although I have a friend who today, pushing through her own sadness, will serve in a hospital hospitality house). I have struggled to reach out this year.

Still, we will hold to the comfort and joy that is ours through Christ Jesus. What he did for us…what he continues to do in the greatest love known to us.

If you are having a hard time reaching out, and getting the help you need, just please be gentle with yourself. There are resources for us in the depth of our despair (links below). God is near. He desires to comfort us and restore our joy. He will pierce the dark cloud of our sadness as we turn to Him. He will be with us right where we are.Photo Credit: Holley Gerth

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Postscript: We have known a lot of airports in our long life of travel – and watching folks arrive to family and friends has always been a marvel to me. I think of Dad’s Homegoing and smile, in spite of this morning’s sadness, at the welcome he received in Heaven. Sweet.

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. it seems to me that love is everywhere. Ofte, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” – from the film Love Actually

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-8255

Celebrating Christmas with a Broken Heart – Brittany Salmon

What Suffering People Wish You Would Do at Christmas – Vaneetha Rendall Risner

A Sorta Gift Guide for the Overwhelmed & Broken Hearted This Christmas – Ann Voskamp

How Having a Little Charlie Brown Christmas Gets You into the Best Christmas Spirit of All (About Fears & Heartbreak & Hard Families at Christmas) – Ann Voskamp

This Christmas – Our Little Clark