Tag Archives: Ann Voskamp

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

Worship Wednesday – The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.Ephesians 2:8

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.John 3:16-17

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. – the Apostle Paul, Acts 20:24

Saved. What does that mean? Saved from what? For what?

I had been unchurched for most of my young life. When first exposed to the Bible, God drew me to Himself, and I was saved as a 9-year-old child. This holy and winsome God reached into the heart of a lost little girl and showed divine mercy. Saved was something my mom couldn’t do for me, nor could I do it for myself.

Even at 9, the wretchedness of sin was very real to me – both as a receiver of others’ sinful behavior and as a doer myself. People can be so hateful, uncaring, deliberately mean. Contrast that with a God who demonstrated such a love to us that in our most messed-up nature, He made a way for us to come back to Him…through the perfect, sinless Savior, Jesus Christ.

For the moment, I’m not going to deal with how it is one can be saved but you can find more here. Explore God is a great resource.

Since the day that I received God’s greatest gift, the life available only through Jesus, living for Him has always been my desire.

Seasons come, however, when my heart’s desire is dampened by fears, distractions, and cultural messages that disguise lies for truth. I have not always lived for the God who saved me…definitely I have not always been faithful to speak the glorious truth of Him and His gift to us in salvation.

Oh…the silence of wanting my own comfort over care of one who doesn’t yet know God’s love. My heart breaks at this.

During worship at Movement Church, on Sunday, we sang a song new to me. The Cause of Christ by Kari Jobe. In the setting of church gathered, the Holy Spirit moved my heart deeply with the purpose of this life. Then Cliff preached from 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 (podcast here). The focus of this scripture, teaching, and worship was to encourage us, as church, as saved peoples, to “persevere and refuse to be silent”.

Photo Credit: Twitter

We are never too old or too far gone down the world’s path to return to God and His great cause.

What joy in those occasions when we enter into the cause of Christ and share the truth of God, in word and deed. He takes our feeble attempts and, through His Holy Spirit, gives us the opportunity to point to love and life in Him.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

What is the cause of Christ? We, who know Jesus, have been saved from the sin embedded in us from the first sinners and we have been saved from living ourselves in unbridled sin for all our lives. We are saved for God’s purposes – to live to serve Him and others in truth; to proclaim that saving truth in word and deed to all those God places in our lives. We are saved for fellowship (community) with God now and forever.

How can we keep silent?

It is not fame that I desire
Nor stature in my brother’s eye
I pray it’s said about my life
That I lived more to build Your Name than mine*

Worship with me for the cause of Christ (music in the link):

The only thing I want in life
Is to be known for loving Christ
To build His church, to love His bride
And make His name known far and wide

For this cause, I live
For this cause, I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

He is all my soul will prize
Regardless of the joy or trial
When agonizing questions rise
In Jesus, all my hope abides

For this cause, I live
For this cause, I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

Jesus, my Jesus
For Your glory, for Your name
Jesus, my Jesus
I will only sing Your praise

For this cause I live
For this cause I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

It is not fame that I desire
Nor stature in my brother’s eye
I pray it’s said about my life
That I lived more to build Your Name than mine*

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp, Twitter

“…how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.  For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. – the Apostle Paul, 1 Thessalonians 2:11-13

*Lyrics to The Cause of Christ – Writers: Kari Jobe, Benjamin Hastings, Bryan Fowler

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe – interview starts at 4:45 [also how to play the song]

What Is the Cause of Christ?

A Cause Worthy of Your Life – Andrew Corbett

What Does It Mean to Be Saved? – Steven J. Cole

For the Cause – Getty Music

The Only Name (Yours Will Be) by Big Daddy Weave (words & lyrics by Benji Cowart)

YouTube Video – When It’s All Been Said and Done – Robin Mark

Finishing Strong – Mildred McAdams – (our mom) – 1927-2002

Worship Wednesday – I Will Rise – Chris Tomlin

Photo Credit: YouTube

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”Revelation 5:11-12

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” – Jesus – John 16:33

Chris Tomlin is a songwriter and worship leader. He writes for worshipers…and has since he was 14.  My own worship life with God has been strongly influenced by Tomlin and his collaborators.

The song, I Will Rise, is a lyric that personalizes the experience of a Christ-follower laying this life down for the next. When our dad died recently, we were comforted by the truth of this song as we thought of what Dad must be experiencing entering Heaven. No more sorrow. No more pain.

Just as Chris Tomlin’s song I Will Rise gives us a sweet glimpse of Heaven, Ann Voskamp’s books point us to the beauty of life here…even when broken. Author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, she has written another very different book. Raw in its honesty and transparency, this book The Broken Way: A Daring Path Into the Abundant Life delves deep into brokenness. Uncomfortably deep. Yet, that is where we find healing.Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp

At the age of 16, Ann was broken…grieving the little sister who died suddenly, missing her mother in her own world of mental illness, and her father, though near physically but far into his own dark thoughts. To even feel anything, Ann….this exquisitely beautiful girl with the brightest of futures on her horizon….sank into harming herself, through cutting. The Broken Way reveals all this brokenness and more…yet with the loveliness of God’s provision in brokenness…His own good brokenness.

Years later, a long way down the road from her own childhood, Ann writes about a dark day as a mom. Her farmer husband drew her close to him and responded in this way:

“You know – everything all across this farm says the same thing, you know that, right?…The seed breaks to give us the wheat. The soil breaks to give us the crop, the sky breaks to give us the rain, the wheat breaks to give us the bread. And the bread breaks to give us the feast. There was once even an alabaster jar that broke to give Him all the glory…Never be afraid of being a broken thing.” [p. 25, The Broken Way]

Photo Credit: Melanie S. Pickett

We all have some measure of brokenness…as I turn the pages of Ann’s book, I realize we can’t compare our broken with another’s. God meets us in the darkest places…I know that from my own experience and seeing it, over and over, in the lives of others. Like Ann Voskamp. Reaching up our hand, we find God reaching down.

Watching Dad in the last year of his life…his Alzheimer’s taking more and more of his memory, and his cancer roaring out of remission…God was there. To experience the grace in those days…with Dad…and to watch family members and friends rally around him…was seeing God move in close to him…and to us.

In the brokenness of Dad’s life in those last days, we saw God’s glory shine through the cracks and imperfections of age and illness. In our brokenness, serving Dad in our weakness, God gave us more love, more grace, more strength…than we ever had before.

Back around to Tomlin’s song, I Will Rise. In death…and in life, we have this anthem.  What confidence, joy, and peace are ours in Him. Hallelujah!Photo Credit: The Gingham Apron

Worship with me.

There’s a peace I’ve come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There’s an anchor for my soul
I can say “It is well”

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There’s a day that’s drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
“Worthy is the Lamb”
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
“Worthy is the Lamb”
[x2]

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise*

*Lyrics and Chords to I Will Rise – Songwriters: Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves, Louie Giglio, and Matt Maher

YouTube Video – Chris Tomlin Talks About I Will Rise

YouTube Video – I Will Rise – Chris Tomlin (Live)

YouTube Video – Laura Story – Open Hands (Lyric Video) ft. Mac Powell

YouTube Video – The Broken Way – A Daring Path into the Abundant Life – Take the Dare

Worship Wednesday – Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Hillsong – DebMillsWriter

5 Friday Faves – Survivorship Plan, Words in a Marriage, Broadway Musicals, Gentleman Traditions, a Poet for the Present, Plus a Bonus

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! It’s another gorgeous day in the Commonwealth… before the wilting heat of summer presses in. Here are five of my favorite finds this week. Please share some of yours in Comments at the end. What a wonder to learn new information that empowers, or to discover a thought leader who resonates with our own sensibilities, or to be filled with the delight of joyful sights, sounds, and sweet or savory treats.

1) Survivorship Plan – In my third week post-surgery, and getting better each day. My friend, Kathy, asked me this week if I had considered a survivorship plan. That was new terminology to me. Kathy also shared with me about Kelly A. Turner’s Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds. Turner is a researcher and lecturer in integrative oncology and her focus is on cancer survivors who are out-living their prognoses. In her book, she talks about the nine key factors that she discovered in the study of hundreds of patients. Blog - Cancer Survivorship Plan - Radical RemissionPhoto Credit: Radical Remission by Kelly A. Turner PhD

She continues to research in this field and her website includes story after story of survivors who live cancer-free, in remission despite the dismal statistics of their disease.

Thankfully my cancer was caught early, but recurrence is still an issue, so I am thinking through a survivorship plan for myself. If you know me well, I am not the healthiest eater and taking supplements isn’t something I’ve done well with in the past…but all that just might change. Just so you know, I’m not ever planning to be a drum-beating health crazy…just want to be wiser with this life God has restored to me.Blog - Cancer Survivorship Plan - Turmeric

2) Words in a Marriage – Words in any relationship are either life-giving or life-damaging.   Allie Casazza writes about how our words can create a husband we can’t stand.  We all have sick memories of things we’ve said to our husbands that we wish we could take back (husbands, you may have similar memories of how you’ve talked to your wives). It doesn’t have to be this way. My husband is a “words of affirmation” kind of guy. After so many years of marriage, I understand how words can either cause him to draw back from me or stay close. What a great wisdom, to learn this early in marriage.Blog - Nagging - Words - tolovehonorandvacuumPhoto Credit: To Love Honor and Vacuum

3) Broadway Musicals – This coming Sunday is the 2016 Tony Awards ceremony, saluting the great shows currently on Broadway. The musicals are my favorites. Many years ago, I had several opportunities to visit New York City. When there, Broadway plays were on the agenda. Three shows on my list in those days were A Raisin in the Sun, Your Arms Too Short to Box with God, and Chicago. My absolute favorite musical, which I didn’t see in New York but in another city, was Les Miserables. Maybe, I will make it to a Broadway or off-Broadway show again some day. The video here captures the joy of these musicals for me – belting out favorite lyrics with friends…with all the gusto of an ensemble performing on stage. Blog - Broadway Musicals - Tony Awards - zimbioPhoto Credit: Zimbio

4) Gentleman Traditions
I tried to raise our boys to grow up with gentleman traditions – opening doors for others, greeting all in the room respectfully, good manners at table, giving up a seat for another. Having grown up myself as a daughter of the feminist movement (with the subsequent Equal Rights Amendment in play), I was not sure myself what traditions should be upheld and which were no longer relevant. Kris Wolfe writes a sweet piece on 21 Lost Gentleman Traditions That Still Apply Today. As I read these traditions, I thought some of them may actually feel very awkward in today’s culture. What do you think? When I was a young girl first observing these traditions in the dads and young men in my life, I remember how winsome they were. Which ones do you especially value? Which ones are you teaching your boys and young men?Blog - Gentlemen - refe99Photo Credit: Refe99

5) A Poet for the Present – This week’s news marked a media outcry regarding the sexual assault on a young woman and the very lenient judgment and sentence given the perpetrator. If you search for the phrase “20 minutes of action”, you will see article after article about the young man’s father’s defense of the actions of his son. Very poor choice of words for what this man did that night.  I would like to point you to two blogs in particular, and a poem. John Pavlovitz’s blog To Brock Turner’s Father – From Another Father is one you should read. Also Ann Voskamp’s piece About Those “20 Minutes of Action”: 20 Things we Better Tell Our Sons Right Now About Being Real Men. The poem is by Tymm Hoffman who works with Compassion International, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He and I don’t know each other, but I found him on Facebook when a friend shared another poem he wrote. Tymm is my poet for the present day culture we live in.

20 MINUTES
In twenty minutes, I can probably shower and shave,
I can run a 5k or waste 1.4% of a day;

I can almost bake a cake, grill a medium sirloin steak,
And let’s be honest – If I smoked – I could take a smoke break;

I could watch a sitcom from the beginning to the end,
And write about 4 emails – spellcheck and then hit send;

I could listen to 5 songs, if they’re short, maybe six,
Or I could share some funny memes from this season of politics;

I could cut my front yard and probably most of the back,
While streaming about half of the “Purple Rain” soundtrack;

I could wash a load of clothes and get them started drying,
I could crack some funny jokes – we’d be laughing til we’re crying;

I could give the kids a bath, help them with their math,
Then chase them round the house like a crazy psychopath;

I could snag a little siesta, ya know, a quick lil’ power nap,
Or write a battle rap while strapped with a shower cap;

There’s a whole lot of things I could do with my twenty minutes,
A whole lot of positive things with lots of happiness in it;

Or I could drink until I’m gone sir, and turn into a monster,
Steal her dignity and honor as I force myself upon her;

Take 1/3 of an hour to strip her of all her power,
Cast a permanent dark shadow over a bright and shining flower;

Let my daddy stand up for me while I take no responsibility,
Claim absolutely no liability, and blame drunken fragility;

And watch the life of a stranger get broken as a reaction,
And realize who’s really paying the price for your “20 minutes of action.”Tymm Hoffman, with permission.

Bonus: Fruit in Season & a Yummy Recipe – Yesterday I had one of those perfect summer lunches with a friend. Fruit in season is like nothing else. Blueberries can be blue and still tart. I don’t often trust them. These blueberries, every single one, were just right in their sweetness. The strawberries, the same. So luscious. My friend’s hot baked chicken salad was so satisfying. Even with my altered appetite post-surgery, I could have eaten the whole thing as the day passed…but didn’t, of course. The recipe follows below.Blog - BLueberries (2)Blog - Fruit in Season - Strawberries - EgyptBlog - Summer Lunch - Fresh Fruit, Blueberries, Salad, Hot Chicken Salad - BeckyRecipe for Hot Baked Chicken Salad - Mrs. DaisysPhoto Credit: Food.com

Happy Weekend, Loves!

The Peril & Blessing of Gift-Giving and that Greatest Gift

2015 December - Blog - Gift-Giving 007 (2)

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!2 Corinthians 9:15

I am undone by Christmas gift-giving. Once upon a time, seemingly long, long ago, giving special gifts was something I did well. Not so much any more. The whole Christmas shopping experience has become quite overwhelming for me. If you give me a definite idea or suggestion, I am empowered. It will be done! To shoot in the dark for a gift that, just knowing you, I know you would love?…not so much.

What a blessing you are who just intuitively know what will please or what will be treasured…those gifts full of meaning, or thoughtfulness, or wonder – gifts that aren’t seeming burdens or requiring a return. You are a blessing to us all. I don’t even compare myself to great gift-givers any more…resigning myself to the writing of checks or the occasional joy of tripping over “just the right gift”.

This is my tribute to the great gift-givers in my life. Here are examples of late:

  • those old friends retiring and moving away who gave all of us, at their send-off, a rose and two marbles – a “shooter” and a “keeper”. So meaningful because he collects marbles and is always a great “shooter” in real life, and she is such a “keeper”. I will miss them. The marbles go in my work desk to remember them every time I open that drawer.2015 December - Blog - Gift-Giving 002 (2)
  • that neighbor who baked Christmas cookies with her kids and sent them with their dad around the neighborhood delivering their photo Christmas card and cookies. Such a sweet visit at the door as we talked about spelling bees, and sledding, and no Christmas travel because of work. Blog - Gift-Giving - Christmas cookies
  • those friends who show up with surprises (pictured at top of blog) – the wooden ball Nativity from Bizarre Bazaar (where she fought the crowds of shoppers for those special finds); the cross inscribed with “love”, from a friend (in major transition with what time to shop?!), a silver pillow with “Peace on Earth” in red letters (from a woman in full-time ministry). All working women with little time to shop but hearts so full of love, they do what’s necessary to lavish that love on those around them.

During December each year, before falling asleep, I try to read through my stash of Christmas books. One of those is Andy Andrews’ Socks for Christmas. It’s a shortish story about his growing up in the 60’s Christmas…and the hard reality that, for some children, socks would be a gladsome gift.Blog - Gift-Giving - Socks for Christmas - Book

Sometimes even the smallest of gifts like socks meets a great need.

What about the greatest of gifts – that of the Christ child? The greatest of gifts from the greatest of Gift-givers to meet the greatest of our needs – that need for a Savior.

Ann Voskamp, is a writer and blogger, homeschool mom and farmer’s wife. As she talks about daily trips to the barn, she paints a story about gift-giving. It’s so real, I can feel the cold of the Canadian winter and the musty smell of hay and animals.

“Too often we think that Christmas is something that we can buy or create or make by hand. Ultimately Christmas isn’t a product that we can wrap up but it’s a Person that we unwrap. Christ comes to the manger, that cradle, that trough. The mire and the stench [of that barn…of our lives]. It doesn’t end there. That manger is wood and it’s nailed together. That manger takes us right to the cross. We are saved only through another tree – the tree from the garden, the tree at the manger, the tree Jesus hung on to save us…From the beginning of time, we’ve been coming to this place – the Messiah coming to redeem us…In the cross is the white-hot burn of His love.” – Ann Voskamp

For you glorious gift-givers, thank you. You reflect the joyful, creative generosity of God. For those of us who struggle, we will press our way through that part of Christmas. We will be glad for you and glad for the One who knew exactly what we needed not just for Christmas but for always…and gave us more that we could “ask or imagine”.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21

[P.S. Gift ideas that stretch across the globe to touch families in need can be found on the pages of the BGR Christmas catalog. If you can’t figure what to give to folks who have pretty much everything, here you can find plenty to give to others, in their name. ]

Jesus is the Greatest Gift – Christmas Gifts for Neighbors – Ann Voskamp

The Cross-Centered Christmas: An Interview with Ann Voskamp – Tony Reinke, DesiringGod.org

The One Thing Your Christmas Can’t Afford to Be Without – Ann Voskamp

Baptist Global Response – Christmas Catalog

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

Socks for Christmas: A Child’s Discovery of the True Riches of Christmas by Andy Andrews

Monday Morning Moment – Relational Wisdom – the Way It Could Be – at Work & Home

Blog - Monday Morning email

Monday morning emails can be treacherous… This morning when I woke,  my husband told me he’d just heard from a valued colleague that he had secured another job. Dave was expecting this because of previous communications they’ve had with each other. Through an organizational re-structuring, there are many whose jobs are changing. This email was good news because this person will be a tremendous addition to any team – good news and sad news. We will miss this man on our team but we celebrate a great job match.

Then another email came in. It was from the person who will be his new supervisor. It was full of respect and regard – a courtesy email that is not necessarily company culture these days but an email that shows understanding and empathy. When change comes, even good change, there is still that adjustment, that grieving of the good that was. Those two emails speak volume about emotional intelligence or relational wisdom…and that’s something we always need in the workplace…and at home.

The holidays have a particular call for wisdom to soften difficult expectations, disarm family conflicts, and personalize interactions to fit the needs of those nearest to us.

Blog - Monday Morning Moment - MarriagePhoto Credit: rw360.org

One very simple way we can tune into holiday celebrations is to deal with our own stuff. Keeping our minds on the goodness of the holidays helps. It’s easy to find daily Advent readings for the month of December…depending on your favorite author or blogger, they’ve probably written some.

Related to both our work and home relationships, Ken Sande, founder of Relational Wisdom 360, has given us a great gift, and we don’t have to wait another day for it. He has written 33 Ways to Enjoy Highly Relational Holidays. A fast-read blog a day on relational wisdom, starting on November 23 to take you right through to December 25.

I attended Dr. Sande’s Peacemaker course years ago during a challenging work season, and what I learned then continues to be a tremendous help to me today. If your work or family situation is somewhat intimidating, don’t despair. There are those in our lives (Ken Sande is one) who will come alongside and help/mentor us, if we’re willing to take care of our own hearts and minds.Monday Morning Moment - Post traumatic growthPhoto Credit: coldspringcenter.org

As Thanksgiving approaches and Christmas not far behind, I hope you can look forward to happily memorable times together with family. As far as work goes, just like with the emails above, we can do our part to make our workplace a kind and honoring experience – our part (not someone else’s) in making it the way it could be…the way it should be…Blog - Monday Morning Good Work BraceletPhoto Credit: GoodWorksBracelet.com

What helps you thrive in stressful situations at work? What has made a difference in bringing peace and joy to your holiday celebrations? Please comment and share with those searching for that wisdom.

Surviving Christmas – Advent Devotions for the Hard and Holy Holidays – Anne Marie Miller – free ebook

Advent Devotional Readings Online by Lifeway

Good News of Great Joy by John Piper

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: a Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp 

5 Friday Faves – Leadership, Keeping House, Mentors, Wonderful Defects, & a Phenomenal Guitarist

Blog - Friday Faves

Fridays come so fast. So here we are again. My top finds this week (and there were so many great reads and experiences this week, it was hard to narrow down to 5). Hope yours is a lovely day and a stretched-out weekend.

1. On Leadership – Brian Dodd creates great lists. In this week’s blog, he published 24 Steps to Successfully Leading Through CrisisOf his 24 steps, these are my favorite (but do read all of them):

  • To Successfully Lead Through Crisis You Must Provide Stability – Stabilizing the organization gives your people a sense of security.
  • To Successfully Lead Through Crisis You Must Become A Giving Engine – Rather than focusing inward and solely on the issues you are facing, look outward and turn your attention to others.
  • To Successfully Lead Through Crisis You Must Offer Hope – This tells others success is in their future.
  • To Successfully Lead Through Crisis You Must Offer A Plan – Hope is not a strategy.  There must also be a detailed roadmap showing why hope exists.
  • To Successfully Lead Through Crisis You Must Change – The behaviors which got you in the crisis will not get you out of the crisis.

Also not to miss is Paul Sohn’s Top 30 Must Read Posts on Leadership October 2015.

2. Keeping House – I struggle with keeping order in my house, even though now it is only Dave and me. No one else to make the mess but us. Ann Voskamp, farm wife, mother of 6, and best-selling author, wrote about keeping house this week – 6 Ways to Speed Clean to a Clean Enough House. Her photographs of life are so gorgeous that it’s hard to imagine things out of place or not camera-ready. Yet, even Ann had to come up with a system of order which she shares in this blog. My two favorite suggestions from her list of 6 follow:

  • Make your bed every morning. I love this one because it’s so easily done. It gives its own cheer of “Hurrah! You’re off to getting lots more done.” BLog - Keeping HouseMy husband and I have very different “sides of the bed” – he’s a bit neater; I’m a piler. Projects, bits of paper, “things to read later”…sigh…but, the bed is made. Score!
  • 30 Minute Love SHAKs“Do Surprising Home Acts of Kindness — Love SHAKs — 30  minutes of random cleaning [right after dinner], just 30 minutes of every single person who lives here seeing something that needs to be cleaned —- and everybody cleaning as quickly as they can. The point of everybody working together at the same time to surprise everybody? Everybody models the kindness of cleaning for each other, nobody gets to say what they’ve got going is too important to get in on loving each other, real progress is made because everybody is working fast and together, spurring each other on — and we all get to say we are on the same team.” I love this! Might start with 15 minutes with the love of my life. What do you think, Dave?

3. Mentors Jon Acuff rarely has guest bloggers, but this week he shared his spot with Lewis Howes, author of The School of Greatness. Howes writes about his personal experience of connecting with top mentors. Having been a professional football player, he might have been tempted to just ask them out for coffee. No, he did something altogether different. He offered to serve them in any capacity they would find helpful. Don’t miss his wise counsel on this.

“Don’t ask for anything. Just offer to be of meaningful service, in any capacity that will help the mentor in achieving what is important to them. Offer to work for free. Say yes to anything. Hustle hard. Show them you are grateful and willing to learn. Keep your word.” – Lewis Howes

4. Wonderful Defects – This week, I discovered Paul Phillips and his blog He’s Taken Leave. He tells a beautiful story of an old beautifully marred violin and bridges that to our own propensity to comparing ourselves to others.

“As with the old violin, the comparisons with others prove nothing.  Each person who walks through my door is a masterpiece of unique design. Every one, a treasure.  Every single one. Fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). I can almost hear the music again.”

Blog - Old Violin - wqxr.orgPhoto Credit: wqxr.org

5. Phenomenal Guitarist – This guy. Nathan Mills – related? Yes. I get to be Mom to this amazing young man… Because we are related and it’s not always comfortable for him how effusive I am about his music…I restrain myself. Once in awhile, it feels down-right wrong not to share with you something about him. Right now, he’s fairly new to that larger world of music, but he’s playing, teaching, arranging, and composing. One day, you will know him…and be able to enjoy his music beyond YouTube, social media, or local performance. Mark it down.Nathan at guitarPhoto Credit: Duy Nguyen

What are your favorites from this week? Would love to hear about them. Share in comments, please.

Blog - Fall Back YardOur back yard this week – Fall

5 Friday Faves – a Baby, a Podcast, a Tribute, a Singing Priest, & Videos Gone Viral

Blog - Friday Faves

Another week has fairly flown, and today I’m posting a few of my favorite happenings/finds. For more serious, thought-provoking, inspiring weekly round-ups, especially related to Biblical worldview, check out Trevin’s Seven, Tim Challie’s A La Carte, or Ann Voskamp’s Only the Good Stuff.

My Friday Faves this week are smiles –  a break from a heavy news cycle.

  1. First Grandbaby – I would so put up a picture of her, but she is to be a social media-free baby for now. For those of you who are grandparents, this resonates. What a miracle babies are – to be one moment in the womb completely surrounded by protective waters, and the next a living, breathing person. So amazing! This little girl, conceived 9 months ago, and a person from that moment, and now born, has captured our hearts completely. Since I can’t show her, enjoy bits of her room. We are overjoyed.New Grandbaby 7New grandbaby 4New grandbaby 6 New Grandbaby2015 Aug Sadie 1st days at home 010

2) Kathy Lee Gifford’s Tribute to her Husband Frank GiffordOn August 9, Frank Gifford died at age 84. He was a much-respected, well-loved American football player and sports commentator. When Kathy Lee returned to her job, hosting The Today Show, a week after his death, she gave tribute to Frank in her opening comments. It was lovely – courageous in her openness about what mattered to Frank. Almost like Kathy Lee was on mission for him to get those words out. Such a professional and clearly so in love with that man. Beautiful.

3) Podcast – Eight Steps to More Effective Discipleship – Chuck Lawless & Thom Rainer – Solid teaching for any of us who desire to be faithful in following Jesus’ instructions to us, especially in a very different culture today. Just a few of the points from the podcast:

  • Discipleship is not just content delivery.
  • Committed church members used to be at church three times a week—now it’s three times a month.
  • If a mom and dad aren’t training their children, they are missing one of the most effective forms of discipleship.
  • Oddly, one of the lead metrics of discipleship growth in a church is giving.

4) An Irish Priest Sings Hallelujah to a Surprised Wedding Party – Father Ray Kelly, during his introductory remarks to a wedding party in Northern Ireland, sang Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. He adapted the lyrics for this special occasion. There is so much to love in this video – the creativity of this priest, the joyous surprise on this special day. If you haven’t already seen this, you will love it!

5) The Original Viral Video & Two Other Favorites – In 2004, Gary Brolsma,  19y/o man in New Jersey, posted his version of Numa Numa on Newgrounds.com a year before the advent of YouTube.com. Our kids were in their teens. This video brought instant grins for all of us and has for over 20 million viewers. Gary’s unfettered enthusiasm in lip-syncing is just adorable, as you know.

Two other videos in this Friday fave star two darling little girls. My husband has a very serious job and is a pretty serious guy most of the time anyway – these little girls make him giggle. You’ve seen these, but here they are gain. – Ella Mae and the little one who will stand up against monsters.

OK…back to work. Thanks for letting me share the joy with you today. If you have favorites to share, use the comments. Would love to learn from you or laugh with you.

Eight Steps to More Effective Discipleship – Rainer on Leadership #150 – Podcast

Kathy Lee Shares Touching Tribute to Husband Frank Gifford – Today

Singing Priest’s Hallelujah Wows Wedding Guests

Ella Mae Sings “An American Trilogy” by Elvis Presley

I’m Gonna Kick His Ask

Numa Numa

Kids React to Numa Numa