Tag Archives: Cairo

Monday Morning Moment – Friends, Family, and Fellows at Work in the Digital Age

Photo Credit: The Art of Social Media” (CC BY 2.0) by  mkhmarketing 

My mom was an excellent communicator. She wrote emails like they were letters. Long and newsy, full of the details of her day, and her specific encouragements on the trials of life. Of course, this came out of her only daughter and family taking off to live overseas. With three of Mom’s grandchildren! I will never forget how she bought her first and only computer to be able to communicate regularly with us. She died before the advent of smart phones and social media. Believe me: she would have figured those out as well – to communicate with those she loved.

Dave works in a setting which requires much of his communication to be electronic. He talks about how it has been world-changing in terms of being able to have real-time communication with colleagues. Even time zones away. Email, conference calls, and a myriad of smart phone applications make work practices easier. Especially that of inclusion and having the right people at the decision-making table.

The challenge is when electronic communication is almost but not quite communication. A quick texting conversation or series of emails do not substitute for a face-to-face meeting where nuance and clarification are more easily secured.

I have a friend and one-time colleague who calls me regularly on her way to or from work. Those conversations are so rich. We haven’t lived in the same city for 25 years, but I know her…her take on things, her challenges, and the wealth of her wisdom for my own stuff. We text occasionally, but she has excellent command of the phone-conversation-catch-up-with-friends skill.

The article linked below came to my attention this week. It got me thinking on this topic more. We want to be good at friendship, “family-ing”, working well with our colleagues, right? At least we don’t want to do harm with relationships as we focus on others at the moment. This article is so packed with good stuff, I’m leaving it right here for you to read yourself:

How to Be a Better Friend in the Digital Age by Amy Maclin and Molly Simms

In thinking about our relationships and communication in the digital age, here are my notes to self:

1) Stay in the present. – When in the company of friends or family, or in a work meeting, put electronic devices away if at all possible. In your purse or pocket or another room. Cell phones always with us (at meeting or dinner tables) smack of self-importance, really. I struggle here, so preaching to self. Remember the days when we wrote the things we wanted to remember on pads of paper or a napkin? Maybe you’re not distractible but once I pull out my phone to make a note or take a picture of the food, say, it becomes an uninvited guest at the table…drawing my attention away.Photo Credit: Pexels

You may not have this problem of distractability. We can always make an electronic record later of what we wrote down. We cannot reconstruct conversation we missed while fiddling with our phones. Nor can we recoup that sense of full attention for those in front of us, lost while we were on our phones or tablets.

2) Be proactive in communication. – This may be a challenge for most of us. I am grateful for updates from bosses who want their employees in the loop. Also, how wonderful to get birthday and anniversary cards in the mail (?!)…from proactive loved ones.

Letting friends and family know news, plans, and other details (of special interest between you) sooner than later sends a message. They matter to you, and their time matters as well. If these same people don’t hear from you, in time, they will come after you…better to be proactive, loving in this way.

3) Be quick and appropriate in responding. – [Outside of situation #1] Take the call when possible instead of letting it go to voicemail. Text back even a quick response, with a more complete communication to follow. [Because of their disruptive nature, some texts seem now to be treated as emails to be answered later and in a clump. I get that. Unless the texts become emails that also go unanswered. Just saying.]

Consider the best way to respond. A text may require an email response to be effective. An email may require a phone call in followup. If positive communication is the goal, we go after the medium that best suits.

4) Our social media presence communicates different things to different people. We all know this intuitively. Something to think about if we’re using it for work or to maintain contact with friends/family. Social media, in general, is not a personal vehicle for communication. Definitely broadcasting. Unless you engineer it to be personal. I get how some have elected to go more private, more narrowcasting (see link below). We must remember with this medium: we think because we’ve communicated to some, we have communicated to all. A caution if we care.

Networking: Broadcast or Narrowcast?Genna Rodriguez

5) Avoid the fallout of negative or neglectful communication. – It always seems to have a greater impact than we intended. Or, should I say, a worse outcome. The “unfollow” or “blocking” or social media rant can be not only hurtful but relationship-altering. Not answering phone calls, texts, or emails will eventually stop those from happening…at a cost. Whenever a crucial or hard conversation needs to happen, a face-to-face meetup is best. Even if, because of geographic distance, it has to be via an electronic device (Facetime, etc).

We Have to Talk: A Step-by-Step Checklist for Difficult Conversations – Judy Ringer

Also related to social media:  we often fall to being more consumers rather than creators. Our communication gets more passive, even lazy (it happens to me, for sure)…if we don’t take steps to practice being proactive in communication.

Having electronic communication – even at its impersonal worst – is better than no communication…but maybe not forever.

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Did I miss something? Please comment below.

In closing, I just want to give a salute to those in our lives who get all this. My friend who calls, a boss who doesn’t forget to followup, a family member who regularly checks in, that one who uses texts in a fun and familiar ways to touch base, and the people in our lives who practice kind and intelligent reason on social media posts.

I have a younger brother who has a non-stop work day. Long hours, leaving for work before I even wake up, and therefore getting to bed much earlier in the evening than most. We haven’t always been super close, but in these years of getting older and losing loved ones, we are now the next two oldest in our family. We are also much closer friends now than before…part of that is his initiation of calling on his long drive home from work. With hands-free technology to keep driving safe, it has become a sweet occasion between us.

Lastly, social media itself has been more a blessing to me than a curse. I have learned much from folks I follow on Twitter and Facebook. Through Facebook of all things, some once-close college friends and I were able to reconnect. What a gift!

So with all its challenges, the digital age has brought us more good than bad. If we are willing, we can hopefully keep it that way.

P.S. Communication at any level is colored by culture. My husband and I had the privilege of chauffeuring some Egyptian friends to their wedding reception. Our car was decked out in fresh flowers and streamers. Driving through the crazy Cairo night, Dave’s job was to get our friends safely to their destination, but that wasn’t all. Leading a small and festive parade, we were to let it be known to all those on the streets and in apartments above the streets, that a bride and groom were coming through. Traditionally, the driver periodically is to toot his horn in a rhythmic manner signaling those around us of an oncoming wedding party. DA-DA-dadada, DA-DA-dadada. That was the signal. Photo Credit: The Cairo Scene

Everyone knew it and what it meant. Dave was an excellent Cairo driver, BUT he was timid in doing this small duty of horn-blowing. He would only do the first “phrase” of the announcement and not the obligatory second one. It was so not right. After a couple of times of my failed cajoling, he did it one more time with just the first horn toot phrase. A huge packed Cairo city bus passed by us, and its driver finished the phrase! I LOVED IT! We all did. Dave got the idea finally and we joyfully trumpeted to all those around us from that point on with just the right and understood alert!

Ah, true communication!

Worship Wednesday – Undivided – First Call

Photo Credit: Redeemer, New Paltz

“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours...Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one…I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”– Jesus – John 17:9, 11b, 20-23

Years ago, on a hot summer evening, I went with a friend to a church deep in Coptic Cairo. We took on the challenge of the choking downtown traffic and dusty dry heat to hear a Christian radio team perform. “A Verse and a Story” – [“Aya wa Hekaya”] – was the name of the humorous program on the radio. The actors present a situation from life and weave Scripture through the story. As inadequate as my understanding of Arabic was, I could get the meaning of the stories and loved being a part of that group of Egyptians that evening. There was also a time of worship – singing and prayer…also in Arabic. As the ceiling fans moved the hot air around and we all glistened with sweat, there was such a oneness there…of sheer enjoyment of Jesus in our midst and the pleasure of being together.

All were welcome that night. Foreigner and local person. Varying doctrines…yet no divisions, in this moment, on style or substance. The love and unity of spirit in that great gathering hall was a sweet glimpse of Heaven (Revelation 7:9).

Enjoying a sense of unity for an evening with like-minded strangers is one thing…determining to live daily in the bond of love, as Christ-followers, is on an altogether higher order… Yet, Jesus prayed to the Father for us to live in those kind of unity…for our own sakes and for the sake of those who peer into our lives. Do they see Jesus when they see us?

John Piper, in his piece on What Is Christian Unity?, quotes Francis Schaeffer:

It is in the midst of a difference that we have our golden opportunity. When everything is going well and we are all standing around in a nice little circle, there is not much to be seen by the world. But when we come to the place where there is a real difference, and we exhibit uncompromised principles but at the same time observable love, then there is something that the world can see, something they can use to judge that these really are Christians, and that Jesus has indeed been sent by the Father. – Francis Schaeffer (Complete Works, vol. 4, 201)

My husband rides his bike on a trainer for exercise. Several evenings a week, I know what he’s doing by the playlist that filters through the house at different parts of his ride. There’s an old Gospel song (popular in the 80’s) that pops up which I love. It is First Call‘s Undivided.

Here are two YouTube videos of this group singing – Undivided with the original First Call (in 1986) and again more recently. The second performance comes 30 years after the first (and at 2:12 into the video, First Call is joined by Wayne Watson, Larnelle Harris, and Steve Green – all who gave us wonderful worship songs from early in the Contemporary Christian Music era).

Worship with me (with either of the versions above)…undivided:

We may worship different ways
We may praise Him and yet spend
All of our days living life divided
But when we seek Him with open hearts
He removes the walls we built
That keep up apart
We trust Him to unite us

Chorus
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
Bound by His Spirit
Forevermore

Undivided,
Undivided

It doesn’t matter if we agree
All He asks is that we serve Him faithfully
And love as He first loved us
He made us in His image
And in His eyes we are all the same
And though our methods they may be different
Jesus is the bond that will remain

Chorus
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
Bound by His Spirit
Forevermore

Undivided,
Undivided*

As much as I love contemporary worship, I miss the harmonies of another era – the four-part harmonies of these Gospel singing groups as well as just the corporate hymn-singing of my childhood. There is a unison of singing the melody line led by today’s worship teams, but the unity Jesus prayed for us is more symbolized in the many different voices heard in the old Gospel harmonies.

It’s not just unity longed for in the “Why can’t we all just get along?” lament. It’s a unity in Christ that is an answer to His prayer…a bond between us that transcends our many political opinions, cultural preferences, and national loyalties. It is a bond of love that begins with Christ and extends to the nations…a unity that holds believers together in an inclusive circle that opens its arms to all comers.

*Lyrics to Undivided

What Is Christian Unity? – John Piper

Worship Wednesday – How Deep the Father’s Love For us – Stuart Townend

blog-movement-church-how-deep-the-fathers-love-worship

Worship can be a deeply emotional experience. In fact, sometimes, we lose our focus on God Himself in the midst of the singing of a familiar song. Our minds wander as memories of other times and places take us out of the moment. Not a bad thing necessarily, but…

That happened to me as the praise band at Movement Church this Sunday opened the hymn How Deep the Father’s Love For Us. I love this Stuart Townend hymn. He published it in 1995, the year we moved to Cairo, Egypt. New to us, this hymn became a standard in our family from those early days of adjustment to a new life in another country. [This and another hymn of his – In Christ Alone.]

On Fridays, we would join other internationals and a smattering of Egyptian Christians, at Heliopolis Community Church, and we would sing and pray in English. Such a refreshment to our souls as we spent most of our week, learning and using Arabic in our work and with neighbors and friends. English was our worship language.blog-international-church-worship-how-deep-the-fathers-lovePhoto Credit: CCCLux

Sweet memories of hot Friday mornings, singing with believers from all over the world, as the call to prayer broke through from a nearby mosque. Sweet memories of a oneness with each other…and with God.

Then my thoughts sprang back to the present on Sunday, as we sang this lyric:

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Because of what Christ did for me…for us…on the cross, I am no longer separated from God by the penalty of my rebellion against Him. The debt I built up through life is paid in one great act of God through Christ – His perfect, sinless life substituted, in death, for my own sin-filled mess…for our own. There is nothing left to pay…nothing. Christ paid in full, on the cross, for all our sins.

At what cost? Oh…we can imagine the considerable cost Jesus paid because our own flesh cringes at the excruciating pain of the cross. Yet, we also must take in, as much as we can, the cost to the Father. Such great love He has…for His own son…and for us…each one of us. The whole world, in fact.

When Stuart Townend was writing this hymn, he was very aware of the emotions that can be elicited in praise music. Just as I have described, the personal joy, refreshment, and happy memories that can be so satisfying in the experience of individual and corporate worship. His hope was to write in such a way as to help the worshiper get beyond himself and to a greater awareness of God.

“The danger now is that we are so focused on the experience our worship can become self-seeking and self-serving. When all of our songs are about how we feel and what we need, we’re missing the point. There is a wonderful, omnipotent God who deserves our highest praise, and how we feel about it is in many ways irrelevant!  I want to encourage the expression of joy, passion and adoration, but I want those things to be the by-product of focusing on God – I don’t want them to become the subject matter. I’m trying to write songs that refer to us as little as possible, and to Him as much as possible!”Stuart Townend

Hymns like How Deep the Father’s Love For Us complement our prayer life and study of God’s Word. For those friends of ours who don’t yet believe…those who say, “That’s nice for you that you believe God. I just don’t believe like you do.”…we have a witness in worship.

It is not just that we believe…what Townend describes in this hymn, reflective of the truth of Scripture, isn’t just what we believe…it is what happened and was witnessed by others – the deep love of God displayed in the self-emptying life and death of His Son. Hallelujah!

Worship with me.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

blog-how-deep-the-fathers-love-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.*

blog-movement-church-how-deep-the-fathers-love-worship-2

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.1 John 3:1

…the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20b

*Lyrics – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Stuart Townend

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Cover by Joy Williams

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Lyrics (with Scripture portions that support them)

The Depth of Christ’s Love: Its Cost – John Piper

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Stuart Townend

The High Cost of the Cross – Joe Crews

Hymn Reflection: How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Adam Faughn

32 Years Married – a Montage of Pictures and Thoughts of Our Life Together – Thus Far

2009 April May Trip to Georgia 112 (2)

[Adapted from previous blog – August 3, 2014 – a bit of a long read – but the words keep coming sometimes.]

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.  – Colossians 3:15-20

How can we be as young as we are and be married 32 years? Maybe we don’t seem so young to others…but these years seem to have zoomed by.  The flight of years shows in our bodies and minds, but for us, it is most apparent in the launch of adult children into their own lives and marriages. Then…it comes back to just the two of us.

First encounter – at church on a Sunday in January. My first Sunday in New Haven, Ct. I thought he was from the Middle East – standing with a group of other students – tall, dark, and (yep) handsome. Later I would find he had a native American, not Middle Eastern, background.

Two friends –  walking through the snow to a Yale-Cornell basketball game – that would become our first date. I was in my early 30s by then and pretty much had put marriage out of my mind. Life was good enough. I was teaching in the nursing program at Yale University, and Dave was a graduate student in the chemistry department. We were friends…and then friendship grew into love. Debbie & Dave

A Marriage Born Out of Prayer – This young man who grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland had a praying mother. He grew up hunting and fishing and excelling academically, and she prayed for just the right wife for him. I don’t understand how all this works, but I’m thankful for Julia and for this son she raised so well.IMG_0050

Birth of our first-born – This man so unsure and almost dreading being a father. Liking life the way it was…and then she was born. She turned this bass-fishing, prison visiting, analytical chemist into a complete softie.

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That day in March, when Christie was born, he became a Dad and continues to pray and support his kids…not intrusively, but always there for them. Always there.

Life Overseas – For over 15 years, we lived in North Africa. Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco. It was an incredible experience. Living, working, raising our kids, and being in community in those places and with their peoples. I will always be grateful for Dave’s leadership. From leading our little family to a time when he was leading a division (100 people or so) in his work. He takes seriously the responsibilities in his charge…

Dave’s a quiet man. Some in our lives have suggested his quietness made him seem scary, or unengaged, or disinterested. Not at all. This man in my life, this friend forever, is always thinking… I count on his thinking things through…even when he’s struggling personally or wrestling with a difficult situation. Completely approachable. He also reaches out, sometimes in very uncomfortable ways for him…as in a different language/culture and when the stakes are too high to wait for another to intervene.

From our days of dating right through to today, his heart’s desire is to do the right thing, to honor God with his life… Our years living outside the US were both wonderful and hard times of God sharpening that resolve.22Dave & Debbie & Kids in Egypt (2)IMG_0004 (14) - CopyJul 03 #2 08642

Hardest Experience Living Overseas [essential sidebar] – The search, through Egypt’s Sinai, for a precious girl, lost from us in a moment when a bus crashed. Dave’s courage and determination to do what he could to make right a terrible wrong will always be with me, as a reminder of his character and care of someone we both loved very much.2007 - Feb -- Dave & Boys2005 December - Christmas with Mills & Halls 089a (2)2009 August 25th Wedding Anniversary in Paris 128Blog - Dave & Dan

So many shared memories of good friends, beautiful spaces, happy times and sad.

These Two Years’ Experience in the US – This is really more a timeline than a singular event. Since our 30th anniversary, these two years have been a journey of rediscovering the immeasurable grace of God through both a difficult and joyous season of our lives. The joy relates to the addition to our family of two tiny persons – a granddaughter and a grandson. To watch my husband around them exactly portrays how grandchildren make us young again. The hard times relate to work – for me, “not working anymore” (early retirement? Not ready). For Dave, huge changes in his job which he also wasn’t quite ready for…but, hey, thankfully still employed . These changes come with this season of life for some of us…and they are part of God’s work in our lives, I believe.

Another hard thing for us on the eve of this anniversary was a surgery and cancer diagnosis. Now almost fully recovered, I have had another glimpse of this man’s kindness. Never before, even with years practicing cancer nursing, has it ever dawned on me what it must be like for the husband. For him to sit alone with the news of cancer that he must share with his wife on her waking after surgery. That courage and that care. God continues to use hard things to carve the heart of this man into an even more malleable thing.2005 Summer -- ILC & Delaware Family 089aDave April 2016

Whatever these 32 years have produced with us together, the best of it has been 3 great young people (and the 2 cherished engrafted children who’ve joined our family). Alongside of them is the unalterable way the Lord has knit us together, my husband and me, with each other and with Him.2012 December family snapshot 014

I will always be grateful to God for bringing Dave into my life – for our marriage and the family Dave brought with him, and for the family we have together, now including two darling grandchildren. So much joy.MomMom, MamaLu, Dave, & Christie - 4 Generations[Four Generations – Dave, his mom and MamaLu, and Christie]Mills Men - 4 generations - July 17 2016 - Dave, Nathan, PopPop, Titus[Four Generations – Dave, his dad, Nathan, and Titus]

I have no idea what is ahead, except for what is promised through God’s Word. Whatever is ahead, I am so grateful for what I’ve learned through this man who married me 32 years ago. He has given me a face of one who does not give up, of one who fights for what is right, of one who is tender toward the weak, of one who loves no matter what. I have been both the recipient of this and the one at his side as he extends himself to others. Dave & Debbie July 2014

Now, we are two again…as in the beginning of our relationship.  Yet we are at a very different place. God has shown Himself to be ever-present in all these years of our lives. He’s given me exactly what I needed in this husband of mine – a man as true as steel in his walk with God and with his family. We count on him; he counts on God. And whatever happens out there in front of us…I have peace, on this our 32nd. anniversary that God will be there for each of us, to show us how to live…as He has in all these years thus far.

Through the Years – YouTube video of Kenny Rogers Ballad

Brad Hambrick – Great Marriage & Family Counselor – Marriage Helps Online

Sacred Marriage – What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy – by Gary Thomas – Such a great book!

An example of Elisabeth Elliot’s counsel to one marrying – Always forgive.

Elisabeth Elliot Quotes

Worship Wednesday – Breathing Songs: Just Breathe & It’s You I Breathe (Christ in Me)

Blog - Breathe - mysouthernhealthPhoto Credit: My Southern Health

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!
 – Psalm 150:6

Breathing isn’t something you think about really, at least not usually. We breathe, on the average, over 20,000 times a day. It’s a marvelous automatic occurrence. In and out. In and out. 20,000 times a day.

For me, over the last several weeks, breathing has become something I think about. Since having pulmonary surgery, the whole process of breathing has become a wonder to me. That experience of feeling out of breath, and tired because of it, are not strange to me now. Fortunately, as I heal, that experience is diminishing.Blog - Breathe - Spirometer

My hope is to never forget the miracle of breath.

Two songs about breathing that speak to the Christ-follower are Jonny Diaz’s Breathe and Jeremy Camp’s Christ in Me. Each song is quite different in focus but both have ministered to my heart in recent days.

Breathe is often oddly playing on my car radio, as I head out of the house on errands, feeling already behind. Its lyrics remind me of keeping focus on God in the midst of a crazy day…or life. My life, since surgery, is much less crazy, out of necessity. I don’t have the capacity right now for crazy.

Blog - Just Breathe - Jonny DiazPhoto Credit: Twitter

Worship with me to Jonny Diaz’s song Breatheespecially if you have a packed schedule and too much on your plate. Jesus calls us to come to Him for rest.

Alarm clock screaming bare feet hit the floor
It’s off to the races everybody out the door
I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life
Ninety miles an hour going fast as I can
Trying to push a little harder trying to get the upper hand
So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life
It’s ready, set, go it’s another wild day
When the stress is on the rise in my heart I feel You say just

(chorus)
Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe

Third cup of joe just to get me through the day
Wanna make the most of time but I feel it slip away
I wonder if there’s something more to this crazy life
I’m busy, busy, busy, and it’s no surprise to see
That I only have time for me, me, me
There’s gotta be something more to this crazy life
I’m hanging on tight to another wild day
When it starts to fall apart in my heart I hear You say just

(chorus)
Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need

Is to take it in fill your lungs
The Peace of God that overcomes
Just breathe
Let your weary spirit rest
Lay down what’s good and find what’s best
Just breathe

(chorus)
Just breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe
Just breathe

The other song, Christ in Me, is by Jeremy Camp. It reflects where I am in life. Throughout the day, part of my recovery routine is to practice taking really deep breaths. In a way, it’s an emptying and filling. Years ago, when we lived in Cairo, Egypt, we didn’t breathe very deeply. I love that city so much, but it has this burden. The air is too often tainted by urban pollution – smoke, fumes from cars and buses. Shallow breaths. We would get away to the Red Sea sometimes and were deeply restored by the fresh air and blue sky.

Blog - Breathe - Christ in Me - Jeremy CampPhoto Credit: Tiger Strypes

Now breathing deeply is like an act of worship itself. What a blessing to be able to just breathe. I am so grateful to God for this small, normal, hugely vital, beautiful thing…breathing. How He has made this body of ours to work so well…for our good and His glory. Even when it’s not at its best, because of cancer, its treatment, or some other malady, still to function as it does so magnificently…speaks to the Creator. Such a thing, our breathing, gives us cause to worship.

Worship with me to Jeremy Camp’s Christ in Me.

In this obsession with the things this world says make us happy
Can’t see the slaves we are in all the searching all the grasping
Like we deserve much more than all these blessing we’re holding
So now I’m running free into an ocean of mercy unending

So come and empty me
So that it’s you I breathe
I want my life to be
Only Christ in me
So I will fix my eyes
‘Cause you’re my source of life
I need the world to see
That it’s Christ in me
That it’s Christ in me

Done with what holds me down the things I once was chasing after
Throw off these heavy chains that I have let become my master
So now I’m running free into an ocean of mercy unending

So come and empty me
So that it’s you I breathe
I want my life to be
Only Christ in me
So I will fix my eyes
‘Cause you’re my source of life
I need the world to see
That it’s Christ in me
That it’s Christ in me

In this obsession with the things this world says make us happy
Can’t see the slaves we are in all the searching all the grasping

So come and empty me
So that it’s you I breathe
I want my life to be
Only Christ in me
So I will fix my eyes
‘Cause you’re my source of life
I need the world to see
Only Christ in me
Only Christ in me
Only Christ in me
Christ in me.

Jonny Diaz

Jeremy Camp

YouTube Video – Amy Grant – Breath of Heaven

I’ll Praise My Maker While I’ve Breath – John Wesley Hymn

Worship Wednesday – Knowing You, Jesus – Graham Kendrick

Blog - Knowing You - surpassing worth of knowing Christ - slidesharePhoto Credit: Slideshare

Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—  that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Philippians 3:7-12

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church, he wrote from prison. He loved this church and wanted to encourage them to stay true to the teachings of Christ, in humility and unity together. As he wrote about the surpassing worth of knowing Christ, he listed out some of his own qualifications of renown(Philippians 3:3-6) …and counted them as rubbish, filth, dung in comparison.

Cliff Jordan, lead pastor of Movement Church, taught on this passage this week (podcast here). At one point, Cliff pointed us to the things we value in life and how sin relates to that. If we kill an ant, we don’t consider that as much because of the value of the ant. Then he moved to higher and higher objects of value and our level of loathing when we sin against those (a museum piece, a neighbor’s pet, a child…the Lord Himself). It was a powerful teaching.

Our tendency is to discount our sin, or even how we spend our time, other resources, or our words… It’s not so bad… When we are lavished with the opportunity and experience of truly knowing and experiencing God through Christ, the Messiah…how can we squander that? How can we allow the lesser of this life to crowd out the greater?

We, as a family, first sang Graham Kendrick’s song Knowing You as newcomers to Cairo, Egypt, in 1995. We sang it along with Brits, Australians, Egyptians, Americans and a smattering of other internationals at the Heliopolis Community Church. Blog - Heliopolis Community Church

Photo Credit:  HCC Cairo

Our experience of Jesus, through this song and this Scripture, was deepened more when our young friend Genessa led worship in our house group. She would sit at a keyboard, singing that song to Jesus, tears flowing down her face, as if no one else was in the room but her…and Him. As young as she was, she understood the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus. Genessa would not be long in this world, dying months later in a bus accident in the desert of the Sinai. Genessa with team

Her love for God is her legacy still in all of our lives who knew her. Now her joy is complete as she worships the Lord face-to-face. We remember her…and we understand God more…in this song.

Today, I see the worth of Christ much more clearly…thanks to Cliff, and Genessa, and others’ lives full of God. I also see His worth through His Word and the testimony of those who knew Him personally…who saw Him, witnessed His greatness, and wrote it down for the generations to follow. the best part of all is I see His worth because of His own sweet presence in my life. The more we seek and savor Him…the more we see His perfect love and generous goodness…and everything else in our life? In its place…lesser in the face of His greater, all-surpassing worth.

Worship with me:

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Knowing you, Jesus
Knowing you, there is no greater thing
You’re my all, you’re the best
You’re my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord

Now my heart’s desire is to know you more
To be found in you and known as yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness

Oh, to know the power of your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like you in your death, my Lord
So with you to live and never die

Lyrics to Knowing You by Graham Kendrick @1993 Make Way Music

Story Behind the Song Knowing You (All I Once Held Dear) by Graham Kendrick

Worship Wednesday – Choose Well Whom You Serve – The Doorkeepers (Bowab) of Egypt

 6437A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.                    I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickednessFor the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!   – Psalm 84:10-12

For many years, we were apartment dwellers in the desert city of Cairo, Egypt. The Nile River winds gloriously south-to-north through the city, but it is nonetheless a remarkably dusty place. The fine sand of the Sahara blows in daily and covers everything in its wake. Washing windshields, sidewalks, and hallways must be done each morning. These are among the many needful tasks for which the doorkeeper is responsible.

Most residential buildings have a doorkeeper, called a “bowab” in Arabic. He and his family often live in a tiny space on the bottom floor of the building. He, his wife and children run errands, do various other tasks for building residents, find taxis for those who need them, and stand guard, so to speak, at the door of the building.

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The bowab has a lower station in life, but the ones I’ve known treated their work and those they served with dignity and graciousness. They may have preferred a different path, but maybe because of lack of opportunity or education, this was their life. Whether they chose it or not.

I had read Psalm 84 before moving to Egypt, but not until meeting the bowab of our building did these words come alive to me. This Psalm is written by the Sons of Korah* who were doorkeepers and porters those days in the house (tabernacle) of the Lord. They have a fascinating history which set the stage for them also to be sincere worshippers of God – humble, joyful, passionate worshippers.

Reading this Psalm, I am reminded of the pull of the world on us to walk away from God. To leave our stations. To choose to do something else. To be someone else. We begin to believe the voices that we deserve something different…something better…we owe it to ourselves to break free. Our thoughts can get more and more muddled…with that wanting something more…more than this?! More than what we have in Psalm 84?

We choose our course in life. God draws us to Himself, but we choose to align ourselves with Him or with the world. There is no “not choosing”. On days when my thinking gets clouded, I’m so grateful for the Word of God – how the truth of who God is resonates in my heart and mind. He is my Sun – driving away the darkness and my fear with it. He is my Shield – deflecting the arrows meant to wound and confuse me. He withholds no good thing from those who walk with Him.

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

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Just this morning, a friend reminded me of his devotional reading today out of A Daily Dose of Spurgeon:

“These were potters, and those that dwelt among plants and hedges; there they dwelt with the king for his work.” 1 Chronicles 4:23, ASB

Potters were not the very highest grade of workers, but “the king” needed potters, and therefore they were in royal service… We, too, may be engaged in the most menial part of the Lord’s work, but it is a great privilege to do anything for “the king”; and therefore we will abide in our calling… The text tells us of those who dwelt among plants and hedges… They may have desired to live in the city, amid its life, society, and refinement, but they kept their appointed places, for they also were doing the king’s work… Ye unknown workers who are occupied for your Lord amid the dirt and wretchedness of the lowest of the low, be of good cheer, for jewels have been found upon dunghills ere now, earthen pots have been filled with heavenly treasure, and ill weeds have been transformed into precious flowers. Dwell ye with the King for His work, and when He writes His chronicles your name shall be recorded.”Charles Spurgeon

Remembering the Sons of Korah and the Egyptian bowab helps me reckon with my station in life. How thankful I am that God has delivered me out of merely existing for myself and into gloriously serving Him. There is nothing menial there. All momentous. Nothing small. All mysteriously and lovingly God. I want to stand at that door…how about you?

“Choose well. Your choice is brief, and yet endless.”Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:14-15

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YouTube Video – Better Is One Day – with Lyrics – by Matt Redman

*Who were the Sons of Korah in the Old Testament?

Egypt Essentials: The Bowab by Erin Owen

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

 

Genessa & April

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genessa with team

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

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

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

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

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

This God…and this girl.  Genessa

 I Long for the Day by Dennis Jernigan

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

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

And anyway You come will be alright with me

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

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

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

Chorus:

When I get to see You face to face

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

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

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

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

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

 

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

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

And anything You say will be alright with me.

You see my heart’s greatest need

You and me, walking intimately.

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

When You call me to Your side eternally.

(Chorus Repeat)

Lord, I celebrate You!

Forever with You! No crying there.

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

My heart is anticipating eternally with you celebrating You!

Forever with You I long to be;

Forever worshipping, knowing You intimately!

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

I’ll spend forever just celebrating You.

 

I’ll see all my loved ones gone before

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

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

Together we will be celebrating You!

Together we’ll worship You and sing.

Forever praising Lord Jesus, our Savior and King.

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

Enter your rest, and start celebrating, too.

Forever Lord, I’ll be celebrating You.

Chorus Repeat:

When I get to see You face to face

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

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

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

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

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

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