Tag Archives: death

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

[From the Archives]

Today marks the eve of the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in the US. 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.

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Genessa-with-team1.jpg

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 18 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 singer/songwriter Dennis Jernigan. If we look at Genessa’s life through the lens of some American dream, then we would think how tragic to die so young, so full of promise. Look through the lens of how much she loved God, and knowing Him was what mattered most to her…and all who knew her knew His love through her.

This God…and this girl.  Genessa

 I Long for the Day by Dennis Jernigan

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

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

And anyway You come will be alright with me

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

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

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

Chorus:

When I get to see You face to face

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

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

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

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

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

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

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

And anything You say will be alright with me.

You see my heart’s greatest need

You and me, walking intimately.

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

When You call me to Your side eternally.

(Chorus Repeat)

Lord, I celebrate You!

Forever with You! No crying there.

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

My heart is anticipating eternally with you celebrating You!

Forever with You I long to be;

Forever worshipping, knowing You intimately!

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

I’ll spend forever just celebrating You.

I’ll see all my loved ones gone before

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

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

Together we will be celebrating You!

Together we’ll worship You and sing.

Forever praising Lord Jesus, our Savior and King.

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

Enter your rest, and start celebrating, too.

Forever Lord, I’ll be celebrating You.

Chorus Repeat:

When I get to see You face to face

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

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

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

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

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

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

Worship Wednesday – Though You Slay Me – Shane & Shane

Photo Credit: Beth Taylor

The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.  Job 1:21

 Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.  For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.  So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.2 Corinthians 4:16-18

We make assumptions about life, don’t we? We assume we will live long and healthy.  We assume “speed kills” only if someone else is driving. We assume if we eat healthy we won’t get cancer. We assume we will make it home after Happy Hour. We assume if we pray our hearts out, cancer won’t take our loved one. We assumed we will have time to “do the right thing” how ever we define that. We assume our children will outlive us. We assume we will have our beloved spouses with us into old age.

Sobering, I know…It has been for me this week. Still, it’s helpful to reflect on our assumptions… especially in a season when they might still hold up. We are in a season of loss around here. Dave’s dad died a week ago, and since then two more friends have died in shocking and bewildering situations. They are both believers and are with the Lord now. No more details here.

When we lose someone in a way that shakes our foundations, we look to God for answers… They don’t always come. Then we look to God for comfort…He is faithful to come Himself, bringing comfort with Him.

Shane Barnard of the singing duo Shane & Shane talks about the his father’s too-soon, too-quick death. [Watch the whole of his back story linked above and below.] His mother railed against his father’s passing, shaken to the core at the stark reality of it. As Shane held her, she finally quieted in her crying over the loss of her husband. In the smallest of voices, broken in tears, she sang bits of a song. A song God brought to her mind in that dark moment. “He gives…he takes away…blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Only God gives us “songs in the night”…even in the night (referencing Job 35:10). He alone is faithfully and thoroughly with us through the losses…He will see us through. I know this because He promised it. I know this because it is my experience of Him.

Songs in the Night – Sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon

As we are confronted with assumptions blown, with incomprehensible losses…we find a God who is true… Our spiritual work is to turn to Him…and not away… as Shane Barnard’s beautiful and poignant song speaks from his heart to ours…from His heart to ours.

Worship with me…the God who brings a song to us, even in our darkest nights.

I come, God, I come
Return to the Lord
The one who’s broken
The one who’s torn me apart
You struck down to bind me up
You say You do it all in love
That I might know You in Your suffering

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes I’ll see the Lord
Lifted high on that day
Behold, the Lamb that was slain
And I’ll know every tear was worth it all

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

Though tonight I’m crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You’re still all that I need
You’re enough for me
You’re enough for me

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need*

Josh Pinkard was one of the victims of a workplace shooting this past week. Here is one of the Facebook posts his wife, Terra, wrote afterward:

“Friday afternoon, the day after Valentine’s Day, was a literal nightmare. I received a text at 1:24 from my precious husband that said I love you, I’ve been shot at work…I lost the love of my life yesterday in a tragic workplace shooting. The world is darker and more sad now. A huge bright light has left this world. But God. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. I am lost and devastated beyond words. Things that mattered yesterday do not matter today. I will praise the Lord for giving me this mountain of a man. I will praise the Lord for the children we have together. And I will cry out to God during this immense time of sadness and need. Please remember us in the coming days, months, and years. We are scared and are trying to catch our breath and just putting one foot in front of the other.”Terra Pinkard, February 16 & 17, 2019

‘I Will Praise the Lord’: Wife of Aurora Shooting Victim Pens Heartbreaking Tribute – Will Maule

We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure. – Hebrews 6:19

You know that expression “It’s all good.”? I’ve never cared for it.  Because it’s not true. Everything that happens to us is not necessarily good. God, however, is good, and He works out all things for our good (Romans 8:26-28). We have the choice of walking away from God in our heartache or clinging to Him through our healing.

Praying right now for those grappling with that choice… He is near.

*Lyrics to Though You Slay Me – Songwriters: Joshua David Moore, Bethany Joy Barnard, Shane Barnard, Lauren Walker Chandler, Brian Woods

Shane & Shane (Shane Barnard and Shane Everett)

YouTube Video – Though You Slay Me – Shane & Shane – featuring John Piper

YouTube Video – The Story Behind “Though You Slay Me”

A Song for the Suffering (with John Piper) – Marshall Segal

YouTube Video – None of Our Misery Is Meaningless – John Piper

Songs in the Night – Sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon

Monday Morning Moment – Lessons on Life From a Grieving Husband

Photo Credit: National Institute on Aging

Time can be so fluid…like water in our hands. Hard to hold onto. This is evidenced often in this blog as Monday Morning Moments are posted on Tuesdays at times, and Friday Faves don’t make it up until Saturday or Sunday…or not until the next week.

Life happens…and is punctuated by significant and not-so events. One full-stop experience is the death of a loved one. It stops us in our tracks. We are shocked by it even when we see it coming. Death turns our feet into concrete and yet at the same time moves us to action. Necessary action that drags us forward in dealing with the loss of that one so important to us. Someone has to make arrangements; someone has to make decisions.

When that someone is you, a grand narrative is born in the darkness of loss. It is a gift from God in the wake of bereavement.

We who are bystanders, or close watchers, in the company of one grieving can learn so much about life…and the attentiveness of God over that one in distress.

In Genesis, an account is given, centuries ago, of the death of Sarah, the beloved wife of Abraham. This Abraham is considered the founding father of three major world religions today. In the Scripture he was considered a friend of God (James 2:23), and his faith was counted to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

The lessons on life that we learn from this husband grieving the loss of his wife include the following:

  • Death of a loved one reorients us to the transient nature of life. Even though Abraham and Sarah had been married for 90-100 years, the day would come that death would separate them. Their lives had taken them far from their home of Ur, in Mesopotamia. For many years, they lived in Canaan, always in tents. Always “foreigners and outsiders” (Genesis 23:4). As Abraham wept over the loss of his wife, he realized he had no place to bury her. Should he take her back home or make some provision for burying her where they lived? No matter how long we live, how long we may be married, or how wealthy we are…in this life, in many ways, we are simply sojourners…passing through.
  • The loss of someone we love moves us to put down a stake. In Abraham’s situation, this was a literal “planting a stake”. He negotiated with the men of Hebron to purchase a burial cave (and the land surrounding it) to lay his Sarah to rest. This was huge for him because, although he was wealthy, he had not bought any land, waiting on God. God had promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants. Now, because of the necessity of a burial tomb, Abraham would stake claim to God’s promise by exercising his faith that Canaan would be his family home for all time. The cave for Sarah would also be where he and others in his family would be buried as well. In this land, Canaan. For many of us, the reality of losing a loved one brings into sharp clarity what all is lost with them. My mom was an incredibly faithful prayer warrior for her family and friends. She also lived a life of self-less service to others. It was joy for her that God would allow her such a life of purpose. When she died, I realized that putting down a stake, in her passing, would be to enter into the spiritual work she left behind. Taking hold of the baton my mom passed to us. Praying for and serving others. I’m not where she was in that…but growing.
  • Even in our pain, we can trust God to give us wisdom and care in dealing with those around us. When we are grieving, life doesn’t feel normal. It’s as if we operate on slow-motion. Our thoughts are muddled. People are saying things to us but we can’t seem to hear correctly. In the depth of his grief, in order to secure a burial place for Sarah, Abraham had to deal with people not like him in a culture not his own. Yet, he negotiated with sensitivity and clarity. In fact, the way he did his business that day is a lesson for any of us in working with others. He was gracious and generous. The sale of that land to Abraham went very well for the seller, and the ownership of it should never come into question in the future. When we are faced with responding to others, in the midst of our grief, we can take his example. God will lead us to be our best selves, even in the hardest of situations…if we keep our eyes on Him and we treat those in front of us in good faith. When we lose someone, people usually mean well…even when motives are suspect, we can respond graciously. If, like the owner of the property Abraham would buy, the person seems focused on their own gain, we can act with wisdom and expedience. Abraham needed a burial place that would forever be considered his property. He did what needed to be done…and God gave grace.
  • Lastly, whatever the loss, we can look to the future in hope and confidence. Abraham had a great promise from God for the future. He had only begun to see the promise unfold, but he trusted God for the rest (see Hebrews 11:13-16 below). When we lose someone the idea of never seeing them again would be horrific. In fact, I don’t see how people, who believe that this life is all we have, can survive the death of a loved one. Everything in this life gives evidence that we are made for eternity. I rejoice in the knowledge that this life is not our forever home. We have another homeland…a better place. God has it ready for His children – for that loved one we are mourning now and for us on another glorious day.

“These all died in faith, although they had not received the things that were promised. But they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. But they now desire a better place—a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”Hebrews 11:13-16

Made of the Stuff of Eternity – A. W. Tozer

Our Hope in Grief – Ross Rhoads

Dealing with Death – Bob Deffinbaugh

Death of Sarah and Abraham – Ralph F. Wilson

Mourning the Death of a Spouse – National Institute on Aging

Worship Wednesday – I Am Broken at Your Feet – Alabaster – Rend Collective

Photo Credit: The River Walk

Within two days of Jesus’ crucifixion, just hours before, a woman would anoint his body for burial… Here is the strange and glorious account of that event:

 It was two days before the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a cunning way to arrest Jesus and kill him.  “Not during the festival,” they said, “so that there won’t be a riot among the people.”

While he was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured it on his head. But some were expressing indignation to one another: “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they began to scold her.

Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for me.  You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” – Mark 14:1-9

Our pastor Cliff Jordan’s sermon on Mark 14:1-11 brought this account alive again to us. [Listen to the podcast linked above.]

The woman who poured out her treasure – possibly all she had in the world – in worshiping the Lord – was no stranger to him. She was Mary, sister to Lazarus and Martha – friend and follower of Jesus.

Surrounded by the disciples at his host’s table, Jesus was enjoying the company of these men so close to him. Mary entered the room without ceremony and straightaway broke open an alabaster jar containing this expensive perfume. [That jar was like her security – equivalent to a year’s wages in that day – “compared to her love for Jesus, it was nothing”, Cliff preached.]

She would pour that extravagant oil over his head. She then took the dripping oil into her hands and rubbed it on his feet. Drying off the excess with her own hair. The men in the room took loud exception at what they considered her frivolous act…but not Jesus.

Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for me.  You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

Two days later, Jesus would give his all on a cross. Beaten and bloody he would die…for us…holding nothing back. It was a Friday, and Passover. By the time his body was released to be buried, his followers had to rush, because of the late hour, laying his body in the tomb, wrapped but without anointing oils.

No worries. In the quiet of that Passover evening, Jesus’ body, caked with blood mixed with his sweat, the fragrance of Mary’s love offering must have remained…must have sweetened the stench of his death. He gave his all for us…she gave her all for him.

“Love is a laid-down life.” (Elisabeth Elliot) – We experience that in Jesus, those of us who know him. We see that in Mary.

Pastor Cliff asked the questions: “What is my alabaster jar? Where do we place our security? What can’t we imagine life without?”

I can’t imagine life without Jesus and knowing his love and his great gift of salvation. Everything else pales.

___________________________________________________________________________

From our years living in Egypt, we have kept two small alabaster votives. The light they emit is both enthralling and beautiful…so like the act of Mary’s giving all she had to her beloved Jesus.

Worship with me to Rend Collective‘s Alabaster.

I am broken at Your feet
Like an alabaster jar
Every piece of who I am
Laid before Your majesty

I will bow my life
At Your feet, at Your feet
My lips, so lost for words
Will kiss Your feet, kiss Your feet
Yeah

Oh, the gravity of You
Draws my soul unto its knees
I will never be the same, no
I am lost and found in You

And I will bow my life
At Your feet, at Your feet
My lips, so lost for words
Will kiss Your feet, kiss Your feet

Oh, I will bow my life
At Your feet, at Your feet
My lips, so lost for words
Will kiss Your feet, kiss Your feet.*

* Lyrics to Alabaster by Rend Collective

The AlabasterJar – The River Walk

YouTube Video – Alabaster Box – Cece Winans

5 Friday Faves – Right Bus/Wrong Seat, Live Streaming, Words, Mommy Blogs, and the Inevitabilities of Life

Today’s Friday Faves blog comes to you on Saturday. It’s been that kind of week, full to busting. Along with it were fun times with friends, poignant occasions to serve people in crisis, beautiful sunrises and sunsets (plus a Blue Moon), and a few moments of quiet calm to process it all. I hope your week was memorable.

Writing helps me remember (even if it’s a few lines in a journal or on an old-school calendar)…maybe your memory is better. Here are five of my favorite discoveries for the week. Please share yours in Comments below.

1) Right Bus/Wrong Seat – Writer, seminarian Chuck Lawless posted recently on dealing with employees who appear to be on the right bus, but in the wrong seats. He wrote about church culture but

10 Ways to Deal with People on the Right Bus, but in the Wrong Seat

his counsel reminded me of work situations as described by business leader and writer Jim Collins. – in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t. Collins focuses on the importance of having the right people “on the bus”. Then he pushes deeper in employers or leaders getting those right people into the right seats. We can find ourselves wondering at times if we’re in the right company when really the question could be that we may not be in the right job within that company. Collins’ approach puts people over product, but he knows the better product will come out of better-positioned people. Right bus/right seat.

Have 100% of the key seats on the bus filled with the right people. This doesn’t mean 100% of ALL seats have the right people, but 100% of the key seats. If you think there might be a “wrong who,” first give the person the benefit of the doubt that perhaps he or she is in the wrong seat. Whenever possible, give a person the chance to prove himself or herself in a different seat, before drawing the conclusion that he or she is a wrong person on the bus.

Spend a significant portion of time on people decisions: get the right people on the bus, get the right people in the right seats, get the wrong people off the bus, develop people into bigger seats, plan for succession, etc. Develop a disciplined, systematic process for getting the right people on the bus. With each passing year, ensure the percentage of people decisions that turn out good versus bad continues to rise. Wendy Maynard, Jim Collins

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’tJim Collins

2) Live Streaming – I am really not fond of paying the high ticket prices required these days for celebrity entertainment. What intrigues me more are the younger (or newer) artists pushing into the public’s eye through live streaming. In 2015, KrueTV was launched, and it has made a huge impact on where I go for music. A live streaming app. Where I get to watch, listen to, and chat with artists who are just beginning to hone their craft. Rough sometimes, but so fresh and very much “in the moment. Beyond the Guitar streamed on Krue from early on. Photo Credit: Screenshot, KrueTV

A community of followers was born there, many of whom support him on Patreon. KrueTV also made it possible for me to meet and enjoy the music of other artists – a young country-western singer from Ohio, an Indie artist from Canada, a sibling band with killer harmonies, a Portuguese singer who brings us all-things-Eurovision. And many others.

The bad news came this week that Krue’s creators are going a different direction. Another app will eventually come, but Krue will be shut down soon. It made all of us sad, all of us who enjoy the streams there.

Beyond the Guitar’s Last Great Stream on KrueTV

Turning that sad into action, the artists continue to stream on Krue for now and commiserate with each other and their fans. Also sorting out what live streaming app to jump on next.

I was surprised to find out that there are several now. GigFM. StreetJelly. Twitch.TV. One of these apps will become my next favorite, depending on where these favorite artists land. Because it’s not just their performances, it’s also the community around them. Never would I have thought, in all my life, that this would become important to me. Online communities. Gamers understand this, but it’s new to me.

Beyond the Guitar’s Latest Arrangement – The Hunger Games: Hanging Tree

3) Words – Any of you who continue to stick with me on this blog know I love words. If you walked into our home, you would see them everywhere. Bookcases in every room. Words on the walls.

Books by my bed and beside my computer. Notes on top of my keyboard. Words that can remind, instruct, encourage.

In my resolve to read more, this year of 2018, I’m currently in the middles of a strange and fascinating book. It is The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase by Mark Forsyth. It’s a book about the English language and what makes us love and remember certain phrases by how they are written. I will probably write about this book later, but here are some words that have caused me to think…this week.

The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of PhraseMark Forsyth

Mark Forsyth Blog

Young at Heart (Slightly Older in Other Places) – Day Brightener

4) Mommy Blogs – The blogs I subscribe to are usually about leadership, the Bible, or living cross-culturally. However, lately, “mommy blogs” have come to my attention, thanks to the young women in my life who read and write them. This week, I discovered Liz B. who writes Life in a Coffee Spoon. A mom of two who also works outside the home, she posted this week on the challenges of life that literally drive her to write in order to process it all. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Her writing is like that coffee – real, strong, and just right for when you need it.

Life in a Coffee Spoon – On Mommy Blogging in 2018

Family. Life. Organized – Bekkah Mills

17 Things You Should Do to Every Blog Post Before + After You Hit Publish (Free Checklist) – Melyssa Griffin – for any of you, Dear Ones, thinking of blogging.

5) The Inevitabilities of Life – This has been one of those weeks when life has been full of the inevitable – sickness, hard news, death. There are also the inevitabilities, thankfully, of new babies, good news, and happy anniversaries. This has not been a week of those.

[There was a time just a bit ago that I didn’t take any meds. Then…it happened. The inevitable, I presume.]

Still in the middle of all the hard, I’m struck by the great gift of community, the strength of true friendship and family, the power of prayer. The presence in our lives of a loving God and those we can lean on – good neighbors, first responders, trusted colleagues, and those sainted strangers – all, in their time, are there for us, as we are for them. The leaning in and showing up – in the inevitabilities of life. It’s really quite beautiful…and takes so much of the sting away.

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation [trouble; suffering], but take courage; I have overcome the world.”  – Jesus – John 16:33

So there are my 5’s this week. What are some of yours? Have a safe and splendid weekend, hopefully with those you love or in your own good company.

Bonuses

Photo Credit: Rick Fischler, Facebook

In Which I Am Learning to Live with the Ache – Sarah Bessey

Quote: I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history. – H.G. Wells

[I finally saw the Denzel Washington film Fences adapted from August Wilson‘s play….whew.]

“I think my plays offer (white Americans) a different way to look at black Americans,” he told The Paris Review. “For instance, in Fences they see a garbageman, a person they don’t really look at, although they see a garbageman every day. By looking at Troy’s life, white people find out that the content of this black garbageman’s life is affected by the same things – love, honor, beauty, betrayal, duty. Recognizing that these things are as much part of his life as theirs can affect how they think about and deal with black people in their lives.” – August Wilson

TED Talk – Susan David: The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage

Prescriptions Without Pills – For Relief from Depression, Anger, Anxiety, and More – Susan Heitler

Photo Credit: Amazon, Susan Heitler

Worship Wednesday – the Faith to Believe

Photo Credit: Flickr

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 the first twenty years of my professional life, I was privileged to have close encounters with five life-changing realities. It was a season of caring for cancer patients and their families – when their diseases were raging and in the final days of life. These experiences galvanized my faith in God and how his image is embedded in us – his creation. These realities are:

  1. Courage in exceedingly hard places
  2. Deep enduring love across a harsh illness and when time is fleeting
  3. Hope mingled with humor
  4. Death isn’t final…our spirits go somewhere (for sure, they leave the body)
  5. Faith to believe

Caring for patients receiving chemotherapy and other treatments for life-threatening complications can prompt an intimate caring relationship. To watch patients (and families) deal with such hard and to be in a position to help them through it gave me a window to extend love and honor to dear ones in crisis.

Was there always courage? Was love always expressed between us all? Was humor or hope or faith a constant?

No…but remarkably, more often than not, this was what I observed… especially in those sustained by a relationship with God.

In the last couple of years, I personally have experienced a cancer diagnosis and a couple of respiratory emergencies that brought those same realities into my life. In such times, much in life gets clarity…a sharper focus, a deeper understanding.

Breathe has been a theme in my life for over a year now…put that together with the title of a film starring Andrew Garfield…and it caused me to NOT “skip the ad” on YouTube.Photo Credit: Breathe, YouTube

I was unaware of Robin Cavendish until I saw the trailer for the film Breathe. Cavendish was a Brit who developed polio at the young age of 28. He was paralyzed from the neck down and required a ventilator to breathe. In those days (1958), he would have been confined in a hospital for the remainder of his days. However, he nor his wife, Diana, would hear of it. After a year in hospital, he went home and adjusted to this very different life, as only Robin would. They had a child and he would be able to see him grow up (in fact, son Jonathan Cavendish produced this film). Robin was a pioneer in advocating for the disabled, especially those like him needing more extreme measures to live a more normal life. He died at 64.

[Since my years in graduate studies in rehab and cancer nursing…the courage I saw in so many patients and families…courage in struggle…never ceased to inspire me.]

I am always intrigued about “based on a true story” films. Reading up on Robin Cavendish’s story, my heart soared and then sank…fullstop at the short statement below:

Cavendish was an atheist.Wikipedia

I have never understood atheism. Even during spiritually flat and confusing times in my life, the existence of God has never been at question.

Especially watching beloved patients at the moment of death…their faces relaxing and their bodies emptying of who they really were. We don’t just stop existing…life here stops and starts at exactly the same moment…There.

Now that I know Robin Cavendish, he has my admiration and respect at how he took back his life and helped others do the same. I wonder if, before his life was done…if he had the faith to believe. One line in his obituary reads:

It is a strange irony that, though professing to be an unbeliever himself, he had a capacity for making other people feel closer to God.*

*Obituary – Robin Cavendish – Alice and Tim Renton

What a great gift is faith to believe. We don’t conjure it up. God Himself presents us the faith to believe…it is ours to reject or receive.

Worship with me. Below you will find two songs – Faith to Believe by Shane & Shane and Jesus Is Better by Austin Stone. Choose either or both in celebrating the God who gives us the faith to believe. [Then scroll down to the prayer at the end.]

YouTube Video – Shane & Shane – Faith to Believe – (with lyrics)

Give me the faith to believe You
When I’m stuck here in my fear
Give me the strength to trust You
When my vision’s blurred by tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Because today has gone so wrong
I’m on my knees
Give me the strength to believe

Even when I cannot see You
You’re still shining, You’re still shining
Even when I cannot hear You
You’re still calling out my name
Even when I cannot see You
Your arms are open
Always holding on to me
Give me the faith to believe

You say You’ll never leave me
Your love will conquer fear
You say Your day is coming
When You’ll wipe away my tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Because today has gone so wrong
I’m on my knees
Give me the faith to believe

Give me the faith to see the invisible
Give me the faith to believe the impossible
Give me the faith to receive the incredible
Oh give me the faith to believe it**

There is no other so sure and steady, my hope is held in your hand
When castles crumble and breath is fleeting, upon this rock I will stand
Upon this rock I will stand

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

Your kindly rule has shattered and broken the curse of sin’s tyranny
My life is hidden ‘neath Heaven’s shadow, Your crimson flood covers me
Your crimson flood covers me

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

In all my sorrows, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

In all my victories, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Than any comfort, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

More than all riches, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Our souls declaring, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Our song eternal, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all***

Photo Credit: Flickr

Maybe this is the first step for atheists, too (it was for me)…so thankful for the faith to believe…to see the truth and beauty of Scripture. The Word of God walks us right up the staircase to be with Him – now and forever.

Thank You, God, for the faith to believe. With my whole being, I’m sure you daily, moment by moment, extend grace to all of humanity to know You, through one witness of Yourself or another. Help us to receive this grace. God, give us all this faith to believe.

**Lyrics to Faith to Believe – written by Shane Everett & Phil Wickham

***Lyrics to Jesus Is Better – written by Aaron Ivey & Brett Land

Worship Wednesday – Then Came the Morning and It is Well With My Soul – Because He Lives – Guy Penrod

Photo Credit: Air Force

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea,
    a path in the mighty waters, who brings forth chariot and horse,
    army and warrior.Isaiah 43: 1-3, 16-17

I have never lost my home to a flood or fire. Dear friends have had that experience, and I see something in them that I want. Rock-solid faith in a mighty and merciful God. Is trouble part of what gets us to unshakeable faith (tornado- and hurricane-proof faith)?

My life today is comfortable. Hurricane Harvey is far from us, but the ravages of that storm are felt across the US. I can’t imagine all the losses. Houses, businesses…and worse, family members and friends. Lost to a tropical storm system that poured torrential rains across Texas for days.

The pictures and video of flooded neighborhoods in Houston would be unbelievable except that they are real.

We in the US are so sheltered, cushioned from much of what rocks the rest of the world. When nature unleashes its most destructive forces, we usually watch that on world news…not on local.

This time, we are confronted with the transient nature of stuff…even life itself. We want to comfort and help, and there are ways to do that. My heart is thrilled by those on orders or inclined to go into the storm to help – the military and police and all the many volunteers.

For this natural disaster, the reality of all that’s happening hangs heavy in my mind. How would I deal with such a calamity in my own life?

My hope is that I would cling to the Lord. The God who promises that He is always with us. He has shown Himself faithful in other dark places in our lives – losing loved ones through the years, saying hard goodbyes to friends, miscarriages, cancer diagnoses. I know He is there…it has been my experience.

So how will the folks in Houston get through this difficult, difficult place? Either clinging to God or seeking help elsewhere. He is there…for any who would take His hand…to help them get through until the morning.

A couple of nights ago, I struggled to get to sleep. Like my mama before me, fears and stresses follow me to bed, and taunt me to sort them out on my own. Finally, exhausted and aching with loneliness, I pray.

Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!Psalm 30:5b, 11-12

Yesterday was better…as is today…in His grace and in the light of His truth.

Today, I want to share three old Gospel songs that minister to my heart. Always. Even more when Guy Penrod sings them. A solo artist now, he has sung with the Gaither Vocal Band and is also a featured artist on the Gaither Homecoming TV specials.

Then Came the Morning is new to me (hearing it for the first time the morning after that fitful night). It relates to experiences of Jesus’ mother and disciples after his death, and then when they discovered him alive again, as he had promised.

Then came the morning
Shadows vanished before the sun
Death had lost and life had won
For morning had come.*

YouTube Video – Then Came the Morning – Guy Penrod – Written by: CHRIS CHRISTIAN, GLORIA GAITHER, WILLIAM GAITHER

*Lyrics – Then Came the Morning

It Is Well With My Soul is a song I’ve known since childhood. No matter what happens in life, it can be well with our souls. The story behind this song speaks to the relationship Horatio Spafford had with his God.

Having lost in a fire virtually everything they owned, the Spafford family made new plans, including a move from Chicago to France. Horatio Spafford planned the trip for his wife and four daughters to be as trouble-free as possible. To transport them from America to France, he booked passage on a huge ship, and made sure they had Christians with whom to fellowship in route. He planned to join them a few weeks later. In spite of much careful preparation, Mr. Spafford’s plans suddenly dissolved when the ship carrying his loved ones was rammed by another vessel and sank, carrying his four beloved daughters to the bottom. Anyone who has ever had their plans disrupted by the hand of God can understand Spafford’s plight. The next time you are in church,turn to the words of the great hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul”–words he penned as his ship passed over the watery grave of his four daughters! – Today in the Word, July, 1989, p. 27**

One of the verses of this tested and proven hymn of faith is:

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.*

YouTube Video – It Is Well With My Soul – Guy Penrod, David Phelps

*Lyrics of It Is Well With My Soul – Horatio Spafford

Lastly, a hymn that Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote and has touched millions of lives: Because He Lives. Such a great song reminding us that because He lives we have no need to fear.

Worship with me:

YouTube Video – Because He Lives, Guy Penrod

Lyrics – Because He Lives – Bill & Gloria Gaither

You will have no test of faith that will not fit you to be a blessing if you are obedient to the Lord. I never had a trial but when I got out of the deep river I found some poor pilgrim on the bank that I was able to help by that very experience.” – A.B. Simpson

No matter how dark the night, when the morning comes, we can find it is well with our souls, because He lives.

Guy Penrod

Gaither Homecoming

Floods in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal Kill 1,200 and Leave Millions Homeless – Chloe Farand

**Trials – Sermon Illustrations

Life and Chester Bennington – the One Tribute You Don’t Want to Miss – Hanif Abdurraqib

Photo Credit: Suran2007, Flickr

There are some people I’ve only known in death. Chester Bennington is one of these…these beautiful silenced lives. Yet, for a season of time, the silence is broken by those who knew them alive and tell us about them.

When the news of Chester Bennington’s death spread on social media, my thoughts registered: oh no! Another musician lost to the world because of drugs and alcohol. Suicide again takes out a brilliant life and career. A real person. A friend. A husband. A father.

When one of my children posted that Chris Bennington with his band Linkin Park was the soundtrack of his high school years, I was astonished. The things we don’t know about our children. The great and intimate influences…the influencers in our children’s lives.

Chester Bennington was a huge influencer in the life of poet Hanif Abdurraqib. His tribute to Bennington is the one you don’t want to miss.Photo Credit: Hanif Abdurraqib, Wikimedia Commons

Below are just 4 quotes I’ve included from Abdurraqib’s piece, and the Suicide Lifeline at the end of his post. If you loved Bennington’s work, you want to read the whole article.

“Chester Bennington had a voice that sounded like a knife crying out with the delight and agony of being sharpened. It is that the first words on Hybrid Theory are “Why does it feel like night today?” in the song “Papercut,” and then the chorus says, “It’s like a whirlwind inside of my head,” and it was a whirlwind inside of my own. It is that my pals maybe made it through a year or two that they might not have otherwise because Linkin Park, and specifically Bennington, kicked in the door to our respective darknesses not to spark a light, but to sit with us for a while.” – Hanif Abdurraqib

“Even if you are able to make a map out of your grief and trauma with the chart of a generous mapmaker, it doesn’t mean the mapmaker has figured their own way out of whatever maze their trauma has trapped them in. There is a difference between the work of not wanting others to die and the work that comes with keeping yourself alive.” – Hanif Abdurraqib

“Chester Bennington was a survivor, of many things: sexual abuse as a child, violent bullying as a skinny high school student — things that he said pushed him to years of drug and alcohol addiction. And I believe survival of this — no matter how long — is a type of heroism.” – Hanif Abdurraqib

“Chester, this is hard. This is work, Chester. And I’m up to it today. I might not be up to it always, but I’m up to it today. I’m up to it now because you were up to it for so long and I hope there was some mercy in knowing what you did. Chester, there are people still living because you lived.” – Hanif Abdurraqib

If you or someone you know is going through a rough time, feeling depressed, or thinking about self-harm, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit its website here.

With all of you who knew Chester Bennington and loved his work, I extend my sympathy. Just now knowing something of him, I can see what a painful loss his untimely death brings to you. Somehow, especially after reading Abdurraqib’s tribute, my sense is, as he infers, that many who knew Bennington best, have, mixed in with the loss, the gratefulness of having had him in their lives…this long.

[Suicide is a deeply bitter pill to swallow for those left behind. Depression and the darkness that can grow with it drive some of us toward the only perceived way out. My prayer and hope is that all of us can take hold of God in those heavy times, and live…and that we who love the tormented one, driven to take themselves out, can come near. This is not a simple thing when depression turns deadly on us…but this is the hope I know. He is the Hope I know.]

Why Chester Bennington’s Suicide Hurts So Much – Hanif Abdurraqib

YouTube – 10 Unforgettable Chester Bennington Moments

YouTube Video – Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib – “A Genealogy”

Saturday Short – One Year Ending, Another Beginning – and Those We Love

We close out this year – 2016 – with one missing. Dad, and Papa, died on Christmas Day. I have written about him many times…today I write about what he leaves behind.

Death is strange – even for those of us who have lives transformed by God and who trust His Word that we will be with Him forever in Heaven. Death feels final…and solitary… Dad is not with us, yet we gather because of him. We grieve together…we will miss him together.

Already a father of five, our dad took on four more children when he married our mom. For decades now, nine children grew up and through adulthood under his influence. We and our children are linked because of this man…some loosely, some tightly.

Rend Collective’s album Campfire Christmas – Volume 1 was a gift this year, and the last song is a re-do of Auld Lang Syne. The song For All That You Have Done For Us  is both a perfect benediction for this year…and for what we’ve lost and what we’ve gained. In our earthly father in part…and wholly in our Heavenly Father.

Listen (and sing along if you choose) to this prayer and battle-cry.

Verse 1:
Your grace will never be forgot
Your mercy all my life
Will be my soul’s forever song
My story and my light
Verse 2:
From mountaintop to valley low
Through laughter and through tears
Surely the goodness of my God
Will follow all the years
Chorus:
For all that You have done, for us
For every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that You have done
Verse 3:
In all our failures and regrets
You’ve always led us home
Redemption’s arm has raised us up
Our triumph in the storm
Verse 4:
In unity we’ll stand as one
As family we’ll go
Shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand
Into the great unknown*
…..As we said goodbye (for now) to our father, grandfather, uncle, and friend…we were sobered by the reality of that generation gone from our lives. All the old ones on my side of the family have died…
What’s left?…our faith, our friends, and our family. What comfort…and what joy! I am so thankful to God that He doesn’t leave us alone…ever.
 As you count down to the end of this year and look with hope to the next…may you find yourself surrounded by those who will love you, no matter what…and may you grow closer to a God who transcends suffering and death. In this week of parting…He has come close to us.

Worship Wednesday – All Creatures of Our God and King – O Praise Him! – with David Crowder

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“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.Job 12:7-10
My pillow has been a constant companion these two weeks since surgery. It rested my head and splinted my side. It has been a help to me in recovery.
This morning, I made up the bed with that pillow in its place there…
Last night was the first night in two weeks that I slept through until dawn. Slept through. That rarely happened even before surgery. Since then, I have dreaded the nighttime, with not being able to get comfortable in any position for very long.
This morning marked a change and it’s been a glorious day. Sure, I am still short of breath and weak sometimes, and the pain breaks through…but, today, I feel strongly on the mend.
God did not make this a perfect June day for just me…but I’m celebrating in it…and in Him. After joining my neighbors this morning for a brief part of their longer walk-around, I sat in a bit of shade as the sun came up over the trees. These tall oaks form a canopy over the yard, and I love watching the sun peek through as the branches sway in the breeze.

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As I sat, soaking in all the beauty around me, the dew was still fresh on the lawn…sparking like diamonds strewn across the yard. I’m not meaning to be a poetic poser here, but you know what it’s like to see something almost for the first time…

This morning felt like Easter morning to me. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). All around is the sight, scent, and sound of life, and I am in the beautiful midst of it…cancer diagnosis and all.

Grateful to God today for His creation and all the signs of life, around me and inside this body He’s given me. A whole night’s sleep. Dave did have to just about hoist me out of bed because my back and chest felt frozen in that sleep position…but up I came, and up all day.

I’m confident from everything I know about this cancer surgery and its recovery that there will still be harder days. Today is a complete gift – complete with sun, blue sky, low humidity, and a delicious breeze all day long.

Every day, no matter the weather or circumstance, is a gift from a loving Creator God. I pray yours is full of Him today, whatever path you are walking…and the beauty of His creation is a perfect distraction, drawing you into what is most real and sustaining in life…IMG_6259

Worship with me to this old hymn written by Francis of Assisi and sung by David Crowder:

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing

O praise Him, Alleluia

Thou burning sun with golden beam
Thou silver moon with softer gleam

O praise Him, O praise Him
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along

O praise Him, Alleluia

Thou rising moon in praise rejoice
Ye lights of evening find a voice

O praise Him, O praise Him
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

Let all things their Creator bless
And worship Him in humbleness

O praise Him, Alleluia

Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son
And praise the Spirit, three in one

O praise Him, O praise Him
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son
And praise the Spirit, three in one

O praise Him, O praise Him
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia*

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