Tag Archives: Egypt

Palm Sunday – Day 1 of Holy Week – Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on the Way to the Cross

[Adapted from the Archives]

For anyone who considers herself a critical thinker, this week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one worthy of analysis. No matter our religion or non-religion, this Jesus, in these days, warrants examination, related to anything we may think of God. The core beliefs of a Christ-follower, not just a person known as Christian, are illuminated here. For in the study of Jesus’ life and his followers, in just this one week, we can see a deep distinction between “the religious” and “the redeemed”.

{Sidebar: I taught a World Religions course some time ago in a Moroccan high school. In that course, we studied all the major religions. The students were challenged to think critically of each religion. I encouraged them to study each one, 1) trying to put themselves in the perspective of one who believes (i.e., a true follower, using eye witness/historical accounts and Scriptures when available), and then 2) to break down each belief/tenet of faith critically. We all benefit thinking through Holy Week this way; none will not come away the same by examining the life of Jesus.]

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Palm Sunday is celebrated as the “triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem, just days before he would endure a mock trial and then be crucified. He and his closest followers (disciples) came to Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover. Passover was an annual remembrance of God’s protection and deliverance of Israel during a time of slavery (Exodus 12:26-28). Jesus would celebrate Passover on Thursday of that coming week, but he did not come to Jerusalem for that reason alone.

Jesus knew from his Father God why he came to Jerusalem, and he tried to prepare his disciples for what was coming.

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.Matthew 16:21

And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved. – Matthew 17:22-23

As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death,  and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”Matthew 20:17-19

I can’t even imagine what those disciples must have felt as Jesus predicted his own death. They loved him and all pledged their lives to him, even to death. They believed him to be the conquering king, sent by God, to deliver the Jews from Roman rule and to restore the nation of Israel. Although they had soaked up three years of his teaching, this “end of the story” was more than they could bear. Just a week later, they would gloriously understand that it would not be the end of the story of Jesus’ life…but the emotions of this Sunday, this week, must have been disorienting.

On this Sunday, before the Passover, Jesus would enter the great city of Jerusalem, teeming with crowds there to celebrate. He entered, riding a donkey*, as was foretold by the Jewish prophet Zechariah:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

Imagine the scene as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Some in the crowds did recognize him, and then the word spread of the arrival of this great teacher, this healer, this man whose teaching was like none before him. Palm branches were pulled to wave in tribute to him, as others flung their cloaks on the dust before him welcoming him:

Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna** to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?”Matthew 21:8-10

“Who is this?” For those who did not know him, the wild welcome for him must have been confusing and captivating. For the religious authorities in Jerusalem, who knew him and were unwilling to welcome this “king of the Jews”, his popularity was infuriating.

The clock began ticking as they plotted against this man Jesus.

Over that bright hopeful day of palms hung the shadow of the Cross – the Cross that would bring even greater hope to all people. The “Hosanna” of Palm Sunday would change to cries to “Crucify!” just five days later. Jesus had no ambition to please the crowds; he was resolutely on task to redeem those who could not redeem themselves – the whole world.

[Each day in this week, the posts will mark the journey of Jesus of Nazareth through the last week of his earthly life. Join me please.]

*Matthew 21:1-11 & Commentary

**”Hosanna” means “God saves”.  YouTube lyric video of Hosanna – Hillsong

Holy Week Timeline: Walk the Week of Passion with Jesus – Mary Fairchild

Look, the World Has Gone After Him: Prelude to Palm Sunday – Jon Bloom

The Significance of Palm Sunday in Relation to Passover

Kings Riding on Donkeys? What?

Photo Gallery: Egypt’s Coptic Christians Celebrate Palm Sunday – When our children were young, we lived in Cairo, and bought palm fronds to make some of these crafts along with our Egyptian friends.

5 Friday Faves – The Legacy of Dr. Billy Graham, Beyond the Guitar, Teacher Villages, Black Panther, and Belonging

Friday has come and gone this week. These favorite finds of this week come to you in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Still…there were too precious to me to be lost to you. I hope you are encouraged in these finds.

1) The Legacy of Dr. Billy Graham – Pastor to US Presidents and faithful messenger of God’s Word – Billy Graham died this week at 99. Years ago, he had this to say about dying:

Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God. – Billy Graham (and also Dwight Moody previously)

Photo Credit: WTOV

I’ve known of Dr. Graham my whole life. When he was having one of his evangelistic crusades and it was televised, that’s what we watched, growing up. There was almost a reverence about those events – not idolizing him but an awareness and expectation that God would move in the hearts of people who heard the message of hope that Dr. Graham preached.

Dave and I, in our first year of marriage, were counselors at his Hartford, Connecticut crusade. Below is one of his sermons from that week’s events:

I wonder how many who are reading this also have memories of this man. This man who never turned from the God who loved him and called him to preach to the nations. This man who stayed faithful to God all the days of his life. If you have memories of Dr. Graham, please share them in the comments.

Daddy Is Home – Anne Graham Lotz

Select Chronology Listing of Events in the Life of Billy Graham and the History of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Up Until Rev. Graham’s Retirement in 2005, with a Few Later Significant Events

Billy Graham Reached Millions Through His Crusades: Here’s How He Did It – Cathy Lynn Grossman

Video – Kathie Lee Gifford Reacts to the Death of Prominent Pastor Graham

2) Beyond the Guitar – This week classical guitarist Nathan Mills posted his latest arrangement  of themes from the video game Shadow of the Colossus . This theme  video game has been remastered and re-released this month for PlayStation 4.

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

If you’re not a gamer, this may seem of little interest to you – the music from this game, even if it’s considered one of the greatest video games made. However, if you love guitar music, don’t miss this beautiful piece.

3) Teacher Villages – This week I heard of an innovative move on the part of the City of Newark, New Jersey. The problem that this city government was addressing was the loss of teachers, year after year. Apparently, finding affordable housing became such a financial barrier for teachers, they would take to leaving and moving to a more suburban school system.

Teachers Village is a huge enterprise built in downtown Newark. Within the multi-block complex, there is housing (marketed to teachers, in particular) as well as schools, shopping, and other retail and service sector elements.Photo Credit: Jersey Digs

This is helping to bring life back into the city schools of Newark…as well as the downtown neighborhoods.

Newark is just one of several cities investing in teachers by making housing available to them. How about where you live?

Teachers Village – Newark, New Jersey

Subsidized Housing May Help School Districts Retain Teachers – Jenie Lindsay

4) Black Panther – What a film! If you haven’t seen it yet, you will want to. Just to celebrate the people of this fictional yet fantastic place called Wakanda…and to celebrate the possibilities in our own real world.Photo Credit: Desiring God, Black Panther

YouTube Video – Black Panther – Best Scenes – 14 minutes

I’d like to share Greg Morse‘s take on Wakanda:

In the movie, Wakanda is a fictional African homeland hidden from the rest of the world. It is uncolonized, technologically advanced, brimming with black excellence and beauty, industrious, mountainous, breathtaking. But the utopia itself, not the black superhero, hit an ancient ache that four hundred years in America hasn’t come close to soothing. We rally around superheroes like the Black Panther because we hope that they can lead us to Wakanda. – At Home in Wakanda – Greg Morse

In God’s word, I learned that his Wakanda has borders that expand beyond cultural similarity. All nations, all tribes, all tongues share a common citizenship, an everlasting fellowship that unites irrevocably. And this reality has already begun.

In Christ, I can greet a teenager in the mountains of Guatemala as “my brother.” I can divulge my deepest pains to an elderly white woman as I ask her to pray for me. Marrieds commune with singles; the rich dine with the poor. The healthy church is a foretaste of the coming paradise where Jesus, our King, unites a people of differences. Our distinctions don’t disappear, but a greater reason for unity appears. This family is connected by better blood: his.

In God’s coming Wakanda, he offers something even greater than the world of Black Panther: a unity made perfect through diversity. The different colors will complete the painting. The different notes will strike the chord. The eye will join with the nose and the arm to make the body whole. In that place, union — not uniformity — will be the greater light. There, the temporary brotherhood of the Panther will be engulfed by the diverse and eternal oneness of the Lamb.At Home in Wakanda – Greg Morse

5) Belonging – I’ve written on this before – on the power of noticing, on inner circles and belonging. It’s something we all need…to be gathered in; to be chosen; to be included; to be a part of something larger than ourselves.Photo Credit: Re-Live

I read a piece this week by this extraordinary young woman, Rachel Macy Stafford. She writes about being new in a situation and the anguish of trying to be a part of a group of women who were just plain not interested.

As she used the painful experiences as a teachable moment, she said:

“Remember this.”

Remember this when you are in familiar territory and someone new walks up looking for guidance.

Remember this when you see someone on the outskirts anxiously holding her own hand.

Remember this when someone approaches you and asks a question – see the bravery behind the words.

Remember this when you see someone stop trying – perhaps he’s been rejected one too many times.

Remember this when you see someone being excluded or alienated – just one friendly person can relieve the painful sense of feeling invisible.

Remember the deepest desire of the human heart is to belong … to be welcomed … to know you are seen and worthy of kindness.

With one invitation, we can take someone
From outsider to insider
From outcast to beloved member
From unknown neighbor to coffee companion
From wallflower to life-of-the-party
From shortened life expectancy to 80 years of joy.

Here’s the link to her article in full. Don’t miss it.

Am I Invisible? The Pain Relieving Response to Being Rejected or Excluded – Rachel Macy Stafford

That’s it for this week…way overdue. Have an amazing rest of your weekend. You never know what a difference you make in the lives of those around you.

Bonuses:

In Defense of Thoughts and Prayers – Scott Jones – one of the most insightful pieces I have ever read following a tragedy – it’s in the bonus section but needs its own deep consideration – I hope you read it and gain as much as I did.

In Defense of Thoughts and Prayers

What the Screen Time Experts Do With Their Own Kids – Anya Kamenetz

40 Profound Life Rules from Jordan Peterson Everyone Should Know – Jon Brooks

40 Profound Life Rules from Jordan Peterson Everyone Should Know

Facebook Photo Album of Amazing Egypt – Hossam Abbas Photography – I discovered this photo album on Facebook and it was such a delight for me – having seen these incredible sights ourselves.Photo Credit: Hossam Abbas Photography

5 Friday Faves – Phone Calls, Egyptians, Parenting, Contemporary Christian Music, and David B. Hart on Politics

Blog - Friday FavesHappy Friday! I woke up this morning to the sound of a summer thunderstorm – a real downpour. Now it’s done and hopefully won’t have discouraged the neighbors I’ll be walking with in just a bit. Hope this finds you off to a peaceful and gratifying end to your work week, or just the beginning of another adventure of the day. My 5 Friday Faves coming at you:

1) Phone Calls – In this season of texting as primary communication, I love a phone call. Even though I start with a text as well most of the time, not wanting to disturb the recipient…still a phone call is so direct and satisfying. I’m not the communicator that I once was. My friends and family, who are callers, are very merciful and their calls mean the world. So grateful to you who call. With our kids, they know if I don’t hear back from a series of texts, I will call. It is incentive of a sort to answer those texts. My preference is to hear their voices and to see their faces (Facetime is the best feature of the iPhone). For you who dread phone calls, consider that some of us really love receiving them. Just consider…Blog - Friday Faves - Phone calls

2) Egyptians – We’ve had great neighbors through the years, and especially in our current neighborhood. In our years of living outside of the US, in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, we have known the best of the best of those cultures. Just yesterday, I ran into an Egyptian student I’ve come to know here because she works in a favorite store. Her welcome is always so warm and gracious, asking about my surgery (remembering that?!). So today, I want to give a shout-out to our Egyptian friends. Known for their hospitality and humor, Egyptians remind me of those most beloved in my life from the South. When we lived in Cairo, our Egyptian friends went out of their way to make us feel welcome in their lives. So generous, and funny, and unpretentious. Dave and I talk about going back some day to live there again. It is probably not going to happen, but it makes me smile just to think of it. So here’s to the people of Egypt – “Om el Donia” – “Mother of the World”.036_36 (2)Blog - Sherine, Debbie, HebaBlog - Egyptians - Debbie & FonFon (2)Blog - Egyptians - Dina and Debbie - June 2016

3) Parenting – Matt Diaz is a former professional baseball player and currently a sports commentator. He is also a dad and coaches TBall (tiny baseball players). He wrote a great blog on parenting little guys and how our parenting changes as our kids get older. Speaking with humility from his own parenting and being parented, he spotlighted two issues worth examining.

Blog - Friday Faves - Parenting - Matt E. DiazBlog - Friday Faves - Parenting - Matt E. Diaz baseballPhoto Credit: Matt E. Diaz, Wikipedia

“We are pushing our young kids too hard.  We are expecting adult like performance from them.  We are frustrating them by asking them to handle things they were not designed to handle.
We are coddling our young adults too much.  Society is accepting way too much childlike behavior from them.  We are allowing them to behave in a manner that they were never designed to behave.”
I loved his illustration of how eagles feather their nests to protect the eggs and tiny eaglets and then remove the feathers to make the nest uncomfortable for the fledgling flyer.

4) Music Critics (Critique)
– Contemporary Christian music is genre that has been inspirational and comforting to me over my adult life. It has come a long, long way from the early years of odd, repeated lines and rounds of songs of the 60’s and 70’s. Still, with some glorious exceptions, the Christian music today is still not like the hymns of yesterday. There is contemporary worship music and Christian pop – very different from each other. In researching for my Worship Wednesday blog, I came across the Faithful Stewardship Blog.

The writer identifies himself as Jorge, from my home state of Georgia. He further describes himself as writing for the sake of his wife and children. On Tuesdays, he posts his critiques of contemporary Christmas music. He pulls from Top 20 lists of this genre and gives approval/disapproval ratings for songs based on how they line up with Scriptural truth. I don’t think he means any ill will at all in his disapprovals; he is focusing on Biblical truth in the lyrics of these songs. Some of my favorites are on his disapproving list, but many are also on his approval list, including For King & Country’s Shoulders.

Blog - Friday Faves - Music Critics - CCM - Twitter

Photo Credit: Twitter

I was surprised at some of his takes on songs but actually couldn’t disagree with his analysis.

An article along the same lines is T. David Gordon’s The Imminent Decline of Contemporary Worship Music: Eight Reasons. Blog - Friday Faves - Contemporary Worship Music - secondnaturejournalPhoto Credit: Second Nature Journal

He writes about how the church is embracing contemporary worship music to the exclusion of traditional hymns. His eight reasons that he sees this as a temporary situation are provocative and thought-provoking. This is not just a treatise on preferences. Gordon weighs in heavily on the grandeur of the lyrics and hymn tunes of worship music that has stood the test of time. He is not sure at all that much of what we cherish today will stand that same test. Some will, I believe, but how could we ever let go of such great hymns as Henry Francis Lyte’s Abide With Me, written in 1847? Or Martin Luther’s A Mighty Fortress Is Our God written in 1529? Powerful.

Postscript: Whether all the songs I love in both Christian worship and Christian pop endure for centuries, it matters that they bring joy today. So, just wanted to throw that in, on the tails of this good read.

5) David B. Hart on Politics – a young Eastern Orthodox friend of mine posted a quote from Hart on his Facebook page recently. Hart is also Eastern Orthodox, and a philosopher, writer, theologian, cultural commentator. He is new to me and much too deep for me to understand on some points. His take on American politics in this election year is worth noting. So eloquent. I love when people use words like this…with such clarity, transparency, and skill. Granted (for those who will disagree with his take on this subject) it is just his opinion…but well-spoken.Blog - Friday faves - David Bentley Hart on PoliticsPhoto Credit: Patheos

“Our choices are excruciatingly circumscribed, since the whole process is dominated by two large and self-interested political conglomerates that are far better at gaining power than at exercising it wisely…Yes, I know: there are good and sincere souls who run for office, and some occasionally get in, and a few of those are then able to accomplish something with the position they assume, and some of those even remain faithful to the convictions that got them there. But, lest we forget, those are also the politicians who often create the greatest mischief…If one were to devise a political system from scratch, knowing something of history and a great deal about human nature, the sort of person that one would chiefly want, if possible, to exclude from power would be the sort of person who most desires it, and who is most willing to make a great effort to acquire it. 

Yet our system obliges us to elevate to office precisely those persons who have the ego-besotted effrontery to ask us to do so; it is rather like being compelled to cede the steering wheel to the drunkard in the back seat loudly proclaiming that he knows how to get us there in half the time. More to the point, since our perpetual electoral cycle is now largely a matter of product recognition, advertising, and marketing strategies, we must be content often to vote for persons willing to lie to us with some regularity or, if not that, at least to speak to us evasively and insincerely. In a better, purer world—the world that cannot be—ambition would be an absolute disqualification for political authority.”David B. Hart, First Things

That’s it for me, this week. Hope you have a lovely weekend ahead – longer than usual with our Independence Day celebration on Monday. Please share any of your week’s favorites in Comments below. Thanks for reading my meanderings.

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

Flowers on a Spring Morning – Viburnum – Reminiscent of the Fresh and Fragrant Jasmine of North Africa

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There’s nothing like a Spring morning. The sun comes up and bounces light off the different flowering plants in the yard. As the birds start their wake-up singing, it’s as if the sun also turns up the fragrance of those flowers blessed with sweet scent.

Outside my kitchen window a large bush stands bare-branched all winter. By March, leaf shoots give way to soft green leaves. Then pink buds pop out, and as they open, clusters of soft white flowers unfold.2016 March - Spring Flowers - like Jasmine 004

This bush is a Viburnum. As best I can tell, it is a Viburnum carlesii ‘Aurora’ (aka Korean Spice Viburnum). There are many varieties of this flowering shrub and it grows in various spots around the world, including the Atlas Mountains of North Africa.

The flowers are lovely but the best part of this plant for me is its fragrance. It reminds me of the Jasmine flowers we enjoyed in all the countries we lived overseas (Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco).

This morning, I pushed open the backdoor of our house to enter the yard. Coffee in hand, I wanted to just experience this brightening morning. The fragrance of that flowering Viburnum carried me back across the Atlantic – to a life lovingly tucked deep in my memory.

Breathing in the scent of our flowering Viburnum takes me back to Spring mornings in North Africa – with the sun streaming early through the bedroom windows. Then as now, I started my morning early, lingering in bed with coffee (thanks always, Dave), Bible, and journal. The slightest breeze would deliver that magical scent of Jasmine. The scent of Jasmine and the sounds of morning. Birds singing. Dogs barking on the street. The sellers passing by on bikes and donkey carts calling out their wares. The traffic noise building as the minutes went by. Still…the smell of Jasmine in three countries has stayed with me all these years.jasmine by boisdejasminPhoto Credit: BoisdeJasmin

In those days, the weariness of travel was brightened by a necklace of Jasmine bought with little from a seller at the airport or on the street. We would wear these little flower strands or place them around our rear-view mirror in the car. Sometimes sellers also had mini-bouquets of Jasmine. One of these tucked in a pocket or just carried could ease a hot, troubling day. Jasmine would become my favorite flower.

Jasmine necklace at atalorder (2)Jasmine - mabellereceptionPhoto Credit: Atalorder, Pinterest

We haven’t planted Jasmine yet, but my friend Kathy, in Tennessee, has it on her deck. I can practically smell it through her pictures.Blog - Jasmine - Kathy VisneskiPhoto Credit: Kathryn Visneski

The flowers of our Viburnum won’t last long.  In fact, this one week is its glorious high season. Because of the connection it gives me to our years of Jasmine, it’s like two flowers in one. The scent of one reminding me of the other. We are doubly blessed on these flowering Spring mornings.2016 March - Spring Flowers - like Jasmine 007

How To Start a Garden – Jen Miller of Jen Reviews

5 Friday Faves Plus a Bonus – New Year, Fruit in Season, Shepherding People, Decluttering & Thrift Shops, Self-awareness, and a Playlist

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy New Year! Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot. Here are 5 plus 1 faves of this week. Hope you find them helpful and/or refreshing for your first day of 2016.

1) New Year StormsLeslie Leyland Fields wrote a fascinating piece for us as we face the New Year. She reflects on the Apostle Peter’s experience of a stormy sea and applies that to our personal storms. The One who calms storms is the same today as then.  We all hope for a fair weather year, but staying storm-ready is wisdom.Blog - Winter Storm - gull - Theo BosboomPhoto Credit: NaturePhotoBlog.com – Theo Bosboom

2009 May Trip to Scotland 276Our son Daniel in Scotland

2) Fruit in Season – When we first moved to Egypt, I was happily surprised at the long growing season of this desert nation. With irrigation from the Nile River, and the hot sunny days, we had yummy fruit for many months. Fruit that, in the US, we would have too briefly. Large luscious strawberries in December were a special treat in Egypt.Blog - Fruit in Season - Strawberries - EgyptPhoto Credit: Fresh Plaza

Mandarin season in Morocco is also very special. Ripe from the tree. Sweet and perfectly juicy. It’s mandarin season now. Happy New Year!2015 December - Phone Pics - Christmas, Delaware, Sadie, Blog 045Photo Credit: Sarah Storm

3) Shepherding People – Think of those for whom you steward leadership. Shepherding does not just apply to pastors and churches, but to parents and children, and to those in our charge in the workplace. Abraham Kuyper writes of our example of the shepherds watching their sheep on the night of Jesus’ birthday. “If the shepherds in Ephrata’s fields had not been faithfully involved in keeping watch over their flock, they would have seen nothing of that night’s brilliance, witnessed nothing of the Lord’s glory shining around them, heard no angel song, and would never have paid homage to God’s Holy Child. Doesn’t the same apply to you? The heavens still sometimes open.” It is often in the ordinary faithfulnesses of the day that we see the most extraordinary…if we keep watch.Blog - Sheep & Shepherd - bpnews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews.net

4) Decluttering & Favorite Thrift Shops – If December doesn’t drive us to look at our household clutter, January sure will. I struggle with this. Holding on to beloved books and sentimental bits of this or that. Or those precious piles of “things I may need later”. The article 200 Things to Throw Away Today was very helpful for me this week. She gives a tremendous array of things I can work with, and there is no judging. Whew! You also don’t have to “throw away” all these items because there are various avenues through which you can recycle, repurpose, or reuse (including local agencies that help house the homeless, for instance). Two of my favorite small business thrift shops in our neighborhood are 2BInspired and Nomadic Attic.

Blog - Small Business - Thrift Shop - 2 Be InspiredPhoto Credit: 2BInspired

Blog - Friday Fave - Small Business - Nomadic AtticPhoto Credit: Nomadic Attic

Decluttering: 300+ Things to Throw Away Today – City Waste Services

5) Self-Awareness – Matt Monge of The Mojo Company published a great pre-New Year article on 13 Questions to Increase Your Self-Awareness. Our default with people is to scrutinize those around us as to how they are doing life, work, relationships. Self-awareness seemed a negative thing because anything with “self” in front of the word must not be good. Right? Wrong! The questions Matt presents are so insightful. Two of my favorites were: Did I demonstrate vulnerability today? If not, why not? What is the root cause of my reluctance to do so? and Was my leadership today reflective of someone who views his role as one of a steward rather than one who views the team and organization as something to be used for my benefit?

I want to go into 2016 having done my homework such that, at least, I have looked at my own heart, thinking, and motivations…first! Don’t miss this gem of a piece before heading back to work on Monday.Blog - themojocompany.com - self-awarenessPhoto Credit: The Mojo Company

6) A Playlist – What a delight when someone else does the work of putting together a playlist. I still have some audiocassettes, from our days in Egypt, that local friends put together with our pop music favorites of that time. Mary Carver (co-author with Sarah Frankl of the new book Choose Joy) put together a playlist to take us into the New Year. Every one will make you smile, dance around, or just have a mind break to reset toward job. Enjoy!

Blog - 31 Songs of JoyPhoto Credit: GivingUpOnPerfect.com

The video below is a bonus bonus. It’s been viewed a lot, but I only saw it yesterday. It reminded me of a book I read years ago by television producer Bob Briner. In Roaring Lambs, he challenged us to use whatever profession we are in to be “culture-altering” for good. These hair stylists are sure an example of that. Lovely.

Would love you to share one of your week’s favorites. Please use the comments section. Have an amazing start to your New Year! Step by step.

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