Tag Archives: For King & Country

5 Friday Faves – A Life that Matters, Factory Tours, Early Morning Habits, Elections, and Making Place

Happy Friday, y’all. How was your week? Mine was a bit different – not bad, or anything like that…but different. More introspective (if you can imagine)…quieter… If yours was more hectic and chaotic, I hope you can take a breath this weekend, re-orient your mind and heart, and refresh with those you love.

Here are five faves for this week:

1) A Life that Matters – Author and thought leader Andy Crouch is one of my go-to guys on how to have impact on a broken world. I read his stuff and then try to see this world through a lens he offers. Photo Credit: Christianity Today

He was guest on a podcast recently that again stirred my heart toward the possibility of making this a flourishing world. A world where everyone has the opportunity to be successful. Jessica Honegger is the podcaster and she is also the founder and CEO of Noonday Collections – a fashion accessory company that partners with artisans all over the world giving them opportunities to flourish through their own work.Photo Credit: Medium, Erika Ashley

On the podcast (so worth your time), Jessica talks about how cushioned we are by the bubble wrap we pull tightly around our lives. In ripping off the bubble wrap, we can discover something of a life that matters. Andy Crouch talks about a life of pilgrimage as a way to rid ourselves of the bubble wrap:

“I try to just constantly be planning to be in places that are going to be difficult for me, that I’m not going to have a lot of competence, I’m not necessarily going to have a lot to offer, but I have a lot to learn, and I trust that…I mean, for me as a Christian, that God is there in those places, in some way is willing to meet me in those places in a way that…I suppose God is willing to meet me every day, but that I’ll never find out about unless I take those journeys. So, that’s just a habit of my life now.”

[Pilgrimage is a good place to start, and I’ve begun ever so gingerly to make that a habit. Just yesterday I discovered an Islamic Center just 2 miles from my house…just scratching the surface of knowing my part of town.]

As these two talked through the podcast, they continued to focus on lives that matter…that make a difference. Issues like bias toward action, overcoming paralyzing fear, seeing that we are all creatives (made in the image of God), and that competitiveness is a diminisher of others.

“What do I most want? It’s to know that my life mattered, it’s to know that I participated in creating something very good, that I was ultimately who I was created to be. That is the reward, and nothing else. There’s nothing else on offer, actually, than God saying, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ at the end of our lives.” – Andy Crouch

“If I Could Inspire Any Movement, It Would Be a Going Scared Movement” with Jessica Honegger – Yitzi Weiner

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

Imperfect Courage: Live a Life of Purpose by Leaving Comfort and Going Scared – Jessica Honegger

Worship Wednesday – Up and to the Right with Andy Crouch – Deb Mills

2) Factory Tours– Don’t you wonder how things are made? When I would take trips home to see my folks, we would pass by a food company ( Suzanna’s Kitchen) where the fragrance outside matched their slogan: “the cooking that takes you home”. I always wondered how you could make large quantities of food well – to be packaged and sold in grocery stores and served in restaurants.

That would make a great factory tour.

This week I had a blast from the past when a friend posted the picture below of another local favorite: Edwards Baking Company.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Marc Merlin

When I was in college, we would pass by this factory, knowing how great the pies were, and wonder what it was like inside.

Something I want to do is take my grandchildren on a few factory tours while there are still people managing most of the manufacturing. Artificial intelligence is a great thing, worthy of a look-see as well, but I’d like the grands to see actual people making all things good for us…

Fun of Factory Visit Is Off the Pie Chart – John Kessler

29 Free Factory Tours Worth Checking Out – Erin Huffstetler

3) Early Mornings – Habits of early morning are intriguing and encouraging to me (helps to be a morning person, for sure). I’ve written before about  Ben Slater’s very doable routine (from his piece 5 Simple Daily Habits That Lead to Ultimate Success). Mind you, his daily habits aren’t all early morning but they are set on a foundation of starting early. They are:

  1. Wake up early.
  2. Exercise regularly.
  3. Focus, don’t multitask.
  4. Learn from mistakes.
  5. Make personal investments.

A friend of mine, as she and her husband discover new rhythms with an empty nest, has leaned into early morning rituals. Life-giving and mind-setting habits that help to order her thinking and actions through the day. Her habits are encouraging me in my own.Photo Credit: Kathryn Visneski

In thinking about this, I came across a piece by Carey Nieuwhof which gives perspective. The habits themselves can bring on bragging rights and, with time, turn into just talk and less walk. It’s good to remember not to beat up on ourselves when we don’t start the day thusly, but take each day as a gift to begin again. Wisdom:

“In an age where most people seem to be accelerating their talk more than they’re accelerating their walk, one of the best things you can do to increase your integrity is to humble your talk and accelerate your walk.
If you simply make your talk match your walk, the gap between who you are and who you want to be becomes smaller almost instantly.”Carey Nieuwhof

[I’ve written a lot about habits – see below – mostly because of preaching to myself. :)]

Monday Morning Moment – Notes on Chris Bailey’s Life of Productivity – DebMillsWriter

Monday Morning Moment – Make Your Bed Every Morning and Be Ready to Change the World – DebMillsWriter

Monday Morning Moment – Screen Time – Give It a Rest – DebMillsWriter

Monday Morning Moment – Understanding True Habit Change and Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions – DebMillsWriter

4) Elections – We are days away from the US mid-term elections. I will be so glad when it’s done and settled and the American people have spoken. We are divided on issues, for sure. The politics of US elections aren’t anything to be proud of. Munch of the money that goes into campaigns could so be used in better ways. Too bad I didn’t save the many sleek political postcards we’ve received over the last weeks. They would have made a great pile, worthy of a fire on a cold Fall night. We are almost to election day, and the people will have their say.

I don’t usually point to political articles or interviews, out of respect to you and a desire to remain peaceable. We all have strong opinions most probably and they are better served with face-to-face dialogue. However…here goes. This week a podcast (like above) popped up on my social media feed, involving two people I didn’t know. Classical liberal Dave Rubin and libertarian Andrew Klavan.

Whatever your views, this interview meant a lot to me because it came from two persons who didn’t agree on everything but who were wholly committed to civility, dialog, and learning from each other.

My politics have shifted wildly as I’ve gotten older. I resonated with Andrew Klavan who commented: “I’m a conservative because I’m a liberal.” Pretty much sums it up for me today…awkward and uncomfortable as it is…

YouTube Video – Andrew Klavan and Dave Rubin: Left vs Right, Trump, and the Dishonest Media (Full Interview)

The A to Z of the Mid-terms – Sandra Rodriguez Chillida and Roland Hughes

5) Making Place – This is a new term for me. “Making space” is something that has been part of my chosen lifestyle for years – “making space at the table”, ” being inclusive”, “giving way”. Making place however is something much deeper.

Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community. Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value. – Project for Public Spaces

Photo Credit: Project for Public Spaces

Our city, Richmond, Virginia, has much for us to see in terms of murals, green spaces, and neighborhoods. I’m not sure how much of the placemaking has been done by those most impacted by it. It surprised me to find out that the many murals painted on the peeling walls of city building were done by outside artists. They are an art display of sorts around the city, but they don’t really seem to make place for those of us who live here.

What if we ourselves took ownership in “making place” in our neighborhoods? What would we want to add to make our own home places more welcoming, more of who we are and what we want for our children?

Photo Credit: Place/Making

Photo Credit: Urban Bio

What Is Placemaking?

There you go…would love your comments…but mostly, would love you to just pull away and be with those you love, making place together.

Bonuses:

Stranger Things Meets Classical Guitar – Beyond the Guitar – Fits this week:

Daily blogging – not there yet. Oh, I’ve written over 600 blogs but not one every day. This Seth Godin article gives me hope:

The first 1,000 are the most difficult

5 Friday Faves – Emotional Pixar Themes, Relationships, Care for the Most Vulnerable, the Question, and Reason

TV is on in the background. Watching our government come apart at the seams. Or so it seems. Here are my lightning-speed Friday Faves;

1) Emotional Pixar ThemesBeyond the Guitar posted his arrangement this week of some of the heartbreaking Pixar movie themes. Masterful music – you just don’t expect to feel sad in a children’s animated film. Still the sweetest memories of these nights at the movies. Did you see them all?

2) Relationships – I discovered a few unique articles this week on the precious, life-giving quality of relationships. One of those articles even deals with relationship-shattering divorce (I have dear friends and family who have experienced the hard of divorce. This article is for those who have had divorce thrust on them or they are considering divorce as their only recourse…at least worth the read…).

Photo Credit: AFMC

So here they are:

You Won’t Make it Alone: Five Reasons You Need Good Friends – Drew Hunter

What is a Kind Husband?  Five Characteristics of True Kindness – Douglas Wilson

To a Spouse Considering Divorce – John Piper

If you have a resource you have found affirming regarding relationships, please share in Comments.

3) Caring for the Most Vulnerable – What does it take to care for our most vulnerable neighbors? There are so many books out there with warnings about charitable giving, or help that hurts. Giving is a good thing but it’s not a complete thing. Raleigh Sadler wrote a paper that speaks to this so well: Jesus’ Invitation to Care for Our Most Vulnerable Neighbors. He addresses five ideas regarding these we long to help but don’t know how. These ideas are: Identify, Empower, Protect, Include, and Collaborate. [His article is a quick read…let him answer your questions.] Along these very lines, Embrace Richmond does training on Assets-Based Community Development. Wendy McCaig, the trainer and executive director of Embrace Richmond, guides those in the audience in learning how to do community listening.Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig

Those we want to care for are the ones we need to get to know, look them in the eye, and give ear…then we might be able to come alongside them, and together we help make their lives better.

Look for this sort of effort in your own community.

4) The Question – Nope, it’s not “Will you marry me?”

This week marked TV’s Fall Season premiers. Lots of great story-lines and ensemble casts. My favorites are law, medical, and police shows. New Amsterdam is a new program that highlights the patient care in a huge medical center with all the drama of politics and corruption affecting the patients. A new medical director, Dr. Goodwin, comes on the scene, in the first episode, and turns the status quo upside down, for the sake of those most vulnerable. Over and over, he asked the question:

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

He drew in discouraged physicians, harried nurses, and desperate patients and families with this question.

I love the question…it works magic in the workplace, in families, everywhere.

‘New Amsterdam’ Premiere Recap: How Can Dr. Goodwin Help? – Emily Longeretta

5) Reason –The Supreme Court of the United States has a vacancy. The US President nominates a candidate. The next step is for the Senate Judiciary Committee to do the heavy and serious work of examining the fitness of the candidate before releasing their name to the Senate for a vote. This is a weeks-long process.

Finally the candidate sits before the Committee to answer their questions. The Judiciary Committee is made up of 11 senators – men and women. Documents and witnesses are presented. It can be a grueling process for everyone.

Our current situation is the accusation of sexual assault by a woman who once knew the nominee. This week, she gave testimony, and the nominee gave his response. She said…he said.

Everyone in the US who cares knows the facts of this proceeding in great detail…our political bias impacts what we believe is true…whether we admit it or not. [Great article below.]

Blasey Ford-Kavanaugh Testimony Tells a tale of Two Internets – Emma Grey Ellis

Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, establishing and verifying facts, applying logic, and changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information. It is considered to be a distinguishing ability possessed by humans.

Using reason, or reasoning, can also be described more plainly as providing good, or the best, reasons. For example, when evaluating a moral decision, “morality is, at the very least, the effort to guide one’s conduct by reason—that is, doing what there are the best reasons for doing—while giving equal [and impartial] weight to the interests of all those affected by what one does.Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Watching the proceedings of this confirmation hearing was like nothing I have ever seen before. The vitriole. The partisan divide. The reckless treatment of people. The lying (there must be lying somewhere).

Whoever watched these proceedings would take one side or the other. There is no room for fence-sitting on these issues. How do we reason out what is happening here? How do we reason together when it seems people refuse to hear and try to understand the other side?

Where I would see reason, another person might see something very different…and on the flip side, I also saw something else…so damaging to the individuals interviewed this week…and to our country. God help us.

Ten Reasons to Love Thinking – Dawn Field

All that said…It’s Not Over Yet.

________________________________________________________________________

That’s the five for this week. How about you? Please share. Have a relaxing weekend…spent with people you love. Blessings!

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Karen Burnette Garner [my life-long friend Karen]

She Shaped Me: Ten Exemplars of Faith – Kelli B. Trujillo

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Worship Wednesday – In Disappointment, Peace…and Finally, Joy – a Playlist

Photo Credit: Pixabay

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.  Psalm 69:13

Yesterday morning, the doorbell rang. I saw the delivery truck in the driveway and moved quickly to retrieve what I thought was a package from a rain-drenched stoop.

It was an express letter to my mom’s estate. This was either very good news…or very bad. I have been the executor of Mom’s estate all these…16 years. Part of my responsibilities was the sale of land she owned in North Georgia. All of the properties have been sold except one. This property is a beautiful wooded piece of land in a county that is rapidly growing. This property has languished for sale all these years as the economy did the same. It would be well-suited for a 55+ community for which is currently zoned. Under contract three times, and under contract again…until yesterday.

When Mom asked me to be the executor of her estate, she held my hand and her eyes were full of pain because she knew it would be a mammoth job. Knowing me and my strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else did, she knew it would be hard for me to deal with all the intricacies of managing such a complicated affair – needing cooperation of extended family (that’s for another day).

Yesterday, the most recent buyers (a very successful development company) notified me, as executor, that they are terminating the contract. Why? They have determined “the property” does not comply with their investment criteria. These buyers had studied the land and knew all the particulars well (thanks to our wise realtor who didn’t want us to have to go through another almost-sale). Their reasoning for terminating the sale is unclear, but the condition of their hearts was. For whatever reasons, they walked away. Without apology.

[I’m still working on forgiving them. It will come.]

Sorry for all the details. The anger and disappointment about this needs to be qualified. This wasn’t a cancer diagnosis, a job loss or terrible (fill-in-the-blank) news about someone we loved.

It was about property not selling this time around. Our realtor tells us that he has already had two inquiries, while the land was under contract, and he will pursue those interested now.

For us…we deal with this disappointment in ways that will heal. We had prayed for that sale. Everything that we could see about the buyers gave us confidence that they were the ones…the ones God had sent in answer to our prayers. It would not be so.

As I read Psalm 69 this morning, verse 13 leapt off the page:

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.  Psalm 69:13

Our circumstances have changed…really, rather have not changed – we still have land that I must sell according to Mom’s will. Our circumstances have not changed after praying for years for them to change. Most importantly, God has not changed.

After being tossed a bit by anger and disappointment, I have hope again and peace…that God will show Himself mighty in this as He does in all things:

  • at an acceptable time.
  • In the abundance of His steadfast love.
  • In His saving faithfulness.

Photo Credit: Faith Spilling Over, Betsy de Cruz

On Worship Wednesdays, I usually invite you to sing with me…or worship with me, as you choose. Today I put together a playlist, sort of, on trusting (gleaned from some of the songs highlighted on past blogs). These songs have brought me joy as I hope they will you.

[If you have “trusting God” songs that calm your heart and restore joy on hard days, would you place them in the Comments below?]

Trusting Playlist

Unfinished – Mandisa

Even If – MercyMe

We Won’t Be Shaken – Building 429

In the Eye of the Storm – Ryan Stevenson

My Anchor – Christy Nockels

Shoulders – For King & Country

It is Well With My Soul – Guy Penrod

Through It All – It is Well With My Soul – Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Music

Thanks for letting me process a bit…and give vent to how faithful God is in His comfort and joy. Also, if you want to pray the property sells, that would be awesome. It is the last big part of my responsibility toward Mom’s estate, and I want to steward it well to the end…because of her.

When God Closes a Door – Betsy de Cruz

5 Friday Faves – Rey’s Theme by Beyond the Guitar, Letting Go of Expectations, Together at Christmastime, Christmas Memories, and Christmas Words

It always happens. We are halfway through December, just 10 days until Christmas, and life is in a bit of disarray. I’m way behind on John Piper’s daily Advent readings, and the only present under the tree is one given to me by a house guest. However, from another vantage point, there is still this moment to redeem and still 10 days until Christmas. Although a week has gone by without writing or posting, today will be different. Here are five of my favorite things of this week. I hope you can take a moment, with your favorite hot beverage, and just soak up what’s here. With love and blessings!

1) Rey’s Theme by Beyond the Guitar – As the much-awaited film Star Wars: The Last Jedi lights up the screen, a new arrangement by Beyond the Guitar is also posted. Rey’s Theme performed on classical guitar by Nathan Mills, surrounded by sand dunes, is lovely, both musically and visually. I’m even more ready to see the film.

STAR WARS: Rey’s Theme – Classical Guitar Cover (BeyondTheGuitar)

2) Letting Go of Expectations – Part of what makes any family tradition tricky is that family is a very fluid organism. It grows and changes, and traditions will reflect those changes. Marriage, babies, sometimes divorce and death. Work and school schedules. Altered preferences through the years. They all have an impact. The most beautiful part of family traditions is not the year-to-year repetition of treasured events or rituals – it is the people. Sometimes people get lost in the planning or pulling off of traditions through the years. Just today my friend Kathy alerted me to Suzanne Eller’s piece Don’t Make Your Grown Kids Hate Christmas. It came at an excellent time. In fact, the author could have included a byline And the Same Goes for the Parents. Being gentle with each other goes a long way. Letting go of expectations…especially when a tradition warms our hearts, and the people we love are attached to those traditions…is not easy! However, for the the sake of the relationships, we wrestle our expectations to the ground. We will refuse to be robbed of the joy meant for us in this season…that joy transcends traditions.Photo Credit: Clarity With Charity

I’m Dreaming of an Imperfect Christmas – How to Release Holiday Expectations – Clarity With Charity

Be Kind – Ken Sande

3) Together at Christmas –  When Christmas morning dawns this year, it will be just Dave and me. We will have had our kids all together two days prior. Our youngest works Christmas Day, and when he gets off, we will have dinner together and then it’s off to see Dave’s parents and extended family later in the week.

At first, my heart went to ache right off, thinking of a too-quiet Christmas morning. Now, I am settled. This month like so many Decembers has filled up with hectic, and quiet was way elusive. Maybe this Christmas morning, in the seeming too quiet, we will find what all month we’ve longed for…like Mary and Joseph, alone in that stable, we will welcome the Christ child.

Beyond that sweetness?

Still looking forward to all the laughter, familiarity, beauty and noise of being together with family at Christmastime. Amy Grant’s song To Be Together says it perfectly.

Looking back, early in our marriage, we were states away from both sets of parents. We made that young couple decision of not traveling with little ones on Christmas and our parents were kind to do the traveling. As the time for their arrival got close, our kids would stand like little soldiers, pressed against the living room window, watching the street for their grandparents. As they got older, both the children and the grands, we did more of the traveling. Little compares with that long-awaited reunion with our family.

Ever how imperfect our family situations may be, there is profound hope and love in our continued showing up, no matter what. I love that about Christmas. That opportunity. That possibility.

4) Christmas Memories – The memories are part of the legacy of those family traditions and coming together whenever we can. I’m thankful for memories of my own childhood with parents who loved us generously. Even with limited resources, they made Christmas magical. When their faith in God was rekindled, they reconnected with church, and us with them. We discovered in that community what really makes Christmas worth celebrating. The birth of the promised Savior.  What was once magical became both mysterious and miraculous. All through the years, the wonder of Christmas has multiplied for me.

Last Christmas, our Dad died. Fourteen years prior to that, our Mom.

The memories of all our times together seem to blossom especially at Christmas…like Dave’s mom’s cactus. So thankful.

5) Christmas Words – Every year we watch the short film A Charlie Brown Christmas. In it, Linus explains to Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about:

Simple and profound…taken straight out of Scripture (Luke 2:8-14).

You can be sure I love words. In fact, I will even risk difficult to hear words over silence.  Quiet is appropriate at times, but neglecting to speak when words could make a difference is just wrong. Even when we don’t know what to say…I think people will understand our hearts when our words don’t quite hit the mark. What do you think?

On my computer, there’s a folder entitled Christmas Blessings – quotes I’ve collected over the years. Below are a sample (all these I originally found in Good Reads). Hope these words bless you as they do me.

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” ― Sigrid Undset

“The reality of loving God is loving him like he’s a Superhero who actually saved you from stuff rather than a Santa Claus who merely gave you some stuff.” ― Criss Jami, Killosophy

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”
Eric Sevareid

“Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weaknesses and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and to ask yourself if you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open? Are you willing to do these things for a day? Then you are ready to keep Christmas!” ― Henry Van Dyke

“What’s special about a story if I could have thought it up? What’s special about a story if I was actually courageous enough to play a part in it? What’s special about the Christmas story is that I am incapable of doing either but God did both.”
Craig D. Lounsbrough

“Odd that a festival to celebrate the most austere of births should end up being all about conspicuous consumption.”
Jeanette Winterson, Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days

“But I don’t like it, okay? I don’t like how everything is changing. It’s like when you’re a kid, you think that things like the holidays are meant to show you how things always stay the same, how you have the same celebration year after year, and that’s why it’s so special. But the older you get, the more you realize that, yes, there are all these things that link you to the past, and you’re using the same words and singing the same songs that have always been there for you, but each time, things have shifted, and you have to deal with that shift. Because maybe you don’t notice it every single day. Maybe it’s only on days like today that you notice it a lot. And I know I’m supposed to be able to deal with that, but I’m not sure I can deal with that.” ― David Levithan, The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily

“What images do I associate with the Christmas music as I see them set forth on the Christmas Tree?… An angel, speaking to a group of shepherds in a field; some travelers, with eyes uplifted, following a star; a baby in a manger; a child in a spacious temple, talking with grave men; a solemn figure, with a mild and beautiful face, raising a dead girl by the hand; again, near a city gate, calling back the son of a widow, on his bier, to life; a crowd of people looking through the opened roof of a chamber where he sits, and letting down a sick person on a bed, with ropes; the same, in a tempest, walking on the water to a ship; again, on a sea-shore, teaching a great multitude; again, with a child upon his knee, and other children round; again, restoring sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf, health to the sick, strength to the lame, knowledge to the ignorant; again, dying upon a cross, watched by armed soldiers, a thick darkness coming on, the earth beginning to shake, and only one voice head. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Tree

Quotes About Christmas – Good Reads

Bonuses:

Gut Check Podcast – A podcast like no other – with Ted Kluck and Zach Bartles

Life On the Other Side – The Humbled Homemaker – Erin Odom

The Brain Benefits of Your Child’s Dinosaur Obsession – Kate Morgan

Worship Wednesday – O God Forgive Us – For King & Country

Photo Credit: Vimeo

“You should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts [our sins],
as we also have forgiven our debtors [those who have sinned against us].
And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.'” – Jesus (Matthew 6:9-13)

Some things we will never make sense of…this side of Heaven.

The news every day has its fallout in our lives. It injects numbness into our hearts and minds. We just can’t comprehend what is going on around us sometimes.

We want to bring sense to bear on senselessness. To be able to blame someone. Or some natural force. Or we want to blame God.

Earlier this week, an unbelievable massacre took place in Las Vegas, Nevada. One gunman in his 60s rained down terror on an open field where thousands watched a concert. In a matter of 10 or so minutes, 50+ persons were killed and over 500 persons were injured.

Motives may be uncovered in future days. For now, all we know is the perpetrator fired at will on individuals he had no way of knowing. Random. Premeditated. Thoughtless. Evil.

We can’t make sense of such a thing.

For now, we pray for those families of the victims. We pray for those still in critical condition and for those recovering from their wounds. We thank God for first responders and for all those concert-goers who reached out to help others get to safety or to medical care. We also pray for our country to heal after another hard thing.

Besides praying, we also give blood and give other resources to help those in need.

What we cannot do…what we must refuse to do is to grow more numb to the brokenness of our world.

Jesus’ followers were in close proximity to him. They watched him do life. They saw him pull away alone to pray – to fortify himself for what he faced each day…and for what he would face before it was all over.

They asked him about this prayer thing he did so often and so deeply. I can’t even imagine what life must have been like for Jesus spending those years here on earth. How God was able to be both God and man at once can’t even be answered for us; our minds can’t hold such understanding. Yet, Jesus stole away often to linger with the Father; to counsel with Him; to be nourished by Him.

When he taught us how to pray, he gave a model which included the directive: forgive us our debts [our sins], as we also have forgiven our debtors [those who have sinned against us].

Our world is rocked with evil…people choosing self over others, even to the point of neglect, betrayal, and violence.

Still…there is hope. God is not finished us yet. He has not forsaken us.

Nor are we meant to forsake each other.

The gunman above is dead. We can only speculate what happened to that man to plan out and execute such incomprehensible acts.

What we know is our own hearts…well, even our own hearts we can’t fully know (Jeremiah 17:9). Still we do know we are desperate to make sense of life and to pursue true community, real love and peace.

The band For King & Country (with the help of hip-hop artist KB) put out a single “O God Forgive Us“.Photo Credit: Flickr; Rapzilla

In the video interpretation of the song, we see the three principal singers with “younger versions of themselves”. Scenes are projected in front of the little ones – scenes of wrongs done in this world. A tear trickled down the cheek of one little boy. The message is that we all perpetrate wrongs against one another…and against God. We all need God’s forgiveness and to forgive ourselves and each other.

It may take us awhile to forgive this man who killed and injured so many. We may fall to fear and wonder is anywhere safe. However, what will probably happen is that we will forget. The screen of our memory will refresh to the news of the next day and the next. Numbness settles in, deeper and deeper.

In times like these, we are tempted to circle up and seek for safety and security within our own self-prescribed perimeter of comfort.

However…

We do not want to fall victim ourselves, as the songwriters warn, to doubt, uncertainty, unbelief…

No. Let us have the courage as Christ-followers to reach out, crossing whatever boundaries that separate us; to love each other as Jesus commanded us. It starts with the forgiveness God gives us which empowers us to forgive others.

Worship with me [music in link].

We’ve prayed the prayer with no reply
Words float off into the night
Couldn’t cut our doubt with the sharpest knife
O, O God forgive us
Silence isn’t comfortable
We want drive-through peace and instant hope
Our shallow faith it has left us broke
O, O God forgive us
O, O God forgive us

A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us

Young and old, black and white
Rich and poor, there’s no divide
Hear the mighty, hear the powerless, singing
O God forgive us
O God forgive us

A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us

[Spoken word – KB]Photo Credit: Rapzilla

Forgive us
Yes we have ignored you
So busy doing your work
That we forgot that this was
For
You

Arms wide to our homeless Savior
But arms crossed to our homeless neighbor
On bended knee
Unite us all
Set us free

With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide

O, O God forgive us
A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us.

Run wild. To risk everything. To hold nothing back.
To lay it all on the line: your reputation, your success, your comfort.
It’s that moment when fear is overcome by faith. Live free.
It’s not the liberty to do whatever you want whenever and wherever you want,
But rather it’s living in accordance with the author of humanity
And finding freedom by connecting with the creator who conceived you.
Let the light flood into your eyes for the first time.
Feeling the blood course through your veins, finding the truest version of yourself
By knowing the one who knows you even better than you know yourself.
Love strong. Because you were first loved. Because without love we all perish.
Because the earth and the stars can and will pass away, but love, love will always remain*

*Lyrics & Quote – Behind the Song: for KING & COUNTRY Shares the Heart Behind Their Single “O God Forgive Us (feat. KB)

Forgiveness – The Lord’s Prayer – an Eight-part Series Exploring Its Meaning Line by Line – Bill Kolb

Worship Wednesday – Only God’s Shoulders Are Big Enough – Shoulders – for King & Country

Blog - Shoulders - 2Photo Credit: YouTube

[Adapted from the Archives]

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills–From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.”Psalm 121

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:28-29

[After several days of grieving over a series of events meant to divide our country right now and a natural disaster and national catastrophe across the ocean, I needed the reminder that our shoulders are not strong enough to bear these burdens…only God’s shoulders can carry us through all our days.]

There are wonderful and terrible things in this life I do not understand. The cycles of seasons. The next breath. The birth of a baby. The death of a young mother. A world crumbling under the weight of its own sin. At the same time, a world still sustaining life in exquisite beauty in the face of centuries of war. How is all this possible?

We are carried. By a God who loves us, comes alongside us, and lifts us up out of the muck and mire of our troubles. He shoulders our burdens. I am daily grateful to Him for that, because our shoulders are too small and weak for the task. Even when I don’t see God in a situation, I know, by faith and by experience, that He is present. How would we bear the wonders without Someone to praise for them? How would we bear the deep wrongs of this world without knowing, deep in our hearts, that He carries us?

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Some of you go forth to your daily labors and you find the place of your service to be a real wilderness, full of trial and everything that is unpleasant to you. Yet look again, with eyes touched with Heaven’s eye-salve and, instead of seeing the bitter poverty, and the grinding toil, and the daily trial, you will begin to see that God is in it all and, ‘underneath are the everlasting arms!’ You shall go cheerfully home to Heaven, borne up by God. He who made you will carry you! He who loves you will bear you all the days of old till you shall come unto the Mountain of God and stand in your lot at the end of the days!”*

Luke and Joel Smallbone, of the group for King & Country, write so honestly about the Shoulders of God. The writing comes out of their personal experience of both a life-threatening illness and the birth of a child. It’s no longer a new song, but it draws me back to the truth of what is most real in our lives. Watch their video linked below which visually tells stories some of which we have also experienced. Thankful for these guys who help me to worship God as He is. Strong and true.

Worship with me:

When confusion’s my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near
When I’m caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I’ll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

CHORUS
My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

My help is from You
Don’t have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don’t have to see it, ‘cause I know, ‘cause I know it’s true.**

Blog - Shoulders - for King & CountryPhoto Credit: www.forkingandcountry.com

A Kingdom Agenda Strategy for Community Transformation – Tony Evans

Baptist Global Response

*The Everlasting Arms by Charles Spurgeon

YouTube Video (Lyrics) – Shoulders – for King & Country

YouTube Video – Shoulders – for King & Country – Official Video

YouTube Video – Shoulders Live on K-Love with For King & Country

See It First: Go Behind the Scenes of For King & Country’s Powerful Video, ‘Shoulders

**K-Love – Lyrics to Shoulders by songwriters Luke Smallbone, Joel Smallbone, Ben Glover, Tedd Tjornhom

Story Behind the Song – Shoulders – NewReleaseTuesday.com Interview with Luke Smallbone

For Hope: Luke Smallbone Finds Grace in the Darkness

Worship Wednesday – Fight Through, Then Rest, & Remember – It’s Not Over Yet – For King & Country

Blog - It's Not Over Yet - youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil, for You are with me…” – Psalm 23:4

We really never know what another person is going through. Just last night, I was attending a concert where my musician son‘s 7th and 8th grade students were playing their guitar pieces. During a different group’s performance, my attention was drawn to my cell phone. Exchanging texts with my sister-in-law about my dad. He’s not doing well, and she was updating me on how he was last night. This unfortunately might have been a distraction to parents around me, wondering why I couldn’t just leave my cell phone in my purse. I have thought the same myself at other times. If these only knew…

It’s tricky for me to try to give a blast of encouragement through this written word…to you. I don’t know the depth of your situation…some of you I don’t know at all. Forgive me for anything that comes across to you as judging what you’re going through, without knowing really. Judging is not where I am at all…I want to somehow join you in your battle. God strengthens us in our own battles as we stand alongside each other.

It’s clear that battles rage in our lives. For me, there is my dad who suffers from Alzheimer’s and a smoldering cancer, and I live states away. Fortunately, he is under the watchful eye of family very nearby – family who loves him and intervenes for him. There are other circumstances that darken my thoughts and disturb sleep…like you, it’s probably never just one thing, is it?

What keeps me taking the next step, and staying engaged, and pressing into life is God and his love for and presence with us. As much as some, even friends of mine, may think, He is not a fairy tale or an imaginary friend. Every breath…every single breath…I owe to Him. He is as real to me as anything in this life…both the wonderful and the wretched stuff of this life…He pierces through all of that, especially when I’m embattled by some terrible burden. Even in His silence, I know He is near…because He says He is, and His grace in that moment gives evidence.

I would not trivialize those terrifying moments when we have seemingly lost the battle…when we feel we can’t go on…or don’t even know where to go if we pressed forward. All I know is that when those times have been my experience, across this lengthening life of mine…He is there with us, and He will fight our battles for us if we cling to Him.

Visual art helps me sometimes when a volume of words is beyond my grasping, especially in low times. A print of the painting (below left) hung in my older brother’s room, during some dark nights of soul for him. He was the sort who would toss such a thing in the back of his closet if it didn’t help…the truth that God doesn’t forget us may have been the last thing he gripped in those times of depression. The image on the right (below) is a strong reminder that God has promised us in many passages in His Word, that He will not let go of His children. Never!

Blog - God will not forget usBlog - God will never let go - Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Pinterest

That “not letting go” is something I know intimately about being a child of God. In my 20’s especially, I pretty much let go of God. Trying to pursue relationships and dreams that had little to do with Him and much to do with my own destruction. He never let go of me through all of that.BLog - God will hold us - Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

For King & Country, a band of Christians, understands this God who gives us hope. They’ve recently released a song It’s Not Over Yet, which encourages me. They wrote this song out of their own experiences of hardship and illness in their personal lives. It’s so real, and it’s so true.

Worship with me…and remember that God holds both our present and our future in strong and capable hands. He holds us. There is an evil in this world that tries to beat us down and whispers in our thoughts (sometimes using our own voice, really) to quit, give up, don’t keep fighting. This is where we must fight through – for ourselves and each other – and rest in God who loves us completely.

They are inside your head
You got a voice that says
You won’t get past this one
You won’t win your freedom

It’s like a constant war
And you wanna settle a score
But you’re bruised and beaten
And you feel defeated

This goes out to the heaviest hearts

(Chorus)
Oh, to everyone who’s hit their limit
It’s not over yet, it’s not over yet
And even when you think you’re finished
It’s not over yet, it’s not over yet
Keep on fighting
Out of the dark, into the light, it’s not over
Hope is rising
Never give in, never give up, it’s not over
Yet, whoa, yet, whoa

Game, set, match
Time to put it in your past
Feel the winter leaving
It’s redemption season
Long live the young at heart
Cheers to a brand new start
We’re revived and breathing
To live a life of freedom

Until the kingdom comes
We’ll run till the race is won
Don’t you ever give up
No, no never give up
Until the kingdom comes
We’ll run till the race is won
Don’t you ever give up
We will never give up*

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song It’s Not Over Yet

*Lyrics to It’s Not Over Yet – Written by Luke Smallbone, Joel Smallbone, Ben Glover/, Tedd Tjornhom and Kyle Rictor

5 Comforting Verses for When You Feel Weak – Michelle Lindsey

Worship Wednesday – Shoulders – For King & Country

For King & Country

Worship Wednesday – Winter Jam – a Worship Fest

Blog - Winter Jam - the pncarenaPhoto Credit: PNC Arena

It is good to give thanks to the LORD and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your loving kindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night. Psalm 92:1-2

Concerts in large venues with thousands of people aren’t really my idea of a good time. Way too many people, music so loud I can feel it in my chest (that can’t be healthy), and expensive tickets. Just too many obstacles to a sweet musical experience. Then a few years ago, while our family lived in Morocco, we attended a weekend concert event called Friendship Fest. Blog - Friendship Fest 2

It was amazing to stand in this huge crowd of Moroccans and others (us being among the others), listening to bands we loved and bands we would love afterwards.

I haven’t been to such an event since then, but now I’m rethinking this…especially after seeing the concert film highlighting the Winter Jam Tour Spectacular.

Winter Jam is an enormous production of Christian bands and solo artists who tour together, providing a raucous, joyful evening of music and worship. Winter Jam has been around since 1995 when first started by NewSong with the goal of bringing Christian music (and the Gospel message) to a wider audience. They did this through using larger venues and dropping ticket/admission prices to a voluntary donation.Blog - Winter jam - NewSongPhoto Credit: Winter Jam Tour 2016

It worked.

Even today, thanks to a large host of national partners/sponsors, the Winter Jam Tour is still very affordable ($10 donation).

Some of my favorite artists were in this year’s Winter Jam Tour – David Crowder, Matthew West, and For King & Country. Blog - Winter jam - David CrowderBlog - Winter Jam - Matthew WestBlog - Winter Jam - For King & CountryPhoto Credit: Winter Jam Tour

Winter Jam is not just a concert…it’s a worship fest. Somehow I have missed being aware of this tour, but after seeing the film, I hope to go next time…clearly it’s not just an event to attend, but to experience God within.

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Going Deeper with Jesus – Winter Jam

Worship Wednesday – Shoulders – for King & Country

Blog - Shoulders - 2

From the Archives – Don’t miss their Priceless/WinterJam tour Fall 2015I also wrote about For King & Country’s songs here and here.

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills–From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” – Psalm 121

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-29

There are wonderful and terrible things in this life I do not understand. The cycles of seasons. The next breath. The birth of a baby. The death of a young mother. A world crumbling under the weight of its own sin. At the same time, a world still sustaining life in exquisite beauty in the face of centuries of war. How is all this possible?

We are carried. By a God who loves us, comes alongside us, and lifts us up out of the muck and mire of our troubles. He shoulders our burdens. I am daily grateful to Him for that, because my shoulders are too small and weak for the task. Even when I don’t see God in a situation, I know, by faith and by experience, that He is present. How would we bear the wonders without Someone to praise for them? How would we bear the wrongs of this world without knowing, deep in our hearts, that He carries us?

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Some of you go forth to your daily labors and you find the place of your service to be a real wilderness, full of trial and everything that is unpleasant to you. Yet look again, with eyes touched with Heaven’s eye-salve and, instead of seeing the bitter poverty, and the grinding toil, and the daily trial, you will begin to see that God is in it all and, “underneath are the everlasting arms!” You shall go cheerfully home to Heaven, borne up by God. He who made you will carry you! He who loves you will bear you all the days of old till you shall come unto the Mountain of God and stand in your lot at the end of the days!”*

Luke and Joel Smallbone, of the group for King & Country, write so honestly about the Shoulders of God. The writing comes out of their personal experience of both a life-threatening illness and the birth of a child. Watch their video linked below which visually tells stories some of which we have also experienced. Thankful for these guys who help me to worship God as He is. Strong and true.

Worship with me:

When confusion’s my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near
When I’m caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I’ll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

CHORUS
My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

My help is from You
Don’t have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don’t have to see it, ‘cause I know, ‘cause I know it’s true.**

Blog - Shoulders - for King & Country

*The Everlasting Arms by Charles Spurgeon

YouTube Video (Lyrics) – Shoulders – for King & Country

YouTube Video – Shoulders – for King & Country – Official Video

YouTube Video – Shoulders Live on K-Love with For King & Country

See It First: Go Behind the Scenes of For King & Country’s Powerful Video, ‘Shoulders

**K-Love – Lyrics to Shoulders by songwriters Luke Smallbone, Joel Smallbone, Ben Glover, Tedd Tjornhom

Story Behind the Song – Shoulders – NewReleaseTuesday.com Interview with Luke Smallbone

For Hope: Luke Smallbone Finds Grace in the Darkness

Bio Page – for King & Country

Rebecca St. James – singer, songwriter, author, and sister to Joel and Luke Small bone

Photo Credits: YouTube and www.forkingandcountry.ccom website

Hello, Goodbye, Hello – This Time It’s Stella

2015 July Phone Pics - Flowers, Blog, Stella, Shyndigz, Christie 001 (242)

The packed, weighed-to-the-pound bags stand like soldiers in the pre-dawn morning. We have been the travelers or have sent off travelers more times than I can count. This time it’s Stella.2015 July Stella Going-Away Party 010 (2)

Hello. We met Stella, a Chinese student at Virginia Commonwealth University, three Novembers ago at the International Student Thanksgiving Dinner on the VCU campus. We were table hosts, among many other Americans sponsoring students for dinner that evening. She, her Japanese friend Junko, and another student from the Congo, Gloria, were our guests (and soon-to-be-friends).Football with Junko, Stella, GLoria

After that, we shared many other local (American and international) customs and events. A high school football game. Food at all sorts of Richmond restaurants. Tacky Lights Tour. Christmas. Birthdays. Sleep-Overs. Graduations.

Having lived overseas ourselves, we are so thankful for the deep friendships we’ve known in those places. We hoped to be that kind of friend to these precious girls. As always, we received back much more than we gave.

Goodbye. The three years since meeting Stella flew by, as time does. She graduated this May from VCU with an accounting degree. This summer she plowed through the exams for a CPA. I am so proud of her. This beautiful, smart girl. How hard she worked. What joy we shared over her successes! She waits now for the results on the last sections…and she says her goodbyes…for now.

2015 July Stella & Friends2015 July Stella Going-Away Party 014 (2)

When you leave one life and return to another, there are massive amounts of details to manage. This last day of her stay in the US was, of course, such a day. I was the driver, and she ticked stuff off her list, including all the last’s of closing down an apartment and distributing stuff to saying goodbye’s to friends. Including one who’s having a baby in the next few days. Those goodbyes are hard for all of us – the just-not-quite-long-enough stays for all the hellos we want to say.

2015 July Phone Pics - Flowers, Blog, Stella, Shyndigz, Christie 001 (194)2015 July Phone Pics - Flowers, Blog, Stella, Shyndigz, Christie 001 (217)

One of our favorite places to go (Stella, Junko, Gloria, and me) was Shyndigz – an unbelievably fun and yummy dessert restaurant in town. Shyndigz with Junko, Stella, & GLoria

Stella and I celebrated her finishing up closing down life here with a visit there. Stella’s favorite is the Nutella cake, but alas it wasn’t on the menu. We managed a close-second in the chocolate salted caramel cake (shown below – blogging on Shyndigz soon).

Shyndigz chocolated salted caramel cakeShyndigz Chocolate Salted Caramel Cake – Foodspotting.com

We grabbed that piece of cake at Shyndigz 2Go, to eat later, and made one last food memory at a restaurant where she’d never been before. Cracker Barrel.

2015 July Phone Pics - Flowers, Blog, Stella, Shyndigz, Christie 001 (221)2015 July Phone Pics - Flowers, Blog, Stella, Shyndigz, Christie 001 (226)

 We didn’t eat the whole time we spent time together these three years, but we tried! Food sure has its place in friendship. That’s what Stella is looking forward to most in returning to China – the food. I remember, myself, the amazing food-with-friends experiences we had living in North Africa. Such sweet and satisfying memories.

Hello. This morning, riding east toward the airport with Stella and her bags, was beautiful. The sky came alive with the sun’s rising in deep pinks and oranges. It’s going to be a good day…even as Stella leaves us for now, and says Hello again to her family, friends, and life in China.2015 July Phone Pics - Flowers, Blog, Stella, Shyndigz, Christie 001 (314)2015 July Phone Pics - Flowers, Blog, Stella, Shyndigz, Christie 001 (310)We will meet again, Dear Friend. The Hellos are worth the heartache in the Goodbyes. God be with you until we meet again – either here, or there…2015 July Phone Pics - Flowers, Blog, Stella, Shyndigz, Christie 001 (316)

Postscript: “I know that You are near” – the line of song that came on when I started my car, leaving Stella and feeling sad. God is kind.