Tag Archives: grief

5 Friday Faves – Best Of’s – Building a Great Organizational Culture, Naming Our Grief, Habits of Mentally Strong People, Book of Opposites, and the Story of God for Postmoderns

[Not much time this week for discovering or writing – here are some of my favorite faves, going  back a ways.]

1) Building a Great Organizational Culture – a Podcast – 5 Leadership Questions about Building a Great Organizational Culture – This is a great conversation between Barnabas Piper, Todd Adkins, and Eric Geiger on organizational culture. They define culture as “shared values beneath the surface that drive behavior”. Aspirational values (what takes place on the wall) are distinguished from actual values (what takes place in the hall). What is your workplace culture? “We don’t treat people like that here”. Like what? What culture do you have or hope to build?Blog - Organizational Culture - slideshare.netPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

Also see Organizational Culture and Climate – SlideShare.

2) Naming our Grief – Grief always has a name and naming our grief helps us to heal. Having lived overseas for many years, we understand “Hellos-Goodbyes-Hellos” – both the sorrows and the joys of them. As the years go by, we experience job changes, relocations of friends and family, and deaths of loved ones. This November will be the 17th anniversary of my Mom’s Homegoing, and every day I still think of her. That grief definitely has a name. Sometimes grief feels more vague, like a sadness with a cloudy source.

When I found this piece Because Grief Has a Name by Abby Alleman, it touched my heart. She says it well:

“Naming grief is our heart acknowledging its significance and place in our lives. In this way, grief is a friend, like Sadness from the movie Inside Out. Photo Credit: Aepadillablog

It teaches us the shape of our own unique story and guides us to tastes of the ‘fullness of joy’ found in God’s presence. Acknowledging and entering grief also guards our hearts from the calcifying effects of the denial of pain, hurt or loss. Instead of resentment, bitterness or hatred, we get healing, strength and hope. We also become those who grieve well with others. This is a true gift.” – Abby Alleman

3) Critical Habits of Mentally Strong People Travis Bradberry published a super helpful article on mental toughness. He lists 15 critical habits of mentally strong people. Take a minute to go to this article for some quick, clear counsel on building up your mental muscle. – not just for work, also for anything where mental toughness (not hardness) would help.Blog - Friday Faves - Habits of Mentally Strong People - slideshare.netPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

4) Book of Opposites Jennifer Kahnweiler has written a fascinating book on Introversion-Extroversion. The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together. My  husband is a  introvert  and I am an extrovert. We have been married 35 years and have worked together many of those years. We have learned a lot of Kahnweiler’s wisdom on our own…and after quite a few years of struggle. This book is very helpful and empowering for any partnership between introverts and extroverts.

Blog - Friday Faves - Genius of Opposites

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Skip Pritchard wrote a great review here.Genius-card-front-1Photo Credit: SkipPritchard.com

5) The Story of God for Postmoderns – How would you answer the question, “What is the Bible all about?” If you were to prepare an answer of this question for a Post-modern, you might be disappointed. A true post-modern is probably not going to ask you that question. However, what if our friends could get hold of the idea that the Bible is not just a grand story that Christians have concocted? The Bible, in truth, is a winsomely unified story God actually tells about Himself from the first page to the last. Dr. David Teague, in the article, The Biblical Metanarrative, lays out the clearest explanation I’ve ever read of the Story of God – of how the Bible is God’s own revelation of Himself to His people. Don’t miss this gem.Blog - Friday faves - Peanuts & Postmoderns

Photo Credit: Peanuts, ParkingSpace23.com

Bonus: Phenomenal Classical Guitarist – This guy. Nathan Mills – related to us? Nathan at guitarPhoto Credit: Duy Nguyen

Yes. I get to be Mom to this amazing young man… Because we are related and it’s not always comfortable for him how effusive I am about his music…I restrain myself. Unsuccessfully. Right now, he’s fairly new to that larger world of music, but he’s playing, teaching, arranging, and composing. One day, you will know him if you don’t already… Mark it down.

A video from his early days with Nathan Mills Guitar:

…and his latest arrangement (June 2019) on his Beyond the Guitar YouTube channel:

 

Worship Wednesday – Though You Slay Me – Shane & Shane

Photo Credit: Beth Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Songs in the Night – Sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shane & Shane (Shane Barnard and Shane Everett)

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

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

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

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

Songs in the Night – Sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon

Worship Wednesday – MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine” – My Story About This Song

Photo Credit: New Release Today

The film I Can Only Imagine debuted in the Spring of this year. It’s the story of how a young man, Bart Millard, came to compose one of the most beautiful poignant songs written in recent years.

Millard is the lead singer for the Christian band MercyMe. The song I Can Only Imagine was inspired by his own faith walk and the death of his father to cancer. The lyrics express the wonder at what Heaven will be like for us when our time comes. Photo Credit: To Save a Life

The film featuring this song chronicles Millard’s early life with an angry, abusive father. Bart hated his father, and although he was sure God could forgive his father, Bart believed he himself never would.

Bart Millard: ‘I Can Only Imagine’ Was Born From a Life of Abuse – Jenny Rapson

It is a powerful story that resonates with many of us. My biological father (not this Dad) wasn’t physically violent toward me but he was emotionally abusive in his neglect and indifference toward us four children. Our older brother may have experienced worse abuse from our dad but he never talked about it. What makes me wonder is how angry he was as an adult. My brother died a few years ago, finally beginning to heal out of decades of bitterness and rage…just before he died.

This song and film, birthed out of a childhood marred by violence, remind me of how good God is and how He works healing even in the worst of situations.

My mom loved this song. I didn’t know its significance to her until right before her death in 2002. We were living overseas the year the song came out (2001, and I don’t remember even hearing it until Mom asked a friend to sing it for her, just days before she died. After her funeral, as we returned to “normal”, it seemed I heard that song every day for months. It had become wildly popular, winning two GMA Dove awards, and successfully crossing over to pop/country charts. That connection with her, day in and day out, helped me to grieve and heal the loss of the woman I loved most in the world. . Imagining her life in Heaven was very good for me…then and now.

Years later, when my older brother died, I heard the song again in an odd situation. We were visiting Dad, in the house where I grew up. My brother lived with them for many years, and I went into his bedroom. He had been gone for a few weeks at that time. There was an old-timey, pale blue box radio in the bathroom he used. I switched it on just to see what station he listened to. It was a Christian station which was strange because, although he was a Christian, he wasn’t into “churchy stuff”. The song that was playing when I turned on that radio was “I Can Only Imagine”. There…in a sacred moment, missing my brother, the Lord comforted me again…with this amazing song…and message.

Worship with me please.

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine

Yeah

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine when that day comes
And I find myself standing in the sun
I can only imagine when all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you
I can only imagine, yeah
I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you

I can only imagine*

Just this week, I saw the film for the first time…in the living room, lights dimmed, with sweet family. Some in my close circle of family and friends don’t rush to watch “Christian” films because, they say, they are too amateurish and trite. Not this one. Beautifully filmed, raw dialogue between Bart and his father, layer upon layer of brokenness. Then…the miracle of healing. Of God piercing through the pain and bringing beauty out of ugliness. Reconciling…first with Him…and then with each other.

See the film. Listen to Bart sing his own story of wondering about Heaven…and then let all that settle around you as it has me so many times…just the thought of what Heaven will be like…seeing my Mom again…my brother…others who have gone ahead…and especially the God of this universe…the One who saved me…the One who saved Bart’s Dad and Bart, and then the One gave Bart grace to forgive.

*Lyrics to I Can Only Imagine Written by Bart Millard

YouTube Video – Bart Millard Reveals the Origin of His Biggest Hit “I Can Only Imagine” – Huckabee

YouTube Video – I Can Only Imagine – “Forgiveness” Scene

YouTube Video – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe

Worship Wednesday – Fear Is a Liar – Zach Williams

Photo Credit: Flickr, Lisa Hall-Wilson

Now this is what the LORD says–the one who created you, Jacob, and the one who formed you, Israel–“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine.”  Isaiah 43:1

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.  2 Timothy 1:7

There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear.1 John 4:18a

“If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32

When we, or people we love, come under an attack of some sort, we respond. Always. Two physiological responses may immediately come to mind. We fight or fear (literally fleeing or just in our head). That fight or flight response is much researched and well-documented. My default is flight…in fear. If I have to, especially for the sake of my children or others needing help, I would fight, but fear would be part of that battle.

I too often go to fear. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you go to fight. Either one can be used in ways by our enemy to keep us from a third response. That being collecting our thoughts around what is true and acting in a way that gives space for God to fight for us. That does not mean we won’t be physically removed from a fight (to protect or for justice or mercy’s sake). Nor does it mean that we won’t be tempted to fear. The big however is that we are not defeated already by believing fear’s lies or by unleashing fury that hurts in its own right.

When I heard Zach Williams’ song Fear Is a Liar, the lyrics drew me in immediately. I knew that experience. That experience of fear being a voice in my head, telling me things that simply were not true…but sounded true. Paralyzing me when God means for me to be free. I am free in Him. Fear picks us up to throw us down somewhere dark and outside of who we really are. Fear is a liar…and is generated by the “father of lies”. At first, I struggled with the personification of fear in this song…but more and more, it is like battling with Satan himself, or one of his minions. The truth is that “greater is he (God) in me, than he (the evil one) in this world”. Photo Credit: Flickr, Artem Popov

My Mom and I, through the years, would often quote 2 Timothy 1:7 to each other. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” We both struggled with fear and needed to remind each other of the truth. Dave has often helped me come back to my senses with just the two-word imperative: “Pull up”. When we struggle with fear, our thoughts can grow more and more terrifying and send us on a deep dive, spiraling out of control. Just the reminder to “pull up” would spark my returning to remember what is true.

Those of us who fear need people in our lives who remind of us of the truth and the God of truth. Not in a platitudinous way. But in a way that wraps around us, stays with us, loves us through it. Who are your people?

[Sidebar: For those of you who default to fight or fury…the wisdom is the same. Return to what is true, what is full of love, what is genuine power. Being “wise as serpents and gentle as doves” is not weakness; it is a right response that gives space for God to act.]

Worship with me and cancel the fear with the truth of God. Extinguish its darkness with the light of the perfect love of Jesus.

When he told you you’re not good enough
When he told you you’re not right
When he told you you’re not strong enough
To put up a good fight
When he told you you’re not worthy
When he told you you’re not loved
When he told you you’re not beautiful
That you’ll never be enough

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar

When he told you were troubled
You’ll forever be alone
When he told you you should run away
You’ll never find a home
When he told you you were dirty
And you should be ashamed
When he told you you could be the one
That grace could never change

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar

Let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar*

Fear does not die easily. Often I have to pray myself out of fear before sleep at night, and praise my way out of picking it back up in the morning. This is after a lifetime of battling with fear. However, there is nothing sweeter…nothing…than knowing that God’s got this. Whatever “this” is. We live in a world full of scary and confusing struggle. We can’t see yet how it will all come out or what is happening in the unseen. Trusting God with what frightens and acting accordingly is how we deal with the struggle. We don’t retreat…but we don’t go it alone. That gives me joy, and I will not to be afraid.

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

*Lyrics to Fear is a Liar – Songwriters: Zach Williams, Jason Ingram, Jonathan Lindley Smith

Zach Williams Music

Worship Wednesday – No Fear – Same Power – Jeremy Camp

Fear Is a Liar – 91 Images on Pinterest

Worship Wednesday – Jesus – the Friend of a Wounded Heart – Wayne Watson, Damaris Carbaugh (with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir), and Avalon

Photo Credit: Vanhercke Christiaan, Geograph

The LORD is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.Psalm 34:18

He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds.Psalm 147:3

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted… Isaiah 61:1

You know how to break a kid’s heart? Uproot him from his friends and the familiar, and move him far away to a new and strange place. Then over the course of a childhood, move him/them several more times – not just between cities and states, but countries and continents.

Because of Dave’s work, our children went through these heartbreaks of life. With every move, we would sit by their beds as they cried out their hearts at losing friends and packing up their lives. You can imagine how their tears mimicked my own grownup Photo Credit: Max Pixel

emotions, tucked deep inside. Less visible…but still there. I could feel them more through the sharp ache of our children’s grief.

What was even more profound than their heartbreak (and I sure hope they remember this) was the peace…and even joy…that came after. The grace of God gently rubbed onto their wounded hearts and weary little bodies. Prayers of their parents answered. A loving, all-knowing heavenly Father who came alongside in their sorrow…and ours.

We have all experienced broken hearts…wounds that shape our lives and responses to others…and to God. Men and women, as well as children. We women don’t struggle at least in using words for what breaks our hearts. For men, it seems they bury that sort of pain deep…and move on. Albeit changed.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Having grown up with all brothers and now married over 30 years, mothering sons, I have seen men close to me wrestle with wounded hearts. Disappointment, bewilderment at betrayal, loss. We, as women, want to make it all better…we probably have no idea really how deep hurt goes for our men. They are excellent in disguising and disregarding pain…bearing it too often alone.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Then the women in our lives come to mind. We friends and sisters, mothers and daughters…we get it. Partly because we’ve experienced wounded hearts together. Loneliness. Infertility. Miscarriage. Loss of a child or widowhood. Unfaithfulness in marriage. Betrayal of a friend. Powerlessness at work. Insignificance. We talk together about these things…and yet, it’s probably just the tip of the iceberg of what goes on in our thoughts alone, and into the night.Photo Credit: Pixabay, Pixabay, Pixabay

When our hearts are wounded or downright broken, we pull away. Who, after all, wants to be around someone grieving?…we figure.

In my own life, and as I’ve watched others regain their equilibrium and return back to life and place, one constant has been clear.

Jesus is the friend of a wounded heart. We can lean in and lean hard on him. Even with small faith. Without any judgment.

The Scripture reminds us of the truth when we see there’s nowhere else to go…once we’ve been with Jesus. During a time of great persecution for Jesus and his disciples, there were those followers who counted the cost and left him. When he asked those closest to him if they would leave, too,

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life.John 6:68
Another favorite account for me is that of the woman accused of adultery and facing those who would stone her to death. Jesus intervened with the captivating statement: Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  That woman, that day, found mercy…in the presence of Jesus. May it be so for all of us.
Photo Credit: YouTube
Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken. My salvation and glory depend on God; my strong rock, my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge. – Psalm 62:5-8
The song that came to mind and birthed this Worship Wednesday was written for an album 30 years ago.It is Wayne Watson‘s Friend of a Wounded Heart.
Photo Credit: Wayne Watson
When Watson talks about Jesus as friend…it is far from the casualness of some in our culture today. This friend Jesus is Savior friend – one who will never leave or forsake us. He knows our deepest pains and greatest joys. He keeps watch over us in dark times and he celebrates without reservation in our joys and victories – no matter how small or large. Jesus will be our constant in this roller coaster of life…if we let him in and lean on him.

Worship with me (lyric video in link):

Smile, make them think you’re happy
Lie, and say that things are fine
And hide that empty longing that you feel
Don’t ever show it, just keep your heart concealed

Why are the days so lonely?
I wonder where, where can a heart go free?
And who will dry the tears that no one sees?
There must be someone to share your silent dreams

Caught like a leaf in the wind
Looking for a friend, where can you turn?
Whisper the words of a prayer
And you’ll find Him there, arms open wide, love in His eyes

CHORUS
Jesus, He meets you where you are
Oh, Jesus, He heals your secret scars
All the love you’re longing for is Jesus
The friend of a wounded heart

Joy, comes like the the morning
Hope, deepens as you grow
And peace, beyond the reaches of your soul
Comes blowing through you, for love has made you whole*

Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning.Psalm 30:5

I pray we can also be hands and feet of Christ for one another in woundedness and brokenness. Watch for these precious hurting ones in your workplace, church, and community…lean in and come alongside. Hopefully, they will see this Jesus in you.

[In the links below you will also find the versions performed by Damaris Carbaugh (with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir) and by Avalon. Enjoy. I’m thankful we have them on YouTube because this song is little-sung today…although we need the message as much as ever. It’s one of those songs and messages which draws my arms up in praise…every time I hear it. Thank You, Jesus, for being the friend to our wounded hearts.]

*Lyrics to Friend of a Wounded Heart – Wayne Watson

YouTube Video – Lyric Video – The Friend of a Wounded Heart

YouTube Video – The Friend of a Wounded Heart – Wayne Newton

YouTube Video – The Friend of a Wounded Heart – Damaris Carbaugh (with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir)

YouTube Video – The Friend of a Wounded Heart – Avalon

10 Comforting Scripture Verses for the Broken Heart – Aimee Imbeau

YouTube Video – Jesus Christ – Let Him Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Forever Marred by School Shooting – One Mom Reaches Out to Comfort

Photo Credit: John Ragai, Flickr

Guest Blogger: Carrie McKean

[The image described in the post below appears to have been taken down by the Associated Press. This Facebook posting below was so beautiful, I reached out to the writer and she gave permission to post it here. McKean begins by talking about this lovely visibly distraught mother comforting another mother. My hope is that she did not lose a child yesterday. She is wearing a silver heart (for Valentine’s Day) around her neck and the ashen cross on her forehead from a visit to her parish church that Ash Wednesday morning. The rest of the post is easily understood given the school shooting yesterday in Florida, leaving 17 dead and a dozen or more injured. News outlets and social media today are slammed with public outcry and political jockeying. McKean, the writer of the post below, eloquently speaks her response to this devastating loss.]

I can’t get her face out of my mind. Sobs wracking her body as she stands outside her child’s school, clutching a friend as though they have discovered the only truth there is to know: The only way through this war zone is if we carry one another. Her head is smeared with ashes. From dust you came, to dust you return.

I saw the picture when the ashes were still fresh on my own skin. And I thought about the moment my pastor drew his thumb across my head – reminding me of my mortality and my security in the no-matter-whatness of God. Despite the somber words I certainly didn’t consider, as little specks of ash fluttered down and brushed my eyelashes, that I might leave the church and end up in the ER or in an accident or getting a phone call that takes me to my knees. And this mama, with her pretty white-flowered shirt and silver heart necklace, certainly didn’t consider that she might leave the church and end up on the front lawn of her child’s school with her heart broken apart, begging God for one more day with her baby… for more life out of this dust.

We need a savior, and as we start the long march of Lent that leads us to the cross, we know Jesus is coming to break the shackles and the bonds and restore all that’s broken. But you don’t need a savior if nothing is shackled, bound or broken. So Lent starts in repentance. Did the shooter know the day he chose? Did he choose Valentine’s Day for a reason? Was his heart so broken that he felt like the only way through the war zone was to take others out? Oh God, we need to repent… for not recognizing our own part in this tragedy.

Talking heads are already starting to argue. Is it mental health or gun control? Hurry, pick your side. We retreat into corners and start pointing fingers. Thoughts and prayers sound hollow when these shootings have become so commonplace that they are just another blip on a relentless cycle of terrible news. We wring our hands and sigh and then we forget. It doesn’t even come up at dinner. Ashes. It’s all ashes. We’re going down in flames. Screaming louder and louder at one another as if we think the only way through this war zone is to pull someone else down so we can climb on top. Oh God, we need to repent… for being so afraid that we won’t be heard that we can’t even listen.

As bullets ricocheted off classroom doors and lockers in Florida yesterday, I walked down the locker-lined halls of my daughter’s school. A first grade Valentine’s Party is pure sweetness and light and sugar. We had the kids do an activity where they each drew the name of a classmate and listed out some of their favorite things about that child. As they exchanged cards, I saw eyes light up and broad smiles spread across frosting-smeared faces. One little girl said reading the card she was given made her feel happy and bubbly inside. I looked around the room and wanted to freeze time. To keep these little kids little – tender and eager and open-hearted and bubbly. In 10 years, which one will be the loner? The misfit? The outcast? The popular one who uses his or her platform to push someone else down? Oh God, we need to repent… for letting kids fall through the cracks.

I returned from the party to our church which is positioned across the street from one of our city’s high schools. The day before, the same high school was on lockdown because someone brought a gun to school. A trigger away from a tragedy. Each day after school, hundreds of students – maybe even the one who brought a weapon to school – traipse through our building to the free soda fountains. A ministry of carbonated beverages. I sat down at a table and played UNO with some kids whose stories brim with sadness and mistakes and bad choices and loss, covered in a veneer of bravado and toughness. How close have I been to a kid who is screaming to be seen and known and loved and valued and is a hair-trigger away from exploding their grief outwards and propelling us to the national headlines? For all their toughness, I can’t help but wonder if anyone gave them a card when they were seven that listed out all the best things about them? Oh God, we need to repent… for being too busy to engage the hurting and the lonely.

We may be mere dust, but we are each dust formed into the image of a living, breathing God. We may be returning to dust, but we each know this life is precious and deserves protection. God forgive us for forgetting our own worth. Forgive us for forgetting the worth of those around us. Forgive us for failing to see your reflection in the eyes of the stiff-shouldered, clouded-eye high school kid whose hoodie is pulled up, guarding him from the world but not containing the pain metastasizing-into-anger that is seeping out of his soul. Forgive us for giving into polarization and assuming that since “they” aren’t doing anything to solve the problem, we can’t do anything either.

Father, forgive us.

And help us remember: The only way through this war zone is to carry one another.

Carrie McKean

These Are the Victims of the Florida High School Shooting – Alexandra Ma

At Least 17 Dead After Troubled Former Student Allegedly Opens Fire on Florida High School – Nina Golgowski, Sebastian Murdock, and Carla Herreria

Worship Wednesday – I Lift My Hands – Chris Tomlin

Photo Credit: David Joyce, Flickr

Yesterday, driving to an appointment, an old Chris Tomlin song came on the radio. It touched my heart in an unusual way. Familiar words, I Lift My Hands stilled my thoughts for the moment. God drew me to Himself, and worship flowed. Not even thinking, one hand on the steering wheel, my other hand rose… I made a note on my phone of that old song and didn’t think about it again. Then early this morning, the Bible reading for today was in Psalm 63.

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.Psalm 63:3-4

I wanted to write on joy today. Especially after reading Psalm 63-65. That unquenchable joy at all the good in our lives. New babies. Graduations. Weddings. Health. Milestones. Victories.

Then my newsfeed on Facebook brought the news that a friend’s sister died yesterday. Heidi Lodenstein – 47 years young. Adored by her husband. Two children at home. Glioblastoma. Devoted daughter of an all-loving God who chose not to heal the cancer here but received her Home, healed There. Sad? For that sweet family and friend group. Joy in grief?…abundantly so.

A Lament for Heidi – Cindy DeBoer

We lost a dear friend to glioblastoma a couple of years back as well. He left behind a much-loved wife and three darling little daughters. As we prayed through those months of his disease, while he fought for his life, we asked for miracles of healing. On this side of Heaven, it wasn’t meant to be.

At his funeral, Dave and I sat, tears on our faces, along with his family and friends. Sad with the loss of him. Yet, there was also something else. Something from so deep in us all, it had to push up and out. It was a strange and magnificent joy. How grateful we were to have known him. To have been a part of something bigger than all of us…with him. To be connected forever with each other by the God he trusted…and we trusted.

Joy. Even in that awful grief.

At that funeral, we lifted our hearts to the God who brought us all together…to be comforted together…and especially by Him. To breathe in the peace that we would see our friend again…whole and himself.

Whatever your situation is right now, my prayer for you is to know joy… May the object of your joy be the Lord Himself, who turns our weeping into dancing…our sorrow into joy [Psalm 30].

Worship with me.

Be still, there is a healer
His love is deeper than the sea
His mercy, it is unfailing
His arms are a fortress for the weak
Let faith arise
Let faith arise

[Chorus]
I lift my hands to believe again
You are my refuge, you are my strength
As I pour out my heart, these things I remember
You are faithful, God, forever

Be still, there is a river
That flows from Calvary’s tree
A fountain for the thirsty
Pure grace that washes over me
So let faith arise
Let faith arise
Open my eyes
Open my eyes

[Chorus]*

Sometimes our thoughts take us place we weren’t aiming to go. Today I wanted to write about joy. It flowed out of sorrow…but it flowed full. 

Listen to the sound of my pleading when I cry to You for help,
when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary…May the Lord be praised, for He has heard the sound of my pleading. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.
Therefore my heart rejoices, and I praise Him with my song. The Lord is the strength of His people; He is a stronghold of salvation for His anointed. Save Your people, bless Your possession, shepherd them, and carry them forever. – Psalm 28:2, 6-9

[Postscript: Presently reading Rob Morgan‘s The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times. It came at a good time.]

YouTube Video – Chris Tomlin – I Lift My Hands – Official Lyric Video

*Lyrics to I Lift My Hands – Chris Tomlin, Louie Giglio, Matt Maher

Story Behind the Song I Lift My Hands – New Release Today – Kevin Davis

God Gives Us Joy in Grief – John Piper

YouTube Video – With Hope – Steven Curtis Chapman

The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times – Robert J. Morgan

Heath Has Finished His Race… – Deb Mills Writer

Nabeel Qureshi – 1983-2017 – Less About Religion, All About God

Photo Credit: Nabeel Qureshi

I am grieving today for someone who has touched my heart in a huge way, though we have never met.

Nabeel Qureshi is a son, brother, husband, and father. He is a writer, speaker, theologian, and medical doctor. Until recently he also was in treatment for a very aggressive cancer.

None of these descriptors speak to how deeply he has moved my heart and mind. His faith…and the God of his faith…speak volumes.

He is a follower of Jesus today, after being a devout Muslim. His relationship with God through Christ is laid out in detail in his books Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and No God, But One. Much of his story and the object of his faith are also highlighted on several YouTube videos.

His courageous battle against cancer ended yesterday. At the age of 34. Father of a little girl. Just really at the beginning of his career.

I have never spent much energy in questioning God when one of us dies. My understanding of such things is so limited. Why Nabeel had to die so young is beyond my understanding. One thing I am convinced of is that just as God worked in his life, God will work in his death.

That’s why I’m writing this brief announcement of his passing… He is now in the presence of the God who loves him, the God whom he loves. God will comfort his family and friends and will provide for his wife and daughter. Many of us will know more of Nabeel in his death than we did in his life. I am thankful he wrote about his spiritual journey and spoke so lovingly and articulately about the God who drew him to Himself.

“After loving us with the most humble life and the most horrific death, Jesus told us, “As I have loved you, go and love one another.” How could I consider myself a follower of Jesus if I was not willing to live as He lived? To die as He died? To love the unloved and give hope to the hopeless?”Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

“All suffering is worth it to follow Jesus. He is that amazing. I pray that I will meet you someday, my dear friend, so we can rejoice and praise God together for our joys and our sufferings.”Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

My first knowledge of Nabeel Qureshi‘s cancer and death yesterday was through Justin Taylor‘s blog posting. Please take the time to read it (and watch the videos included). If you have never heard of Nabeel Qureshi, you will have an introduction to him, his life, and his discovery and embrace of God. Below is Taylor’s close to his tribute of our brother Nabeel Qureshi.

Today, Nabeel Qureshi, beholding his Savior face to face, is able to declare what is true:

I have fought the good fight.

I have finished the race.

I have kept the faith.

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Entering into the joy of his Master, he undoubtedly heard the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”Justin Taylor

Postscript: I have dear Muslim friends who may take offense at his story. He spoke painfully in his book and vlogs about the loss of closeness with his beloved parents and sister…for a season. I was grateful to see that in his last-published vlog before his death, he spoke of them with gratitude as they were with him caring for him along with his wife, Michelle. Love is larger than anything that would separate us. So thankful for that.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and No God, But OneNabeel Qureshi

Nabeel Qureshi – 1983-2017 – Justin Taylor – The Gospel Coalition

Nabeel Qureshi – Quotes – Good Reads

YouTube Video – Vlog 33 – A Very Special Guest – My Dad! – Nabeel Qureshi

Why This Muslim-Turned-Christian Resonated With So Many Before His Death at 34 – Ravi Zacharias

5 Friday Faves – The Office, Accents, Resilience, Community, and Long Goodbyes

We’re rolling into the weekend with gorgeous Spring weather to draw us outside. The fact that the grass must be cut before the neighbors organize an intervention also motivates. Beauty surrounds us here as April moves to May and the flowers bust out.

For your Friday refreshment, here are my five favorite finds for this week:

1) The Office – What a funny TV show! The Office (not to be confused with the British version) ran from 2005-2013 and still has a huge cult following. It is a parody of the American workplace. This mockumentary gives us an opportunity off-the-job to chuckle at the quizzical nature of some of our workplaces and relationships within them. Nathan Mills has done a brilliant guitar arrangement of both the show’s theme as well as musical interludes in several of the episodes.

Watch, enjoy, and remember this show that has humor and an innocence very different from many of today’s TV sitcoms.

YouTube Video – The Office Meets Classical Guitar – Beyond the Guitar

2) Accents – I love languages. Over the course of life, I’ve tackled Spanish, Arabic, and a bit of French. Living in North Africa for many years allowed me to be immersed in languages different from my own mother tongue. Language learning is such a useful discipline for all of us and I’m thrilled when I see parents helping their children become multi-lingual. The younger we are when learning languages the better able we are to naturalize our accents in those languages – substantiated here and here.  Don’t let the fear of a Southern (or other) drawl keep you from learning and speaking in a newly acquired language. Dialect coach Sammi Grant gives some interesting advice in her YouTube video How to Do 12 Different Accents .

3) Resilience – I just started following Jordan Harbinger recently, and here’s his take on resilience – Becoming Resilient – the Art and Science of Grit. Resilience has been intriguing to me for many years, and I wrote some months ago (here) on another author Jon Acuff’s counsel on grit.

Photo Credit: Crystal Coleman, Flickr

Read Harbinger’s piece on resilience.

When I talk about resilience, I’m talking about the ability to stay engaged with a person, project, or circumstance — to stay in the game — through its inevitable ups and downs…we’re talking about our ability to handle life, in all its unpredictable and maddening difficulty, without falling off, going crazy, or hurting ourselves in the process.

Harbinger goes on to talk (podcast and blog) about the journey of becoming resilient, or gritty. We all have life occurrences that input into whether we grow resilience or take on a victim’s worldview. We can’t change the situations maybe but we can change how we respond to them. Having strong, nurturing relationships and choosing to learn as much as we can from adverse experiences are two processes of becoming resilient.

I want to be resilient in the hard places and help those I love to be the same. Hard things happen, but we don’t have to be devastated by them. Learn from these guys, and others, about the resilient life.

4) Community – There are no words really that express well enough the great value of community. Deep caring friendships reflecting love of a nature only God can infuse. We experience in this small group of folks in our local church. Community is also a part of our work, neighborhood, and family. I hope you know true community as well. Tell us about in Comments below.

5) Long Goodbyes – Saying and experiencing long goodbyes – It’s part of what we walked with Dad and what we learned about God, each other, and our own hearts in the process. Saying goodbye (for awhile) to a dear friend. The final closing of an office. They can both wear you out and leave you totally satisfied…you did all you could do to honor that passing.
Bonuses

 

 

 

Worship Wednesday – Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – Part 2

2014 Dec Blog pics - Stones of Remembrance 002

[Adapted from the Archives]

“…that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”Joshua 4:24

In a stressful week and a spiritually dull time, it’s been good to reflect on the work of GOD in our lives. 12 stones of remembrance are piled on my kitchen windowsill. 12 recollections out of the many times He has moved on our behalf. The first 6 are found here.

7) We moved overseas to work almost 20 years ago. Our children were young and we felt terribly young ourselves with the language skills of a preschooler. On arriving in a beautiful capital city in North Africa, with survival Arabic and the grace of God, my husband needed to find a house for us to rent. It seemed a daunting task.  That first morning, we prayed together, and he left the hotel to begin the search…by faith, really. Even hailing a taxi requires some cultural understanding of how it’s done there, and it took a few tries for him to “win” a ride. Finally a taxi driver invited him in, and off they went. In a country of 9 million Muslims, there were many 30 Christ-followers. In all this huge city, the taxi driver who stopped for him was one of those few.  Over the years, we have known the friendship of many wonderful Muslim people, but on this stressful first morning, to have the company of a brother was a special kindness of God. Housing was eventually found; that encounter was a special grace.

8) Sometimes God’s might and gentle care both shine through a seemingly insignificant situation. After some time in this North African country, work took us outside the capital city to a distant town. Now my husband would have to purchase a vehicle which we had not needed in the capital. Again, like so many seemingly simple processes, this took on a whole new level of complexity when done cross-culturally. The used car souk only happened on Sundays, and the bargaining process was incomprehensible. He was unsuccessful for weeks. Knowing our move was imminent added pressure. Finally, one Sunday, he just gave up. He walked up the ridge to the highway to catch a taxi and looked back over all the business of car sales, feeling hopeless. A taxi pulled over for him, and he got in. The driver said, “Are you buying or selling a car?” When my husband told him that he was unsuccessfully trying to buy a car, the driver asked what kind.  It turned out that the driver had a friend selling a car, just the kind we needed. Random, crazy, love-filled act of GOD.

9) While we were overseas, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was a lymphoma and, by all rights, should have been cured, or at least arrested, by the treatment of that day. It was not to be so. For three years, Mom endured aggressive chemotherapy. The cancer was relentless. In the course of her treatment, she also had a severe Shingles attack that went into her nervous system and caused her pain for the rest of her life. We came back to the US for what would be her last year. My mom loved the LORD. She never prayed for healing, although we sure did. She only prayed for GOD to be glorified through this cancer. He answered her prayer…and ours, in a different way. Much of her life, she lamented that she didn’t hear GOD speak to her in ways she was sure he did with others. I asked her once, near the end, if He spoke to her now, and she smiled, and said, “All the time.” For her, the cancer was worth it.Fuji002 152a

[Since writing this blog originally, we’ve also lost our dad. He had both Alzheimer’s and colon cancer that was spreading. We had prayed for months that he would not be afraid as he lost his memories and that he would not be in pain in the end. God gloriously answered those prayers for us. We know it doesn’t always work out that way, especially with Alzheimer’s. We are so grateful.]

10) Losing my mom was especially hard, a “severe mercy”*. Losing my older brother was strange and complicated for me. Robert had what I would describe as a self-imposed hard life. He could be rough with those he loved the most, almost taunting them to desert him. Yet, he had a kind heart that would often betray his attempts to be distant from us. He finally did move away from all his family, building a house way out in the country. When mom died, I think the sense of home for Robert died with her. Two things I prayed for him, during this hermit season of his: that he would not die alone and that he would be reconciled to his family. Although we lived far away, we saw at a distance that Robert began softening in his conversations with us. On our last phone call, he actually sounded happy. He talked excitedly about meeting up with one brother and working on a project with the other brother. At the young age of 61, piercing chest pain forced a call for an ambulance, and he, not many hours later, died on the operating table. He did not die alone, surrounded by the surgical team who sought to repair a shredded aorta…and many in his family praying for him outside. He died short of repairing all his relationships, but he was moving miraculously in that direction…by God’s grace.2007 SepOct 046

*A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken – autobiography about losing his wife and finding God in the midst of the loss

11) Our oldest son, Nathan, is a classical guitarist. In his last year of college, he was to perform a Senior recital as part of his requirements for graduation. In the process of preparing for this recital, he developed a tendonitis from the hours of practice. His doctor told him he had to rest his hands for the 2 weeks prior to his recital. This could have been devastating to his performance. Nathan was able to practice the day before and the day of his recital. He was a bit shaken mentally because of those days without practice, but he determined to continue with the recital. I may be his mom, but his playing that day was technically brilliant and incredibly beautiful. Especially given the stress coming into that day. There was a row of us, family and close friends, praying for him through the recital. With every piece completed, it seemed we were more in a worship service than a concert. I filmed his performance, and later as we watched the video, we saw something very interesting. There was a light artifact of some sort, and it looked as if a shaft of light beamed down through his right hand. It was a picture of GOD being  there with Nathan, and we knew He was by Nathan’s performance. Nathan had played for all of us, and for an audience of One. He told us afterwards that his hands ranged from feeling ice cold and difficult to manage to feeling on fire and exquisitely painful…yet he played so well…and so to the glory of GOD.

Nathan & Bekkah Wedding Slideshow Final 060

YouTube Video of “Preludio” – one of Nathan Mills’ pieces during his Senior recital

Nathan Mills – Classical Guitarist, Composer, Arranger of Themes from Films, TV Shows, and VideoGames

12) Finally, the last stone of remembrance for today: being present when someone receives the LORD as her own. Many of you may have that experience on a regular basis. For me, spending so many years in North Africa, I have only personally had this experience a precious few times so far. One very dramatic time was when we came back to the US. A young woman I really didn’t know very well appeared at our women’s Bible study. There was an urgency about her…a quiet earnestness. She was there on a mission. The LORD had clearly been working in her heart and she wanted to settle things with Him. There was only a handful of women in the room, but the power of the Holy Spirit was so evident. While some of us explained how to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, the rest of us prayed…back and forth, as she talked, listened, cried…and then prayed aloud herself. Did one of us lead her to be a Christ-follower? No. We were merely and miraculously witnesses of a redeeming love. I wish you could have heard her pray…so full of humility, and longing, and finally peace. To witness the work of GOD in a life He drew to Himself…incredible.

Right now, as we are days away from this year’s Easter celebration, I am once again riveted by God’s reach into our lives. Just in this past year alone, He has been with us through great joys and great losses, a cancer diagnosis, much change in our work, and the birth of a precious grandchild. The handprint of God is everywhere…even on days when I have to get my heart quiet and my eyes focused to see. He is always near…it just takes us looking…and then remembering all the times before.

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”Jeremiah 29:13

Will there be days we forget? It happens… Fortunately, for us, even when we forget, He never does.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” – Isaiah 49:15-16

Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – What Are You Remembering About God Today? – DebMillsWriter