Tag Archives: Jesus

5 Friday Faves – DreamWorks on Classical Guitar, Your Future Self, Wisdom of Great Leaders, Father’s Day, and Southern Baptists

5 favorite finds this week – here goes:

1) DreamWorks on Classical GuitarNathan Mills (Beyond The Guitar) latest classical guitar video is a medley of movie themes by DreamWorks Animation. So beautiful.

All are arranged and performed by classical guitarist Nathan Mills (Beyond The Guitar). Enjoy!

2) Your Future Self – Productivity guru Darius Foroux writes about how we become our future selves. It’s not magic, nor is it rocket science. Our future selves are born out of what we are about today. Photo Credit: Flickr, Mitch Huang

“All I have to do now is look at my actions. I ask myself, “So you want to be independent, huh? What does that take?”

  • Are you creating things that people need?
  • Are you improving your skills?
  • Are adding value to other people’s lives?
  • Are you saving at least 10% of your income?
  • Are you investing your money?
  • Are you exercising enough?
  • Are you reading enough books?
  • Are you investing in yourself?

I can go on for a while. But you get the point. I’m questioning my habits here. It’s not about what you want — it’s about what you do.

And not in the future. Today.”Darius Foroux

Foroux hands his readers a mirror and asks these pointed questions and others – regarding habits. Our junk food diet, our propensity for complaining, our couch-potato screen habits, our spending beyond what we make. Pretty much in-your-face. However, he also provides free helps to get us off the couch or office chair and on to the kinds of habits that move us to that future self we hope to be. His free ebook How to Get From Procrastinate Hero to Procrastinate Zero is valuable, worth hopping onto his email list for me.

Couch Potatoes vs. Creators – Oliver Burkeman

Don’t Fall Prey to Couch Potato Syndrome – Susan Mahoney

3) Wisdom of Great Leaders – Mark Crowley, leadership sage himself, posted a piece recently entitled 10 of the World’s Great Sages Share Their Most Important Leadership Advice. He’s taken these quotes from his own interviews with these leaders on his insightful Lead From the Heart podcast. Below are four of my favorite quotes from Crowley’s article. Check out the interviews in full – great stuff!
“When a human being feels as though they are being cared for and nurtured, their physiology works at its best…Leaders who affect the hearts in people get the best results, and your companies will become far more successful once you embrace this.” – Dr. James Doty

A ‘multiplier’ leader is someone who uses their own intelligence, capabilities, and talents in a way that amplifies the talents and intelligence of others. They’re leaders who we’re best around.”Liz Wiseman

“There’s a pathological disconnect between the attributes that seduce us when hiring managers and those that are actually needed to be an effective leader. We can see the effects of hyper-masculine leadership; what we need today are managers who are more self-effacing, empathetic and altruistic – other-focused people who are good coaches and mentors.”Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

“It’s not the big decisions that differentiate high-performing CEOs, it’s the volume and speed of their decisions. It’s about the speed rather than the precision on the hundreds of decisions they need to make.”Kim Powell

The Oscar Wilde satirical quote below is NOT among Crowley’s #LeadFromtheHeart counsel above. It does speak to the problem of our leaders being knowers and non-learners. Learners are the best kind of knowers. Excellent leaders never stop learning.

Image result for wisdom of great leadersPhoto Credit: Flickr, Smita Nair Jain

4) Father’s Day – Celebrating Father’s Day this weekend!

We all have fathers – whether very present or long-time absent. Some of you may be fathers. Some of you may have wanted to be fathers but are not able to be…for whatever reasons. This day of commemoration usually means a good meal and some sort of gifting or pampering for you dads. For all of you, with or without children, you can be influencers…and we need you. My biological father was absent long before my parents divorced. Thankfully I have had a rich heritage of good fathers through the rest of my life – my step-dad, brothers, uncles, husband, father-in-law, son/son-in-law, and loving, empowering male friends and colleagues. Most of these good fathers in my life were spiritual fathers…but fathers nonetheless.

The Father I Never Knew on Father’s Day – Deb Mills Writer

Fathering – Celebrating Men Who Did It Well; Forgiving Men Who Didn’t – Deb Mills Writer

Traveling Man – Somewhere Between Here, There, & Home – Deb Mills Writer

Budweiser’s Father’s Day Ad Is Bringing People to Tears  – Lyn Mettler

Blog - Father's Day - B. C. comic
Photo Credit: B. C. Comics

5) Southern Baptists – My family didn’t start out in church or Christian. Mom was a believer but through a difficult marriage and trying to feed and clothe four children, she left church before I was born. After her divorce, neighbors invited us to church and it was a huge discovery for us…people who loved us even though we came with a lot of baggage as a family…and a God who loved us just as we were. It was a small Southern Baptist church in Georgia, and I’ve been Southern Baptist ever since.

In June every year church representatives of this large denomination meet somewhere in the US to worship together, reflect on the past year and plan for the future, and invariably, deal with some issue that could divide them.

After the fun of catching up with old friends and colleagues from years past, two of the highlights of this convention for me were:

  • the Scripture translation project (we could buy verses of the New Testament for $5 each – for a New Testament to be translated for a people group who don’t have it in their language). By the end of the convention, it was funded!

  • and the ministry panels.

Baptist Global Response panel on mercy ministries was one:

This year two of the dividing issues were the continuing need for racial reconciliation and responding with care to those victimized by clergy in the Southern Baptist Convention. We aren’t where we need to be eventually, but we made progress, thankfully.Image result for SBC panel on racial reconciliationPhoto Credit: Religion News

On racial reconciliation, I loved hearing Dhati Lewis, Missie Branch, and George Yancey.

“Before we can diversify our churches or organizations, we must diversify our dinner tables.”Dhati Lewis

Diversity at the Dinner Table – Trillia Newbell

“When someone says, ‘I don’t see race’, what I hear is ‘You don’t see me.’” George Yancey

Notes from the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention – George Yancey

Southern Baptists Give Greater Attention to Diversity But Acknowledge More Needed – Adelle M. Banks

The piece below is where I am after listening to the panel above:

Slowly and surely I began to realize that my problem was not that I was a person of privilege. Jesus was the most privileged being to ever walk this earth. My problem was what I did with my privilege. Would I use it (consciously or unconsciously) for my own gain, or could I let go of my grasp and use it to serve others. Jesus showed me how, “Who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing”.

How Jesus lived and died would serve as an example for me, and would ultimately allow me to live and die like him. He has taken my shame so that I no longer have to respond defensively about my privilege. I can embrace it, now no longer for myself, but for those for whom Christ died and rose again. Not in a white savior way, He’s the Messiah, I am not. But in an incarnational, self-emptying, for-the-sake-of-others way.

The gospel for the privileged is that Christ took our state of mis-being so that we can live for others. Hallelujah. – Missioeric

Becoming a Church That Cares Well for the Abused – Video Course – Brad Hambrick

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s it. How about you? Share your favorite finds in Comments below. Have a blessed weekend.

Bonuses:

Raising Girls Who Are “Includers” Instead of “Mean Girls” – Lisa McCrohan

How to Help a Depressed Friend Through Their Illness and Recovery – Natalie Morris

Dear Church, Let’s Talk About Mental Health

How Complaining Physically Rewires Your Brain to Be Anxious and Depressed

Enneagrams and Enneagram Cupcakes (YouTube Videos on various types)

A Woman of Influence

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote

5 Friday Faves – On Being Sober, A State in Mourning, Favorite Podcast, National Cancer Survivors Day, and a Call to Prayer

Happy Weekend! Here are my favorite finds for this week:

1) On Being Sober – Writer storyteller Brené Brown posted this incredible piece this week entitled: What Being Sober Has Meant to Me. I didn’t know she had had a drinking problem. Her story resonates with my own. Here’s a bit of her take on it:

“At first I struggled to feel ‘drunk enough’ to belong at AA. The DUI-divorce-got-fired stories made me wonder if I was in the wrong place. As a rule-follower, I found a sponsor and asked her if I was in the right meetings. She diagnosed me with “a Pupu platter of addictions”— not too much of any one thing, but enough of each one to be concerned. Her advice was to quit drinking, quit smoking, quit emotional eating, and quit trying to control and manage my family’s crises. Awesome. On it.” –  Brené Brown

Photo Credit: Brené Brown, Facebook

My mom never drank alcohol. She grew up impoverished with a dad who was drunk more than not. She saw the destructive nature of addiction and steered clear. I had a short season of social drinking in my 20s. It ended at a party when, after finishing the one glass of wine I had intended to drink, my best friend’s husband appeared immediately with another. He was all smiles, and said, “And here I thought you were a goodie two-shoes about drinking.” A very old expression but his remark burned into my soul. My whole character seemed defined by my stance on alcohol!!

Recently I was having dinner with a friend in her 20s who had decided to stop drinking. Her reason was she found that when she drank she pretty quickly moved into this personality and looseness (for lack of a better word) that were not who she was normally. She decided she much preferred to just be herself, and not drinking was the solution for her. I resonated with her on that (everyone has to determine if this is something to consider for themselves ).

Read Brown’s article – it is NOT shaming but rather encouraging and empowering. One last quote from her for today:

“Over the past two decades, food and work have emerged as my real drugs of choice. Like most addiction, they’re fueled by shame and the “not enough” gremlins. They’re also tricky addictions because I’m good at abstaining but not so good at moderation. Food and work don’t lend themselves to abstinence…If I stay in fit spiritual condition — boundaries, vulnerability, honesty, authenticity, connection to God, healthy food, exercise, and sleep — I won’t be running toward or away from cold beer or warm carbs.” – Brené Brown

What Being Sober Has Meant to MeBrené Brown

Mary Karr Names Names – Nina Puro

Everybody Knows: 10 Lessons from 10 Years of Sobriety Without AA – Mishka Shubaly

2) A State in Mourning– [This demanded a moment of recognition even though it certainly isn’t a usual favorite find for me. it is for us to grieve.] Flags are at half-mast around our state this week because of three separate incidents where a total of 17 people died, including a 9 y/o girl. Our local newspaper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch gave the details of a random shooting, a workplace shooting and a church van accident. A sad week as we, in Virginia, mourned their loss.

3) Favorite Podcast – On a lighter note, my friend and podcaster Kevin Prewett, delivers every single week. Not just entertainment but great counsel on work and life through his Rising Tide Startups podcast.

Kevin’s focus is to help those of us who are dreaming of or actually launching a startup of some sort. His guests come from a wide range of disciplines, from musicians to project managers to business coaches. Through the podcast, each tells her story and gives insight to those on a similar path. Kevin also brings mini-courses to his listeners. His guests present specialized content in a 5-minute segment, like we would have to pay for in another setting.

I have gained so much from his various guests, and starting up a business isn’t on my radar. Just learning volumes from these folks’ life and business experience.

An example of one of his guests is website builder Chris Parker, founder of What Is My IP Address? Here is the podcast and transcript of his interview. So fascinating.

Rising Tide Startups

Rising Tide Startups – YouTube Channel

4) National Cancer Survivors Day – The first Sunday of June each year is National Cancer Survivors Day. It gives us the opportunity to celebrate those who survive their cancer experience (diagnosis, treatment, and recovery).

Photo Credit: National Cancer Survivors Day, Facebook

This week marks 3 years since my diagnosis with Stage 1 lung cancer. That was a shocker! I’m so thankful to have been diagnosed so early in the course of the disease…and to be well today.

We all have loved ones we lost to cancer and we want to honor them always. This commemoration of cancer survivors is also a right thing to do.

National Cancer Survivors Day also calls for celebrating all those who helped us come out the other side of cancer. Our family and friends, colleagues, and the medical personnel involved with our care.

A friend and fellow writer, Ann Lovell, has survived cancer twice. Her dad, Bob Anderson, wrote a beautiful poem about these “angels of mercy”:

Angels of mercy
Their faces aglow
May visit among us
We can’t really know

But we know divine purpose
And power unfold
With struggle reflected
Through luminous souls.

Ann posted: “I am grateful that we never walk alone — that God’s Spirit always carries us, sustains us, and protects us; that God places people in our lives to be the hands and feet of Jesus just when we need Him most….Thank you to the many “angels of mercy” who walked alongside us then and now. I am grateful.” – Ann Lovell

Me, too.

5) A Call to Prayer – Finally, I am struck by the many calls to prayer we hear in life. A sick little boy, a friend in a troubled marriage, the grief of losing a beloved grandmother, the need for a new job, etc. etc.

Many of the world’s religions have a call to prayer as part of their religious practices.

Jesus counseled his disciples to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41)

Photo Credit: Front Royal Church of Christ

I am so thankful that God calls us to prayer. Not because He doesn’t know already what we desperately need, but because He wants us to bring our needs to Him…He hears, He sees, and He will draw near to us as we draw near to Him.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”Hebrews 4:14-16

__________________________________________________________________________

That’s it for me this week. How about you? Any favorite finds? Please share in the Comments. Hope you get to rest…and be blessed.

Bonuses:

Indicators of Human Trafficking

On The Time We Have Left With The People Who Matter Most to Us

Why Simplifying May Protect Our Children’s Mental Health

A View From the Other Side

C. S. Lewis Still Has Much to Offer Us – Daniel Peterson

Photo Credit: Marc Merlin, Facebook

Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, is featured this month in the East Carolina University alumni magazine.

Worship Wednesday – My Fear Doesn’t Stand a Chance When I Stand In Your Love – Bethel Music

Photo Credit: Flickr

There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love.  1 John 4:18

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

I love the passage in C. S. Lewis’ story The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are trying to describe Aslan. He was the lion who symbolizes Jesus in the Narnia stories. Lucy and Susan ask if Aslan is safe. Mr. Beaver responds, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Aslan – Is He Safe?

We so often default to fear. It will look different for each of us, but it rises up from the deep dark places of our minds. Where the “what if’s” set up camp. These squatters make homes for themselves in our thoughts – worry, doubt, anxiety, fear. They don’t belong but act like they do.

When I’m afraid, there is a short list of what helps:

  • Reading/quoting Scripture.
  • Praying, especially praying Scripture.
  • Journaling (or writing like right now).
  • Talking out the fear with someone who knows me and knows God.
  • Singing and listening to worship songs.

Some of the songs that help me battle fear are songs from childhood in church. They have long been a comfort to me.

Our church does not as yet have a children’s music program. We sing a few songs from our kids’ curriculum, but they are different each quarter, so the rhythm of worship songs that our young ones know is not a part of their church life…yet. Maybe their parents teach them strong spiritual songs at home; I don’t know.

7 Reasons Singing Is Essential to the Christian Life – Tom Olson

When “Stand in Your Love” came on the radio this morning, it made me think immediately how great it would be to teach it to our children. To remind them that they don’t have to be afraid when they belong to God. Performed by Josh Baldwin of Bethel Music, this song declares the powerlessness of fear in the presence of God.

Nothing we fear…nothing we can imagine…has the capability of thwarting God’s purposes. He is so much bigger than our fear.

Worship with me.

When darkness tries to roll over my bones
When sorrow tries to steal the joy I own
When brokenness and pain is all I know
I won’t be shaken, I won’t be shaken (Cause)

(chorus)
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love

Shame no longer has a place to hide
I am not a captive to the lies
Not afraid to leave my past behind
I won’t be shaken, I won’t be shaken

(chorus)
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love

There’s power that can break off every chain
There’s a power that can empty out a grave
There’s power that washes every stain
(No) I won’t be shaken, I won’t be shaken

(chorus)
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love

(chorus)
(Cause) Shame doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Shame doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Shame doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love*

God is worthy of our praise…including the praise that casts our fears…our cares…on Him…because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)

Do fearful things happen in life? Of course. Is God able to take us through those fearful things…?

“Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us–to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”Ephesians 3:20-21

There is a fear that we do want to hold in our minds – one fear. That fear of the Lord Himself. For those who are kept in the perfect righteousness of Jesus, God withholds His wrath forever. Jesus, who died in our place…took our sin on Him sinless self…making us forever forgiven.

We are not to trifle with the goodness of God. His hatred for sin is perfectly balanced by His fierce love for us. We were never meant to be able to explain God or put Him into some sort of box we can be comfortable with. God is beyond anything we can comprehend this side of Heaven. More. Greater. Unfathomable. Yet knowable.

Photo Credit: A. W. Tozer, Facebook & One Way Through Jesus

The same fear of God (that strikes reverence and awe in our hearts and keeps us amazed at His movement in our lives and this world) – that fear of God is the beginning of wisdom for us.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”Proverbs 9:10

I pray we are able to stand in His love as the song above says, and let go of the small fears of our lives. Replacing the small fears with wisdom and understanding…of Who He is instead. Hallelujah!

*Lyrics to Stand In Your Love – Songwriters: Rita Springer, Mark Harris, Ethan Hulse, and Josh Baldwin

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – Stand In Your Love – Josh Baldwin & Ethan Hulse

Photo Credit: Flickr

Monday Morning Moment – Raising Adults – Part 2 – Creating a Culture of Serving

Photo Credit: Summit Kids Academy

[Adapted from my presentation at a recent home-school conference – Part 1 on Raising Adults with the focus on work and responsibility can be found here.]

One of the most challenging tasks a parent has is to teach a small child how to be deferential – to respectfully give way to another, to put another first. Whew! This is a hard one. It’s not just about helping a child understand sharing. It’s our demonstrating and them seeing the value of people and taking hold of how we can serve or help them, no matter our age. Not for any reward for ourselves but just because others matter.

The battles of will that communicate “Me, me!” or “Mine, mine!” can wear us out – both parent and child.

Yesterday we talked about work and kids’ discovery that they can make a difference. Work and exercising responsibility are their own reward. Often there is compensation, but work is a head issue – a decision made to insert ourselves into a situation for the good of all (both the worker and the larger community).

Serving is a heart issue. In the role of the server, we do ultimately benefit, but the whole focus is on the one served. Serving, by its nature, requires sacrifice, sometimes small but, even for a child, it can be substantial.

Before we dive in, let’s pray to wrap our own hearts around this.

 “Father, we want to be wholly Yours. Whatever You ask of us…we want to be ready and willing. Not only to be laborers in the Harvest, but to serve with the same heart and mind that Jesus had while He walked this earth. Humble, loving, deferential to others. A servant heart, a mind bent toward You, God, a body and life laid-down in love for others. We want to be responsible and to do good work. Teach us to take our hearts even higher…or lower as the case may be…to serve as Jesus did, in Your abundant grace. In His name. Amen.”

When we model and teach work, the mindset or worldview we communicate to our children is “Get it done and done well”. In action and attitude.

In serving, one distinctive might be the military acronym: ABCD – Above & Beyond the Call of Duty.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8

He has shown you, O mankind, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4

What if, along with with leading our children to be responsible, we created a culture of serving? What would our homes be like if our kiddos embraced serving as a good thing and something they were capable of? And not just for a jelly bean or a favorite TV show.

Photo Credit: Caring For Our Generations

Lisa Jacobson, author, encourager and mother of 8 has a lot to say about her own experience of creating a culture of serving:

I did things right. The way things should be done. Oh, and, of course, I was serving my family all the while. I was the sacrificial mom who cooked, laundered, and cleaned up after everyone. Most every job was done by me.

And, as a “shining model” of service, I figured my children would eventually follow my example. It was obvious that I worked hard and did my best to please our family. So wouldn’t they just naturally follow in my footsteps? More is caught than taught, right? But you know something? They didn’t catch on like I thought they would. They really enjoyed being served…and it kind of stopped there. I was a good giver. They were good takers.” Lisa Jacobson

She then discovered how to teach her children the joy of serving others:

  • Start by letting them work [serve] alongside you.
  • Teach your children to notice what needs to be done. [This one point is so worth your time reading thus far – both in working & serving – guiding our children to see, for themselves, what needs to be done. It’s a strong beginning to winning their hearts.]
  • Let them enjoy helping out.
  • Instruct them in how they can be a help to you [and others].
  • Cheer them on as they learn to serve.

Teaching Our Children the Joy of Serving Others – Lisa Jacobson

Photo Credit: Intentional by Grace

“God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” – Martin Luther

Author, educator, and pastor Andy Crouch writes about our callings in life. He is speaking to Christians, but these would richly apply to anyone who believes in God as our Creator.

Our three callings*:

  • To bear the image of God. [“Be fruitful & multiply.” Our human calling is inextricably linked with the family where we first found our name, language, identity, and home.]
  • To restore the image of God. [Our distinctive calling as Christians is to actively seek out the places where that image has been lost, to place ourselves at particular risk on behalf of the victims of idolatry and injustice. So in every workplace, Christians should be those who speak up most quickly, and sacrifice their own privileges most readily, for those whose image-bearing has been compromised by that organization’s patterns of neglect. In every society, Christians should be the most active in using their talents on behalf of those the society considers marginal or unworthy. In every place where the gospel isn’t known, Christians should be finding ways to proclaim Jesus as the world’s true Lord and “the image of the invisible God.”]
  • To make the most of today (contingent calling). [If you get the first two right, the third is practically an afterthought. Your third calling is your contingent calling: to make the most of today, while it is called today. “Contingent” is a word used to describe something that could be otherwise—in that sense, it’s the opposite of necessary. It’s also used to describe something that depends on something else—in that sense, it’s the opposite of independent. You are in some particular place today—maybe at school, maybe on a bus, maybe in a workplace, maybe at home. And you are there with certain resources—memory, energy, reason, attention, skill. All these are contingent. It is God within these that we must learn to discern and then serve as He leads.

[Heady topics for a 2 y/o maybe…but highly teachable concepts, as well…how would we teach and model these three callings to our little ones?]

“There is one topic that I’m extremely interested in that the writers of Scripture do not seem interested in at all—and that topic is, actually, me. I am quite interested in the expressive individual that I call me—but Scripture turns out not to be interested in me hardly at all. It is somewhat more interested in me as a member of a community, connected to one of the “nations” of the earth—but really, what Scripture is interested in is God, God’s mission in the world, God’s commissioning of a people, and God’s gracious invitation to me to stop being so interested in me and start being absolutely fascinated by [Him and] his mission.Andy Crouch

*The Three Callings of a Christian – Andy Crouch

How do we cultivate a culture of serving in our home, community – for ourselves and our children? What are you doing? What do you dream of doing? Please share in Comments below. Thanks.

As with work, so with service, we not only model but insure our children have the opportunity to contribute what only they can do – for others…whether operating out of their strengths or their weaknesses.

Looking back, I don’t think we created a culture of serving in our home during our kids’ childhood. It was just easier to do it myself, right? They had so little time, between schoolwork and their other “just being children/youth” activities. This is a regret for me today. There were moments, however, – bright and shining…teachable moments where they did see how serving mattered…especially when they (at whatever age) showed up to serve. Now I hope to help our grown-up children model and teach serving to their grands. Can’t wait to see them, growing up to adulthood, discover the continuous joy of serving others.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Parents, Take Note of the Spiritual Practices Common to Kids Who Flourish As Adults – Trevin Wax

Worship Wednesday – Wonder & Worship – “So Will I” – Hillsong Worship

Photo Credit: Cedar Ridge Community Church

This week I’ve had the privilege of speaking at a home-school conference. One of the topics was the role that we as parents have in modeling wonder and training worship. Our children are born with this huge sense of wonder, and then as the years go by, it can be dampened by the harder things (or people) in our lives. However, we, as adults, can model our own grown-up wonder. What follows as we remind our children the source of the wonder…is worship.

The conference was themed from the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” In reading it again prior to the conference, I was reminded of the apostle Peter’s exclamation below. At one time in Jesus’ ministry on earth, some of his followers fell away. He then asked his closest followers if they would leave him (John 6:67-69):

“Lord, where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

 Where would we go? There’s nowhere…no one…like the Lord. The Creator and Sustainer of this beautiful world…

“When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place— What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings; You crowned him with glory and honor.”Psalm 8:3-5

“Even the darkness is not dark to You, but the night shines like the day, for darkness is as light to You. For You formed my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well.” Psalm 139:12-14

“So if you cannot do such a small thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow: they do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!”Luke 12:26-28

In thinking of how, as parents, we might protect and nurture our children’s sense of wonder, we rouse up our own sense of wonder.

Why We Must Protect and Nurture Our Children’s Sense of Wonder – Linda Akeson McGurk

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement…I should ask that [a] gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life. If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

What happens to our wonder? How do we pass it along, or keep it flourishing in our kiddos?

It’s helpful to spend a bit of time in reflection on some of what causes us to wonder:

  • Babies. Full-stop.
  • Cracking open a perfectly ripe watermelon – the color, how it smells, how it tastes.
  • Flowers coming from the tiniest of seeds (Dave has gardened in 4 different countries – pots on balconies when necessary).
  • The sky, night or day, and the vastness of space.
  • The water lines on the mountains of the Sinai Desert – no other way they could get there but a world-wide flood.
  • Forgiveness.
  • The wonder of sleep – lights out & alone with our thoughts & God; also sleep interrupted from anxiety but then the wonder of waking in the morning after miraculously falling back to sleep.
  • God’s answering Mom’s prayer – preferring for Him to be glorified in her cancer more than being healed from it, this side of Heaven.

To name just a few…

and, most importantly:

  • the wonder of God Himself and that we are heard, known, & understood…by Him.

If we aren’t careful we falter in our wonder because of the seeming weight of our responsibilities or the distraction of our differences one with another. God never meant it to be this way.

“In a world full of pragmatic ‘older brothers’ it is easy, even in church, to forget the love that wants to stream between us. Instead we allow our heads and backs to bend under the weight of all that needs to be put right.Teresa McCaffery

“The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. –  C. S. Lewis

Our response to the wonder that surrounds us…the marvel of God Himself reflected in this world…and in His image-bearers? Gratefulness.

Photo Credit: Alan Chen, Good Free Photos

Gratefulness flows out of wonder and moves us to worship. We parents model wonder for our children & train them to turn their hearts in worship toward God.

Worship with me to Hillsong Worship‘s So Will I:

God of creation
There at the start
Before the beginning of time
With no point of reference
You spoke to the dark
And fleshed out the wonder of light

And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapor of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made
Every burning star
A signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I

God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice

And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You say
Every painted sky
A canvas of Your grace
If creation still obeys You so will I

If the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I
For if everything exists to lift You high so will I
If the wind goes where You send it so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy
Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times

God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created
The light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die

And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I can see Your heart
Eight billion different ways
Every precious one
A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I

Like You would again a hundred billion times
But what measure could amount to Your desire
You’re the One who never leaves the one behind*

“Lord, what a world you’ve given us! Our senses are full of the wonder of Your creation. Even more than that, the wonder of You. How You love us is beyond our understanding or comprehension. Your provision for our lives…the people You have brought close to love and to be loved by. The work You have given us…we are so privileged. Life eternal and abundant that we have both here and in the Hereafter. We are amazed, Oh God. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

*Lyrics to So Will I – Songwriters: Joel Houston Benjamin Hastings & Michael Fatkin

5 Friday Faves – Fortnite Revisited on Classical Guitar, Spring Rain, Habits of Love, Andy Crouch on Shame, and Wonder – Deb Mills Writer

Resurrection Sunday – Risen Indeed! Thank You, Jesus!

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Easter-Empty-Tomb.jpg

Photo Credit: TurnbacktoGod.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. – John 20:1 

Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”. John 20:18

On this Sunday, this most glorious day in all of history, death gave way to life. The grave could not hold Jesus. Those who loved Jesus most came to the tomb, guarded and sealed, and found it empty. Then ones, twos, small groups, and a crowd of 500 saw him alive. Jesus himself, bearing the wounds of the cross, walked with them, ate with them, taught them again…as he promised.

“He is alive! This man from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the world.

With the breath of creation, He speaks of peace, faith, and mission.

With lungs full of air, He breathes on His disciples and grants His Spirit. My Jesus – alive!

The eyes that saw the darkness of death now drink in the sunlight of Easter. My Jesus – alive!”* – Trevin Wax

[Read the rest of Wax’s poem here.]

Oh the joy…the indescribable joy of that reality. He died and yet he lives. We were dead in our sins, and because of him, we have life.

Take the time to read this amazing story yourself. The Gospel writers all have given detailed accounts of the risen Christ ( Matthew 28:1-13, Mark 16:1-14, Luke 24:1-49, and John 20:1-29). The Apostle Paul also wrote about Jesus’ resurrection in his letter to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 15).

Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive…

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
  O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Cor. 15:20-22, 55-57

Sadly, there are those who think the resurrection of Jesus a myth, or a fairy tale. Even his life is treated casually. Yet, for sure, anyone who does a careful examination of the life and teachings of Jesus would be radically changed.  This certainly was my experience. I know too well how wicked my heart can be…my thoughts and actions. God draws us to Himself, and in the drawing we recognize our desperate need for a savior, a strong arm to pull us out of the muck and mire of our own making. Jesus did that for me.

I know Jesus is alive from the historical accounts and the writing of eye witnesses, and because of his own word. I also know he is alive because of how he has transformed lives through the ages. He has changed my life, and he continues to do so.

For the past 20 years, during Lent, I have read Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking. I would like to close with a portion out of his Easter reading.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”John 20:19

“On that dark Sunday morning, Mary could never have guessed the cosmic significance of the empty tomb. When Jesus rose from the dead the ancient engines of order were fired once more and, in his body on earth, chaos was defeated. And what a wonderful moment for Jesus and his disciples. Neither locks nor fears could withstand the peace and security that the risen Saviour brought, and still brings to his people. It is the peace of knowing that, however rough the road may need to be (and it often is), we shall indeed, in the most real sense, live happily ever after.” – Adrian Plass**

Christ is risen! — He is risen indeed!

Holy Week – Day 8: Resurrection Sunday! – Thank you, Mary Fairfield for writing so well, so thoughtfully, and so thoroughly for Christianity.About.com.

Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ by Sean Davis

5 Reasons to Believe That Jesus Rose From the Dead – Adam4d

*My Jesus – Alive! by Trevin Wax

**The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People (1994) by Adrian Plass

YouTube Video – Doxology – David Crowder

YouTube Video – Because He Lives – Matt Maher

YouTube video with lyrics – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe

YouTube video with lyrics – Before the Throne of God Above – sung by Selah

Story Behind the Song Before the Throne of God Above

YouTube Video – Easter Song (Live) – Keith Green – (song starts 2 minutes in)

The Bridge Gospel Presentation

عيد القيامة يسوع المسيح مبارك وكلّ عام وانت واعئلتك بالف خير! المسيح فام! حقّاً قام!

Worship Wednesday – Jesus & Holy Week – Day 4 – a Day of Quiet Before the Storm…and We Worship

[Adapted from the Archives – search blog under Holy Week for the description of those remaining days.]

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels…fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.Revelation 7:9-11

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”  – Revelation 5:12

There appears to be nothing recorded in Scripture of events surrounding Jesus on the Wednesday before his crucifixion. Nothing. After two difficult days dealing with his enemies and accusers, it is quite possible that he took a rest. A Sabbath rest. Given the terrible nature of what was ahead of him, starting just the next day, he could surely use a day to rest and reflect. To remember how the Father had sustained him through all the strains of his public life. To refresh himself in prayer and in the company of those on earth who loved him most – his disciples, his friends, possibly his family. We know no details of that day.

Since we also know what is coming for Jesus…and all for our sakes…we pause today, as well, to worship. He is the perfect lamb, without blemish, perfectly fit to be offered as a sacrifice for our sins. God provided a ram for Abraham to take his son’s place in that strange and amazing sacrifice on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:1-14). This was a foreshadowing of our own need for a savior. We also can be saved by the blood of “the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Jesus was not killed on that Friday, two days hence. His life was not taken. Not by the Jewish or Roman authorities. He gave his life…for us…there are no words adequate to respond…worship is all we have.

Worship with me:

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy holy is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s mercy seat

Holy holy holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You

Clothed in rainbows of living color
Flashes of lighting rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor strength and glory and power be
To You the only One for me

Filled with wonder awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your name
Jesus Your name is power breath and living water
Such a marvelous mystery.*

*Lyrics to Revelation Song written by Jennie Lee Riddle

Story Behind Revelation Song – Jennie Lee Riddle’s vision of the Church wholly united in worship of God – here as we will be one day in Heaven

YouTube Lyric Video – Revelation Song – Kari Jobe – Passion 2013

Holy Week – Day 4: Silent Wednesday – Mary Fairchild

How is Jesus the Lamb of God?

Podcast – Easter and Hymns with Keith Getty – Rainer on Leadership

Holy Week Timeline Graphic

5 Friday Faves – The Godfather Theme, Roaring Lambs, a Very Different Jesus, Core Values, and Finally Spring

Here’s to your weekend! 5 favorite finds from this week:

1) The Godfather Theme – One of the most iconic films of all time was The Godfather adapted from the 1969 novel of the same name. The story focused on the fictional New York crime family, the Corleone’s. So engrossing was the narrative that two later films of the same name followed. Composer Nino Rota‘s theme from The Godfather is beautiful and memorable. Whether or not you’ve ever seen the film(s), you know this melody. Nathan Mills has again taken this giant of a song and arranged a gorgeous piece for a single classical guitar.

[Sidebar: One of Nathan’s guitar students is doing a semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland. He heard a local guitarist playing and it reminded him of Nathan’s style of playing -at Beyond the Guitar. He engaged the guitarist in conversation and found out that he knows Nathan’s work and follows his music. Small guitar world. Sweet little story for you who follow and support Nathan’s music as well.]

2) Roaring Lambs – Many years ago, I read TV producer Bob Briner‘s book Roaring Lambs. Says Briner: “In my circles, Christians are thought of as people who are against things. I want us to be known as people who are for things good, wholesome, creative, wonderful, and fulfilling. That’s the message of the Gospel and it ought to be the message in all that we do.” His audience was Christians but there is wisdom for anyone who wants to make a difference rather than just a reputation or wants to make a change rather than just noise. We don’t think of lambs roaring, but Briner challenged the reader to take their work to the next level but not only aiming for excellence but for a depth and breadth that touches the lives of those around them.Photo Credit: Mountain Pleasant Granary

A woman I only know by what her “roaring lamb” reputation retired recently. Her job was made redundant by a new software program that was adopted in her workplace. What everyone will miss, as much as they will miss her diligence to task, is the beauty she brought to her department. Her generous gift of hospitality in both decorating common areas and serving food to her colleagues made it a joy just to leave the elevator and enter that office suite. She will be so missed.

Another “roaring lamb” work can be environmental services in a hospital. The tasks that make for a safe place to heal often go unseen and unrewarded. However, we all know personally or have heard stories of what can happen when either care or diligence aren’t exercised in this vital work group.

Finally, award-winning cartoonist Johnny Hart, after coming to Christianity later in life, made an intentional decision to incorporate his faith into some of his work. Some newspapers dropped his comic strips (B. C. and Wizard of Id) because of this, but most continued to publish them. His work was much-loved and his intent was just to use the medium of cartoons to inform on faith issues (as some use comics to do the same with political issues).

He died at his drawing table on Easter Eve 2007 after finishing his strip for the next day. It was fitting for this “roaring lamb”. [I wish I could post it but you can find it here.]

Roaring Lambs:  A Gentle Plan to Radically Change Your World – Bob Briner

How to Be a ‘Roaring Lamb’ – Warren Cole Smith

I Did It His Way: a Collection of B. C. Religious Comic Strips – Johnny Hart

3) A Very Different Jesus – I am always baffled when Jesus is treated as inconsequential…some sort of weak made-up messiah of even weaker people who call themselves Christians. Maybe, the reason is because of how we Christians have represented Him in the world. This historical profoundly world-changing Jesus is so much more than is captured in the Charles Wesley song “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild”.Photo Credit: Slideplayer

The Scriptures say that Jesus is “the same, yesterday, today, forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If this is true then we can search out who He is and what He is like.

British scholar C. S. Lewis, in his Chronicles of Narnia, described Aslan, the Christ-figure, very differently:

“Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh”, said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he…quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”…”Safe?”, said Mr. Beaver…”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”Photo Credit: Mark Meynell, Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The night before the crucifixion of Christ, a large mob of both religious authorities and Roman soldiers came for him in the dark of night (John 18:1-14). If he had resisted, by the might of His power seen previously, they would need large numbers to insure his arrest. Jesus did not resist arrest. He went of his own accord, knowing his journey to the Cross was at hand. For our sake, He laid down His own power…His own life (Philippians 2:5-8 and John 10:17-18).

We admire first responders – those who run into danger for the sake of those who can’t save themselves. Everything we know, when we read both the Gospel and other religious (and secular) texts, is that Jesus was this kind of different.

The question for all of us is “what will you do with this Jesus?”

The Rebellious Privacy of God: Rowan Williams on Narnia in “The Lion’s World” – Mark Meynell

4) Core Values – A friend of mine this week raised the question of what were my family’s core values. I hadn’t thought of that…in a long while. Not even sure I’ve wrestled with my own core values lately.

We hear of the core values of organizations.

Photo Credit: Multi Works Ltd.

The military publicizes and trains its personnel with core values in mind…differing somewhat depending on what branch of the military.

Photo Credit: Asia J. Sorenson

Corporate strategist and author Ben Sands has written a super helpful piece on discovering your core values. He talks about how our core values are those few we lead out with in our lives.

How to Discover Your Personal Core Values (and Why You Must!) – Ben Sands

So I went through this article and his list of values. He also gives a 4-step process for narrowing down to our core values. I’m still working through it, but below are my list of values (that I need to fine-tune to a Top 5, and then determine guiding principles, per his prescription):

  • Belonging/Inclusion
  • Collaboration/Teamwork
  • Community
  • Compassion/Kindness
  • Dependability
  • Faith
  • Family
  • Gratitude
  • Honesty/Transparency

How about you? Sands calls our core values our “safety net”. Otherwise, we don’t really have a mooring to dock our lives. I’m thinking he is right. What do you think?

5) Finally Spring – While this week marked the coming of Fall in the Southern Hemisphere, we in the North finally have Spring. Yes. Just a few pics of the glorious flowering around us right now.

Photo Credit: The Colorful Cottage, Facebook; An Extraordinary Day

Bonuses:

The Long Goodbye is finally available for purchase and rental. We watched it last night. Wow! Just wow!

From Sunrise House to forever home: teen finds adoptive family

Photo Credit: Homegrown Learners, Facebook

One of my favorite bloggers (a “roaring lamb” herself) on dealing with criticism from readers:

[This has been a week of hard and hard-to-understand events. They drive us to think and pray and reach out to serve.]

In the wake of the terrorist attack in New Zealand, your community needs you.

Wherever you happen to live, your community needs you to show up and say words out loud, because white silence is violence.

Your people need you to acknowledge that Muslims are people who Jesus loves, and that whether we agree or disagree with their beliefs, nobody deserves this.

They need you to pray against terrorism, violence, and white supremacy, but also to do something about it.

They need you to shut down jokes and little comments that make targets out of people of color or other faiths. Don’t let them slide. Make supremacists uncomfortable.

Your community needs you because only when white people, a LOT of white people, actively stand up and stand with those who experience oppression, terrorism, and loss of life because of the color of their skin and their place of worship, will the terrorists understand that they have lost. That their sickening philosophies are not welcome, even among other white people.

POC cannot do this for us. It is up to us to fill our lives and words and deeds and spaces with so much love and inclusivity that white supremacy cannot fit. That it is squeezed out. We do this by how we react to jokes and comments, what we say or do not say, what we do, how we speak about and treat Muslims and other folks in the margins. Again, we don’t have to agree with their theology, but are we kind? Are we gentle? Are we protective of the oppressed? Do we shut down casual racism and xenophobism when we see and hear it?

It’s up to us.

It’s up to you. Cattie Price, Facebook (with permission)

Agencies In Race Against Time After Cyclone – Mozambique

280 Christians Killed in Attacks in Nigeria

Thoughts on How to Be the Church in an Age of Terror and Tragedy – Carey Nieuwhof

Worship Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – the 40-day Lenten Road to Easter

Blog - Lent - Ash Wednesday - from article by Jim DenisonPhoto Credit: Jennifer Balaska via en.wikipedia.org

[Adapted from the Archives]

“How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your Resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death? Yes, Lord, I have to die—with you, through you, and in you—and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your Resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess…. I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen.”Henri Nouwen  (From A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, Orbis)

It wasn’t until I was six years old that church even came on my radar as a thing. My mom worked all the time in those days, and finally, after a last-resort divorce, she settled us into a different life of meager means and lavish love. It was in those days that we responded to an invitation to church from neighbors. A weary single mom and four eager children met the welcome care of a loving church. Our experience was small town Bible-Belt Baptist, and that set the foundation for my understanding of God. In fact, years later, when I signed up for a World Religions course as a college freshman, I thought it would be a survey course on Christianity.

[Even within the context of Christianity, I knew very little of its practice outside the realm of Southern evangelicalism.]

My first experience with Lent, for instance, was through a college friendship. One Wednesday long ago, I caught up with my best friend after she had disappeared from our usual daily routine. We met for lunch and she had this mysterious, ashen cross smudged on her forehead. I resisted the urge of just lovingly wiping it off for her, thinking she was unaware of it. Pointing it out instead, she taught me my first lessons on Lent – on repentance, fasting (sacrifice), the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. All of that was gloriously real for me already, except for setting aside 40 days of resolve prior to the celebration of Easter.

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust – Preparing for Ash Wednesday – Pastor Kirk Thorson

For years, I still didn’t take Lent very seriously and still don’t know quite how to (or if I should) incorporate it into my life…except that my thinking has changed. In this world gone mad, I am more convinced than ever that we as the Church need to stand together for the sake of the nations and for the glory of God. If in Lent, I can find elements that help me see God, and our corporate and personal need for Him, more clearly, then I want to integrate some measure of Lenten practice into my life.

Month-long fasting (one part of Lent) has never been a draw for me, as I was always completely sure it would be a fail. While we lived in North Africa, and especially in Egypt, fasting was very much a part of our Muslim and Christian neighbors’ lives. Even those Christians who were evangelical (from Coptic backgrounds) saw the importance of fasting. Their awareness of the evil of sin in the world and the need for drastic measures lined up solidly with Jesus’ own life and teaching on this.

As I write this, my penitent friend with the ash smeared on her forehead comes to mind again. Decades later, on this day, I’m sure, wherever she is, she has a new ashen cross applied. Reminding her of the sin in her own life that Christ paid for Himself with His death on the Cross.

[We like our foreheads clean, don’t we? Being reminded of the dark and dirty smudge of sin in our lives is not something we want to carry around with us publicly. Especially in this post-Christian world of ours. Even with the message of the Cross as the only response to that sin…it’s just too public, too culturally “in your face” so to speak.]

Many may see Lent as extra-Biblical and therefore unnecessary to add to our countdown to commemorating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For me, at least, it gives a bit narrower road to walk for forty days – examining our own frailty, our sin, and the brevity of life alongside the magnificent perfection of the life and love of a wholly surrendered Christ.

Ash Wednesday and Lent as Means of Grace – Ryan J. Pelton

Bible Gateway extends a free invitation to receive devotionals daily until Lent from A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’ll be going through that as part of my reading these 40 days until Easter.

Also for the past several years, during Lent, I have read Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. It was a gift from a good friend during our years living overseas. There’s a lot in this world that’s frightening these days. Yet God is still God and is at work in the midst of so much crazy. I believe Him at His word. Full stop. We have a role in dealing with what we see in the world. As Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 17:21), there is evil that we can only battle with prayer and fasting. This is a power unleashed in a true observance of Lent.Blog - Lent - Easter (3)

As we grieve so much death around us in these days, and as we look to Easter, I would like to close with a prayer from Adrian Plass’ book:

“Loving heavenly Father, I want to try to tackle this business of loving enemies. First of all I’m going to sit quietly here and go through a mental list of the folk who I would call my enemies. Help me to be really honest…I don’t want to leave anyone out….I’ve done it, Lord. There are rather a lot, and some of them I really hate. But You made it quite clear that You can’t forgive me if I don’t forgive them, so I’ll start the process, even if it takes a long time to mean it. Love them for me, Lord, and please accept my prayers for their welfare and safety. Soften my hard heart as the days go by, until I begin to see them through Your eyes. Thank You for forgiving me. Amen.”

For these forty-plus days before Easter, I will be reading A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer; referring back to the book-marked portions of The Unlocking; reflecting on God and the goodness and wisdom He displays through Jesus’ life and teachingresisting (fasting from) those money- and time-stealers that distract me from larger issues; repenting of the sins of neglect and indifference; and remembering to pray and reach out to God and those around me as His vessel for His purposes among the nations.

May the days of Lent roll on naturally into the rest of our days…

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

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

Lent Resource Guide – Calvin Institute for Christian Worship

Evangelicals Embracing (and Rejecting) Lent by Trevin Wax

Worship Wednesday – Oh God, You’re Near – Citizens

Blog - Romans 8 - Love of god - Franklin Rodriguez TwitterPhoto Credit: Franklin Rodriguez

[Adapted from the Archive]

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:37-39

“I don’t know how anyone can get through____________ without God.”

What fills that blank in your life right now?

A couple of years ago, a huge storm came through Richmond, Virginia, with thousands of us losing power for four days. That first night, when the lights went out, it was weirdly quiet. Then, one by one, generators clicked on throughout our neighborhood. For days, we had this post-apocalyptic buzzing sound all around us.

Finally we got power back, and it was quiet again. Beautiful ordinary quiet.

I’ve become more and more thankful how we can sense God’s presence both in the noise and in the quiet…

On Sunday, our worship team led us in singing the Citizens & Saints song, Oh God. It was a quieter version than the Citizens band does, but I recognized the deep heart-cry to God. Those lyrics resounded what we have experienced lately of the nearness of God.

These days are full of the graces and mercies of God. In that storm that took out our lights, in the journey to a cancer diagnosis and treatment, in the birth of new grandchildren, in the loss of old friends, and in the difficult journey of loved ones going through health issues, job loss, miscarriage or divorce…we have seen and experienced the nearness of God. How else could we go through?

“I don’t know how anyone can get through____________ without God.”

We don’t have to….

Worship this great and loving God with me – to this song by  Zach Bolen inspired by Romans 8:

In the valley, Oh God, You’re near
In the quiet, Oh God, You’re near
In the shadow, Oh God, You’re near
At my breaking, Oh God, You’re near
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life
In my searching, Oh God, You’re near
In my wandering, Oh God, You’re near
When I feel alone, Oh God, You’re near
At my lowest, Oh God, You’re near
Height nor depth nor anything else
Could pull us apart
We are joined as one by Your blood
Hope will rise as we become more
Than conquerors through
The One who loved the world
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life*
Blog - God will never leave you - bibleinspirationsPhoto Credit: Bible Inspirations
This morning, the Lord reminded me all over again of how no matter our situation, He is with us. It wasn’t much past the time of the picture below that my mom gave up on her first marriage. The stress and strain of my biological father’s neglect and the weight of responsibility on a young working mother pushed her to make the decision to finally leave him. My earliest memory was my big brother Robert (who couldn’t have been more than 9 or maybe 10) placing our infant brother on my lap in the backseat of the car. Our toddler brother was already beside me, and Robert finished helping mom pack the car. We drove away into the dark unknown.
It was not long, maybe a year, maybe less, that neighbors invited us to attend church with them…and we found the love of God in Jesus. We didn’t have words for it before then, but His love had kept us through those difficult early days…
…and has ever since.