Tag Archives: John Piper

Worship Wednesday – Sidelined? By Whom? – A Musical Account of Moses and His God – Ken Medema

Photo Credit: Heartlight

The Lord asked him [Moses], “What is that in your hand?”
“A staff,” he replied.
“Throw it on the ground,” he said. So Moses threw it on the ground, it became a snake, and he ran from it. The Lord told Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grab it by the tail.”
So he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand.
“This will take place,” he continued, “so that they will believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”Exodus 4:3-5
The life of Moses inspires us all. He definitely had seasons when he must have felt side-lined…looking out the palace windows with no royal way to help the Israelite slaves; then 40 years tending sheep on the far side of nowhere; and finally after leading God’s people through the wilderness to the Promised Land, dying without entering himself.
Who sidelines us? What exactly sidelines us? Too often we are our own limiting factor…we put ourselves on the bench.
Is God not still at work in our lives…through every season?
Earlier this week, I was lamenting (maybe even whining) to a friend about something that gets to me from time to time. That feeling of being sidelined…after a lifetime of great productivity and unmerited influence. What is it, I asked her (or maybe God), about this season that is so hard? That feeling of being place-less, ministry-less. Surely it’s not my age or gender…or is it? Is there no more fruitfulness to look forward to this side of Heaven?
Can I execute bountiful pity parties or what?!
Then even in this talk with my friend, God’s sweet truth broke through. Dr. Curt Thompson is spot on when he talks about how we can come “to our senses” just in the simple experience of being seen…being known by a trusted friend. At the end of that conversation, as we prayed, the tears flowed (which is rare for me), and God reminded me of His own goodness and good purposes – and while I had breath, nothing was about to thwart what He was doing in and through me…in and through all of us.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Just in the course of a few hours after that conversation, the Lord worked His grace in my heart, and I’m back in the life He has so generously given me.

5 lessons God taught me…again:

  • Let go of the past. – We can romanticize and pedestalize previous seasons of our life and work. We look back over the plow (Luke 9:62) and long for other days. This is the field. This is the day where He has us now. I don’t want to miss what He has for my life today because my thoughts are languishing, settled in the distant past. We don’t forget the past, but we remember it, glorifying God, not glorying in our own supposed “usefulness”. Sigh…
  • Check your heart. – Anytime a spirit of complaining clouds our thinking, it is a good reminder to see what’s going on in our hearts. Am I feeling unseen, unappreciated, under-utilized? [So what?! If that happens then we’re completely free to listen more closely to how God is directing.] Arm-chair quarterbacking is not a good look for any of us. I remember my mom was a treasure to the young pastors she had through the years. In fact, three of them preached her funeral…with others in the room, with the same testimony. They talked of how she loved them, spoke truth to them, and prayed over them faithfully. In her own quiet life, growing older…closer to God. The Lord got hold of me the other day in this area. So thankful for His love and care…and forgiveness.
  • Watch for the new thing. – God is always with us and at work in us. He may take us down familiar, well-worn paths (those we get caught up longing for), but He also chooses to stretch our faith and build our capacity for loving Him and loving others. Not necessarily in grand and glorious ways, but in small and subtle ways where we have the opportunity to decrease while He increases. Whew! Watching for it.
  • Will there be barriers? Always. The thing we should have learned from previous seasons of life and work is that God is our over-comer. More often than not, we find the battle belongs to God; all we have to do is stand. We forget that sometimes. We stare at the barriers (fashioning them, at times, to look like our own brothers and sisters in Christ), and fume about them…forgetting that our battle is NOT against flesh and blood…nor is it really our battle. [There’s a very short story that comes to mind about how we’re called to push against what seems an impossible weight…but God* (see below, worth the read). Compared to the person and presence of God, all seeming barriers are small.
  • Eyes on God – The most beautiful reminder out of this pity party of mine is that setting our eyes on God changes everything. If He means for me to finish in this life’s “Promised Land” or, like Moses, looking down into it but not quite arriving…it is His to make happen and for me to follow. The Scriptures do not record Moses grumbling about not getting to enter with all those he led… I think the reason it’s not recorded is that it didn’t happen. For Moses, being with God was enough. More than enough. Period. Full stop. Eyes on God.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.Colossians 3:1-4

OK…so Moses…he may have felt sidelined…and except for the years in Pharaoh’s palace, he did the sidelining to himself. God, however, did not let him stay on the bench. Singer songwriter Ken Medema wrote and performed an incredible account of Moses’ early encounter with God (the verses above, Exodus 4:3-5).

Worship with me, or listen to this amazing and revealing story of God…and His servant Moses. [In the video, you may notice Ken Medema is blind…but in his heart, he can see and sing God so clearly!].

“Do you know what it means, Moses?
Do you know what I’m trying to say, Moses?
The rod of Moses became the rod of God!
With the rod of God, strike the rock and the water will come;

With the rod of God, part the waters of the sea;
With the rod of God, you can strike old Pharaoh dead;

With the rod of God, you can set the people free.”

What do you hold in your hand today?
To what or to whom are you bound?
Are you willing to give it to God right now?
Give it up, let it go, throw it down.Ken Medema

I Stutter All the Time: Moses by Ken Medema

Photo Credit: Rick Warren, Heartlight

Thanks for joining me today. Do you ever struggle in this area? Maybe you don’t…yet. Maybe you do. Would love for you to share some of your own insight on how God redeemed that season for you.

Prayerfully…

What do you hold in your hand today?
To what or to whom are you bound?
Are you willing to give it to God right now?
Give it up, let it go, throw it down. from Moses by Ken Medema

Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:1-13

Worship Wednesday – Surrendering What’s Precious in Exchange for the Doubtless…the Supernatural Movement of God – Deb Mills

The Two Hurdles of God’s Will – Greg Matte

Intimacy with God Is the Main Thing – Letter to My 30-Year-Old Self – Kim Cash Tate

I’m Too Distracted with Life to Meditate on Christ – John Piper

*Pushing the Rock – Joshua Adams

The greatest gospel force is the lay person in the pew equipped by the preacher in the pulpit! Scott Sullivan

Worship Wednesday – Coming Out of the Dark of Shame – Glorious Day – Passion Music

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.Romans 8:1

For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” – 1 Peter 2:6

Turns out I’ve written a lot about shame. Strange for me, in that until a few months ago, I didn’t think shame was something that bothered me. Guilt, yes. Shame…no.

I was wrong. Even studying Scripture, I must have just skipped over all the “shame” passages. We are introduced to the experience of shame very early in the Bible as Adam and Eve (before sin) were described as “naked but unashamed”. Too soon, they tasted the bitter fruit of disobedience and couldn’t stomach the shame of their nakedness. Naked and, this time, ashamed…and wanting to hide themselves from each other…and God.

What are we trying to hide? What are we working so hard to bury or cover or avoid? Quick to judge someone else before we ourselves are judged.

Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson helps us understand shame and find a way to healing and freedom. In his book The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves, he talks about how shamed people try to shame others. We don’t want our lives to be examined too closely…our secrets might be exposed. We hide. We isolate ourselves. We turn aside rather than be truly known.

“When we experience shame, we tend to turn away from others because the prospect of being seen or known by another carries the anticipation of shame being intensified or reactivated. However, the very act of turning away, while temporarily protecting and relieving us from our feeling (and the gaze of the ‘other’), ironically simultaneously reinforces the very shame we are attempting to avoid. Notably, we do not necessarily realize this to be happening-we’re just trying to survive the moment. But indeed this dance between hiding and feeling shame itself becomes a tightening of the noose.  We feel shame, and then feel shame for feeling shame. It begets itself.” – Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves

Photo Credit: IIRP, Nathanson

The irony here is that none of us is exempt from this experience of shame. We have all endured the pain and sorrow of it. How we deal with it is to name it and take it out of the darkness into His marvelous light… Shame is not meant to be a tormentor. God gave us this gift, really, as a signal, a marker, that something is wrong and can be righted. We are to turn our eyes away from hiding our sin and look to Jesus to heal our sin.

To this God, whom we meet in Jesus, we must direct our attention if we are to know the healing of our shame. We must literally look to Jesus in embodied ways in order to know how being loved in community brings shame to its knees and lifts us up and into acts of goodness and beauty.”
Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves
Sometimes we feel shame not from anything we’ve done wrong but from what others have communicated to us about us…from childhood. Our “not enough-ness”. That communication gets wired into our minds and we recall it over and over through life.
We can derail that messaging when we name it for what it is, talk about it with a person with whom we feel safe, and give it to Jesus.
Just this week, I had the responsibility of arranging housing for a refugee family. Rentals in our city are often expensive, and even at that, hard to come by. I found an apartment that would work well (praise God!), then in the process of applying for a lease, the monthly rent went up (LIKE $50). It changes daily I was told. After venting my frustration with the rental office agent, and we ended our phone conversation with me answering his question, “Yes, I still want the apartment!!!” After a few minutes, the shamed bubbled up. What if I lost us the apartment? What if my rant meant we would have to keep searching for a home for this weary, displaced family? What if? What if?! Shamed turned my focus inward and I was terrified at being found out…being found wanting…being a failure.
The Lord, in His mercy, reminded me of all I had been learning about shame, and I recognized it for what it was. Processing it, I prayed… and I called Dave. Talking through it took away much of its power. In the end, there was nothing to worry about. We agreed to the rent offered (which was still within the budget…I overreacted!), and the agent had taken no offense, it turns out. God had quieted my heart and reminded me of the truth of His love. He provided. Period. Full stop. We take deep breaths, and look to Him.

“…Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” – Hebrews 12:2

What Does It Mean for Jesus to Despise the Shame? – John Piper

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Shame’s healing encompasses the counterintuitive act of turning toward what we are most terrified of. We fear the shame that we will feel when we speak of that very shame.  In some circumstances we anticipate this vulnerable exposure to be so great that it will be almost life threatening.  But it is in the movement toward another, toward connection with someone who is safe, that we come to know life and freedom from this prison.Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves

The key here in dealing with shame is to refuse to let it isolate us. In the dark of our own silent shame, we allow our thoughts to torment and accuse…or we tamp down those thoughts by dismissing them or turning on others in judgment. When we hide, we miss the comfort God means for us through fellowship with Him and each other.

You did it: You turned my deepest pains into joyful dancing; You stripped off my dark clothing and covered me with joyful light. You have restored my honor. My heart is ready to explode, erupt in new songs! It’s impossible to keep quiet! Eternal One, my God, my Life-Giver, I will thank You forever.”Psalm 30:11-12

Worship with me (Passion Music‘s Glorious Day – music & lyrics in link). Let’s celebrate the blessed freedom we have in Christ…

I was buried beneath my shame
Who could carry that kind of weight
It was my tomb
Till I met You

I was breathing but not alive
All my failures I tried to hide
It was my tomb
Till I met You

You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day
You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day

Now Your mercy has saved my soul
Now Your freedom is all I know
The old made new
Jesus, when I met You

You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day
You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day

I needed rescue
My sin was heavy
But chains break at the weight of Your glory
I needed shelter
I was an orphan
Now You call me a citizen of heaven
When I was broken
You were my healing
Your love is the air that I’m breathing
I have a future
My eyes are open

You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day
You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day*

For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  Romans 10:11

*Lyrics to Glorious Day – Songwriters: Jonathan Smith, Kristian Paul Stanfill, Jason Ingram, Sean Curran

Behind the Song: Passion Shares the Heart Behind Their Song “Glorious Day” –  Abby Young

20 Quotes from Curt Thompson’s New Book The Soul of Shame – Jordan (the Levite) Williams

Monday Morning Moment – Joy – C. S. Lewis

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, AZ Quotes

Here’s a bit of this beautiful rabbit trail of exploring “joy” as my word of the year 2022. One turn building on another.

Last week, I read the small and endearing volume C. S. Lewis’ Letters to Children. That led to watching two of the The Chronicles of Narnia films. From there Dave began re-reading the book series, and I searched out the film The Most Reluctant Convert: the Untold Story of C. S. Lewis.

We watched that film (which I highly recommend), at home, during which I wrote pages of notes from the rich and thought-provoking dialog. The film featured a biopic of both a young C. S. Lewis and his older self. Beautifully filmed and intriguing as it unfolded Lewis’ childhood, his academic life as an atheist, and then his wrestling with the idea of God…and then the reality of Him. Lewis was literally “surprised by joy“.

Surprised by Joy: the Shape of My Early Life – C. S. Lewis (his autobiography)

What is joy? It’s way more than happiness. In fact, this feeling of joy can even be experienced in a hard place, in suffering, even despair.

“The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope–and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend up on it) disappoint us.Walter Wangerin Jr.

Joy is not something that we can produce nor can we hold onto it. It is a glimpse of Heaven. It points to something larger, something beyond the moment. It is not to be made an idol of (a good word for someone holding it close as her word for the year). It is a glorious gift – it sharpens our experience of beauty and love. It assures and sustains us. It gives pause. It fills all the space we give it.

You know that magical moment when a sunrise reaches its full beauty and then fades fast into day. We want the moment to last longer, but we still have the experience of it, the memory of it, and the hope of it coming again. Joy is a snapshot of the goodness of God…of God Himself, the Joy-giver.

As the sunrise faded this morning, I pulled out a selection of books from our large C. S. Lewis collection to revisit on his take on joy. Do you have a favorite of his books?

Just a little of how Lewis describes joy:

“In a sense the central story of my life is about nothing else…it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy…a technical term and must be sharply distinguished from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy has one characteristic…in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again…It might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want.

Joy must have the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing…All Joy reminds [“Look! Look! What do I remind you of?”]. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still “about to be”.

Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” – C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

I will share one brief story where, in a moment of terrible loss, I was “surprised by joy”. Many years ago, our Chad, a cherished young nephew of ours died, at 23 y/o, in a car accident. It was horrific for everyone in the family because he was so dear to all of us. There came that moment, with the family gathered, that we were able to see him at the funeral home. I remember vividly saying silently to God that the test of His promise of grace sufficient was before us. To walk into the room and face the reality of Chad’s being with us no more was terrifying. Yet…God showed up. It was awful but in a surreal way. None of us tried to comfort each other; there just weren’t words. Yet, it was like we were all being held up, held together, held close. Leaning in, surrounding that casket…loving that boy. Longing to see him alive again…and assured, truly comforted, we would, one day, see him again.

Maybe no one else had the experience I had…but I believe it was common to all of us…they wouldn’t label it joy, I don’t think, but it was a joy that burst in…at a time of shock and sadness. A joy that helped us keep breathing and hold together rather than push away.

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, AZ Quotes

So…I’m on a journey to discover joy in its many forms…and watch for whom it points. A signpost. A marker. Joy.

7 Thoughts on Joy From C. S. Lewis – Dawn Klinge

How Do You Define Joy? – John Piper – Desiring God

The Quotable Lewis – Edited by Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Worship Wednesday – Overcoming Regret – Mercy – Elevation Worship & Maverick City

Photo Credit: Heartlight

The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?Jeremiah 17:9

If You, O LORD, kept track of iniquities, then who, O Lord, could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be feared.  I wait for the LORD; my soul does wait, and in His word I put my hope. – Psalm 130:3-5

For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I have not been justified by this; but the One judging me is the Lord.1 Corinthians 4:4

Let’s spend a few minutes looking back. Thinking about regret. We aren’t going to stay there, because God saved us for this present moment, and, beyond this, our glorious future. However, looking back (with righteous intention) can empower us for our lives in the present. Looking back can also grow gratitude for the God who has graciously forgiven us.

Maybe regret isn’t something that plagues you. That is a grace, Dear One. Pastor John Piper says: “A life without regrets is built on a mirage. We have all sinned.” I have never thought much about regret until recent years. Getting older seems to grease the tracks for that.

I have regrets…and it turns out, so do we all. In pondering it this week, I’ve asked several in my life about their regrets. Surprisingly, these conversations revealed things I didn’t know about people I know well…regret exposed tender memories and heartbreak.

Some things we can’t change…but the things we can, then… hallelujah!

Let’s pull our regret out of the dark recesses of our memory, put it on the table, and examine it with the help of the Holy Spirit…and a trusted friend. If we don’t deal with our regret, it is still affecting the freedom we have in Christ and our sense of ourselves and each other.

Let’s do what we need to do with that regret…and get truly free.

Researcher and clinical psychologist Dr. J. Kim Penberthy posted a fascinating and empowering piece on overcoming regret.

Regret is a very real reaction to a disappointing event in your life, a choice you made that can’t be changed, something you said that you can’t take back. It’s one of those feelings you can’t seem to shake, a heavy and intrusive negative emotion that can last for minutes, days, years or even a lifetime.”

Regret mentally references something we did or that we didn’t do (in the spiritual realm: sins of commission and sins of omission).

Penberthy offers a cognitive model for overcoming regret. It involves the acronym “REACH“:

  • Recall the hurt (face it)
  • Empathize (be kind and compassionate)
  • Altruistically offer forgiveness (to oneself)
  • Commit publicly (share it) and
  • Hold on to that forgiveness and stay true to the decision.

Regret Can Be All-Consuming – a Neurobehavioral Scientist Explains How to Overcome It

The Psychology of Regret – Melanie Greenberg

Our tendency is to either bury our regret or burrow into our regret. Either way robs us of 1) what we can learn from it, 2) what we can do to correct or overcome it, and 3) what freedom we can experience, living fully in the present (beyond the conscious/unconscious burden of regret).

Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson writes about overcoming regret:

“The process of repair requires us to confront the reality of the wound that has taken place. This includes naming the offense (what someone did or failed to do), acknowledging that it has caused pain to the one offended, and pledging to work to never repeat the behavior. In the language of faith we describe this maneuver of repair as confession and repentance – the act of turning around and going in the opposite direction, not merely feeling regret for having done something wrong.”Curt Thompson, The Anatomy of the Soul

John Piper answers the question “How Should I Handle My Regrets?” in a 10 minute podcast. He reminds us of the Savior we have and the salvation we’ve received…recalling the thief on the cross, being executed because of a regrettable life, and yet, in a moment, repenting and receiving assurance of Paradise with the Lord. Wow!

Piper warns us that our memories are faulty causing us to be either too hard on ourselves…or too easy. Then he calls us both to remember and to forget:

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.Ephesians 2:12-13

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

“Wherever remembering our failures will help us fly to Christ, love Christ, rest in Christ, cherish grace, sing of mercy, serve with zeal, then let’s get on with remembering and regretting…

but…

Wherever remembering begins to paralyze us with the weight of failure and remorse so that we don’t love Christ more or cherish grace more or serve with greater energy, then let us forget and press on by the power of grace for the little time we have left…Press on in faith for the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ.”John Piper, Desiring God

Let’s close out as Pastor John calls us to “sing of mercy” with the song below: Mercy.

REACH Forgiveness – Everett Worthington – wonderful resources!

Worship Wednesday – The Cause of Christ Revisited in 2022- Kari Jobe

 

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. – the Apostle Paul, Acts 20:24

Entering year three of COVID, who would have thought?

I wonder how much time each day we spend talking about, reading about, and altering our lives to prevent COVID. So. Much. Time. On a phone call with a friend yesterday, she observed that we seem to all place ourselves somewhere on a continuum of tired or terrified. Which is it for you?

Then I come across a tweet that snaps me into a new consciousness.

Photo Credit: Spence Shelton, Twitter

“Secluded comfort” has lulled us into a false sense of safety from COVID. Also a spiritual dullness which (as Spence Shelton states) downplays “gospel urgency and gospel sacrifice”. Whoa! I certainly have experienced some of this.

My mom was tireless in serving God and others right to the moment she lost consciousness in her last hours on earth. She always amazed me. Never too busy to be interrupted. Never too tired to respond to a need. Just never. She amazed me.

Toward the end of her battle with cancer, I asked her (you’ve heard this story before) if she heard God speak to her. In years past, she struggled with whether God was guiding her or she was on her own. It was something she fretted over at times. In the hard days of cancer, I was hoping maybe that had changed… Again, when I asked if she heard God when she prayed, and she trained those clear blue eyes on me. With a smile that comforts me still, she said, “All the time.”

A different generation? A time before COVID? Did fighting cancer sharpen her sense of the presence and purposes of God? Is it possible COVID is meant to do the same? What can we draw from “such a time as this”…this right now?

On Sunday, at Movement Church, we sang The Cause of Christ by Kari Jobe. In the setting of church gathered, the Holy Spirit moved my heart deeply with the purpose of this life. This song reminded me of God’s will for us, not matter the externals in our lives, to persevere and refuse to keep silent.

My heart’s best desire is to be wholly about God’s purposes and to radiate, in word and deed, the love and person of Jesus Christ. Seasons come (as with COVID) when this desire is dampened by fears, distractions, and cultural cloyings that disguise lies for truth. I have not always lived for the God who saved me…definitely have not been always faithful to speak the glorious truth of who God is and what He has done for us.

Oh…the awful silence of choosing my own comfort over the cause of Christ.

What joy in those occasions when we enter into the cause of Christ and share the truth of God, in word and deed. He takes our feeble attempts and, through His Holy Spirit, gives us the opportunity to point to love and life in Him.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.Ephesians 2:8

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.John 3:16-17

How can we keep silent?

It is not fame that I desire
Nor stature in my brother’s eye
I pray it’s said about my life
That I lived more to build Your Name than mine*

Before we worship together with the singing and meditating on Kari Jobe’s The Cause of Christ, I’d like to post and pray (with you) pastorJohn Piper‘s prayer, from his book Coronavirus and Christ.

“Father, at our best moments, by Your grace, we are not sleeping in Gethsemane, we are awake and listening to Your Son’s prayer. He knows deep down that He must suffer but in His perfect humanity, He cries out, “If it is possible, let this cup pass.” In the same way, we sense deep down that this pandemic is appointed in Your wisdom for good and necessary purposes. We, too, must suffer. Your Son was innocent. We are not. Yet, with Him, in our less than perfect humanity, we too cry out, “If it is possible, let this cup pass.”

Do quickly, oh Lord, the painful, just, and merciful work You have resolved to do. Do not linger in judgment, do not delay Your compassion. Remember the poor, oh Lord, according to Your mercy. Do not forget the cry of the afflicted. Grant recovery. Grant a cure. Deliver us, Your people, helpless creatures, from these sorrows, we pray. But do not waste our misery and grief, oh Lord. Purify Your people from powerless preoccupation with barren materialism and Christless entertainment. Put our mouths out of taste with the bait of Satan.

Cut from us the roots and remnant of pride and hate and unjust ways. Grant us capacities of outrage at our own belittling of Your glory. Open the eyes of our hearts to see and savor the beauty of Christ. Incline our hearts to Your word, Your Son, Your way. Fill us with compassionate courage and make a name for Yourself in the way Your people serve. Stretch forth Your hand in great awakening.

For the sake of this perishing world, let the terrible words of Revelation not be spoken over this generation, ‘yet still they did not repent’. As You have stricken bodies, strike now the slumbering souls. Forbid that they would remain asleep in the darkness of pride and unbelief. In Your great mercy, say to these bones, live and bring the hearts and lives of millions into alignment with the infinite worth of Jesus. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.” – John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ

Worship with me for the cause of Christ (music in the link):

The only thing I want in life
Is to be known for loving Christ
To build His church, to love His bride
And make His name known far and wide

For this cause, I live
For this cause, I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

He is all my soul will prize
Regardless of the joy or trial
When agonizing questions rise
In Jesus, all my hope abides

For this cause, I live
For this cause, I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

Jesus, my Jesus
For Your glory, for Your name
Jesus, my Jesus
I will only sing Your praise

For this cause I live
For this cause I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

It is not fame that I desire
Nor stature in my brother’s eye
I pray it’s said about my life
That I lived more to build Your Name than mine*

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

______________________________________________________________________

*Lyrics to The Cause of Christ – Writers: Kari Jobe, Benjamin Hastings, Bryan Fowler

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe – interview starts at 4:45 [also how to play the song]

What Is the Cause of Christ?

A Cause Worthy of Your Life – Andrew Corbett

What Does It Mean to Be Saved? – Steven J. Cole

For the Cause – Getty Music

YouTube Video – When It’s All Been Said and Done – Robin Mark

Finishing Strong – Mildred McAdams – (our mom) – 1927-2002

Worship Wednesday – The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe

Photo Credit: Heartlight

5 Friday Faves – Epic Spanish Romance Guitar Cover, Languishing, From Sad to Mad, Christmas Events, and I.O.U.S Acronym on a Divided Heart

Christmas week is upon us! This past week’s Friday Faves finally:

1) Epic Spanish Romance Cover– Get ready for one of the most beautiful pieces ever written for classical guitar. The composer is unknown. The arranger for this piece is  Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar. Enjoy.

[One of his subscribers on YouTube asked him to do for Niel Gow’s Lament what he did to the Spanish Romance. Here in his college days, Nathan plays that piece. Hope he does put his own touch to it again…all these years later. A funny sidebar to the piece below: Nathan’s sister wanted him to play this for her wedding. He said something to the effect that the whole title of the piece is “Niel Gow’s Lament For the Death of His Second Wife” so Nathan played other pieces instead. Didn’t seem a good fit for a wedding day. ]

2) Languishing– Who even knows what this is?! Well, author and organizational psychologist  Adam Grant does. He defines it as:

“Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it may be the dominant emotion of 2021.

As scientists and physicians work to treat and cure the physical symptoms of long-haul COVID-19, many people are struggling with the emotional long haul of the pandemic. It hit some of us unprepared as the intense fear and grief of last year faded.

In psychology, we think about mental health on a spectrum from depression to flourishing. Flourishing is the peak of well-being: You have a strong sense of meaning, mastery and mattering to others. Depression is the valley of ill-being: You feel despondent, drained and worthless.
Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It appears to be more common than major depression, and in some ways it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness.

So what can we do about it? A concept called flow may be an antidote. Flow is that elusive state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or a momentary bond, where your sense of time, place and self melts away. During the early days of the pandemic, the best predictor of well-being wasn’t optimism or mindfulness. It was flow. People who became more immersed in their projects managed to avoid languishing and maintained their pre-pandemic happiness.” – Adam Grant

There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing – Adam Grant

I’m very thankful to come across this article by Dr. Grant. He has much more to say both in the above piece and in his TED talk below. We can learn how to move from languishing back to flourishing.

The links below point to a varied and fascinating reach into languishing. Worth your time.

The Neglected Child of Mental Health – Bruce Isdale

The Neglected Child of Mental Health – Caron Leid

The High Cost of Calm – Why Relaxing Is So Much Work

I’m a Short Afternoon Walk and you’re putting way to much pressure on me – Emily Delany

How to Describe Our Pandemic State(s) of Mind – WNYC Podcast

Why You Need to Address Languishing to Retain Your Talent

3) From Sad to Mad – In the midst of a sweet time of year for some of us folks, I have found my capacity for sadness stretched super far. With a background in cancer nursing where loss was always part of life, and with all the hello-goodbyes in our overseas season as a family, and finally having lost very significant people in the last few years…sad is stretched. What has surprised me of late is how fast my “sad” goes to “mad”. I get angry at the losses – deaths to COVID, marriages broken, families estranged from each other, moral failures…and more. Mad is not where I want to be. “Righteous indignation” never stays righteous. It gets mean way too quickly.

Photo Credit: Pexels, Serkan Goktay

From Sad to Mad: How Suppressing Your Sadness Invites Anger – Joshua Nash

The piece above helped me immensely. Therapist Joshua Nash offers helpful steps (go there if this has become an issue for you as well). The main take-away for me is that I shift from sadness at a loss to anger at the injustice of it. What is better for my emotions, body, and relationships is to stay in the sadness. Feel it, examine its impact, mourn the cause. Sadness will subside. Moving into anger (as natural as it is in grieving a loss) mucks up the sadness. Anger is punishing (to yourself and others). As hard as staying in the sadness is, we (and our relationships) will be better for it.

Christmas Bitter and Christmas Sweet – Tim Challies

4) Christmas Events – December is practically glutted with events to celebrate Christmas. In a month when meditating on the mystery of a virgin birth and the long-anticipated coming of a Savior King, quiet is hard to come by. We make room for it…alongside all the fun of this month. Below is a photo array of just some of this past week for us.

  • Christmas Cookie & Ornament Exchange (us women):
  • Old-fashioned Carol Sing (mostly in our own basement):
  • VCU Holiday Gala with our favorite alum and his little son: 
  • Tacky Lights RVA:
  • Ethnic lunch out (#Mezeh) with our youngest:
  • Quiet times in front of the fire (quiet on the schedule AND with cookies & coffee):
  • Christmas with The Chosen:

[If the recording of Christmas With the Chosen: The Global Live Event becomes inaccessible, you can find it on The Chosen app.]

5) I.O.U.S Acronym on a Divided Heart – This morning I was struck afresh how little undivided attention is exercised in my day. Even my introverted husband will spill out all sorts of wise and wonderful words – when I am wholly there. Fixed. Not leaving the room mentally. These moments are more rare than I’d like to confess…all because of the struggle to focus.

Author theologian John Piper tackles this issue with our heart toward God. We struggle with all sorts of noise and clatter pulling us in directions that leave off the wonder of deeply knowing Him.

Photo Credit: John Piper, Quote Fancy

Piper uses an acronym that is hugely helpful in this (setting us in a positive direction for the New Year):

I.O.U.S. – [From John Piper’s Divided Heart article linked below]

“The embattled heart is typical of the Christian life. None of us has a consistently united heart in longing for God.”

  • “The letter I stands for incline. “Incline my heart to your testimonies,” we pray with Psalm 119:36. We ask God to take away resistance. We ask God to incline us toward God and his Word instead of away from God. And so we admit all our inclination toward God is a work of God. The psalmist would not be praying like this if the inclination was ultimately within our own power. If it were, he wouldn’t be asking God to incline his heart. We plead with God to take our hearts in his hands and to incline them, bend them, toward his Word.
  • Then the letter O stands for open. Psalm 119:18 says, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” We need God to work a miracle on the eyes of our heart so that we can see the truth, beauty, value of who he is right there in his word. If we are left to ourselves while meditating on God’s word, we will see nothing of his spiritual beauty and worth.
  • Then comes the third letter, U. It stands for unite. Psalm 86:11 says, “Unite my heart to fear Your name.” What an amazing prayer: “Unite my heart.” So what’s the problem that this psalmist is praying to solve? The problem is a divided heart.”

Plead Psalm 86:11 in prayer: ‘O God, unite my heart to fear your name.’Is It Normal to Have a Divided Heart? – John Piper

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Bonuses:

The Last Word – A one-minute video speaks volumes about our country, the media’s impact on us all, and one decision to step away. 62 y/o news commentator Brian Williams stepped away from a 28-year career with NBC/MSNBC. His last show was December 9, and he announced his resignation in this powerful short statement. We can all take something away from this, whatever our politics or nationality. There comes a time…

How to Engage a Parent Who Has Harmed You with Autumn – Podcast 23 – Adam Young Counseling

Photo Credit: Instagram, Adam Young Counseling

Women & Work Book Club – The Common Rule by Justin Whitmel Earley – Check out previous books reviewed and discussed with the authors.

Did Chevrolet Have to Make America Cry With Its New Christmas Ad? – Joe Cunningham

The Great Challenge of Every Marriage

9 Habits that the World’s Healthiest and Longest Lived People Share – Dan Buettner

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Contemplative Monk, Facebook

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, Senses and Memories, Parenting Well, Fishing Perks, and Attention Alcohol

Late again. That kind of week. Here’s the rapid but not to miss runthrough.

1) Beyond the Guitar – If you love Star Wars, you will love Nathan‘s interpretation of John WilliamsAcross the Stars. Actually…whether you love Star Wars or not, this is achingly beautiful.

Then there is his piece later this week, posting his arrangement of the theme of Genshin Impact video game. This was actually sponsored by the game creators. I am sure they are pleased. Another really gorgeous treatment.

2) Senses and Memories – One of the appealing features of Nathan’s music is the nostalgia attached to much of it. It takes us back. To a scene from a movie, a TV show we shared with family, a video game of one’s childhood. Sound is powerfully attached to memory. We have all had those experiences or have read/watched the positive impact of beloved music on critically ill patients, or those suffering with brain injury or Alzheimer’s. Memory is stirred.

Where we live right now, we can hear the sound of planes, trains, and interstate traffic. The sound is just in the background but it is oftentimes powerful. Looking up at a commercial jet going over takes me back to being new in Cairo, Egypt, walking toward a taxi stand. I wondered at the destination of the flight and in my stress as a newbie to to language and culture, that sound (and sight) comforted me somehow.

The sound of a train takes me all the way back to Sfax, Tunisia, when we lived by a train track. The train whistles marked time for us through the day.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Farther still, the sound of a train took me back to childhood, as we waited for it to pass, and looking between the cars to my friend Evelyn’s house. Her family was only there briefly, but I loved her. She was from a different era. Wore hand-me-down dresses to middle school every day. Old everything. Poor. Stretched by poverty, but she was elegant and full of dignity. Their large, spooky old house peeked between the passing train cars, and I wondered at their lives inside that house. They were gone too soon…but the memory of her remains…with the sound of trains.

We know when Fall is here, because all of a sudden, it is all things pumpkin spice. Flavored coffee, pies, and decor – all pumpkiny.Photo Credit: Pexels – Valeriia Miller

What the Nose Knows – Colleen Walsh

Brain’s Link Between Sounds, Smells and Memory Revealed – Rachael Rettner

Music and Memory – Why the Music We Love as Teens Stays with Us for Life – Catherine Loveday

Comment below what are some of your favorite sensory memories.

3) Parenting Well – Our grandchildren (six years old and younger) have big emotions. Then they act on those big emotions. Whining, crying, hitting, screaming. This is not who these precious children are, but they are trying to communicate what is going on deep inside. How we respond to them – as parents and other significant (to them) adults – is huge!

Emotions relate to desire. This topic hit me hard when I saw the poem below on a friend’s Facebook page.

Our responses to our children (in normal developmental situations as well as in distressed situations) communicate far more than we think. We have recurring opportunities to connect with our children in ways that help them grow into emotionally healthy and relationally mature adults.

Lately I’ve been learning more about this whole parenting thing from two brilliant psychiatrists Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Curt Thompson.

Dr. Thompson has written a trilogy of powerful, ground-breaking books – Anatomy of the Soul, The Soul of Shame, and The Soul of Desire.  He describes these books as exploring “how neuroscience relates to the ways we experience relationships, deep emotions like shame and joy and especially our own stories — and how we can process our longings and desire for spiritual connection with God and each other to live more fully integrated, connected lives.”

[I highly recommend the above books, and not just for parents.]

Thompson refers often to Dr. Siegel’s “4 S’s of Attachment-Based Parenting“. Those S’s relate to what we communicate to our children even as infants but throughout life. We want them to know they are “safe and seen” and to experience being “soothed and secure”. This is especially poignant when we introduce the word “No” into the great adventure of their lives. No…and discipline as they get bigger.

I’ll be writing about this more in the days ahead. For now, check out the “refrigerator sheet” below with Siegel’s 4 S’s, referencing his book The Power of Showing Up.

Photo Credit: Dr. Dan Siegel & Dr. Tina Payne Bryson

The 4 S’s of Attachment-Based Parenting – Daniel J. Siegel – Podcast

The Power of Showing Up – Daniel J. Siegel, MD & Tina Payne Bryson, PhD

Mindful Parenting: 4 S’s of Secure Attachment – Esther Goldstein

4) Fishing Perks – My sweet husband is a fisherman. He is a “catch-and-release” guy, fishing the rivers and lakes of Virginia. This joy started for him as a boy fishing with his dad. Then it grew during our years in Tennessee. Finally now, after years of living in North African cities, just on the edge of the Sahara. There are so many perks to this avocation. Some of which really came to mind on a recent adventure. [I realize this is a “duh” for many, but for me, it was a great revelation.]

  • The Buildup – The day of fishing is preceded by all the planning and preparation. Weather checks, getting the equipment ready, fueling the boat, provisioning for the day. It makes for a happy evening of anticipation…and to bed early.
  • The Thrill of the Hunt – or Thrill of the Catch – You hope not to get skunked, but the marking and revisiting sites where fish were caught once before, the thrill of the pull on the line, and finally the fish pulled into the boat. Fun stuff!

  • Solitude – the single chair on this old dock says it all. The quiet of being on the water in the woods. So refreshing. So invigorating.

  • Beauty – Everywhere you look. Water, trees, wildlife. Sun and cloud playing on the water. Changing colors as the hours pass.

  • Company [I’m glad Dave has fishing buddies who share the experience with him. I fish rarely but always gain from the time with him, in nature.]

5) Attention Alcohol –  Author attorneyJustin Whitmel Earley pointed to an article by journalist Derek Thompson‘s article on social media and its use like that of alcohol.

Photo Credit: Rachel Claire, Pexels

Earley gives these reasons below for considering limiting or taking sabbath fasts from social media:

THREE REASONS SOCIAL MEDIA IS LIKE ALCOHOL:

  • It is Addictive. This means you are not as in control as you think you are. Remember, there are 1,000 people on the other side of this screen paid inordinate amounts of money to get you to keep scrolling.
  • It Changes Your Mental Health. This means it is not neutral. Your interactions with yourself, your family, and your friends are changed because of what you do with social media. You must recognize that to use it appropriately.
  • Someone Needs to Teach You How to Use It. This is one of the hardest things about our cultural moment. Because this technology is so new, none of us had parents to teach us how to use it, set boundaries, and practice moderation. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start to learn now, teach our kids, and help our friends. 

Social Media and Alcohol – Justin Whitmel Earley

Social Media Is Attention Alcohol – Derek Thompson

That’s the 5 for this week. How about you? Please enrich my life and that of other readers with your favorite finds. Comment below. Thanks always for stopping by.

Bonuses:

Quote of the Week: “Beauty is…that which draws our attention with wonder and welcome and that ultimately leads us to worship – not worship of the object itself but worship of God in gratitude, humility, and joy.”Curt Thompson, The Soul of Desire

The “10 Things” Rule Keeps My House Uncluttered, Even with a Family of Six – Alexandra Frost – We actually had the 20 Things rule in our family once the kids were big enough to count to 10. It helped!

YouTube Video – Dr. Curt Thompson – Shame: The Details of Devouring

YouTube Video: Curt Thompson: Vulnerability Reframed: Healing Shame & Promoting Human Flourishing

Photo Credit: Ian Kremer, Twitter

How the Brain Stays Young Even as We Age – Katherine Ellen Foley

My Boyfriend Is Spiritually Lethargic. Should I Marry Him? – John Piper

87-year-old Man Rewrites News Headlines for 2020 and Inspires Us All

Biscuit Lover – Sean Dietrich

100 Skills Every Man Should Know – The Art of Manliness [Some are also excellent skills for us women as well. Not so ambitious about most of them, but glad I know men and women who do.]

Beauty is the extravagance that makes us human

Worship Wednesday – the Answer for the Sullen and Inconsolable – Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Surely my soul remembers and is humbled within me. Yet I call this to mind, and there I have hope:  Because of the loving devotion of the LORD we are not consumed, for His mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Lamentations 3:21-26

We need to teach our little ones how to lament. Otherwise, those children (especially bent toward the cup being less than half full or entirely empty) will develop habits of being sullen or inconsolable. In fact, as our children grow into adulthood, knowing how to lament will be a worship tool for handling all the painful and seemingly unfair losses.

What is Biblical lament? Its definition is, in Hebrew, “to passionately cry out, to wail, to express sorrow, to mourn, to express regret”.

“We live in a fallen world. We experience the consequences of sin and death on individual, cultural, and global levels. God knows we need a way to express and release the pain of these losses or we risk becoming numb to even the joys of life or allowing momentary sorrows to infect our entire being. The tool He’s provided for this release is lamentation.”Lori Stanley Roeleveld

Yesterday I was spending the afternoon with our 5y/o and 3 y/o sibling grandchildren. We had a schedule, and they both understood it. Then the 3 y/o decided to change up the schedule. His strategy was to be miserable and make his sister and Gram miserable as well. He was successful. I don’t do sullen well at all. [My own struggle with responding to inconsolable children needs its own blog. Surely, I can do better.] The afternoon finished out fine enough, but we were all three worse the wear on feeling bad and making each other feel bad. Thankful for another day of learning to love well these precious ones.

Through the evening, I was reminded of my own children’s struggle with hardship and losses and how their dad and I tried to help them navigate them, growing up. Our sweet daughter’s struggle with our many moves, leaving friends behind and forced to start over in new places. Our darling youngest son who was different different (being both American and Korean living in Africa), and sometimes endured hard attention from other children. Our talented older son when his heart broke, not making the soccer team as a middle schooler.

[Sidebar: When this loss accentuated our son’s struggles later on his high school basketball team, we understood there would be dark times. Dave remembered last night about us giving him an after-dinner back yard task of 100 completed free throws. I can’t believe now that he actually went along with us. Hot, mad, and sweaty,  he shot and shot until he got those 100 successful attempts. His confidence grew through the season with his practiced proficiency.]

Our sullenness and inconsolable hearts must have their origins in entitlement. This is something we fought against with our children from toddler-hood. Still it creeps in (to all our lives). Life should be better for us. Life should bring successes. Even for Christians, we are shocked, at times, when we suffer because we think it is not right. Not fair. [We never responded to that expression with our kids growing up. Just moved on. It might have been a teachable moment to sow lament in their hearts.]

Dare to Hope in God – How to Lament Well – Mark Vroegop

Writer, pastor Mark Vroegop (in piece above) gives four elements of lament (from Psalm 13):

  1. Turn to God. – Tell God what’s happening. Talk to Him about everything about it, including how you feel.
  2. Bring your complaint. – Tell Him what’s frustrating you. All of it. He can take the struggle you are having.
  3. Ask boldly for help. – Don’t give into silence and despair. Ask Him for help. “Dare to hope.”
  4. Choose to trust. –  “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5–6). More than the stages of grief, this prayer language moves us to renew our commitment to trust in God as we navigate the brokenness of life.

Lament is definitely something we can choose as we walk with God. Teaching our children to turn their struggle away from themselves and toward God will move them to maturity. Just this week that basketballer son of ours gave counsel to treating perceived failure with perspective and perseverance. A good word for anyone.

C. S. Lewis talked about a joy as having a “stab, an inconsolable longing”. He also describes how we seem never to be fully satisfied here…because we were made for another world.

[Lessons From an Inconsolable Soul – John Piper is an excellent piece on the life and faith of C. S. Lewis. For a short read start at his point 2 “Why Lewis Is So Helpful to Me”.]

For today, let’s turn our longing, our ache, our sorrow into a lament and a praise. Allow gratitude to flatten our fear. Worship with me with the help of this great old hymn that I’ve referenced before (see links below). Remember that our beloved Comforter, and Consoler, is ever and always faithful:

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Refrain:
Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
all I have needed thy hand hath provided–
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. [Refrain]

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! [Refrain]*

“I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.”The Traditional Jewish Prayer Upon Awaking

*Lyrics to Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Songwriters: Thomas O. Chisholm and William Runyan

Great Is Thy FaithfulnessStory of John Piper’s extra verses for Thomas O. Chisholm’s classic hymn

Worship Wednesday – When Storms Come, We Still Have a Good, Good Father – Chris Tomlin & Pat Barrett

Worship Wednesday – No Matter What I Will Trust in You – Lauren Daigle

Saturday Short – Give This World Back to God – Reba McEntire – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Gratitude Flattens Fear – Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – No Shadow of Turning – Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Austin Stone Worship – Deb Mills

5 Friday Faves – LOTR’s “May It Be”, Easter Reading, Forgiveness, On Death and Dying, and Music in the Family

1) LOTR’s “May It Be”Classical guitarist Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, and singer Malinda Kathleen Reese previously collaborated on a beautiful cover of May It Be. This week, he arranged, performed, and posted a full rendition of “May It Be”. Take in all the beauty here.

2) Easter Reading – Every year, sometime early in Lent, I pull out the books below to read in anticipation of Easter. Rich and inspiring.

This year, I added Timothy Keller‘s new book Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter. Wow! It is taking time to read because every page is full of meaning…requiring savoring and reflecting. Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City (since 1989). Since 2017 he oversees the work of Redeemer City to City – teaching, mentoring, and writing. The book Hope in Times of Fear was written during the year of COVID-19 (2020) which is also the year he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Hopefully God will give him, and us, many more brilliant and beautiful books. For now, this is my new favorite. Thanks, Dr. Keller.

Just here you will find one of the stunning passages in this book:

“The claims of Jesus Christ, if they are truly heard for what they are, never evoke moderate response. Jesus claimed to be the Lord God of the universe, who had come to earth to give himself for us so that we could live for him. That is a call for total allegiance. You will have to either run away screaming in anger and fear or run toward him with joy and love and fall down at his feet and say, ‘I am yours.’ Nothing in the middle makes any sense. Unless you are running away from him or running toward him, you actually don’t really know who he is. Peter has done both. Because of the instruction that he has received from the risen Jesus, Peter now knows enough about the gospel of grace to realize he has nothing to fear from Jesus’s divine presence. But there is a great deal of unfinished business between Peter and His Savior.”Tim Keller, p. 98, Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter

3) Forgiveness – I don’t have a lot to say right here. To me, it’s so clear. We are wise if we forgive. We are wise if we ask forgiveness.

This past week, I listened to this old Eagles song “Heart of the Matter”.  It’s a sad song…about regret. The focus was the need to forgive…before it’s too late.

It reminded me of a blog I wrote some time ago (I’ve written many about forgiveness or the lack of it).  Singer songwriter Matthew West wrote a really beautiful song titled Forgiveness, out of a story of terrible loss and extravagant forgiveness.

I just want to leave the lyrics right here:

It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve

It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word…

Forgiveness
Forgiveness

It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness

It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it’s power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness

I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me
Forgiveness, Forgiveness.*

Why Do We Add to Our Trouble? – Tim Challies

YouTube Video – Forgiveness (live) by Matthew West

Story Behind the song “Forgiveness”

4) On Death and Dying – Having been a cancer nurse, I am familiar with this topic more than most maybe. However, it is never an easy one, given we don’t want to lose people we love nor do we want to leave people we love.

It is important for us to talk about death and preparations for dying, even if it is uncomfortable. It is a loving thing to do. My husband’s sweet dad, John, prior to having surgery some years ago, executed an advance life directive spelling out his wishes for end-of-life. He did great through that surgery and lived many healthy years afterward. Julia, his wonderful wife, didn’t think about it again. Then after years of poor health with Parkinson’s, he had a massive stroke. We were so grateful that the medical staff were able to retrieve a forgotten document that made decisions regarding his care so much easier for us. John had made decisions in his love for his family… years before. Because of this, we got to bring him home, with hospice support, and be with him, caring for him, until he died a week later.

With COVID, and now even with vaccines, we have had to take a clear-eyed look at death. When my neighbor, who is a bit older but as healthy as me, told me she and her husband had met with the funeral home to do their planning, I was a bit stunned. Yet, it is important and such a loving thing to do for a family.

Julia, my precious mom-in-law, and I, on a visit last year, had challenged each other to complete our own advanced care (or end-of-life) directive. We haven’t done it yet. Either one of us. So I pulled it up again…and hope to finish it this weekend.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, one of President Biden’s medical advisors on COVID, has been very public in his desire not to live past 75. Of course, he is only 63, this year. 75 may not seem as young to him as it might in a few more years. He talks about the diminishing returns of getting older, and that it its own loss, for the person and for those who would care.

I don’t care for Dr. Emanuel’s take on this, but I do very much agree with the following:

  • Think seriously about your beliefs in God and what happens in the after-life.
  • Get right with God and reconcile with those you are at odds with…especially family members. For them, if not for yourself.
  • Decide what your wishes are about end-of-life. Write it down. Tell your children or medical representative.
  • Make whatever arrangements you can while you still have your health.
  • Be sure your will is clear and understandable to those for whom it will matter most.
  • Then live your life in all its beauty. When dying begins, it can have its own meaning and purpose. I think of Kara Tippetts and so many others who died as they had lived.

What else should be added to these points? Please comment below.

The Hope That Sustained Tim Keller Through 2020 – Matt McCullough

Growing My Faith in the Face of Death – Timothy Keller

20 Quotes From Tim Keller’s Short (New) Book on Death – Ivan Mesa, Tim Keller

Passing On – Documentary – Arizona Public Media – thoughtful documentary on end-of-life planning. Also the complementary film “Dying Wishes”

The Passing On Movie – a Documentary – on disappearing traditions of Black funeral homes

Advanced Life or End-of-Life Directive – State of Virginia – pdf

Kara Tippetts and other stories of redemption – Deb Mills Writer

Photo Credit: Screenshot, Life in the Labyrinth

5) Music in the Family – Wow! Don’t know how I missed the Kanneh-Mason siblings until recently. They have been playing, both together and as soloists, since at least 2017. Ranging in age from 11 to 24, these seven are incredibly talented and hard working in their craft – playing either cello, violin, or piano. When the COVID pandemic hit, they were all home together, in Great Britain, and made even more music together. The video below of them playing Redemption Song is how I first heard them. Wow!

The Kanneh-Mason Website

We are a musical family as well. Not world-class maybe (yet…who knows?!). However, we do know what it is like to hear music all the time and to always have an audience or somebody who plays alongside. The Kanneh-Mason siblings have really benefited from growing up together with supportive parents. Read this great piece to find out Everything You Need to Know About the Kanneh-Mason Family.

I have in my to-buy wish list their beautiful album Carnival of the Animals.

Raising The Kanneh-Masons: The World’s Most Musical Family – Jessica Duchen

That’s it for this week. Thanks so much for stopping by. It means a lot. Enjoy the weekend and those you love. Keep the door open…

Bonuses:

Banana Pudding – Karen Burnette Garner

YouTube Video – I Waited For You – Janette…ikz Wedding Vows

Photo Credit: Facebook, Tropical Life Food and Fun

My Favorite Things for a Civilized Life – Sally Clarkson

YouTube Video – A Song for Mama – Boyz II Men – This song is new to me. Heard it this past week as part of a funeral to a mom who died of early-onset Alzheimer’s. It was a fitting tribute by her two sons.

Worship Wednesday – No Shadow of Turning – Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Austin Stone Worship

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! I say, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the person who seeks him. It is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. Because of the loving devotion of the LORD we are not consumed, for His mercies never fail.Lamentations 2:22-26

Thomas O. Chisholm wrote the beautiful hymn-poem Great Is Thy Faithfulness in 1923. This hymn became a worship mainstay in Protestant churches. The lyrics remind us of the steadfastness of God, something we cling to in a world dizzy with change.

In dealing with all the disruptions and differing opinions, our own thoughts and beliefs may feel under attack. What is true? Who is right? Whom do we believe?

The singular truth in our lives that guides us in navigating through varied cultural changes and political ploys…the singular truth is God doesn’t change. In His truth, in His love, in His judgments.

“There is no shadow of turning with Thee”.

No shadow of turning. Praise God for that anchor. That foundation. That light in the darkness.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness!

Verses 2 and 3 of the Austin Stone version of this glorious hymn were written in 2018 by pastor/writer John Piper. He wrote it to further flesh out the God of faithfulness Chisholm lauded in the original hymn – to accentuate Piper’s sermon on Deuteronomy 29-30 (linked below).

“A Matter of Life and Death” – John Piper sermon on Deuteronomy 29-30

Let’s remember Moses’ words to the people of God from that passage in Deuteronomy:

 Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “You have seen with your own eyes everything the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials, and to his entire land. You saw with your own eyes the great trials and those great signs and wonders. Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a mind to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear...Be sure there is no man, woman, clan, or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations. Be sure there is no root among you bearing poisonous and bitter fruit. 19 When someone hears the words of this oath, he may consider himself exempt, thinking, ‘I will have peace even though I follow my own stubborn heart.’..Future generations of your children who follow you and the foreigner who comes from a distant country will see the plagues of that land and the sicknesses the Lord has inflicted on it...24 All the nations will ask, ‘Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this intense outburst of anger?’ 25 Then people will answer, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord…’Deuteronomy 29:2-4, 18-19a, 22, 24-25

When all these things happen to you—the blessings and curses I have set before you—and you come to your senses while you are in all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and all your soul by doing everything I am commanding you today, then he will restore your fortunes, have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you… The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love him with all your heart and all your soul so that you will live... 10 when you obey the Lord your God by keeping his commands and statutes that are written in this book of the law and return to him with all your heart and all your soul.Deuteronomy 30:1-3, 6, 10

Worship with me the great God of faithfulness who will take us through this season as He has taken His people through every season before this. [Lyrics in the link.]

[Verse 1]
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be

[Chorus]
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

[Verse 2]
I could not love Thee, so blind and unfeeling
Covenant promises fell not to me
Then without warning, desire, or deserving
I found my Treasure, my pleasure, in Thee

[Chorus]
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

[Verse 3]
I have no merit to woo or delight Thee
I have no wisdom or pow’rs to employ
And yet in Thy mercy, how pleasing Thou find’st me
This is Thy pleasure: that Thou art my joy

[Chorus]
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

[Spontaneous]
Oh, how great You are
Oh, how great You are
Sing about this
As we sing this
He’s pardoned us
He’s given us an everlasting peace
We are thankful for that
Let’s thank Him together

[Verse 4]
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside

[Chorus]
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me*

*Lyrics to Great Is Thy Faithfulness w/ Austin Stone Worship Team

Great Is Thy FaithfulnessStory of John Piper’s extra verses for Thomas O. Chisholm’s classic hymn

Photo Credit: Heartlight