Tag Archives: joy

5 Friday Faves – New Year’s Resolutions, Habit Planner, Year-End Review, Word for the Year, and the Last Days of 2021

2021 is rapidly winding down. Whew! Here are my Friday Faves to get us ready for the new year…hopefully a joyful one!

1) New Year’s Resolutions – 2021…the end is in sight. What do we do with this new year ahead? Do we revisit those habits we thought about changing up in this tumultuous year? Maybe so. Or maybe we didn’t alter course so much for good reason. Let’s give pause a moment and consider…

Photo Credit: David Lose

Monday Morning Moment  – 2021 Come On! – New Year’s Resolutions

Are We Doing New Year’s Resolutions After a Year as Lousy as 2020? There’s One I think We Need More Than Ever – Heidi Stevens

How to Make Healthy, Attainable New Year’s Resolutions During COVID-19 – Ashley Welch, Healthline

Are You Making a New Year’s Resolution This Year? Readers Weigh In – Sarah Fielding

I take New Year’s resolutions very seriously. They have served me well through the years in shaking up troublesome habits as well as galvanizing better ones. New (or restored) habits that nurture the body, the spirit….and, when possible, family and community.

New Year’s resolutions are not always exercises in futility. They can be excellent pathways to help us get off to a strong start into the next year. Some of my family and friends treat resolutions with disdain…they never work; they never last. Oh, but not always!

They are really very energizing. Whether we meet our goals or not, there is great promise within the resolution for resetting our thinking. A keen sense of self, or self-awareness, aids in our understanding of habits and true habit change.

Without knowing it, I have actually used a practice of habit change that Ken Sande writes about on his blog, Relational Wisdom 360. He first influenced my life years ago with his work on conflict resolution through his Peacemaker Ministries. He is a gentle guide in many of the issues that complicate our lives.

His article on Seven Principles of Habit Change came at a great time. Sande talks quite kindly about how we develop habits and what it takes to change them. His first principle of habit change gives us a look at the cycle of habits – the cue, the routine (or response), and the reward. I actually followed Ken Sande’s principles below (without knowing the wisdom of it).

  1. Every habit has three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
  2. You can change an undesirable habit by keeping the cue and reward but learning a new routine.
  3. The best way to overcome the temptation to revert to old routines is to have a detailed action plan.
  4. Habit change builds momentum if you can change a single “keystone habit” and then continue to build on consecutive “small wins”.
  5. Will power is like a muscle: it can be strengthened and yet needs to be exerted strategically.
  6. Faith is an essential part of changing habits.
  7. Habit change is more likely to occur within a community (even if it’s just two people).Ken Sande

Self-awareness is a huge factor relating to habit change. I can see that more now having come through seasons of looking at my own habits.

“Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of oneself; it’s a stepping stone to reinventing oneself, learning to make wiser decisions, and helps you tune into your thoughts and feelings. So often we place blame on externalities because it’s the easiest excuse, when in fact we should be thinking about our thinking, reflecting, trying on different perspectives, and learning from our mistakes.”Paul Jun

It is possible to affect true habit change if we are willing to take a studied look at ourselves – our awareness and our engagement with making choices/decisions and within relationship. I used to think that self-awareness was morally charged, i.e., it drove us to become more self-centered. That doesn’t have to be the case. When we take time to really examine where our minds go, through the day, we can train our thinking toward what matters most – related to people, resources, and life purpose.

New Year’s Resolutions and Reality Checks – Wally Bock

When we are willing to do that, New Year’s resolutions can become much more transformative than just a few weeks of good intentions. These habit change principles can apply to anger issues, pornography, other addictions, and pretty much any habitual process that negatively affects your work, relationships or general peace of mind.

Consider these questions as you think on resolutions for 2022:

  1. What do I want to keep from the changes I made to cope with the pandemic?
  2. What do I want to reclaim from the pre-pandemic time?
  3. How would I “build back better” if I were in charge of the world or my neighborhood?Katherine Arbuthnott

Four years back, our pastor Cliff at Movement Church challenged us to commit to some resolutions to the Lord…together [podcast of 12/31/2017 here].  I have kept the resolutions made that day in a visible place, to be reminded of the good change in life, and the struggle… I still have them in view…four years out. Still relevant to now. For 2022, on it again…plus prayer for wisdom how to be creative and intentional, given COVID’s continued intrusion. And also added this year: writing my life’s story (capturing the memories and maybe restoring/refining some as I write).

Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th century preacher and theologian, definitely understood the importance of praying through and writing out resolutions that would inform his daily life. Over the course of several months, he composed seventy resolutions for life. You can read them here. The five resolutions I made during church on a New Year’s Eve are weighty enough for me…can’t imagine 70! Edwards just gives an example of a man who, even as deeply devoted as he already was, did not want to miss God in a busy life of ministry. Nor did he want to miss the people God placed in his life.

Resolutions help us to keep the main thing the main thing. Sure, we may struggle to keep our bodies and houses in order. Those are temporary situations. Where we hope most to be successful is in keeping our hearts tuned to what matters most. Going deep with God and others. Even in the face of a continuing pandemic...if we are ruthless and wise, and don’t give in to another year of listlessness and waiting.

We’ve already enough of that…coming up on two years.

I am resolved…

Photo Credit: Reformed Outfitters

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Do You Want to Change Your Habits? – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Habit Change is a Team Project – Ken Sande

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

Why Self-Awareness Is the Secret Weapon for Habit Change– Paul Jun

RW Acrostics in Action– Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Ten Questions for a New Year – Don Whitney – Desiring God

Need Help With Your New Year’s Resolutions? – David Lose

Understanding True Habit Change and Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions – Deb Mills Writer

2) Habit Planner –Anyone who knows the writing of Justin Whitmel Earley knows his commitment to a life well-lived. He is determined to live intentionally, not leaving the substance of his life to outside powers or sloppy habits.

Unlike resolutions, we actually become our habits. There are no changed lives outside of changed habits. And if we want to actually change, we need to take a sober look at where our habits are leading us.”Justin Whitmel Earley

Habits are the little things we do over and over without thinking about them. And the tiny and subconscious nature of habits makes them powerful. Why? Because they create our “normal.” Normal life is what stays with you from January through December. Normal life is what shapes your kids, your body, your schedule, and your heart.”Justin Whitmel Earley

His two books – The Common Rule and Habits of the Household – lay out a simple path for examining our current lives and then setting strategy for habit change. So accessible and engaging whatever our preferences for methods are. If spreadsheets help, he has one for you. If you need a more fuzzy-boundaried approach (that would be me), you can glean from his wisdom, and alter course accordingly.

Below are his own examples of the habit planner. I appreciate his heart so much. He helps us all he can (in his books and free resources):

Photo Credit: Justin Whitmel Earley, Screenshots

Habits of the Household – Habit Planner – pdf – Justin Whitmel Earley

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

Unlock the Power of Family Habits in 2022 – Justin Whitmel Earley

3) Year-End Review – Business writer Stephen Jones shares author Tim Ferriss’ practice of doing a quick past year review. Ferriss prefers this over new year’s resolutions, and Jones gives a quick snapshot of his 5 steps.

Below is Tim Ferriss’ guide for a past year review from his own blog (and podcast):

  1. Grab a notepad and create two columns: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE.
  2. Go through your calendar from the last year, looking at every week.
  3. For each week, jot down on the pad any people or activities or commitments that triggered peak positive or negative emotions for that month. Put them in their respective columns.
  4. Once you’ve gone through the past year, look at your notepad list and ask, “What 20% of each column produced the most reliable or powerful peaks?”
  5. Based on the answers, take your “positive” leaders and schedule more of them in the new year. Get them on the calendar now! Book things with friends and prepay for activities/events/commitments that you know work. It’s not real until it’s in the calendar. That’s step one. Step two is to take your “negative” leaders, put “NOT-TO-DO LIST” at the top, and put them somewhere you can see them each morning for the first few weeks of 2022. These are the people and things you *know* make you miserable, so don’t put them on your calendar out of obligation, guilt, FOMO, or other nonsense.

We do a year-end review but not in order to plan out the next year. Mostly to celebrate the year rapidly coming to an end and to reflect on how we might reorder the course of the next year (re the negatives).

A creative friend of ours put his “year-end review” into a cool video:

Photo (Video) Credit: Todd AO, Facebook

4) Word for the Year –A year ago, I read Debbie Macomber‘s book One Perfect Word. She tells fascinating stories of persons’ choosing a word to guide their year. Finishing her book and praying a bit, the word compassion became my focus. 2021 was a good year for that as we dealt with so many divisions over COVID, race, politics, etc. Compassion for all on both sides of each issue.

At first I wasn’t going to do “a word” for 2022, and then a rapid series of “coincidences” drew me to the word: joy. As this year ends, I’ve become negative and even a bit cynical. Still having faith in God but not so much in humans, including myself. Even after a year of compassion!!

It dawned on me that I haven’t been “counting it all joy”. Or remembering that “the joy of the Lord is my strength”. Now my heart is resolved to be set on joy in 2022…no matter what.

Lord, help us to be people of joy,

to notice joy in this day and to hope for joy in days to come,

to look for light and share it with others this Advent season,

to see beauty in creation and the people we encounter,

to laugh heartily with childlike glee,

to feel true joy in your presence.     Amen.

Photo Credit: Prayer @inthecoracle, Instagram

5) The Last Days of 2021 – As may have been many of your experiences, we had people we know and love dealing with COVID in this last week of 2021. Still managed a sweet end-of-year. Hope yours was as well.

 

Now on to 2022!! Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot to me.

Bonuses:

Vimeo Video by Rodrigo Souza – Heart – with Nathan Mills, Beyond the Guitar

How to Stop All Procrastination: Dear You Trying to Do that Hard Thing in the New Year – Ann Voskamp (great piece on procrastination and perfectionism – both keeping us from presenting the gifts God’s given us)

Photo Credit: Samantha Reynolds, @Bentlily, Instagram (w/ permission)

52 Week Bible Reading Plan – Michael Coley

What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) and Tips for Building One

Photo Credit: Facebook

Worship Wednesday – We Need Christmas – Matthew West

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. – 2 Corinthians 13:11

And once more, Isaiah says: “The Root of Jesse will appear, One who will arise to rule over the Gentiles; in Him the Gentiles will put their hope.” Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:12-13

As we move to the close of Advent, and all the candles are lit, we are struck by what we have been given in the coming of Christ. The four candles symbolizing hope, peace, love, joy. Salvation and eternal life. All we need for life and Godliness. A forever relationship with the God of the universe…the God of perfect love.

It gives pause.

This beautiful God. This Jesus who came so near to us, as low as we are. He condescended Himself for us to know Him…and to know His unmerited forgiveness…to learn how to walk with Him and with each other.

In this Christmas of 2021, we pull these truths close around us. The world has become so divided and full of hate. Yet, not so full of hate that God cannot draw us together and to Himself. I’m reminded of an old carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”.

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

We take hope in the person of Christ, the promises and purposes of God untouched by whatever darkness surrounds us.

The candles have been lit and we are days away from Christmas. We lean into the hope, peace, love, and joy that God has already given us in Christ. As we lean in to Him, we draw those around us closer.

With the Christ of Christmas in mind, we can choose to put away hatred, unforgiveness, and those personal preferences that divide us. We can love like Jesus loves (John 13:34-35). Be at peace with those around us (Romans 12:18). Take joy in His provision for good (2 Corinthians 9:8). Hope in what is possible in Him, even when it feels impossible to us (Matthew 19:26).

We are not alone in this. “Emmanuel” – God is with us!

This Fall, singer/songwriter Matthew West released the We Need Christmas album. It is a mix of new music and great old standards done as only he can do them. He describes his inspiration below:

“These past couple of years have felt like peace is in short supply, hope has been hard to find, and love and joy have been lost for so many,” shares Matthew West about the inspiration for his new project. “Christmas is a time when our hearts can be powerfully reminded that the peace, hope, love, and joy we all need can still be found in a saviour.”Matthew West

Worship with me to this sweet song. “We need Christmas..now more than ever to bring us together.”

Lights that twinkle red and green
Charlie Brown on the TV screen
Hugs from friends and family
That’s what we need right now
Zipping up on a winter coat
Truck tires down a snowy road
That’s the sound of coming home
That’s what we need to right now
This world could use a little healing
And our hearts could surely use something to believe in

We need Christmas
Now more than ever to bring us together
We need Christmas
Come on, December, help us remember
The joy, the peace and the hope that love can bring
Cause we need Christmas

Singing carols in the living room
That’s Grandma’s favorite thing to do
And Grandpa reads Luke, chapter 2
That’s what it all about
It’s Red Salvation Army can
Reaching out a helping hand
Looking after your fellow man
That’s what we need right now

We need Christmas
Now more than ever to bring us together
We need Christmas
Come on, December, help us remember
The joy, the peace and the hope that love can bring
Cause we need Christmas
Oh, we need Christmas

This world could use a little healing
And our hearts could surely use something to believe in

We need Christmas
Now more than ever to bring us together
We need Christmas
Come on, December, help us remember
We need Christmas
Now more than ever to bring us together
We need Christmas
Come on, December, help us remember

The joy, the peace and the hope that love can bring
And the bells hear ’em ring
Let every angels sing
Cause we need Christmas*

*Lyrics to We Need Christmas – Songwriter

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

Monday Morning Moment – Walled In, Dismissed, Frazzled, and Discouraged…Nevertheless

Photo Credit: Heartlight

What’s your situation? How’s your heart? What is your body holding onto? Remember when you were so full of the possibilities of life, so fresh with anticipation of what was ahead, what you could accomplish?

Then life happens, and it doesn’t always work out like you thought it would. Running turned into slogging. Your passion got sucker-punched. The opportunities and advancements kept coming in, but at some point, bewilderment set in. You just got tired…just plain weary.

Some call this burnout, and it may be. What if it is more than that? What if it is a bloody battlefield where, if not our very lives, our joy is under full attack. What if those God-given strengths, those life-honed skills, and serendipitous accomplishments seem not to be at play. Maybe you’re overthinking, or maybe…just maybe…the way through is surprisingly simple.

We all have an important place to occupy in this world. Every single one of us. Fight for it. Walls may seem high, bottlenecks too narrow, and, at times, adversaries hammering around us. Nevertheless…We can find a way to bring the walls down (or just go around them), squeeze through the bottlenecks, and shake off the idea that we can’t win…just. too. tired.

Circumstances in life and work can drain us. Especially over time. Oddly we can still be effective in life but the emotional, mental, and physical toll adds up. The body remembers…and keeps score.

Jesus gives us a beautiful and intimate picture of the “nevertheless”. The night before he would die on a Roman cross, he appealed to the Father, as his painful and humiliating death loomed ahead of him.

Photo Credit: Biblepic

Nevertheless…here was the Messiah, the Christ, in all the sinless perfection of his life, coming to the very end of himself. Exhausted, emotionally overwrought, yet clear-minded, understanding exactly what would be required from him. Nevertheless…he stayed the course. He was not giving up. He knew what was at stake. He trusted the Father, and he persisted in what he was called to finish.

Photo Credit: Leonard Ravenhill, QuoteFancy

For us, we have choices. We can resign ourselves to a life and work not what we anticipated…or we can clear our heads and remember our own callings. No walls are too high nor adversaries too strong.

Photo Credit: Biblepic

We each bring something to the table. If we withdraw from the table or accept a perceived exclusion, we can miss the fullness of life we were meant to have. Others will miss us as well. Believe that. It’s true.

When fatigue and discouragement set in, and our bodies are drained of response, we need to take hold of the “nevertheless”. It’s reminiscent of the many “but God’s” in Scripture and in life. We may be up against a Red Sea like Moses, or a Goliath like young David, or a corrupting culture like Jesus. We lament “but God”…we are too inadequate. Too small. Too aware of risk. Nevertheless, our “but God’s” can change to what is truth. The meaning of the protest changes into the “but God” miracles when He shows up and does what only He can do…in us. Through us.

Photo Credit: Biblepic

Hoping you lean into the “nevertheless” today.

Podcast – Why Everyone’s Freaking Out (& Why We Don’t Need To) – David Marvin, Guest on Relatable Podcast with Allie Beth Stuckey

15 Proven Ways to Suck the Life Out of Your Staff – Scott Cochrane – applies to any workplace. Take note of the “Strategies To-Avoid List”.

6 Things That Can Suck the Life Out of You! – Dale Hudson (and Part 2 on his story and how he dealt with those things that sucked the life out of him – to get you started, they are: People, Problems, Pressure, Pace, Pain, and Personal Sin)

The Humble Rejoice – Rick Bee

Nevertheless – Robert Ferguson

Photo Credit: Pinterest

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

Monday Morning Moment – In Disappointment, Peace…and Finally, Joy – a Playlist

Photo Credit: Pixabay

[Adapted from the Archives. I’ve written about disappointment and the journey beyond several times. Here is the search if you want to read more.]

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

Life is such a mix of experiences. All can either take us rapidly one or another direction, turning our emotions this way and that. Our circumstances change. Ups and downs. Hope and disappointment. Most importantly, God does not change.

a couple of friends of mine are in the thick of disappointment. Bewildered by losses they didn’t see coming and were not prepared for. Yet, as we who love them journey through this disorientation with them, we already see a reorientation: Hope is taking deeper root and peace begins to unfold, like a seedling in Spring. God will make a way.Photo Credit: Heartlight

We are not left floundering in our circumstances. God is working His purposes out even through the worst of scenarios life can throw at us. In death (of a vision, of a hope, of a dream), He still brings life, in the here-and-now, to those who believe.

After being tossed about by anger, grief, or disappointment, we can have hope again and peace…that God will show Himself mighty in this as He does in all things:

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

Photo Credit: Faith Spilling Over, Betsy de Cruz

I’ve put together a playlist, sort of, on trusting (gleaned from some of the songs highlighted on past blogs). These songs bring me joy as I hope they will you.

Postscript: One of those friends just yesterday, in talking about the hard thing she experienced recently, still reeling from it in a way, ended up calling it “a pretty significant act of grace”. Wow! That’s God working in the heart of one of his children. So thankful.

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

Trusting Playlist

Unfinished – Mandisa

All My Hope – David Crowder & Tauren Wells

Even If – MercyMe

I Know – Big Daddy Weave

Promises (feat. Joe L. Barnes & Naomi Raine) – Maverick City/TRIBL

We Won’t Be Shaken – Building 429

In the Eye of the Storm – Ryan Stevenson

My Anchor – Christy Nockels

Shoulders – For King & Country

I Will Rise (Life) – Chris Tomlin

It is Well With My Soul – Guy Penrod

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

When God Closes a Door – Betsy de Cruz

Monday Morning Moment – Confronting and Overcoming Disappointment – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Christmas in October – Peace on Earth – Casting Crowns

Photo Credit: Casting Crowns, YouTube

Adapted from the Archives

[Our family begins singing/listening to Christmas carols in October. Too many beautiful, God-glorifying songs to fit in one month. So…Christmas in October starts tomorrow…and we sure need it …Him.]

“See, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the Messenger of the covenant you delight in—see, he is coming,” says the Lord of Armies.

You have said, “It is useless to serve God. What have we gained by keeping his requirements and walking mournfully before the Lord of Armies?  So now we consider the arrogant to be fortunate. Not only do those who commit wickedness prosper, they even test God and escape.”

At that time those who feared the Lord spoke to one another. The Lord took notice and listened. So a book of remembrance was written before him for those who feared the Lord and had high regard for his name.  “They will be mine,” says the Lord of Armies, “my own possession on the day I am preparing. I will have compassion on them as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. Malachi 3:1, 14-17

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord… And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” – Luke 2:10-11, 13-14

In December, 1863, American poet and scholar Henry W. Longfellow received his wounded son home from battle. It was Christmas time, and the U.S. Civil War raged on. Having already lost his wife years earlier, Longfellow nursed his son, Charley, back to health. His own thoughts, in turmoil over all that was happening around him, he poured out in the poem “Christmas Bells”.

Longfellow clearly took comfort from God as he wrote, ending the poem with this stanza:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men.”*

I Heard the Bells is a Christmas carol, not a worship anthem. Yet, given continuing wars and current hardships, we must tend the fires of our hope. God is the “lifter of our heads” (Psalm 3:3). He is the One who gives strength to our “weak hands and shaking knees” (Isaiah 35:3). He will do as He’s promised. He is faithful.

We desperately need those bells of Christmas ringing over our cities and countrysides.In fact, wouldn’t it be a lovely concert to hear church bells ringing together over the din of divisiveness right now.

We, in our fleshing out the love of Christ, are the Christmas bells in our culture. May we never be the noisy gong or clanging cymbal of those without love! May we, like Longfellow, nurse those we love, wounded in this world’s battles, back to wholeness and a living hope in Christ.

When you hear the bells ring where you are, take heart in that. We will continue to pray for His peace on earth…and in our own hearts.  We can be vessels of His good-will toward our neighbors, both very near…and far away.

Worship with me…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Lyric video)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

And the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
In my heart I hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir singing (Peace on Earth)
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep (Peace on Earth, peace on Earth)
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they’re ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
And with our hearts we’ll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they’re ringing? (Peace on Earth)
The life the angels singing (Peace on Earth)
Open up your heart and hear them (Peace on Earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men*

* Lyrics to I Heard the Bells – Casting Crowns – Writers: Mark Hall, Dale Oliver, and Bernhard Herms

YouTube Video – Casting Crowns performing I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall On Christmas (Teaching Vignettes)

Christmas Carol Soldier – Story of Charley Appleton Longfellow & the occasion for H. W. Longfellow’s writing of the poem/lyric

The Story Behind I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day – Tom Stewart

*Longfellow’s poem Christmas Bells

Worship Wednesday – On the Peace of God – My Anchor – Christy Nockels

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7
Do you ever have nights when sleep is interrupted way too early? Last night was one of those for me. At 1:30am, my body and mind decided that we were done with sleeping. Two days ago, I took a bad fall. Walking with a friend, I tripped on an uneven bit of sidewalk and face-planted on the sidewalk. No breaks, few scrapes, praise God! However, the soreness yesterday and last night was a bit unnerving and debilitating. Once awake, then the thoughts come, and the emotions follow.
Did I need to go to urgent care? No. Did I need to risk Coronavirus in such a place or just stay home and wait the soreness out? What if I get Coronavirus anyway? Then the thoughts go to Dave, the kids and grandkids, the rest of the family, friends, and neighbors. Then the mental rollercoaster takes me to God’s purpose for my life – have I walked with Him? He will welcome me Home because of Jesus, but has my life turned out as He had meant for it to be?
Crazy, right?
So…not able to sleep, I quit the fight and fitful thoughts and prayers at 3:30am and got up. With a mug of yesterday’s coffee, and the fireplace going, candles lit, I was ready to keep vigil until morning came.
Picking up a book our community group is studying, I turned to the chapter we would tackle next. The book is Spiritual Depression – Its Causes and Its Cure by physician/pastor Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
The chapter? The Peace of God.
In this chapter, Lloyd-Jones unpacks Paul’s exhortation to the Philippian church… This beautiful letter written by the Apostle Paul in his last days…full of joy…peace…even in the tyranny of his circumstances.
Lloyd-Jones describes the “tyranny of circumstances” as that cascade of pressure or stressors that wash over us individually. They are personal and they feel overwhelming.
Paul, in the passage Philippians 4:6-7, gives us a pathway to peace with God. It’s less prescriptive than descriptive, but we can use it in a way that guides our prayer.

  • Don’t worry. – In his book, Lloyd-Jones acknowledges that anxiety can happen pretty much without our control. Borne out of our mind (thoughts) and heart (affections) and fueled by our imagination. The world shames us with pithy advice about worry. What Paul counsels is to acknowledge that we are prone to worry…but to take immediate steps and roll back the anxiety, remembering who God is. Those steps follow.
  • Pray. – In this action, we refocus and reset our minds and hearts off our circumstances and onto a good and loving God. In crying out to Him, we leave off our petitions and start with worshipful prayer. Recalling the truth about God and the greatness of His love and provision. Reminding ourselves of what He has already done for us and the promises to come…the promises that He will fulfill. My S.O.S. cries to God in the thick of sleep-deprived fitfulness were met by His mercy. He did not let me rest until we had this healing time of prayer.
  • Petition. – He wants us to cry out to Him. We acknowledge He is the Only One who knows what we really need and is wholly able to provide it. We need Him, first and foremost. After that, our petitions, following worship, rise out of hearts and minds tuned to the Lord. Ready for whatever comes from the hands of a loving God.
  • Give thanks. – Always. In everything. No matter what. The gratefulness will follow.

Out of all that…comes peace. Not just any sort of peace, but peace that “surpasses all understanding”.  The kind of peace that those in the world, without a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, must marvel at. We marvel, too, when we see it in each other. Brothers and sisters, some in great trials or hardship, filled with the peace of God. We marvel when it happens to us.

Like in this pre-dawn morning.

God guards our peace. He keeps us, garrisons us, inside Himself. Surrounds us with His love. It is what He promises to those whose minds are fixed on Him, because we trust Him (Isaiah 26:3).

When sleep fails, and worry or anxiety creeps in, we know what to do. May we always remember to correct course and settle back into His peace.

Worship with me through the song My Anchor by Christy Nockels and Jason Ingram.

You’re the Lord Almighty
Your every word is sure
And in Your love unfailing
I’m safe when oceans roar
Yes, I’m safe when oceans roar
My anchor, forever
My shelter within the storm
You’re my deliverer
You never falter
You’re the rock I stand on
Here within the struggle
And every crashing wave
You are more than able
Your hand is strong to save

Yes, I know Your hand is strong to save

My anchor, forever
My shelter within the storm
You’re my deliverer
You never falter
You’re the rock I stand on

I hold on to You
And You hold on to me
Jesus, I hold on to You
And You hold on to me*

Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will triumph in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! Yahweh my Lord is my strength!Habakkuk 3:17-19a

[Footnote: As we, all over the world, confront the the Coronavirus pandemic, we may, at some point, have to shelter in place. No better place to be than in Him…in His peace.

Worship Wednesday – On Anxiety – My Anchor – Christy Nockels – Deb Mills

*Lyrics to My Anchor – Songwriters: Christy Nockels & Jason Ingram

Story Behind the Song My Anchor by Christy Nockels – Kevin Davis

How Do I Take My Thoughts Captive? – Interview with John Piper

You Are My Peace – Housefires – YouTube Video

Worship Wednesday – I Need You Now – by Plumb

Worship Wednesday – Listening to His Voice Through the Noise

Monday Morning Moment – A Day at the State Fair – A Lesson on Disappointment and 5 Steps to Recovering Joy

[State Fair, 2013 pic]

This week is our state fair. Once a year for 10 glorious days, we have all kinds of opportunities to relish all kinds of good – Fair food, concerts, carnival rides, animal and produce exhibitions, and home cooking and crafting. Did I mention fair food?

We pack in as much as we can in just one day. It’s not a cheap experience, but the sheer yummyness of fried everything is worth the splurge. It’s once a year…the nostalgia alone brings us back again and again.

Then…there was this year’s fair day. Today. Put one very tired adult (not mentioning names) together with little ones with very short attention spans, and grumpiness prevailed. At least with the adults…not so much the littles. Nothing at the fair today was quite what we remembered it to be (except for the funnel cakes…they were as tasty as always).

We did all our usual stuff…things that gave joy in all the years past… but disappointment crept in…starting with our tired person, but not stopping there. The little ones fortunately seemed still to have a great fair day, but the adults were thinking this could be our last one altogether. It was that dreadful for a bit.

Photo Credit: Billy Graham, All Christian Quotes

Then on the drive back home and with the rest of the day full of other people and responsibilities, five revelations unfolded about the disappointment…and any disappointment really.

  1. Expectations are exposed by our disappointments. There it is: expectations. When our expectations are dashed is actually the moment we discover we had them. I try not to let expectations color an experience or encounter, but if we aren’t aware they are always at work, then we are thrown off balance when they are not met…or disappointed. Suffice it to say, my expectations for the day weren’t met…which could have made it difficult for everyone else.
  2. Humility gentles disappointment. When we shake down our expectations, then we have the beautiful possibility of humbly dealing with the possibility that another person’s expectations were thwarted as well. This tired one I refer to had hopes (expectations) of the day as well. He hadn’t planned on the ill effect of a very late night working and a barking dog early awakening him this morning. He was looking forward to the day as much as the rest of us. The rest of us weren’t very empathetic toward his own share of disappointments. Sigh… As we look at our situation with humility, a kinder and healthier other-mindedness comes into play.
  3. Gratefulness deflates disappointment. We still got to try milking a cow. We still watched pig races. We still got to ooh and aah over hand-made quilts, knitted dolls, and other crafts we might try ourselves now (or ask the other grandmother to try, definitely). We still got to watch the ducklings go down the slide and pet the rabbits. We still got to be together, more happily than not. It was a good day…really.
  4. Perspective is a happy outcome of humility and gratefulness. So…we may reconfigure our fair day next time. Some things may need to change…but not the people. I love these people. In light of other much harder things that happened when we returned home (hospice called in for a loved one, in particular)…the frustration of an imperfect outing was brought into real-life perspective. Imperfect was still full of messy, lovely life.
  5. Joy is recovered…restored when we put disappointment in its place. Definitely want to still do life with these people always and for as long as God allows. No walking away from this family. We are a mess sometimes, but the love hangs on…always.

Sandy Peckinpah‘s piece Breaking Expectations…When Life Hands You Disappointment – don’t stop before reading this. Really good!

Don’t Let Overwhelm Steal Your Joy – Sandy Peckinpah

Worship Wednesday – Deep Disappointment – Lord, I Need You – with Matt Maher & Audrey Assad

Photo Credit: Donna L. Campbell, Salt & Light

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.Hebrews 4:16

In a couple of weeks, I’m speaking at a conference. The topic is “Dealing with Disappointment”.

In preparing for the talk, certain ones of my kids’ childhood disappointments came to mind. Our daughter struggled with all the goodbyes in our overseas life. Too many times “the new girl” she would retreat to mom, through tears, for comfort and to be reminded of her true value. Over time, she would rally…graduating with honors and a life-long friend. 

Our middle son would play street soccer with neighborhood kids and longed for the day he could play on a real team. That year finally came when we spent a year in the US. We were naive to how team sports worked back home. He missed the cut for the soccer team and grieved so hard it pierced the heart of his mom who could only pray over him, as words failed.

Over time, he also would rally…with basketball and music.

Our youngest son, always small, endured a long season of bullying. He was bullied as the littlest in his class…and just for meanness’ sake. Still he would, like his siblings, rally in his own gifting in music and cooking… He took courage  in his dad’s big love…and in the space his mom tried to give him…both in the kitchen and in finding his way in life (when she/I would much rather have held him close…too close).

So it goes – children grow up and no longer need their parents as they did before. However, we never outgrow our need for God.

Just today, working on the talk on disappointment, it happened to me. Not just in reminiscing old disappointments, but in a lightning quick heart-stopping raw experience of it. It was devastating. Details aren’t necessary. At first, I spiraled down into a dark place, but it didn’t last long. With God’s help, I picked myself up and shook off the deep disappointment. Clinging to God…I remembered, remembered, remembered who He is and what He is about with His children. This thing…this loss…I can do endure. God is here. He will work it all out. Even if He doesn’t in my preferred way, He will bring me through… and I will love Him for it…again.

Matt Maher, in telling the story behind the songLord, I Need You” talks about how C. S. Lewis describes “need-love”. It is very different from other loves.

 “Need-love cries to God from our poverty. Gift-love longs to serve, or even to suffer for, God. Appreciative love says: “We give thanks to thee for thy great glory.” Need-love says “I cannot live without [him/]her.” – C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Need-love, as in the song “Lord, I Need You” comes from a heart that is aware of its lack and knows who can fill the emptiness. Need-love, on the flip side, moves us to respond to the good in our life, the joy and blessing, with gratefulness to God. With so much love.

Sometimes, we hear people in our culture express thanks and yet “the thanks” seem to float out into the air with no place to land. God is our place to land.

“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”Blaise Pascal, French Physicist and Philosopher
 “I know that everyone is going to go to God in their darkest need and struggle. My hope is that at some point it isn’t just that you go to God in your need but that you are so overwhelmingly hit between the eyes with the love of God that you would go to Him in your joy. In your joy, you would still say, “Every hour I need You”, not just in your brokenness, in your darkest times. There is always a reason to have joy. As believers, we can show witness by leaning on God in times of hardship but also leaning on God in times of joy and celebrating.”Matt Maher

I grew up singing favorite hymns from hymnals, by page number  – #379. Annie Hawks’ “I Need Thee Every Hour” was one of those songs.

Matt Maher and a team of song-writers have brought us, His children, again to God, eager to share our need for Him and our joy in Him.

Worship with me:

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
Teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
You’re my one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You*
__________________________________________
…and You’re always there.

*Lyrics to Lord, I Need You – written by Matt Maher, Kristian Stanfill, Christy Nockels, Jesse Reeves and Daniel Carson

Chords to Lord, I Need You

YouTube Video with Lyrics – Lord, I Need You – Matt Maher

YouTube Video – Matt Maher – Lord, I Need You (feat. Audrey Assad) – Acoustic 

Story Behind the Song – Lord, I Need You – Matt Maher

I Need Thee Every Hour by Annie S. Hawks, 1872

Singing From the Same Hymnal in a Post-Hymnal World

Matt Maher Music

Photo Credit: Pic of Nathan Mills with guitar – Duy Nguyen

Monday Morning Moment – the Cultural Phenomenon of Decluttering Stuff and Disposing of Relationships – the Marie Kondo Effect

Photo Credit: Lucy and Claudia

[Starting with Marie Kondo but not staying there, so for those not a fan, hang with me a few minutes.]

Marie Kondo is a petite and lovely Japanese decluttering guru. Her book and Netflix TV show Tidying Up are based on her KonMarie method of organizing one’s home. Such that joy is sparked. She ascribes to the Shinto belief that cleanliness is essential to a good life. In Kondo’s thinking, disposing of everything in your home that doesn’t spark joy brings an order and spiritual calm you wouldn’t have otherwise.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing  – Marie Kondo

YouTube Video – 10 Amazing Tips for Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (the KonMarie Method)

Shintoism: How It Influenced the Lives of the Japanese – Saki Yoshida

The Hidden Religious Promise Behind Marie Kondo’s Decluttering ‘Magic’ – Karen Swallow Prior

Because of the popularity of the KonMarie decluttering method (and other similar approaches), homes (in the West anyway) have less stuff and more open spaces. These are great days to shop in thrift stores because they are full of higher end clothing, antiques, memorabilia, and the nearly new impulse buys of the minimizing upper middle class.

This decluttering can be a good thing because it is visually refreshing and potentially allows for a greater enjoyment of the stuff we do have in our home. The problem comes when we indiscriminately toss items just because they don’t spark joy (joy being a tall order coming from material things). It sets in motion a wider worldview on what is disposable in life. What should be cut out of our lives (possessions) or cut off from our lives (people)?

In this culture of trending decluttering and downsizing, we must beware that the freedom we feel in letting go of things can transfer into an ease in letting go of people. Intentionally, ruthlessly letting go of people…maybe without even being aware we’ve changed along with our homes.

– Cutting off family and friends in the insatiable pursuit of joy –

There are always consequences in decluttering, disposing, letting go …and for sure in cutting off relationships with people.Photo Credit: Haiku Deck

You might say that some people don’t deserve further access to your life – they are complicated or difficult (even abusive). [I am all for getting help and setting boundaries when necessary…especially in the face of abuse.] It’s the cutting off of relationships that feels like it alters who we are as people, set in families, in particular.

My older brother, Robert, experienced enormous loss in his life. Because of all the losses and setbacks, he developed thick skin and a tough heart. He was hard on all of us who loved him. Brutally hard sometimes. There were plenty of occasions I could have walked away from him and not looked back. Fortunately, we had a mom who loved us all well, even when her oldest treated her as he treated us. Also, fortunately, I had two friends who kept counseling me to look beyond the contentiousness and mean words to what was going on inside him. “Hurt people hurt people” they would tell me. I finally came to the place where I didn’t react when he tried to push emotional buttons that would always end in sibling fights and walk-outs. My two younger brothers and I determined together not to get baited and to try to lean in, in love. It wasn’t long at all until he changed – almost as if he woke out of a long and terrible dream. He remembered he loved us and that we loved him.

I thank God that I didn’t cut him off. He died at a young 61, and those last years of being his sister were sweet. Those years were full of joy actually. Worth the wait…and the willingness to give up my own way.

We have all probably had the experience of drifting from relationships, of neglecting friendships, of just not showing up emotionally or physically.

This is part of the imperfect nature of life. What bears examination is the very intentional, thought-out cutting off people from our lives.

“Does it spark joy?” is the question Marie Kondo asks the person deciding whether to keep something or dispose of it.

“Make sure everything you keep sparks joy.” “Unless something makes you happy in your life, why would you hang onto it?”Tidying Up

“Does it spark joy?” Is the Wrong Decluttering Question – Joshua Becker

Beware of the worldview that decluttering leads to joy, because where, then, does it stop?

One writer goes as far as saying out right: “When you are confronted with people who do not bring joy to your life… it’s 100% okay to toss them out of it.”

There is so much being written about how to “Marie Kondo” relationships we perceive as toxic or at the least annoying and joyless. I chose not to link to those in today’s piece.

One really helpful article, though, about the reasons we cut off family members can bring real insight into why we rationalize such a decision:

10 Reasons Why People Get Cut Off From Their Family Dr. Barbara Greenberg

Click on the link and read Dr. Greenberg’s analysis on cutting off family and why we should think it through again. In brief, here are her 10 reasons people make this choice:

  1. Modeling
  2. Power and Control
  3. Exhaustion
  4. Rewriting Narratives
  5. Loyalty
  6. Perceived Slights
  7. Money
  8. Caring for Elderly or Sick Parents
  9. Abuse
  10. Lack of Elasticity

It’s just something I’m thinking about this Monday morning.

People are not stuff. They are made in the image of God. They matter, even with all their cluttered baggage, this side of Heaven. They aren’t disposable. Who we become across our lifetime is framed by those in our family and among our friends…who don’t always spark joy…nor do we.

I welcome your thoughts…in the Comments below.

The Hidden Religious Promise Behind Marie Kondo’s Decluttering ‘Magic’ – Karen Swallow Prior

Our Disposable Culture Means We Toss Relationships As Quickly as We Throw Away Objects – Charlie Sorrel

The Real Reason Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic Doesn’t Work for Parents – Tanya C. Snyder

‘Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” Isn’t Really a Make-0ver Show – Sarah Archer

Clean House, Full Thrift Stores: How Marie Kondo Inspired Mass Decluttering and Donating – Mary Ellen Wright

What Japan Can Teach America About Family Caregiving – Barry J. Jacobs

350 Family Quotes – Wisdom Quotes