Tag Archives: Michael W. Smith

Worship Wednesday – Reflecting on a Funeral – Worshiping God for His Gift of Friends – Michael W. Smith

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.Romans 12:10-11

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.1 Peter 4:10

This week has had its sober moments. A dear dear aunt is failing in health and hospice has been called in. Then this afternoon, we got word that a friend, who had struggled victoriously with cancer for years, has died. Both of these ladies are beautiful believers.

I’m just reminded once more at the great gift of the people God places in our lives… Losing such treasures stokes the fires of faith for me. I don’t understand how people can believe that life is over forever when this life ends… Heaven becomes more and more real as we say goodbyes to such vibrant friends and family who show us how to love like Jesus.

With permission, I want to share a tribute that Dave Lyle, a pastor friend of ours, shared on his Facebook page. His friend, Donnie Goodman, must have been bigger than life. I would have loved knowing him…one day in Heaven, it will happen.

Reflecting on a Funeral, Donnie Goodman, and Where My Life Is Heading

The last couple of days were spent hanging out with family and friends of Donnie. They’re an interesting bunch, often with not a lot in common except for that most important factor- all loved the man. And so we talked, cried, laughed, and hugged. It is just hard to believe he is gone. The funeral and graveside memorial were, like Donnie, strange and wonderful. The casket was embossed with the logo of the Alabama Crimson Tide. He had drumsticks in his hands, and a letter from dad. One of the songs involved a repeating theme about sitting back, reminiscing, and drinking a beer. And at the graveside, final tune, they played Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd– the shorter, 9-minute version. None of it screamed conventional. But for this guy it was OK. I was not a speaker at the service, probably could not if asked. But I had the honor to grieve. I say honor because usually I am too busy trying to help others, trying to give the deceased an appropriate sendoff. But this time I was able to sit back and let it hit me. And that it did, and hard. At the end of the day, I was so very tired. Grieving is not easy. I guess it cannot be. Unexpectedly, unfairly, I lost a great friend. In many ways Donnie was the man I am working to be- kind, smart, full of love, always making time for people, just the most earnest and real of a person. I think, in these and other ways, he reflected my Lord Jesus. I believe the common folks liked to be around Jesus. He had a twinkle in his eye and enjoyed life. My Lord was quick with a smile, and slow to condemn, and ready to forgive. That. too, was Donnie. Now the guy did not walk on water, didn’t even go to church like maybe he should. But he knew how to love people! And in my opinion, the outward sign of a man whose heart is right with God is this amazing characteristic, to love others.

Now I want to talk just a little bit about my response to all this. I will not be the same. Indeed, I do not want to be. For far too long, I have had absolutely too little to do with those amazing people in my life such as Donnie. God has gifted me with the finest of people. But, too often, I have been too busy and too self-focused. These people are precious, but like most things that are valuable on this side of eternity, they can slip from your grasp in the matter of unseen seconds. So it was with my dear friend, Donnie. And I just do not want it to happen again. So my intent is to quit thinking that I live too far away, stop waiting for the other guy to make the first move, stop worrying about rejection, and especially stop thinking I am too busy for anybody. This is because, in reality, life and friends are too special to allow myself to ever again think I am that busy. Of course, if I could talk to Donnie and try to explain, this guy would not let me wallow in pity. He wasn’t much of a philosopher, instead a man of action. He would say forget it, let’s go do something! So, such is what I will try to do- not live with regrets, but instead do something about it.

Likely I will never again hear Freebird or the Alabama Fight Song played at a funeral! Donnie was one of a kind. If someone makes you a better person, indeed he is special. It is your fortune, your honor, to know him. Thank you, Donnie, for being special, nice, easy-going, gifted, just a little weird, a Christian, and the finest of men. My friend.

Dave Lyle

This old song by Michael W. Smith came to mind as I read Dave’s tribute. If you don’t know it…you might enjoy listening, and remembering the great gift of friends in our lives. Thank You, God.

Roll Tide!

5 Friday Faves – Political Correctness or Not So Much, Claire’s Lion King Medley, Back to School, Michael W. Smith, and The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Here we go! Friday Faves! Just for you…

1) Political Correctness or Not So Much – It doesn’t do any of us good to use language or messaging that inflame division or hatred. The dilemma is that the rules on what is “politically correct” change and grow such that it becomes difficult even to have dialogue  across political or sociological lines. When we differ in how we think on today’s issues, we desperately need to keep talking to each other…listening to each other…to work toward solutions with positive lasting impact.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

What happens to me, in the face of articulate and passionate people who insist on a politically correct and savvy response? I go silent. Silence is serves no one.

This week I discovered author pastor Scott Sauls‘ article “Saying ‘No’ to Political Correctness”.

“What if we’ve gotten it all wrong in our efforts to be politically correct and not risk stirring the pot, ever? What if, in our sincere attempt to become relevant to the culture, we have instead become products and disciples of the culture? If we discovered that skeptics would take us more seriously for being open with our views versus secretive and timid about them, would we become more expressive about the truths we hold inside?” – Scott Sauls

Sauls also acknowledges that those of us who are Christian evangelicals may seem a minority and feel we have no voice…but hopefully it isn’t because we’ve given up our voice. We have a mandate from God to stand for Him, to hear, and to speak, even as a minority.

Ironically, the single thing that makes Scripture relevant to our culture, and any culture, is that Scripture shows no interest in being relevant. Instead, it acts as God still speaking, affirming what’s good and confronting what’s not. Where Scripture and culture are at odds, Christians too must remain countercultural.

But we must not allow our counter-cultural postures to become anti-cultural.

A perception of minority status can easily tempt Christians to get testy, even hostile, against a world God calls us to love. Scott Sauls

Politically correct or incorrect, we are called to love without prejudice or reserve. So I’m moved to listen more than ever. Listening takes getting close to people. Resolved to get close.

2) Claire’s Lion King Medley – When Claire Crosby was three, her dad Dave began videotaping her & posting to YouTube. My first awareness of her was their version of You’ve Got a Friend in Me. Even before that song, she did a totally adorable version of Little Mermaid.Photo Credit: Facebook, Claire Ryann Crosby

Her singing of “A Million Dreams” is amazing! Goosebumps listening to a 5 y/o sing.

Now the whole family has produced a video of Every Song From Lion King. So good. Also don’t miss the behind-the-scenes video of the making of this video. Fascinating and fun.

YouTube Video – Every Song From The Lion King Movie – 6 year-old Claire and the Crosby Family

YouTube Video – We Made a Lion King Video – The Crosby’s

YouTube Video – The Lion King (Main Theme – “This Land” – Beyond the Guitar (my kid’s version)

3) Back to School – [Adapted from the Archives] During the hottest days of summer, a Fall breeze blows through our favorite stores. Back to school supplies and cool kids’ clothes pop up everywhere. I have always loved the smell of pencils and paper. However, I never loved the long hours of school that boxed in our children to spend evenings separated from us and each other with hours and hours of homework. Sorry, wonderful teacher friends of mine. Anyway, seeing school supplies in the stores this week was fun…and also a reminder of the flight of time. Summer slow down (too late to slow down for some of you. Welcome to the next school year).Blog - Back to School Supplies - friday Faves

So much new happens as summer ends, and Fall stretches out before us. Routines and rhythms crank up again. Growth spurts require new clothes. Then there are all the school supplies required for starting a new year.

As our children grew up, we had varying seasons of “back-to-school” between home schooling and other schooling, both in the US and in Africa. It was never easy for me to see them off, when we didn’t homeschool. I missed them…and those moments together when they talked about life as they saw it. I also missed being able to protect them from some of the meanness in the world. Still, the start of the school year, for all of us, is a hopeful time of anticipation and wonder, of new beginnings and possibilities.[Kudos to the teachers, Stacie Mills & Kirby Joseph, whose classrooms pre-student-return, were my inspiration on this fave.]

How thankful I am for teachers who really care for their students. Teachers who see themselves as partners with parents, even us most woefully unprepared…for the sake of these kiddos who will hold the future in their hands one day. What a marvel this is.

Back to School – Teachers On My Mind – Deb Mills

Putting the Basket in the Water: Trusting God in the Next Phase of Your Child’s Life – Ashlei Woods

The Trauma-Informed Teacher – Silent Front Line

4) Michael W. Smith – Singer songwriter Michael W. Smith has given me words to worship God for over 35 years. Either writing himself, collaborating, or performing others’ songs. He has blessed so many of us over the years. Today when it seems people struggle so hard to finish strong, Michael is the real deal. Not yet 60, he has been married to Debbie for over 35 years. He wrote his first song when he was 5 and he’s been writing them ever since.

His “Agnus Dei” is one of my favorites. I’m actually not sure why it is entitled that, but it is a powerful worship song. Few lyrics; but great heart! Like Michael.

This week, I watched the TBN special “35 Years of Friends – Celebrating the Music of Michael W. Smith”. Here’s a highlight reel of that show. So great! All the emotions of decades of music that moved hearts and lives.

Thanks, Michael W. Smith, for living a life on- and off-stage that never compromised what you hold dear – God, your family, and all of us friends of yours.

Michael W. Smith – Grammy Winner and Grandfather – Jeremy V. Jones

10 Best Michael W. Smith SongsPamela Rose Williams (includes his bio and stories)

List of All Songs by Michael W. Smith (A-Z) – with links to the videos

Michael W. Smith – Song List (with links to iTunes)

5) The Last Black Man in San Francisco – Have you ever had to leave a house you loved? One that expressed home almost as much as the people who lived there? When my mom died and we finally had to sell the house where we grew up, it was hard. Every time, I go to home to Georgia, I still drive by that little much-loved house. If its walls could talk…

The film The Last Black Man in San Francisco is the story about a beloved house. I haven’t seen the film yet but it’s on my film list for this summer. Everything I’ve read about it (and watching the trailer below) touched my heart. Comment below if you’ve seen it. I love it already.

YouTube Video – How “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” Was Made – HBO

That’s it for me. Be blessed. Thanks for reading. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Size 14 Is No Longer the Average Size for an American Woman – Chris Adams

Photo Credit: Facebook, Maria Bessler

Wednesday Worship – Place In This World – Michael W. Smith

Photo Credit: Slideplayer

God has arranged each one of the parts in the body just as he wanted.  And if they were all the same part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.  The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  On the contrary, those parts of the body that are weaker are indispensable.  And those parts of the body that we consider less honorable, we clothe these with greater honorGod has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable,  so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other.  So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:18-23a, 24-27

Have you ever felt out of place? Awkwardly fitting in your family or workplace or church? 1 Corinthians 12 gives us a beautiful picture of how God intended for each of us to have a place. Within the Body of Christ. Where we belong, where we are known, and where we should magnificently fit.

A dear friend of ours, Dave Lyle, is a storyteller. He was our dad’s pastor, and he treated Dad as a good friend. When Dad wasn’t able to attend church anymore, Pastor Dave would still visit and catch him up on news and pray with him and for him. Dad never had to wonder if he had a place in this world, even in his 90s, when his pastor came around.

With his permission, you will read a story Pastor Dave recently shared on his Facebook page. It says a lot about how important it is to communicate to people that they matter…just as they are.

***HE’S NOT YOUR TYPICAL GUEST AT CHURCH, BUT HE’S WELCOME ANYTIME***

Roger came to worship with us, again, at church last night. He’s our friend and happens to be homeless. He looks the part and acts the part, although not dangerous at all. He’s actually a very sweet guy, and smart. Of course, there are reasons he is homeless, and we are not going to change it by analyzing, or preaching. And he won’t take money. I don’t think he needs it- he seems to always have a new project going, and the ability to fund it. Anyhow, I’ve stopped trying to explain Roger to other guests who show up at the same time. I talk with him as a friend, shake his hand, hug him if he will let me. It seems that Roger thinks he is normal, and the rest of us are maybe a bit strange but he loves us anyhow. And he keeps coming back. One time I set out to find his home place, searched far and wide and finally found him living in a dilapidated van behind a warehouse. He was proud to show me the dwellings- his bed, how he cooked and stored things. As he understood it, he was the security for all the businesses in the vicinity. I guess it was a nice gig?

I am learning more with every passing day that, foremost, you are to love people. Yes, change them if you can, lead them to Lord if you can. But before and beyond all the heavy stuff, consider him or her to be a person of value who is worth the time and effort to just hang out with and to get to know. And so, Roger fascinates me. He puzzles me and frustrates me, and I like him.

When worship was over and it was time to leave, he walked by a table at the front of the sanctuary and saw some baby bottles. I told him they were being used to raise money for a local medical clinic for expectant mothers. He made some catty statement about how they waste the money, rambled on with incoherency for about 30 seconds- typical Roger stuff. And then he pulled out a crumpled ten dollar bill and stuffed it in the bottle. You just gotta like the guy! – Pastor Dave Lyle

Now Pastor Dave is probably never going to lead a megachurch or write a bestseller (although he could!)…BUT! He has shown himself a the best sort of servant of God in loving people as they are, seeing their value in the Lord’s eyes. He makes a place for them in the church and points them to Jesus.

Worship with me to an old 1991 Michael W. Smith song Place in this World:

The wind is moving
But I am standing still
A life of pages
Waiting to be filled
A heart that’s hopeful
A head that’s full of dreams
But this becoming
Is harder than it seems
Feels like I’m

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world

If there are millions
Down on their knees
Among the many
Can you still hear me?
Hear me asking
Where do I belong?
Is there a vision
That I can call my own?
Show me I’m

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world*

I’m thankful for all those through my life who, led by the Holy Spirit, made a place for me. Often, our first glimpse of God is through the love of another – a parent, a teacher, a pastor, a friend.

Tauren Wells‘ song “Known” gives us another look at what it’s like to belong…truly belong…and to be fully known and loved by God.

Songwriters: Ethan Hulse, Tauren Wells, Jordan Sapp

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”  Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

Fully Known and Fully Loved – Jill Tracey

“Lord, love through us. Give us an appreciation for every member of the Body of Christ…as we have seen in the friendships of our brother Dave…with Roger…and our Dad. Then, God, help us remember how You gave each of us a place in Your Kingdom. Show us how to give space to others…those that You bring into our lives…to love them and see them as You do…fully known and fully loved.”

*Lyrics to Place in this World – Songwriters: Wayne Kirkpatrick, Michael W. Smith and Amy Lee Grant

Michael W. Smith Reflects on the Power of a Song – 35 #1 Hits Later – Pam Windsor

Worship Wednesday – Our God Is With Us, Emmanuel – Steven Curtis Chapman

2013 December Christmas with Grandparents & Christmas Town 048

[Adapted from the Archives]

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.Isaiah 7:14

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.  But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:  “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”Matthew 1:18-23

I worship in my car. You know when you are stopped at a traffic light, and your windows are buzzing with the sound of the bass in the car next to you? You look over and they’re rocking out to some cool song? Well, I sometimes do the same…on a quieter less rockin’ level…but there’s still a lot going on in my car, too. Just for an Audience of One.

When Steven Curtis Chapman’s song Our God Is With Us comes on the radio at Christmas, my thoughts rein in to this great truth. We are not alone. God is always present with us.

He brought that reality as near to us as possible in the birth of Jesus, the God-Son, born to the virgin, Mary, over 2000 years ago. God revealed Himself personally through Jesus. I am no theologian, but this is very clear to me – everything I have read in Scripture on the life of Jesus, and everything I have experienced of Him myself. My heart resonates with the words of this song. Jesus is the “Immanuel” – He came to be with us – to save, to heal, to restore us to Himself. Hallelujah!

Worship with me…

One of us is cryin’ as our hopes and dreams are led away in chains And we’re left all alone. One of us is dyin’ as our love is slowly lowered in the grave, oh, and we’re left all alone.

But for all of us who journey through the dark abyss of loneliness There comes a great announcement, we are never alone. For the maker of each heart that breaks, the giver of each breath we take, Has come to earth and given hope its birth.

And our God is with us, Emmanuel He’s come to save us, Emmanuel and we will never face life alone. Now that God has made Himself known as Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel, oh.

He spoke with prophets’ voices and showed Himself in a cloud of fire But no one had seen His face. Until the One Most Holy revealed to us His perfect heart’s desire and left His rightful place.

And in one glorious moment, all eternity was shaken as God broke through the darkness that had kept us apart. And with love that conquers loneliness, hope that fills all emptiness, He came to earth to show our worth.

And our God is with us, Emmanuel He’s come to save us, Emmanuel and we will never face life alone. Now that God has made Himself known As Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel, oh So rejoice, oh rejoice, Emmanuel has come.

And our God is with us, Emmanuel He’s come to save us, Emmanuel and we will never face life alone. Now that God has made Himself known as Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel.

Our God is with us, Emmanuel Our God is with us, oh Emmanuel Our God is with us.*

*Lyrics to Our God Is With Us – Songwriters Steve Curtis Chapman & Michael W. Smith

YouTube video of Our God Is With Us – Full song – 6:43 minutes

YouTube video of Our God is With Us – shortened audio, with lyrics

Website for Steven Curtis Chapman [Our God Is With Us was a title on his first Christmas album, 1995, The Music of Christmas]

The Title Emmanuel and the Name Jesus

God Is One – the Wonder of Trinity [Tri-Unity] – God the Father, God, the Son, God the Holy Spirit – a simple lesson on an amazing reality

“Best of all, God Is With Us.” – John Wesley [for more great God-glorifying quotes by the John & Charles Wesley, click here.]

Saturday Short – Sweet Christmas Nostalgia – Somewhere in My Memory – Michael W. Smith

In our attic, there’s a space is filled with bins of Christmas loveliness. Tree decorations, wall and room decor, linens, and nativities from around the world (including a few of the made in China sort).

This year I decided to clear out some of the stuff, albeit still lovely but nothing my kids would cherish, should they be the ones clearing it out one day.

The bag of someone else’s treasures in my car headed to Hope Thrift yesterday was my front-seat passenger. While Christmas music played, I occasionally looked over at that bag, and my thoughts filled with memories of Mom.

In the bag were several sets of vinyl Christmas placemats and cloth napkins. During our childhood, Mom used to decorate our small rancher with so much beauty at Christmas. Most of it either homemade or bought at the local discount store. Still…when the family gathered around all the tables scattered through the house, it was magical. Color and light. Wonder at how she brought the fragrance of loveliness out of so little.

Even though I don’t use those red and green placemats, I had a hesitation in the thrift store parking lot. Could I let go of them? In that moment it was like peeling away a part of my memory of Mom and my heart ached.

Then while still in the driver’s seat, with the car running, a song I’d never heard on the radio came on. It was Michael W. Smith’s Somewhere In My Memory (from his 2014 album The Spirit of Christmas.

In this song, his granddaughter Audrey sings (when did Michael W. Smith get old enough to have a granddaughter?!). The song was actually originally featured in the film Home Alone. The musical score was composed by John Williams.

Have a listen:

Candles in the window
Shadows painting the ceiling
Gazing at the fire glow
Feeling that gingerbread feeling

Precious moments, special people
Happy faces, I can see

Somewhere in my memory
Christmas joys all around me
Living in my memory
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home here with me

Precious moments, special people
Happy faces, I can see

Somewhere in my memory
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home
here with me*

What a gift music is (right, Nathan?). It was one of those “Christmas comes” moments. I sat and listened to that song, remembering a mom who could stretch her income better than anyone I knew. Probably because it was always about bringing joy to others. I didn’t have to have those placemats to remember what a gift Mom was to all of us.

[Now the cloth napkins she made…and the crocheted Christmas ornaments…still with me.]

So Happy Saturday, kind readers. If you can’t afford the gifts you’d like to give your family, take heart. Christmas still comes for us. Most probably what your loved ones want most for Christmas…is you.

If finances aren’t an issue for you this Christmas, then still we have good advice in this image of a holiday bucket list:

I am so enamored this year with the graces God gives us in this season – small remembrances of what matters more than trying to find that perfect Christmas gift…or having every minute of your December weekends filled with parties or other invitations. One such grace for me that also happened yesterday was waiting for my order at Chick-Fil-A. I was standing at the end of the farm table in their dining room and saw the plaque below for the first time. Surprised by the joy of this.

A Better Way Ministries -a place of refuge for men struggling with life controlling issues such as drug and alcohol addictions

Anyway….there you have my Saturday morning rambling on this second day of Advent 2017. I do celebrate you amazing and persevering shoppers for just the right presents for your loved ones. It is such a joy for us on the receiving end of that.

One day a Christmas book for my children (like the one below I found in an estate sale) is going to be my gift to them. Until then, gifts of some sort, probably severely lacking imagination, will make it under the tree…and the best part?

“All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home here with me”.

*Michael W. Smith – Somewhere In My Memory Lyrics | MetroLyrics

YouTube Video – Michael W. Smith – Somewhere In My Memory Feat. Audrey Smith

Worship Wednesday – Loving Broadly Is God’s Path to Holiness – 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Photo Credit: Desiring God

As a small child, I loved my mama with all my heart. She was the source of all the goodness in our lives. She was my hero.

Through the many deep and painful hardships in Mom’s life, she had lost her way spiritually and we were unchurched in the early years of our childhood. When kind and persevering neighbors finally won Mom’s trust, we accepted their invitation to church. It was in that small congregation with hearts full of love that we found God.

It was no time before I was ready to receive, as my own, this beautiful, persistently loving, perfectly holy Savior. I was ready because of my own failed attempts to be good for my mama – to take some of the burden off her shoulders through my own small efforts. The knowledge from Scripture that we could never do enough on our own, that we needed a sinless Savior, was the best news I’d ever heard!

In recent weeks, we have been studying 1 Thessalonians (the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church) through our church’s sermon series and in our home groups. The two short versions below were like a shock of glorious truth for me:

May the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone else, just as our love for you overflows, so that He may establish your hearts in blamelessness and holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. Amen. – 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Anything good in our lives comes through the hands of God. In fact, as Pastor Cliff said Sunday, “No matter how far away we feel right now (from being blamelessly holy), what God Almighty has declared so He will make so.

Pursuing holiness is a theme much talked about in Christian circles – almost to the point of it being an idol. God orders the pursuit of holiness secondarily to increasing in love. What if we went after loving first? Not in lieu of holiness, God forbid, but…on the path to it.

We know from the passage in 1 Thessalonians, and many passages in Scripture, that God means for us to be all about knowing and loving Him and, out of that, loving others. Not just others we like or those we want to like us…but ALL others. The “so that” in verse 13 gives us the context.

As we strive to love others, in obedience to the Lord, He empowers us in that love. Then as our hearts are filled with deeper and broader love, then we have less room, inclination, or desire for or toward sinful habits.

Until the day we go to be with God when He completes His work in us and we are then blamelessly holy because of what Christ’s holiness accomplished in us.

The stuff of cold chills and face to the ground in awe of Him.

Rev. David Scott describes this whole work of God so well:

“If holiness is a matter of being increasingly conformed to God’s law, and if as Paul says in Romans 13, love is the fulfillment of the law, then it makes sense that as we grow in love, we come more in line with God’s law, and thus become more holy. This dynamic also makes sense to us experientially, as we face our sin. For example, if you grow in love for your neighbor, you are less likely to covet your neighbor’s possessions. The more you grow in depth of love for your spouse, the less attractive becomes the prospect of adultery. The more you love your fellow man, the harder it is to harbor any malice towards them. If we perfectly loved everyone, there would be no sin! Chrysostom, the great 4th century preacher, put it this way, “Love to our neighbor does not suffer any entrance of transgression; there is not any sin, which the power of love cannot consume.” Love is the soil in which holiness grows toward perfection. Love is the means by which a person’s heart gets established blameless in holiness.”David Scott

[Much of how this kind of love can be cultivated is in marriage and relationships with family. My favorite book on this subject is Gary Thomas Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? The happiness comes as both of us love God in ways that leads to sweet overflow in each other’s life.]

My husband Dave often talks about the ways God shows up in our lives and the role we have in those divine appointments (Psalm 127:1, as an example). “Our part is necessary but not sufficient”.

We can’t love well enough on our own…but as we give ourselves over to how God loves through us, we can know what it means to actually love unselfishly and unreservedly. That’s the kind of love I wanted to lavish on my mom as a child. She was so worthy of it…but I didn’t understand how. Until God’s truth penetrated my heart. Through the rest of Mom’s years of life and mine with her, I loved her imperfectly…but more perfectly than I could have without God at work in me.

The same for loving all others. It’s easy to build a wall around ourselves and only allow in those easy for us to love. No wonder our hearts bend so easily to sin and selfishness if that is our default. What a world God opens to us when we surrender ourselves to His redemptive purposes.

You might say, my mom fit in the category of “easy to love”. You are right. Still, as I grew in loving God, yielding to Him and His help in seeing others as He sees them, then loving comes easier. Even those as hard to love as I can be sometimes. Loving broadly is becoming a whole daily renewing and consuming adventure. Out of that, I know from His Word, He lavishes our hearts with His holiness.

The more we love, the more God shapes our hearts toward holiness. Wow!

We usually have a song together on Worship Wednesday’s. I’ve put a couple in the links. Today seems more for glorying in God’s provision and praying to be available to Him to love generously and flesh out blameless holiness to a world that needs to see Jesus in us.

Love and Holiness – 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 – David Scott

What Does It Mean to Be Holy – 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 – John Piper

YouTube Video – Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty (Agnus Dei) – Michael W. Smith

YouTube Video – All to Jesus I Surrender

Praise & Worship Show “Holiness Themes”

Worship Wednesday – Friends – Michael W. Smith

Photo Credit: Pixabay

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13

Forever friends. What a grace of God! These are friends we don’t choose necessarily. They choose us, almost in spite of our own failings at being friends ourselves.

I thank God for the friends who have coursed with us across continents, through births and deaths, and in both the mundane and extraordinary of life. Today we’re settled, for the most part, and there are days, in the solitude of this current life that I wonder if I have friends (I know…silly thoughts…when too much alone).

In truth, this life of mine has been full of friends…lifelong, through all sorts of troubled water, friends.

Some of these friends turned out to be family, while others God Himself brought across our paths and a spark of commonality and community blazed into a fire. A fire that has warmed my heart from days to decades. A fire that snaps me out of my doldrums to be a better friend myself.

Am I having a kumbaya moment? Absolutely.

Friendship is not something to be trifled with in life. I’m learning (thankful for friends who have suffered long with me over the years).

Part of what has stirred this gratefulness today is in reading Scott Sauls’ book Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear. Each short but full chapter addresses a kind of friendship in our lives. Within each kind of friendship, Sauls points to the kindness and mercy of God within those relationships…and how, in both strength and weakness, we have our place.

Photo Credit: Amazon

Another writer, Dave Zuleger, exposes our cultural bias of casualness with friendships.

We need to begin defining true friendship and brotherly love not by conforming to cultural expectations, but by looking at the face of Jesus and being changed to look and love more like him (2 Corinthians 3:18). When we look at Jesus, we find a friend who loves when we are unlovable, and a brother willing to die for us, even when we didn’t deserve it. We find and experience a love utterly unlike what we normally find in ourselves, in our own hearts.

We can be such fickle friends, distancing ourselves from difficult people and situations. If someone seems too immature, too demanding, or too inconvenient, we bail. We find excuses (legitimate ones of course!) to distance ourselves from these kinds of friends. Yet, Jesus — the perfect, holy Son of God — went and hung out among wicked sinners who were extremely immature, difficult, and even dangerous (they crucified him!). – Dave Zuleger

Zuleger’s words reminded me of a very old song by Sharalee Lucas:

I see Jesus in your eyes, and it makes me love Him

I feel Jesus in your touch, and I know He cares

I hear Jesus in your voice, and it makes me listen

And I trust you with my love, because you’re His.

I see Him…Sharalee Lucas

This is the sort of friendship I’ve known. That friend who came quietly to sit with Dave during my cancer surgery. Those friends whose love for my mama has been lavished on me since her death. The friend from work who refuses to define or disdain me by my different political views. The friend neglected who gives me grace. The friends who see value in me that I don’t see. The friends who include me in their great works. The friends who love in spite of…

A cherished local friend told me recently that she was moving away within the next few months. Thinking of losing her, I was reminded of another old song about friends – the one Michael W. Smith published in 1983. We never have to lose a friend. As our travels over the last 20+ years have shown us, God gives us forever friends, not limited by time or geography. For this mercy, I will always be grateful to Him.

[BTW – for any younger friends who can’t wrap their sensibilities around this old song – I would love to know songs about friends that are super meaningful to you – so please let me know in the Comments.]

Worship with me, please…the God who calls us friend and who gives us the great grace of friends.

Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil of you
I can’t believe the hopes He’s granted
Means a chapter of your life is through
But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong
And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

And with the faith and love God’s given
Springing from the hope we know
We will pray the joy you live in
Is the strength that now you show

We’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

To live as friends

Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

No a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends*

 We need to learn to see every friendship through the lens of the work of Christ on our behalf. To see that at the cross there is more than enough grace to cover a multitude of sins committed against us. To see the cross of Christ as the depth of suffering a perfect Brother was willing to endure. We need to remember a true brother moves closer when times get harder, and never leaves or forsakes a friend, even when the trial lasts a lifetime. – Dave Zuleger
Here’s to friends (images of just a few of the many amazing friends – would put up a lot more and you would get tired of scrolling) that God has given over the years):

*Lyrics to Friends (1983)

Song Facts – Friends – Songwriters: Michael W. & Debbie Smith

The Best Friends Are Born For Adversity – Dave Zuleger

Find a Friend to Wound You – Greg Morse

Worship Wednesday – Finding God in the Dark – the Dark that Cannot Extinguish His Light

Blog - Sitting in the Dark - Time Magazine

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.John 1:1-5

How extraordinary that revelation can come waiting in an exam room of a doctor’s office! I was waiting…of course, and noticed the pile of magazines on the counter (to help us waiting lose count of the time). In the pile was an old issue of a Time magazine. The cover story was intriguing. Who of us hasn’t considered, if not encountered, God during a dark night of the soul?

Flipping the pages over to the article, I found a familiar face. A face I hadn’t seen in decades: Barbara Brown…well, Barbara Brown Taylor now. She was my residence advisor my first year in the dorms of Emory University. Blog - Sitting in the dark - Time Magazine - Barbara Brown Taylor

 I loved our occasional talks together. She was funny, beautiful, loving, very real, and captivating – to be so close to our ages yet wise beyond her years. Flawed like the rest of us, but yielded somehow to an otherness of life that gives grace to our flaws, and her own.

Blog - Finding God in the Dark - Barbara BrownPhoto Credit: qotd.org

Barbara Brown Taylor. That day I was glad for the long wait and devoured the Time article (by Elizabeth Dias). It’s lovely to rediscover a friend from our past and to find one who had become so celebrated.

[Sidebar: It was just that same week when I found another old friend via Facebook. He and I lived across from each other, in an old brick apartment building, while in our 20’s. Rick Holm was a medical resident and I was the cancer nurse specialist at Grady Hospital in those days. We became friends and shared friends, and Saturday morning coffee, and late night stories. Now that same Rick Holm is The Prairie Doc, of Brookings, South Dakota. I wasn’t surprised.]

Barbara Brown Taylor, author of Learning to Walk in the Dark, shared some of her story in that magazine article and her thinking on experiencing the dark. Many of us try to avoid the darkness but, for Barbara, it is a place (or experience) to embrace – to discover, and to discover God there. The video produced by The Work of the People gives a winsome glimpse into what she talks about in her book – through clips of her and other writers talking about pain.Blog - Sitting in the Dark - Barbara Brown TaylorPhoto Credit: The Work of the People

I personally prefer light to darkness, although much of what she and her cohorts in the video say about darkness is. We have nightlights in the house, not because anyone is afraid of the dark but, to avoid not falling, tripping over something or running painfully into something.

We definitely need to learn from the darkness in our lives, as Barbara Brown Taylor writes. We are meant to incorporate that learning into the grace we have for ourselves and those around us in their own darknesses. It’s the light, though, that I am most grateful for. The pitch-black dark of suffering will come to all of us, sometimes in ways we can’t even fathom in daytime.

This one thing I know: We are never alone in that dark place.

Blog - Sitting in the Dark - Light - poetrybydeborahann

Photo Credit: Poetry by Deborah Ann Belka

In this moment…the darknesses closest to my heart (hard family situations, the suffering in the world, my own fears) are brightened in the light of God’s Word.  I recognize that, in the darkness around us, there is a call to action. We are meant to do whatever we can to bring light into the darkness of others. I am reminded of Chris Rice’s song Go Light the World.

We can trust the Giver of Light to emblazon our darkness.

Jesus is familiar with darkness. – He brought light into the darkness at the creation of our world (Genesis 1:1-4John 1:1-5); his birth was heralded by angels to shepherds in the dark of that Bethlehem night (Luke 2:8-16); he lived a life that exposed the darkness through the light of His truth and love (John 8:12); seeking the Father’s face in the dark (Mark 1:35); surrendering His life for ours on a cross  against a black midday sky (Mark 15:33); resurrected from the darkness of a tomb (Luke 24); – with us now in every situation we can’t see our way out of (Deuteronomy 31:6, Matthew 28:20) … His light will never be extinguished by the dark (John 1:5).

Whatever our darkness, He brings light. Worship with me:

Light of the World
You stepped down into darkness
Opened my eyes
Let me see
Beauty that made
This heart adore You
Hope of a life
Spent with You

Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me

King of all days
Oh, so highly exalted
Glorious in Heaven above
Humbly You came
To the earth You created
All for love’s sake became poor

Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me

I’ll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross
I’ll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross

Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me

Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me*

*Here I Am to Worship written by Michael W. Smith, Debbie Smith, Paul Baloche

Worship Wednesday – All Is Well – Storyteller Frank Peretti and Songwriter Michael W. Smith

Worship Wednesday - Blog - All is Well - Screen shot 2

[From the Archives]

We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28

All Is Well – A Story for Christmas brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. It was published in 1990 and we read it to our children every Christmas until they were old enough to read it themselves. Then I read it to myself. Frank Peretti is the author and Robert Sauber did the illustrations for the first book. It seems to be out of print now, and a newer edition, with illustrations by Gary Glover, came out in 2002.

I fell in love with the first edition, and it’s still my favorite. Don’t you love when you recover something once precious to you which you thought lost forever? In our many moves, somewhere along the way, we lost All Is Well – A Story for Christmas. I was delighted when, just today, I found the book, that old one, captured on a YouTube video.

Blog - Worship Wednesday - Screen shot - All is Well - 1Screen Shot

The memories of that book have stirred again – reading together cuddled up with the children in front of the fire in Tennessee, Or listening to the audiobook as they stared sleepily into the dark on those long drives to grandparents. Then childhood years across North Africa when stories familiar brought home closer. The tears came again today, as I watched that YouTube video and the telling of All is Well.

The story focuses on a single mother and her little girl, in tough times financially. There was no money for rent and they were facing losing their home. The little girl, Jenny, was determined to help, and she found an old box of Christmas ornaments that she peddled to neighbors in hopes of helping her mom, Ruth, with the rent. One of those ornaments was a small homemade piece of clay inscribed with the phrase, “All is well.” The rest of the story is a lovely picture of courage, hope, love, and kindness – of neighbors reaching out to this little twosome so in need.

The last page of the book ends with this:

“All is well, huh, Mom?”

“All is well, Jenny. Some way, somehow. We can’t see it yet, but all is well.”

(Narrator) “Well, like I said in the beginning, it all depends on where you’re standing and how good the view is from there. When you’re the storyteller, you have a pretty good view. You know things people in the story don’t know… I know Ruth and Jenny will be taken care of…

You know what tickles me: Ruth knows it, too. She knows. She can’t see any of it from where she is…but she knows.  Now that she remembers how come all is well, she knows. She remembers and she’ll tell Jenny once again: that God is the grandest storyteller of our lives. He weaves our days then strings them like beads on the chain of history. He knows the placement of every person…the end from the beginning. From His lofty heights, He has the best view of all.

She remembers and she’ll tell Jenny that in a stable in Bethlehem so long ago, God wrote Himself into the story and became that central character . Now the Weaver of the Story walks with us in the midst of the story…and He will stay with us, until that story is complete, in His way, in His time, for His glory…and that’s how come all is well. Remember?”

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the Lord, “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”Jeremiah 29:11-13

Blog - Worship Wednesday - All Is Well - 2nd book

Take the time to worship today…and then read this story as a family if you can. Or click on the YouTube video and cozy up with your kiddos to watch the story unfold. My children are all grown up now, but I don’t think they will have forgotten. All is well…or can be. Remember that.

Blog - Worship Wednesday - All is Well 2nd book coverPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

YouTube Video of original story All Is Well (1990) by Frank Peretti – book and audio CD no longer available. Illustrations by Robert Sauber

All Is Well: The Miracle of Christmas in July by Frank Peretti (2002) with illustrations by Gary Glover – this story is updated from the one above – with Daniel as our young hero, and his mom, Ruth – same great message of love, neighbors, and God’s faithfulness

YouTube Lyric Video of All Is Well by Michael W. Smith (featured in audiobook of All is Well above

YouTube Lyric Video of All Is Well sung by Carrie Underwood & Michael W. Smith (Spirit of Christmas Album)

For the long nights and heavy burdens – Jesus is coming.

PostScript – January 2, 2015 – Look what my daughter gave me for Christmas – she had the original book among her Christmas books for her 3rd grade class. Now I have them both again….

2014 Dec Christmas in Richmond with MomMom & PopPop 005a (2)

Worship Wednesday – All Is Well – Storyteller Frank Peretti and Songwriter Michael W. Smith

Worship Wednesday - Blog - All is Well - Screen shot 2

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28

All Is Well – A Story for Christmas brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. It was published in 1990 and we read it to our children every Christmas until they were old enough to read it themselves. Then I read it to myself. Frank Peretti is the author and Robert Sauber did the illustrations for the first book. It seems to be out of print now, and a newer edition, with illustrations by Gary Glover, came out in 2002.

I fell in love with the first edition, and it’s still my favorite. Don’t you love when you recover something once precious to you which you thought lost forever? In our many moves, somewhere along the way, we lost All Is Well – A Story for Christmas. I was delighted when, just today, I found the book, that old one, captured on a YouTube video.

Blog - Worship Wednesday - Screen shot - All is Well - 1Screen Shot

The memories of that book have stirred again – reading together cuddled up with the children in front of the fire in Tennessee, Or listening to the audiobook as they stared sleepily into the dark on those long drives to grandparents. Then childhood years across North Africa when stories familiar brought home closer. The tears came again today, as I watched that YouTube video and the telling of All is Well.

The story focuses on a single mother and her little girl, in tough times financially. There was no money for rent and they were facing losing their home. The little girl, Jenny, was determined to help, and she found an old box of Christmas ornaments that she peddled to neighbors in hopes of helping her mom, Ruth, with the rent. One of those ornaments was a small homemade piece of clay inscribed with the phrase, “All is well.” The rest of the story is a lovely picture of courage, hope, love, and kindness – of neighbors reaching out to this little twosome so in need.

The last page of the book ends with this:

“All is well, huh, Mom?”

“All is well, Jenny. Some way, somehow. We can’t see it yet, but all is well.”

(Narrator) “Well, like I said in the beginning, it all depends on where you’re standing and how good the view is from there. When you’re the storyteller, you have a pretty good view. You know things people in the story don’t know… I know Ruth and Jenny will be taken care of…

You know what tickles me: Ruth knows it, too. She knows. She can’t see any of it from where she is…but she knows.  Now that she remembers how come all is well, she knows. She remembers and she’ll tell Jenny once again: that God is the grandest storyteller of our lives. He weaves our days then strings them like beads on the chain of history. He knows the placement of every person…the end from the beginning. From His lofty heights, He has the best view of all.

She remembers and she’ll tell Jenny that in a stable in Bethlehem so long ago, God wrote Himself into the story and became that central character . Now the Weaver of the Story walks with us in the midst of the story…and He will stay with us, until that story is complete, in His way, in His time, for His glory…and that’s how come all is well. Remember?”

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the Lord, “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:11-13

Blog - Worship Wednesday - All Is Well - 2nd bookImage Credit

Take the time to worship today…and then read this story as a family if you can. Or click on the YouTube video and cozy up with your kiddos to watch the story unfold. My children are all grown up now, but I don’t think they will have forgotten. All is well…or can be. Remember that.

Blog - Worship Wednesday - All is Well 2nd book coverImage Credit

YouTube Video of original story All Is Well (1990) by Frank Peretti – book and audio CD no longer available. Illustrations by Robert Sauber

All Is Well: The Miracle of Christmas in July by Frank Peretti (2002) with illustrations by Gary Glover – this story is updated from the one above – with Daniel as our young hero, and his mom, Ruth – same great message of love, neighbors, and God’s faithfulness

YouTube Lyric Video of All Is Well by Michael W. Smith (featured in audiobook of All is Well above

YouTube Lyric Video of All Is Well sung by Carrie Underwood & Michael W. Smith (Spirit of Christmas Album)

For the long nights and heavy burdens – Jesus is coming.

PostScript – January 2, 2015 – Look what my daughter gave me for Christmas – she had the original book among her Christmas books for her 3rd grade class. Now I have them both again…. 2014 Dec Christmas in Richmond with MomMom & PopPop 005a (2)