Tag Archives: Mom

Worship Wednesday – the Wonder of God – Count ‘Em – Brandon Lake

Photo Credit: YouTube, Lyrics X Scripture

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders You have done, and the plans You have for us—none can compare to You—if I proclaim and declare them, they are more than I can count. Psalm 40:5

He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.Job 5:9

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.James 1:17

Wonder has been my word for 2023. Some of our days can seem mundane until we shake off the mental fog and clear our eyes to what is most real – that God is ever present and moving in our lives and through our circumstances. Wonder at that!

From “In the beginning, God” (Genesis 1:1) through the cross of Jesus when he prays “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing” to his apostle John’s inspired revelation of what is to come – it is all God and He calls us to Himself.

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just.” Revelation 19:1-2a

If we miss the wonder of God, it is because we have filled our minds with humans as our idols. Frail, faulty humans. We judge God by those persons whom we, at some point, deemed worthy of a pedestal of honor. Should they fall or falter, we then pull away and think they represent a God who fails. Not so!

What is Christianity? If you think Christianity is mainly going to church, believing a certain creed, and living a certain kind of life, then there will be no note of wonder and surprise about the fact that you are a believer. If someone asks you, “Are you a Christian?” you will say, “Of course I am! It’s hard work but I’m doing it. Why do you ask?” Christianity is, in this view, something done by you—and so there’s no astonishment about being a Christian. However, if Christianity is something done for you, and to you, and in you, then there is a constant note of surprise and wonder. John Newton wrote the following hymn: Let us love and sing and wonder, Let us praise the Savior’s name. He has hushed the law’s loud thunder, He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame. He has washed us with his blood. He has brought us nigh to God. See where the love and wonder comes from—because he has done all this and brought us to himself. He has done it. So if someone asks you if you are a Christian, you should not say, “Of course!” There should be no “of course-ness” about it. It would be more appropriate to say, “Yes, I am, and that’s a miracle. Me! A Christian! Who would have ever thought it? Yet he did it, and I’m his.” Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas: the Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ

The wonder of God is that He is so many things that we are not, and yet He gives us a way forward to be more like Him, through the work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. How long-suffering He is; how loving!

Anyone who reads this blog probably knows (or has heard of) the old song “Count Your Blessings”. It is a sweet reminder to exercise our gratitude at all the Lord has done in our lives – “raising my Ebenezer” so to speak.

[I’ve written many times in the past on “stones of remembrance” – raising my own Ebenezer to a good and faithful God.]

Just one example of the wonder of God in my own life is portrayed in the picture below – of my beautiful mom, and precious daughter, and me. My mom had such a hard first marriage that I don’t remember her ever praying a husband for me. Until I was 5 or 6, we were unchurched. Mom had to work so hard providing for us in our childhood that weekends were her catch-up time with house, errands, and us. Church just didn’t happen. Then when neighbors drew us in and church became a beautiful thing in our lives, we all came to faith (and Mom back to her childhood faith which fast became a deep adult walk with God). She gave me a long look into the love of God and the difference knowing Jesus made in a person’s life. I did finally marry and remarkably had children, all of which points to God and His kindness. This picture of us three – all three safe and secure in His love and promises speaks to the wonder of God in our lives.

Just one glimpse of His wonder. Just one on a long list and counting.

God is worthy of our awe and wonder. No matter the situation we find ourselves. He is doing something beyond our imagining. Even in the broken nature of relationships in this world, even in the winding down of all that surrounds us…God is present. We can lean on Him and take hope and courage in Him.

Photo Credit: Heartlight, James Houston

Worship with me to singer/songwriter Brandon Lake‘s Count ‘Em. Get ready for some hard-hitting, Scripture-packed joy at the wonders of God!

Oh-oh-oh, oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh

You got thunder in Your vocal, You got flames in Your eyes
You got wonder-working power pouring out of Your side
Checked the tomb all the way through, the grave was empty inside
Ain’t no other pull the greatest miracle of all time

You got power, demons cower when they hear Your name called
You got power that still towers, make Goliath look small
You got power to devour any counterfeit roar
Even Your tongue is a sword, count up the score, You are the Lord

Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy

Hey, hey
All those funerals You ruined when You made the dead rise
Heaven’s healer using spit and mud to open blind eye
You got wonders I can’t number, couldn’t count if I tried
Called the doctor and the doctor said, “I’m giving new life
Tell your enemies the victory is already here
More than sixty thousand angels, just the tip of the spear”
One day every knee will bow and every heart will be Yours
This is the end of a war, count up the score, You are the Lord

Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy

How many enemies ended on bended knees, swallowed up in defeat?
Can’t count ’em
How many raging seas opened in front of me? How many victories?
Can’t count ’em
How many prophecies no one would dare believe? Now it’s reality
Can’t count ’em
How many broken men given a second chance? See all the lifted hands
Can’t count ’em

How many Thomases doubted Your promises standing here, now convinced?
Can’t count ’em
How many hospitals said it’s impossible? How many miracles?
Can’t count ’em
How many paralyzed living a different life? Go on and testify
Can’t count ’em
How many sinners saved? How many bodies raised? How many empty graves?
Can’t count ’em

Oh-oh-oh, oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh

You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy*

*Lyrics to Count ‘Em – Songwriters: Brandon Lake, Jacob Sooter, Hank Bentley

YouTube Video – Count ‘Em – Brandon Lake – Lyric Bible Verses

The Wonder of All We Have in Christ: Five Contrasts at the Heart of Hebrews – David Mathis

Death to Deconstruction – a Podcast by Joshua S. Porter – episode “with “Breakdown of the Christian Music Machine with Stephen Christian” – if you have little time, go to minute 54:30 where Stephen gives us rationale of why he did NOT walk away from God as a believer. Powerful!!!

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Phillips Brooks

Monday Morning Moment – Turning of One’s Attention

MomMom praying.

This week we have a special guest in our home. Dave’s mom. I don’t know about your relationship with your mother-in-law. Hopefully it is a good one. If not, I’m genuinely sorry. If there is any chance at all, don’t miss her…you never know what she would bring to your life if invited (back) in.

My mom-in-law prays. Her life has been one of serving others. Now, she is somewhat slowed down, but her devotion to God and others is still very much alive. Some might say hers is a small life…as my own mom’s appeared to be…to outsiders. This is not so for either of them. Where they lacked ambition to be known or powerful, there was/is no lack of love and wisdom. On the things that matter most.

When she comes to visit, we scramble to find the tv programming that she’s used to…encouraging to her. It’s nothing we watch really when she isn’t here, but when she is here, we catch some of the great music, teaching and reporting she listens to regularly.

Here’s an example. Tonight she was watching Kirk Cameron‘s Takeaways. He had two entertainers on his interview docket for this show. Mark Lowery and Zach Williams. I joined her for the Zach Williams’ interview. I’ve written about his music a couple of times. Gritty lyrics, great deep voice. He knows how to connect with his audiences – whether an arena of church folks or a prison cafeteria. He has stories to tell that touch people – a life going one direction with success as a musician, including drugs, fast living, and a marriage unraveling. Then his life turned quite a different direction.

The Takeaways interview isn’t linked yet, but below are two videos of Zach’s story.

We don’t have to keep going down a road leading nowhere good. I have that in my own life story. It’s for another day, but I’m thankful for my sweet mother-in-law who points us to life-giving attention-getters.

Prayer, focus on truth, and sacrificial love are three great gifts she gives us, whether sitting in our family room, or operating out of her own home.

Who or what helps you to shake off the doldrums and points you to a life of greater purpose and joy? Tonight my attention is captured by a a musician’s experience of a God who was never far from him. When Zach Williams was shaken in his tracks and turned his attention…God was there.

Thankful for a praying mom, mom-in-law, and grandmothers who remind us of a way to live that gives hope, joy, and real confidence. Enjoy some of Zach’s music below…and one piece by Brandon Lake about a praying grandma.

Worship Wednesday – Go Rest High on That Mountain – Vince Gill

Photo Credit: Emilys Quotes

I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you.Philippians 1:3

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.”Isaiah 49:15-16

“I can forgive, but I can’t forget”. We’ve all heard it, and maybe we’ve even said it. Forgetting is a tricky business. Too often we remember and keep the wounds open when forgetting could pave the road to healing. What if we decided not to forget, BUT chose to not forget that which is best remembered.

The offense can be taken down a notch if we remember the offender is a real person with terrible failings and maybe even regrets…maybe like me. Flesh and blood. Needing a savior just like I do.

I can forget details of an offense in the remembering of a person who mattered…to God, and to me.

Remembering people who are no longer in our lives is a beautiful thing. None were perfect but some came close in the sacrificial way they loved and the authentic way they lived. They may have failed us at times, but we will do the same to our children and grandchildren. Hopefully they will remember us kindly one day. I want to lead by example in remembering those who made a difference in my life.

What brought this to mind for me this week? A young woman, 21-year-old Megan Danielle, powerfully belting out a country song, the performance of which she dedicated to her late grandfather.

American Idol is a dazzling reality TV show, bringing incredibly talented young people from small-town obscurity into the spotlight of mainstream entertainment. It’s a competition over several weeks where contestants are coached and groomed for stardom. Megan, as of this week, is in the Top 8 of the contestants. I had never heard the song “Go Rest High on That Mountain” until she sang it for America’s vote.

So beautiful. For Megan, it was for her grandfather. As I listened to her performance, precious ones now gone came to mind. In recent years, we have lost several friends, colleagues, and family members. Twenty years back, we lost Mom. She did not have an easy life, but she reflected a life surrendered to God and was always willing to forgive and to show mercy. The last three years of her life were spent dealing with a rentless cancer and treatment that failed, but that was a darkness that did nothing to quench the light of her beautiful life. I am so thankful to be her daughter. I am also thankful she has entered her rest, but I want to remember her until the day we see each other again.

Thankfully not a day goes by that Mom doesn’t come to mind. Every. Single. Day. That is something I rejoice over. She was an incredible grace from God to her children.

Who’s that grace in your life? They may have failings…they may not even be in your life right now…but you know in your heart of hearts that you are known and loved by that person…as imperfect as the relationship may be. Remember. Be reconciled if possible. We have the exquisite witness of a loving God who remembers us…who knows us by name…He will never forget we belong to Him.

Worship with me to this beautiful Vince Gill song…as we remember those glorious souls who went before us.

[Verse 1]
I know your life on earth was troubled
And only you could know the pain
You weren’t afraid to face the devil
You were no stranger to the rain

[Chorus]
So go rest high on that mountain
Son, your work on earth is done
Go to heaven a-shoutin’
Love for the Father and the Son

[Verse 2]
Oh, how we cried the day you left us
We gathered round your grave to grieve
Wish I could see the angels faces
When they hear your sweet voice sing

[Chorus]
So go rest high on that mountain
Son, your work on earth is done
Go to heaven a-shoutin’
Love for the Father and the Son

[Verse 3]
You’re safely home in the arms of Jesus
Eternal life, my brother’s found
The day will come, I know I’ll see you
That sacred place on that Holy ground

[Chorus]
Go rest high on that mountain
‘Cause son, your work on earth is done
Go to heaven a-shoutin’
Love for the Father and the Son

[Outro]
Go to heaven a-shoutin’
Love for the Father and the Son*

*Lyrics to Go Rest High on That Mountain – Songwriter: Vince Gill

YouTube Video – Vince Gill Drops Devastating New ‘Go Rest High On That Mountain‘ Lyrics

Sunday Reflection – My Mom – a Lifetime Full of Love Notes – Her Birthday Just Ahead of Valentine’s Day

[Today is Mom’s birthday – 20 of them now in Heaven. This blog adapted from the Archives. ]

Our little family has never lived close to the grandparents. This was not easy…for any of us. Before I married, I lived close to home, and Mom was my best friend. She died 20 years ago, and I still miss her every day. To people who knew her well, I would often say  “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.

Mom and I shared a weakness for words…they are probably excessively important to us, delivering both positive and (sometimes) negative weight. She was an amazing encourager. She rarely missed an opportunity to lift another’s spirit or to speak loving truth to someone desperate for God’s touch.

Mom pictures for website 012

When I moved away to take a teaching job, she and my dad helped me with the move. New Haven, Connecticut would be a 2-day drive from Georgia. At that time, it was the farthest I had ever lived from home. She stayed a week to help me settle in.  While there, she was such great company. We explored the city together and laughed over a new culture and cried at the missing that was ahead for us.

She filled my freezer with her baking, and, while I was at work, she wrote notes. Then she hid them everywhere. After she flew home, I began finding them. In my coffee mug. Under my pillow. In the pocket of my coat. Among my reference books. Behind my music books on the piano. She was with me in the love notes she left, and it made the distance between us…less.

My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I have kept every one of her notes. These from that move over 30 years ago are fading…red ink on pink paper. There is a lifetime of notes between Mom and me. The tradition she started on that first move has become a life-long tradition for our family. Our visits back and forth, across the US and then the globe, have been papered by these little notes.

Our children, from the time they could write, entered into this tradition much to the joy of their grandparents. Before we would leave from visits with them, these three young ones would write of their affection for their grandparents and hide them all over their houses. I delighted in their cooperation in this conspiracy of love.

Mom always wrote notes…not just to us but to so many. She and her Sunday School Class ladies would send cards every week to the sick ones or the sad ones. She had a special burden for the elderly, for widows (including functional widows, deserted by husbands) and for fatherless children (again including those “orphaned” by still-living fathers). She inspired me by her humble ambition .

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27

I am so thankful for my mom’s bits of paper…for her love…and for her perseverance in encouraging and serving others. Her generation is sadly almost gone, and it is for us to pick up these traditions, or traditions like them. Passing them on somehow to the next generations…Maybe there won’t be bits of paper or love notes like in the past. I do hope we still take the time to write. Definitely, the call to serve and to encourage is as current as ever. My life continues to be rich with those, young and old, who reach out with words of kindness and encouragement. Written or spoken, they are love notes to the heart.

Thanks, Mom. After twenty years, many may have forgotten you for now. Many more won’t know of you this side of Heaven. Your life may have seemed small, but it was larger than life to me. Thank God for you.

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

Sunday Grace – A Valentine’s Day Reflection of the Deep, Deep Love of God – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – You Are a Shining Light – Rend Collective

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” – Psalm 27:4

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”Matthew 5:14

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5

Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

My mom instilled in me a love for colored glass. She filled beautiful old wine decanters with color-tinted water and set them in our windows at home. On sunny days, the rooms dazzled with rainbow light. Such delight for us children! Then she discovered depression glass and again placed these translucent colored pieces on window ledges as well as our dining table, making special occasions even more special.

[Incidentally, today marks the 20th anniversary of Mom’s Homegoing. She brought so much beauty into our lives…so much beauty.]

Finishing Strong – On the Anniversary of My Mom’s Glorious Homegoing – Deb Mills

My kitchen reflects my Mom’s influence with colored glass.

It wasn’t until I became an adult that stained glass windows became a real experience. Their wonder and beauty is mesmerizing as they change with with the light.

Over the course of the last several years, my family has had opportunity to see some of the beautiful churches in the world…and right here in our own city. Below are just a few samples:

Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Richmond, Virginia

Stained glass windows evoke “the presence of the holy in our worship spaces” (in the words of artist Elizabeth Devereaux).

We know from Scripture that God is with us wherever we are. We count on that. Still, in a culture that cries against His very existence, being surrounded by sweet reflections of His light and beauty can lift our eyes up…to Heaven, to Him.

Stained glass relies on a light source for its characteristic vivid illumination. [It] is specifically designed to be highly translucent. This quality allows a great deal of light to pass through it which highlights its colors beautifully. That is why stained glass is particularly bright when viewed from inside a building on a sunny day or from outside the building on a night when there is ample light within. Stained glass works with the light to create its powerful effect…the color and brightness of the glass clearly has immense aesthetic appeal. That beauty often triggers powerful emotions within us – joy, inspiration, elation, humility, gratitude, and virtually anything else along the human emotional spectrum. – Steven L. Yarbrough

What Makes a Stained Glass Window Shine? – Steven L. Yarbrough

Our gathering space may be such that it has to work for multiple purposes – worship, concerts, conferences, suppers together. When we worship, visual art forms can set a tone for us to corporately and intimately connect with God

Stained glass windows are such an art form.

Stained Glass and the Book of Revelation – Msgr. Charles Pope

Our church building in Richmond (Movement Church) actually has stained glass windows. They weren’t on our wish list; they were part of a great gift to us by Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.

They are beautiful and we are grateful.

As Yarbrough says above, stained glass windows transmit light – either from outside during the day, or from inside during night hours. They speak to us of the great impact of God’s light in our daily lives and our darknesses.

Movement Church, Richmond, Virginia

As beautiful as stained glass windows are from the inside, they call us to worship at night as well. A church near our home has stained glass windows, and I love when they have services at night. Driving by, glancing over, I am transported by the colored light streaming through into the dark night reminding me. Not of differences in religions, or worship preferences, or negative religious experiences. No…none of that. I am reminded of the light and beauty of God. Joyfully.

We may be coming back around, the church today, to a preference of a more classic and sacred worship space…a place where stained glass windows draw our eyes and hearts up toward Heaven and all the hope and joy it reflects.

Our teaching pastor, Cliff Jordan, is currently preaching on 1 John. Sunday’s sermon concentrated on 1 John 1:5:

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5

I wanted to reflect on stained glass today as a vehicle for beautiful light. As we think on the Lord, we are like these stained glass windows – reflecting His light. We each have a particular make-up meant to give special glory to Him as He permeates each one of us with His light and love. That’s the church – a beautiful stained glass window – with broken pieces joined together in ways that make the whole even more exquisite than the parts…especially when His light shines through.

As the days fast approach another December 25, we pulled out our Christmas music and are playing on repeat every day, as opportunity allows. The Christian band, Rend Collective, from Northern Ireland, has several such albums. Today’s song Shining Light and the anniversary of Mom’s Homegoing inspired me to again celebrate Jesus, the light of the world.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship with me to Rend Collective‘s beautiful Shining Light:

Roman candles that burn in the night
Yeah, you are a shining light
You lit a torch in the infinite

Yeah, you are a shining light
Yeah, you light up my life

You have always been a thorn in their side
But to me you’re a shining light
You arrive and the night is alive
Yeah, you are a shining light
Yeah, you light up my life

We made a connection
A full on chemical reaction
Brought by dark divine intervention
Yeah, you are a shining light

A constellation once seen
Over royal Davids city
An epiphany you burn so pretty
Yeah, you are a shining light

You are a force, you are a constant source
Yeah, you are a shining light
Incandescent in the darkest night
Yeah, you are a shining light

We made a connection
A full on chemical reaction
Brought by dark divine intervention
Yeah, you are a shining light

A constellation once seen
Over royal Davids city
An epiphany you burn so pretty
Yeah, you are a shining light

Roman candles that burn in the night
Yeah, you are a shining light
Yeah, you light up my life*

In closing, I want to display the only pieces of stained glass I have at home – each piece is a reminder of the Lord’s great gift of a Godly mom gone from us now 20 years. A mom who taught us the Word and brought so much beauty into our lives – including a garden full of irises. God’s beautiful light shown through her to us…now, we have the privilege to do the same to those around us as well.

*Lyrics to Shining Light – Songwriter: Tim Wheeler

A Bright Shining Light: Five Things Revealed to us by John’s Jesus – N. T. Wright

Worship Wednesday – Stained Glass Windows – Reflecting the Light and Beauty of God – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Below find one of the videos of the sweet band Rend Collective.]

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s Spider-Man Theme Mashup, Engaging a Person Who’s Harmed You, True Community, Going Through Closets, and Spring Flowers

Friday Faves – super fast!

1) Beyond the Guitar’s Spider-man Theme Mashup on Classical GuitarNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar arranged and performed the three big themes of the three Spider-Man franchises of the last 20 years. So much to love in these movies, in particular the ones starring Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, and Tobey Maguire. You’ll welcome the nostalgia and the heart-filling beauty of what Nathan does with the classical guitar.

Which did you love the most? Share in Comments.

2) Engaging a Person Who Has Harmed You – Who is this person? A parent…a spouse…a child…an employer…a supposed friend? We have a way forward toward healing.

Engaging With Someone Who Has Harmed You – Part 1

I discovered Adam Young Counseling a few weeks back and have dived in to many of his podcasts. His 5-part series above on engaging with someone who’s harmed you was like sitting in a therapist’s office…a GREAT therapist’s office. We have all been harmed by someone, and we ourselves have harmed others, often without knowing or without intending. Still, to have counsel on how to take positive steps toward healing in such a scary situation is amazing. Adam Young has experienced trauma himself, and he has redeemed that trauma in so many ways, in particular his love and help for others.

In these podcasts, Adam Young distinguishes between the garden variety sinner, a wicked person*, and an evil person. I appreciated that he said we do well not to judge people as permanently in those states because God can move to transform any of us. He did however encourage those of us who have been harmed to determine if we are dealing with a wicked or evil person…and act accordingly. His helps are empowering and transformative if we have the courage to walk through them.Photo Credit: Alistair Begg, Truth For Life

*Dr. Young spends much counsel on engaging a wicked person who has harmed us. It helped me to be reminded that a person who is behaving wickedly can, on the whole, be a decent person. What causes a person to act despicably toward us could be generational sin – not to discount that person’s responsibility in harming us, but to strive for understanding and grace (which multiplies toward us, not just to the one who harmed us). Thoughts?

When we have been harmed by someone, we need safe people to counsel with in order to be wise in our engaging others with whom we don’t feel safe. Walling ourselves off from them, trying to just put the harm behind us, or claiming forgiveness when we haven’t – none of these things get us to healing. If you have been harmed by someone, spend some time in these podcasts. Seriously. It will make a difference.

Photo Credit: Adam Young Counseling, Instagram

3) True Community – We desperately need real or true community. Whatever the problem loneliness and isolation were for us before COVID has been severely compounded. We need one anther…not in a surfacy, thin-veneered way, but in a deep well of fellowship with each other. Jennie Allen has written a hopeful and provocative book about this in Find Your People.

The need for true community is neither new nor specific to our culture. It’s been written about, researched, and explored for decades. Two great thinkers and authors Jerry Bridges and M. Scott Peck (both now deceased) are quoted below.

Photo Credit: Jerry Bridges, Quote Fancy

“If we are to master the scriptural principles of true biblical community, we must master this one: True greatness in the kingdom of heaven involves serving one another. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26)…Fellowship is much, much more than food and fun and even more than reading and studying the Scriptures with another believer. Fellowship at times may involve blood, sweat, and tears as we stand side by side with our persecuted brothers and sisters…It implies a responsibility to fulfill our function in the body. We usually don’t think of fellowship in terms of fulfilling a responsibility, but that is because we have lost sight of the biblical meaning of fellowship. Fellowship is not just a social privilege to enjoy; it is more basically a responsibility to assume...But this is what servant-hood within the fellowship of believers is all about: being alert to the little things that need to be done and then doing them.” – Jerry Bridges

True Community: the Biblical Practice of Koinonia – Jerry Bridges

“In genuine community there are no sides. It is not always easy, but by the time they reach community the members have learned how to give up cliques and factions. They have learned how to listen to each other and how not to reject each other. Sometimes consensus in community is reached with miraculous rapidity. But at other times it is arrived at only after lengthy struggle. Just because it is a safe place does not mean community is a place without conflict. It is, however, a place where conflict can be resolved without physical or emotional bloodshed and with wisdom as well as grace. A community is a group that can fight gracefully.”~ M. Scott Peck

Photo Credit: One Community Global

The Four Stages to Building True Community

Do you experienced true community – where you are willing to serve sacrificially and receive that kind of care as well? We need to go after it for ourselves and one another.

4) Cleaning Closets- I’m not a spring cleaning kind of person, although, these days, we are so often called on to declutter, let go, and be free in the area of stuff management. Still we have two closets (among others) where things just get randomly tossed up onto the shelf. I decided to clear them out to know exactly what is stored there. One closet now contains my journals of the last 30 years!! Whew!

Haven’t re-read any of them but lined them up by date and found this little note from my sweet mama in the front of one of them (from many years ago). A treasure…

5) Spring Flowers – The month of March is bringing Spring along here in the US. With temperatures warming, trips to the park are becoming more regular. The glory of Spring is not lost on the kiddos.

I just want to share a few flower pics of recent days. Hope Spring is coming your way (of course, I get that’s only for the Northern Hemisphere…for you Southern Hem. folks, Happy Fall! 

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Thanks for a quick stop-by. It means a lot to me. Hope you’re surrounded by and creating beauty wherever you are…we sure need it in this world today…really every day.

Monday Morning Moment – Reflecting on the Story of a Girl and Friendship

[School Days, Cairo, Egypt – a couple of decades ago]

[From the Archives]

This delightful girl has a birthday tomorrow.

I want to celebrate her here. The girl and the understanding of friendship she has brought to her mom and to those who have known her best.

She was born on a windy March morning. Our first-born. I have brothers, and my Mom had all brothers. Having a daughter as our first was a complete joy and wonder to me, as my Mom tells me I was for her in the midst of all boys.

She would be my sidekick for many of our early adventures together. Welcoming two brothers during her preschool years. Enjoying the friendship of neighbors and church family. Homeschooling in East Tennessee.  

I will never forget the Spring when she came home from Jack and Barbara Lavender’s Sunday School class with two tiny cups of growing seedlings. We planted them in her daddy’s garden and they grew an enormous bed of Cushaw squash. From those two little seeds. Sweet memories of friends who invested in our girl’s life.

Then there was the terrible time when she got desperately ill with what we would, over too many days, finally discover to be a ruptured appendix. This girl has always had a high threshold of pain, and it took four trips to the pediatrician’s office before I was taken seriously. She ended up with big surgery and 10 days on IV nutrition. This image shows her having her first meal over a week after her surgery (pillowcase from our friend, Kay – she still has this pillowcase).

Then our travels outside East Tennessee began.

For this quiet girl, having her life, and childhood friendships, disrupted was hard. Despite the incredible experiences of many moves across four countries, she learned resilience the hard way.

In those days, before smartphones, we carried our memories of people and places in tangible ways. Photo albums. This girl would often go deeper with new people in her life by introducing them to her previous life…through these cherished photo albums.

Everywhere we went, everywhere we lived, we have the photo memories of the sweet parts of those years. They are a treasure.

Friendships were not always easy for this girl…most probably related to adjusting to all the changes imposed on her by her parents’ many work moves. She was not the life-of-the-party, center-of-attention, making things happen, people magnet sort of girl. She loved books and they were often her friend -in the reality of multiple moves and too many goodbyes.

She did have two constant friends who went through all those moves with her. Her two brothers. They are still close. Remembering all the good, all the tears, and all the big sister times with her [calling her “Auntie” when she observed and advised where they preferred to be left to their own devices].

As this girl grew up, she learned how to recognize mean girls and not to take them personally nor to become one…which can easily happen for any of us in strained situations. She learned to embrace the new and sift for where she belonged in the different. And could even make a difference.[Her tiny Senior class, 2005, Casablanca, Morocco]

[Noor, a dear friend from high school, knowing the experience and also understanding what it’s like to move places and countries with your family]

[Maria, a fellow student and enduring friend as they both tackled teaching together. Different schools but similar challenges.]

Besides her brothers, this girl had two men she knew she could count on. Her Dad…and in time, her beloved whom she would marry. I love to catch snippets of conversations she and her Dad have on visits home. For two introverts, their words pour out with each other…safe people, safe places.

[This girl and her boy who would capture her heart and parent two little ones by her side – no pics of the littles – this girl’s preference and I honor it]

In this season of making a home and family, she has grown into this beautiful woman (OK…if you’re still reading, you either love her or the idea of her or you have such a her in your own lives). I am in awe of this girl. Not because she is anything of celebrity but because of how she handles today’s bumps. Also how she has taken both the bad and the beautiful of her growing up years and turned them into her own story.

Two Christmases ago she gave me a book by Sarah, Sally, and Joy Clarkson. Girls’ Club – Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World.

This sweet girl has recommended Sally Clarkson to me often in the last years as a mom and mentor in life. In the book above, Sally’s daughter Sarah writes a chapter entitled Saturday Mornings: The Girls’ Club Prototype. In this chapter, she describes “five progressive actions…central to the powerful cultivation of friendship”. They are:

  • Invite – Reach out and bring in a new someone to an adventure and your life.
  • Plan – Work out the logistics of an event, a meetup, an outing. Make it a welcome ritual or routine.
  • Provide – Show love, Sarah says, by preparing the table, so to speak. Whether it is the physical space itself (your home, for instance) or your own “mind and heart” to wholly receive the new friend.
  • Stay – This is huge! Whether distance or circumstance separate you, be a continual presence in the life of a friend. Be there. Show up. This takes effort and intentionality, and it’s not easy. It requires both forgiveness and faithfulness…no matter what.
  • Pray – When we remember that every single person we meet is an image-bearer of God, we are reminded of the value there. Even those “mean girls” in our lives didn’t get mean in a vacuum. “Hurt people hurt people”. They have God’s imprint like every other imperfect person… When we recognize our own frailty and that of others, we are drawn to pray. For our own hearts to love like Jesus. For eyes to see how God sees people…and to reach out in love…as only He has made us to do so.

I’ve watched this girl executing all the above. She has commented that making (and nurturing) friendships as an adult has had its own challenges, maybe because of all the other pieces of life that need our attention. However, I rejoice with her that she has settled into a life fairly full of friends with littles and some without (including me).

I’ll close this “Happy Birthday” piece on this note: our girl has a fierce faith in God that brought her through the hard so far in her life. I’m confident that whatever lies ahead – joys and sorrows – she will lean into God to sustain her. She will be there for those whom God has placed in her life – family, friends, and friends-to-be.

Like her, I will leave you with a few last images of life we’ve enjoyed together. Hope your day is filled with joys familiar and joys anew. Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl.[Learning to make biscuits with Memaw – my Mom, the master cook]

Saturday Short – My Mom – a Lifetime Full of Love Notes – Her Birthday Just Ahead of Valentine’s Day

[Today is Mom’s birthday – 19 of them now in Heaven. This blog adapted from the Archives. ]

Our little family never lived close to the grandparents. This was not easy…for any of us. Before I married, I lived close to home, and Mom was my best friend. She died almost 20 years ago, and I miss her every day still. To people who knew her well, I would often say  “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.

Mom and I shared a weakness for words…they are probably excessively important to us, delivering both positive and (sometimes) negative weight. She was an amazing encourager. She rarely missed an opportunity to lift another’s spirit or to speak loving truth to someone desperate for God’s touch.

Mom pictures for website 012

When I moved away to take a teaching job, she and my dad helped me with the move. New Haven, Connecticut would be a 2-day drive from Georgia. At that time, it was the farthest I had ever wandered from home. She stayed a week to help me settle in.  While there, she was such great company. We explored the city together and laughed over a new culture and cried at the missing that was ahead for us.

She filled my freezer with her baking, and, while I was at work, she wrote notes. Then she hid them everywhere. After she flew home, I began finding them. In my coffee mug. Under my pillow. In the pocket of my coat. Among my reference books. Behind my music books on the piano. She was with me in the love notes she left, and it made the distance between us…less.IMAG2720 (2)

My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I have kept every one of her notes. These from that move over 30 years ago are fading…red ink on pink paper. There is a lifetime of notes between Mom and me. The tradition she started on that first move has become a life-long tradition for our family. Our visits back and forth, across the US and then the globe, have been papered by these little notes.

Our children, from the time they could write, entered into this tradition much to the joy of their grandparents. Before we would leave from visits with them, these three young ones would write of their affection for their grandparents and hide them all over their houses. I delighted in their cooperation in this conspiracy of love.

Mom always wrote notes…not just to us but to so many. She and her Sunday School Class ladies would send cards every week to the sick ones or the sad ones. She had a special burden for the elderly, for widows (including functional widows, deserted by husbands) and for fatherless children (again including those “orphaned” by still-living fathers). She inspired me by her humble ambition .

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27

I am so thankful for my mom’s bits of paper…for her love…and for her perseverance in encouraging and serving others. Her generation is sadly almost gone, and it is for us to pick up these traditions, or traditions like them. Passing them on somehow to the next generations…Maybe there won’t be bits of paper or love notes like in the past. I do hope we still take the time to write. Definitely, the call to serve and to encourage is as current as ever. My life continues to be rich with those, young and old, who reach out with words of kindness and encouragement. Written or spoken, they are love notes to the heart.

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

Memory-of-Mildred Byrd McAdams

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

 

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

Entering year three of COVID, who would have thought?

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

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

Photo Credit: Spence Shelton, Twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can we keep silent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

______________________________________________________________________

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

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

What Is the Cause of Christ?

A Cause Worthy of Your Life – Andrew Corbett

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

For the Cause – Getty Music

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

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

Worship Wednesday – The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Monday Morning Moment – 5 R’s of Handling and Healing Our Past

Photo Credit: Rick Warren, Heartlight

The past. We are never rid of it, nor would we wish to be. Our roots are there. The foundation of our lives. Our first and formative relationships are there.  Both life and death, pain and promise.

Memories are born in the past. Experiences and emotions attached to them that feel exquisitely personal…yet are shared. Others close to us may have our exact same experiences, but have very different feelings and memories attached to them.

Family is complicated and always has been (remember Cain and Abel?). Throughout the history of humankind, family was meant to be a nurturing and stabilizing influence in our lives. It doesn’t always work out that way, but wisdom is to lean in whenever possible and learn both from the brokenness and the beauty available to us.

So how do we deal with the past? Do we ruminate on the wrongs of our past? Do they loom larger than the good? Do we see ourselves in the right in each point of conflict? Or the victim? Is our memory of family colored in ways that make us pull away?

There is a way forward, and I believe it is revisiting the past with the aim of healing…not just for ourselves but for the family as a whole.

[I love alliteration – words with the same beginning letters used in phrases or headings. So it was a personal thrill for me that this came together with alliteration.]

5 R’s of Handling and Healing Our Past

1) Remember – We trust our memories, don’t we? Well, until age shakes that up a bit. Still, our memories can be altered by the power of our emotions and by further experiences that call the past to mind. Then our emotions, deepened by memory, can “resolve” to see things more our way, whatever is happening in the moment. Memories can be reinforced, and not always in helpful ways. We need to take into account that we, family members or friends, can remember something very differently, based on what was going on emotionally for each person at the time. That’s why we must handle memories gently with each other. Love the person her/himself more than what they might remember. Determine not to be put off by memories where we don’t come off in a positive light. Remembering is done best in community. It’s richer and more reliable that way. Of course, this requires tons of trust, transparency, and humility. It may not feel safe in some situations to remember in community. It’s also never helpful to insist our memories are the only ones that are true. Right? Again, it is experience plus emotion. Love covers. Love helps heal when we remember, with care for the other.

2) Reminisce – As we remember, we reminisce. This calls to mind the sweet memories of the past. Even as painful memories rush in, what happy times come to mind? How might these memories weave together? Was it all bad? All good? Reminiscing taps into the positives, and even opens the mind to what the memories of the other might be in the same experience. Are we projecting motive or intent into our experience? As we reminisce, might we look at how an experience was different for the other. Reminiscing done in community is, again, eye-opening. It can be threatening if our side of the memory is on the line, but when we enlarge on what was going on in our past, we gain deeper understanding. A softening of our attitudes can come.

3) Reflect – When we reflect on a particular situation or relationship in the past, we treat it with as much grace as we can muster. We take the past and turn it over and examine it from different angles, considering what we can learn from it. How is it affecting our present – both life experience and relationships? What can we do to glean something positive from a painful past? What is to be gained by holding onto the past? If we choose healing, what is then possible for us and the others involved? What kind of faith would be required? What kind of work? Are we willing?

“Walk a Mile in His Moccasins” – Mary T. Lathrap, 1895

4) Repent and Reconcile when possible (instead of forever Regret ) – Here’s the big leap! Owning our part and doing something about it. This is huge!

Let’s say, our past includes painful memories from our early childhood. What can a child own from situations out of their control? We can own our attitudes today as adults. For instance, it took me a long time to tender my memories of a neglectful biological father. I only have a few memories of him, none great. One memory stands out. Mom had left him, and we were living in a tiny house, supported by her income alone. One night we were awakened by shouting. I don’t remember a lot, but my estranged father, Mom, and an uncle of ours were in some sort of argument. We four children were huddled together on a bottom bunk. I remember blood and our father’s hand wrapped in a handkerchief. Was there a knife? I don’t remember. We were terrified. After that…he was pretty much absent from our lives. I don’t remember asking Mom what all happened. It just took me a long time to feel anything for that dad. Yet, I know he had to have known pain, isolation, and maybe even some regret at the dregs of his relationship with Mom and us. As an adult, I have chosen some compassion for him. Not much but some.

Why did I share that story? It is how as children, when we have trauma (or what we perceive as trauma when maybe it had little to do with us), we process it differently than we might as adults. Revisiting, with humble hearts, can make a difference in how we think about the past as adults.

When our past pushes into our present, and conflicts are revisited, we are tempted to try the offending party in the court of our emotions (re-try them, actually). We resurrect the past and all its emotions, and bring all that trauma to bear on whatever the present misunderstanding is. We are then not able to just deal with the present. All that past comes down on us, that past that may have been once forgiven, and unloads. Making it virtually impossible to deal with whatever is happening at the moment.

This is where we repent. We refuse to nurse old wounds. We deal with the current conflict as it is, without all the past. The current conflict is enough. We deal with it as adults. We repent of our part. I can tell you, if we don’t, there is collateral damage to those who love us. “Friendly fire” is not friendly, and these struggles, heightened by our past, become the past of those around us. Our children. Our grandchildren.

Repentance may take more the form of forgiveness. We refuse to remember (one place where we refuse to remember) the offense of another. We choose to forgive in the most expansive way we can.

I know we sometimes say we forgive that one who offends us, who offended in the past, and continues to do so. We forgive but commit and feel justified to have nothing to do with them ever again. I get that. I get the pain behind such a decision. It’s heart-breaking. Just to reflect: Who does that punish? As wide a circle as our relationship together makes. We are all punished…that is most probably not meant to be the intent.

Repent and reconcile whenever possible. There will be cheering by everyone who loves us both. I know; I’ve experienced it from both sides. The repenting side and the relieved and thankful other side.

[This is often excruciating and not always satisfying. Even if the outcomes are not what we hope. We benefit from trying…as do the generations that follow. Who knows? The situation – and relationship – can still change in that possible future.]

5) Rejoice – Put your hand on your chest. Can you feel your heart beating? Can you feel the rise and fall of your breath? Be grateful. Rejoice in the present. We didn’t die from our past. We still have a chance to put things right. Maybe imperfectly…but it’s possible.

A wonderful scene of this possibility is found in the 1970 film “Scrooge”. “I’ll Begin Again”.

The past doesn’t have to be forever. You have a present. There may be a future…one not framed by the hurting past but built on a healed past. We have that possibility…in our present. We can do our part… it’s the only thing we have in our control. Is it complicated? Of course, but it will always be worth the effort.

*Special thanks to my writer friend, Angela at Living Well Journal, who talked and prayed through this with me…on a neighborhood walk, in the cool of a Spring morning.

A note I found just this week flipping through an old Bible. Mom would leave love notes around whenever she came to visit, and we did the same after her pattern…and taught our children to do the same.