Tag Archives: Nathan Mills Guitar

Worship Wednesday – I’ll Fix My Eyes on You – for King & Country

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Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Hebrews 12:1-3

If the Priceless Tour with For King & Country comes your way don’t miss it! Having a musician in my own family (Nathan Mills), I can appreciate how rich an experience it is to hear music live. Joel and Luke Smallbone, and their incredible band, do not disappoint. In fact, I have never been to such a musical event, where the message itself is so clear, in decades (since early Twila Paris).

The opening act for the Priceless Tour is Moriah Peters with her #fiercefemaleband. She is married to Joel Smallbone. Beautiful songs about God, women, being brave, relationships, and marriage.2015 Sep - Concert - For King and Country and Moriah Peters 042

Then the guys take the stage. As they start with Fix My Eyes, it feels like a scene out of the play Les Misérables – “the barricade“.  An audiovisual feast of drumming, lights, smoke, and guys looking like they dropped in from another era. There is a very different feel with this band – high energy and big performances, and yet a clear respect and enjoyment of each other. Love even. And love for God at the center.2015 Sep - Concert - For King and Country and Moriah Peters 116

All the musicians are introduced and have cameos during the concert. There’s a lot of movement during the performances including the band coming out in the audience. Bringing the audience as deeply into the experience as possible is definitely a goal for these guys.

Joel and Luke both have talks during their set. They speak of honoring women, and stepping up as husbands and fathers, and reaching out to children in need (through Compassion). They tell stories of their own growing up years – moving to the US, going through a period where their dad was jobless, and watching God provide in countless ways for their needs (especially through their church family). Luke also talks about his life-threatening illness out of which came the songs “Without You” and “Shoulders“. Finally, they talk about Jesus…and following Him.

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Don’t miss the tour…but most importantly don’t miss the God and King of For King & Country. Their songs are strong testimony of the purpose of our lives and the faithfulness of God through all our circumstances.

Worship with me as I “fix my eyes” on God right now (lyrics follow, below the YouTube video). [After, scroll to bottom for a last word from Joel Smallbone and a P.S….but don’t miss worshipping…please].

Hit rewind, click delete
Stand face to face with the younger me
All of the mistakes
All of the heartbreak
Here’s what I’d do differently, I’d

(Chorus)
Love like I’m not scared
Give when it’s not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on You
On You

I learned the lines and talked the talk
(Everybody knows it, everybody knows it)
But the road less traveled is hard to walk
(Everybody knows it, everybody knows)
It takes a soldier
Who knows his orders
To walk the walk I’m supposed to walk, and

(Chorus)

The things of earth are dimming
In the light of Your glory and grace
I’ll set my sights upon Heaven
I’m fixing my eyes on You, on You
I’m fixing my eyes on You, on You
I’m fixing my eyes

(Chorus)

I’ll fix my eyes on You, on You
I’ll fix my eyes on You, on You

“That hope is why we do what we do to carry that into any situation, any environment, that we’re allowed to, to offer people not just a temporary fix but, God willing, offer them a changed eternity.” – Joel Smallbone

[P.S. If you love drums, you will love how For King & Country use drums. If you love lighting used in bedazzling ways, you will love their lighting. The word “Jesus” was actually painted on the wall of this venue – it isn’t a part of their usual stage visual. For me, as the lighting was going on and off, it made a great statement of their focus – I got this shot where the lighting and smoke completely obscured the band, but Jesus showed through. That’s my experience of these guys.]

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Lyrics to Fix My Eyes by Luke Smallbone, Joel Smallbone, and Seth Mosley

YouTube Video – for KING & COUNTRY – Fix My Eyes | The Story Behind The Song

for King and Country – Priceless Tour

Compassion International – Sponsor a Child

Baptist Global Response

YouTube Video – The Story Behind the Song Without You

Worship Wednesday – Let My Life be the Proof of Your Love – For King & Country

Worship Wednesdays – Shoulders – for King & Country

A Prayer for Those First Days of School

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Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

Today, in these parts, kids are returning to school. We live in a neighborhood across from a middle school. It’s get out early or be waiting a long time on buses and cars delivering their kiddos to their first day back to school.

We homeschooled ours at first (that first day of school – August 24, 1992) . Even today, my throat still tightens thinking of our little ones and their friends in those days, heading off to a big world. It doesn’t take long and then they are grown.

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Only a few years home schooling, and we went overseas. First to Cairo where they rode across town to a small American school for many years of their education.IMG_0016 (3)Blog - First Days of School - Christie, Nathan, DanielBlog - School in Cairo, Egypt

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 Then we moved to Morocco, where one by one, they graduated high school. We were so proud of them and at the same time sad to see them launch. Just being honest.June 2005 - Seniors and Graduation 060Blog - School DaysNA -- Christie, Daniel, Nathan Mills

I want to join you in your prayers for your little guys, and not so littles, as they return to school (or as they start another day of school).

God, Thank You, for the gift of children. Whether ours or someone else’s. What a stewardship you give us to raise them in Your nurture and admonition (Ephesians 6:4). They are Yours, after all, as are we.

Help us to instill courage and joy in them as they head into their day. Remind them of how You will never leave them or forsake them (Deuteronomy 31:6). Help them feel Your nearness to them today. May they sense their purpose in school today – not just to be about the job of learning but to also be a friend, helper, and true community member. Empower them to reach out to others with honor and kindness.

Father, we thank You for the teachers (some of them Moms and Dads themselves), the administrators, and those who work in assistive roles (from drivers and cafeteria workers to janitors and security guards). Give them strength for the day. Help them see the largeness of their work. The impact they will have on these young lives. Lord, I pray especially for those classroom teachers. These have been given charge over the precious ones You’ve given us. May these teachers have such love for their students that they can lead their class well. In such a way that they don’t have to wait until November to smile. Give them vision, too, to see their students as You see them and how they will impact their world…Some day AND today.

We pray for grace for ourselves as parents and grandparents. Grace just to get through these first days of school, trusting You. Show us ways to serve these teachers and staff that they will see You in us – that we would be received as considerate, insightful partners in the education of our children. Help us not to be a burden to them, but a help. May these school be lights in the community.

Lord, we think of others – children, parents, teachers – around the world who are about this great work of education. It is much more difficult for some than for us. Remind us that they are all precious in Your sight, and You blessed us, as Your people, to bless the nations. Help us to discover pathways to help those whose current situations hinder them from having what You desire for them – in our city and across the world.Blog - School Days 1 - bpnews.netBlog - School Days - bpnews.netPhoto Credit: bpnews.net

Thank You again, God…for firsts. First day of school. First graduation. First job. First baby. First day of school for her in 5 years. The years go by, and we are grateful for all we find of You in those years.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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YouTube Video – Veronica-Pooh Nash Poleate – Tips and Tricks for Teachers

Praying especially, too, for this one, as he enters his first week teaching guitar in a local middle school. – Nathan Mills

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On the 26th Birthday of Our Son – A Charge, a Quote, & a Rhyme

IMG (4)Happy birthday, Son. I really don’t have the words…and you’re probably glad. Over the years, you have single-handedly taken me to my knees more often than you realize – praying to be the parent God would have me be for you; appealing to God for all the moves (overseas and stateside) to not be too hard for you; asking for comfort when situations were sometimes hard anyway; and thanking Him for all He did for you – the friendships, the opportunities, and His relationship with you from forever.

So many memories. “Let’s go kill buffalo!” Following your sister around for play ideas. Grandparent visits. Family vacations at the Chesapeake Bay. Carpool buddies. Gameboy. Drawing cartoons. Computer games. Getaways to the Red Sea. Dreamcast. Baptism back home in Tennessee. Roadtrips to the Sahara. Soccer. Cousins. Airports. Basketball. Grumpy when hungry – feed the boy. High School Rock Band. Great friendships. Game Nights. Sleep-Overs. PlayStation. Laughter. Working out. Classical Guitar. VCU. Aletheia Praise Band. Sharing a house with your brother, sister, and then Duy. Met and married beautiful Bekkah. Grad school at East Carolina. Now back to Virginia, teaching guitar, playing beautiful music, and making a home…grown.

Settled for now in the U.S. after so many stamps in your passport. Settled in our hearts forever. You make us laugh, and you make us think. Your grown-up heart is so worth the childhood/teen year battles. And your music…what a gift to us. Whether you’re on electric, acoustic, or classical guitar. Your music goes right to the heart. Thank you for honing the gift God gave you.

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As you’ve rounded the bend on your first quarter-century, I leave you with God’s word to Joshua, Oswald Sanders’ word to leaders, and a poem often quoted by our friend Tom Elliff.

Happy birthday, Son. I’ll love you forever.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

“When a person is really marked out for leadership, God will see that that person receives the necessary disciplines for effective service.” – J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man.
When God wants to mould a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall praise –
Watch His method, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects;
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which only God understands
While his tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends, but never breaks,
When his good He undertakes. . . .
How He uses whom He chooses
And with every purpose fuses him,
By every art induces him
To try his splendor out –
God knows what He’s about.
– Anon.

Nathan Mills Guitar

J. Oswald Sanders’ Spiritual Leadership

Part of Joni Eareckson Tada’s Testimony – Poem Drill a Man

Book Favorite I’ll Love You Forever Before Helicopter Parenting Became a Cultural Issue

Adapted from a previous blog.

5 Friday Faves – a Favorite Beverage, a Pic of a Little Girl, a List of Critical Habits, a Pinterest Page of VIdeo Clips, and Job Search/Recruitment Group

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How does a week fly by so fast?! Here are my 5 Friday Faves. It’s been a tough work week here. That’s for another day. It has, of course, had an impact on my Friday Faves. Be encouraged, get moving, enjoy a laugh, and remember God loves you and is in the work of bringing good out of every situation…

  1. Favorite Beverage – Coffee. Hello! The coffee we drink in our house is an inexpensive and completely satisfying brand  – Eight O’Clock Colombian Peaks. Available in most grocery stores around here but we order from Amazon.com so we never run out. If I can’t have Moroccan coffee in Morocco (below, right), then it’s Eight O’clock.

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2) Pic of a Little Girl – A friend of mine taught English in China last year. One of the classroom teaching strategies was for each child to have a name more common in Anglophone countries. This probably was a help both to the teacher and to the students. This darling little girl had my name: Blog - Faves - Chinese girl with my English class name Hailey Williams teacher (2)Photo Credit: Hailey Williams

Can’t leave this Friday Fave without putting up one more “little girl” picture. This little Moroccan girl singing her heart out in Bouskoura Forest, outside of Casablanca:

Little Girl Singing

3. Critical Habits of Mentally Strong People – Travis Bradberry published a super helpful article on mental toughness. He lists 15 critical habits of mentally strong people. Take a minute to go to this article for some quick, clear counsel on building up your mental muscle. – not just for work, also for anything where mental toughness (not hardness) would help.Blog - Friday Faves - Habits of Mentally Strong People - slideshare.netPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

4) A Pinterest Page of Video Clips – This board belongs to Heather VanStaalduinen.  She has pinned several fun videos to use in the classroom to teach various concepts and character traits. Pixar and Disney animation are well represented along with other videos you will recognize. My classical guitarist son is adding teaching groups of middle school students to his repertoire. These might come in handy.

Blog - Friday Faves - Video Clips - Pinterest

Photo Credit: TeachTrainLove.com – also a great resource for videos.

5) Job Search/Recruitment Group – I had the opportunity, via Skype, this week to meet Michael Thompson, founder and managing director of the Turas Group. He was working remotely with a group looking to take a leap into new careers. Very smart, personable, and handling each participant with respect and individual care. If I was looking for a job right now, Turas Group would be the go-to agency for me. More about Michael Thompson and this group next week.Blog - Friday Faves - Turas Group

Have a great re-charging weekend. I love my work such that Friday isn’t the goal for me. This week, I find myself among those who rejoice that it’s finally here. Will leave you with this verse from God’s Word:

“We have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” –                   2 Corinthians 4:8-9

If you had a hard week – use this weekend to take a deep breath, regain perspective, and see all the good that surrounds us. I’ll be right there with you, in this.

 

Crossing Cultures and Making Friends with Music – Friendship Fest, Marrakesh, Morocco

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I missed hearing David Crowder sing last night in a city not too far away, because a first grandchild could be arriving any day. Priorities.

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Still, thinking about how much joy his music gives me got me reminiscing about another concert…in a far place…years ago.

We were living in Morocco at the time, and all our children were high schoolers. Somehow we heard about this crazy music event called Friendship Fest being held in Marrakesh. It was a weekend-long festival of Moroccan artists sharing the stage with international bands. Some of our favorite bands were on the roster.Blog - Friendship FestPhoto Credit: Friendshipfest.com

It was May, 2005. Our kids were still in school, but we took off for a long weekend in Marrakesh. Carloads of friends (local and foreign)made that trip. To be a part of such an event would probably be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we weren’t going to miss it.

The Newsboys band (in those days with Peter Furler) was my draw. For my husband and guitarist son, Nathan, it was more Phil Keaggy maybe. The thrill of just being there also compelled us all, joining an audience of friends and hundreds (later we found out it was 1000’s) of Moroccans. So amazing!2015 Aug Flowers, Blog, Friendship Fest 007

All that balmy May weekend, on this open fairground, the artists took turns on stage. A Moroccan group (hiphop, reggae, pop) and then a foreign band would perform. The audience was pumped. People coming and going but most of us staying, mesmerized.Blog - Friendship Fest - Moroccan BandBlog - Friendship Fest - Moroccan Band playing with Phil KeaggyBlog - Friendship Fest 2 (2)Blog - Friendship Fest 4Blog - Friendship Fest 6Blog - Friendship Fest - Newsboys 7Friendship Fest Delirious Blog - Friendship Fest - Newsboys 5

So I’ll stop with the pictures. If only there was a way to describe the sounds, the emotion, the energy, the unity we felt together on those evenings. How the artists engaged the audience. It was completely captivating.

I’ll close this out with a YouTube video of Delirious? singing History-maker during Friendship Fest. At 3:09, you will start seeing a bit of the huge audience (85,000 people over a weekend). Our teenagers and their friends were up front, but we hung in the back of the crowd. Seeing all those Moroccan young people and kids from other parts of the world jumping together to that great song still gives me goosebumps. Joy!

Musical Event Celebrating Community and Friendship Between Americans and Moroccans to Continue

YouTube Video – Jeremy Camp Live at Friendship Fest, Marrakesh, Morocco, 2005

Friendship Fest DVD

The First Waltz, Documentary of Friendship Fest (if you can find it)

Worship Wednesday – Rest – The Unmistakable Presence of the Holy Spirit of God – with Bryan & Katie Torwalt

He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

There is nothing like the deep rest, the divine peace, that comes in the presence of the Holy Spirit of God. It is unmistakable because it is wholly unlike anything else we ever experience.

God was very present with us at the passing of our Mom – the rock of our family. Watching our friends recently walk through the Home-going of their dear wife, mother, grandmother, and friend was another picture of the drawing near of a merciful God – our shelter in that storm of life.

I’ve written before of our experience of Nathan Mills‘ Senior Guitar Concert. In preparing his pieces for the concert, he added hours of practice to an already full playing schedule. Out of that, he developed a hand injury that required him to “rest” his hands for 2 weeks prior to his concert. He still “played” in his head, as guitarists do, but he came into the concert with rested hands when practiced hands would have been better. Or so he thought.

He played so well, it was as if the hand of God Himself was on Nathan. Even as the pain broke through, he was able to come to a beautiful finish.

Afterward, in viewing some of video of the concert, there was some sort of artifact (light bouncing off the face of his guitar, or something) which appeared as a shaft of light tracing vertically down through his playing hand. Like the enabling power of God. Not intending to over-spiritualize, it was a reflection of our experience of that concert. Knowing of his pre-concert uncertainty and then the pain returning, yet watching him play and hearing that glorious sound. It was a God moment for us.

God does show up in our lives more than we allow ourselves to even imagine. Often, it is in a time of wrestling or a dark night of the soul.

An excerpt follows from the book The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldridge. Brent describes a crisis phone call from a counseling client, and the deep experience of God’s presence:

“Once we begin thinking of all the deceptions the enemy is about with regard to our lives, we have a tendency to become obsessed with him, fearful of what he is going to do next.  Once we take him seriously, he switches from his tactic of “I’m not here” to one of having us worry about him day and night, which is almost a form of worship.  God graciously showed me this several years ago while I was in the midst of an intense, three-year spiritual battle on behalf of a client who had spent years in the control of a satanic cult.

One night, David (not his real name) called me on the phone at three in the morning, in the midst of painful spiritual torment.  We talked and prayed and I began to read from the Psalms.  Finally, I could hear by his deep breathing that he had fallen asleep.  As I lay on my dining room floor, pondering whether to leave the phone off the hook and build up a huge phone bill or hang up and risk having the beeping of the phone-off-the-hook signal wake David, something wonderful and strange took place.

In my heart, I heard a voice say, “Brent, forget about the battle.  You’re here with me now.  Rest.”  I looked up, actually expecting to see God in some way, or perhaps an angel.  What I did see was the light in the room change.  I find myself wanting to say it grew more distinct, almost more personal.  I only know I discovered that my hand was raised in the air in worship.  I didn’t decide to raise it.  I am not, by any means, an expressive person in the charismatic sense of the word.  It was simply as if there was no other appropriate response and my hand acted accordingly.  For several minutes I basked in what I can only describe now as God’s warmth and love toward me.  The epiphany ended with me reading the Twenty-third Psalm and others it seemed the Lord had chosen to assure me that I was not alone in the battle.”

We are not alone. God’s Spirit is with us and brings us into His rest.

Worship with me with Francesca Battistelli’s singing of Holy Spirit (written by Bryan & Katie Torwalt):

There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord

CHORUS
Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord

There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord

CHORUS

Let us become more aware of Your presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness

CHORUS

Lyrics to Holy Spirit at K-Love – Songwriters: Bryan & Katie Torwalt

YouTube Video – Bryan & Katie Torwalt – Holy Spirit (Live @ JCEncounter 2013)

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – Holy Spirit

YouTube Video – Francesca Battistelli – Holy Spirit 

The Sacred Romance (1997) by Brent Curtis & John Eldredge

Worship Wednesday – Stones of Remembrance – 12 Occasions Where We Saw God Act Mightily (Part 2)

The Sacred Romance Quotes at Goodreads.com

Notes and Quotes from The Sacred Romance

More Notes and Quotes from The Sacred Romance

My Favorite Literature – The Sacred Romance

The Sacred Romance: Quotes

Suffering

10 Quotes by Jon Acuff on Developing New Skills & Sharpening Old Ones – Part 3 of Do Over Series

Nathan at guitarPhoto Credit: Nathan Mills Guitar

There’s this guitarist I know. His music is a work in progress. Not his music itself, because he hones his craft daily. Still, his career in music is a study in skill development. No industry stands still. The ability to silence a room with the sound you bring out of a guitar does not a living make. Usually.

There are so many other skills called to bear in a successful career in music today. Composing, arranging, teaching, performing, collaborating, marketing, production, diversifying style or instrument. Whew!

Then there’s your day job (by necessity, or for other reasons). Wisdom is to bring the same disciplines and desire, of that skilled musician, to work every day. To be the best asset you can be for your employer or your company. Shirking entitlement and nurturing an attitude of graciousness and gratitude.

Who is this person?!

Jon Acuff talks about becoming such a person in his book Do Over. He tackles the subject of sharpening and developing skills as imperative to any career, and especially to break through a Career Ceiling.

Have you ever gotten stuck in a job? No, I’m not talking about being ungrateful or feeling entitled to a better situation. I’m talking stuck – as in getting to a place in your job where you can’t see being able to ever advance or be more creative or grow professionally?

Acuff invites us readers to take a good look at our skills to see what exactly we uniquely bring to your job. This would include skills we might have discounted or even forgotten we had.

Below are 10 bits of wisdom from Jon’s section on skills:

  • Relationships get you the first gig, skills get you the second.
  • When you hit a Career Ceiling, skills will be the hammer you use to break through.
  • Don’t let fear hide a skill you’ve always had or wanted to pursue. Just because you’re afraid of doing something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
  • Small skills have the tendency to add up to big careers.
  • Master the invisible skills – Go to work; add value; own your attitude.
  • When you have a bad attitude it flavors every part of your performance.
  • If you want to get better at something, it always costs time. If you don’t have any, steal some from…Facebook or any number of things that are requesting that resource without paying you anything in return.
  • I’m convinced that fear beats the “You don’t have enough time” drum because it never wants you to invest in your career. This is a lie.
  • Your willingness to discipline one part of your life creates freedom in another.
  • You will need skills most when you find yourself stuck. The ceilings are designed to filter out the lazy and uncommitted. Every skill can be a hammer. Start banging. Career Ceilings were meant to be broken.

Like with looking at our relationships, he calls for us to use note cards and list (one per card) all the skills we can think of – whether currently using them or only in the past; whether work-related or not so much. Once we’ve exhausted our ideas on skills then, he says to look for patterns.* It’s so easy to settle into a rut of doing the same thing every day. Going after new skills and sharpening old ones help us to be good at our jobs and, at the same time, love our work.

Whether you are a musician, a teacher, an I.T. guy or a caregiver, you have skills and you can build on those skills. Determining to be diligent to grow your skills and grateful for the opportunities to learn will take you farther than you know. Right through that career ceiling.

“You know who we should fire, that guy who keeps learning how to do his job even better,” said no one ever. – Jon AcuffBlog - Do Over - Jon Acuff

Photo Credit: Forbes.com

*A Simple Two-Step Exercise for Figuring Out What You’re Really Good At – Jon Acuff, Business Insider Start Your Do Over Today

Start Your Do Over Today! – Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff: Why Most People Don’t Reach Their Full Potential And How You Can

Nathan Mills on Vine

Crosstrain at Habitat for Humanity - Aug 30 2014Learning new skills on-site with Habitat for Humanity

Worship Wednesday – Stones of Remembrance – 12 Occasions Where We Saw God Act Mightily (Part 2)

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“…that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” – Joshua 4:24

As an end-of-the-year reflection on the work of GOD in our lives, I’ve looked back over the years. 12 recollections out of the many times He has moved on our behalf. The first 6 are found here.

7) We moved overseas to work almost 20 years ago. Our children were young and we felt terribly young ourselves with the language skills of a preschooler. On arriving in a beautiful capital city in North Africa, with survival Arabic and the grace of God, my husband needed to find a house for us to rent. It seemed a daunting task.  That first morning, we prayed together, and he left the hotel to begin the search…by faith, really. Even hailing a taxi requires some cultural understanding of how it’s done there, and it took a few tries for him to “win” a ride. Finally a taxi driver invited him in, and off they went. In a country of 9 million Muslims, there were many 30 Christ-followers. In all this huge city, the taxi driver who stopped for him was one of those few.  Over the years, we have known the friendship of many wonderful Muslim people, but on this stressful first morning, to have the company of a brother was a special kindness of God. Housing was eventually found; that encounter was a special grace.

8) After some time in this North African country, work took us outside the capital city to a distant town. Now my husband would have to purchase a vehicle which we had not needed in the capital. Again, like so many seemingly simple processes, this took on a whole new level of complexity when done cross-culturally. The used car souk only happened on Sundays, and the bargaining process was not readily comprehendible. He was unsuccessful for weeks. Knowing our move was imminent added pressure. Finally, one Sunday, he just gave up. He walked up the ridge to the highway to catch a taxi and looked back over all the business of car sales, feeling hopeless. A taxi pulled over for him, and he got in. The driver said, “Are you buying or selling a car?” When my husband told him that he was unsuccessfully trying to buy a car, the driver asked what kind.  It turned out that the driver had a friend selling a car, just the kind we needed. Random, crazy, love-filled act of GOD.

9) While we were overseas, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was a lymphoma and, by all rights, should have been cured, or at least arrested, by the treatment of that day. It was not to be so. For three years, Mom endured aggressive chemotherapy. The cancer was relentless. In the course of her treatment, she also had a severe Shingles attack that went into her nervous system and caused her pain for the rest of her life. We came back to the US for what would be her last year. My mom loved the LORD. She never prayed for healing, although we sure did. She only prayed for GOD to be glorified through this cancer. He answered her prayer…and ours, in a different way. Much of her life, she lamented that she didn’t hear GOD speak to her in ways she was sure he did with others. I asked her once, near the end, if He spoke to her now, and she smiled, and said, “All the time.” For her, the cancer was worth it.Fuji002 152a

10) Losing my mom was hard, a “severe mercy”*. Losing my older brother was strange and complicated for me. Robert had what I would describe as a self-imposed hard life. He could be rough with those he loved the most, almost taunting them to desert him. Yet, he had a kind heart that would often betray his attempts to be distant from us. He finally did move away from all his family, building a house way out in the country. When mom died, I think the sense of home for Robert died with her. Two things I prayed for him, during this hermit season of his: that he would not die alone and that he would be reconciled to his family. Although we lived far away, we saw at a distance that Robert began softening in his conversations with us. On our last phone call, he actually sounded happy. He talked excitedly about meeting up with one brother and working on a project with the other brother. At the young age of 61, piercing chest pain forced a call for an ambulance, and he, not many hours later, died on the operating table. He did not die alone, surrounded by the surgical team who sought to repair a shredded aorta…and many in his family praying for him outside. He died short of repairing all his relationships, but he was moving gloriously in that direction…by God’s grace.2007 SepOct 046

11) Our oldest son, Nathan, is a classical guitarist. In his last year of college, he was to perform a Senior recital as part of his requirements for graduation. In the process of preparing for this recital, he developed a tendonitis from the hours of practice. His doctor told him he had to rest his hands for the 2 weeks prior to his recital. This could have been devastating to his performance. Nathan was able to practice the day before and the day of his recital. He was a bit shaken mentally because of those days without practice, but he determined to continue with the recital. I may be his mom, but his playing that day was technically brilliant and incredibly beautiful. Especially given the stress coming into that day. There was a row of us, family and close friends, praying for him through the recital. With every piece completed, it seemed we were more in a worship service than a concert. I filmed his performance, and later as we watched the video, we saw something very interesting. There was a light artifact of some sort, and it looked as if a shaft of light beamed down through his right hand. It was a picture of GOD being  there with Nathan, and we knew He was by Nathan’s performance. Nathan had played for all of us, and for an audience of One. He told us afterwards that his hands ranged from feeling ice cold and difficult to manage to feeling on fire and exquisitely painful…yet he played so well…and so to the glory of GOD.

Nathan & Bekkah Wedding Slideshow Final 060

12) Finally, the last stone of remembrance for today: being present when someone receives the LORD as her own. Many of you may have that experience on a regular basis. For me, spending so many years in the Muslim world, I have only personally had this experience a precious few times so far. This year, I witnessed this once. A young woman I really didn’t know very well appeared at our women’s Bible study. There was an urgency about her…a quiet earnestness. She was there on a mission. The LORD had clearly been working in her heart and she wanted to settle things with Him. There was only a handful of women in the room, but the power of the Holy Spirit was so evident. While some of us explained how to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, the rest of us prayed…back and forth, as she talked, listened, cried…and then prayed aloud herself. Did one of us lead her to be a Christ-follower? No. We were merely and miraculously witnesses of a redeeming love. I wish you could have heard her pray…so full of humility, and longing, and finally peace. To witness the work of GOD in a life He drew to Himself…incredible.

As the New Year begins, what has happened in your life, even on this first day of 2015, that reveals the handprint of GOD?

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13

*A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken – autobiography about losing his wife and finding God in the midst of the loss

YouTube Video of “Preludio” – one of Nathan Mills’ pieces during his Senior recital

Nathan Mills, Classical Guitarist

On the Eve of a 25th Birthday – A Charge, a Quote, & a Rhyme

IMG (4)How can it be that you’re 25 years old tomorrow? I really don’t have the words…and you’re probably glad. Over the years, you have single-handedly taken me to my knees more often than you realize – praying to be the parent God would have me be for you; appealing to God for all the moves (overseas and stateside) to not be too hard for you; asking for comfort when situations were sometimes hard anyway; and thanking Him for all He did for you – the friendships, the opportunities, and His relationship with you from forever.

So many memories. “Let’s go kill buffalo!” Following your sister around for play ideas. Grandparent visits. Family vacations at the Chesapeake Bay. Carpool buddies. Gameboy. Drawing cartoons. Computer games. Getaways to the Red Sea. Dreamcast. Baptism back home in Tennessee. Roadtrips to the Sahara. Soccer. Cousins. Airports. Basketball. Grumpy when hungry – feed the boy. High School Rock Band. Great friendships. Game Nights. Sleep-Overs. PlayStation. Laughter. Working out. Classical Guitar. VCU. Aletheia Praise Band. Sharing a house with your brother, sister, and then Duy. Met and married beautiful Bekkah. Grad school at East Carolina. Now back to Virginia, working and making a home…grown.

Settled for now in the U.S. after so many stamps in your passport. Settled in our hearts forever. You make us laugh, and you make us think. Your grown-up heart is so worth the childhood/teen year battles. And your music…what a gift to us. Whether you’re on electric, acoustic, or classical guitar. Your music goes right to the heart. Thank you for honing the gift God gave you.

IMG_006818IMG_0047 (2)Feb 04 - Kids 042Feb Mar 04 0982006 February -- Rabat BBall Tourney turtles  bike 2972006 -- Dec -- Nathan, Jeremiah, Jared2009 December 0942011 May Dan's birthday & Nathan's graduation 11320110318-DSC_008320110413-DSC_0097-Edit-1 - Copy

As you round the bend on this first quarter-century, I leave you with God’s word to Joshua, Oswald Sanders’ word to leaders, and a poem often quoted by our friend Tom Elliff.

Happy birthday, Son. I’ll love you forever.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

“When a person is really marked out for leadership, God will see that that person receives the necessary disciplines for effective service.” – J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man.
When God wants to mould a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall praise –
Watch His method, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects;
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which only God understands
While his tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends, but never breaks,
When his good He undertakes. . . .
How He uses whom He chooses
And with every purpose fuses him,
By every art induces him
To try his splendor out –
God knows what He’s about.
– Anon.

Nathan Mills Guitar

J. Oswald Sanders’ Spiritual Leadership

Part of Joni Eareckson Tada’s Testimony – Poem Drill a Man

Book Favorite I’ll Love You Forever Before Helicopter Parenting Became a Cultural Issue