Tag Archives: prayer

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar Loveliness, Spoiling Our Children, Answered Prayer, the Gentling Nature of Christmas, and a Bunch of Great Reads

Happy New Year! With travel and a family illness, I have been more out-of-pocket than usual. It will show in my Friday Faves. Some of them are carry-overs from previous weeks but not to be missed. Hope your New Year is off to a grand start.

1) Classical Guitar Loveliness – Since it’s been a bit, this Friday Faves includes 3 videos by Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar. Enjoy!

  • The Witcher 3: The Slopes Of The Blessure – composed by Piotr Musial.  Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

  • Netflix “The Witcher”: Toss A Coin To Your Witcher – composed by Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli. Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

  • FRIENDS – “I’ll Be There For You” – composed by The Rembrandts. Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

2) Spoiling our Children – What does that even mean really? We all want the best for our children…at least we want to want it, for sure.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Wikimedia

As parents we have many layers of responsibilities plus we are faced with our own inadequacies and outright fatigue. How do we keep from disadvantaging our children by our parenting? Everyone has an opinion – some more educated and well-thought-out than others. Here are two:

The Silent Tragedy Affecting Today’s Children – Victoria Prooday – Prooday is an occupational therapist and educator on parenting all-round healthy children. This article sets up her premise that parents are the most instrumental in providing their children with the foundation for growing up resilient. Her bullet points are easily accomplished in most situations: technology-free meals, chore assignments, time outside, training children in emotions, and teaching them manners are just some of what she advises. Read and consider the other of Prooday’s points. Being invested and emotionally connected ourselves to our children is crucial.

Do You Agree With This Viral Post About the “Silent Tragedy” of Spoiled Children? – Jessica Suss – English teacher, writer Suss sounds a cautious rebuttal to Prooday’s article. She agreed with much of what she prescribed, but she objected to the tone of the “Silent Tragedy” piece. Suss argues that Prooday was talking to wealthier parents rather than those who might not have the means to carry out all her prescriptions. “Healthy food at every meal is a great goal, so long as you can afford it. But when more than 100 million people in America are food insecure, getting anything on the table is a better goal. Playing outside is also great, but if you live in the city or in an area that’s unsafe (as many lower-income families do), you’re not going to be able to complete the daily, hour-long hike Prooday says is necessary for a healthy child. And family game nights and dinners are all well and good, but when parents are working two jobs (or nontraditional hours), that might not be feasible.”

Two viewpoints – one prompting parents to be more intentional and the other giving a pass to parents – depending on the day and the situation, we need both.

10 Alternative Parenting Styles That Might Be Right For You – Samantha Steiner – Interesting Read; 10 parenting styles? Still, interesting.

3) Answered Prayer – I mentioned at the top about family illness. Our youngest granddaughter was very ill for about a week.

I can’t say enough of what it meant that so many prayed for her. We are so thankful for answered prayer and that she is back to her fun, lively self. When life takes us and those we love into the back of ambulances and down corridors of emergency departments of hospitals…we never know what will happen next. So thankful for those who wait with us, and encourage us, and serve us…all when they have their own situations that need attention. Thank God, thank you, and thank God for you.

4) The Gentling Nature of Christmas – It’s long since passed, both Western and Eastern Christmas. We still have our Christmas lights up…just because. It’s winter and feels darker than the rest of the year. Those lights warm the world where we are, so we have no rules as to exactly when we put away all the decorations.

Whether we celebrate Christmas or not, I think it’s true that there’s a gentling nature in this holiday. People are more thoughtful of others, more generous, more willing to give space to others. In general. Even in politics…well, sometimes.

I wanted to just include three short videos with Christmas themes that speak to the beautiful and connecting nature of Christmas. One is a scene from The Andy Griffith Show. The second is a performance of Saviour – The Story of God’s Passion For His People. [On the second video, 14 minutes in, you hear the singer Wintley Phipps. Any opportunity to hear him sing is magical.] The last video is the 2019 John Lewis Christmas advert…so darling.

5) A Bunch of Great Reads – It’s been over a month since I’ve posted my Friday Faves. Lots of stuff that has influenced and enlightened me. I didn’t want to miss sharing it all with you. Photo Credit: Needpix

So here goes. 10 of my favorites from the last few weeks – all very different – take your pick.

10 Simple Ways to Take Care of Yourself

We’re Treating Friendships Like Transactions and It’s Ruining Relationships – Ephrat Livni

What Happened to Richmond’s Thriving Black Community of Navy Hill?

10 Books to Give You Superpowers in 2020 – William Treseder

Emily Norton Opens Up About Battling Depression as a Caregiver – Alikay Wood

What Widowers Wonder at Night – Erich Bridges

Q & A with Sherry Stout – Building Capacity and Collaboration for Energy Resilience [Sherry Stout is a dear friend of ours. Fun to see her in print.]

No One Wants Your Used Clothes Anymore – Adam Minter

The Curse of the Honeycrisp Apple Deena Shanker & Lydia Mulvany

Who Killed the Knapp Family? Nicholas Kristof and

Bonuses:

The True Story Behind Your Thanksgiving Cornbread – Adina Steiman

Enneagram & Coffee Facebook Page

Photo Credit: Facebook, Country Girls Do It Better

Worship Wednesday – Hills and Valleys – I Am Not Alone – Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: Heartlight

I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber.
Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.

The Lord protects you; the Lord is a shelter right by your side.
The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night.

The Lord will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life.
The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever.Psalm 121

Hills and valleys. They are part of our lives.

A week ago, I sat silent in the car by this beautiful friend, her face blotched and shining with tears. It had been a low time for her, and, for the moment, she just needed to cry. We were together for her wedding day – the loveliest of high times. There have been other shared mountain-top experiences since…as well as valleys.

When we have those big positive experiences, the valleys are forgotten – that ache of loneliness or undoneness in the times of helplessness or disappointment. Still, we need people in both those experiences…More than that, we need God.

Several years ago, along with some friends, our family visited Mt. Sinai. Dave’s Mom and Dad also joined us, visiting from the US. It was an incredible time. We traveled up toward the summit on donkeys via a camel trail. The last 750 feet we climbed on foot. The view was spectacular. Just under 7500 ft. high, Mt. Sinai is a sentinel in Egypt’s eastern desert. Majestic, beautiful, changing in appearance with sun and shadow. Awe-inspiring.

Even more so, as we think this could be the place that Moses met with God, so many years ago. It is considered a holy mountain by Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Looking out over the desert below, we got lost in our thoughts, reflecting on history and God and the privilege just to be there. It was more a solitary experience, although surrounded by loved ones and strangers. One group of tourists started singing “How Great Thou Art” in a language I couldn’t understand. We joined in, in English. It was truly an obvious mountain-top experience.

Then, the climb down. The camel trail would be slower, so we decided to take the faster route – the Steps of Repentance. Stones placed as stairs from the summit to the valley floor (legend goes that one monk placed them all as an act of repentance). 3750 stone steps. Uneven, rough-cut, some deeper or narrower than others. All requiring care in descending.

[Click on this blog for pics of Mt. Sinai’s summit and the valley below as well as a look at the Steps of Repentance – 3750 steps down to the valley.]

Plodding our way to the valley, step by step, wasn’t taxing at first, but that didn’t last long. As hundreds of steps took their toll on our knees, we started feeling shaky and unsure of our footing. Hoping not to fall or injure ourselves. It helped that we were in a group, in case we needed each other.

On that walk down, I got to see a tenderness in my husband that fit perfectly the situation. He saw his mom was struggling and came alongside her to get safely down to the valley. His dad was fine enough, as was I, although shaking from the pounding down descent. Being careful not to fall. It turned out to be harder than we thought.

Valleys are like that, in general. Ofttimes, harder than we think. We need each other and most importantly we need God. To bring us through the journey that takes us low. To give us the grace to deal with what is in front of us.

Our pastor Cliff Jordan preached on prayer a few Sundays back. Prayer and the postures of prayer. When we are experiencing a mountain-top moment or a downward spiral to a spiritual valley, we pray. As God’s children – for different reasons and with different postures. Remembering that we are not alone. Never. Not ever.Photo Credit: PixabayPhoto Credit: 163atkw.aug

Singer/songwriter Tauren Wells‘ has given us a song about this very thing. Hills and Valleys.

“When you’re on the mountaintops of life, learn to bow low. and when you’re in the valleys of life, learn to stand tall….No matter where we’re at, we’re standing in God’s grace, and that no matter what we have, His grace is enough.” Tauren Wells

Worship with me.

I’ve walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak
And I’ve seen the brighter days
And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven
From my lowest place
And I have held Your blessings
God, You give and take away

No matter what I have, Your grace is enough
No matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone

I’ve watched my dreams get broken
In You I hope again
No matter what I know
I’m safe inside Your hands

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone

Father, You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all You will remain
Over it all
Father, You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all You will remain
Over it all
On the mountains I will bow my life, yeah
In the valley I will lift my eyes
Ohhh, ohhhh

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
No, I’m not alone
I know, I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills
And I am not alone
God of the hills
The God of the valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone*

*Lyrics – Hills and Valleys – Songwriter: Tauren Wells

YouTube Video – Hills and Valleys (Story Behind the Song)

Hills and Valleys – Behind the Song – Kevin Davis

Worship Wednesday – Spirit Pour Out – Andy and Rachel Graham

And when he [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, he wept over it.Luke 19:41

Jesus continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. – Matthew 9:35-36

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. Psalm 127:1

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce…But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. – Jeremiah 29:4-5, 7

The shining city we call home is Richmond, Virginia. It is a beautiful, gleaming mix of old and new.  A river runs east-west through it, and interstate highways divide it north-south. The divide goes much deeper than the highways cut through neighborhoods decades ago, but these transportation portals speak to that divide.

After the Civil War (during which Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States of America), the African-American community began to thrive here. In fact, Jackson Ward, a Richmond neighborhood still today, was once known as “Black Wall Street” and “the Harlem of the South”. Beautiful homes, large churches, successful businesses, and popular entertainment venues were all part of this thriving neighborhood.

Then “progress” happened. City and state officials determined the design of what is now our vast interstate system. This all-white group of officials made the decision of what would best serve the city and beyond. The highways would be laid down right through Jackson Ward. 1000 homes were lost through the city’s powers of eminent domain.

Roads to Nowhere: How Infrastructure Built Built on American Inequality – Johnny Miller

Recently I saw a TV show, All Rise, that featured an anquished young man, wrongly accused of a felony. While awaiting the jury’s verdict, his public defender sat with him. She asked about why he was studying urban planning. This was the powerful scene that speaks to what happened in our city and others:

“Every shining city is built on something pretty dark.”

The above statement from the scene isn’t always true (especially when I think of Heaven), BUT. God, in His Word, demonstrated both understanding of and love for cities.

The peoples of cities. Peoples like us, and others not like us but loved. Exquisitely, generously loved by God. We are meant to love as He loves. We are blessed to be a blessing to all peoples.

Not just transactional charity…where we give of our goods but not ourselves. Jesus did feed the thousands (transactional) but He also gave all of Himself to all people (transformational). He left that example for us…that transformational model of loving people.

Seek Your City’s Good – John Piper

This past Sunday, our worship team at Movement Church, led us in a song new to me. Spirit Pour Out. It was written by Andy and Rachel Graham out of a worship experience with Urban Doxology, a ministry based in Richmond. Members of Urban Doxology live, work, worship, and serve in the racially diverse (and divided) neighborhoods of Richmond. They bring a message and vision for reconciliation – with God and each other. See the Ted Talk about Urban Doxology here. The YouTube video below shows footage of our city, Richmond, Virginia. It is a call to prayer for cities – for ours and for all cities.

Worship with me.

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

Come restore generations of desolation
Bind up the poor and broken heart
Plant and sow, till and grow what time has ravaged
Break down the walls of race and war

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

God we seek the peace and welfare of our city
Prosper redeem her as your own
That all would see your glory here in greater measure
Through us your church your kingdom come

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

You are the God who builds
You are the one who saves
You are the God who prospers
Evil has no claim
You are the God builds
You are the one who saves
You are the God who prospers
Fervently we pray*

Peter says that Christians are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11) and Paul says “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). In fact, we will do most good for this world by keeping a steadfast freedom from its beguiling attractions. We will serve our city best by getting our values from “the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). We will do our city most good by calling as many of its citizens as we can to be citizens of “the Jerusalem above” (Galatians 4:26).

So, let’s live — let’s do so much good (1 Peter 2:12) — that the natives will want to meet our King. – John Piper

*Lyrics to Spirit Pour Out – Songwriters: Andy & Rachel Graham

YouTube Video – Spirit Pour Out – Urban Doxology

Worship Wednesday – Heal Our Land – Kari Jobe

Photo Credit: Rachael M. Colby, Tattoo It On Your Heart

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. For I have now chosen and consecrated this temple so that My Name may be there forever. My eyes and My heart will be there for all time. 2 Chronicles 7:14-16 

“Then let this be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone’. Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”Acts 4:10-12

Dave’s Mom, my sweet mother-in-law, prays. Every day. Through the day. In her 80s, Julia carries the baton of her own Godly mother who has long since gone to be with the Lord. She prays not out of duty or self-interest. She prays in obedience to God and out of love for Him, for her family, her church, and her country.

As long as Julia lives, I know that daily our names echo in the great halls of Heaven before the God of the universe. When my own mom died, now 17 years ago, a silence sounded in our lives that I had never experienced before. She, like Julia, was a prayer. Mom prayed faithfully for us, her children and grandchildren. She also had hope borne out of prayer for the church and our country. Since Mom died, I am trying to run the race she left for me…praying for those God has lovingly and strategically placed  in my life to lift up to Him.

Photo Credit: Kirtland AFB

In the US, we are moving into the season of political rallies with widely varying displays of patriotism, anticipating the election year ahead. The news media is full of disheartening reports on our country’s status in the world, its moral and cultural decline, and partisan viewpoints on what’s the cause and who’s to blame.

God is not surprised by anything. Nor is He disinterested. He loves all peoples and He has certainly not forgotten those who call themselves Americans.

We as believers search for meaning in the chaos we see around us. We, too, want to assign blame.

What if…what if the cause of our country’s racial and sociopolitical divides…the violence and opioid epidemic…abortion and poverty…related less to politics and more to prayerlessness?

God doesn’t seem to mind small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10). He is also a world-shaking finisher (Philippians 1:6). As I write, our Julia is sitting in her favorite spot, Bible open in her lap, praying. She knows the God who draws her to prayer is at work. One person, one of His daughters, trusting Him with what He lays on her heart.

What if two or more of us gather agreeing and pray (Matthew 18:20)? For each other, our church leaders, our country, the nations. God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10).

Movement Church has this tiny ministry we call Play ‘n Pray. It’s moms and grandmothers with little ones who come together each week briefly to pray. Our vision is a God-glorifying movement of prayer that will spread through our church, extending into our community, city, and the world. It’s a small beginning but with a great God.

Many of the world’s spiritual revivals began with just a handful of believers. It can happen here…

“One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.” John Piper

Worship with me to the Kari Jobe‘s call to prayer “Heal Our Land”:

You take our lives
Flawed, yet beautiful
Restore, refine
Lord, You’re merciful

Redeem, revive

Spirit of God
Breathe on Your church
Pour out Your presence
Speak through Your word
We pray in every nation, Christ be known
Our hope and salvation, Christ alone

New power, new wine
As divisions fall
One church, one bride
Jesus, Lord of all

With one voice we cry

Spirit of God
Breathe on Your church
Pour out Your presence
Speak through Your word
We pray in every nation, Christ be known
Our hope and salvation, Christ alone

So, God we pray to You
Humble ourselves again
Lord, would You hear our cry
Lord, will You heal our land
That every eye will see
That every heart will know
The One who took our sin
The One who died and rose
[x2]

And when Your kingdom comes
And when at last You call
We’ll rise to worship You alone

Spirit of God
Breathe on Your church
Pour out Your presence
Speak through Your word
We pray in every nation, Christ be known
Our hope and salvation, Christ alone

Spirit of God
Breathe on Your church
Pour out Your presence
Speak through Your word
We pray in every nation, Christ be known
Our hope and salvation, Christ alone*

*Lyrics to Heal Our Land – Songwriters: Scott Ligertwood, Brooke Gabrielle Fraser, Karie Jobe, Cody Carnes

YouTube Video – Heal Our Land – Kari Jobe (Song Story)

If My People – Tony Evans

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Worship Wednesday – We Must Go – Justice of God – Tim Hughes

Photo Credit: Heartlight

He has shown you, O mankind, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?  Micah 6:8

For several weeks now, I’ve been reading the Scripture with God’s justice on my heart. It’s strange how I missed that in the past…sort of read over it. Struggled with it, so just chose (without thinking) to ignore it. In thinking about salvation, I had made it a matter of mercy rather than justice. My sins had separated me from God. Apart from relying on what Jesus did for me, those sins would have forever separated me from a holy God. What God did on the cross was justice… and mercy. Jesus who was without sin took my sin, all of it, upon Himself. Because of him, before God, I am justified. “Just-as-if-I’d” never sinned. Because of him, I can now live forever knowing God and being with Him…forever. It is an incredible reality this justice and mercy woven together.

God says something like this: Because I have saved you from Egypt, you should live like people who have been saved from Egypt. In the New Testament, Paul teaches the same way. He says that Christians are ‘dead to sin.’ Because they are ‘dead to sin,’ they should live like people who are dead to sin by putting sin to death (Rom 6:1-11). What God has done for us is the basis of what He commands us to do. The basic command is: Be the kind of people that the Lord has made you; live up to who you are. [Peter J. Leithart, A House for My Name: A Survey of the Old Testament (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2000), 79]

Micah 6:8 gives us direction on what God calls us to be and to do – He has given us so much – forgiveness of sins, abundant and eternal life, a right relationship with Him and the possibility of the same with each other, and work on this side of Heaven to point others to Him.

What does that look like? Micah 6:8 – Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. He calls His people to be like Him and to be His image-bearers in this world. To “be the kind of people that the Lord has made [us]; live up to who [we] are.”

How different our world might be if we as individual believers and the church at large walked humbly with God, acted justly toward others and loved mercy?

British songwriter/worship leader Tim Hughes has given us some great worship songs, including Here I Am to Worship. His call to justice and the God of Justice in the song below was new to me until this week.

Let’s worship together.

God of Justice, Saviour to all
Came to rescue the weak and the poor
Chose to serve and not be served

Jesus, You have called us
Freely we’ve received
Now freely we will give

We must go live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

To act justly everyday
Loving mercy in every way
Walking humbly before You God

You have shown us, what You require
Freely we’ve received
Now freely we will give

We must go live to feed the hungry

Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out Lord (x4)

Acting humbly
Loving mercy
We must go, we must go
To the broken
And the hurting
We must go, we must go

We must go live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go*

Whatever the “go” means for our lives each day, it can’t just be out of duty or self-interest. We go in obedience to God, and out of a deep love and gratitude. Oh Lord, thank You, that we can know you, and love others because You love them.

Let’s pray:
O God, you are always more ready to hear us than we are to call on you.
Hear us now as we turn to you.

We pray that you will help us truly be your church by seeking to serve
those who are little, last, least and left behind.

We pray for our world in which many starve and struggle to survive
while others have far, far more than they need.

We pray for our nation and our leaders, that the cries of injustice
will be heard above the clamor of corporations,
the needs of the vulnerable will come before the desires of the lobbyists,
the priorities of the poor will come before the positions of the powerful.

We pray for our communities, that we move from complacency to caring and action.
We pray for ourselves, for the courage to care when discouragement overtakes us,
for the energy to act for justice when day-to-day demands occupy us.

Ever present God, you have heard our prayers in the silence of our hearts and you hear us now.
We confess that we have dulled our ears to the cries of all who are hungry.
We confess that we have hardened our hearts to the plight of millions
living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet.

We confess that we have dimmed our hopes for a more just world
and our ability to make a difference.

Sharpen our ears we pray, to hear the voices of injustice and your call to us.
Sharpen our hearts to show compassion to all who are struggling.
Raise our hopes for how we can help bend the arc toward justice
and work for the world that you intend. 

These things we ask in the name of Jesus who sided with the poor
and reflected your intentions for the reign of God.
Amen.

Prayer adapted from “How Long Must I Cry for Help Bending the Arc for God’s Vision of Justice for Children” Children’s Sabbath, Children’s Defense Fund

*Lyrics to God of Justice/We Must Go – written by Tim Hughes

What Does It Mean to Do Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly (Micah 6:8)?

The Politics of Confrontation and Promise – Micah 6:1-8 – Benjamin Kautzer

Monday Morning Moment – Be Kind – You Just Never Know

Blog - Another Man's MoccasinsPhoto Credit: Gelene Keever

[From the Archives]

“Never judge a man before you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.”   – Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons

My heart is especially tendered right now  toward some friends going through a difficult time. They come to mind often and I’m praying my heart out for them in these days.

As I did early morning errands in anticipation of a long workday, those I passed along the way put me to thinking about the proverb above. A dear friend of mine in cancer nursing quotes it often.

There are some people’s moccasins I hope, in all honesty, to never have to wear. Some have borne their lot in life well, and others with deep bitterness and relenting anger. Even the moccasins that have the appearance of being fine and fancy must bear a cost to the owner…more than the money they paid. I prefer my own old, scuffed, marred, well-traveled moccasins.  Yet, today, my heart is full, thinking of those whose roads are difficult to walk right now.

Praying hard for someone does something to us more than we anticipate. It causes us to look at others with greater compassion. We never know fully what that colleague or neighbor or beggar or family member really has on them today. An act of kindness, or a word of hope (real hope), or a decision to be deferent – might make a lighter burden for that one…next to you.

“This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched. It is a fact, however surprising. And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle; we are bound not to irritate him, nor press hardly upon him nor help his lower self.” – John Watson, The Homely Virtues by John Watson – Courtesy

You usually see quotes from God’s Word in my writing, but the proverbs of native peoples give us glimpses of the wisdom of God as well. I close with this Cherokee story, and bid you a day sweetened by a fresh look at those around you. With hearts tendered, you just never know what difference you can make…

“An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life: A fight is going on inside me, he said to the boy. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed. “”*

*American Indian Proverb Quotes

Walk a Mile…a Day…32 Hours in Someone Else’s Shoes by Gelene Keever

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

War Room – A Film and a Strategy – Praying Our Hearts Out for Those We Love

Worship Wednesday – In the Public Arena – O Church, Arise – Keith & Kristyn Getty

Photo Credit: Velvet Ashes, Amy Young

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. –  Ephesians 6:12-13

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD shines over you.  For look, darkness will cover the earth, and total darkness the peoples; but the LORD will shine over you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to your shining brightness. Isaiah 60:1-3

Earlier this week, the American church had a brief tremor in its universe. At the request of our country’s president, a pastor of a mega-church, in the Washington, DC area, prayed for and over him onstage during one of the Sunday services. There followed both support and outcry at this which on each side was a shock to the other. God’s call for us to pray for those in authority [1 Timothy 2:1-5] clashed with bringing politics to the podium.

As the church, we are in turmoil over the issues on which we disagree. Our country’s culture’s seeming fondness for agitation and offense has colored our unity as believers. We can heatedly disagree over the most trivial things…at least in light of eternity. Worship style. Who we are willing to partner with theologically. What else?

Then you take this struggle out of the church and into the public arena. We too often think that the rules of engagement should be Christian even though the culture is secular. The fight ought to be fair, right? The argument begs to be civil, true? Not what we find. [Or worse if we don’t find it because we don’t own our part in creating it.]

That’s why we pull back from conversation with those who oppose us and just stick with “our own”. It’s not what Jesus commanded his children.

In another time and yet similar culture, Jesus told his disciples he was “sending [them] out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).

We bicker with each other over things that matter less but shy away from the conversations that matter much more. There is a way still.

Professor, writer Alan Jacobs has written a piece for such a time as this: What a Clash Between Conservatives Reveals . Please read it in full. Although it is not an easy read; it’s challenging and thought- (and action-) provoking.

“‘Respect for the dignity of the other person created in the image of God requires that we not silence or exclude him but try to persuade him.’ Even when people are wrong, “’we must put up with them or tolerate them or, much better, respect and love them’ —not because that is a politically effective strategy, which it may or may not be, but because we are so instructed by God.

This respect and love require a commitment to conversation, and “conversation requires civility”—even when people do not reciprocate that civility. After all, it is Jesus himself who tells us that when we are struck on one cheek, we should turn the other toward our attacker. Civility should not be our religion, but ‘there are religiously imperative reasons for being civil that do not entail turning civility into a religion.’

Charity, and the civility and decency that accompany charity…are what we are commanded to do. And charity begins at home.”Alan Jacobs

In our desire to be more like Jesus in the culture He has placed us in, we must grapple with engaging it as He would…as He did.

As for those who don’t agree with us or we with them? They matter. I might have a place at pastor and politically liberal John Pavlovitz‘s table…but probably not a real voice (I’m way too conservative). Still, he helps me make sense of a different view of the church and our larger community. His quote sizzles with meaning and conviction:Photo Credit: ChurchPlant

[Sidebar: Our country’s polarized stalemate on immigration policy is so maddening. Even I have ideas on how to move forward with this process in ways that both serve our country and the world. Pavlovitz’s piece Why Do You Think They Cross the Border? gives a view worth reading no matter our stance on this divisive issue. No solutions to the complex problems but a view from a different side of the issue). I could have done without the stone-throwing…but it is what it is in our country, even among thought-leaders.]

Worship with me. With the help of this great anthem O Church, Arise. In the midst of all the confusion of our day, God Almighty has set His church…for His eternal purposes.

O church, arise and put your armor on;
Hear the call of Christ our captain;
For now the weak can say that they are strong
In the strength that God has given.
With shield of faith and belt of truth
We’ll stand against the devil’s lies;
An army bold whose battle cry is “Love!”
Reaching out to those in darkness.

Our call to war, to love the captive soul,
But to rage against the captor;
And with the sword that makes the wounded whole
We will fight with faith and valor.
When faced with trials on ev’ry side,
We know the outcome is secure,
And Christ will have the prize for which He died—
An inheritance of nations.

Come, see the cross where love and mercy meet,
As the Son of God is stricken;
Then see His foes lie crushed beneath His feet,
For the Conqueror has risen!
And as the stone is rolled away,
And Christ emerges from the grave,
This vict’ry march continues till the day
Ev’ry eye and heart shall see Him.

So Spirit, come, put strength in ev’ry stride,
Give grace for ev’ry hurdle,
That we may run with faith to win the prize
Of a servant good and faithful.
As saints of old still line the way,
Retelling triumphs of His grace,
We hear their calls and hunger for the day
When, with Christ, we stand in glory.*

*Lyrics to O Church Arise – Songwriters: Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

7 Stops on the Cross-Cultural Clash Continuum (The Grove: Culture Clash) – Amy Young

True Worship Displays, Not Distracts – Christopher Asmus

Worship Wednesday – My Fear Doesn’t Stand a Chance When I Stand In Your Love – Bethel Music

Photo Credit: Flickr

There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love.  1 John 4:18

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.  2 Timothy 1:7

I love the passage in C. S. Lewis’ story The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are trying to describe Aslan. He was the lion who symbolizes Jesus in the Narnia stories. Lucy and Susan ask if Aslan is safe. Mr. Beaver responds, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Aslan – Is He Safe?

We so often default to fear. It will look different for each of us, but it rises up from the deep dark places of our minds. Where the “what if’s” set up camp. These squatters make homes for themselves in our thoughts – worry, doubt, anxiety, fear. They don’t belong but act like they do.

When I’m afraid, there is a short list of what helps:

  • Reading/quoting Scripture.
  • Praying, especially praying Scripture.
  • Journaling (or writing like right now).
  • Talking out the fear with someone who knows me and knows God.
  • Singing and listening to worship songs.

Some of the songs that help me battle fear are songs from childhood in church. They have long been a comfort to me.

Our church does not as yet have a children’s music program. We sing a few songs from our kids’ curriculum, but they are different each quarter, so the rhythm of worship songs that our young ones know is not a part of their church life…yet. Maybe their parents teach them strong spiritual songs at home; I don’t know.

7 Reasons Singing Is Essential to the Christian Life – Tom Olson

When “Stand in Your Love” came on the radio this morning, it made me think immediately how great it would be to teach it to our children. To remind them that they don’t have to be afraid when they belong to God. Performed by Josh Baldwin of Bethel Music, this song declares the powerlessness of fear in the presence of God.

Nothing we fear…nothing we can imagine…has the capability of thwarting God’s purposes. He is so much bigger than our fear.

Worship with me.

When darkness tries to roll over my bones
When sorrow tries to steal the joy I own
When brokenness and pain is all I know
I won’t be shaken, I won’t be shaken (Cause)

(chorus)
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love

Shame no longer has a place to hide
I am not a captive to the lies
Not afraid to leave my past behind
I won’t be shaken, I won’t be shaken

(chorus)
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love

There’s power that can break off every chain
There’s a power that can empty out a grave
There’s power that washes every stain
(No) I won’t be shaken, I won’t be shaken

(chorus)
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love

(chorus)
(Cause) Shame doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Shame doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Shame doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love*

God is worthy of our praise…including the praise that casts our fears…our cares…on Him…because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)

Do fearful things happen in life? Of course. Is God able to take us through those fearful things…?

“Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us–to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”Ephesians 3:20-21

There is a fear that we do want to hold in our minds – one fear. That fear of the Lord Himself. For those who are kept in the perfect righteousness of Jesus, God withholds His wrath forever. Jesus, who died in our place…took our sin on Him sinless self…making us forever forgiven.

We are not to trifle with the goodness of God. His hatred for sin is perfectly balanced by His fierce love for us. We were never meant to be able to explain God or put Him into some sort of box we can be comfortable with. God is beyond anything we can comprehend this side of Heaven. More. Greater. Unfathomable. Yet knowable.

Photo Credit: A. W. Tozer, Facebook & One Way Through Jesus

The same fear of God (that strikes reverence and awe in our hearts and keeps us amazed at His movement in our lives and this world) – that fear of God is the beginning of wisdom for us.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”Proverbs 9:10

I pray we are able to stand in His love as the song above says, and let go of the small fears of our lives. Replacing the small fears with wisdom and understanding…of Who He is instead. Hallelujah!

*Lyrics to Stand In Your Love – Songwriters: Rita Springer, Mark Harris, Ethan Hulse, and Josh Baldwin

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – Stand In Your Love – Josh Baldwin & Ethan Hulse

Photo Credit: Flickr

Worship Wednesday – Fear Not – Chris Tomlin

Photo Credit: Coastal Institute

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13

This week I’ve been reading a most enjoyable little book entitled Planting Shade Trees by comedian Dennis Swanberg. Knowing only Swanberg’s stand-up comedy, I was surprised he wrote this book. It’s a book about legacy, and he uses examples of trees, particularly shade trees, to illustrate the various ways we can make a difference in this generation and those to come.

One tree he talks about is the Monterey pine. It is native to California, but also found in many countries other than the US. A fascinating characteristic of this evergreen is its pinecone. Only under intense heat (as in a forest fire) does the pinecone open and release its seeds. In this situation, what seems like a natural disaster actually helps the forest stay healthy.

Swanberg uses the example of the Monterey pine to introduce the subject of how hardship and suffering can open up a much deeper walk with God and can, at times, “provide shade” for those coming after us.

Charles Spurgeon was one of the greatest preachers in modern history. Born in England in 1834, he was a highly effective orator and would fill churches and other large halls every time he showed up to preach. He also wrote voluminously as well. His devotional book Morning and Evening continues in print.

Swanberg talks about Spurgeon’s great impact as being borne out of “fiery trials”. His beloved father died when Charles was a young man. He then suffered the loss of both his wife and mother on exactly the same day. He endured many other losses through his life, and they took their toll. Still, he preached with a fever as one who knew God in every circumstance of his life.

This morning, after reading Swanberg’s description of Spurgeon, I decided to check what his “Morning and Evening” devotional was for today. May 22. It was entitled “Asking ‘Why'”.

Not minutes after reading this devotional, I was talking to a friend whose daughter is in the hospital, in ICU, in fact. Many of us have been praying for her for several days now. They were away on vacation when she became desperately ill. The doctors weren’t coming up with a diagnosis so they made the decision to transfer her to a teaching hospital. This young woman has been so very sick…so uncomfortable…the question “Why?” finally came.

Here’s how Spurgeon answered “Why?”.

“Changing circumstances often causes the anxious believer to ask, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ I looked for light, but darkness came; for peace, but faced trouble…The eclipse of your faith, the darkness of your mind, the fainting of your hope…These trials are for the testing and strengthening of your faith–they are waves that wash you further upon the rock–they are winds that steer your ship more quickly toward the desired haven.”Charles Spurgeon

O let my trembling soul be still,
And trust Thy wise, Thy holy will!
I cannot, Lord, Thy purpose see,
Yet all is well since ruled by Thee.
Charles Spurgeon

My friend and I talked about this devotional and then we prayed again for her daughter. It was such a fresh reminder of God’s deep and abiding love for His children – that reading Swanberg’s book would take me back to something a British preacher brother wrote over a hundred years ago. If ever there was one who took his own fiery trials and, through them, planted a shade tree for us…it was Spurgeon…for this very day.

Worship with me to Chris Tomlin‘s Fear Not.

God, He is faithful
Faithful to us
Through troubled waters
He won’t abandon
Fear not!
The Lord God is with us

Be strong, take heart
The Lord He fights for us
Hold on; our God
Is a mighty warrior

God, He is faithful
Faithful to us
Through troubled waters
He won’t abandon
Fear not!
The Lord God is with us

Be still and rest
He holds the universe
Lift high your hands
To the Rock unshakable

God, He is faithful
Faithful to us
Through troubled waters
He won’t abandon
Fear not!
The Lord God is with us

God, He is faithful
Through every storm
He’ll never leave us
He won’t abandon
Fear not!
The Lord God is with us

The truth is a sword
The battle is the Lord’s
Surely He will deliver
So call on His name
He is mighty to save
Surely He will deliver [x2]

God, He is faithful
Faithful to us
Through troubled waters
He won’t abandon
Fear not!
The Lord God is with us

God, He is faithful
Through every storm
He’ll never leave us
He won’t abandon
Fear not!
The Lord God is with us*

By the way…over the course of today, our friend’s young daughter turned a corner. She could be beginning to get well, and we are so thankful. “He is faithful through every storm…Fear not! The Lord God is with us!”

*Lyrics to Fear Not – Songwriters: Ed Cash, Chris Tomlin

YouTube Video – Praise You in the Storm – Casting Crowns

YouTube Video – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

YouTube Video – Need You Now – Plumb

YouTube Video – Welcome Home – On the Road – Episode 3 – Dennis Swanberg

Worship Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – the 40-day Lenten Road to Easter

Blog - Lent - Ash Wednesday - from article by Jim DenisonPhoto Credit: Jennifer Balaska via en.wikipedia.org

[Adapted from the Archives]

“How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your Resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death? Yes, Lord, I have to die—with you, through you, and in you—and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your Resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess…. I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen.”Henri Nouwen  (From A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, Orbis)

It wasn’t until I was six years old that church even came on my radar as a thing. My mom worked all the time in those days, and finally, after a last-resort divorce, she settled us into a different life of meager means and lavish love. It was in those days that we responded to an invitation to church from neighbors. A weary single mom and four eager children met the welcome care of a loving church. Our experience was small town Bible-Belt Baptist, and that set the foundation for my understanding of God. In fact, years later, when I signed up for a World Religions course as a college freshman, I thought it would be a survey course on Christianity.

[Even within the context of Christianity, I knew very little of its practice outside the realm of Southern evangelicalism.]

My first experience with Lent, for instance, was through a college friendship. One Wednesday long ago, I caught up with my best friend after she had disappeared from our usual daily routine. We met for lunch and she had this mysterious, ashen cross smudged on her forehead. I resisted the urge of just lovingly wiping it off for her, thinking she was unaware of it. Pointing it out instead, she taught me my first lessons on Lent – on repentance, fasting (sacrifice), the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. All of that was gloriously real for me already, except for setting aside 40 days of resolve prior to the celebration of Easter.

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust – Preparing for Ash Wednesday – Pastor Kirk Thorson

For years, I still didn’t take Lent very seriously and still don’t know quite how to (or if I should) incorporate it into my life…except that my thinking has changed. In this world gone mad, I am more convinced than ever that we as the Church need to stand together for the sake of the nations and for the glory of God. If in Lent, I can find elements that help me see God, and our corporate and personal need for Him, more clearly, then I want to integrate some measure of Lenten practice into my life.

Month-long fasting (one part of Lent) has never been a draw for me, as I was always completely sure it would be a fail. While we lived in North Africa, and especially in Egypt, fasting was very much a part of our Muslim and Christian neighbors’ lives. Even those Christians who were evangelical (from Coptic backgrounds) saw the importance of fasting. Their awareness of the evil of sin in the world and the need for drastic measures lined up solidly with Jesus’ own life and teaching on this.

As I write this, my penitent friend with the ash smeared on her forehead comes to mind again. Decades later, on this day, I’m sure, wherever she is, she has a new ashen cross applied. Reminding her of the sin in her own life that Christ paid for Himself with His death on the Cross.

[We like our foreheads clean, don’t we? Being reminded of the dark and dirty smudge of sin in our lives is not something we want to carry around with us publicly. Especially in this post-Christian world of ours. Even with the message of the Cross as the only response to that sin…it’s just too public, too culturally “in your face” so to speak.]

Many may see Lent as extra-Biblical and therefore unnecessary to add to our countdown to commemorating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For me, at least, it gives a bit narrower road to walk for forty days – examining our own frailty, our sin, and the brevity of life alongside the magnificent perfection of the life and love of a wholly surrendered Christ.

Ash Wednesday and Lent as Means of Grace – Ryan J. Pelton

Bible Gateway extends a free invitation to receive devotionals daily until Lent from A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’ll be going through that as part of my reading these 40 days until Easter.

Also for the past several years, during Lent, I have read Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. It was a gift from a good friend during our years living overseas. There’s a lot in this world that’s frightening these days. Yet God is still God and is at work in the midst of so much crazy. I believe Him at His word. Full stop. We have a role in dealing with what we see in the world. As Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 17:21), there is evil that we can only battle with prayer and fasting. This is a power unleashed in a true observance of Lent.Blog - Lent - Easter (3)

As we grieve so much death around us in these days, and as we look to Easter, I would like to close with a prayer from Adrian Plass’ book:

“Loving heavenly Father, I want to try to tackle this business of loving enemies. First of all I’m going to sit quietly here and go through a mental list of the folk who I would call my enemies. Help me to be really honest…I don’t want to leave anyone out….I’ve done it, Lord. There are rather a lot, and some of them I really hate. But You made it quite clear that You can’t forgive me if I don’t forgive them, so I’ll start the process, even if it takes a long time to mean it. Love them for me, Lord, and please accept my prayers for their welfare and safety. Soften my hard heart as the days go by, until I begin to see them through Your eyes. Thank You for forgiving me. Amen.”

For these forty-plus days before Easter, I will be reading A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer; referring back to the book-marked portions of The Unlocking; reflecting on God and the goodness and wisdom He displays through Jesus’ life and teachingresisting (fasting from) those money- and time-stealers that distract me from larger issues; repenting of the sins of neglect and indifference; and remembering to pray and reach out to God and those around me as His vessel for His purposes among the nations.

May the days of Lent roll on naturally into the rest of our days…

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Forever Marred by School Shooting – One Mom Reaches Out to Comfort – Deb Mills Writer

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Forever Marred by School Shooting – One Mom Reaches Out to Comfort

Lent Resource Guide – Calvin Institute for Christian Worship

Evangelicals Embracing (and Rejecting) Lent by Trevin Wax