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5 Friday Faves – Minecraft Guitar Cover, Culture Care, Marriage Advice, Women & Alcohol, and First Responders

Friday Faves – lightning-fast – go!

1) Minecraft Guitar Cover – Since 2011, Minecraft is a video game that’s been played by millions. It is considered one of the most successful games ever designed. The players can build and create pretty much anything they want in the sand-box type game. The ambient theme music was brilliantly composed by Daniel Rosenfeld (aka C418). It is beautiful, as you’ll discover in listening to Nathan‘s arrangement and performance on classical guitar. Check it out:

2) Culture Care– Instead of culture wars, Japanese-American artist Makoto Fujimura focuses on culture care. He is an arts advocate and is known internationally as a culture influencer. He defines culture care as “a philosophy that offers the creation and conservation of beauty as antidote to cultural brokenness…The thesis of Culture Care affirms that beauty is vital to ‘soul care’, offering a vision of the power of artistic generosity to inspire, edify, and heal the church and culture…Culture Care is a thesis for thoughtful stewardship of culture.”

Photo Credit: Makoto Fujimura, Joseph Sunde

Writer Andy Crouch further describes culture care as a worldview of abundance: “that decision to choose abundance, to assume that grace is indeed infinite—that we can still choose to speak against our fears despite the world of scarcity we experience every day… The world we live in—and, even more critically for us, our church culture—seem driven by fear: to choose to fight culture wars instead of caring for and loving our culture. As a result, we display the face of fear instead of love; project hatred instead of joy; reveal anxiousness instead of peace; exhibit judgmentalism instead of forbearance; build walls with jealous exclusion instead of kindness; invite bitterness instead of goodness; celebrate celebrity instead of faithfulness; invoke rage instead of self-control. Can there be an alternative?”

I am intrigued by the idea of culture care. It embodies the call to “love God and love others as ourselves” (Matthew 22:34-40). There is so much beauty in that.

Makoto Fujimura on Cultivating the Imagination – Joseph Sunde [gives steps to moving toward culture care]

YouTube Video – A Conversation with Makoto Fujimura

3) Marriage Advice – In the car for long stretches this week allowed for listening to TED Talks and the like. Couples counselor Susan L. Adler gives a funny, practical, empowering talk entitled “Secrets of a Couples Counselor: 3 Steps to Happier Relationships”. She lays out 3 tools in how to work through a conflict; steps that can actually move the relationship into a more positive, stronger place. These steps are:

  • Anything but anger– “When you find yourself feeling angry, sit down, take a deep breath, and ask yourself what an I really feeling under all this anger?’ Expressing just about anything other than frustration or anger can bring you closer.” She goes on… good stuff.
  • Raising the bar– challenge yourself to be better. “Whatever is happening, you take the high road. You can make a different choice…Challenge yourself to be helpful, patient, caring, and kind.” Again, she continues. Watch the TED talk.
  • Use “I would love it if…” statements, instead of blaming or criticizing one another. Rather than “You never wash the dishes!” Say “I would really love it if you could wash the dishes next round.” Keep these statements “positive and future-focused”.

4) Women & Alcohol – [No judging here. My own struggle with using food as self-medicating makes me hugely sympathetic.] Another in-car TED talk listen was Ann Dowsett Johnston‘s “Drinking and How It Changed My Life”. She is the author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. In the TED Talk, she tells a riveting story of growing up with an alcoholic mom and becoming a high-functioning alcoholic herself.

Her story is one of caution. She talks as much about the growing incidence of drinking in women, in general, as she does about her own issues. The “pinking” of alcohol is a concern for her as she sees alcohol being marketed specifically to women, including to teen-aged girls. As has been done with cigarette smoking and illicit drug use, she presses for us to use our collective power to confront alcohol manufacturing and marketing companies.

Drinking in and of itself is not a problem necessarily…it becomes a problem when we drink to excess and that can be different, one woman to the next.

Photo Credit: NIAAA

[Added in regards to above image: Today, the beer is often a pint (16oz) at 6-8% alcohol.]

Becoming alcohol-free may be the choice of some. It has been for me. Does it affect relationships? It can…but the healthiest relationships will remain.

Jolene Park‘s TED Talk can help you identify whether alcohol is a problem for you or not. Her talk is both scientific and fascinating.

YouTube Video – TEDx Talk – Gray Area Drinking – Jolene Park

Women and Alcohol – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – Brochures and Fact Sheets

Alcohol Consumption Among Women Is on the Rise – Jennifer Clopton

The Reason Why Women Are Drinking More Than They Ever Have – Ginny Graves

5) First Responders – With the devastation to the Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian last week, and the commemoration of the 9/11 bombings this week, we are grateful for first responders. Those who move into danger instead of away from it. Risking their lives for the sake of others. In the dreadful wake of this storm Dorian. men and women specially prepared for disaster response left their daily lives and traveled down to Florida. Even getting over to the Bahamas has been complicated with all the destruction on the islands, but first responders are doing what they can, partnering with local churches and agencies, to reach out to the many who have lost loved ones and homes.Photo Credit: Go BGR

Photo Credit: BP News

Bonuses:

Come From Away: Tiny Desk Concert – Commemorating 9/11 and 9/12

2 Ways Your Phone Is Reducing Your Brain Power

25 Ways to Screw Up Your Kids

Photo Credit: Facebook, Enneagram & Coffee

Photo Credit: Facebook, Marianne Wink

Saturday Short – Sweet Plans for a Day in River City – #RVA – To Celebrate That Lovely in Your Life

Richmond sunrise - flickrPhoto Credit: Rich Terrell, flickr

It’s Saturday, late summer, in Richmond, Virginia, and you want to celebrate a special friend. No plans for a hike in the mountains, no movie wooing you to the theater, and no special outdoors event on the calendar (rare in Richmond). So what do you do? Here are some possibles.

McLeans for Breakfast – Best in town. Great diner food and the servers keep your coffee mugs full and never rush you. Yum!IMG_8480

Pedis – Richmond probably has as many nail salons as restaurants and they are a real draw for pampering that special lady. Blog - pedicured feed or pedis - organicauthorityPhoto Credit: Organic Authority

Even better to do it together…. you men might enjoy a foot soak and massage as well. Artizen Nails & Spa is one that won’t disappoint. At $25-35 plus tip, it’s definitely a splurge, but today is one of those days, right?

Mama J’s – If you didn’t start your Saturday at McLeans, then you are ready for some of the best southern food in town. Mama J’s slogan is “Welcome home.” The food is definitely worth the wait which is actually part of the whole experience. You will meet others preparing to celebrate and new acquaintances they meet during the wait. 2016 August - Mama J's - Blog - GirlsIMG_8495IMG_8499Such good food…fascinating people…and their rides….Blog - Harley Davidson motorcycle with alligator seatthrough beautiful historic Jackson Ward neighborhood. Blog - Jackson Ward - house front and garden

Stoplight Gelato Cafe – Just an easy walk from Mama J’s is this shop with an incredible back story. 81 y/o Barbara Given, a retired university teacher of teachers,  and her son Bryce had a dream of opening their own business together. They wanted to do a homemade gelato shop.Blog - Stoplight Gelato Cafe - Mrs. Barbara Givens - rvamagPhoto Credit: RVA Mag

Since 2010, they had worked on restoring the building and working out their building plan. Then, sadly…Bryce died. Cancer. On Easter 2015. Mrs. Given continued with their dream and opened this summer. This tiny shop has so much character, and service has expanded to breakfast and lunch items along with the sweet treats.Blog - Spotlight Gelato Cafe - Barbara Givens

Even after the gelato is gone, you want to linger there…to talk to Mrs. Given…or to catch some Pokemon.IMG_8513IMG_8521

Class and Trash – If you have any energy left, there’s still plenty of daylight to stroll through another new business. This antigue/vintage decor store just opened in Scott’s Addition. Class and Trash has something for anyone looking to add an unusual piece to their home. Just wandering through this warehouse takes you back to a very different era. All kinds of eclectic.Blog - Class and TrashBlog - Class and trash 2Blog - Beth at Class and Trash

Wegmans – At this point, your budget might be busted, and the day could end just perfectly with a bowl of cereal or popcorn and a movie on TV. However, if you have hearty appetites and decide on one more food destination before you catch the sun setting in Richmond…try Wegmans.IMG_8432IMG_8435

It’s the biggest grocery store I’ve ever seen. Their prepared foods are perfect to box up and then head down to the River or atop one of the scenic overlooks of the city.

A great day. Good night, Friends. Nice job celebrating!Blog - Richmond - Sunset - Angela BaumanPhoto Credit: Angela Bauman

Worship Wednesday – 5 Things to Ponder in Tuning our Hearts Toward God

SunriseFrom the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the LORD’S name is to be praised.Psalm 113:3

We were made for worship. It is our finest pursuit – to be true and constant worshippers of a living and loving God. We make it a process harder than it is…which, in turn, causes us sometimes to give up somewhere along the way. Our default is often to rely on others (an author, a worship leader, a preacher) to stir up worship in us for a few minutes, or 50 (which seems to be the new norm in preaching these days). Then we lay the book down, head out of “church” for another week, or close our journals (on the mornings we manage to open them), and find some satisfaction that we did our duty…we worshipped. Check. Done.

Oh what we must miss in life when we don’t recognize God in all the moments of our day! All the moments. What joy we can experience when we see Him in every encounter, in all the coincidences, in every expression of His glory.

What keeps us from a life of worship? I grapple with 5 hurdles to worship. Be encouraged…none of these have to hold us back for all our lives. We are not without help in these – we have God and His church on our side.

Distractions – I so struggle with being distracted. God knows my frame (Psalm 103:14) and is not Himself distracted by my weaknesses. This used to be an area where I lived in constant self-loathing, but God has redeemed my thinking in this area. In the distractions, He is teaching me to see Him – even in my struggle. With the Psalmist, I say, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14) My job here is to rein in those distractions where I’m “prone to wander” and remember God.

Idols – Tim Challies writes about how Sarah’s burning desire for a child drove her to orchestrate an unspeakable act – putting her husband together with another woman to gain a child from their union. What do we want more than we want God? Where are we unwilling to wait for God Himself to act? What do we put in our lives, in place of God, thinking them harmless (ambition, recreation, relationships)? They become harmful to us and those near to us when these things loom so large they modify our thinking of who God is and who we are to Him and His Kingdom – idols sink us into smallness, and not in a good way. God will not be made small, but we can be. God forgive us when we set idols up for ourselves and miss Him and the life He had for us. With His help, we can identify the idols, repent, and retune our hearts. 

Entitlements – Oh these vile little tricks of thought. “I deserve”, “It’s my time”, “I’m doing something for me”, “That’s just not my gift/style/preference”.   “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). We all get tired and feel stretched beyond what’s comfortable. Lean on God.

Good but not God – You do good all day – to those you love, with those on your job, and for those God places in your path. That good is how we apply a counter-pressure against the evil of this world. Doing good is right. In the strength of God, with Him in view, makes it become an act of worship. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). John Piper wrote about doing good:

God gets glory not from our heroic exertion but from our reliance upon his strength—when we serve as one who serves with the strength which God supplies.

God’s will himself to glorify
Is not a weight
to make us sigh
For it is wings
to make us fly.*

Ungratefulness – Paul encourages us through his letter to the Thessalonian church: “pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit…” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-19). When we are in a lifestyle of worship, we can thank God for everything…everything. What joy we have in knowing He is working everything out (Romans 28:8) for our good and His glory!

From dawn until dusk and into the darkness of night, we can experience the sweetness of God’s presence if we remember not to forget and if we believe Him enough to not disbelieve. He is worthy!

Worship with me.

Blog - Sunrise by Alicia BowmanSunset in East Tennessee - Kathy VisneskiSunset in Philippines from Jessica BoltonMorocco sunset by Ingrid Pullar

Worship God – Introduction to a Series on Worshipping God by John Piper

Holy Subversion – Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals by Trevin Wax

*How to Do Good so that God Gets the Glory by John Piper

To the Other Woman’s Embrace by Tim Challies

YouTube Video – Indescribable – Chris Tomlin

We Were Made for Worship – It’s What We Do – Because of What He Did – from archive – www.debmillswriter.com

Photo Credits: Sunrise/Sunset images are credited (in the order they appear) to me, Alicia Bowman, Kathy Visneski, Jessica Bolton, and Ingrid Pullar.

Power Down & Reboot – Our Family Gets Out of the City For a Re-set of Life – Oualidia, Morocco

 Morocco Casablanca Grande MosqueSomehow, we raised a set of city kids. Over the course of nearly 20 years, we have lived in medium to large cities across two continents. They don’t require a lot of space to enjoy life…a cozy bit of couch for our daughter and her book; electronics for the boys; a movie shared with friends; games around a table. Our world can become small in the city…maybe as a defense against all the noise and craziness outside our door. Or maybe home, at the end of the day, is that place of respite for us…it’s all we need.

For the husband/dad in our family…a wider, less-peopled place is required, from time to time, to take that deep breath and remember a larger world out there, beyond the city. He has to get away from email and phone calls and appointments sometimes…just for a few days…and we all are the better off for it.

Ten years ago, while living in Casablanca, Morocco, we discovered a well-kept-secret, revealed to us by some of our local friends. Just a two-hour drive south of Casablanca is a tiny town by the name of Oualidia. It’s a fishing village, beside the Atlantic Ocean. Unique to Oualidia is a lagoon alongside the coast, protected by natural sea-walls. It provides a lovely space for families to picnic, swim, and play. Fishermen cast their lines off the rocky cliffs or take boats out into the open ocean. Young people gather for surfing or soccer, or in couples to properly court in this open public area. It is a magical place…Oualidia.

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These were the days before we had smart phones, and internet connectivity was spotty. Leaving the city, heading out into the countryside, slowed down our lives the farther we got from home. Getting outside the normal can be a bit unsettling, especially for 13- and 14-year-old boys. Surely, there would at least be satellite t.v. in the hotel rooms…or maybe not. I didn’t always know what they were thinking, as our eyes got used to a different view outside the car windows. Winter wheat fields now golden, the occasional sheep herd, and people walking along the desolate road…to who knows where.

It would take us a few hours  to recalibrate fun to a much more fundamental or even primitive level than what we were used to in town…with all our electronic supports removed, as well as our friends now more than just a phone call or taxi ride away.

As we settled into our shared hotel room (no t.v. after all), something  extraordinary began to happen. The simple beauty of Oualidia and even our hotel, L’Araignee Gourmande, began to settle us down like a gentle massage. Our communication/entertainment choices in the city would keep us attached to screens (email, internet, computer games, t.v., phones). We could do just fine for hours on end, not looking at each other or engaging the world. In Oualidia, there was no other option but. After an early awkwardness, we made peace with our situation and each other. It happened on the walk to the hotel restaurant and over dinner that first night.

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It was always fun for us to vacation in North Africa, especially not being tourists really. We lived there and we spoke the language. This always surprised the hotel staff and the servers in the restaurants and stores. We met kindness everywhere we went. And especially in this little hotel/restaurant. This tiny establishment was known for its fresh seafood brought in daily from fishermen just down the beach. And we ate like royalty – all types of fish, crab, mussels, oysters, and even sea urchins. Every meal was an adventure.

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For that long weekend (and others after it), we  let go of the city. In place of all our electronic devices and constant city friends, we found each other again. The boys played together, and with their sister. We took long walks on the beach and played for hours in the water, finding creatures in the tide pools we’d never seen before. We talked to strangers with abandon. We quietly soaked in the goodness of God through His creation of this beautiful spot and all its richness.

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Late each day, we watched the fishermen cleaning their nets on the shore (just like they must have in Bible days).

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Every evening the sun set into the Atlantic, with us watching, and we retired to our little hotel room to our books and thoughts. Apr 04 154

By the end of the weekend, we would giggle and be silly in the dark of the room with a daddy who had repaired from his city life, along with us.

In those days, we loved our lives in the city, and returned quickly to the routines of life there…but a few days in that little fishing village changed us…reset us again to what mattered most.

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Worship Wednesday — This Good Day by Fernando Ortega

O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions. – Psalm 104:24

The garden came with the house. We needed a house where we could do our living on one floor, with elder parents coming for visits. The one we finally bought was everything we needed…and more. Walking out the back door, we enter a green space beautifully tended by the previous owners. Just in the few weeks since moving in, we have enjoyed the flowering of azaleas, irises, rhododendron, daisies, lilies, and more. We are mesmerized at all the beauty and refreshed by both the new growth and old – the flowers, changing weekly, and the tall ancient trees, standing at watch over the garden.

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In the morning, when there’s time before work, I walk outside, coffee in hand, just to take in the gift of this garden – something we have the pleasure of, although we did not plant it. And I am reminded of the glorious and undeserved provisions of God in our lives. The beauty that surrounds us  reminds us of His tenderness and care.

2014 June - Visits with Friends 014

There’s a worship song that affects me like strolls in this garden. It is Fernando Ortega’s This Good Day. He wrote it in 1999 during a time in his career when he was touring with a band, and away from home for long periods of time. The album Home, released in 2000, came out of this journey. He recalled of this experience: “I missed being home a lot this past year, and so several of the songs reflect that, along with the recognition of God’s goodness and kindness in giving me a place I can call ‘home.'”

 Fernando Ortega - Worship Wednesday blog 2Fernando Ortega

We call this home now…this easy house, fit for old and young…and this beautiful garden. It is a glimpse of Heaven for us…and especially of the majesty of God as displayed in His creation. I love the garden best in the morning.

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My husband lays claim on the garden in the early evening after work. It seems a respite to him, even though he is the one who will tend it, like those who planted it before we settled here. It’s a quiet place…like him, and made even more beautiful by our adult children from time to time…who find their way to their father…there.

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In this place, and on this good day, I found my way to the Father there as well.

This Good Day

Morning sun and morning glories pouring down the hill, through my window I can feel the ocean breeze.  Noisy sparrows fill the oak trees.  Swallows can’t stay still, and in the glad commotion, Lord, You speak to me.

If rain clouds come or the cold winds blow, You’re the One who goes before me, and in my heart I know:

This good day – it is a gift from You. The world is turning in its place because You made it to. I lift my voice to sing a song of praise – on this good day.

I will walk to Woodman’s Cove. The fishing boats are leaving. Seagulls follow just above the water. I will wait until the sunset brings them home again, rigging lines and anchors in the harbor.

If rain clouds come or the cold winds blow, You’re the One who goes before me , and in my heart I know:

This good day – it is a gift from You. The world is turning in its place because You made it to. I lift my voice to sing a song of praise – on this good day.

2006 April -- Recording Session & Easter weekend 061

Fernando Ortega Official Website

Album Review of “Home”

YouTube video – Live Performance of This Good Day

YouTube video of This Good Day with Scripture for Worship

Give Me Jesus