Updated Today: Productivity Tools and Apps

 

Resources1

I have several resource pages at this website.  You can find them in the tab located above.

Today I updated the Productivity Tools and Apps page with some tools I have recently started implementing.  You can access that page either via the tab above, or by clicking HERE.  There are some great fitness related tools I’ve added, plus a couple of office/work related items as well.

Other Resource pages available:

If you know of a good tool or resource that would fit in any of these 5 categories, please feel free to send it my way.  This is information many people search for every day.  Each week, people from around the world contact me, who are desperately looking for information, and who have come upon these lists through doing a search for these topics.

He Who Calls You, Is Faithful….Parenting, Grace, Salvation, and Prayer

grace

Everyone knows that the proverbial “Camp Conversions” happen on Thursday nights.

They don’t happen on Monday nights.

If you ever spent time attending a christian “Youth Camp”, you know this to be truth.  Thank you, “University of Joy”, circa early to mid 1980’s, you taught me this well. There is a cycle; a procedure to follow, for maximum results.  Rules to adhere to.  Start off slow, deprive the kids of sleep, build the drama and the emotionalism to a fevered pitch and then “BAM”; there you have it.  Scare them half to death with, well, death–and hell–on Thursday night, and there you’ve got it, recipe for an “outpouring of the spirit” and the opportunity to say “we had 279 saved this week!  In fact, we got everyone saved except that one rebellious kid.” Said with a sad shake to the head.  Dang it.  The one that got away.

Does that sound cynical?  Sarcastic?  I suppose it does.  But you know there is an element of truth there.

Conversions at camp do not happen on Monday night.  Nor do they happen when the focus is on the Gospel message as opposed to Gospel-absent yelling and stomping and shaming of people.

Conversions at camp do not happen on Monday night.

Except for when they do.

Everything within me wants to share my girl’s story in this space.  But it is not mine to share.  At all.

Her story is sacred.  It is important.  It is not to be thrown away, or thought of flippantly.

And we, as parents, must be sensitive to that.  We should never share their story, or post their picture on social media, or use them as a sermon or writing illustration, unless we first ask permission.  And, even then, we should make sure that they understand why, and let them help us tell their story.  I try to be conscientious of that; I don’t always succeed, but it is important.  So, I won’t share here.

But, it doesn’t mean that the mother in me doesn’t want to.

Because 3 John 1:4 is not nothing:  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

And, I am overwhelmed with joy tonight.  More joy than I have experienced, to date, because of the truth of 3 John 1:4.

But, simultaneously, I am wrecked tonight.

This week, I’ve attended the evening worship sessions of the Missions Camp Imitate that is being held at our church.  I’ve done so primarily for two reasons.  First, I’ve been curious about the guest speaker.  He is an author and seminary professor.  I’ve not read any of his printed stuff, but I’ve read some of his blogs, particularly about cultural engagement.  So, I was curious.

Secondly, I wanted to hear what my girl was hearing, so we could discuss if the opportunity arose.  This was the most crucial factor in my decision to attend; and now I see why.  She has heard some hard-to-hear things.  Things that have hit home, on many levels.  I’m so grateful that I know what those things are.

And those things are both responsible for the co-mingling of tremendous joy…..and grief.

But, I also know where my hope lies.  And, I know where her hope lies.  And, she is starting to learn where her hope lies.

I know the depths of having been saved; and of continually being saved.  And I long for that first-hand knowledge to fall upon the souls of my children as well.

Salvation.  One of the greatest-and probably should be the greatest–desire a Christ-follower who is also a parent should have for their child is that they, too, would know the reality of salvation.  However, if a parent is not a Christ-follower, and their child grasps the gospel and becomes a follower of Christ, then sometimes it is bewildering and concerning for the non-Christ-follower parent.  I’ve even had parents tell me that it frightened them.

That wasn’t the case for me, but I can understand their anxiety.    No, because I grew up in the church, and because I was the wife of a minister and was always at church, I naturally expected my children to be baptized at some point.  How could they not, really?  What choice did they have?  But there wasn’t joy in watching their baptism.  Happiness, because they were happy.  Happy, because everyone around them were “Happy for them” and “Proud of them” (don’t we love it when others are proud of our children, too?).

But not joy.  In fact, there was a twinge of sadness, even.

However, it is a much different experience when, as Christ-following parents, we grasp the implications of salvation for our souls and our minds, and realize how much we want that for our children, too.  When we, ourselves, have experienced that grace first-hand, then we start to realize that we want nothing more than for our children to also experience that grace.

I think we become so conditioned to the idea of someone being “saved”, that we do not understand the grace involved.  We make it so routine.  We are happy, we clap when someone “comes forward” at an invitation to “accept Jesus” (as if that is even close to appropriate language to describe salvation.  It’s not.  Not even.)  But, do we stand in shock and awe?  Not that God could save a wretch like us…..but that He would save a wretch like us.  Like me.  And like every other soul that comes to see the cross for what it is:

Scandalous.

So, when we start to grasp (because, it can never be grasped fully; it is beyond us) exactly what God has done, in our own souls, that’s when we start to understand how deeply we long for our children to know that very same grace.

And, when we see our children ache, and when we suddenly understand the why behind their ache, we come to a new understanding that we can not fix their ache.  I cannot undo the turmoil my kids have experienced.  I would give absolutely anything, to be able to.  Absolutely anything.

But I can’t.

But, I can see.  And know.  And remember. And not forget.

But, even in all that, because I, myself, have experienced the scandalous grace of the cross, I know–maybe deeper then most– that that very same scandalous grace is their only hope.

And so, prayer.

I pray for my children.  Earnest prayer.  The ones that are Christ followers, and the ones that are not.  Yet.  (Please God, let that pause only be a “yet”.)  Real prayer.  Every single morning.  That they will know overarching saving grace in the form of a man who would willingly go to the cross for the forgiveness of their sins.

How Deep the Father’s Love.  So deep, it is nearly too much to bear.  Too much to look upon.  But that’s the kind of love I want my children to know.

But also this— that they would also know grace on a more micro scale–that they would sense God’s presence.  His very realness.  Their very not-aloneness.  That He will not abandon or forsake them.  That they will know that they are loved, deeply, by me, as inadequate as my love is.

And prayed for, consistently.  Without fail.

And, I will never, ever stop knowing and seeing and praying for them.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-25:

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

 

The Rebellion of Harmony

Old Hymnals

I love to sing.  Loudly.  (Last night, at choir practice, I think someone actually moved away from me, to preserve their hearing.)  I’m not very good, but singing has always been important to me.

Of course, being a PK/MK and always at church–always, always at church–Hymns were the earliest music I learned.  And, the once-a-month Sunday night “Pick Your Favorite Hymn” night was my favorite.  Not only could I wear polyester slacks or–on the crazy rare occasion–jeans that night to church, which was preferable to a dress for so many, many, many different reasons, but I also was pretty much guaranteed to get the chance to sing my favorite hymns.  Loudly.

  • Victory in Jesus “He plunged me, to VIIIICTORY….” (This song is best sung with a healthy dose of twang)
  • Footprints of Jesus (that make the pathway glow….so, how does that work, exactly?  Someone explain it to me, ’cause I imagine Jesus stepping in a vat of glow-in-the-dark paint and stomping around making awesome footprints)
  • Shall We Gather at the River (the beautiful, the beautiful)
  • Since Jesus Came Into My Heart (Extra points if whoever got assigned (stuck) leading worship that night held out the words “Siiiinnnccee” and “Rollllllllllll” for a couple of extra measures.)
  • Wonderful Grace of Jesus (Now, this was just fun to sing)
  • There is a Balm in Gilead (And this one was just fun to giggle at.  Poor Gilead got blown up by the bomb, repeatedly)

Early on, I somehow figured out how to sing harmony to the hymns.  I’m not exactly sure when or how that started.  I don’t remember anyone every really teaching me how, it just sort of happened.  And when I started taking piano lessons (O, Alicia and Joy, if you happen to read this, how did your poor mother put up with all of us?) and learned about chords, it gave me a name or structure to what I was singing.  Before that, I just sang what I thought sounded good, notes that seemed to “fit” the note that everyone else was singing.  (though I’m quite certain that many times, it did not.  Sound good that is.  Loud, always, though.  Loudly wrong, I’m sure.)

Part of what I liked, in singing different notes from everyone else, was exactly that–I thought singing what everyone else was singing was boring.  I thought it sounded prettier if there were different notes mixed in.  I wanted to be different.  A little bit of rebellion, I suppose.  (Not really, I wanted everyone’s approval far too much to be rebellious.  Then. When I was young.  However, I certainly made up for that, in the years that followed.)

Fast forward far more years than I care to admit.  Much life has happened.  I have gone from trying so hard to please God–to make Him “happy” with me, as a young girl, to dissolving in rebellious confidence that He couldn’t possibly exist, to discovery of authors that think like I think, and a discovery of hope, too, and eventually an earnest, though sometimes-wobbling, faith that He is who scripture says He is.

And, kind of like how my–relationship to?  belief of?  faith in?–God has changed, so has my connection to hymns.

Before, they were fun to sing.  Now, many of them, are so precious to me.

Some I now recognize as consisting of bad theology.  But many are so solid, so foundational.  So scriptural.  Truth.

  • Be Thou My Vision
  • When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
  • Hallelujah, What a Savior
  • Blessed Redeemer
  • Arise My Soul, Arise
  • All I Have is Christ

And so many others.

One morning this past week, friends from my church pulled into my driveway.  They brought me a gift worth more than gold to me—a box full of musty, old books.  (A thousand thank-you’s, Tim and Kay!)  Goodness, what a priceless gift.  I couldn’t believe it.  Such a gift.  Most were hymn books, published in the late 1800s.  (The picture above is just a small sample of what they gifted me with.)  Small, little volumes with tiny notes and tiny print, that I imagine were held by hundreds of hands.

And now, here I am, 141 years later, holding these treasures in my hands.  And marveling at the words on the pages.

Some hymns make me chuckle.  Like the one “Sung by the congregation, to the pastor, to welcome him back home to his congregation after he has sojourned.”  And, my favorite:  “Ask Me Not to Sip the Wine”  (Oh ask me not to sip the wine, the sparkling ruby wine, In ev’ry drop a serpent lurks, to sting the trusting heart, And lure it from all love-ly things For ev-er-more to part.)  Hmm.  But, still.  Very funny.

Some hymns, though, penetrate both my mind and soul a bit.

“Praise, my soul, the God that sought thee,

Wretched wanderer, far astray;

“Found thee lost and kindly brought thee

From the paths of death away;”

And so many others.

I imagine folks sitting in old, clapboard churches, fanning themselves because no air conditioning of course.  Little ones nodding off drowsily.  Mischievious ones plotting their after-church exploits.  Mom’s pinching the mischievious ones for not paying attention.  And, everyone singing. Loudly.

In four-part harmony.

I think it is the harmony that gets me.  The words, always and yes.  The longest collection of words in scripture are honest words and prayers put to music.  I love that.  I cherish words.

But, I also cherish harmony.

Singing harmony is kind of like saying to God:  God, I know scripture is truth.  And I know these words I’m singing are truth.  God, I know that you are God.  You have to be.  Please be.  Please.  More than tradition.  Be real.  Make this mess that I have made of my life, not so discordant.

And, when we sing harmony,  there is truth in doing so, that John Piper describes as this:

When we all sing the same melody line, it is called unison, which means “one sound.” But when we unite diverse lines of soprano and alto and tenor and bass, we call it harmony; and everyone who has an ear to hear knows that something deeper in us is touched differently by great harmony than by mere unison. (Piper)

There is beauty in the unity that comes from “one sound”, or unison.  But there is a richness in the uniting of “diverse lines”, that points to something deeper, something beyond the melody, to the richness and fullness found in the one to whom the words point us to.

A rebellion that says “You are more than one-dimensional.  You are more than tradition.  You are God.  You are real.  You are real.  And You we worship.”

……be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ….

Ephesians 5:18-21

Bactine

child-band-aid-lg

I am, this morning, so incredibly discouraged.  Deeply saddened.

My plate is full today–work, parenting–and yet I can’t seem to get out from underneath this ache in order to get moving.

I should take great encouragement in the midst of sharp alone-ness from the many, many scriptures that declare that God will never leave, nor forsake.  And, I do.  Deuteronomy 31:8.  Deuteronomy 31:6.  Joshua 1:9.  Matthew 28:20.  The list of scripture is long.  And, I’m fighting to grasp these truths.  I am grateful they are there.

But, good grief, this ache is so sharp.

It is made of all things ugly—first and foremost, my ugly, ugly sin.  Why am I so like Paul, continually doing the things I despise; his words are mine:  nothing good dwells in me.

And other things, too painful to put in words that are public and not pass-word protected and tucked away.

My heart—my soul–is failing this morning.

And so, I am finding the words of Psalm 73:23-26 to be like Bactine to me this morning.  Do you remember Bactine?  I don’t even know if they make it any more.  It’s the spray that the school nurse would use on your knees, when you’d go flying across the blacktop during recess and trip over an untied shoelace, and take a layer of skin off.  (Or maybe only I did that.  Weekly.)  You’d limp to the nurse, holding a bloody paper towel to your knee, and she’d roughly clean it off and then spray Bactine on it to make it better.  But, it didn’t feel like she was making it better, because Bactine stung.  Like crazy.  That’s what these verses are, to my raw soul (and knees) this morning:

 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
    you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Whom have I in heaven, but God?  My flesh and my heart are failing.  They are failing.  But I must work.  I must provide for my family.  I deeply want to care well for those God has brought into my world, who are hurting and shattered, as we meet today.  I must go to the grocery store.  I must figure out what is wrong with my stupid van, again.  I must pay the bills that are due today, and take my girl to violin lessons, and my boy to his soccer game.  But, o my soul, how my flesh and heart are failing.

God is the strength of my heart.  Bactine.  Whom have I in heaven, but you?  Bactine.  Nevertheless, I am continually with you.  Bactine.  You hold me my right hand.  Bactine.  God is my portion forever.  Bactine.  There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  Bactine.

These words sting.  I’m not sure why, they just do.  They hurt.  But sometimes we need Bactine to keep the infection of despair at bay.  Why, soul, are you downcast?  Hope in God.  Hope in God.

And afterward, you will receive me to glory.

Yes, please.