Category Archives: Kindness of Strangers

5 Friday Faves – Awards Speeches, Castle Theme, Prayer Breakfast, Harmony, and a Comedian

Hello, Friday! You know those kind of days when you work really, really hard, and you come home too tired to eat, much less cook….but it’s a good tired. You sink down in the closest chair…and 10 minutes later, wake up from a nap that felt longer…and…on with finishing the week… Hope your tired is a good tired. Here are five of my favorite finds…just for you!

1) Awards Speeches – We are in that season of awards shows – the Oscar, Golden Globe, Grammy, among others. Those of us who watch these shows do so to catch all the gorgeous or peculiar actors in the audience and stage. The fashions are a draw as well. For me, I love to hear what the award recipients say when they receive their award…their prepared words/speech. What they choose to showcase in their few minutes before their peers and the watching world. On the recent Screen Actors Guild Awards show, my favorite speech of the year was by Taraji P. Henson. She spoke for all the actors of Hidden Figures which won the award of Outstanding Performance By A Cast in a Motion Picture.

#sagawards

“We stand here as proud actors." – Taraji P. Henson on behalf of the cast of Hidden Figures.

Posted by Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, January 29, 2017

Watch her speech in the clip, or read it here. Part of it follows: “This story is of unity,” she concluded. “This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside and we come together as a human race. We win. Love wins every time.”

No political posturing. No pitting of one group against another. Lovely. Hopeful. True.

2) The Castle ThemeNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has done it again. He has taken the background music of a favorite videogame and demonstrated the incredible beauty to be found there. Castle Theme from Super Mario World is his latest arrangement for classical guitar. I honestly don’t know how he plays as fast as he does. Check it out here.

3) Prayer Breakfast – These days you never know what to expect in public observances. Protests, boycotts, and marches. A quieter but significant  event is the National Prayer Breakfast observed in February each year since 1953, in Washington, D.C. Keynote speakers in the past have included Mother Teresa, Bono, and Tony Blair. This year retired Rear Admiral Barry Black, the Senate Chaplain, delivered the message.  So powerful! He spoke on Making Your Voice Heard in Heaven.  If you can’t watch all incredible 25 minutes, at least watch from minute 22:16. Wow!

4) Harmony – Don’t you love when music and life flow with harmony? Jay Lyons is a filmmaker whose work I follow. In response to the dissonance of voices in this week’s newstream, he and his family wrote and performed together a song about harmony. Watch it here: Our House – Harmony – Jay Lyons & Family. Photo Credit: Music Early Childhood Presenter

5) A Comedian –  While Facebook friends of mine are deactivating left and right because of all the political wrangling going on right now, I had the biggest chuckle when a video featuring comedian John Crist showed up on my newsfeed. It’s about trying to find a parking place at a mega-church. He is new to me and so funny. Several of his videos are posted on his website. Enjoy.Photo Credit: YouTube

So that’s all I’ve got…jumping into my pajamas to fall asleep in front of the TV…don’t even care what’s on. Before I sign off though, I’d like to give a shout-out to Mike Sheley, owner/operator of the brand-new Chick-Fil-A at Smith Crossroads, Lenoir, North Carolina. This restaurant just opened this week. If you know about Chick-Fil-A, you know it’s all about a great-tasting chicken sandwich…and much more. Mike and team have a huge commitment to the community. Even before their grand opening, the restaurant team sponsored a book drive for local elementary schools and filled food boxes for Feeding Children Everywhere (over 10,000 meals total).Photo Credit: Facebook, Chick-Fil-A

Hope you have a great weekend, and if you’re anywhere near Lenoir, North Carolina, say hi to Mike & Jessica Sheley…and “eat mor chikin'”.

 

Monday Morning Moment – Syrian Refugees – No One Puts Their Children On a Boat…Unless

What drives people to leave everything behind – everything they have known and owned – and board a sea-bound, over-loaded boat for an unknown future? My sense is it’s running for one’s life…rather than their path to terrorism.

These days in the US, we are adjusting to a new presidential administration and changing policies. Protests and social media wars abound. How to understand and what to really believe are challenging.

What is true?

A wise friend responded to my voiced struggle of what to think about our nation’s changing views on immigrants and refugees:

“The people trying to escape evil we want to welcome. The people who want to export evil we want to identify and shut down.”

Though not prepared myself to address the latter, I would like to highlight the plight of refugees…especially Syrian refugees. A poem I discovered just yesterday is real and riveting…and can put the reader on that sagging boat, holding our children tight, and hoping we will make it to that distant shore. With no idea what will come next.Photo Credit: CNN

Warsan Shire, a young Somali woman who grew up in London, writes deeply personal poetry about life and struggle. Her poem Home is a powerful description of the refugee experience…especially the Syrian, but it could speak to others as well [read the whole poem here].

No one leaves home unless
Home is the mouth of a shark
You only run for the border
When you see the whole city running as well

You only leave home
When home won’t let you stay.

No one leaves home unless home chases you
Fire under feet.

You have to understand,
That no one puts their children in a boat
Unless the water is safer than the land
No one burns their palms
Under trains
Beneath carriages
No one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck

No one crawls under fences
No one wants to be beaten
Pitied

No one chooses refugee camps.

Go home…

Refugees
Dirty immigrants
Asylum seekers
Sucking our country dry…
Messed up their country and now they want
To mess ours up

How do the words
The dirty looks
Roll off your backs
Maybe because the blow is softer
Than a limb torn off

I want to go home,
But home is the mouth of a shark
Home is the barrel of the gun
And no one would leave home
Unless home chased you to the shore

I don’t know what I’ve become
But I know that anywhere
Is safer than here.          – Warsan Shire

What can we do for refugees? Jesus’ teaching prevents his followers from blaming others, airing our impotent opinions, or sinking into compassion fatigue. Jesus poured his life out for us…all of us…and teaches us to do the same.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Jesus – Matthew 25:34-40

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To the refugee (probably not reading this, but I want to come out of silence somehow): There are those of us, in this country, who will do what we can to welcome you here and to be neighbor to you when you finally arrive. Forgive us that we haven’t done more. We have been shaken out of our slumber of unbelief at your suffering. Praying for you until you are home again…wherever that will be.

Home by Warsan Shire

YouTube Video – People of Nowhere – Lior Sperandeo

Baptist Global Response

Loving the Alien – PDF – Bible Study from Jubilee Centre, Cambridge, UK

Scripture and Immigration

5 (Biblical) Reasons Christians Must Care for Asylum Seekers – Matt Darvas

5 Friday Faves – Snow Days, Organizing Your Life, Riveting Short Film, Dayman Cover, and the Possibility of Unity

Friday again. Whew…this week flew…for me, anyway. I have some great finds for you…as usual, if I might be so bold. Friday Faves celebrate the hard work and achievements of others that encourage me and I hope encourage you. So here goes:

1) Snow Days – For some of you snow comes in months not just days. For us, it’s a few glorious days of this…and I love it!
I have no need for heavy snow recreation…just the quiet, the beauty, the slowing down of life, and the camaraderie of those snowed-in or out with you (family, neighbors, colleagues). More books, more coffee, more hours in pj’s, and more meditation on the Creator who orchestrated such beauty for our pleasure.

2) Organizing Your Life – Leadership coach Paul Sohn has posted the most fascinating infographic on organizing your life – not just your home space, but your work and social media spaces. Really helpful!!

Photo Credit: Paul Sohn

3) Riveting Short Film – It is so easy to allow our attention to drift away from important issues. The news stream is so full and fast-moving.  About a year ago, National Geographic showcased a short film by Lior Sperandeo entitled People of Nowhere. It puts the film-watcher on the seashore as boat after boat of Syrian refugees arrive, some barely alive…leaving everything and desperately risking all they have left – each other and life itself. Compelling and transforming…and still happening.Photo Credit: Vimeo

4) Dayman Cover – One of the longest running TV sitcoms in the US is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Out of this edgy sometimes dark comedy came a song that is known and loved by the show’s fandom – that song being Dayman. Here is the clip from the show and below is the cover arranged for classical guitar by Nathan at Beyond the Guitar. [The Green Man is a frequent character on the show.]

The social media buzz over this video was fun to watch as well.

Photo Credit: Instagram via Facebook

Watch:  Green Person Performs ‘The Dayman’ From ‘Always Sunny’ Classical Guitar – Michael Tanenbaum – The Philly Voice

5) The Possibility of Unity – Political conversations post-election in the US continue to simmer and sometimes boil over. There is no hope for unity unless we do the work to forging a path. Therein lies the possibility. Two thought-provoking posts came out this week of the topic – one from a business leadership writer, Jarrod Shappell, and the other from a Christian thinker and author, Philip Yancey.

Photo Credit: Jarrod Shappell; Philip Yancey (YouTube)

First, this from Jarrod Shappell:

“In The Anatomy of Peace, a fantastic book about attempted reconciliation between leaders of Israel and Palestine, the authors say, ‘In the way we regard our children, our spouses, neighbors, colleagues, and strangers, we choose to see others either as people like ourselves or as objects. They either count like we do or they don’t. In the former case we regard them as we regard ourselves, we say our hearts are at peace toward them. In the latter case, since we systematically view them as inferior, we say our hearts are at war.’ If we continue to believe that we are on the superior side of the argument, we will only objectivity, vilify, and perpetuate conflict.

Finding healthy unity that embraces difference is no easy hunt. We prefer to retreat into our tribal groups among people who think and act like us. We say we value different points of view but rarely seek them out. We feign listening but are really just forming our next rebuttal. All of that is unity’s most insidious counterfeit – uniformity. We are seduced by the enjoyment of confusing sameness with unity.

We fear that adapting our viewpoints is compromising our values (spoiler alert: it’s not). But true unity is hard, gritty, messy work. It takes guts to let go of the need to be right. It takes the deepest of principles to understand your “enemy’s” views rather than vilify them. And only the greatest of organizations, communities, and leaders will take the leap of faith away from their staunchly held ideals in the belief, hope, and determination that there is room for both theirs, and others, ideals.”  – Jarrod Shappell, Navalent

Then, from Philip Yancey:

“Francis Schaeffer added, ‘Love—and the unity it attests to—is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world.  Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.…It is possible to be a Christian without showing the mark, but if we expect non-Christians to know that we are Christians, we must show the mark.’  I see that as the biggest challenge facing committed Christians in the new year.

As the dust settles from the storm of 2016, I pray that those of us who follow Jesus remember that mark above all.  The apostle Paul used these words to describe the characteristics of a true Christian: humility, charity, joy, peace, gentleness, forbearance, patience, goodness, self-control—words in short supply last election year.  Republicans will busy themselves with the difficult task of governing a factious nation in a perilous world.  Democrats will huddle to devise a new playbook.  May Christians of all persuasions remember that our ultimate allegiance and our ultimate hope belong to neither party.  As resident aliens in a divided nation, may we too form pioneer settlements to show the world the Jesus way.” – Philip Yancey, Election Reflections: Bridging the Gap

Bonus: Kris Kristofferson – Story behind his song Why Me, Lord? and the latest on this man’s amazing life:

Rolling Stone: Kris Kristofferson: An Outlaw at 80

Have a great, great weekend. Please share with us (in the Comments) any favorite finds of your own this week.

5 Friday Faves – Christmas YouTube Videos, Peace on Earth – Good Will Toward All, Tim Tebow Miracle, Christmas Ad & Language of Love, and Mary’s Song

Happy Friday! We are now in that strange time warp of December – holding on tight as the days as fly past! Still, we will not be vanquished as we seize the moments to savor the joy and meaning of this Christmas season. Here are some of my favorite finds of this week to give wonder, make you chuckle, or just to enjoy over coffee on your break today. Blessings!

1) Christmas YouTube Videos – What are some of your favorites? (Please post in Comments)

2) Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward All – There’s something about Christmas that gentles the hearts of people toward each other. Ceasefires in the many wars around the world…kindnesses to strangers…reaching out to those in hard places. Situations when we see the face of Jesus in those who don’t necessarily believe as we do. Here is a story about a restaurant serving homeless and elderly on Christmas Day…lovely. (Jesus taught us this and lived this- Mark 12:30-31)Photo Credit: Independent

3) Tim Tebow Miracle – As talented and relentless an athlete as Tim Tebow is, his career has had many detours and disappointments. Yet, he is never disappointed in his God. In his book, Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms, he shares how God…this big faithful God…showed up for him, time and time again. In an interview with Harry Connick, Jr., he talked about the game as the Denver Broncos quarterback when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs (2012).  Amazing story. Read it here or watch in video below.

4) Christmas Ad & Language of Love – In my 40s, I learned Arabic… Living in Cairo, Egypt, at the time, I wanted to be able to communicate to my neighbors and friends. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done…but I did it, not for any intellectual satisfaction, but out of love. This Christmas ad out of Poland (but in English) reminds me of those days:

5) Mary’s SongFrancesca Battistelli wrote a song “Be Born in Me” of how it must have been for the Virgin Mary on receiving the word from God that she would carry and bear the Messiah for the whole world. The message to my own heart is give space for the Messiah as well. Beautiful.

As you go through this day and the weekend…be safe…enjoy the best of this season…and save space for the wonder of the Christ child…and the Messiah Himself…to be home in your heart forever.

353 Prophecies Fulfilled in Jesus Christ

5 Friday Faves – Kids in Costume, Infographic for Learners, Words, Eric Metaxas, and Walking to School

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It’s Friday! Another week finished… I’m looking forward to catching up with some family this weekend. How about you? Choosing favorite finds for the week was difficult – lots to choose from, but some were most note-worthy negatively rather than friendly favorites – political commentary, etc. I decided to stay more upbeat with the faves posted. So here they are.

1) Kids in Costume – Don’t you love kids in costume? When our children were preschoolers, we had a toy-chest full of dress-up clothes thanks to grandmothers who made or found fun outfits for them. Some of those costumes ended up overseas with us. [See below.}img_9943With Halloween around the corner, I’m sure we’ll see kids of all ages in their favorite character wear. It’s nice when there are more opportunities to dress-up besides just this one day of the year (like superhero day at school). We didn’t celebrate Halloween when our kids were growing up, but I do love the costumes….well, and the candy (but that’s another topic). There’s sometime transformative when kids put these kinds of duds on… Let the bravado begin!blog-kids-in-costume-bourdoff-familyPhoto Credit: Aaron and Jamie Burdorf

2) Infographic of Usual Tips for All Types of Learners – Two of my favorite things to discover are 1) infographics and 2) helps for various types of learners. Here it’s two-in-one. Design Taxi created a study guide to aid four types of learners – the visual learner, the auditory learner, the read and write learner, and the kinesthetic learner. I’m a blend of visual and read/write learner. Check out the infographic, especially you students out there – could help you change gears through your heavy reading assignments and exams. As an example, a visual learner comprehends more information off a printed page rather than a screen. Highlighting words in my notes also helps me focus on key concepts. Lots of great study hacks.blog-lachlan-brown-infographic-of-useful-tips-twitter

Photo Credit: Lachlan Brown, Twitter

3) Words – Gary Chapman has written several books around the theme of love languages. Here’s one. Chapman defines love languages as the ways we most clearly experience love from a spouse, a friend, a coworker. He lists five love languages – touch, words of affirmation, gifts, time, and acts of service. Words are definitely one of my love languages. I really appreciate when people affirm something they see in me that they love.

My mama was always encouraged by the gift of words.  In 2002, the cancer she had already had for two years was getting worse. She died in November 2002. Some time afterward, I was one of the family responsible for packing up her personal belongings. In the drawers of her computer desk, she had hundreds of cards.img_9942

I just couldn’t throw them away. That day, too near to her dying, I just put them all in a box.  Just this week I pulled them out and went through them. It was a huge and healing experience. All the words – cards chosen by friends and family in the year of her fiercest battle. All the words that they also wrote to her to express their love and to remind her how strong she was…and how big her God was. As I read through card after card, I could feel the deep love between these card writers and my mom. Some of these friends have also died since Mom died. So grateful for the legacy of these words and the love they expressed so beautifully. Thankful for them…and for you who took the time to share them with her.

That era when people sent cards…I miss it. What a blessing to have folks in my life who still write and send cards. Those words fill my heart and lighten the load.

4) Eric Metaxas – Do you know him? His writing and speaking have been excellent company for me this year.  Eric Metaxas is a historian, writer, lecturer, and social commentator. His books include Bonhoeffer, 7 Men, 7 Women, and most recently If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty. Metaxas has been a strong conservative voice in this election year. I have learned from him.President Barack Obama stands with keynote speaker Eric Metaxas as Vice President Joe Biden takes their photo during the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., Feb. 2, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.blog-eric-metaxas-eventbritePhoto Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Eventbrite

What has been especially gratifying for me this year is Metaxas’ take on what is happening in our country. I am ignorant about so many things and he has aided my understanding of some of the cultural changes we are experiencing.

[A sidebar on Metaxas is that he was once a wary and restless intellectual. Then at the age of 25, he had a dream that drew him to a personal faith in God. He describes more about his faith in the I Am Second video. Still a studied intellectual, he is focused, fearless, and empassioned…a Christ-follower and patriot.]

5) Walking to School – This week, on Facebook, I saw a video short entitled School The World: Journey. It compared two children’s very different experiences of getting to school each day. One was a young Guatemalan boy whose trek to school took him 2 1/2 hours.

I then discovered another film by French director Pascal Plisson. This documentary, On the Way to School, follows four children (in Kenya, India, Morocco, and Argentina) on their difficult paths to schools far from their homes. We take easily accessible education so for granted in the West.  Tymm Hoffman, a regular guy, who works for Compassion International decided to do something about this…at least for one community, for now. He and his wife, Laura, spearheaded a great effort called Brighton Their World. One of the goals of this was to fund a school in Ethiopia. Brighton Academy is a reality today, thanks to them and those who help support this great work. By the way, Brighton is the name of one of their children – all of whom were born in Ethiopia, but he died before coming home to them in the States.

On the Way to School – Film Review

Bonus: 16 Personalities – The Myers-Briggs [Personality] Type Indicator(MBTI) is a fascinating look at our differences. It’s not really about putting us in some behavior box; it’s about seeing what our preferences are how we are energized, how we take in information, and how we make decisions. I’ve enjoyed knowing coworkers’ personalities (based on the MBTI)…it’s helped me better understand them and how to communicate to them in ways they prefer. Cuts through a lot… Anyway, here’s a free test with good commentary.  In case you’re interested, I’m an ENFP – a “campaigner”. What is your personality type?

blog-16-personalities-snapcraft

Photo Credit: Snapcraft

Have a sweet weekend…be safe. Share your favorites with us in the Comments. Thanks!

5 Friday Faves – Hurricane Matthew, Engaging Older Adults, Life After Downton, Leading Change, and a Fall Evening

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It’s Friday, and tomorrow Hurricane Matthew is supposed to move into Virginia. Wind and rain. Hopefully we won’t lose power, but over a million folks in Florida did, so we wait and see.

Here are my favorite finds of this week. Two are actually blogs by the same writer, Carey Nieuwhof. He is a wise leader and gives excellent counsel to those of us who also want to lead well.

  1. Hurricane Matthew – The Caribbean and Florida have been hit hard by this week’s hurricane. A Category 4 storm through the Caribbean and now Category 3, passing through Florida and into Georgia tonight. Hundreds of deaths and the storm devastation is massive. I am so thankful for disaster response agencies who take definitive action quickly in times like this. Baptist Global Response (BGR) is that kind of organization, working with local partners to help in the life-saving areas of clean water, food security, shelter and supplies and general health of the peoples most hard-hit. Because of the work of other NGO’s already in Haiti, BGR is targeting its disaster relief efforts on Cuba.blog-hurricane-matthew-commondreamsblog-hurricane-matthew-wtvrPhoto Credit: Common Dreams; WTVR

2) Engaging Older Adults – Carey Nieuwhof posted a helpful 5 points list on engaging older adults. Shut Down the Bus Tours: What Older Church Members Should Really Be Doing. This post could just as easily been written any group of older adults who could be a tremendous resource if engaged…otherwise they are going to just keep getting on those buses.blog-senior-citizens-bus-tours-angeltourPhoto Credit: AngelTour

Not that older adults don’t deserve vacations after so many years in the work force and serving in their churches and families. Still, Nieuwhof makes a serious case for mobilizing seniors back into service where they are needed to mentor, model, guide, and cast vision for the next generations. The Fall Leaf bus tours are upon us, but we also need these valuable men and women among us as well.

3) Life After Downton – What to Watch Now – I do miss Downton Abbey, but fortunately we do have other viewing options. Amazon Screening Room lists out lovely period pieces that can scratch our itch for Downton. Two I’ve already watched are Doctor Thorne and Grantchester. Would love to hear some of your recommendations!blog-dr-thorneblog-after-downtonPhoto Credit: Screening Room

4) Leading Change – Canadian pastor, Carey Nieuwhof, is also a writer and speaker on leadership. carey-nieuwhof-blogPhoto Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

He wrote Leading Change Without Losing It: 5 Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition. In a blog this week, he takes from his book, focusing on how to lead through change in the face of opposition. A few of his observations are:

  • People aren’t opposed to change nearly as much as they are opposed to change they didn’t think of.
  • Usually no more than 10% of the people you lead are opposed to change.
  • Fear of opposition derails more leaders than actual opposition.
  • Buy-in happens most fully when people understand why, rather than what or how.

5) Firepit on a Fall Evening with S’Mores – This week marks the true arrival of Fall here with temperatures dropping and leaves just beginning to turn colors. We had our first marshmallow roast on an outdoor fire. Making S’mores – that camping treat of graham crackers, Hershey’s chocolate bars, and melted marshmallows. Thus marking the start of my favorite season. Lots of pics to follow of brilliant Fall leaves and fun times outside without the heat of summer.blog-smores-and-a-firepit

Be safe out there. Hope you East Coasters in the States are not too troubled by Hurricane Matthew. Have a restful weekend. Leave us your favorite finds of the week in the Comments below. Thanks.

5 Friday Faves – Raising Mentally Strong Kids, Syrian White Helmets, Combating Stress, Frosted Lemonade, & the Latest Video by my Favorite Guitarist

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End of the week. Short and sweet. Here are my 5 favorite finds for this first week of September. Comment on your finds also, please.

1) Raising Mentally Strong Kids – We all want our children to grow up capable to thrive in the world as it is today. To have capacity to both work and lead in situations that might prove stressful, even immobilizing if they hadn’t developed certain strengths. For them to be mentally Strong, mentally tough, resilient – what do our children need from the adults in their lives.blog-resilience-drgarybrowntherapyPhoto Credit: DrGaryBrownTherapy

After the first article below popped up on my Facebook newsfeed, my interest was piqued and I went hunting for others. Below I’ve bullet-pointed some good and quick reads on how we can help our children develop mental strength and resilience.

I may write on this more another time, to make it easier on you. Raising mentally strong kids takes a lot of study anyway…here we go!resilience-blogPhoto Credit: TracieCZabatol

2) White Helmets – Syrian Civil Defence – In an Al Jazeera article, Maria Jan writes of her interview with White Helmets founder, James Le Mesurier.  White Helmets are first responders, volunteer rescuers, who brave fresh bombing sites. Knowing they could also die in a fresh bombing raid…but they still respond. They make up the Syrian Civil Defence. Organized in 2013, there are currently 2700 rescuers, both men and women. Le Mesurier says of them, “They had a choice to either become a refugee, pick up a gun, or pick up a stretcher.” They are committed to care for the victims, no matter what political or religious group. “Their job is to save people’s lives not to judge them.”

blog-white-helmets-the-good-storyPhoto Credit: The Good Story

There is a multi-agency, multi-national effort for the White Helmets to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Heroes. Good news in a sea of bad.blog-al-jazeera-the-white-helmetsPhoto Credit: Al Jazeera

3) Combating Stress – Since my cancer surgery earlier this summer, I’ve become a student of how to live healthy. Still a student…not an expert nor practitioner, necessarily. While on a trip to the beach recently, I was reading two books simultaneously.  Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds by Kelly A. Turner Ph.D.  describes “9 key factors that can make a real difference”. I am not recommending this book necessarily because it features so many traditional and non-traditional practices, it’s overwhelming really. The strength of the book, however, is the whole mindset or perspective of taking charge of your health. I appreciated that. A friend of mine calls it a survivorship plan. The stories of those who are living “against all odds” are thrilling. Thinking about staying well and what I may include in practicing wellness have already brought down a large measure of stress in my life. blog-booksThe other book I’m reading is  The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer. This is focused on the battles we all find ourselves in and how Christ-followers especially can deal with them. Taken from the Scripture Ephesians 6:10-19, the book goes in-depth on how we can walk in what is true and not in the shadows of fear, worry, and the “what seems true”.

4) Frosted Lemonade – You know on those hot, hot days, and you have lots of errands where you are in and out of the car, you could really use some lovely cold beverage, right? Sweet tea might be one of those go’to’s. For me, yesterday, it was the frosted lemonade with diet lemonade) at Chick-fil-A. I was shocked to find it is on the Dessert menu (ordering it with diet instead of their regular lemonade at least takes it down to 240 calories for a small). It is so refreshing. Even better (can’t believe I’m saying this) than the frosted orange from The Varsity. If you have neither of these options where you live, what’s your go-to cold beverage (while driving)?

blog-varsity-frosted-orangeblog-chickfila-frosted-lemonadePhoto Credit: Pinterest; Chick-fil-A

5) Latest Video by my Favorite Guitarist – Nathan Mills posted a new video this week.  Those of you who follow him (or just me) know that he is a classical guitarist who writes and performs arrangements of themes from movies, TV shows, and video games. I have no idea what the game World of Warcraft is, but his arrangement of the Neal Acree’s Anduin Theme follows. Just lovely.

nathan-mills-twitter-world-of-warcraft-legionPhoto Credit: Twitter

Even composer Neal Acree thought so…and we agree with him, right?

blog-nathan-and-neal-acreePhoto Credit: Twitter

Have a low-stress, safe, and sweet weekend! Thanks for stopping by.

5 Friday Faves – The Insanity of God, a Magical Baseball Moment, Saving a Syrian Baby, Downton Abbey Returns, and Beauty & the Beast

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Here we are with another Friday. So ready for today! Not because I live for the weekend, but because this is a wonder all on its own. Where we are, school is back in session after Labor Day, so there’s lots of activity around us with getting kiddos ready to go to school. Last vacations, last school shopping, and then the firsts begin of this new school year.

Today’s Faves are all about film. Please share favorite films you have discovered, too (including video shorts on Youtube, etc) in Comments below.

1) The Insanity of God – This is a limited release documentary taken from the book The Insanity of God – a True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripken with Gregg Lewis. It follows the lives of a missionary family in Africa, and then tells stories of people they met in different countries of the world…These people became followers of Jesus in places where they would experience extreme persecution for that decision. Their experiences were difficult to watch, even as actors reenacted them . However, I still strongly recommend it to anyone interested in knowing more about God. The most striking takeaway for me was how the suffering they experienced paled compared to their experience of God’s love and care, even in hard places.

Blog - The Insanity of God - Dmitri

I wrote about one of these persecuted believers here.

The Insanity of God will be screened once more on September 13 at selected theaters. The DVD will then be released on November 21.

Blog - The Insanity of God

2) A Baseball Magical Moment – My dad, who has Alzheimer’s, has had a rough week. He’s doing better now, and I’m thankful for family close by him who watch out for him. I bring that up because he loves baseball…well, actually, he loves BRAVES baseball. Still, I think he would love this baseball story about Michael Lorenzen, pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. Michael’s dad died recently, and the day he returned to play, he had an emotional and magical moment.Blog - Friday Faves - Michael Lorenzen - lindyssportsPhoto Credit: LindysSports

He hit his first homerun of his major leagues career. Don’t miss the video – really sweet, whether you’re a baseball lover or not. I plan to show it to my dad on our next visit.

3) Saving a Syrian Baby – The war in Syria and the refugee crisis have given us terrifying and anguished views of human suffering. One video that popped up on my Facebook newsfeed this week showed a medical team operating on a pregnant Syrian woman who had been critically wounded from a barrel bomb. They were treating her and at some point decided they needed to surgically deliver the baby. You want to watch this here. [The video is 6:17; for sure, watch 3:11 onward]. I know a little Arabic and there’s a lot of celebrating going on in the operating suite. Those doctors must see a lot of terrible wounds from all the bombing, but that day the war didn’t win.Blog - Syrian Mother and Baby - surgical team - mashablePhoto Credit: Mashable

4) Downton Abbey Returns – This week PBS aired a special titled I Miss Downton Abbey. It gave all of us fans another opportunity to revisit that fabulous ensemble cast and to hear some of the behind-the-scenes production bits. For any of you who still haven’t seen Downton Abbey, and now regret that decision, you are in for a treat this weekend. For those who have access to PBS broadcasting, Downton Abbey is going to be shown all this weekend – all 6 seasons – starting Friday evening and going through Monday. Woohoo! Blog - Downton Abbey - radiotimesPhoto Credit: Radiotimes

5) Beauty & the Beast – I just saw a news brief that in March, 2017 (which is 6 months from now!), a live action Beauty & the Beast is being released. Emma Watson is playing Belle and Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens is playing the Beast. The buzz is already started about how can you take such a gorgeous animated film and re-do it. Why would you want to? Knowing Disney Studios, it will be amazing.Blog - Beauty and the Beast - Live Action - etonlinePhoto Credit: Etonline

Hope you have a sweet weekend…a holiday weekend for us in the US. I might binge a bit on Downton Abbey while doing laundry and other work around the house…until then, here’s the theme by my favorite guitarist – Nathan @beyondtheguitar.

5 Friday Faves – Stress & Myers-Briggs, Contentment, Olympic Heroes, Marriage Advice, and Jambalaya

Blog - Friday Faves

Friday…here we meet again. This was another week that fairly flew. Next week, I plan to slow it down. The Summer Olympics end this weekend, so my sleep schedule will return to normal. It’s been a fascinating series of games. Do you have a favorite event? For me, it’s women’s gymnastics, swimming, and track and field. Lots to celebrate there.

My five favorite finds for this week are:

1) Stress and Myers-Briggs – My first time taking the Myers-Briggs personality type inventory was at the start of my career. I am an ENFP. However, as the years have gone by, and my understanding of how to get things done has matured, I test more as an ESFJ. If you’ve never taken this inventory, this may be all psycho-babble to you, but for me, it was a tool that helped me grow professionally and personally. I was a more considerate teammate having this information in my work toolbox, so to speak. Susan Storm‘s article on stress and how different personality types react to it was fascinating. Storm also gives counsel how to help depending on the personality type. Blog- MBTI and Stress - psychology junkiePhoto Credit: Psychology Junkie

If you’re unfamiliar with Myers-Briggs [Personality] Type Inventory, you can find a quick explanation of it and the different personalities here. Storm’s article on personality and dealing with stress was affirming of what I already know and am doing in stressful situations. My husband is an ISTJ (Introvert, Sensing, Thinking, Judging – again study up if you assume you know what this means but don’t really). When he is stressed, it’s helpful for me to give him space, affirm the real ways he’s managing his stress well, and helping him carve out time to exercise. These are all helps to him. As an ENFP at heart, what helps me is your confidence that I can be successful, and not asking for details and not trying to “fix” the problem. What helps you in periods of stress?

2) Contentment – When I struggle with discontent, it’s because my focus has shifted such that all I have is distorted by what I think I want. Megan Burns, a counselor friend of mine, writes: “The ‘more’ that we hunger for won’t be satisfied by anything in this world. Our desires are met in God, and in Him we have all that we need… we lack nothing. Our joy and our worth are not defined by our situation or our accomplishments. In the Lord’s presence is fullness of joy… and that’s something that doesn’t change or fade; He is with us, and He is always good and faithful.” Megan points us to God who is writing his story in our lives. When we give into discontent, it’s like we want to erase the story he is writing. May it never be so. Read more here. Blog - Contentment - nancyarueggPhoto Credit: Nancy Ruegg

Contentment & Other Lessons – the Legacy of Jerry Bridges – Deb Mills

Satisfaction & Contentment – a Journey and a Destination – Deb Mills

Finding Contentment – Nancy Ruegg

3) Olympic Heroes – There were so many situations in the Olympic Games over the last two weeks where we caught glimpses of heroes. Young athletes who pushed through adverse situations. Teams who cheered one another, as well as athletes not on their teams, on to victory. This 5000m qualifying race demonstrated that heroism. When American runner Abbey D’Agostino clipped the foot of New Zealander Nikki Hamblin, they both fell . D’Agostino got up and helped Hamblin to her feet, and they ran a bit together. Then D’Agostino somehow injured her knee and went down again. Hamblin then helped her back up and they continued on. She finished the race before D’Agostino, but they both finished…because their compassion shown more brightly than their competitiveness.Blog - Olympic Heroes - FoxsportsBlog - Olympic Heroism - foxsportsPhoto Credit: Fox Sports

4) Marriage Advice – On Friday’s, writer/publisher Trevin Wax posts his Trevin’s Seven. They are his favorite reads of the week. This week, he posted a peculiar yet timely little piece on Charles Spurgeon’s mother-in-law’s marital advice. Written by Spurgeonologist, Christian George, the advice was spoken to Charles’ fiancée, Susannah, on an occasion when she became angry at his slighting her. Her mother advised her simply and wisely:

  • Think twice before marrying a minister.
  • Use your God-given talents in your Gospel-centered marriage.
  • Ministry comes first for the married couple.

This advice of another era (1850s) may not sit well with some today but please read Christian George’s further narrative on the subject. There is wisdom for anyone considering marriage and ministry together.Blog - Susannah Spurgeon - revive our heartsPhoto Credit: Revive Our Hearts

5) Jambalaya – This Cajun/Creole stew has become my children’s favorite thing I make. Crockpot Jambalaya. It’s from Taste of Home. The recipe follows with some of my adaptations. I buy the various meats when they are on sale; store them in the freezer, and when it suits a family gathering, pull them all out and crockpot them.

Blog - Jambalaya - Campbells KitchenPhoto Credit: CampbellsKitchen

Total Time: Prep: 35 min. Cook: 4-1/4 hours
MAKES: 11 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) beef or chicken broth
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste (or another can of diced tomatoes)
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 medium green peppers, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced (not the biggest fan of garlic so sometimes I forget to add it – still tastes marvelous!)
  • 3 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes [I actually use boneless skinless chicken thighs or a mixture, and I use 2 pounds.]
  • 1 pound smoked sausage, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (I use 1 pound frozen shelled cooked shrimp, thawed, removing the tails)
  • Hot cooked rice

Nutritional Facts

230 calories: 1 cup, 13g fat (5g saturated fat), 75mg cholesterol, 1016mg sodium, 9g carbohydrate (5g sugars, 2g fiber), 20g protein.

Directions

  1. In a 5-qt. slow cooker, combine the tomatoes, broth and tomato paste. Stir in the celery, green peppers, onion, garlic and seasonings. Stir in chicken and sausage.
  2. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours or until chicken is no longer pink. Stir in shrimp. Cover and cook 15-30 minutes longer or until shrimp turn pink. Serve over rice.
    Freeze option: Place individual portions of cooled stew in freezer containers and freeze. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Heat through in a saucepan, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if necessary.
    Yield: 11 servings.

Even in the heat of summer, this is such a yummy meal…maybe for this weekend. Have a relaxing weekend, and share your week’s favorites if you will in Comments below.

Worship Wednesday – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

Blog - If We're Honest - behappyPhoto Credit: BeHappy

This is the message which we have heard from him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. . . if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:5-9

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  James 5:16

I’ve always tried to be pretty much a “what you see if what you get” sort of person…and my husband is the same. We tried to raise our children the same. No pretenses. No false fronts. Fully human with both its strengths and weaknesses. This can backfire on occasion when an opinion or action rankles a developed sensibility on the part of another family member or friend.

Fortunately, if that loved one also determines to live with transparency and understanding, there can be great grace. My sister-in-law and I have been friends for all the years we’ve known each other. Marrying brothers, we became sisters ourselves. She gave me the Willow Tree statue below. It reminds me of us.Blog - If We're Honest - Willow Tree from StacieWe talk about everything…all the good stuff and all the hard stuff. For years we’ve laid our lives bare in front of each other, knowing, completely confident, that we’re both safe. I pray that never changes. No matter what is going on in our marriage, or our parenting, our friendships, or our faith, we have determined to love each other always.

This friendship is like others I have been fortunate to have. Clearly, God meant for His children to have these sorts of relationships. Open, accepting, deeply caring, and loving no matter what. These kinds of relationships foster confessional living.

W. David. O. Taylor is a pastor and educator.  In his blog, The Discipline of Living a Confessional Life, he talks about this. He writes to artists but his observations apply to us all.

What does it mean to live a confessional life? It means that we live in a way that trusted others are always being invited to know our deepest weaknesses and failures. Dallas Willard puts it this way: in the discipline of confession “we lay down the burden of hiding and pretending, which normally takes up such a dreadful amount of human energy” (Spirit of the Disciplines, 188).

Anything we keep hidden is a breeding ground for Satan-manipulating, flesh-arousing dysfunction: self-pity, self-aggrandizement, self-protectiveness, self-indulging, self-destructiveness, the very stuff that fights against all our best [artistic] efforts.

What we need, then, is a mechanism to get us un-hidden. We need to get ourselves out of darkness as quickly as possible and back into the light. That is a Christian definition of sanity. That is also often the most difficult thing for us to do. Yet it is in the light that God does his best work of freeing us from the sin that entangles and distorts.W. David. O. Taylor

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
Ephesians 4:25

What is there to gain by showing a false front to those around us? There is so much more to be lost in not being real with ourselves and each other.

When Kevin Davis, of NewReleaseToday, interviewed Francesca Basttistelli about the take-away message of her song, If We’re Honest, she had this to say:

“Writing songs for the first time as a mom for this album showed me where I was at that time. There were no pretenses, and I wasn’t trying to be anyone that I’m not. Once you are a parent, you get a taste for what really matters. You’re not as worried about what people think of you. 

I was also going through transitions of personal and business relationships, and I saw how a lack of transparency and honesty can really harm relationships and holds back all that God can do in a partnership or friendship. I was desperately crying out for that and wanting to challenge myself and others to live a life with more transparency, to quit putting up facades and walls with each other.”

She further talked about how Satan uses our secrets to isolate us from each other…to divide us…and to keep us from being the bold witness that we can be when we lay our lives open before God and each other. Life is too short and too precious to withhold who we really are…no matter how broken, or wounded, or small…we all share in this…this need for a Savior; this need to be known and loved as we are.

God completely understands that about us…and loves us…as will others who love Him first.

Worship with me.

Truth is harder than a lie
The dark seems safer than the light
And everyone has a heart that loves to hide

I’m a mess and so are you
We’ve built walls nobody can get through
Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do

(CHORUS)
Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest
If we’re honest

Don’t pretend to be something that you’re not
Living life afraid of getting caught
There is freedom found when we lay our secrets down at the cross, at the cross

(CHORUS)

It would change our lives
It would set us free
It’s what we need to be

(CHORUS)

Blog - Francesca Battistelli - If We're Honest - myact4HimPhoto Credit: MyAct4Him

Postscript: Can I just comment on the kindness and sweetness of God in His relationship with His children? I wanted to write about this song this week and struggled with how to talk about it. Then with Francesca Battistelli’s help (through the interview/video on “behind the song”), it dawned on me that this was about confessional living. This was a delight for me because this sort of life is one I’ve lived without knowing what to call it. I searched on-line for confessional living and found the blog by W. David. O. Taylor. In researching where his confessional life has taken him, I discovered he is the one Nathan Clarke worked with to film the Bono and Eugene Peterson conversation. I wrote about that here. How fun is that?!

*Lyrics – If We’re Honest – KLove – Songwriters: Francesca Battistelli / Jeff Pardo / Molly E. Reed

Behind the Song with Kevin Davis – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli – NewReleaseToday

YouTube Video – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

YouTube Video – Francesca Battistelli – Behind the Album, If We’re Honest

The Discipline of Living a Confessional Life – W. David. O. Taylor

Confessional Writing – Wikipedia