Category Archives: Friends

Worship Wednesday – Friends – Michael W. Smith

Photo Credit: Pixabay

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13

Forever friends. What a grace of God! These are friends we don’t choose necessarily. They choose us, almost in spite of our own failings at being friends ourselves.

I thank God for the friends who have coursed with us across continents, through births and deaths, and in both the mundane and extraordinary of life. Today we’re settled, for the most part, and there are days, in the solitude of this current life that I wonder if I have friends (I know…silly thoughts…when too much alone).

In truth, this life of mine has been full of friends…lifelong, through all sorts of troubled water, friends.

Some of these friends turned out to be family, while others God Himself brought across our paths and a spark of commonality and community blazed into a fire. A fire that has warmed my heart from days to decades. A fire that snaps me out of my doldrums to be a better friend myself.

Am I having a kumbaya moment? Absolutely.

Friendship is not something to be trifled with in life. I’m learning (thankful for friends who have suffered long with me over the years).

Part of what has stirred this gratefulness today is in reading Scott Sauls’ book Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear. Each short but full chapter addresses a kind of friendship in our lives. Within each kind of friendship, Sauls points to the kindness and mercy of God within those relationships…and how, in both strength and weakness, we have our place.

Photo Credit: Amazon

Another writer, Dave Zuleger, exposes our cultural bias of casualness with friendships.

We need to begin defining true friendship and brotherly love not by conforming to cultural expectations, but by looking at the face of Jesus and being changed to look and love more like him (2 Corinthians 3:18). When we look at Jesus, we find a friend who loves when we are unlovable, and a brother willing to die for us, even when we didn’t deserve it. We find and experience a love utterly unlike what we normally find in ourselves, in our own hearts.

We can be such fickle friends, distancing ourselves from difficult people and situations. If someone seems too immature, too demanding, or too inconvenient, we bail. We find excuses (legitimate ones of course!) to distance ourselves from these kinds of friends. Yet, Jesus — the perfect, holy Son of God — went and hung out among wicked sinners who were extremely immature, difficult, and even dangerous (they crucified him!). – Dave Zuleger

Zuleger’s words reminded me of a very old song by Sharalee Lucas:

I see Jesus in your eyes, and it makes me love Him

I feel Jesus in your touch, and I know He cares

I hear Jesus in your voice, and it makes me listen

And I trust you with my love, because you’re His.

I see Him…Sharalee Lucas

This is the sort of friendship I’ve known. That friend who came quietly to sit with Dave during my cancer surgery. Those friends whose love for my mama has been lavished on me since her death. The friend from work who refuses to define or disdain me by my different political views. The friend neglected who gives me grace. The friends who see value in me that I don’t see. The friends who include me in their great works. The friends who love in spite of…

A cherished local friend told me recently that she was moving away within the next few months. Thinking of losing her, I was reminded of another old song about friends – the one Michael W. Smith published in 1983. We never have to lose a friend. As our travels over the last 20+ years have shown us, God gives us forever friends, not limited by time or geography. For this mercy, I will always be grateful to Him.

[BTW – for any younger friends who can’t wrap their sensibilities around this old song – I would love to know songs about friends that are super meaningful to you – so please let me know in the Comments.]

Worship with me, please…the God who calls us friend and who gives us the great grace of friends.

Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil of you
I can’t believe the hopes He’s granted
Means a chapter of your life is through
But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong
And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

And with the faith and love God’s given
Springing from the hope we know
We will pray the joy you live in
Is the strength that now you show

We’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

To live as friends

Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

No a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends*

 We need to learn to see every friendship through the lens of the work of Christ on our behalf. To see that at the cross there is more than enough grace to cover a multitude of sins committed against us. To see the cross of Christ as the depth of suffering a perfect Brother was willing to endure. We need to remember a true brother moves closer when times get harder, and never leaves or forsakes a friend, even when the trial lasts a lifetime. – Dave Zuleger
Here’s to friends (images of just a few of the many amazing friends – would put up a lot more and you would get tired of scrolling) that God has given over the years):

*Lyrics to Friends (1983)

Song Facts – Friends – Songwriters: Michael W. & Debbie Smith

The Best Friends Are Born For Adversity – Dave Zuleger

Find a Friend to Wound You – Greg Morse

This Quiet Girl – To Know Her Is To Love Her, and I Know Her Very Well

30 years ago, I knew this would be the day. Our baby was coming. It was still the wee hours of the morning, but labor wakes us. I let Dave sleep until it got to a place that I knew we probably needed to go. It was a windy pre-dawn drive to the hospital. That first day of March.

“It’s a girl!” How would I have known then how much she would change our lives? We had an inkling when, just days into parenting, and my hormones all over the place, I looked up at Dave, with her in my lap and tears in my eyes. “What if something were to happen to her?” – asked the new mom on the edge. Dave brought me back to myself when he said, “Look at how much joy she’s brought us in just these few days. We treat each day as precious…” It was something like that. He doesn’t remember, and all I can say is that each day has been precious.

This quiet girl spent her preschool years in East Tennessee enjoying friends from the neighborhood and church. She didn’t require much entertaining. The world of her imagination was rich and deep. She welcomed two little brothers in that time.

As their big sister, she created elaborate make-believe games, and they loved following her lead in play. This, of course, would end in time, as teen years would find all three off doing more of their own thing. Fun times together and shared memories.

Other times, the boys thought of her more like an old aunt…a third parent…rather than sister. Fortunately that season passed with them all still friends.

This quiet girl has known God since she was tiny. She’s always been an old soul, and that sensibleness and understanding about life informed her grasp of God. She isn’t perfect, by any means, but she carries into adulthood a faith that both anchors her and moves her toward His purposes.

She loves music and for all her life she has filled our home with singing or piano playing. I don’t know if that influenced her guitarist or harpist brothers. Their music has just been a joy…for the most part…our musical tastes have all had their own journeys. Remembering her high school girl band days still makes me smile. She plays the radio now more than the piano, and she isn’t pursuing a choir or praise team experience…but I hope she does again one day.

When we pulled her out of her lovely small-town life, along with her brothers, to move to Africa, this quiet girl took it in stride. We were always grateful to see the hand of God in these adjustments. There were tears…great, gushing cries over missing friends and family and grieving precious things left behind (even her dog once)…my heart would almost break over those tears. Then, like the sun breaking through storm clouds, she would give in to laughter. That would break the tension for all of us…that crazy-sweet laughter from a tear-drenched face. Her own wrestling through the many moves of our lives had to have helped our boys do the same. She helped us, for sure.

Making friends was sometimes challenging for this one whom we bounced around from country to country. Always having to start over was hard for her. She’s not one to push in or draw attention to herself. How thankful we were for the friends who opened up to friendship with this quiet girl. These are some of her most cherished friendships. When she does feel comfortable enough to be herself, she probably surprises people with her resoluteness, strong opinions, and deep loyalties. These are actually things I appreciate about this quiet girl. She is not going away. As we get older, it is a tremendous comfort to know that she has settled that. She will be there, God willing. With this one, you get life-long friendships and forever love.

When this quiet girl went back to the US for college, we would miss her terribly. Our home re-configured and the boys became the young men of the house. Her visits home were dear for all of us…as she perched around wherever we had landed at home and told us stories of life at school. I never tired of those stories.

After college, she would teach for several years (both inner city and county schools). Lots of crying followed by laughter in those days. The friendships that came out of both college and teaching are precious to her…lots of battle scars and victories to share there.

This quiet girl fell in love. She never really dated in high school. We as her parents were glad she, or the boys, didn’t suffer serial broken hearts. To find one so right for her as the quiet young man she married gladdened our hearts for her…and for us all.

Then she finally got a much-longed-for sister when one of her brothers married (and another when her husband’s brother married).

…and our first grandchild has this quiet girl as mommy.

[No pics of this little one on the blog yet. One day… The grandparents, I can tell you, are smitten with this little one not-so-quiet as the parents.]

I guess it’s a 30th birthday that made me want to write about this quiet girl. To know her is to love her, and I know her very well.

So Sweet Girl, Dear Daughter of ours, when you read this blog (and you do, so thanks for that), on this your 30th birthday, hope you’re having a Beautiful Day and know how Priceless you are to God Himself and to all who know and love you.

Monday Morning Moment – Résumé vs. Eulogy – On Befriending Our Colleagues

Photo Credit: Tangram

Don’t you hate when, out of all the positive exchanges we have at work, there’s that one negative that hangs in our memory? It was a team-building exercise on trust really early in my career. One of the people on my team, with whom I worked at the time, just wouldn’t engage. She finally said, “You are just my co-workers. We are not friends.”

We are not friends.

Slayed.

Throughout my career, I’ve made it a goal to befriend colleagues – those close to me and up and down the ranks. Befriending isn’t becoming best buddies necessarily. By definition, it is “to act as a friend to; to help; to aid”.

When this coworker, in my professionally formative past, expressed openly that we were just a part of her job…I was surprised and schooled. For some, relationships at work are compartmentalized in such a way as to keep them formal and shallow.

There is a measure of safety in keeping work relationships at a distance. I get that. However…

When we spend more waking hours with our colleagues than with even the closest of our loved ones, they bear some significance.

I’ve just begun reading Scott Sauls’ book Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear.   I wrote about it here a few weeks back as the next book on my reading list. The author Scott Sauls is a pastor, but more than that, he is a friend. Not because I know him personally, but because the imprint of Jesus is on his writing and life. He is not preachy or churchy (in the way it was never meant to be). Sauls is wise, loving, and inclusive. Whether you are a person of faith or not, if you want to deepen your friendships and work relationships, sampling the pages of this book will aid you on your way. This book itself, like Sauls, actually befriends you.

Photo Credit: Amazon

My Monday blogs are often reserved for workplace matters – either the culture of our workplace or our very careers. Sauls talks early in the book about how we view success in life. He recalls David Brooks‘s take on our achievement culture.

“We live by two sets of virtues: the résumé virtues – things we bring to the marketplace – and the eulogy virtues – things we want said about us at our funerals. Brooks concludes, ‘In [our] secular achievement culture, we all know the eulogy virtues are more important, but we spend more time on the résumé virtues.'”

What people think of me when I’m gone is less important than truly making a difference in this life. When it comes to our work, I think we all want to add value, not just to the product, but to the people with whom we work and for whom we provide services.

We can get caught in the press of beefing up our résumé and lose sight of the people, real flesh-and-blood people, all around us. Oh, we may not call our focus résumé-building, but when we take a moment to check our motives, it becomes more clear. Ambition, self-promotion, and exclusive control can crush work relationships. We often think it’s someone else but before long it can become us.

I will never forget a colleague who shared about his own pivotal relationship with someone he once considered a difficult boss. They argued over every idea, every decision, every action plan…at least, as this man remembers. His boss was always asking hard questions and pushing him to think more and more outside the box. Yet, in the middle of his heatedly trying to persuade his boss of the rightness of his ideas, the boss would look at his watch and say, “Let’s go get some lunch.” This would infuriate the man re-telling his story.

However, over the years, he began to see something in his boss he didn’t notice at first. This older man genuinely cared for his young protégé. The banter back and forth was to encourage excellence and innovation but never at the expense of valuing the relationship. That’s why lunch together was all part of the exchange. He mattered to his boss.Photo Credit: Free Stock Photos

Later the older man retired and the younger man advanced in his career. Their paths rarely crossed after that. When the older man finally died, his wife called this colleague and asked for him to be a pallbearer at his funeral. The older man had come to consider the younger a friend…and the younger man, as he teared up in remembering, was the better for it.

I’ve written often on complicated work relationships – the us vs. them situations and dealing with contemptuous colleagues among others. We can be tempted NOT to befriend.

Photo Credit: QuotationOf

However, we are the ones who lose the most in not extending a hand of befriending (acting as a friend) to those with whom we work. It changes us, from the inside out, and we live only in the land of résumé-building, rather than eulogy-making.

Sauls writes about expanding our “us”. In the workplace, this can be extraordinarily counter-cultural. To look out for our own status and position is expected. To consider how we might take down silos and create a work community where “the rising tide lifts all boats” (Adam Grant) – something remarkable and memorable.

That is the legacy, years ago, of that coworker/”friend” of mine. She made me more resolved than ever. I want to be a befriender, a boat-raiser, and a person willing to expand the “us”.

Sauls closes this chapter by asking the question, “Where is your greatest opportunity to expand your “us”? It has me thinking. How about you?

“Compelled by the love of Christ, we must not withhold kindness or friendship from any person or people group, and we must not engage in any sort of us-against-them posturing. This in itself is countercultural in modern society. Compelled by the truth of Christ, we must honor and obey the Creator’s design—even when his design is countercultural and, at times, counterintuitive to us. His ways and his thoughts are higher than ours.”

20 Quotes From Scott Sauls’s New Book on Friendship – Matt Smethurst

5 Friday Faves – No-Pressure Valentine’s Day, Travel Hacks, Prayer Habits, First Signs of Spring, and Wordplay Smiles

Friday! You made it. Joy! Here are five of my favorite finds for you…

1) No-Pressure Valentine’s Day – Seriously no pressure! Valentine’s Day is one of those super emotionally-laden days (maybe more for women, but I’m sure it’s not easy for guys either). I’ve always celebrated it, whether a man was involved or not, because of all the lovely stuff attached to it (cards, candy, dinner out, flowers, etc.). Never minded paying for those for myself or others. The best part is just being with people you love…whoever they are.

This week I came across a super-silly video by the Merrell Twins. They are these two YouTube stars and are pretty cute. The video is about Valentine’s Day with boyfriend or without boyfriend. The best part actually is their #TwinTalk at the end of the video…wait for it.

YouTube Video – It’s Valentine’s Day Song – Merrell Twins

I’ve previously written about Valentine’s Day (here and here). In fact, please read those pieces…for a no-pressure day. Seriously.

2) Travel Hacks – We who have the money and means to travel either love it or hate it. I LOVE it. In fact, it’s been too long since my last international trip…so I’ve been drawn to travel stories and articles. Tim Ferriss hosted Ryan Holiday on a blog about his 21 Travel Rules. Having lived in several countries and traveled through many more, I agree with many of his rules. Check them all out. Some you may already know like packing light, eating healthy, and don’t over-schedule your trip. Other bits of advice from Holiday were quite new for me – like not reclining your seat on a plane (THANK YOU!). Also don’t depend on guidebooks – talk to people where you’re going about things to do and see. Another idea: Note places or experiences described in books you’ve read and enjoy them again on your trip. One last favorite hack: don’t talk and talk about your upcoming trip or plan and plan – just go! Read the rest here:

Photo Credit: We Are Travel Girls

How to Travel: 21 Contrarian Rules

How to Travel – Some Contrarian Advice (shorter version of above article)

…and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” goes global!

3) Prayer Habits – Prayer is probably the most impactful thing we can do in life – for ourselves and those we love. Developing a habit of prayer can start today. I’m not talking about some sort of rote activity or just saying words out into the room. Prayer is not delivering a wish list to some benevolent father figure. It is a conversation with the God of the universe who calls us to Himself. He infuses all our lives with his love and purpose. He also actually taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Cliff Jordan of Movement Church spoke recently on how God Himself guides us to pray – listen here.

I learned the prayer Jesus taught his disciples when I was a child. It has been a comfort and primer for me ever since. Consider teaching your children to pray the Lord’s Prayer, and then guide them to grow up in a lifestyle of prayer…following your lead.Photo Credit: Faith Hope Love at Home; Courageous the Movie

Nick Aufenkamp writes about Martin Luther’s prayer patterns and offers a simple and sound approach to daily prayer:

  • Seek first God’s rule and reign and righteousness in our lives (Matthew 6:33).
  • Discipline our wandering minds.
  • Build a fence so our prayers can run wild inside (through the structure of the Lord’s Prayer).

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Four Ways to Lead Our Children Toward Bravery – Jill Waggoner

4) First Signs of Spring – It’s happening! Spring is showing up again. No matter how many cold and snowy days this winter still produces before it gives in to Spring, we can see it coming!

5) Wordplay Giggles – So I didn’t know the word for it until this week, but some people have a knack for turning the meaning of a sentence to something hilarious. Winston Churchill was gifted at the use of something you’ve probably never heard defined but you’ve enjoyed the humor within it.  A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to re-frame or re-interpret the first part.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Photo Credit: Frustrated Boomers

  1. Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good evening’ and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
  2. Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  3. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  4. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  5. Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.
  6. A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
  7. I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.
  8. Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, you will be a mile away and he won’t have any shoes.
  9. “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” — Groucho Marx
  10. “She got her good looks from her father; he’s a plastic surgeon.” — Groucho Marx
  11. Kittens play with yarn, they bat it around. What they’re really doing is saying, “I can’t knit, get this away from me!”
  12. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to find one now.
  13. There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away. – Monty Pelerin

Paraprosdokian Fun

Steven Wright Quotes – Good Reads

Have a sweet weekend and a Happy Valentine’s Day. You are loved!

This Quiet Girl – To Know Her Is To Love Her, and I Know Her Very Well

30 years ago, I knew this would be the day. Our baby was coming. It was still the wee hours of the morning, but labor wakes us. I let Dave sleep until it got to a place that I knew we probably needed to go. It was a windy pre-dawn drive to the hospital. That first day of March.

“It’s a girl!” How would I have known then how much she would change our lives? We had an inkling when, just days into parenting, and my hormones all over the place, I looked up at Dave, with her in my lap and tears in my eyes. “What if something were to happen to her?” – asked the new mom on the edge. Dave brought me back to myself when he said, “Look at how much joy she’s brought us in just these few days. We treat each day as precious…” It was something like that. He doesn’t remember, and all I can say is that each day has been precious.

This quiet girl spent her preschool years in East Tennessee enjoying friends from the neighborhood and church. She didn’t require much entertaining. The world of her imagination was rich and deep. She welcomed two little brothers in that time.

As their big sister, she created elaborate make-believe games, and they loved following her lead in play. This, of course, would end in time, as teen years would find all three off doing more of their own thing. Fun times together and shared memories.

Other times, the boys thought of her more like an old aunt…a third parent…rather than sister. Fortunately that season passed with them all still friends.

This quiet girl has known God since she was tiny. She’s always been an old soul, and that sensibleness and understanding about life informed her grasp of God. She isn’t perfect, by any means, but she carries into adulthood a faith that both anchors her and moves her toward His purposes.

She loves music and for all her life she has filled our home with singing or piano playing. I don’t know if that influenced her guitarist or harpist brothers. Their music has just been a joy…for the most part…our musical tastes have all had their own journeys. Remembering her high school girl band days still makes me smile. She plays the radio now more than the piano, and she isn’t pursuing a choir or praise team experience…but I hope she does again one day.

When we pulled her out of her lovely small-town life, along with her brothers, to move to Africa, this quiet girl took it in stride. We were always grateful to see the hand of God in these adjustments. There were tears…great, gushing cries over missing friends and family and grieving precious things left behind (even her dog once)…my heart would almost break over those tears. Then, like the sun breaking through storm clouds, she would give in to laughter. That would break the tension for all of us…that crazy-sweet laughter from a tear-drenched face. Her own wrestling through the many moves of our lives had to have helped our boys do the same. She helped us, for sure.

Making friends was sometimes challenging for this one whom we bounced around from country to country. Always having to start over was hard for her. She’s not one to push in or draw attention to herself. How thankful we were for the friends who opened up to friendship with this quiet girl. They are some of her most cherished friendships. When she does feel comfortable enough to be herself, she probably surprises people with her resoluteness, strong opinions, and deep loyalties. These are actually things I appreciate about this quiet girl. She is not going away. As we get older, it is a tremendous comfort to know that she has settled that. She will be there, God willing. With this one, you get life-long friendships and forever love.

When this quiet girl went back to the US for college, we would miss her terribly. Our home re-configured and the boys became the young men of the house. Her visits home were dear for all of us…as she perched around wherever we had landed at home and told us stories of life at school. I never tired of those stories.

After college, she would teach for several years (both inner city and county schools). Lots of crying followed by laughter in those days. The friendships that came out of both college and teaching are precious to her…lots of battle scars and victories to share there.

This quiet girl fell in love. She never really dated in high school. We as her parents were glad she, or the boys, didn’t suffer serial broken hearts. To find one so right for her as the quiet young man she married gladdened our hearts for her…and for us all.

Then she finally got a much-longed-for sister when one of her brothers married (and another when her husband’s brother married).

…and our first grandchild has this quiet girl as mommy.

[No pics of this little one on the blog yet. One day… The grandparents, I can tell you, are smitten with this little one not-so-quiet as the parents.]

I guess it’s a 30th birthday that made me want to write about this quiet girl. To know her is to love her, and I know her very well.

So Sweet Girl, Dear Daughter of ours, when you read this blog (and you do, so thanks for that), on this your 30th birthday, hope you’re having a Beautiful Day and know how Priceless you are to God Himself and to all who know and love you.

Monday Morning Moment – Inner Rings – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty

Photo Credit: Chris Russo

[Adapted from a previous blog]

When C. S. Lewis introduced the occurrence of “inner rings” to a classroom of young men in university, he wasn’t talking about high school cliques.Photo Credit: Smosh

[You will want to read Lewis’ short, humorous, and piercing lecture…I read it aloud, attempting my “best” British accent. The British accent, in my opinion, gives what is true even more authority and winsomeness.]

Lewis talked about the universal, life-long allure of wanting to be “on the inside”…whatever that might mean at the time. Inner rings are, for the most part, morally neutral in themselves. What becomes the issue for us is how our thinking is altered and what we are willing to do to gain entry to these exclusive (and often secretive) inner circles.Blog - Inner Rings 2 - BPNews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews

Inner rings are part of every level of life – personal relationships, government, teams, military, clubs, organizations, and workplaces. They aren’t necessarily represented by team rosters or org. charts, as much as they are the more fluid unwritten associations. Like secret societies, they can change quite without explanation – sometimes you are in and then you are not. Inclusion and exclusion are defined by the group itself…and are not accidental.

Let’s face it – we all want to belong…somewhere among the best of the best. Even when we don’t say it out loud, some sort of identity appeals to us and drives our pursuits. Jeremy Writebol wrote a piece where he explores this pursuit of belonging, referencing C. S. Lewis’ Inner Rings. Lewis talked about what we are willing to do to be identified as one inside those rings, or inner circles. There’s the danger – what we’re willing to do.

Writebol presents 4 inner rings of belonging:

1) The Inner Ring of Acceptance [Position]

2) The Inner Ring of Authority [Power]

3) The Inner Ring of Applause [Prominence]

4) The Inner Ring of Abundance [Plenty]

None of us is immune to the influence of one or more of these inner rings or social circles. The deceit of pursuing membership to an inner ring is that it’s never enough. Like taking apart an onion, you find inner rings within inner rings…until there’s nothing left. No place to find belonging…because this passion is never satisfied. It becomes futile. Lewis does offer a two-part antidote:

  • In the workplace, make your work your focus. Whenever we lose our focus, the pull of desire for significance disrupts our engagement in the work. “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it.”
  • Outside of work, pursue friendships with people you like. This seems obvious, but if our desires to belong in a certain group have hijacked us relationally, it might not even be clear anymore who the people are we truly enjoy.  “If in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the center of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship…It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.”

Take the time to read Writebol’s piece. He defines each circle and asks clarifying questions, in a very kind way, to help the reader deal with the deceit or justification we may have developed, without realizing it.

[Writebol wrote a follow-up piece entitled Why Are We Chasing? which exquisitely unwraps the cost and consequence of our chasing – chasing after what we think we must apprehend, having become blind to what we already have.]

Here’s to work well-done and friendships that last for a lifetime. Here’s to choosing well and inclusion and celebration…and knowing we already belong.

Great Monday morning reads…Go!

The Inner Ring – C. S. Lewis

The Weight of Glory – C. S. Lewis – Collection of Addresses Including The Inner Ring

4 Inner Rings You May Be Pursuing – Jeremy Writebol

Why Are We Chasing? – Jeremy Writebol [Followup piece to above article]

The Inner Ring – Chris Russo’s Blog

C. S. Lewis and the Inner Ring of Cronyism – Elise Daniel – Institute For Faith, Work, and Economics

C.S. Lewis and the Inner Ring – Nicholas T. Batzig

The Inner Ring and the Moral Question of Our Time – Nozomi Hayase

Monday Morning Moment – Belonging and Going Deep and the Blind Presumptions that It’s Actually Happening When It Isn’t

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams – Philip Zaleski & Carol Zaleski

Photo Credit: Paste Magazine; Commonweal

5 Friday Faves – Stuff I Like to Do – Had to Think About It

Happy Friday!

A friend asked me yesterday about what I like to do around Richmond….this small city big on events, restaurants, and natural beauty. I had trouble coming up with things. Not because I never get out…but just don’t think in terms of stuff I like to do. It made me realize that my life these days is more reactive/responsive than intentional and proactive. Really got me thinking…

Here are 5 favorite things I like to do…not bound to location…

1) Team/Family Activities – As much of my life is spent in solitary endeavors, creating, serving, and playing as a team energizes me. I love to learn from others and the momentum and synergy of a group work inspire me to push through. This isn’t just doing sometime collectively as a group of people…not really invested in each other. This is working together as a team! It’s serving a great purpose…together, not just alongside other people.  Love that process. Also in play, game nights are special fun for the chatter and laughter around the table as much as for the adventure of the gaming itself.

2) Being Able to Support and/or Encourage Our Adult Children – There’s a strange tension in this. We are glad for our children to launch as adults and they are glad to be on their own and pursuing their own careers and interests. Still, after so many years of being under the same roof and intimately in each others’ lives, I’m glad for touch-points. Praying for them always (my privilege and special responsibility). Babysitting for a grandchild. Listening to their hopes and dreams. Offering counsel on a struggle (when asked…and sometimes not even). Supporting financially within healthy and honoring bounds. You hear a lot about Nathan in here. I long to be able to support him in his musical career…but didn’t really know how. Just this week, he made that easier by affiliating with Patreon. Now we’re a part of his small but growing community of patrons.

3) Travel and the People We Travel To and With – I’m not an experience or destination collector, so travel to tick off a bucket list isn’t a motivation. However, it’s possible that’s because we have had the great fortune of travel as a normal part of our lives over the years. We have lived in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. Dave and I spent our 25th wedding anniversary in Paris, France. As a family, we’ve shared incredible destinations…from the Red Sea to the Sahara Desert, from trips in Europe and to Africa. My international travel has been curbed a bit, but there is still tremendous joy in trips to Laurel, Delaware and Hoschton, Georgia (to see family) and to such places as Midland, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee to see friends. Etc., etc., etc. It’s less the destination…as what the travel brings in times together.

4) Food Events – It’s my birthday today, and there will definitely be food events. Food itself is a delight, of course. The sweet side-benefit of food events is that person sitting across from me. Or the children and adults gathered close around the long family table. Or the folks cozied on couches around the room. Or even (gasp) the long-legged obstacle course of men filling the floor space in front of a televised football game. What food does to draw out conversation or bond people together is a marvelous thing. I have favorite restaurants, like you…but it’s the event itself that blesses the heart (less the work of it, more the people of it).

5) Divine Appointments – Okay…these are not within our control, really…so they can’t be scheduled into one’s happy life. Or, maybe they can. We can definitely grease the tracks to experience them. How? I know my whole day can be altered – both in awareness and experience – if studying Scripture and praying is part of my early morning routine. “Bible before breakfast” was a routine, growing up, of a friend of mine. Not in any kind of legalistic or ritualistic sense… as much as spiritual habit that can change a person’s thinking, choices, and engagement with God and others. That early morning time with God sets the tone for my day. His activity in my life and that of others around me becomes more obvious. God is a good and active agent in His creation and among his people. All we have to do is tune our minds to see Him…and He is there. Even when my early morning quiet time is on the lean side…or neglected altogether, it’s still possible to reset our sights on Him through the day and experience wonders. I just hate to miss Him from early on…because I’ve chosen other lesser activities…like even sitting down and writing…

There are my five favorites… They didn’t include writing…which is sort of a given (as in this blog). They didn’t include photography – also a given (in my desire to document everything). They didn’t include movie and popcorn nights which I actually LOVE as well….that will definitely happen on my birthday. Thanks, Friend, for stirring my thinking yesterday. Being more proactive in pursuing these five is now on my list! Do you have a list of favorite things you fill your life with? Please comment below. If you live in Richmond, maybe you could also share your favorites about this city. It’s possible I need to get out more.

Happy a safe and restful weekend!

5 Friday Faves – Skyrim Guitar Cover, Workplace Wisdom, Repair Cafes, Belonging, and Movie Previews

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Just jumping in today with my favorite finds of the week:

1) Skyrim Guitar CoverNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posted a new arrangement on Youtube this week – Skyrim – Dragonborn Main Theme. You video gamers probably know this song.  I’ve no experience with this personally, but this song seems to generate sweet emotions for gaming folks. This young man amazes me with his skills, yes, but especially his heart. It comes out in his music. On another note: He has over 1 million views of his Harry Potter medley on the Facebook group Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Exciting.blog-nathan-mills-guitar-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

2) Workplace Wisdom – Finally…on millennials. I know, I know…there is so much written and spoken about millennials. I usually just pass over it…but Simon Sinek’s observations on millennials in the workplace are fascinating and telling. I appreciated that what he sees applies to both millennials and the rest of us. blog-simon-sinek-leadership-and-millennials-why-millennials-matterPhoto Credit: Why Millennials Matter

It is wisdom. Sinek came on my radar this week through a talk he did on IQ with Tom BIlyeu. In his talk, he focused on four components that millennials bring with them into the workplace that affect their professional maturing. These are 1) parenting, 2) technology, 3) impatience, and 4) environment. His take on “failed parenting strategies” may apply to some cultures, but many parents of millennials saw early on the fallacy of communicating how “special” our children are…no matter what they bring to the table. Sinek does communicate a victim mentality here and that’s the weakest of his 4 components. The other three were applicable to the workplace, in general, and to millennials, in particular.

Technology can be a crutch and squelch our creativity more than fuel it. Technology has a negative impact on the depth and breadth of our relationships…we have to pay attention to this. Impatience – for purpose, impact, advancement – is a big issue in the workplace. We need colleagues willing to hang in there through the doldrums. Environment at work is changing at a rapid pace…as much as it appears, on the surface, that it is bending toward the millennial, what is needed is a workplace where millennials can actually grow their skillsets. Sinek speaks to this.

4 Damaging Mentalities Millennials Must Break – Jeremy Chandler (a millennial)

3) Repair Cafes – Wouldn’t you love to have a place within an easy drive where you could take your aging laptop, or blinking lamp, or burned out leafblower for a repair? Is it possible to ever reasonably repair instead of replace? There is a phenomenon around the world where this is happening…not just in rural “third world” settings but in cities. Repair cafes are on the rise. If you want to find one, or start one, go here. This isn’t just about being frugal; this is a craft – this learning how to repair your own broken stuff with the help of a skilled professional – someone’s mom or dad who has learned how to fix things. The closest repair café to us is in Charlottesville, Virginia – do you have one near you?blog-repair-cafe-nytimesPhoto Credit: New York Times

4) Belonging Scott Sauls‘s book Befriend: Create Belonging in in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear is next on my reading list. Belonging is a core need for all of us, and Sauls takes the reader deeply into the realm of true friendship and solid relationships. Whether between peers, family members, colleagues, or even strangers at first encounter. I long to get past superficial and to know and be genuinely known by at least a few people. My desire is to be open to the possibilities of befriending and being “friended” with true authenticity. This book seems a good place to reboot.blog-befriend-scott-sauls-amazon

Photo Credit: Amazon

I discovered this book from a tweet about Matt Smethurst’s article 20 Quotes from Scott Sauls’s New Book on Friendship. I ordered the book based on those 20 quotes. Here are three:

“Compelled by the love of Christ, we must not withhold kindness or friendship from any person or people group, and we must not engage in any sort of us-against-them posturing. This in itself is countercultural in modern society. Compelled by the truth of Christ, we must honor and obey the Creator’s design—even when his design is countercultural and, at times, counterintuitive to us. His ways and his thoughts are higher than ours.” (75–76)

“This is what you call reversing the flow of the umbilical cord: parents demanding that their children function as their source of life; their emotional nourishment; their identity; their Jesus. This always ends in sorrow and alienation and loss. Just as in marriage, we must not place a burden on our children to provide for us the things that only God can supply.” (87–88)

“The best way to measure your desire to serve is to look at how you respond when someone treats you like a servant.” (98)

5) Movie Previews – Call them teasers and then trailers. Whenever we go to the theater, we have to be in place with a family-sized popcorn before the previews start. That is just how it is. I love these glimpses into coming feature films. Two I’ve seen recently follow: On the darker side – Jackie. On the lighter side – Table 19 . Whether I ever see these movies in the theater, watching the trailers was satisfying and wholly entertaining!

blog-friday-faves-table-19-cdn-colliderPhoto Credit: Collider – Table 19

Have a safe and peaceful weekend. Tacky Lights Tour is on our schedule…let the festivities begin.

Also:

Life On My Knees – Chocolate Raspberry Cream Pie – Angela

blog-aletheia-praise-band-nathan-angelas-blogPhoto Credit: Chocolate Raspberry Cream Pie

YouTube Video – Big Crosby & David Bowie – “The Little Drummer Boy” (Peace On Earth)

Macy’s Christmas Adv 2016 Video – #OldFriends – [Sorry about the Poo-pourri ad at the beginning of the video.]

 

Worship Wednesday – Come To Me – The Village Church

blog-come-to-me-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus – Matthew 11:28

Ever have one of those days when it feels like you’ve just got nothing? Nothing to bring to the discussion…or the relationship?

There’s this amazing group of young women in my life who gather weekly to fellowship and to open God’s Word together. We sit in a loosely shaped circle to give space for lots of children to meander through. From babies crawling around to toddlers and up weaving through us from one side of the room to the other.

These young women enrich my life more than I can say. Those years of small ones were tough years for me…challenging and fraught with the fears of not parenting well enough.

Being in this group allows me to remember the grace of God in my life in those years as I see His grace reflected in them. In fact, even on the hardest, most tiring days, I see Jesus in these women.

Today, when we gathered, I had nothing. Tired from so much travel. Way too much catching up to do for this distractible me. Lists written and rewritten. The desire just to sleep….winning.

Then an hour with sisters…and the experience of “got nothing” was profoundly changed into rest for my soul and a rallying for what was on the schedule today. Hugging babies, funny stories, resonating with each others’ situation, and praying for each other…energized and normalized.

What is that “normal” for a believer? Normal includes those days that are going to take all we’ve got and then some…and there’s grace. Normal is also remembering God early, seeking Him often, and trusting Him always. 

Today, because of friends and sisters, I faced the reality that my early morning quiet times with the Lord have frayed with travel, and fatigue, and (I’m calling it) poor choices. Not beating myself up over it…but grateful to come to the end of myself…and still find God there.

On Sunday, at Movement Church, we sang a new adaptation of an old hymn by Elizabeth Akers. In worship, in that moment of singing an unfamiliar hymn, God began opening my heart to a renewed longing for Him. Nothing else can satisfy…or give us the deep rest we so desperately need. Just Jesus.

Today, in a circle of women who love each other in a way that reminds us of how God loves us, I was held…as if God Himself was doing the holding. Be held, Dear Ones.

…Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head. From Him the whole body is fitted and held together by every supporting ligament. And as each individual part does its work, the body grows and builds itself up in love.Ephesians 4:16

Worship with me to this beautiful old hymn made new by the group The Village Church:

Weary burdened wanderer there is rest for thee
At the feet of Jesus in His love so free
Listen to His message, words of life, forever blessed
Oh, thou heavy laden, “Come to Me, come and rest.”

There is freedom, taste and see
Hear the call, “Come to Me.”
Run into His arms of grace
Your burden carried, He will take

Bring Him all thy burdens, all thy guilt and sin,
Mercy’s door is open, rise up and enter in.
Jesus there is waiting,
 patiently for thee
Hear Him gently calling,
 “Come, oh come, come to Me.”
*

There are two more verses in the original hymn. One of those follows:

Linger then no longer,
Come just now to Him;
Ere the shadows gather,
And thy light grows dim.
Thou hast long been waiting
For some better time,
But today He’s calling,
Come and claim Him thine.**

On days, when it seems we’ve got nothing…the truth is in Christ, we have all we need. Our part is to come to Him…and rest in Him. His strength is displayed perfectly in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). For those other days, when we feel pretty good about what we bring to the table and maybe we don’t have to be so brave…we can rejoice in the same way as on the “got nothing” days. The same good God equips us, and strengthens us, and cheers us on. Truth! Hallelujah!blog-burdened-i-will-give-you-rest-pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest

*Lyrics to Come to Me – written by Elizabeth Akers; adapted by The Village Church (Chorus and Melody by Jeff Capps and Michael Bleecker)

YouTube Video – Come to Me – (Original: The Village Church) – Sunrise Bible Church

**Full Text of Weary, Burdened Wanderer – Hymnary

Worship Wednesday – Rest, The Lord Is Near -a Reminder from Steve Green – DebMillsWriter

Thanksgiving in America – Family/Friends, Food, Football, Falling Asleep Following Football, Forever Grateful

Blog - Mills & Kitenko Family Thanksgiving 2015

[From the Archives]

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! If you’re in the USA, it’s a big day. Lots of food (all favorites you expect/hope to see every year) with those you love crowded around. Then football. Falling asleep from all the turkey. Forever grateful – times together and times apart…love and good memories holding us together.

Dave’s family is in Delaware and most of mine is in Georgia. We’ve had Thanksgivings with both, on sort of a rotation…but not nearly often enough, since we lived overseas for so many years. During that season of our lives, friends became family for us.Thanksgiving 04 009

The food favorites varied somewhat depending on the family, gathering together that year. What are your “must-haves” on Thanksgiving Day?2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 012 a (2)2010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 1152014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 023

The best thing about Thanksgiving is the time together with people we love. We can’t always be all together because of distance or work schedules…but it is a good day spent together…I’m grateful for every memory we’ve made together. So thankful for family – with all its craziness. God put us together, and I ‘m so grateful He did.PopPop Stacie 2011 (2)

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.   – Albert Schweitzer

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If one should give me a dish of sand and tell me there were particles of iron in it, I might look for them with my eyes, and search for them with my clumsy fingers, and be unable to detect them; but let me take a magnet and sweep through it, and how would it draw to itself the almost invisible particles by the mere power of attraction.  The unthankful heart, like my finger in the sand, discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day, and as the magnet finds iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessing, only the iron in God’s sand is gold.                                 Henry Ward Beecher2009 Nov 029

Football!2014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 057Football! 2010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 204

[Sidebar about football and the mad cleanup that follows the huge Thanksgiving meal – this commercial.]

I cherish every memory these images represent and all the other memories not documented here. Thank You, God, for all Your good gifts to us. Your kindness is beyond our imagining.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”Romans 11:36

Look for things to be thankful for: a dear old face at an open door,

The table set for the family meal, a husband’s love that is true as steel.

A cushioned chair that you fixed yourself, your favorite books on a nearby shelf,

A green-hued twilight that sort of glows, the clean, fresh smell of a brier rose.

An old windjammer that you recall beating its way through an April squall,

Its old sides crusted with salty spray, limping in at the close of day.

The lovely odor of lemon peel; a humble man with a flaming zeal

For a worthy cause that he thinks is right; the feeling of warmth on a winter night.

Look for things to be thankful for: a braided rug on your bedroom floor,

A dormer window with curtains drawn, a bluebird singing across the lawn.

So much to be thankful for these days, so much to enjoy and love and praise. – Edna Jaques, Ideals, Vol. 57, #5

For three things I thank God every day of my life:  thanks that He has vouchsafed me knowledge of His works; deep thanks that He has set in my darkness the lamp of faith; deep, deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to – a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song.  –  Helen Adams Keller

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Prayers for those family members missing from the table because of work or other commitments (I think of those in the military and other service jobs). Prayers also for those of you who have said goodbye, for now, to loved ones this year… God’s peace be with you.

Worship Wednesday – All Good Gifts – Thanksgiving Memories – DebMillsWriter

5 Friday Faves – a Favorite Charity, Tablescaping, Brunswick Stew, Christmas Commercial, and Thanksgiving Songs – DebMillsWriter

Thanksgiving Poems

Ideals Magazine – Christmas Edition 2015

5 Organic Ingredients of a Grateful Heart by Steve Graves