Category Archives: Family

Monday Morning Moment – a Comforting Reminder When Family Gathered – “Do the Next Thing”

Photo Credit: Francis J. Gavin, Kristian Dela Cour

This morning I woke weighed down with so much undone that needing doing. A week of travel, as delightful as it was, lends itself to a deep sleep on Sunday night and an early fretful waking on a Monday morning.

Do you have those awakenings? When your mind clears from sleep and you begin looking at the week ahead and think “How am I going to get it all done?” Or “How do I even do it?” Anxiety builds, and depression follows.

That’s how this morning started…and then the heaviness lifted with the simplest thought. A reminder I received just this weekend…a reminder that stirred sweet memories of a woman with huge influence on my younger years…writer Elisabeth Elliot.

On our trip to see family this past week, we had an evening with girl talk. Four generations of women around the dinner table, laughing, sharing, and remembering. [I know men do this, too – how else do they keep all those football, baseball, and fishing trip stories so fresh in their memories?]

In the course of the warm glow of that conversation, my dear sister-in-law, Stacie, reminded her girls of how she counseled with them through their high school angsty moments. She told us she used to  quote Elisabeth Elliot‘s own advice to her daughter, Valerie, when she was overwhelmed by life: “Do the next thing.”

[Stacie sounded just like Elisabeth Elliot as well…took me back to when I was her girls’ ages and first began reading Elliot’s books, including her husband Jim’s journals.]

Elisabeth Elliot died in 2015, but through her life she wrote many books that had huge impact on my life. From my teen years. Books that remain treasures today…http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Blog-Elisabeth-Elliot-Love-is-a-Laid-Down-Life.jpg

For years after, as a struggling mom with young children, I would tune into her daily radio shows – Gateway to Joy – listening to her “square-your-shoulders” walk-with-God counsel. Her manner was both tough and tender as she covered the real stuff of life and how we maneuver through it in the presence of God.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

This morning, in the cloud of confusion over where to even begin this week, God brought our dinner table conversation to mind. Hearing Stacie quoting Eliot in that no-nonsense voice of hers made me laugh then, and smile today.

Four little words that brought clarity.

“Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now…Do the next thing.Elisabeth Elliot

When You Don’t Know What to Do – (a tribute to Elisabeth Elliot) – Rhonda Quaney

On the Passing of Elisabeth Elliot – Love Is a Laid Down Life – Deb Mills

Love Is a Laid-Down Life  – a Slowing Down for a Season – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Pinterest, AllysTruth

YouTube Video: Elisabeth Elliot: Suffering Is Never For Nothing

Writing Waits

Photo Credit: Pixnio

Life waits on no one. That tension of lovely and less than occasionally takes us away from such things as thinking and putting those thoughts into words on a screen.

I love to write.

1000 words a day paves the way for that book…or that blog that touches lives with clarity and thoughtFULness.

The connection between you and me is encouraging and emboldening, I hope. It sure is for me. Even not knowing who “you” are with each posting, my imagining is that we would be friends. If we aren’t already.

Thanks for reading and thinking along with me.

It’s been over a week and will be two before I sit in front of this “word processing” place.

A new granddaughter…a birthday and anniversary…a visit with beloved inlaws out of state. These and other things have taken priority.

For the moment…

So gladly I have hit pause.

Miss you but you have those moments too…

when writing or something else less peopled waits as we embrace what is in front of us.

While I’m not writing, how about you write? I would love to hear in the Comments, who you are, Dear Reader. Dear fellow traveler. In this space of a life.

Until next week…take care.

5 Friday Faves – First Responders, Fall TV, Getting Older, a Narcissist Culture, and Visual Aids

As I write it’s raining… This Friday – lots of country music and YouTube videos…and a grateful heart. Oh…and just as I was about to publish, Nathan Mills‘ arrangement of John Paesano‘s Spiderman theme (for the PS4 game of the same name) just got posted. Enjoy.

1) First Responders – This has been quite a week – between the observance of the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the Hurricane Florence pounding away in the Carolinas right now.

We have listened to news reports, documentaries, and one another talk about these two occurrences all week. All I want to say is:

“Thank you, all you who go in as others are running out. All of you, first responders, who seek to protect and care for us. Thank you. May God keep you safe.”

Photo Credit: Health.mil

2) Fall TV Shows – Nope, not talking NFL football here. Nor is this heralding the many Fall-themed Hallmark movies on the horizon. This fave marks the building excitement for premier weeks for our favorite TV shows. You tell me your favorites, I’ll tell you mine. Fall is maybe my favorite seasons…this being one reason among many.

When It's "Fall" in the South

Happy first day of fall, y'all! 🔥😅

Posted by It's a Southern Thing on Friday, September 22, 2017

One TV show not coming back yet is Stranger Things. This might help:

3) Getting Older – Country artist (and Songwriters Hall of Famer Alan Jackson turns 60 this month. That’s still real young, but his song The Older I Get rings true to the experience of…getting older. The lyrics of this poignant country song ring true…they can speak for themselves.

The older I get
The more I think
You only get a minute, better live while you’re in it
‘Cause it’s gone in a blink
And the older I get
The truer it is
It’s the people you love, not the money and stuff
That makes you rich

And if they found a fountain of youth
I wouldn’t drink a drop and that’s the truth
Funny how it feels I’m just getting to my best years yet

The older I get
The fewer friends I have
But you don’t need a lot when the ones that you got
Have always got your back
And the older I get
The better I am
At knowing when to give
And when to just not give a damn

And if they found a fountain of youth
I wouldn’t drink a drop and that’s the truth
Funny how it feels I’m just getting to my best years yet
The older I get

And I don’t mind all the lines
From all the times I’ve laughed and cried
Souvenirs and little signs of the life I’ve lived

The older I get
The longer I pray
I don’t know why, I guess that I
Got more to say
And the older I get
The more thankful I feel
For the life I’ve had, and all the life I’m living still*

*Lyrics to The Older I Get –Songwriters: Adam Wright, Hailey Whitters and Sarah Allison Turner

[Along with getting older with its sweet upside of grandchildren and finding clarity and contentment…there is the sadder side of losing people we love. That happened for Alan Jackson this week with the unexpected death of his oldest daughter Mattie’s husband, Ben Selecman…married less than a year. Prayers for this family.]

Age of Maturity – Consider This Radio Show – Annette Petrick

4) A Narcissist Culture – What happened to a once civil society? Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg spoke this week on the divisive and partisan Senate confirmation hearings of recent years. She reflected on her own hearing and that of her good friend and conservative Justice Scalia. Both of them confirmed to the Supreme Court by an almost unanimous Senate vote.

Some would say what has changed is the caliber of leaders in office now. Narcissist is a word used frequently in mainstream media.

I wrote earlier this week on narcissistic bosses and how to thrive under such leadership. We may not have chosen our boss, whether he or she is over a company or country, but we can determine to do what we can to help…not harm.

Do you get weary of the contentious nature of our press? How about the behavior of our elected officials, on both sides? Maybe a lifetime in the political arena (whether in public or private sector positions) brings the cynic out of everyone. Maybe the goal of doing whatever possible good we can breaks down if our boss is just too difficult or just too not like us.

The more I read on narcissistic bosses, the more I find that many who rise to the top have some of those traits. It’s what helped them get there. We can raise our backs to that and make as much noise as we can to get rid of that person or disrupt every process or decision.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Or we can seek out what is wisdom in handling a narcissistic boss… for our own sakes, the sake of the company (or country), and even for his. It is one thing to feel helpless and a whole other thing to escalate a situation and add to the damage, whatever it is.

Author and blogger Eric Barker has written a Wall Street Journal best-seller entitled Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong. I haven’t read the book yet but his article is intriguing.

In this article 5 Scientific Secrets to Handling a Narcissist, he gives some excellent counsel on what to do. Some of his advice may be hard to stomach…but stirring up a narcissist with negative, blaming banter will not get anyone where they say they hope to go.

Here are Barker’s 5 bits of excellent advice:

  1. If at all possible, just steer clear of him. – Do your job. Do it well.
  2. If he’s your boss, kiss up or shut up. – A narcissist doesn’t want to hear your take on things, especially if it is against his take. Until you decide to leave your organization, do your best to just get along. He is much better at deflecting and retaliating than you probably are at exposing his faults or unfitness for the job.
  3.  Know what you want and get payment up front. This relates to folks who have something (information, relationships, influence) the narcissist wants but doesn’t yet have. I can’t even think of an example…can you offer one?
    “Now I’ve been very negative toward narcissists (understandably) but they can be worked with and can even be good employees. Yes, really.Why? Because they want something. They really need to look good. And if you can align your desires with their desires, you may find yourself with an unstoppable achievement machine…They get what they want when they do what you want.” – Eric Barker
  4. If you have a raging narcissist within hearing and one who lets you close, ask some of equivalent of: “What would people think?” Let them answer the questions. Emphasize community and use disappointment, rather than anger, to keep them in line. They want to look good. So help them look good by helping them do good.”
  5. Be Dexter. Dexter was the focal character of a TV show of the same name. He was a forensics technician working murder cases. He became a serial killer of serial killers. Whew! I never watched the show but know of its cultish popularity. The thing is, all of us  can become narcissistic. Especially in cultures where narcissists rise to power. If we can confront the narcissism in ourselves then we can fight it by nurturing empathy – refusing to give into the impulse to self-elevate and direct that impulse to empower others. Something to think about.

5 Scientific Secrets to Handling a Narcissist – Eric Barker

How to De-Escalate a Fight with a Narcissist – Elinor Greenberg, PhD

Dealing with a Narcissist? – Try These 5 Negotiation Tactics – Tanya Tarr

Barking Up the Wrong Tree Quotes – GoodReads

Hostage Negotiation: the Top FBI Hostage Negotiator Teaches You the 5 Secrets to Getting What You Want – Eric Barker

This Is How to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Kids: 5 Secrets From Research – Eric Barker

5) Visual Aids – I am a visual learner. By that, information intake comes easier with images. I used to think because of being a voracious note taker that auditory learning was my preference. No, it was that innately, writing the notes was salvation for me because they gave me visual cues to master the auditory information taken in…later. Looking at my notes.

This week, I began a study of Genesis through Community Bible Study. The study opened with a YouTube visual that “storied” the beginning journey of the God and humankind. Genesis 1-11 in less than 8 minutes, being drawn as we watched. So good.

A big part of why children’s books are so attractive for a visual learner is the rich illustrations that accompany the story. One of my favorite artists is Marjolein Bastin. She paints the world around us with all its beauty, tiny detail, and true-to-life (im)perfections.

You might enjoy this short article and stunning video of hers where she describes “Why I Create”.

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That’s this week’s faves. How about you? please share some of yours with all of us through the Comments.

Be safe out there. Be kind to those you love and those you don’t yet… you never know what could change.

Bonuses:

Pull out that wedding dress – if it still fits, why not wear it from time to time?…for your pleasure and those who loved seeing you in it that one other time.Photo Credit: Brittney Kluse, Facebook

Meet the Nativity

Meet the Nativity and Find Your Family – Glen Scrivener

American Idol SweetheartsCaleb Lee Hutchison and Maddie Poppe fell in love while competing in the 16th season of the ABC music show American Idol. Maddie eventually went on to win with Caleb coming in second. Renditions of songs like Maddie’s Landslide and Caleb’s Don’t Close Your Eyes took them straight to the finals and into fans’ hearts. Here they are on the Live Tour singing together You’ve Got a Friend. So darling.

5 Friday Faves – Divine Appointments, the Dark Side of Children’s YouTube Videos, Senate Confirmation Hearings, a Fostering Film, and Things That Have Almost Always Been

Happy Friday! Quickly, here are my 5 favorite finds for the week.

1)  Divine appointments – There is something other-worldly by chance encounters, or visits with old friends, or even an oatmeal breakfast that seem larger than life. I’ve had all three this week and all struck a chord of the wonder and mystery of life…of how circumstances are orchestrated such that only God could be responsible. Why? Because of how deeply and lovingly they penetrate the heart.Visit with an old friend – no agenda; no pretense; just a heart rest.

A bowl of steel-cut oats made into a feast by another dear old friend.

Photo Credit: PXhere  [A chance meeting turned into an opportunity and maybe a friendship.]

On the chance encounter: Have you ever spotted someone in the grocery story and something about their appearance or demeanor drew your attention. The image above is a stock photo, but here’s the story. Today while lost in thought over what to buy for Dave’s birthday supper, I noticed this woman in the coolest dress and matching jacket. The fabric was olive green camo. She pulled it off stunningly. I wanted to say something but didn’t.

We ended up in the parking lot at the same time (totally “accidental”; no stalking going on here). I determined if we stowed our carts at the same time I would compliment her fashion sense. We did, and I did. Then a several minute conversation launched easily. She made the suit out of men’s cotton tshirts. Then we talked about our careers, our children, our hopes to make a difference in the world, our faith and our culture. She is an amazing woman…

We exchanged phone numbers and I hope coffee together will follow. I’m currently in a study on justice and longing for an avenue to bring a voice to the voiceless in this city. This woman is a part of that kind of work every single day.

A divine appointment.

2) The Dark Side of Children’s YouTube Videos – Leaving a child unsupervised with a smart phone or tablet is risky. I’m now more convinced than ever after discovering writer artist James Bridle. He wrote an essay entitled Something Is Wrong on the Internet. If you have children, or care about children, please read it. It is a bit freaky. The video below also tells how he sees how the internet, with apps such as YouTube, using bots and AI devices, is drawing children into content we would never want them to experience.

Who makes these videos? Can you even trace their creators?

“The more time you start to spend with them, the crazier and crazier you start to feel you may be….deep strangeness and deep lack of understanding…Who is making them? Some of them really and clearly by people who shouldn’t be around children at all. ” “There are real people trapped within these systems…even if you’re human, you have to end up behaving like a machine just to survive.” Kids drugged looking at these videos. A few auto-clicks away from videos opening surprise eggs will be videos with sexual or violent content still with cartoon characters or superheroes involved. Creepy wrong stuff!!! “Kids’ worst nightmares”.

“Inequality of power [and understanding] always leads to violence.”

“We need to stop thinking of technology as a solution to all of our problems, but think of it as a guide to what those problems actually are, so we can start thinking about them properly and start to address them.” – James Bridle

The Internet as Monster – Rob Dreher

3) Senate Confirmation Hearing – The greatest distraction of my week has been the Senate Confirmation Hearings. 4 days of high drama and brilliant oratory. All toward the determination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh‘s worthiness to replace Justice Kennedy on the US Supreme Court Justice. It was a rollicking, hold-on-to-your-seat experience for those present and for the rest of us watching remotely. The last day when witnesses (i.e. non-Senators) gave their testimony of Kavanaugh’s fitness for the Supreme Court was especially gripping.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Don’t miss the 4th day of hearings when witnesses gave their testimony (5 in favor and 5 opposing) of Judge Kavanaugh’s character and judicial preparedness for taking a chair on the Supreme Court. YouTube video linked here (1 hr 39 min into the video begins the witness panel).

The last of those witnesses was Akhil Reed Amar, Law professor at Yale University, a registered Democrat, staunch liberal who voted for Hillary Clinton. He actually gave testimony in support of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Here are his closing remarks:

“Responsible naysayers must become yaysayers of a sort; they must
specifically name better nominees realistically on the horizon.
If not Brett, who?
Distinguished Republicans: Kavanaugh is your team’s brightest judicial star. Rejoice!
Distinguished Democrats: Don’t be mad; be smart, and be careful what you wish for. Our party controls neither the White House nor the Senate. If you torpedo Kavanaugh, you’ll likely end up with someone worse —less brilliant, less constitutionally knowledgeable, less studious, less open-minded, less good for America.”
.

Senate Concludes Kavanaugh Hearing; Confirmation Likely – MPR News

Akhil Reed Amar Testimony Transcript

4) A Fostering Film – A funny and endearing and hopeful film on fostering children debuts this Fall. All I know about Instant Family is the trailer but it’s already on my calendar. Have a look:

5) Things That Have Almost Always Been – British novelist Matt Haig‘s book Notes on a Nervous Planet came to my attention via the following Twitter photo:Photo Credit: Notes on a Nervous PlanetMatt Haig, iAuthor on Twitter

Haig writes and speaks about anxiety and depression. He knows these experiences personally. I have only read quotes from his books but they are now on my “to-read” list.

The page above from his book Notes on a Nervous Planet was a beautiful study into the things that endure. I’m surprised that Haig describes himself as an atheist. Comforted by the things that have almost always been would seem to lend itself to the great comfort of knowing the God who has always been. No matter his thinking on this, his writing reminds us of the wonder of life including the reasons to stay alive (the title of his earlier book).

By the way, this would be an idea for a great night out with  a love or night in with a friend – to come up with our own list of the enduring stuff of life.

Notes on a Nervous PlanetMatt Haig

Goodreads Quotes from Notes on a Nervous Planet

Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig

Goodreads Quotes from Reasons to Stay Alive

YouTube Video – Matt Haig’s Top 5 Tips on Good Mental Health in a Social Media Age

That’s it for me. How about you? Please comment below about your week’s favorites…or thoughts on mine. Blessings.

Bonuses:

Quote: “Leaders aren’t great because they have power; they are great because they empower others.” Lolly Daskal, TED Talk

Why You Can’t Name the Virtues – Karen Swallow Prior

A Neuroscience Researcher Reveals 4 Rituals that Will Make You Happier – Eric Barker

The State of Your Attention Determines the State of Your Life – Srinivas Rao

TEDed – How the Sugar Affects the Brain

5 Ways to Pray for Trafficked People

Photo Credit: Charles Spurgeon, Prince of Preachers, Facebook

5 Friday Faves – Pursuing Truth, Giving Voice to the Voiceless, Connecting Skill, Biomedical Treatment for Autism, and an Antique Store Experience

Friday has come…and gone. Finishing up this Faves on an early Sunday morning. Summer has wound down. School starts here in a week. Family visits. New babies. Friends back in town. Lots going on. Still…wanted to close the week out with my faves…and you.

1) Pursuing Truth – Deception is a problem of the culture that can become very personal. When something is spoken through public media as if it’s true, or someone we know speaks with confidence and authority, we are tempted to believe it is true…without weighing its validity. This is not always the case…in fact, too often we must sift through motives and spin to get to the meat of the matter.

From the time our children were little, we have tried to teach them how to sort out what is true. In the culture today, celebrities opt out of critical thinking by saying such things as “your truth”.

There is truth. How can it be colored so many individual ways?

I’m very thankful for the opportunity for table talk even today with our adult children. Sitting over dinner discussing faith, politics, and society…along with music, film, babies, and the latest technology.

I’m also grateful for friends who can be worlds apart on some ideologies but are bound together by relationship. They teach me so much. In fact, I have sought out some friendships, in the beginning, for those very differences. These are people whose passion and determination in living their passions. They help me make sure I haven’t pigeon-holed a certain worldview without considering what is winsome about it.

Nothing has changed about my belief in a good God…that deepens as I get older.  He will answer for Himself one day, as He chooses. On what may have confused any of us, in our human frailty, about both His justice and mercy. I will also answer one day about my own grasp of that and how it influenced my dealings with others.

I do believe that God has given us a guide for life in the Scriptures. I don’t understand it all, but I would not be so bold as to throw out some parts while I cling to others. Absolutely sure He can protect His own story through the ages…from getting lost in translation.

Anyway, what do you think about pursuing truth? It doesn’t happen without intentionality. We are being blasted with “someone’s truth” most all the time. Growing weary of pursuing truth would not go well for us.

Pursuing the Truth Requires Modesty About OurselvesMona Charen

Monday Morning Moment – the Essence and Ethics of Spin in Our Work, Our Politics, and Our Community – Deb Mills

2) Giving Voice to the Voiceless – Two friends and I are doing a study together, along with many others online. It is  Arise: a Study on God’s Heart for Justice. Easy to do – very thought-provoking and convicting.Photo Credit: IF Gathering

It’s a six-week look at God’s heart for justice and came at just the right time for me. Some of us are deeply engaged with turning stories of injustice into hope and healing. I am not one of those but so want to be.Photo Credit: IF Gathering

3) Connecting Skill – Benjamin P. Hardy is a writer that I follow. He is an organizational psychologist and writes on motivation and productivity. This past week, his post had an intriguing title: The Most Important Skill for Interacting with People . Definitely worth a read, but I will also tell you what that skill is:

Compassion/Consideration

Photo Credit: Carl Richards, New York Times

“If you treat every person you meet like they are dealing with a serious challenge, you’ll be right more than half the time. If you entreat people with love, kindness, empathy, and discernment, they will appreciate you so much.

You could change someone’s life today. You could potentially save someone’s life today. You could also indirectly change countless other lives through the ripple effects of making just one person feel heard and seen.

Send the text to a friend.

Make that call to a loved one.

Apologize to a co-worker or employee.

Wrote William Shakespeare, ‘They do not love that do not show their love.'”Benjamin P. Hardy

The Most Important Skill for Interacting with People Benjamin P. Hardy

Ask Yourself: What Burdens Is That Other Person Carrying?Carl Richards

4) Biomedical Treatment for Autism – [This is fascinating to me, but I have some idea how hard this could be to read by parents trying to make decisions about what’s right for their child with autism and the rest of their family. So please bear this in mind, while you read.]

During a conversation this week with a young mom who has a child diagnosed with autism (Autism Spectrum Disorder), my concept of food as intervention was rocked. In her determination to rid her child of the ravages of autism, she is following the counsel of a renowned local pediatrician,  Dr. Mary Megson.  Her approach with autistic children includes intensive testing of biological factors and then applying biomedical measures as appropriate for each child’s findings.

I’m not going into the specifics, but my friend has changed up her child’s diet and has also added a long list of supplements each day. Who would even imagine that giving cod liver oil to a child would have impact on autism? I know her sweet child and the changes I’ve seen just in the last few months are remarkable. The video below captures what another mom did for her son and the difference it made. [Don’t be overwhelmed by all the interventions…every family must decide for themselves what they can believe and manage/afford in the care of their child with autism.]

From my friend’s experience and my wonder at this strange disorder, this type intervention is definitely something to consider…for a season, for the sake of a child. There are just so many diets out there, so I can’t imagine how parents make their decisions. Hopefully the benefits outweigh what can be very isolating and divisive between people who care about each other.

Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes – Ronald E. – one father’s story

5) An Antique Store Experience – This week I was home visiting my family in Georgia. My sister-in-law is an amazing crafts-person – taking dreary scuffed-up (albeit much loved by someone in the past) old furniture and bringing them to life again. She knows all the best antique shops where others do the same sorts of re-purposing and “up-cycling”.

[Someone took a tv cabinet and made it into a beautiful display piece. Do you see the doors of the cabinet were made into the shelving? And how about an artsy chandelier made from bed springs?!]

[Chenille takes me back to childhood before our comfy modern fabrics…when chenille was the softest bed cover to wrap up in.]

RVA Antiques – a Happy Place – Deb Mills

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

That’s a wrap on this week’s favorite finds. Please favor us with some of yours in the Comments section below. Have a splendid end-of-summer weekend. Be gentle with yourself and with those you meet…you just never know what it will mean.

Bonuses:

Beyond the Guitar – “I’m in a Video Game” – Nathan Mills

YouTube Video – The Chosen – This Movie Changed the Way I Feel About Christmas – The Shepherd Pilot Episode – Don’t miss the ending.

Quote:

Unhinged. My choice word to describe how I’ve felt all week culminating in a Friday to which I awoke with my eyes being super swollen. I’m wearing an outfit I’m 99% sure I already wore this week (hey, I blame it on being European for a short season & go ahead and judge me as though you’ve never done the same). I’ve slept horribly all week because of worry and stress waking up around 4.

I decided I was going to redeem Friday, eat a croissant, have good coffee, and read a book. Please note the weird lighting and spilled coffee in the background. Because this is actually my life.

The book I’m reading is about a surgeon who during WW2 lived in China and served the Lord and the people there until his premature death. A friend asked me where and why I find books like this and suggested I read something lighter (sometimes I do). This morning it hit me that I know the answer why.

Gravity.

The gravity of a life lived before the Lord in a selfless, sacrificial way calls into reckoning my frivolity and selfishness. I need gravity because far too often I am unhinged and need to be reminded that who I am in Christ, swollen eyes/outfit/sleepless soul/etc., is enough because it doesn’t depend on me. God takes my unhinged-ness and allows me to cast my burdens on him.

And I’m working on it. Praise God. – Taryn Blocker, with permission

3 Ways Senior Leaders Create a Toxic CultureRon Carucci

The Dangers of Distracted ParentsErika Kristakis

Photo Credit: Housekeeping 101, Facebook

Photo Credit: Marianne Wink, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine” – My Story About This Song

Photo Credit: New Release Today

The film I Can Only Imagine debuted in the Spring of this year. It’s the story of how a young man, Bart Millard, came to compose one of the most beautiful poignant songs written in recent years.

Millard is the lead singer for the Christian band MercyMe. The song I Can Only Imagine was inspired by his own faith walk and the death of his father to cancer. The lyrics express the wonder at what Heaven will be like for us when our time comes. Photo Credit: To Save a Life

The film featuring this song chronicles Millard’s early life with an angry, abusive father. Bart hated his father, and although he was sure God could forgive his father, Bart believed he himself never would.

Bart Millard: ‘I Can Only Imagine’ Was Born From a Life of Abuse – Jenny Rapson

It is a powerful story that resonates with many of us. My biological father (not this Dad) wasn’t physically violent toward me but he was emotionally abusive in his neglect and indifference toward us four children. Our older brother may have experienced worse abuse from our dad but he never talked about it. What makes me wonder is how angry he was as an adult. My brother died a few years ago, finally beginning to heal out of decades of bitterness and rage…just before he died.

This song and film, birthed out of a childhood marred by violence, remind me of how good God is and how He works healing even in the worst of situations.

My mom loved this song. I didn’t know its significance to her until right before her death in 2002. We were living overseas the year the song came out (2001, and I don’t remember even hearing it until Mom asked a friend to sing it for her, just days before she died. After her funeral, as we returned to “normal”, it seemed I heard that song every day for months. It had become wildly popular, winning two GMA Dove awards, and successfully crossing over to pop/country charts. That connection with her, day in and day out, helped me to grieve and heal the loss of the woman I loved most in the world. . Imagining her life in Heaven was very good for me…then and now.

Years later, when my older brother died, I heard the song again in an odd situation. We were visiting Dad, in the house where I grew up. My brother lived with them for many years, and I went into his bedroom. He had been gone for a few weeks at that time. There was an old-timey, pale blue box radio in the bathroom he used. I switched it on just to see what station he listened to. It was a Christian station which was strange because, although he was a Christian, he wasn’t into “churchy stuff”. The song that was playing when I turned on that radio was “I Can Only Imagine”. There…in a sacred moment, missing my brother, the Lord comforted me again…with this amazing song…and message.

Worship with me please.

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine

Yeah

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine when that day comes
And I find myself standing in the sun
I can only imagine when all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you
I can only imagine, yeah
I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you

I can only imagine*

Just this week, I saw the film for the first time…in the living room, lights dimmed, with sweet family. Some in my close circle of family and friends don’t rush to watch “Christian” films because, they say, they are too amateurish and trite. Not this one. Beautifully filmed, raw dialogue between Bart and his father, layer upon layer of brokenness. Then…the miracle of healing. Of God piercing through the pain and bringing beauty out of ugliness. Reconciling…first with Him…and then with each other.

See the film. Listen to Bart sing his own story of wondering about Heaven…and then let all that settle around you as it has me so many times…just the thought of what Heaven will be like…seeing my Mom again…my brother…others who have gone ahead…and especially the God of this universe…the One who saved me…the One who saved Bart’s Dad and Bart, and then the One gave Bart grace to forgive.

*Lyrics to I Can Only Imagine Written by Bart Millard

YouTube Video – Bart Millard Reveals the Origin of His Biggest Hit “I Can Only Imagine” – Huckabee

YouTube Video – I Can Only Imagine – “Forgiveness” Scene

YouTube Video – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe

5 Friday Faves – the Fortnite Phenomenon, Back to School, Clean Comedy, God’s Heart for Justice, and Bonuses Make Five

Happy Friday! One of those weeks that so rapidly entered history. Lots of travel and family and birthdays and then work, of course. Will go right to the faves before the clock runs down. Hope your weekend is long and lovely.

1) The Fortnite Phenomenon – Not a gamer myself, but when the game Fortnite comes up in conversation with men and boys of all ages, it’s easy to see what a phenomenon it is. A multi-player battle game (with elements of construction as well), Fortnite is free-to-play and wildly popular right now in the gaming universe. A unique component of the game includes avatars who break out into dance. These dances are emulated by player fans, and you would recognize some of them because of boys, in particular, master them as they master the game. These dances have become part of Nathan Mills‘ (Beyond the Guitar) classical guitar repertoire. His YouTube channel subscriber numbers have more than tripled since his first post of Fortnite Dances…and views of his videos are in the millions. Enjoy the latest…as the commenters clamor for Fortnite Dances #4.

YouTube Video – Beyond the Guitar – Fortnite Dances on Guitar (Part 2)

YouTube Video – Beyond the Guitar – Fortnite Dances on Guitar (Part 1)

2) Back to School – That time of year is back. So much new happens as summer ends, and Fall stretches out before us. Routines and rhythms crank up again. Growth spurts require new clothes. Then there are all the school supplies required for starting a new year.

As our children grew up, we had varying seasons of “back-to-school” between home schooling and other schooling, both in the US and in Africa. It was never easy for me to see them off, when we didn’t homeschool. I missed them…and those moments together when they talked about life as they saw it. I also missed being able to protect them from some of the meanness in the world. Still, the start of the school year is a hopeful time of anticipation and wonder, of new beginnings and possibilities.[Kudos to the teachers, Stacie Mills & Kirby Joseph, whose classrooms pre-student-return, were my inspiration on this fave.]

How thankful I am for teachers who really care for their students. Teachers who see themselves as partners with parents, even the most woefully unprepared ones…for the sake of these kiddos who will hold the future in their hands one day. What a marvel this is.

Putting the Basket in the Water: Trusting God in the Next Phase of Your Child’s Life – Ashlei Woods

The Trauma-Informed Teacher – Silent Front Line

3) Clean Comedy – So just this week I discovered Dry Bar Comedy. It showcases stand-up comedy that is actually family-friendly. No profanity. No sex. No mean putdowns. The first act (on video) that I caught was Leanne Morgan, a gorgeous Southern woman who puts her arm around our experiences of being female at all ages. Hilarious!

Another clean comic (not with Dry Bar) who I adore is John Crist. His tour this Fall brings him to Richmond, Virginia, and we have tickets. Crist is a preacher’s kid and uses that church experience as fodder for many of his routines. You can see his videos on his website or YouTube channel. Don’t miss him…high energy, so funny.

Michael Jr. Comedy – another favorite of mine.

4) God’s Heart for Justice – For the next six weeks, I’m digging into a study on God’s heart for justice through the International Justice Mission. I bought the book, but if you sign up for daily emails, you can glean great good just in that content and the resource videos.

It’s too easy to turn a blind eye away from the injustices of this world – human trafficking, poverty, racial and religious oppression… Arise focuses on the Biblical definition of justice and the mandate for each of us in turning the tide on it…until Jesus returns and rights all wrongs. We too often are numbed by the immensity of the problem, when, in fact, we can swing the pendulum toward justice… Each one of us can do something. Sign up for daily emails and discover your place in God’s mission of love for those most vulnerable.

Arise: A Study on God’s Heart for Justice

5) Bonuses: 5 bonuses make up my fifth find. Please don’t miss them.

What’s Happening to Our Kids? Technology’s Latest Disruptions – The Middle School Relationship – Alex Whitcomb

Leaf by Leaf: Satisfied (the journey of Mom Melissa and Teen Daughter Maggie through Stage 4 Colon Cancer – and Maggie’s Death and Homegoing – one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read

72 Challenging and Truthful Leadership Quotes from Craig Groeschel Opening This Year’s Global Leadership Summit – Brian Dodd

 YouTube Video – Faith In Imagination: The Fantasy Makers – Trailer

YouTube Video – Aretha Franklin (March 25, 1942-August 16, 2018)  – Nessun Dorma – and the National Anthem as only she could do it. Goosebumps! Thank you, Aretha, for all the music.

That winds down this week. Hope yours was stunning – full of meaningful work, real rest, family and friends, and deep conversations. Be gentle with yourself and each other. – some of those people in our lives. #Friends #Community

5 Friday Faves – Mission Impossible, Digital Dementia, Habits that Can Change Your Life, Piles of Books, and Food for Thought

Friday! Whew! With family visiting and some travel also, writing took a back seat the last couple of weeks. It’s always good for me to sit down at my desk and put words on the screen. Something really soothing to my mind in the sound of clicking away on computer keys. Hope the reading soothes you as well.

1) Mission Impossible – Nathan Mills, with all the lovely summer interruptions, still managed to get out an arrangement of the Mission: Impossible Fallout theme. Watch it here.  This makes the sixth of the Mission Impossible films  He covered the film trailer which blends the Mission Impossible theme and Imagine Dragons’ Friction.
Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Mission: Impossible – Fallout – Classical Guitar Cover by Beyond the Guitar

2) Digital Dementia

Brain researcher Manfred Spitzer coined the term “digital dementia”. It relates to the deterioration of brain function with the overuse of technology. This could include memory loss, attention issues, concentration, and emotional distress such as depression. He would have all digital technology taken out of classrooms. We know that is not going to happen, therefore we must intentionally “exercise our brains” in ways that counteract the brain drain caused by digital technology.  The following are found in Jessica Gwinn‘s piece:

  • Use Your Head. Retrieve information from your brain organically. Sit there and concentrate until you can recall it. [“Use it or lose it, the experts contend. The brain, just like a muscle in our body, can atrophy if we don’t use it.  Perhaps consider a digital sabbatical…If we focus instead on having real conversations, reading books, getting out into nature, and disconnecting from technology, we will be taking care of our brain health and our emotional health as well.”]
  • Crack Open a Book. That’s right. Reading an actual book rather than a tablet has been shown to improve memory retention.
  • Learn a new language. Putting you outside your comfort zone helps your brain work harder, which makes you smarter.
  • Play a new instrument. Instruments require the use of both side of the brain – like the piano or the guitar, for example, which help strengthen and balance it.
  • Get physical. Physical exercise increases blood flow and accelerates the transport of vital nutrients to your brain. – Jessica Gwinn, Dr. Carolyn Brockington

Overuse of Technology Can Lead to Digital Dementia – Jessica Gwinn

Dealing with the Effects of Digital Dementia – Tony Bradley

Digital Dementia: The Memory Problem Plaguing Teens and Young Adults

Kwik Brain: Memory Improvement | Accelerated Learning | Speed-Reading | Brain Hacks | Productivity Tips | High Performance – Jim Kwik, Brain Coach, Founder of Kwik Learning

Adam Gazzaley: The Neuroscience of Attention

3) Habits That Can Change Your Life– We develop habits of all kinds in our lives. They happen almost without thinking. Let’s consider what we want for our lives and then think of what habits we could deliberately put in place to support that desire. I love New Year’s Resolutions, and one of mine from this January is now a habit that will hopefully stick for the rest of my life. It is the habit of making the first voice of each day that of God. Attorney and thought leader Justin Whitmel Earley talks about that as one of his habits as well.

[I previously wrote about Justin Earley’s habits of love here.]

In the midst of life in a high-pressure law practice, he had a revelation that he wanted his life to be structured around habits of love. He lays out these habits on his website and book The Common Rule.

Photo Credit: The Common Rule

What habits would you like to eliminate to make room for others? What habits would move your life in the direction you hope to go?

The Common RuleJustin Whitmel Earley

Scripture Before Phone, and Other Habits That Could Change Your LifeTrevin Wax

YouTube Video – Waking up at 5AM Is Changing My Life – Jordan Taylor [Dealing with his phone addiction]

4) Piles of Books – If you love to read…and love books, in general, you may have something called tsundoku. BBC journalist Tom Gerken introduced me to this term which essentially means having piles of unread books. I struggle with this. Now, I will eventually read the books, but sometimes the stack gets larger as I fall behind on my reading. Keeping them close, as on my bedside table or desk, gives me the comfort of the possibility of reading them. To dangerous to put them on a bookcase unread. Such is the dilemma.

Tsundoku: The Art of Buying Books and Never Reading Them – Tom Gerken

Here’s my current pile. Some have been almost completed but not quite. How about you? Is tsundoku a word that defines the state you find yourself, regarding books yet to be read?

5) Food for Thought – Dave and I celebrated our wedding anniversary last weekend. We were passing through Williamsburg, Virginia, on that Saturday afternoon, with the plan in mind to stop at a favorite restaurant. It is Food for Thought and we love everything about it. The food is excellent and the whole restaurant experience prompts sweet conversation. You are literally surrounded by words at Food for Thought. Quotes of note. Conversation starter cards stacked on each table. Political and literary opinions framed on the walls. Whether Democrat or Republican, it is a friendly and welcoming place. The whole idea is bringing people together for food and talk – both of which are meant to be enjoyed and reveled in. During our meal, restaurant owner Howard Hopkins joined us for a bit of conversation. It felt as natural as an old friend sitting awhile on her way to her own table. Lovely time all the way around. I’m thinking this will be where we’ll be for our next anniversary.

Food for Thought, More Than a Clever Name – Tammy Jaxtheimer

Bonuses:

A Guide to the Science of Giving – Rafael Sarandeses

A Generation Grows Up in China Without Google, Facebook or Twitter – Li Yuan

The Most Dangerous Prayer a Christian Can Pray – Darrell B. Harrison

Photo Credit: Frank Sonnenberg, Twitter

Jesus Understand Your Loneliness – Jon Bloom

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end,
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Thomas Merton

Worship Wednesday – Thank God for Vacation Bible School & Those Strong Winsome Women Who Make It Happen

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Parent

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:13

But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”Luke 9:47-48

See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 18:10

In the summer of my 9-year-old life, I came to faith in Jesus…at Vacation Bible School (VBS). My mom always worked outside the home so someone must have brought my brothers and me each day for 5 days. I have sown parts of that week deep in my heart and memory.

Strong winsome women leading the Bible School. A week of mornings packed with fun. Koolaid & cookies for snack. Pastor doing the Bible lesson for us like he did our parents on Sunday. Big songs I can still remember. Bible verses we memorized. Craft time. Friday night “graduation” service where we performed for our parents.

This was the Vacation Bible School of my childhood. I asked my daughter what she remembered about Bible School. Some similar memories…the songs stay with you. Here are some she remembers from her childhood:

Jumping Up and Down, Shout Hosanna

Kind, K-I-N-D, Kind; Love Is Kind

Romans 16:19 – Be Excellent at What Is Good

Ain’t No Rock Gonna Cry in My Place

Behold What Manner of Love the Father Has Given Unto Us

For today’s Worship Wednesday, I just wanted to thank God for Vacation Bible School. Although having received solid Bible teaching as a child through Sunday School, preaching, and my parents, VBS sealed the deal for me that year I was 9.

We have young moms in our lives today who seek out Vacation Bible School for their children through the summer…sometimes more than one. The churches who have made VBS part of their DNA amaze me. It has to be very hard work to pull off that kind of programming (even if it’s shortened time-wise to 2-hour evening sessions).

Earlier today, I talked to one of those strong winsome women who make VBS happen at her church. She talked about how the success of the Vacation Bible School hinges on their volunteers. She is blessed to have workers who really love the children of their church…sounds like they follow how Jesus thinks of children.  I’m thinking this friend models that for her volunteers. VBS has to be led by a woman (or it could be a man) who casts this vision for other adults and gathers them to extend themselves farther than they might usually be inclined. Photo Credit: Midway Community Church

Vacation Bible School makes for an obvious outreach opportunity for kids within the church community, but more than that, it’s an opportunity for an extended and concentrated touch into the lives of the kids in our own churches.

I will spend eternity with the Lord because of a Vacation Bible School…because some strong winsome women did the hard work (including recruiting the pastor and other Godly men) to break up a long, lazy summer with a fun, penetrating, life application of the Word of God.

Every Breath I Take (lyrics & music)

All That Is Good (lyrics & music)

Deep Cries Out (lyrics & music)

God Is For Me (lyrics & music)

VBS in the 1980s: Cookies, Kool-Aid, Songs and Jason – Holly Hollman

10 Myths People Believe About VBS – Part 1 and Part 2 Lori Hatcher

What Jesus Thinks About Children – R. Kent Hughes

YouTube Video – Never Let Go of Me – Songs from Shipwrecked 2018 VBS

YouTube Video – Honest VBS Volunteer – John Crist

Worship Wednesday – Undivided – First Call

Photo Credit: Every Day Is Special

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. – 1 Corinthians 1:10

Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.Ephesians 4:3-6

But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.” – Luke 11:17

“Always pull from the same end of the rope.” This was the marriage advice given to Nathan and Bekkah by a couple of strangers. An older man and woman came up to Bekkah after one of Nathan’s concerts and just engaged her in conversation. Over the course of their chat, they gave this young couple a jewel of wisdom…not just for marriage but for life…

“Always pull from the same end of the rope.”

We live in a divided world.

Even in the church, the unity God means for us to have with one another is constantly under fire. By our differences, our ambitions, and our passions. How do we link arms when offenses and attitudes and preferences loom large? Sometimes larger, if we are all honest, than our calling in Christ.Photo Credit: Paul Lee, Heartlight

God help us…and He will.

In my regular Bible reading this morning, in Nehemiah 3, God displayed a beautiful picture of unity. Nehemiah, a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes, heard of the distress of the Jews in the broken-down city of Jerusalem. He was personally moved to action on their behalf and asked leave to go help them. He would undertake supervising the great task of the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem.

Throughout chapter 3 of Nehemiah, you read the phrases “after him” or “next to them”. Nehemiah recorded name after name of the men stationed one beside the other, doing the work of rebuilding the wall. In Nehemiah 4, when the local authorities felt threatened by the work, they did all they could to demoralize the workmen. Even to the point of inciting fear for their lives. Nehemiah, for the sake of the workers and the work, assigned half of them to shifts repairing the wall and half to stand ready with spears. In fact, even those laboring on the wall would have their weapons at hand. Ready to fight for each other whenever necessary…whenever the alarm is sounded.

“In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” – Nehemiah 4:20

This is unity.

The determination to be one together…as in a part of the whole…as we see in the unity of God in Three (John 17:22). The conviction that division, no matter the worthiness of the reason, robs us of our power and influence Robs God of His glory in His people. The humility and courage to root out division – with our work tools in one hand and our weapons in the other.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – JesusJohn 13:35

In an era sadly in the past, churches would, as needed, call themselves into a solemn assembly. This wasn’t just a share around a campfire, or a “confess fest”. A solemn assembly provides the setting for a deep dealing with sin in the church. Division, unholy and self-serving, can only be rooted out by corporate prayer and repentance.

Each of us can make a difference in the lives of our families, our churches, our cultures by refusing to be divided against each other. If we are willing to walk humbly and biblically with each other.  Working with one hand and holding God’s Word (toward love and against division) with the other. We are rarely given the option, in Scripture, to just walk away. To be repulsed by what we think is wrong; to pull ourselves out of the work and relationships; to just walk away.

[If an enemy threatens…we have God’s instructions as well…and His power fighting for us. However, to just abandon one another, especially to an enemy…and weaken the work and our witness? This is not the answer. Dealing with an enemy that divides us takes great wisdom, faith, and both courage and humility. Pointing our fingers at another is part of the problem, and we all know it if we would open our eyes to it. However, confronting the enemy in wise and Godly ways, may be required of any or all of us at some point in our lives. Remembering also that our enemy is spiritual more than physical.]

When we are having a hard time in this work of being in unity, Dave and I sometimes run through the names of people who give us hope. Those whom we know will always hold the rope for us if we are dangling off the edge of a cliff. Those also for whom we would do the same. It’s an exercise that helps us remember that God calls us to fight for each other…for those most worthy and even those, in our estimation, least worthy… In actuality, we are not the judge of this, God is. It is God who is worthy and He calls us, in His strength, to stand with each other. Alongside each other. Undivided.

Take a moment to savor the singing of this song Undivided by the vocal trio First Call. In this rendition, they are joined by Wayne Watson, Larnelle Harris, and Steve Green – all pioneers in contemporary Christian music.

[I get cold chills every time.]

Worship with me to Undivided by First Call:

We may worship different ways
We may praise Him
And yet spend all of our days
Living life divided

But when we seek Him with open hearts
He removes the walls we built
That keep us apart
We trust Him to unite us

In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
Undivided

It doesn’t matter if we agree
All He asks is that we serve Him faithfully
And love as He first loved us
He made us in His image

And in His eyes, we are all the same
And though out methods they may be different
Jesus is the bond that will remain

In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
Undivided

In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
Undivided*

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. – Colossians 3:12-15

*Lyrics to Undivided written by Melodie Tunney, 1986

First Call Music

Don’t Give Up – Jon Bloom – Desiring God