Category Archives: Kindness

Monday Morning Moment – When Your Work Culture’s In Trouble – with Matt Monge

Photo Credit: Career Addict

Business thought leader and writer Matt Monge is my go-to guy on company culture. The fact that he also struggles personally with depression tenders my heart to what he has to say. He is a straight-talker. Courageous, transparent, and caring. Monge knows toxic work cultures. He is consulted to help fix them, and through his writing he gives generous help to all who struggle to thrive in a culture that makes that a challenge. Take heart, those of you currently in troubled work cultures. Once you have identified what the murkiness is about, you can then act to clear it out…or, if necessary, you can clear out. You have options.

Below you will find Monge’s piece 7 Signs Your Culture Is In Trouble. Click on the link to go further into depth on what these mean.

  • Your culture is in trouble if your CEO is a toxic leader. Matt Monge delineates this further in his article 10 Traits of Ego-driven Leaders. Employees and teams can experience huge shifts in their own thinking and behavior toward each other and customers, just in response to top-down influence. Beware of mission drift also.
  • Your culture is in trouble if poor managers are allowed to remain poor managers indefinitely. This is sad for both the manager herself and the team under her. When a company is frantic with reacting to the demands of toxic leadership, the simplest processes of feedback, teaming, and  development take a backseat. Everyone suffers.
  • Your culture is in trouble if humanness and vulnerability are absent. In a troubled work culture, trust deteriorates. The bottom line is the driving force. Keeping one’s job and the perks of that job trumps everything else that might have once mattered in a work culture.
  • Your culture is in trouble if accountability is misunderstood and only selectively applies. Healthy accountability is meant to be a two-way process. Leaders and subordinates are best-served when they have open communication and transparency is high. An employee is much more open to accountability when he sees that his leaders also submit to the accountability of others.
  • Your culture is in trouble if people aren’t learning much. Opportunities for training and growth are signs of a healthy environment where employees clearly matter to the organization.
  • Your culture is in trouble if teams and departments have ongoing problems performing their core functions. This is a glaring sign of trouble. When performance is off and morale matches it, a cry for help is being sounded. When personnel just don’t care, something has to be done to turn that around. What that something is and who is capable to doing it can be sorted out by both managers and employees. Punitive action is not the answer.
  • Your culture is in trouble if executive team morale is low. This speaks to the ripple effect starting from a toxic CEO, through the organization and then back up the chain-of-command. Morale, as we know, has a huge impact on performance. When the executive team is struggling with low morale, reflecting that of the company, then it’s to the point that someone from the outside must come in to help correct course. This takes enormous vulnerability on the part of the executive team.

Having come through a cancer diagnosis, my experience is that it’s better to know what’s going on than to remain in the dark…or that murkiness of knowing something is wrong but you’re not sure what.

Once we identify what the struggle is with our work culture, we can begin to rectify our situation. Some things we may have little control over, but what we can change, we must.Photo Credit: Venture Lab, Pauline James

Business writer Joanna Zambas has given us examples that mirror Matt Monge’s list on company culture (see links below). One of her lists celebrates companies who have made culture a priority.

25 Unmistakable Signs of a Bad Company Culture – Joanna Zambas

20 Examples of Great Company Culture – Joanna Zambas

Southwest Airlines made Zambas’ list. It is my favorite domestic airline. Mainly because of its customer service. However, that customer service is rooted in a work culture that is very pro-employee. Photo Credit: Business2Community

I know that first-hand because of my contact, over many years, with one Southwest employee. Her kindness, demeanor, and consistent care at every touchpoint have demonstrated to me the very heart of this company.

My hope for all of us is that we can work toward a company culture like this one…bottom-to-top if necessary. For you as company leaders, you may not see this or any such piece…but I hope you can be encouraged or re-energized to grow such a culture. The impact will nothing but positive…you know it somewhere in that leader heart of yours.

7 Signs Your Culture Is In TroubleMatt Monge

YouTube Video – Matt Monge: Speaker, Writer, Leadership & Culture Expert, Depression Fighter

What Not to Do When You’re Trying to Motivate Your Team – Ron Carucci

Turnover Trouble: How a Great Company Culture Can Help You retain Your Best Employees – Emma Sturgis

Monday Morning Moment – Kindness Over Cleverness – Work Culture Where Employee Satisfaction Impacts Marketing – Deb Mills

5 Friday Faves – Women of Influence, Incredibles 2 on Classical Guitar, Suicide Prevention, Fathers, and Hard Redeemed

Friday Faves! Here are mine for the week:

1) Women of Influence – I have been extraordinarily blessed all my life with the presence of women of influence. Many I have known personally. The list would be long if I wrote out the names of all those who come to mind right now. You know who you are to me. Women who, in their own ordinary lives, shake foundations and raise up all around them to a higher plane of life. Today, I want to name three women who are very very different from each other. I do not know them personally, nor do I agree with everything they say… but they have caused me to think.

  • Karen Swallow Prior is an English professor, a writer, and a Christian activist. I feel like I know her through her Facebook and Twitter pages. She is as real to me as a friend would be. As brilliant and articulate as she is, I am sure we could have a conversation on difficult issues without losing each other in the process. Recently, she was hit by a city bus while walking and miraculously lived to write about it. In her forced convalescence at home over the next months, I’m thinking we will learn much from her alone time…with God and through her reflections.

“The Sage Ones” – 10 Faith Writers Over 50 – Jody Lee Collins

Photo Credit: Twitter, Anna Deavere Smith

#NotesFromTheField

These are very public figures. They use their renown to influence in the positive. We all know other women of influence – working in refugee camps, in the classroom, in research labs, in neighborhoods, and those aging ever so gracefully before us – who make a difference in quieter yet profound ways.

2) Incredibles 2 on Classical Guitar – When the film The Incredibles came out in 2004, our kids were all in high school. The film follows the adventures of a superhero family trying to have a normal life while subduing bad guys. 14 years later and its much-welcome sequel opens this weekend. Note I didn’t say much-anticipated, because the first film appeared to be a stand-alone after all these years.Photo Credit: Gizmodo

In celebration of Incredibles 2, Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar, has arranged Michael Giacchino‘s film theme. You can enjoy this jazzy spy melody here.Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

[Have you considered being a patron of Nathan’s part of his support community? Creating music takes concentrated time and to do it for a living takes a team of folks who love what he’s doing and want to help keep it happening. Here‘s where you can find out more.]

Spotify – Guitar Covers Vol. 2 – Beyond the Guitar

3) Suicide Prevention – To go to such a dark place mentally that suicide seems the only way out must be a terrifying, deeply lonely experience. There was a time in my own life that the pressures of life mixed with emotions I couldn’t seem to control pulled me in that direction. Fortunately, nothing happened, and with God’s help and that of my family and friends (without them even knowing what was going on), the darkness broke.

We are living in an age of loneliness where social media and superficial gatherings give the facade of community, but not its reality. Truly watching out for each other and touching base, especially, with those who live more solitary lives is life-saving.

Talk Saves Lives. We can’t just assume we know what helps prevent suicide. Let’s get educated and lean in to those most vulnerable.

Resources abound. Each of us can do something to turn the tide.

Photo Credit: Twitter, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Life and Chester Bennington – the One Tribute You Don’t Want to Miss – Hanif Abdurraqib – Deb Mills Writer

4) Fathers – This Sunday is Father’s Day in the US. We all have had a dad in some capacity or another. The impact of their lives continues with us through ours…either steering us along the same course or moving us to take a very different one. I’ve written a bunch about fathers and fathering.

Fathering – Celebrating Men Who Did It Well; Forgiving Men Who Didn’t

The father I never knew…I have only two memories of my own of the man who gave me half of my DNA…

Then there’s this man who became my dad…until the end of his life.

Worship Wednesday – Remembering Dad at His Passing – Grateful to God

When Dave and I married, he gave me another dad. Lovely and kind.

Marriage was a late gift with no surety I’d get to be a mom. This dear man helped make it so. In his own quiet way, he is a good and rock-solid father…and now, grandfather.

I could go on…brothers who are good fathers…nephews…men in our lives who are loving fathers to other people’s kids…and our own son (and son-in-law) who are also great dads. They are easy to celebrate.

Happy Father’s Day!

Friday Faves – Father’s Day – Deb Mills Writer

Friday Faves – Dads Who Get It – Deb Mills Writer

Fathers Who Give Hope – John Piper

10 Unforgettable Lessons on Fatherhood – Ray Ortlund

5) Hard Redeemed – Anybody in our lives knows I’ve had a couple of hard weeks…those come and go, like for all of us. The ability to weather relational and situational heaviness is galvanized by those who come alongside. Including and especially God Himself who has been there for any and all who walk with Him…through the ages.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” – Joseph  Genesis 50:20

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!Romans 8:38-39
The hard of these several days is still with me but so are those who walk alongside. Friends, family, community…God himself.

What an amazing blessing are folks who reach out – like a friend, across the ocean, whom I haven’t seen since 2002. Or the friend who gave me this upbeat life-affirming little song Dream Small.

Worship Wednesday – Dream Small – Josh Wilson

God, help me to be that kind of friend…redeeming the hard in lives of those You place in front of me.

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Have a great weekend! Peopled with those you love and those who could use your love.

Bonuses:

Better Late Is Still Late: Advocating for Victims of Sexual Abuse

The Dinner Party Flex: Cooking in the Age of Social Media

Posted by Wild And Wonderful on Monday, May 28, 2018

10 Common Characteristics of the Top Ten Leaders I’ve Ever Worked With – Chuck Lawless

Worship Wednesday – Dream Small – Josh Wilson

Photo Credit: Josh Wilson Music

Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.  Luke 16:10

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy.’  Matthew 25:21

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.Colossians 3:23

For those who have served well as deacons acquire for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. – 1 Timothy 3:13

Here we go again! Round Two on life in the small.

The Lord has really been speaking to my heart of late in being faithful in the small things. Just a week ago, I posted on this very thing – Days Packed With Ordinary. Today we will go deeper still in this being faithful with the little.

Our hearts can get so entangled with ambition and greed. We as Christ-followers are meant to be dead to all that, but it creeps in if we are not vigilant to keep our eyes on Him. Even in our faithfulness in doing the small things, we must be wary of that tiny thought taking root in our hearts…that thought of doing to please – either God but too often people. One would think that good works done to please God is a good thing…make sense, right? Yet, it takes on a whole other color when we act in hopes of pleasing God more – maybe even to get more from Him. Maybe to please him more than one of our brothers or sisters. Oh this journey!!

Our focus is off here if this is our struggle. It’s “not about us”. When we are faithful in the big and small, it’s not always because we do what we do well. No, it doesn’t always work out that way. The key is that we do, in the small and big, what we do because of Him. Our love for God trumps every other motivation.

Discern What Pleases God Himself – John Piper

As I’ve thought of this taking joy in the small, many different people have come to mind. Here are just a few of them:

  • A member of our church is one of the hardest workers I know. She is there most days taking care of one odd job or another. She does work that most of us wouldn’t volunteer to do but rather be willing to pay a professional to do it. One day, when I commended her on all she does, she told me a story of another woman in a far country who served in her own church in various small ways as her tithe because she had little else to give. This woman at our church works without pay, for God and for us.
  • A single friend of mine works a regular work-week and then gives of herself to the community through various agencies. She’s an introvert and needs decompression time, but she stretches herself in this way. I learn so much from her.
  • Another guy at our church isn’t even a member but he often stands at the door greeting and welcoming folks as if into his own home. We feel like rock stars around him.
  • The stay-at-home moms in my life extend themselves both in the home and out in ways that encourage me and cause me to marvel.
  • That unseen coworker who makes the coffee and washes the cups at the end of the day. We are always impressed when our boss makes and serves us coffee. How about this guy or gal? This small kindness and others like it show a side of people that may not get noticed by the highers up…but God sees.
  • Lastly there’s a family pastor in our lives. He lives states away and has served in a small church for nearly 20 years. With what all his many responsibilities must be, he never forgot our dad. Regularly visiting him and other old ones in their homes or nursing homes.

After my blog of last week was published, a dear friend wrote some very kind words on my Facebook page and pointed me to singer/songwriter Josh Wilson‘s song “Dream Small“. It is so fitting for today’s conversation.

Worship with me…this God who fits us for every good work, big and small, but most importantly, calls us to Himself.

It’s a momma singing songs about the Lord
It’s a daddy spending family time that the world said he cannot afford
These simple moments change the world
It’s a pastor at a tiny little Church
Forty years of loving for the broken and the hurt
These simple moments change the world

Dream small
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Live well
Loving God and others as yourself
Find little ways where only you can help
With His great love
A tiny rock can make a giant fall
Dream small

It’s visiting the widow down the street
Or dancing on a Friday with your friend with special needs
These simple moments change the world
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with bigger dreams
Just don’t miss the minutes on your way, your bigger things
‘Cause these simple moments change the world

But dream small
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Live well
Loving God and others as yourself
Find little ways where only you can help
With His great love
A tiny rock can make a giant fall
So dream small

Keep loving, keep serving
Keep listening, keep learning
Keep praying, keep hoping
Keep seeking, keep searching
Out of these small things and watch them grow bigger
The God who does all things makes oceans
From rivers

But dream small
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Live well
Loving God and others as yourself
Find little ways where only you can help
With His great love
A tiny rock can make a giant fall
Yeah, five loaves and two fishes could feed them all
So dream small
Dream small *

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Toby Mac

Faithful With Little, Joyful in Much – How God Meets Us in the Small Things – Adam Cavalier

*Lyrics to Dream Small by Josh Wilson

Worship Wednesday – Days Packed with Ordinary and the Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe

YouTube Video – “Dream Small” Inspired by Becca (Josh’s wife)

Josh Wilson Music

Josh Wilson Returns to Christian Radio With New Single Dream Small – Explains Story Behind the Song

5 Friday Faves – Family Mottos, God of War Meets Classical Guitar, Adam Grant Podcasts, John Newton & Friends on Controversy, and Old Books

It’s Friday! Here are my five favorite finds this week…

1) Family Mottos A friend of mine uses her Facebook posts in ways I try to use my blog – to point to people and things worth noting and considering. I learn from her every day. This week, she posted on family mottos. She pointed to journalist Erin Zammett Ruddy‘s article How Adopting a Family Motto Can Help Raise Kind, Resilient, Confident Kids. It got me thinking. Did we have family mottos?
Photo Credit: Flickr
We definitely had a family lexicon – sayings that were part of our family culture that our adult children still remember and may use themselves today.
Ruddy emphasizes the importance of family mottos:The words we hear repeated as children become our internalized voice as adults,” says Suzi Lula, a parenting expert and the author of The Motherhood Evolution: How Thriving Mothers Raise Thriving Children. “They reaffirm family values and serve as a real compass for kids as they get older. You’re doing your child such a big service to say these things to them now.”
I have racked my brain to think of things we had as family mottos and couldn’t come up with any…which really bummed me out. I am sure we had some… Dave would counsel “Deal with it, or die to it”…when we fretted over what someone said or did to us. I would go to the wisdom vault of Disney films at least for this one:
More than that, we would look to Scripture for our family’s values. One we still quote to ourselves on a regular basis is:
“Do not grow weary in well-doing; you will reap a harvest, if you don’t give up.” – Galatians 6:9
When our kids were older, I would remind them of our “Audience of One”…not sure they remember that but it was to call them to mind of not needing to please people but more to honor the God who loves them already and no matter what. [Do you remember that, Kids?]
“Redeem the time” was/is another family value of ours…

Photo Credit: Flickr

Our children knew that telling the truth was a high value for us. They knew it because lying had the strongest consequence of any wrong doing. I still couldn’t come up with a motto we used for that.

So…as much as I love words and tried to use words to guide our children growing up, I’m at a loss for our family mottos. Will encourage them to pursue mottos for their own families.

Any suggestions?

Family Mottos – Cassie Damewood

Ultimate Guide to Creating Family Mottos That Inspire – Amy of Organized Mom

2) God of War – One of the perks of being a patron of Beyond the Guitar is to be privy to his creative process through livestreams of his arranging. I know very little about how one can take a grand orchestral piece and recast it for a single classical guitar – retaining its power and beauty. What I do know I learned from Nathan, as he does it time and time again. This week’s video is his arrangement of themes from the God of War video game – God of War 4 Meets Classical Guitar – click and enjoy.

3) Adam Grant Podcasts – Organizational psychologist Adam Grant has a podcast now. Like all his work, it is brilliant. Well-researched, practical, fascinating. This week, I listened again to Work Life: The Problem with All-Stars where he asks the question “How do you make your team better when you’re not the biggest star?”

Photo Credit: TEDAdd Adam’s podcast to your list. His book Give and Take continues to be one of my favorites and go-to wisdom texts.

4) John Newton & Friends on Controversy – John Newton was an 18th century English clergyman who had a dark past (as a slave ship captain and even experiencing slavery himself). He wrote the hymn Amazing Grace. He understood controversy too well.Photo Credit: Flickr

Below are quotes from a longer letter Newton wrote to a minister who had sought him out for advice. This man was preparing to write a scathing article addressing the orthodoxy of another minister.

“I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but over yourself.”

Consider your opponent: As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing.”

Consider the public: There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only showing a becoming zeal in the cause of God….Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit…Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress his wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify. I hope your performance will savor of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.”

Consider yourself: [Writers of controversy] either grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry, contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of a secondary value…What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made? …if you are not continually looking to the Lord to keep you, it may become your own cause, and awaken in you those tempers which are inconsistent with true peace of mind, and will surely obstruct communion with God.”John Newton

There is something unwholesome in us that loves controversy – the exposing of another’s behavior or character different from ours. I’m not saying that “truth coming out” is not a good thing…it is… However, we must guard against what we do with that. We can stir up controversy, dance all around it, and the world remain unchanged [except for being more divided]. Unimproved. Just a lot of hurtful talk…and then nothing. We can do better…we can be better.

Thoughts?

John Newton on Controversy – Nathan Bingham

Controversy (a Collection of Articles): TableTalk – May 2012

Video – To My Brothers of the SBC, God Is Trying to Get Our Attention – a Call to Prayer – J. D. Greear

The Wrath of God Poured Out; the Humiliation of the Southern Baptist Convention – Albert Mohler

5) Old Books – This past weekend, after several days of heavy rains, our basement took on water. In our storage room, cardboard boxes, filled with treasures from Mom’s estate, were water-damaged and had to be discarded. That didn’t pose a problem to the many pieces of glass (decorative and tableware) Mom had given to each of us. 

I peeled off wet cardboard and newspaper, washed them, and will either repack, use, or give away.

The old books packed not well enough were another story.

It made my heart sad…and then glad with memories still of those dear old books. Not saying that I had memories of them…but the sweet memories of the people who held onto them. My Mom and her four brothers (all gone now) grew up in the Great Depression. At least three of them (Mom and her two older brothers) loved to read. I know this because I watched Mom, the hardest worker I ever knew, take breaks not to watch TV, or nap…but to read. My uncles left books behind in our home, their names written inside on the title pages. The dear old book above is the 4th edition of an 1855 publication of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. I will keep it still, though terribly damaged from age and this past week’s rains. Why? Inside are bits of paper that my Uncle George kept place with. Bits of paper he wrote quotes on and notes to himself. This old book brings him near to me…this old World War II Navy veteran who married but never had children, this elegant man who I idolized, this kind man who loved his little sister…my mama.

[So Kids…when it’s time, and you find this book, just throw it out. It gave me comfort for a season.]

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These were my favorite finds this week. How about you? Any discoveries you would be willing to share? Just respond in Comments below.

This is Memorial Day weekend in the US. Rain is predicted here so not sure if we will grill or not. Hopefully we’ll see the kids and grandkids…we will keep putting our basement back together…and we will remember the great sacrifices of those in our military – living and dead. Thank you for your service.Photo Credit: Military

5 Friday Faves – Fortnite Revisited on Classical Guitar, Spring Rain, Habits of Love, Andy Crouch on Shame, and Wonder

Happy Friday! Here are my five favorite finds for this week:

1) Fortnite Revisited on Classical Guitar – About a month ago, classical guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posted his arrangement of Fortnite Dances. Like the popular game and its celebrity players, this video skyrocketed. 5 million views and Beyond the Guitar YouTube subscriptions doubled over the course of days. Now he has a second video out featuring another set of Fortnite Dances.  Gamer or not, if you love music, this is a fun sampler!Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, YouTube

The dances are fun to watch and feature a wide range of music. Nathan’s classical guitar renditions are uniquely beautiful. My favorite of the dance/music combinations on this video are Bluegrass, a polka or Russian dance, a pop oldie, and a Rock finale (where Nathan brings out his electric guitar!!). Enjoy!

2) Spring Rain – We’ve had a fairly dry Spring in Richmond, Virginia. What this means for allergy-sufferers is the barrage of tree pollens that make being outside insufferable. The yellow blanket on all surfaces this time of year could use a good washing.Photo Credit: Charlotte Observer

This week, finally, the rain came. As happens with rains in our part of the world in May, all of nature seems to push up, greener and more vivid. We can all breathe deep the freshness of the air and the beauty around us. For me, the sound of rain is as glorious as its visual aftermath. We don’t live where flash flooding is a problem, so I do want to remember that days and days of rain isn’t happy for everyone. Still, it is a welcome respite from the hot dry days of late Spring in Richmond.

3) Habits of Love – Thanks to Andy Crouch (see #4), I have discovered Richmond attorney and thought leader Justin Earley and The Common Rule. So thrilled about this. The funny thing is that I ALMOST heard Justin speak on busyness earlier this month but couldn’t make it work schedule-wise (ironic, huh?). When Andy retweeted this image from Justin’s Twitter page, I was captivated.Photo Credit: The Common Rule, Twitter

From there, I discovered The Common Rule website and Facebook page. Subscribed, subscribed, subscribed. Justin focuses on habit formation towards love. He has really useful helps on his website and through his email subscription. I am on it!

Photo Credit: Common Rule of Life, Facebook

Meaningful Work – a Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul – Shawn Askinosie

4) Andy Crouch on Shame – Author Andy Crouch has written an essay on how our culture has changed. For most of our history as a country, we have been a guilt-based culture. By that, I mean we measured ourselves and others as being “right or wrong” in our thinking, choosing to do right or wrong. This is how we raised our children. We determined not to measure our children up against (compared with) other people, but to raise them up with a standard of right living and making right choices (for us, it was based on the Bible…on the teachings and life of Jesus). “Right” was not legalistic or moralistic; “right” was loving, kind, serving, non-judgmental.

Only in recent years has our culture been moving toward more of a shame-based view on life. Here the difference is how our character and behavior reflects on a larger community (“how others see us”). This is somewhat different from the traditional shame-honor culture. In that culture, honoring your family, country, religion was all-important. If your behavior did not comply with those values, you were shamed, even ostracized.Photo Credit: The Rise of Shame in America, Honor Shame

Today’s American culture has definitely moved away from a guilt orientation. We hear it all the time in statements like “Well, that may be OK for you.” “You have the right to believe that way.” “Don’t try to put that guilt on me.” However, our culture is not moving toward the traditional shame society, but more a shame-fame culture. Fame over honor. Social media has driven this in recent years. We want to be “seen” a certain way. In fact, a young colleague of ours once said, “It’s my job to make you look good.” I was shocked at that. One, “looking good” was not even on my radar. Either I was good (competent, responsible, dependable, etc) or I wasn’t. It demonstrated the culture shift and generational disconnect.

The shaming still happens in our culture. Children can be shamed for not behaving in ways that make their parents look good. Public shaming of people who don’t agree with each other can be as brutal as real ostracism. And so it goes.

I miss the guilt culture. Where, whatever your religion or political ideology, you could tell the good guys from the bad guys. Or maybe we were naive, but I hope not. Today, it seems all about how we portray ourselves…how we are received by those that matter to us.

Sigh…any thoughts? Please.

[Don’t forget to return and read Andy’s essay and David Brooks’ review of Crouch’s essay and this whole social phenomenon.]

The Return of Shame – Andy Crouch

The Shame Culture – David Brooks

The Rise of Shame in America – HonorShame

5) Wonder – we are surrounded by the wonderful. The older we get, the more the losses and hardships of life push in on our experience of wonder. Children, and especially grandchildren, help us with that. They fill our storm-dampened sails. I am so thankful we live in the same city as our children.  When we have time with them, we stand a little taller, walk a little lighter, and wonder comes home to nest. Just last night, while our daughter and I were having a visit with an old friend, Dave elected to play with our little granddaughter. Off they went (not sure who was more excited). After the visit, daughter and grand-daughter headed out into the night, with “Bye…love you” resounding out of the back window. A tiny hand waving…

Dave was full of wonder. He marveled at how they read the whole hour. How a two-year-old could be that captured by stories! Maybe she was also in her own world of wonder, in the company of a granddad who loved her.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Hard to say, especially as a grandparent, who (in image below) is helping who…more.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Wonder is not just bound up in a child. It is all around us, in God’s own nature and his created nature. In all of us, bearing His image. Not just children, but everyone. I’m struck lately with how strong, and resilient, and persevering, and sharp most of the older adults are in my life. They are my heroes. Even when the mind and body weaken, life itself…the gift of life in all its forms and capacities…is a wonder.

Again, happy Friday! Hope yours is a rain-refreshed but not flooded weekend! [Edit: Have I got a story to tell for another day – It’s Friday night and the rain ceased to be refreshing hours ago – praying it stops!]

[Please share your own favorites or thoughts on above in the Comments. Much-appreciated.]

Bonuses:

Indoor Generation

Save the Storks – Pro-Woman, Pro-Baby, Pro-Family, Pro-Life

CNLP 192: Caleb Kaltenbach on How to Embrace an Outraged and Polarized Culture Most Leaders No Longer Like

Photo Credit: Matt Lieberman, Twitter

Photo Credit: Intelligence Is Sexy, Facebook page

On Being a Millennial Pastor – Leaders Who Don’t Remember the Glory Days – Erik Parker

5 Friday Faves – Answered Prayer, Avengers on Classical Guitar, Financial Security, Community, and Moms

Friday Faves – let’s jump right in!

1) Answered Prayer – This week has been wave after wave of answered prayer…so much so that I’m without words…almost. Many times when we pray, we have to wait…sometimes for years. I have prayers on deposit with the Lord that (at least on this side of life) are still “in waiting” for his perfect timing. We pray on. Then we have the acute occasion when we seek a quick and crucial response. My brother spent a night this week in ICU because of a hard fall to concrete. How grateful I am for people who stand “in the gap” for each other in prayer, no matter the time of day, or whatever is going on in their own lives. For hours we prayed and waited for news that he would recover…and tonight he sleeps in his own bed at home. Just. Like. That. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Answered prayer does not always turn out the way we want. When our mom got cancer, we all prayed she would be healed. Her prayer, through the three years of fighting that dreadful disease, was a constant “for His glory”…only. Her prayer was answered in the positive, countless times. Our prayer was answered with healing in Heaven. Still, we praise God with all our hearts for how we saw Him draw near to her in the hard places. Her tender communion with God in those days was the sweetest I had ever seen in her life.

What might we see altered in this world, were it not for our prayerlessness. This week, because of my brother and othersacred turns of events, I am again reminded of great and present value of prayer. Not just in what we secure from God’s hands…but the journey with God Himself.

2) Avengers on Classical Guitar – I haven’t seen the film yet, but it’s on my summer film list. Like with other arrangements of Beyond the Guitar, I look forward to hearing this now familiar melody rise and fall in the background of the film itself. Since Nathan’s Fortnite Dances video debuted, his viewership and YouTube subscriptions have taken off.  Become a subscriber or Patreon supporter to be a part of the team that guarantees we see more and more of this young classical guitarist’s creative work. His arrangement for Avengers follows:

3) Financial Security – Sociologist and elder rights advocate Dr. Brenda K. Uekert has written a fascinating piece on losing her job in her 50s and the financial safety net that got her through that time. Take the time to read her story, but here are her 6 safeguards to consider in our own financial journey.

  • Pay off your mortgage.
  • Max out retirement contributions.
  • Max out accumulated leave.
  • Be wary of dabbling in individual stocks.
  • Shore up your taxable accounts.
  • Be careful in your spending, in general.

The simplicity of this is its own brilliance. Thank you, Dr. Uekert.

Fired in My Fifties: The 3 Best and Worst Moves that Determined My Fate – Brenda K. Uekert

4) Community – I write about community often. It’s hard for me to imagine maneuvering through this life without the constancy and care of community. For the last couple of weeks, some of us have been briefly in the life of a homeless woman who, it turns out, was just passing through Richmond. Her story had the sad markings of one who had either lost community from no fault of her own or had burned bridges with community across the years. She had to reach out to strangers because there seemed to be few else who would or could help. The margin we have to thrive in life, thanks to community, was difficult to even discern for her. I have no idea where she is right now. We did what we felt we could do, hopefully without being a toxic influence in her life…and now she has moved on.

It reminded me, all over again, how thankful I am for real and deep community. I pray that for us all.Community Group, Movement Church

5) Moms – This weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day in the US. For some, it is an uneasy day… Not all of us have had loving, nurturing moms. Not all of us have become moms…or not yet anyway. Mothering can also be a painful experience. I think of dear friends who are estranged from some of their children…and other friends who have lost children, either through miscarriage or death.

Mother’s Day can be painful. Even in the pain, celebrating mothers ever how we can is a good thing. None of us would be where we are today were it not for mothering, whether good, bad, or just imperfect.

Today I remember the two women who have had the most impact in my life as mothers, and it is all for good. My mom and Dave’s mom.

As with all of us, through the years, other women have captivated us with their love, their servant hearts, and their wisdom. I celebrate them as well.

My friend Carol Ann Lindley captured the hard and even awful when mothering didn’t happen or go as we had hoped. Read her words:

I am all for celebrating moms…I look forward to celebrating my two miracles every year. I cherish it because I waited so long. I rejoice with my friends who have endured long years of waiting and have the chance to celebrate. I am aware of some who will be missing a mom this year. Mother’s Day is special because motherhood is such a gift.

But don’t forget to look around and remember the ones who ache this Sunday because they hoped that this year would be different. The ones who watch the celebrating and remembering from a distance, hoping to join in next year. I never ever resented the celebration…I just longed for the chance to celebrate the fulfillment of my heart’s desire.

I have had some hard Mother’s Days. I have had the “maybe next year it will be me” Mother’s Days. And I have had the “I’m missing a baby that I lost” Mother’s Day. Today, I am thinking of our 3 little ones who are celebrating with a different Momma. But I am also rejoicing over God’s two miracles that I have the privilege of being Mom to.

No one said Motherhood would be easy. In fact, the journey to Motherhood is hard. The day to day mothering of littles is hard. And I’m sure I will face other hard days in the future. But it is a precious gift from God and I rejoice in it every day.

So, you Moms who are enjoying this Mothers Day. Don’t feel bad. When I was waiting, I never wanted my Mom friends to skip out on Mothers Day. Enjoy and it and give your kids extra kisses. And look around and see who you can hug and encourage. I had those people on those hard days and their acknowledgement of my “hope deferred” made all of the difference.

And you Moms who are waiting for your babies or are missing your babies. I’m with you. I know how you feel. This is a hard day. But I can promise you that God is faithful and will not waste your tears. The desire to be a Mom is a good one and you are not wrong to feel sad today or to feel like a little piece of your heart is missing. If I could hug you, I would. And I am definitely praying for you.

Here’s the verse that pretty much sums up my journey:

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

Carol Ann Lindley

Happy Friday! Happy Weekend! Happy Mother’s Day. Here’s to being gentle with each other and lavishing love on those around.

Bonuses:

YouTube – Dr. Seuss Does Advance Directives: A Tim Boon Poem – ZDoggMD

Bobos in the Church – Scot McKnight

Bobos In The Church

Stop Making Hospitality Complicated – Brandon McGinley

Why So Many Americans Are Lonely – Quentin Fottrell

Boss Doesn’t Trust you? Here are 4 Likely Reasons Why – Randy Conley

Brave Global – a Catalytic Movement for Girls

Photo Credit: The Kindness Rocks Project, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – Up and to the Right with Andy Crouch

Photo Credit: Strong and Weak, Andy Crouch w/ Jonathan Storment

I want a Tshirt with this graphic on it. I also want to learn how to live “up and to the right”.

This graphic comes from Andy Crouch‘s book, Strong and Weak, which is still my favorite of 2018 so far. It sets out Crouch’s premise that flourishing is how God means for us to live. How we get to “flourishing”, individually and in community, is with high authority coupled with high vulnerability.

Authority is defined as “capacity for meaningful action”.  Vulnerability is “exposure to meaningful risks”. These are the truest definitions. We have bent both of them to mean something else in today’s culture – either power with potential to be corrupted or a smarmy sensitivity that needs protecting.

Both authority and vulnerability when aligned with the will and nature of God are so much more…and work together to make us true image bearers of our Creator and Redeemer. As community (church), we can actually move toward a flourishing that includes the most vulnerable and the seemingly least empowered.

This Worship Wednesday blog is not about singing praise but about thinking and meditating on God’s Word and His intent for our lives.

“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, or well pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

“He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6:8

Thus says the LORD, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”  Jeremiah  22:3

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’”Isaiah 58:6-9

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be a part of a Common Good RVA event. Andy Crouch was the keynote speaker. He spoke practically about how we could apply ourselves to the good of all, especially through the vocations God has given us.

As educated and affluent, our temptation is to avoid vulnerability placing us on the left side of the graph. In our flesh, we prefer withdrawing to safety or exercising control at all costs.

God calls us to a different life…a surrendered life for the common good.

A writer pastor, Jonathan Storment, wrote a series of blogs, taking the reader through a thought-provoking review of Crouch’s wonderful book. Below are quotes from his review and from the book Strong and Weak. When you read the take-aways below, you’ll want to read the book…then you will be compelled to act, with authority and vulnerability.

This paradox of both God-given authority and also the vulnerability that we all face in the world is where true Jesus-like leadership occurs. This is what it has always meant to be humans made in God’s image.Jonathan Storment

Power that is transfigured by love is an entirely different kind of power. It’s the kind of power that leads people to lay down their lives for the good of others. It’s why the New Testament can use the word Dunamis (the word for power, where we get the word dynamite) so often in positive ways. Because Jesus redefined what it meant to wield power.Jonathan Storment

Think back over the people who have made a difference in your life. Chances are they had roles as teachers/parents/mentors/friends. If they helped you flourish in your life, it was because they were acting in some kind of authority, and exposing themselves to some type of vulnerability. They had authority because they had the capacity to make a meaningful difference in your life, and they had vulnerability because they were opening themselves up to someone (you) who could potentially hurt them…Crouch is talking about what the word vulnerability really means…woundable.Jonathan Storment

Idols always promise to give you everything and cost you nothing, but given enough time, they take everything and give you nothing. So Crouch says: “The first things any idol takes from its worshippers are their relationships. Idols know and care nothing for the exchange of authority and vulnerability that happens in the context of love.”Jonathan Storment

[Sidenote: We don’t usually think about idols…probably because we have already been deceived by their control of our lives – alcohol, drugs, pornography, position, wealth.]

Nothing is sadder than a leader who has refused to bear vulnerability. Whenever someone in authority refuses to bear vulnerability someone else is forced to bear it. But it’s not just the people who are oppressed, it’s also the oppressor. They lose something of what it means to be made in the image of God. They slowly create a Hell for themselves and then are forced to live in it.Jonathan Storment

“This is the definition of Hell. To know the power you have and not have the ability to realize that potential.” Hell is like a cruise that never ends. But the real danger for us today is not that we book ourselves a lifetime filled with cruises. It’s that we do the same thing in different ways. Here’s how Crouch says it: “The real temptation for most of us in not complete apathy but activities that simulate meaningful action and meaningful risk without actually asking much of us or transforming much in us. So if you really want to see what withdrawing looks like in affluent, technological America, you don’t have to visit a port of call. You just have to turn on the PlayStation in your living room.”Jonathan Storment

[Sidebar: This is not about bashing ocean cruise aficionados or gamers. I know both who are incredibly engaged as image bearers in their communities. This is about not being deceived. Recreation or needed downtime are not the same as a life’s pursuit of avoiding risks and settling for idols.]

The way of Jesus is up and to the right, authority and vulnerability in the world, bearing in the world’s suffering while being a part of the God’s redemption  process.

I don’t think Christians are the only ones tempted to escape, and in our secular age, it’s no longer Heaven that people are escaping to. It’s much easier to stare at your iPhone than to have a conversation, slowly spend your life watching t.v. every night instead of going that group or civic effort.

[God help me here.]

Vulnerability and Authority – called to make a difference and remain open to the suffering of the world. Because we follow a God who did anything but withdraw, we are called to do the same. Now Up and to the Right. Jonathan Storment

Now the challenge for us is to take the wisdom of these words and apply them to our lives and our community. Thoughts?

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

Strong and Weak: The Hidden Vulnerability of Leadership – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Flesh and Bones – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Crown of Thorns – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Numb to the World – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Drunk on Power – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Up and to the Right – Jonathan Storment

What Is True Worship? – Got Questions

Worship That Pleases God – Isaiah 58:1-14 – Brian Sandifer

Characteristics of Acceptable Worship – Gregory Brown

5 Friday Faves – 50 Rules, New Favorite Podcast, Not-So-Sweet Sugar Story, Interventions for Childhood Depression, and Tidy House Hacks

Snow days are past in Richmond, Virginia. For now. School is back in session. Today was even unseasonably warm. Hope you had an eventful and significant week. Please feel free to comment about it. I would love to hear and then share. Also any of your own favorite finds of the week…this can be your platform as well to share. Here are mine:

1) Fifty Rules – Those of us who are parents hope we raise our children with wisdom they can carry into adulthood. Then we want to leave this life having pointing them, as adults, to what matters so their children will also have a strong foundation.

Lawyer, writer, father Tim Hoch is doing that for his children, I’m pretty sure. His lists of 50 Rules, one for sons and the other for daughters, are a collection of wisdom statements worthy of our consideration.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

A few of my favorites from each list:

For Sons:

  • Be open to, and unashamed of, the possibility, however slight, that you might be wrong.
  • Don’t ever assume that someone else is looking out for your best interests. Some people are. Most people are not. If you find someone who is, guard and treasure that relationship above all others.
  • Do what you love but find a way to make money doing it or you won’t be able to do it very long.
  • Don’t assume that an obvious question has already been asked.

For Daughters:

  • Those who gossip to you gossip about you.
  • If you worship physical beauty, you will never be pretty enough.
  • Live the life that is right in front of you.
  • Even if it seems as though something goes without saying, if it is important to you, say it anyway.

What are some of your rules? Those sayings that became part of your family’s lexicon? We would all appreciate hearing them (in Comments below).

[Linked below you will also find writer Walker Lamond‘s Rules for his children – two books and an online list. Don’t miss them.]

Rules for My Unborn Son – Walker Lamond

Rules for My Newborn Daughter – Walker Lamond

1,001 Rules for My Unborn Son – Let’s Get Something Straight Before I Get Old and Uncool – Walker Lamond (Running list of his favorite wisdom sayings – not to 1,001 yet)

50 Rules For Sons

50 Rules For Daughters

50 Little Etiquette Rules You Should Always Practice – Reader’s Digest – Stuff some of which I was taught and passed on to my kids. Also some more current etiquette rules. Will be an interesting family conversation when we talk about what is our practice today.

2) Favorite New Podcast – Author and business coach Kevin Prewett just launched a new podcast entitled Rising Tide Startups. Once a week he will interview entrepreneurs just beginning to really get things moving in their new or side businesses. These rising stars are still on that sharp learning curve side of success. Prewett offers them an opportunity to tell their story. Then he invites his listeners to give feedback to these startup folks to help them over the hurdles they are facing. Photo Credit: Rising Tide Startups

I love this concept because we often hear (on podcasts) the work details of highly successful people. Fascinating stuff, for sure, but I’m intrigued with the stories coming out on Rising Tide. Young artists or business people taking the risks to go for it (whatever that passion is for them). Prewett closes his interview with questions of what the toughest part of their endeavor is currently, and we, the listeners, get to speak into their lives. Wow!

The premier podcast interview on Rising Tide was with guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar. You can listen here or watch here. This is a brand new podcast. Get in from the beginning. Maybe you yourself are an entrepreneur, starting up a business, and would like to be interviewed and then receive feedback by the listeners. Go to the  website and click on Guest Request tab. Prewett ends his podcast with this: “All boats rise on a rising tide.” Good stuff!

Episode 2 – Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar

Rising Tide Startups Tshirt

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote

3) Not-So-Sweet Sugar Story – A friend of mine was lamenting recently about how hard it is to find products NOT containing wheat for his daughter who has celiac disease.  As he talked, and I sympathized, I couldn’t help but think the same about sugar. It seems to be everywhere. Not just in sweet products, obviously, but in savory products as well. Why? Is it possible that we have, as a society, been slowly seduced, over decades, into becoming sugar addicts by the food industry itself? If you wonder then you’re wise. Check out author Allison Hart‘s very readable and fascinating piece Has the Sugar Industry Been Hiding Research Linking Sugar to heart Disease for 50 Years?

‘Nuff said.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Recent list of best diets ranks keto last and DASH first

4) Interventions for Childhood Depression – Mom and author Becky Mansfield has written an incredibly empowering article on what we as parents can do to intervene in childhood depression. You won’t be surprised when she targets electronics, especially smart phones.Photo Credit: Your Modern Family

It isn’t adolescence that births sullen, distant, disconnected kids. This development begins much earlier, and that’s why she recommends our kids be evaluated by age 11 if we suspect depression.

The scary truth about what’s hurting our kids

Read her article for foundation (really helpful). Here I will list what she encourages us as parents to do:

  • Screen children for depression if you are concerned.
  • Get back to what we did before phones – spend time playing games with our kids [What else? Working in garden/yard, hiking, serving as a family in the community. What else? Comment below.]
  • Spend dinnertime talking.
  • If you can, drop everything that you are doing when when the kids get home from school to TALK to them (I think she intended this to mean to listen to them and help them process their day).
  • Make dinner without having the TV on, the phone close by, or the tablet turned on.
  • Use any ‘car time’ to talk to our kids (maybe even not allowing electronics in the car). [This reminds me of times when our kids were still home and we were in the car with all of them having their ear buds in, each listening to their own music. That was before smart phones.]
  • Have the kids do chores: responsibilities increase their self-worth.*
  • Be sure that kids are getting enough sleep.
  • Don’t keep a lot of junk food in the house.
  • Take away electronics and tell kids to “go play”.
  • Don’t rescue kids [let them deal with consequences].
  • Talk to our kids about why they need to come to us if something is wrong.
  • Limit our own online distractions when the children are home.

*Escaping the Endless Adolescence: How We Can Help Our Children Grow Up Before They Grow Old – Joseph and Claudia Allen

5) Tidy House Hacks – OK…maybe most of you have figured out how to keep your home neat and tidy. I’m always amazed when visiting with my brother and sister-in-law. She never seems to sit down. Very much engaged with the people and conversation around her, but always spiffying up. Some day I have to figure this out. I’m pretty positive no one would ever describe my house, today, as tidy. “Comfortable” “Lived-in” maybe…but not neat. So…here is what I learned from this “nester” as she calls herself: 5 Things People With Tidy Houses Don’t DoPhoto Credit: Pexels

  • Tidy People don’t act like a slob all day, and then get their house tidy in one fell swoop.
  • Tidy People Don’t Run out of Cleaning Supplies. Photo Credit: Pexels
  • Tidy People never let the sun go down on their filth.
  • Tidy People don’t store things on the floor. [Such a struggle for me.]
  • Tidy People don’t over decorate.

5 Things People With Tidy Houses Don’t Do – Nesting Place

That’s it for this week. Be careful out there this weekend. Be gentle with yourself and each other…I can’t tell you how much you bless me in reading this jumble of words. Thanks.

Bonuses

Want to Increase Your Happiness This Year? Science Says 1 Rare Habit Truly Stands Out – Marcel SchwantesPhoto Credit: Flickr

12 Books That Will Make You a Better Writer and Storyteller – Ann Handley

5 Friday Faves – Leaning Into Relationships, Year-End Review, Coco Guitar Arrangement, Attention Management, and For Better or Worse

Here we find ourselves in the last Friday of 2017. Such a mix of emotions, closing out one year, anticipating the next. These reflections have definitely colored my selection of these Friday Faves. How is your year ending? How is your week ending? This week of Christmas rolling into New Year.

1) Leaning Into RelationshipsDr. Robert Waldinger is the current program director of the 75+ year Harvard research study (entitled the Grant Study, with a subsequent complementary Glueck study). In a wildly popular TED Talk on What Makes a Good Life?, Waldinger talks about the findings of this long study of men (and later their wives and children). The data strongly support that a long and happy life is not about genetics or socioeconomic status. It is about relationships, relationships, relationships. Not the superficial or fleeting acquaintances often seen today in workplace and community. The “good life” is made up of sustained, deep, nurturing relationships. Relationships you can depend on…long-term.

“Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” Robert Waldinger

Lean into relationships.

TED Talk – What Makes a Good Life? Lessons From the Longest Study on Happiness – Dr. Robert Waldinger

Good Genes Are Nice, But Joy Is Better – Liz Mineo

2) Year-End Review – Dave and I, like many of you, I’m sure, do a year-end review. It’s a discipline that helps us reflect on the year in anticipation of a strong start to the next year coming. This year-end review becomes part of our Christmas letter. Photo Credit: Pixabay

This year was a hard one, both to reflect on and to write about. It was more a year of hanging tough, holding the rudder steady, persevering. Being thankful for more the big general things (good health, having a job) rather than the small significant events – those highlights that punctuate most years. Please don’t get us wrong: we are still very thankful for all the big general things and for a God who knows our hearts and loves us through the prickly places of personal struggle. Thank God, for GOD.

Through the years, Dave has enjoyed the wit and writing of humorist Dave Barry.  His 2017 year-end review is biting to the point of being caustic. Not the usual chuckle. An atheist and libertarian, Dave Barry’s take on life in America, especially this year, does not hold anything back. If you read his piece, I want to warn you of the graphic and partisan elements you will find. However, the question Dave Barry asks over and over is “Did That Really Happen?”

That question is one that resonates for us as we work and live in a culture so different than we imagined at this stage of our lives. Funny guy Barry turns darkly serious in his take on politics, in particular, and life in America, in general. His last comments, in his long month-by-month year review, return to more his usual funny style. In the end, he actually communicates hope…and, although we come from vastly different takes on life (especially on God), we share his hope. This, because we believe God is at work…and is not bound by politics or religion.

3) Coco Guitar Arrangement – The 2017 musical fantasy film Coco which I wasn’t interested in watching until Nathan arranged this beautiful piece from the film.

It is Remember Me by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. The film depicts the story of a young Mexican boy seeking both his destiny as a musician and peace with his family’s past. Lots of skeletons and spirits in the film, as it focuses on the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). I may have to watch it now.

Here’s Beyond the Guitar‘s lovely arrangement of Remember Me:

4) Attention Management – As we think of New Years’ Resolutions, one issue that always tops the list (after eating and exercise) is improving our time management. Writer Oliver Burkeman has posted a thought-provoking, down-right riveting piece on attention management as the real key to our struggle with making best use of our time. It’s not about getting our Inbox to zero as it is about thinking through what is most important in life. What really matters? And then being about that. Burkeman highlights below:

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness. And if the stream of incoming emails is endless, Inbox Zero can never bring liberation: you’re still Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up that hill for all eternity – you’re just rolling it slightly faster.”

Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days. “How we labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, in what reads like a foreshadowing of our present circumstances. “Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.”

You can seek to impose order on your inbox all you like – but eventually you’ll need to confront the fact that the deluge of messages, and the urge you feel to get them all dealt with, aren’t really about technology. They’re manifestations of larger, more personal dilemmas. Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon? Which relationships will you prioritise, during your shockingly limited lifespan, and who will you resign yourself to disappointing? What matters?”Oliver Burkeman

Why Time Management Is Ruining Our Lives – Oliver Burkeman

Are Smartphones Making us Stupid? – Christopher Bergland

Monday Morning Moment – Ignoring in the Workplace and the Powerful Practice of Noticing – Deb Mills Writer

5) For Better or Worse – Our dear strong father/father-in-law, John, has Parkinson’s. This disease is robbing him of his strength, his memory, his speech. One thing it will not take from him is Julia. His wife of over 60 years is his primary care-giver.

As we were visiting them over the Christmas holiday, I overheard her talking to our son, Daniel, about marriage. She was helping John finish his lunch. I could see her leaning tenderly over him, as she chatted with Daniel. John doesn’t say much anymore, but Julia still talks to him. Lovingly drawing him back into life.

She was telling Daniel about the vows she and John made to each other all those many years ago. This was the season of “for better or worse”, she told Daniel. Not in a self-pitying way, but in her matter-of-fact wholly committed way. Julia loves God and she loves her family…that love tempered like steel through decades of attending to each.

Over the many years her son and I have been married, we have watched the love between them, her and John, grow even deeper. I remember how he would come in from working in the yard, still neat as a pin, with a little bouquet of flowers for the love of his life. She added those little flowers to the beauty which was ever their homes, richer with each season’s changing. Also Julia was ever faithful at “greasing the tracks” for deepening their walk with God and serving in the church. John’s own strong integrity and high sense of responsibility was boosted by Julia’s strong spiritual devotion.

His days of serving are done, but she continues to serve him and the God who watches over each of them…in these times of “better or worse”. May I be the kind of wife she is.

Those were my faves for this week. What have been yours? Any thoughts about what you’ve read above? Please comment below. Have a safe New Year’s Eve and a joyous reflective start to this next year. May we see peace and goodwill and may we be the start of that for each other.

Bonuses:

Attic Finds – Any trip to my Inlaws makes for tons of sweet memory-making. It also means trips into the attic and retrieving some of the lovely keepsakes MomMom has kept for us over our years of overseas travel. This time we brought home pictures from the pre-digital era, toys and clothes from our kids’ yester-years (including Christie’s wee “zippahs”, and treasured journals/letters.

Quote:  “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” – C. S. Lewis

Best Seed Catalog Ever (Gardener Dave’s recommendation)

5 Friday Faves – Christmas Commercials, Uncommon Generosity, Star Wars – the Last Jedi, Starbucks Lemon Loaf Knockoff Recipe, and Beyond the Guitar’s Latest

Happy Friday, y’all! As we zoom into Christmas weekend, we run into that perfect storm of hope mixed with hype. Looking forward to time with family and friends highlighted by the glow of Christmas lights and the fragrance of mulled cider. At the same time, tamping down those dreaded expectations of yourself or others that steal our peace. As those expectations are again put in check, the missing of those we won’t see this Christmas rises to the surface. Maybe not for you, but for me, it’s a bit of a crazy ride at Christmastime.

Fortunately, woven through all of that is the moment-by-moment epiphany when Jesus breaks through with glimpses of who he is and what he has done for us. That Jesus turns sorrow to joy and calms that stormy sea of thought and memory. Hallelujah!

This week, there are so many favorite finds…but I will keep my list to five. We all have baking to do…and visits to make, and for some, a workday to wrap up before Christmas weekend. Hope your joy is undisturbed and the memories are sweet.

1) Christmas Commercials – For those who don’t have cable or network TV, you miss the Christmas commercials. Check them out on YouTube. Below are some of my favorites – the top 3 are all from the UK. My personal favorite this past year was the #HeathrowBears commercials – this one, in particular and then this one. What are some of your favorite Christmas commercials (please share in Comments)?

John Lewis Christmas Ad 2017

BBC One Christmas 2017

The Fox and the Mouse – 2017

Top 15 Most Touching Christmas Commercials That Will Warm Your Heart

2) Uncommon Generosity – Have you noticed that people actually look at each other in this Christmas season? Smiles of knowing – searching out that special gift or trying to sort out what favorites to cook and buy food accordingly. I find people to be kinder this time of year – both in charitable giving and in the day-to-day just deferring to others. When I was walking with neighbors earlier this week, a box, giftbag and card were posted outside a house, left with the garbage pickup one day, and another beside the recycling the next. So kind to remember, in very tangible ways, people who serve in our community. Also, I had the experience of helping friends move on one of busiest weekends of the Christmas season. Friends and coworkers showed up to help – all smiles and sweet attitudes.

Then there are those lovely people who make Christmas cookies and share plates of them with their neighbors – and their mom and dad.

I’m finding that often what we look for we see. Also blessed this week by other reminders of generosity: a quote from a Writer Kahlil Gibran and a thrift shop t-shirt front (printed with Philippians 2:3-4).

3) Star Wars – the Last Jedi – I LOVED it. The details. The humor. The tears. The fight scenes. It was so well-done. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I’m trying to hold loosely to Christmas traditions these days, but going to the movies as a family has been a long-time tradition for us. Of late, it’s been the Star Wars movies. This year it was all the guys and me. Our girls stayed home with the babies, and we missed them. It was a great time though watching this film, my favorite guys and me. A very special memory made.

[I’m ready to babysit for the kiddos, so you two couples can have a date night to see it together.]

[Spoilers in articles below so don’t read if you haven’t seen it.]

The All-Stars of ‘Star Wars’ – Interview with David Itzkoff

The Last Jedi: Have You Seen It? Let’s Talk Spoilers – Gilbert Cruz and Dave Gonzalez

The Best Movies of 2017 – Think Christian

4) Starbucks Lemon Loaf Knockoff – If you like the Starbucks lemon loaf, then you will love the “better than Starbucks” recipe that Erin of Delightful E Made posted at Lil Luna. I made this recipe this week and it was a-mazing!!! A friend of mine had a birthday this week and gave lemon cake as a favorite of hers – she LOVED this cake. It would stick around, just letting you know. Read the comments of the piece above for others’ views on it.Photo Credit: Lil Luna

5) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest Arrangement – Nathan just posted his latest this morning. It is the theme from the Netflix series The Punisher and it is gorgeous.  I won’t be watching the series because it is very much about punishing people who do bad things so there is a lot of blood and very big guns involved. If you have watched it, or if not, you will enjoy this beautiful piece.

That’s it for me. Hope your Christmas weekend is full of joy, and when it’s not, may you experience deep comfort. Much love.

Bonuses:

A Quote from this week: In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you.”Jack Kornfield

A Christmas Question – a Sermon by Charles Spurgeon, 1859

A Twitter “event” where folks retweet and reply to Sam Altman’s tweet below:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/heres-why-everyone-should-have-sales-job-some-point-halarewich-

A New Holiday Tradition—Better Than Giving Gifts

Seasonal Thrift Store Finds