Category Archives: Parenting

Kids on Drugs….I Mean, Screens

Photo Credit: Flickr

I have a confession to make.

There’s a precious little girl in my life who calls me “Ga” (because she can’t yet say “Gram”). Not even 20 months old, she has learned well how to use her tiny index finger to point for us to take her wherever in the house or yard she wants to go. She demonstrates her mastery of body parts by pointing that finger to her eye, nose, mouth, etc. when we call out the word. Just recently, she holds up that singular wee finger when identifying the number “win”.

My heart melts.

Unfortunately, I am a culprit contributing to the delinquency of a minor…no, no. Not that…but I have contributed to her developing that index finger further in playing with my smart phone. She knows how to scroll through pictures and she knows how to tap the “play” icon to start up videos.

Is that so horrible? What’s the harm?

[Here’s the disclaimer. There is no judgment here whatsoever for the sleep-deprived moms out there who hand their preschooler their smart phone or tablet while nursing or dressing the baby…or trying to get dinner prepared…or (fill in the blank). I remember the years of small ones myself, so many years ago. In fact, the TV as babysitter was my go-to device to get stuff done or maintain my own supposed sanity. Not just for the little ones but for myself, just to watch something for my own relaxation. Of course, they were watching with me…so I had to consider the possible impact of that then, as I’m writing about screens now.]Photo Credit: Pexels

My confession comes from a place of discovery. The problem is not that this toddler likes looking at pictures of her family on my phone. That has to be a morally neutral (even positive) thing. Also not a problem is her fondness for her Uncle Nae’s music videos. She has her favorites and daily asks to see those (Dayman and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas)…among others…several others.

The problem is when she doesn’t get her way. When Mommy intervenes or when Gram comes to her senses about the amount of screen time she’s facilitating. Then this funny, sweet, curious little girl flings her head back, attempts a body-slam, and emits a piercing angry cry against those who would keep her from her screen(s).

Morally neutral or even positive goes out the window at that point. Given her reaction, when does something soothing and enriching like family photos and videos cross a line…out there in a few kiddie years…to a screen or internet addiction?

I don’t think I’m over-reaching here. There is balance absolutely, but if we don’t even consider the risk, we won’t take steps to keep screen use healthy for our children/grandchildren. I’m dealing with this in my own head right now…and in my habits.

Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.

But it’s even worse than we think.

We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex. – Dr. Nicholas Kardaras

I was reminded of when our boys were middle schoolers. A friend of theirs came over to spend the night. They played video games for hours. When we finally told the boys to take a break, the friend actually became more and more anxious, even to the point of not being able to get his breath. We had to take him home.

Now all toddlers are not going to end up heroin…I mean, tech junkies. Again, there is a balance in how we determine what’s a healthy use of electronic devices and where limits need to be set.

It’s just something to think about. My confession here relates to the personal struggle I have with internet dependence. I was a late adopter of smart phones (my first being in 2013). At the time, my job was a communications strategist for a new work team. Managing a blog, Twitter and Facebook pages, and other office communications kept me online most of the time. Online and distracted by it. Still a struggle for me to have balance in this area.

I don’t want to have that sort of influence on this darling granddaughter, our tinier grandson, or others who will come after.

Before smartphones and Wi-Fi, I was a people-watcher and a people-engager. I read books more. Had people over all the time. Now, don’t get me wrong…those things still happen…but screens are a huge distraction for me. I would love to be one of the nurturers for our grandchildren of a different sort of life… Screen time is going to happen every day, sure…but not to the point where they don’t prefer talking face-to-face with people nor be a part of great adventures or discover the world (in real life).Photo Credit: Flickr

How are you handling your own electronic version of life? Please share in the Comments section. You will find helpful links below – articles and books. All the articles are practical and empowering. [I have not yet read the books; they are recommended by the authors of some of the articles below.]

As for our little one’s love of her uncle’s videos? She will still be watching them, just not over and over and over. Fortunately she can also enjoy the music (without benefit of the screens) because we are Patreon patrons of her uncle with his MP3s as perks). Those music files were a great help recently to this tiny girl enduring a long roadtrip. Listening to her favorites, she finally fell asleep.

Peace.

Worship Wednesday – Come To Me – The Village Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**Full Text of Weary, Burdened Wanderer – Hymnary

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

Love Is a Laid-Down Life – Slowing Down For a Season

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“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends…I have called you friends.” – Jesus (John 15:13, 15b)

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.1 John 3:16

My father has Alzheimer’s, and his cancer has recurred. His hospice team says he has weeks, maybe days, to live. Of course, they could be wrong. As I look at his sweet face, he seems so ready to go. When we put ourselves right in front of him, he sees and smiles and welcomes us into his love. When he lies alone in his experience, it’s like he is waiting. For how long…we don’t know.

I haven’t stopped to count the number of weeks over the last two years that trips to Georgia have punctuated life. Time with Dad is worth the interruptions. No question.

The women’s event where I was to be the keynote speaker…and I was so looking forward to being with old friends that weekend. Not happening…well, it’s happening, but I won’t be there. Just heard about a job (the third one this year) that had my skill set and giftings so woven into the job description it could have been written for me. Three different times. Not for me; not now. The high-dollar certification course to teach English as a second language – gave me the content and prized certificate…but must wait for another time. Even volunteering with refugees demands more of a commitment than I can give for the moment.

All these pieces of life are laid-down for now.

Something more important…something that can’t be easily calendared is priority right now.

How thankful I am for:

  • This time with Dad. To savor the memories we have together. To remind him of those memories since Alzheimer’s has clouded his.
  • Family members who have stepped into his care with generosity and humility. They work their own schedules around his needs. I am with him for days….they are always with him. Period. Full stop. What a blessing – I’m sure…for him, and for them. Still, I count the cost of that and am so grateful.img_9580
  • Friends, colleagues, and family here who flex in my absence…who watch out for and check on Dave while I’m gone…who fill gaps I must leave unattended were it not for them…who pray for Dad and us…who forgive my fatigue and dullness…who stretch to reach out to me when I don’t have it in me to reach out to them…even when I long for nearness. Thank you for holding space for me until I am back to myself.
  • Hospice workers and pastors who come often to serve Dad and all the rest of us. Gentle care. Encouragement. Wonder. Laughter. Scripture promises. So many touchpoints to reassure us Dad is not forgotten.
  • God who has shown so much of Himself in these days. When I was leaving Dad for home this last time, the tears finally came. I had wondered if I would ever cry again. Watching him lose his independence and seeing the cancer advance…painful experiences for us. Dad seems to bear it all with so much grace. God has answered our prayers in that. How grateful I am that when the time comes, we know that we will see him again. God’s peace is tangible evidence of His presence with Dad…and with us.

I heard Elisabeth Elliot* speak one time on “Love Is a Laid-Down Life”. Blog - Elisabeth Elliot - photoShe talked on how Jesus’ life wasn’t taken on the cross…He laid down his life for our sake. Going through this slowed-down season, I’m reminded of how parents do so much for their children growing up. Seeing our children with their tiny ones, I see that sweet sacrifice as they slow down their lives to give their children time for naps and toddling. It is love. Love is a laid-down life – our desires, our ambitions, our druthers…put aside for something far better.

Now Dad needs us to slow our lives down…for him.

We are also watching a beautiful picture of this in our other family – Dave’s folks. Parkinson’s Disease is taking its toll on Dave’s sweet dad. Watching Dave’s mom live out “for better, for worse” is such a witness of the love we’re meant to have for the older ones, the weaker ones, the sicker ones. I’m learning from her deep love shown in her resolve to be there for her faithful husband of over 60 years. Not on her terms, but right where he needs her to be. john-julia-60th-anniversary-2016

As I’m away from Dad this week, catching up on life back home, I’m glad to be here for now…and thrilled he has family with him. As the women’s event looms this weekend, and the planners wisely and mercifully (towards me) execute their plan B in my absence, I’m glad for that. There will be other times together, I’m trusting.

For today…it’s grace upon grace. Learning to live each season in ways that allow love to grow as we are called to lay our lives down for others and the God of this universe uses our hands and our words to administer that love beyond our imagining.

I have certainly experienced that kind of love through you.

 Will You Lay Down Your Life? – My Utmost for His Highest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Friday Faves – FOMO, Parenthood in 120 Seconds, a Summer at Oxford University, Saving Mr. Banks, and Favorite Guitar Videos

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Good Friday morning! Hope this week has been kind to you. The world continues to open itself to us to learn and grow and, hopefully, choose wisely. Here are five of my favorite finds from this week:

1) FOMO – So this is a new term for me. I heard, just this past weekend, a young friend lament about being plagued by “FOMO” – this “fear of missing out”. It apparently is exacerbated by all the social media which tantalizes us about friends getting together and going to all sorts of exotic places. C. S. Lewis, in his essay, The Inner Ring, actually exposes the danger of FOMO. BLog - FOMO - Fear of Missing Out - the silver penPhoto Credit: The Silver Pen

Wanting to be “in”  or “included” is morally neutral, in itself. It is in the choices we make and the compromises we make within those choices that become dangerous for us.  In Thoughts on C. S. Lewis, he is quoted, “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it.”  If we stop being so frantic about fitting in or giving into to our particular FOMO, then we will find ourselves in a natural community – fitted for us.

John Ortberg writes about FOMO in his book All the Places to Go…How Will You Know?  He raises the issue that God himself may have instilled in us this idea of wanting what we might be missing – but finally finding it in Him. Even Satan’s temptation of Eve was FOMO-oriented (Genesis 3:4-6) in that maybe she could be like God (if she ate the forbidden fruit). Ortberg observes: “The real, deep reason that FOMO exists is that we were made for more and we are missing out.  Only the “more” isn’t more money or more success or more impressive experiences I can write about on Facebook.  My hunger for more turns out to be insatiable if I try to satisfy it by wanting more for me”. God can satisfy, in Himself, the FOMO we may be experiencing.

Lewis on Disordered Desire to Enter the Inner Ring – Art Lindsley – The Gospel Coalition

2) Parenthood In 120 SecondsBuzzfeed India has published this funny and true video. Produced by Sumedh Natu and Umang Athwani, this 2-minute film is such a delight – so “been there, don’t that”. Loved it. Watch it here.Blog - Parenthood - cupofjoPhoto Credit: Cup of Jo

3) A Summer at Oxford University Beth Wayland, a counselor and writer friend of mine, had the great fortune to spend part of her summer at Oxford University. I’m sure she will write about it on her return to the US, but she gave us bits of her journey through her Facebook account. As part of her experience, she walked around in the steps of C. S. Lewis – his office, his favorite pub, the libraries, dining halls, grounds of Oxford.

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One special reminder was of C. S. Lewis’ dedication of his book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He dedicated it to his god-daughter, Lucy Barfield, with these words:

My Dear Lucy,

I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say but I shall still be,

your affectionate Godfather,

C. S. Lewis.

This, to me, is Oxford University. Thanks, Beth. Thank you, Dr. Lewis.

4) Saving Mr. Banks  – I just saw this 2013 Disney film about the complicated making of the 1964 film Mary Poppins . Walt Disney would try for over 20 years to win the rights to the book Mary Poppins. Author P. L. Travers finally agreed but with strong stipulations. Saving Mr. Banks is based on this true story but with embellishments. I loved this film. There were so many takeaways about collaboration, the influence of fathers, the mind of creatives, perspective, and forgiveness (Brian Dodd writes more about these here). Definitely worth seeing if you haven’t.  Blog - Saving Mr. BanksPhoto Credit: Disney Dose

5) Favorite Guitar Videos – by My Favorite Guitarist – Finally, Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar has posted his latest YouTube video: Skyrim: Ancient Stones – Beyond The Guitar.

The arrangement is lovely and the cinematography, directed by Ian Edwards and Danny Caporaletti, is beautiful. Here it is:

Nathan also posted a vlog on Stop Waiting For Things To Be Perfect. It’s instructive not just for guitarists but for any of us who struggle with holding back, not wanting to proceed unless we get (fill in the blank) just right. Watch to the end for a peek at the humorous side of this guitarist. You can also interact with Nathan via his live streams on krueTV.

That’s it for this week. What are some of your favorite finds of the week? Please let us know in the Comments below. Have a safe, restful weekend.

Worship Wednesday – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship with me.

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

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

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

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

(CHORUS)

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

(CHORUS)

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

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

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

YouTube Video – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

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

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

Confessional Writing – Wikipedia

5 Friday Faves – Words, Trauma Healing, Street Smart Kids, Thunderstorms, #GrowingUpInABlackChurch

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! Another whirlwind week. Ours is to savor the moments and those sweet finds of each day of  life. Below are a few of my favorites from this week. Would love to hear about yours [in Comments].

1) Words – You know when you mean to send that card or make that phone call? Or when you could speak to that downcast stranger or give a shout-out to someone worthy of celebrating…and you didn’t? This is a salute to all you folks out there who use your words for life – to encourage, celebrate, comfort, guide, and lovingly speak the truth. We are bombarded with words. Literally, blasted with words. Some sound so true, we are swayed by them…to find out later, they were not true…and the course of our lives, maybe even our country, was set in a direction we wouldn’t have chosen, if we understood what the words really meant.BLog - WordsPhoto Credit: Pinterest

I’ve been blessed by good friends and colleagues who use words in a life-giving manner. They inspire me to do the same.2016 Phone Pics 2449

2) Trauma Healing – The Trauma Healing Institute is a training and service arm of The American Bible Society. The goal here is to respond at a heart-level to the trauma in people’s lives. When you think of the numbers of people who have endured extreme trauma (1 out of 7 persons globally), it is a good thing to reach out to them with shelter and  supplies but also with listening ears and honoring comfort. This intervention is Bible-based so may not be the go-to training for everyone, but I’m hoping to take it in the Fall. Check here for stories and more info.
Blog - Trauma Healing - THIPhoto Credit: Trauma Healing Institute

3) Street Smart Kids – Earlier this week, I wrote about situational awareness. One of the resources I posted was the blog by Chonce Maddox on 50 Things You Can Do to Make Your Kids Street Smart I wrote this week about situational awareness here. Maddox talks about her reasoning for writing: “As a parent, my worst fear is that I won’t be able to protect my child when he needs it. My second worst fear is that he won’t be able to protect himself and make wise decisions depending on what situation he’s in.” Her list of 50 things are age-specific and are brilliant and easy-to-apply. Whether you have a newborn or a soon-to-be-launched teen, take the time to equip your children in this way.
Schoolchildren embracing happy. Multi cultural racial classroom.

Photo Credit: A Fine Parent

4) Thunderstorms and Heat Lightning  – I love rain and especially thunderstorms. It’s been really hot here in Richmond, Va., the last couple of weeks. Occasionally the lightning has only been heat-related. We had both heat lightning yesterday as well as an amazing thunderstorm last night. My pic below is of the late afternoon sky. The rains that came later were drenching and cooling. No electricity outages – just a glorious and wet light and sound show.Blog - ThunderstormBlog - Heat LightningPhoto Credit: Wunderground

5) #GrowingUpInABlackChurch – Growing up outside Atlanta , in the suburbs, was a pretty homogeneous experience for me, culture-wise. When I finished grad school, my first job was in an innercity hospital in downtown Atlanta. This was my first time experiencing the richness and otherness of predominately African American worship or “church”. In those days, working on an oncology unit, I went to a lot of funerals. Both in those times and regular Sunday services, I discovered a very different way of doing church and community. Sunday morning church is still too often a too-segregated experience, but I’m glad for the opportunities to be in a more racially and culturally diverse worship. What got me thinking about this was the trending hashtag this month which was fun to watch…although, not having the experience of #GrowingUpInABlackChurch, I celebrate it. ALso trending this week: #blackwomendidthat.

Blog - GrowingUpInABlackChurch - hbcuBlog - GrowingUpInABlackChurch - imgurPhoto Credit: HBCU, HBCU

Have a safe and sweet weekend out there. Use the Comments below to post your own favorites from this week. Thanks!

Worship Wednesday – Thy Will Be Done – Hillary Scott

Blog - Thy Will Be Done - Lord's Prayer - SlidesharePhoto Credit: Slideshare

We don’t try to explain God’s will at play when good things happen. It’s just celebration time. However, when bad things happen, we are caught off-guard. There must be some reason, something He’s teaching me, something wrong that He is righting, or some greater good. How do we as His children even imagine that we can explain or justify or normalize the activity of God?

Maybe because we are children. I think of my own children growing up and coping with a decision or direction change that caused them pain, disappointment, or confusion. After their questioning and attempts at convincing us of a better way, after the tears, came the surrender. We were always relieved when they let go of those exhausting emotions and would finally wrap their arms and legs around us, and lay their heads on our shoulders, to come close and be comforted. I remember those intimate times…grateful.

[It’s odd that my memories don’t go back to childhood and the same struggles with disappointments, seemingly caused by my own parents. Maybe you do remember times like that. Please share in comments. Maybe being grown, we have sorted it out enough times that the hurt has dissipated.  Or maybe the relationships, between child and parent, have proved to be trustworthy, and the disappointments just don’t matter in contrast.]

When Jesus’ followers asked him to teach them how to pray, he modeled a prayer for them. Within the text of the prayer, there is an appeal to God, echoing a surrender, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven.” I have prayed that phrase over many countries, and over my own life, and that of our children.

Jesus was/is in perfect unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit…and the will of God. In that unity, unblemished by his years on earth, he embraced and lived within that will. Still, even for Jesus, there came a dark, awful night, when he wrestled with the sometimes costly nature of the will of God. The next day, sinless Jesus would take on the sins of all the world – dying willingly for us in order that we, in every generation, could be restored to a holy God…forever. It was the only way for us…His obedience, his surrender. In a moment of human struggle, Jesus raised the possibility to the Father of another way…but resolutely, he reaffirmed “Not my will, but Thine be done.” [Luke 22:42]Blog - Jesus prayed - Thy Will - redeeminggodPhoto Credit: Redeeming God

We wrestle with the will of God at times as well. Maybe we are less tempted to question him when we receive the scholarship, or the job offer, or the marriage proposal, or the healthy baby, or the clear medical report. It’s when things go terribly wrong that we struggle with the “why’s” of the will of God. I’m unwilling to try to explain God or answer for him. When I was younger, I tried, but it seems vain and inadequate for us, as children, to try to explain God or give rationale for something hard in our lives.

Terrible things do happen in this world…and I am sure they grieve the heart of God. How do we reconcile the fall-out of sin and brokenness in this life and how God works his will even in those situations? We can’t see with his eyes…nor can we know why. What we can know always is that God loves his children. If we suffer at the hands of others or because of some circumstance of a sin-sick world, we cling to a God who is good…always good.

We are not tossed and tattered by the will of some god who is distant or uncaring. When we face a difficult turn in our lives, we don’t face it alone. Just like our children crawled up in our laps for comfort when they didn’t understand, we do the same with our Father in Heaven. We may be confused by what we’re facing, but we can be sure that foremost in God’s will for us is to know that He loves us and will bring us through whatever situation we find ourselves. He will lovingly bring us through it.

Hillary Scott, singer-songwriter, of Lady Antebellum and The Scott Family, writes a song about this very process – this resting in the love and person of God, no matter the loss, or painful situation.

Worship with me.

I’m so confused
I know I heard You loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of Your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

I know You’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know You think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all Your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that You’re God
And I am not
So

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will

I know You see me
I know You hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness You have in store
I know You hear me
I know You see me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness You have in store
So

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

I know You see me
I know You hear me, Lord*

Blog - Thy Will - cocolaelle

Photo Credit: Cocolaelle

*Lyrics to Thy Will Performed by Hillary Scott and Scott Family

YouTube Video – Hillary Scott & The Scott Family – Thy Will

YouTube Video – Hillary Scott Shares the Story Behind the Song Thy Will

5 Friday Faves – Phone Calls, Egyptians, Parenting, Contemporary Christian Music, and David B. Hart on Politics

Blog - Friday FavesHappy Friday! I woke up this morning to the sound of a summer thunderstorm – a real downpour. Now it’s done and hopefully won’t have discouraged the neighbors I’ll be walking with in just a bit. Hope this finds you off to a peaceful and gratifying end to your work week, or just the beginning of another adventure of the day. My 5 Friday Faves coming at you:

1) Phone Calls – In this season of texting as primary communication, I love a phone call. Even though I start with a text as well most of the time, not wanting to disturb the recipient…still a phone call is so direct and satisfying. I’m not the communicator that I once was. My friends and family, who are callers, are very merciful and their calls mean the world. So grateful to you who call. With our kids, they know if I don’t hear back from a series of texts, I will call. It is incentive of a sort to answer those texts. My preference is to hear their voices and to see their faces (Facetime is the best feature of the iPhone). For you who dread phone calls, consider that some of us really love receiving them. Just consider…Blog - Friday Faves - Phone calls

2) Egyptians – We’ve had great neighbors through the years, and especially in our current neighborhood. In our years of living outside of the US, in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, we have known the best of the best of those cultures. Just yesterday, I ran into an Egyptian student I’ve come to know here because she works in a favorite store. Her welcome is always so warm and gracious, asking about my surgery (remembering that?!). So today, I want to give a shout-out to our Egyptian friends. Known for their hospitality and humor, Egyptians remind me of those most beloved in my life from the South. When we lived in Cairo, our Egyptian friends went out of their way to make us feel welcome in their lives. So generous, and funny, and unpretentious. Dave and I talk about going back some day to live there again. It is probably not going to happen, but it makes me smile just to think of it. So here’s to the people of Egypt – “Om el Donia” – “Mother of the World”.036_36 (2)Blog - Sherine, Debbie, HebaBlog - Egyptians - Debbie & FonFon (2)Blog - Egyptians - Dina and Debbie - June 2016

3) Parenting – Matt Diaz is a former professional baseball player and currently a sports commentator. He is also a dad and coaches TBall (tiny baseball players). He wrote a great blog on parenting little guys and how our parenting changes as our kids get older. Speaking with humility from his own parenting and being parented, he spotlighted two issues worth examining.

Blog - Friday Faves - Parenting - Matt E. DiazBlog - Friday Faves - Parenting - Matt E. Diaz baseballPhoto Credit: Matt E. Diaz, Wikipedia

“We are pushing our young kids too hard.  We are expecting adult like performance from them.  We are frustrating them by asking them to handle things they were not designed to handle.
We are coddling our young adults too much.  Society is accepting way too much childlike behavior from them.  We are allowing them to behave in a manner that they were never designed to behave.”
I loved his illustration of how eagles feather their nests to protect the eggs and tiny eaglets and then remove the feathers to make the nest uncomfortable for the fledgling flyer.

4) Music Critics (Critique)
– Contemporary Christian music is genre that has been inspirational and comforting to me over my adult life. It has come a long, long way from the early years of odd, repeated lines and rounds of songs of the 60’s and 70’s. Still, with some glorious exceptions, the Christian music today is still not like the hymns of yesterday. There is contemporary worship music and Christian pop – very different from each other. In researching for my Worship Wednesday blog, I came across the Faithful Stewardship Blog.

The writer identifies himself as Jorge, from my home state of Georgia. He further describes himself as writing for the sake of his wife and children. On Tuesdays, he posts his critiques of contemporary Christmas music. He pulls from Top 20 lists of this genre and gives approval/disapproval ratings for songs based on how they line up with Scriptural truth. I don’t think he means any ill will at all in his disapprovals; he is focusing on Biblical truth in the lyrics of these songs. Some of my favorites are on his disapproving list, but many are also on his approval list, including For King & Country’s Shoulders.

Blog - Friday Faves - Music Critics - CCM - Twitter

Photo Credit: Twitter

I was surprised at some of his takes on songs but actually couldn’t disagree with his analysis.

An article along the same lines is T. David Gordon’s The Imminent Decline of Contemporary Worship Music: Eight Reasons. Blog - Friday Faves - Contemporary Worship Music - secondnaturejournalPhoto Credit: Second Nature Journal

He writes about how the church is embracing contemporary worship music to the exclusion of traditional hymns. His eight reasons that he sees this as a temporary situation are provocative and thought-provoking. This is not just a treatise on preferences. Gordon weighs in heavily on the grandeur of the lyrics and hymn tunes of worship music that has stood the test of time. He is not sure at all that much of what we cherish today will stand that same test. Some will, I believe, but how could we ever let go of such great hymns as Henry Francis Lyte’s Abide With Me, written in 1847? Or Martin Luther’s A Mighty Fortress Is Our God written in 1529? Powerful.

Postscript: Whether all the songs I love in both Christian worship and Christian pop endure for centuries, it matters that they bring joy today. So, just wanted to throw that in, on the tails of this good read.

5) David B. Hart on Politics – a young Eastern Orthodox friend of mine posted a quote from Hart on his Facebook page recently. Hart is also Eastern Orthodox, and a philosopher, writer, theologian, cultural commentator. He is new to me and much too deep for me to understand on some points. His take on American politics in this election year is worth noting. So eloquent. I love when people use words like this…with such clarity, transparency, and skill. Granted (for those who will disagree with his take on this subject) it is just his opinion…but well-spoken.Blog - Friday faves - David Bentley Hart on PoliticsPhoto Credit: Patheos

“Our choices are excruciatingly circumscribed, since the whole process is dominated by two large and self-interested political conglomerates that are far better at gaining power than at exercising it wisely…Yes, I know: there are good and sincere souls who run for office, and some occasionally get in, and a few of those are then able to accomplish something with the position they assume, and some of those even remain faithful to the convictions that got them there. But, lest we forget, those are also the politicians who often create the greatest mischief…If one were to devise a political system from scratch, knowing something of history and a great deal about human nature, the sort of person that one would chiefly want, if possible, to exclude from power would be the sort of person who most desires it, and who is most willing to make a great effort to acquire it. 

Yet our system obliges us to elevate to office precisely those persons who have the ego-besotted effrontery to ask us to do so; it is rather like being compelled to cede the steering wheel to the drunkard in the back seat loudly proclaiming that he knows how to get us there in half the time. More to the point, since our perpetual electoral cycle is now largely a matter of product recognition, advertising, and marketing strategies, we must be content often to vote for persons willing to lie to us with some regularity or, if not that, at least to speak to us evasively and insincerely. In a better, purer world—the world that cannot be—ambition would be an absolute disqualification for political authority.”David B. Hart, First Things

That’s it for me, this week. Hope you have a lovely weekend ahead – longer than usual with our Independence Day celebration on Monday. Please share any of your week’s favorites in Comments below. Thanks for reading my meanderings.

5 Friday Faves – a Mama’s Lament, Primary Physicians, Life in a Refugee Camp, a Deeper Happiness, and Community – and a Bonus

Blog - Friday Faves

Hello, Friday. We’ve had rain for days here, but it’s forecasted to be gone for the weekend. What are you up to? I’ve culled down my many happy finds of this week to these. Please share what enlarged your life this week (in comments)…and Happy Mother’s Day!

1) A Mama’s Lament“Slow Down”“I don’t know of a more uttered or whispered phrase from a mother of any age, about her child of any age, than ‘It’s going by too fast.’ I feel like I spend my life trying to slow time. Trying to celebrate the growth and the milestones of my children, and then secretly day dreaming about building a time machine in my garage, so I can return to rocking my babies at midnight. If you’ve ever looked at your child running across a field, or striding across a graduation stage, or walking down the middle aisle of a church clutching a bouquet, you’ll know why this song is special to me. Please enjoy the video below, remembering the moments we wish we could slow down, and sharing them with those we love most.”Nichole Nordeman

2) Primary Physicians – Without a lot of detail, I’ve been undergoing a series of medical tests (with their various new doctors attached) for a finding that is either nothing…or not. As frustrating as all this can be (with scheduling and preps and the waiting…the waiting!), I am grateful for specialists who continue to sharpen the focus of whatever this is that’s going on. Mostly, I am grateful for my primary physician who knows me and my history best. He occasionally checks in himself, as different reports come to him during this journey. What a blessing to know he’s putting the pieces of this puzzle together as each specialist adds his bit. Thankful.Doctor Talking with PatientPhoto Credit: UPMC

3) Life in a Refugee Camp– Our friend, Beth, is spending a couple of months in Greece, working in a Syrian refugee camp. She has been a great help there, I’m sure, and has given us a window into the lives of these displaced peoples. It’s hard to imagine living in a tent city, and yet, how wonderful that there is shelter for them in this place in-between. Homeless, and yet, for now, they have a place at least…where the kids play, the parents take English classes, and all the rest of their new normal life unfolds – cooking, cleaning, and preparing for an unknown but hopeful future.13001245_10156875941260061_7654249932579596614_n12985495_10156885038265061_4952602545456677851_n13055578_10156925512190061_3805858236358775882_n13082658_10156925508410061_1380861859098516687_n12993627_10156889362110061_8126408917090936937_nPhoto Credit: Facebook

4) A Deeper Happiness – You know, if you read this blog, that I love Kara Tippetts. She is with the Lord now. Still, her life and wisdom continue to impact my own. Her husband, Jason, wrote about a lunchtime together as she was nearing the day of leaving.

“The other day Mickey brought a grilled cheese to Kara for lunch. I didn’t have anything, so I just watched her eat. She offered me half of her sandwich. I said, Don’t you want it?

She replied, I do, but I want to share more.Blog - Mundane faithfulness - Grilled Cheese SandwichPhoto Credit: Woman’s World

First of all, yes, I did take half of a sandwich from my dying wife. Second, it occurred to me how Kara’s simple comment stuck with me: I want to share more.

What if I found more satisfaction in sharing than taking, more in giving than consuming?

Jesus says in Matthew 20:28, Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…

How beautiful that even as she fades, Kara’s selflessness reflects God’s character and ministers to our hearts.

He quotes Tim Keller: “Seek to serve one another rather than to be happy, and you will find a new and deeper happiness.”Blog - Need You Now Kara Tippetts & JasonPhoto Credit: Mundane Faithfulness

5) Community – Oh community! Sometimes you find it in the workplace or your neighborhood. Sometimes through your church (or other group of like-minded folks). Sometimes community comes through family and friends. We have experienced deep community in many forms over the course of life. I tried to find a definition for community but nothing really seemed adequate. Scott Peck has written about it with the words that resonate (I don’t agree with the whole piece but the defining words ring true) – vulnerable, honest, generous, inclusive, loving, safe. Community is where you know people genuinely care about you, warts and all…where when you’re not present, you’re missed…where help, laughter, understanding, and tears flow freely. Here’s to community – imperfect and human – more together than the individual parts. Hope you have one…otherwise, you are welcome.IMG_5754Blog - Community - English Conversation Class005IMG_4904

Bonus: A New Blog Find on the Workplace – I love to read about workplace culture and who leadership can make a difference. You’ll see that often in my Monday Morning Moment blogs. This week, I discovered an article by Ron Carucci interviewing Mark C. Crowley (wrote about it here). It intrigued me enough to seek out Ron’s website. He is part of the consulting team of Navalent, which focuses on business and leadership transformation. The blog is a huge resource for any of us in the workplace. Great stuff!

Blog - Blog on Business & Leadership - Navalent - Ron CarucciPhoto Credit: Navalent