On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” – Mark 11:12-14
When Jesus woke on Monday morning, after that glorious Sunday entering Jerusalem…I wonder what he thought. Did he know that, in just four days, he would be crucified? Whew…
Back to Monday:
During that week in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples spent the nights with friends in Bethany, two miles outside of the city. Each morning, they would walk into Jerusalem. On that Monday morning, just four days prior to his crucifixion, Jesus became hungry on the walk in. Seeing a leafy fig tree, he looked for fruit. With fig trees, where there are leaves, there should be figs. Since green figs are edible, and it wasn’t yet harvest season, there should still be some fruit on the tree.
When he found no figs, Jesus cursed the tree. This seems out of character for Jesus, until his action is put in the context of his culture and community. Throughout his public ministry, especially as he became more known and revered, the Jewish religious leaders held him in contempt. Jesus’ teaching of our dependence on God’s righteousness and not our own flew in the face of the Pharisaical teaching of the day – that of strict adherence to Jewish law as the only hope of finding favor with God. For Jesus, the leafy barren fig tree must have been a picture of religious Jews of that day, all flash and finery but no fruit of faith.
“Christ’s single miracle of Destruction, the withering of the fig-tree, has proved troublesome to some people, but I think its significance is plain enough. The miracle is an acted parable, a symbol of God’s sentence on all that is ‘fruitless’ and specially, no doubt, on the official Judaism of that age. That is its moral significance.” – C. S. Lewis
Jesus was left still physically hungry. He remained spiritually hungry as well – for this people of the Book to receive the good news that the Messiah had come.
Finally, arriving back in Jerusalem, Jesus was deeply troubled by what he found inside the Temple. The crowds of Passover pilgrims did not disturb him, but temple grounds turned marketplace did. In this sanctified place, meant only for worship, there were money-changers and sellers of animals for sacrifice, right in the Court of the Gentiles – in the only place where non-Jewish God-believers could worship.Photo Credit: “Expulsion of the Moneychangers from the Temple” by Luca Giordano
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” – Matthew 21:12-13
Often in film depictions of Jesus cleansing the temple, he appears a crazed individual, flailing about, throwing tables and flinging pigeons into the air. I can’t even imagine him that way. We can’t know how it happened except that in Jesus’ anger, he did not sin. He would not sin. I know the Jesus Film is just another director’s film rendering, but in this scene, Jesus showed great restraint. Disturbed at the buying and selling that actually kept believing Gentiles from worshiping, he moved to correct the situation. He was unafraid of the temple officials, burning with zeal for his Father to be truly worshiped in that place.
Zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me. – Psalm 69:9
Later in the week, he himself would be the one for sale – sold for 30 pieces of silver, betrayed by one of his own disciples, to satisfy the wrath of the religious leaders. That story is for another day.
This Holy Monday, we are drawn again to this Messiah who teaches us that the way we live our lives matters but not more than the way we relate to God. He makes space for us…room for all of us to receive Him. He is holy, and in His righteousness, we stand…on solid ground.
Happy Weekend…without further ado, here are my Friday Faves, before it gets too much farther into the weekend. Enjoy.
1) My Happy Place – “My happy place” has usually been a phrase that makes me cringe when I hear it. What does that really mean? Then it came to mind this week as I strolled through a local business. RVA Antiques. This huge space is a showcase for all things 20th Century, upcycled and updated for today’s customer. Artful and lovely. Having just picked up a prescription at the pharmacy next door, I had some time on my hands so popped in…just on a whim. It was a real refreshment for my soul. I like old things…the stuff of my mom’s era makes me think of her…and that makes me happy. Words also just bring smiles …those words worthy of being painted on a canvas or splashed on a piece of wood. Just strolled around the different vendors’ booths. Even met one of the owners, Dean Lewis, who made me feel welcome. Now that my understanding of such “a happy place” has been enlarged, what’s one of your “happy places”?
2) Preventing Generosity Burnout An article by Adam Grant and Reb Rebele got me thinking this week about generosity burnout. Beat Generosity Burnout confronts the crucial fine line between effectively helping others and giving so selflessly we lose our joy and capacity. We burn out. If we base our helping on “the need”, we won’t build in safeguards, boundaries if you will, to determine how best to meet that need. Serving our communities is definitely something we need to always consider, but we serve best by applying sustainable, capacity-building planning and practice.
Think of the ways you serve your various communities across a typical week or month. Are you all-in or holding back out of fear of too great a commitment or fear of burnout? Or what else? We definitely want to rise above the latter but what might “all-in” look like to be sustainable? For you personally and for the sake of the community you serve?
I would love this sort of dialogue with you. Either in Comments below or via email.
[Sidebar – for those of you who flew through this, already cynical and shut down from demands/needs of your organization or community, please reconsider and lean in. People very close to you may be teetering on generosity burnout and could use your thinking on sustainability.]
3) Whistle-blowers – Who are these people? These who bring unethical or illegal practices into the light? These who risk reputation and career…even more at times…to expose wrong? This was a big news week in America. One of those related to Christopher Wylie, a former employee of Cambridge Analytica (CA) and a whistle-blower. Wylie revealed an incredible, yet not-surprising abuse of Facebook user data by the political consulting company Cambridge Analytica. This company has probably had influence on presidential elections in the US, Kenya, Argentina, and other countries.
First, the company secured Facebook user data by claiming it would be for academic research purposes rather than commercial purposes. Then the company used an app (a pop-up quiz on Facebook) to glean more data about the user’s personality. This was multiplied through the users’ friend lists…resulting in millions of Facebook users manipulated by Cambridge Analytica. Based on their findings, CA would then post “fake news” to these users’ pages that would move them to possibly vote in a certain way. This is essentially “weaponizing the internet”.
I’m not sure of Christopher Wylie’s motives in whistle-blowing at this time, but it definitely gives pause to every request we consider in clicking yes to an app having access to our data.
What is also thought-provoking is how this practice goes much farther back than just the 2016 presidential election.
Something to ponder…thanks to Christopher Wylie, previously the perpetrator, now a champion for truth.
4) Spotify – So many of you may already use Spotify, this music service for smartphones and computers. I’m a late adopter but now I’m a happy consumer of this free medium. Especially since Beyond the Guitar has his first album on the site. So nice just to be able to click on, and listen to Nathan’s music while I’m driving or working.
His first published original composition, Evenglow, is also available on Spotify.
31 years ago yesterday, I woke well before dawn and knew right away why. It wasn’t the wild wind of Spring, bringing in the month of March “like a lion”. What woke me was the beginning of labor that would last all day. As we drove to the hospital, the wind gusts pushed against our little pickup truck and added to the deep memories of that morning. Many hours later, our firstborn arrived.
This morning was very much like that morning long ago. I was, however, wakened this time by those March winds, blowing hard outside. No going back to sleep, I settled in front of the fireplace with coffee and reading…reflecting on all the good of this week.
Here are my five favorite finds:
1) Perspective – Two authors this week caused me to think deeply about how we make decisions and choose directions. Writer pastor Scott Sauls (author of a favorite book Befriend) wrote a series of “What ifs” in his blog this week. Here are a few:
What if, in the spirit of Paul intelligently and winsomely engaging Greek academics with the truth of the gospel, Christians became known for engaging in thoughtful, enriching, challenging, and honoring discourse about God, humanity, and life (Acts 17:22-34; Colossians 4:6; 1 Peter 3:15)?
What if, in the spirit of how care was given to vulnerable children and women in the early church, women experiencing the trauma and fear of an unplanned pregnancy began to think first of local churches, not local clinics, as a comprehensively life-giving place of comfort, counsel, and care (James 1:27)?
What if, in the spirit of Scripture’s vision for the integration of faith and work, Christians became known as the bosses everyone wants to work for, the colleagues everyone wants to work alongside, and the employees everyone wants to hire (Ephesians 6:5-9)?
Also innovator Steven Kingwrote of making a decision NOT to become a professor in North Korea. Unlike professor Tony Kim and others who now languish imprisoned there without benefit of a trial or any contact with family or other representative. Remember the #USA3.
2) The Academy Awards – The 2018 Oscars ceremony is coming up this weekend. Among the nominees is The Greatest Showman‘s “This Is Me”, the original song by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The song celebrates the beautiful humanity in all of us, no matter our differences or peculiarities.
[Sidebar – There are 4 other original songs in the Best Song category of this year’s Academy Awards. One of them is Remember Me from the film Coco. Here is the Beyond the Guitar‘s arrangement of this lovely lullaby.]
“Why do giants lose? Because they can’t see….they’re so big and strong and powerful they lose the ability to kind of properly appreciate the world around them. It’s not just a story about David’s courage and greatness…it’s a story about Goliath’s blindness.”
In a video montage (archived on YouTube), Gladwell gives clarity to how we can be successful in life (even with Goliath’s):
4) Relationships – They are the heart of life. Relationships. Friendships. As we get older, too often we allow friendships and family relationships to go untended, unnurtured. To our own peril.Photo Credit: Flickr
This week, I also discovered this young and dynamic pastor, Michael Todd. His sermon series on relationships is like having coffee with a trusted friend who knows stuff and is funny to boot. The first sermon is Before the Person: Relationship Goals. [You can start 20 minutes in.]
He presents how God provided for Adam in the Garden with Eve, but not before He set other things in place first.
5) Changes in the Weather – I love this changeable weather. This week was such a mix – short sleeves one day, cap and jacket the next. As I say earlier, this morning was so windy, it woke me up before 4:00am. It’s still blowing hard hours later. Our wind chimes are ringing like church bells on a wedding day. Crazy wonderful weather.
[My garden flag flew away and I grabbed my jacket and I walked, still in pjs and slippers, until I found it.]
The beauty of this time of year in Virginia also changes with each passing day…more and more blooms heralding the coming of Spring.
So there you have it. What were some of your favorite finds this week? Please comment below. Also, take care out there in this weather. Enjoy the sun when it comes, and take the rain as a gift to wind down a bit from your week. With much love.
Did you catch the ice skating gala performance on NBC the night before the 2018 Winter Olympics closed? The finale was amazing, as all the medalists performed to the Oscar nominee song “This Is Me” (yes…again). I thought it would be easy to find the professional videotape of this event but all I could find were fan videos. Still, they are fun to watch…especially capturing the joy of Japanese skater Yuzuru Hanyu. Enjoy:
Friday has come and gone this week. These favorite finds of this week come to you in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Still…there were too precious to me to be lost to you. I hope you are encouraged in these finds.
1) The Legacy of Dr. Billy Graham – Pastor to US Presidents and faithful messenger of God’s Word – Billy Graham died this week at 99. Years ago, he had this to say about dying:
Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God. – Billy Graham (and also Dwight Moody previously)
I’ve known of Dr. Graham my whole life. When he was having one of his evangelistic crusades and it was televised, that’s what we watched, growing up. There was almost a reverence about those events – not idolizing him but an awareness and expectation that God would move in the hearts of people who heard the message of hope that Dr. Graham preached.
Dave and I, in our first year of marriage, were counselors at his Hartford, Connecticut crusade. Below is one of his sermons from that week’s events:
I wonder how many who are reading this also have memories of this man. This man who never turned from the God who loved him and called him to preach to the nations. This man who stayed faithful to God all the days of his life. If you have memories of Dr. Graham, please share them in the comments.
If you’re not a gamer, this may seem of little interest to you – the music from this game, even if it’s considered one of the greatest video games made. However, if you love guitar music, don’t miss this beautiful piece.
3) Teacher Villages – This week I heard of an innovative move on the part of the City of Newark, New Jersey. The problem that this city government was addressing was the loss of teachers, year after year. Apparently, finding affordable housing became such a financial barrier for teachers, they would take to leaving and moving to a more suburban school system.
Teachers Village is a huge enterprise built in downtown Newark. Within the multi-block complex, there is housing (marketed to teachers, in particular) as well as schools, shopping, and other retail and service sector elements.Photo Credit: Jersey Digs
This is helping to bring life back into the city schools of Newark…as well as the downtown neighborhoods.
Newark is just one of several cities investing in teachers by making housing available to them. How about where you live?
4) Black Panther – What a film! If you haven’t seen it yet, you will want to. Just to celebrate the people of this fictional yet fantastic place called Wakanda…and to celebrate the possibilities in our own real world.Photo Credit: Desiring God, Black Panther
In the movie, Wakanda is a fictional African homeland hidden from the rest of the world. It is uncolonized, technologically advanced, brimming with black excellence and beauty, industrious, mountainous, breathtaking. But the utopia itself, not the black superhero, hit an ancient ache that four hundred years in America hasn’t come close to soothing. We rally around superheroes like the Black Panther because we hope that they can lead us to Wakanda. – At Home in Wakanda – Greg Morse
In God’s word, I learned that his Wakanda has borders that expand beyond cultural similarity. All nations, all tribes, all tongues share a common citizenship, an everlasting fellowship that unites irrevocably. And this reality has already begun.
In Christ, I can greet a teenager in the mountains of Guatemala as “my brother.” I can divulge my deepest pains to an elderly white woman as I ask her to pray for me. Marrieds commune with singles; the rich dine with the poor. The healthy church is a foretaste of the coming paradise where Jesus, our King, unites a people of differences. Our distinctions don’t disappear, but a greater reason for unity appears. This family is connected by better blood: his.
In God’s coming Wakanda, he offers something even greater than the world of Black Panther: a unity made perfect through diversity. The different colors will complete the painting. The different notes will strike the chord. The eye will join with the nose and the arm to make the body whole. In that place, union — not uniformity — will be the greater light. There, the temporary brotherhood of the Panther will be engulfed by the diverse and eternal oneness of the Lamb. – At Home in Wakanda – Greg Morse
I read a piece this week by this extraordinary young woman, Rachel Macy Stafford. She writes about being new in a situation and the anguish of trying to be a part of a group of women who were just plain not interested.
As she used the painful experiences as a teachable moment, she said:
Remember this when you are in familiar territory and someone new walks up looking for guidance.
Remember this when you see someone on the outskirts anxiously holding her own hand.
Remember this when someone approaches you and asks a question – see the bravery behind the words.
Remember this when you see someone stop trying – perhaps he’s been rejected one too many times.
Remember this when you see someone being excluded or alienated – just one friendly person can relieve the painful sense of feeling invisible.
Remember the deepest desire of the human heart is to belong … to be welcomed … to know you are seen and worthy of kindness.
With one invitation, we can take someone From outsider to insider From outcast to beloved member From unknown neighbor to coffee companion From wallflower to life-of-the-party From shortened life expectancy to 80 years of joy.
Here’s the link to her article in full. Don’t miss it.
His performance of this piece transports us to Bilbo Baggins’ Hobbit house. Nathan could be playing for the warrior dwarves, all sitting dreamily in front of the fire, as they reminisce in song about what was once their home. Enjoy!
2) Black History Month – We’re over halfway through February which is Black History Month in the US. What impact has this observance had on your thinking? in 2019, we will mark 400 years since the first Africans arrived in English North America.
3) Firefighter’s Gender Reveal – Don’t we love our first responders? Don’t we also love babies? Put the two together and a gender reveal is born in a most creative way. Let the video show what happens:
What makes this even more special for me? They are our niece and nephew. Bring on the stuff of Baby Girls!
4) Olympic Gold – If you’re like us, you’re not getting much sleep this week as the Winter Olympics are in full-swing. My favorite sports to watch are figure and speed skating, the luge and bobsled competitions, and (as of this year) snowboarding. Photo Credit: Detroit News
Below are videos of just three of the gold medal performances so far. Mind-blowing!
What are your favorite sports? Please comment with a link to your favorite performances. It’s hard to take it all in with so many events going on. Thanks!
5) Brené Brown on Guns – This week we are stunned and grieved at the school shooting in Florida where 17 lost their lives. The news is full of talk of gun control and emotions are high. How I long for civil discourse that could extinguish political ambition for the sake of the people.
Writer and thought leader Brené Brown just last year wrote this piece on gun reform:
I am one of those who wants us to be able to protect our children but who also sees more and more gun legislation as a slippery slope. What would be the right gun laws? Those laws that most protect those who need protecting without putting guns only in the hands of the lawless.
Whatever your worldview, Brown’s article is thought-provoking. Today is not the day for more legislation, but today is the day we come alongside grieving families and friends…putting aside what may divide us and holding on to what unites us – truly caring for one another.
That’s it for this week…except for the bonuses below. I pray you have a safe weekend, spent with those you love. Let’s be gentle with each other…and ourselves. Life is precious…such a gift. Never to be taken for granted.
Quote: Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do. – John Wooden
Lazem – This is a pop song I knew years ago in Egypt – Lazem Ahebek (I Have to Love You). My dear friend Heba introduced it to me – and it reminds me of taxi rides through Cairo – windows down, a hot breeze blowing our hair – and times together at home, dancing to it.
Here is a lightning fast rundown of my favorite finds this week:
1)The Speech of a Great Leader – I wanted to quickly point you to Rams coach Sean McVay’s speech accepting the NFL award of 2017 Coach of the Year. He never made it about himself. He expressed gratitude for man after man in his organization (and also his mom and girlfriend). Great leaders make it about everybody else.
Also…just wanted to share this video of the Philadelphia Eagles:
2) Free USA3 – The Winter Olympic Games has its Opening Ceremony today. How beautiful to watch this display of international cooperation! To see all the athletes representing their nations is quite a sight. This year, as well as a few other times, North and South Korean athletes have walked together in the parade of nations. We will want to applaud.
Just yesterday, I was reminded of another sober reason not to celebrate. Three Americans are still being detained in North Korea. Businessmen. Educators. Americans. Held without reason. Sentenced without a trial to hard labor. Months ago…
Sol Kim, the son of detainee Tony Kim, posted a video on Youtube about the plight of these three Americans.
Please do what you can if you are at the Olympics or on social media talking about the Olympics. Use #USA3 as a hashtag.Raise 3 fingers if you are present at the Games, when you cheer for our US athletes.
A Quote: “There are so many ways of being despicable it quite makes one’s head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people’s pain.” – James Baldwin
A Newly Discovered Product: Probably over 10 years ago, at Christmas time, in Cairo, Egypt, I attempted to make caramel. A Brazilian friend of mine told me how. Take unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk and cover them with water and heat on the stovetop for 3 hours. Really simple. Unless you fall back asleep after putting the turkey in the oven in the pre-dawn of a Christmas morning. At some point later, I awoke to a loud pop! On my way to the kitchen, another pop happened. When I arrived the white walls of our kitchen looked like the side of a Guernsey cow. The water had boiled out, and the cans had exploded. Golden brown caramel was splattered over every surface of the kitchen…on Christmas morning. I never made caramel again.
This was a lovely find this week:
and…Spring is coming:
Have a weekend of making memories with those you love. See you soon.
Friday! The snow is melting here in Virginia. Today the sky is pale blue, still a little winterish, but the sun has a punch to it like in early Spring. Lovely entry to a birthday weekend. Yep, another year done and another digit on an age that sounds old to me, but I don’t feel it. Thankful.
Here, quickly, are my favorite finds for this week. With family in town, no time for many words, but I still wanted to share these with you. With love.
1) Beyond the Guitar – This guy creates classical guitar arrangements of themes from movies, videogames, and TV shows. Every week, he creates a arrangement, memorizes it, and produces a video – posting every week. I am amazed at his work, and his work ethic. He still does private lessons. Here are his latest two arrangements. If you love them, subscribe to his YouTube channel. Or on his Facebook page, like, comment, and share. You can’t imagine how powerful this is for his music to become known. Enjoy!
3) Intriguing Film Trailers – Every season brings its new films. We have finished the Christmas release blockbusters. Now we are teased into buying tickets for the next films coming out. Three trailers this week have really caught my attention. They are listed below:
Beirut – a film about the siege of Beirut in 1982. Just watching the trailer was gripping. Check out the comment on the trailer. Impassioned!
In the West, the most pressing cultural issue facing Christians in 2018 is not external but internal. We suffer from a shriveled moral imagination that has led to a shrunken understanding of the gospel and a corresponding crisis of confidence in its power.
In order to face the external cultural pressures of this age, we must find ways to cultivate a Biblically formed imagination so that Christians can resist the powerful pull of nostalgia, see through and see past stale partisan allegiances, and reclaim the importance of character in public and private life. Only a renewed moral imagination can engage stubborn divisions of race and class with something more powerful than the resentment that currently engulfs all sides in the culture wars. – Trevin Wax
5) Freebies – If you are here, reading my blog, I know that’s no small thing. There are so many blogs out there. Thanks for reading mine. This week, I found Kristen Strong‘s blog. Hers is the kind of blog/website I hope to have one day. Chasing Blue Skies – Encouragement for Every Season of Life. Kristen is an author, military wife, mom, and encourager (obviously). She also has a dozen freebies for her readers. Take a look. Photo Credit: Kristen Strong, Mariazwire
As I write I can hear my mom-in-law talk gently to my dad-in-law, as she helps him with his pills. He has Parkinson’s and it has weathered him. She continues faithful in the “for better, for worse” of their almost 62 years of marriage. I’m so glad she could drive down for this weekend to see grands and great-grands and to help me celebrate the aforementioned birthday. What a blessing to have them with us.
Hope you also have a great weekend…whether you have a birthday to celebrate or not. Be gentle with yourself…and those around you. You just never know what a difference it could make.
Frozen Fog [We’ve had a lot of snow over the last two weeks – well, a lot for us. As beautiful as the snow was, the phenomenon of frozen fog, or hoarfrost, we also saw this week, is rare and magical.Photo Credit: Pixabay
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 Relationships – Dr. 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
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.
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:
“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
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.
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)
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)?
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.]
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.
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
It’s Friday. Well…it was. As I write, it’s pre-dawn on a snowy Saturday morning. Our first snow of the season fell last night, and more is expected today. Our youngest son and I took in the VCU Holiday Gala last night, walking to and from the parking deck in falling white loveliness. It’s been a family tradition for us for a few years now, but with precious babies and a heavy work schedule for Dave, it was just Dan and me. Still, so much fun.
That’s pretty much how this week has been. Unexpected alterations of days and the emotional highs and lows that came with them. Still…Friday came (and went…oops!). Welcome to Saturday, and hopefully you will find something here to lighten your load, make you smile, or remind you that we are all in this together.
1) Star Wars Christmas –Beyond the Guitar continues to surprise and delight with his latest arrangement. A mashup of Star Wars themes and Christmas carols. So fitting in this season and as Star Wars: The Last Jedihits the big screen in a few days. Shout-out to the video directors – Tyler Scheerschmidt and John Shutika. If you love all things Christmas and Star Wars, you’re in for a treat:
2) Jimmy Stewart’s Prayer – What should come to mind is actor Jimmy Stewart’s classic portrayal of the consummate good guy, George, in the film It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). However, a short film entitled Mr. Krueger’s Christmas(1980) has a particular scene in it that is riveting. In the scene, Mr. Krueger finds himself present, along with the shepherds, at the birthplace of Jesus. It’s reported, Stewart did this scene in one take saying he only had one take in him. He talks to Jesus in this scene and at one point drops to his knees, overtaken by the moment, and stammers, “I love you…you are my closest, my finest friend.” Take 4 minutes and watch this sweet scene:
3) Hamburger Joint – We all have our favorites, right? What’s yours? I have a few favorites, but when we lived and had babies in Kingsport, Tennessee, it was Pal’s Sudden Service. Both of my biological children probably have Pal’s hot dogs and fries in their original DNA. Their business model (see links below) is very forward-thinking without settling for trendy. Not just about the quality of the food but also about service and employee training. Pal’s is a total carry-out restaurant. You order not over a speaker but face-to-face with someone. By the time you round the building, in your car, of course, the food is ready. It’s so good, I doubt many folks get back on the street without grabbing a one of their fries out of the bag, and definitely not without their first long sip of Pal’s sweet tea. So good. Have you ever experienced Pal’s? Or another favorite? Please comment below.Photo Credit: Pal’s Sudden Service
4) Liz Wiseman on Accidental Diminishers – Who hasn’t read Liz Wiseman‘s book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter? Well, maybe you don’t need to read it. If you work with two or more people, this gem of a book is an excellent assist in helping you be better able to work wiser with those two or more. Revised since the original publishing in 2010, Multipliers continues to be timely. in a recent Leaders Get Read podcast, Wiseman was interviewed again about the the two ends of the spectrum at work – the multiplier and the diminisher.Photo Credit: Slideshare
Give it a listen especially if you haven’t read the book – she gives a great synopsis of the concepts. At 18 minutes into the podcast, Wiseman talks about the accidental diminisher. Those times when all of us, even being well-intended, do or say things that diminishes another person. I do that sometimes in tweaking a plan or decision made by another colleague or friend. Tweak, tweak, tweak. It happens in my direction when someone, even one who I know cares about me and what I bring to the table/relationship, communicates that I’m not needed or my input isn’t desired. Tricky. On a good day, this actually frees me to focus on other things; on a bad day, it causes all kinds of anxiety, insecurity, and paranoia (it’s true…hard to believe, I know).
5) Pulling Up – Given my #4 fave, this has been a week where I have struggled with some low points. There were occasions where it’s possible I was an accidental diminisher (very sad face here) with people who should never be diminished. [Well, no one should ever be diminished. Full stop.] Then, also had a few experiences of being diminished myself. For me, in such situations, a downward spiral begins in my thoughts and emotions. Maybe you struggle with this as well. Often this shows up at bedtime and I find myself trying to sort out how to fix a situation. Finally sleep comes…and resolution begins when I “pull up”. Dave coined this phrase with me, and the family has taken it on as a reminder too. As with an out-of-control plane spiraling dangerously toward the ground, the pilot has got to figure out a way to “pull up”.
Bring every thought captive to what is truth. – “We tear down arguments, and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5
Focus your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, admirable… – “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think on these things.” – Philippians 4:8
Pulling up may mean going to that person to sort things out. It can also mean just correcting course in our own thinking.
Photo Credit: Micah Eckerd – Actually friend Joshua Griffin took the shot, but this is ALL Micah. Just makes me smile. A friend & a tree.
Harvesting Olives by Machine – If you’ve ever seen olive trees harvested by hand, such a machine would be amazing to have. We had an olive tree in our yard in North Africa, and just the work of pulling olives off that one tree gave us pause – thinking of all the olive groves near us and the hundreds of trees loaded with fruit.