Tag Archives: classical guitar

5 Friday Faves – So Taken by the Beauty Around Us – in Music, Nature, Technology, Words, and Community

Friday evening is closing in fast. Here are my five faves of this week – all focusing on the beauty in our lives…or just a bit of it, for sure.

1) Music – So much of our human experience is elevated by music. No matter how lovely life already is, there is something beyond words really that happens to us when music slips in. Photo Credit: Quote Fancy

For example, when Nathan, our favorite guitarist, first performed in concerts, I was astonished at the emotion that he could stir in performing on a single guitar. He is less in the concert hall now and more on social media channels, but the emotion is stronger than ever. The quiet yet penetrating sound of a classical guitar has surprised me with its remarkable beauty. Definitely has the imprint of the composer and the luthier (the maker of the instrument). Then there’s the artist.  That one who brings the music and the instrument to life. The one whose heart touches our own in the joy of the moment. For those of you who follow Nathan with me, you know

the experience. I never want to take it for granted. His music.

For those of you who subscribe to his YouTube channel, you’re in very good company (50,000+ company). For you who follow him on social media, all your likes, comments, follows, and shares go a long way. It all makes a difference. Lastly for those who are his patrons, we are in that growing, strongly committed bunch of people who look forward to his creating and performing music today…and in future.

The music industry is complicated, and I’m thankful that Nathan continues to do what it takes to carve out a career in music.

[He’s probably not going to love all this…being I’m his mum and all…but focusing on beauty in this Friday Fave…it is what it is.]

Below are three of his simpler melodies…and some of my favorites.

YouTube Video – Downton Abbey Theme – “The Suite” – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Tale as Old as Time – Beauty and the Beast – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Bioshock Infinite: Will the Circle Be Unbroken – Beyond the Guitar

2) Nature – Having lived in Cairo, Egypt, for many years, my perception of beauty has deepened and become sharper. Some see that city as one hot dusty mess of snarled traffic and teeming crowds of people. For me, Cairo was magical. The people so beautiful, and natural world of that city persistent and hardy. Having the Nile River coursing through that urban desert brought life to a dry place.

Anyway, it’s been too long since our life in Cairo, but just as we were surrounded with beauty there, we are here as well. The astounding beauty of even our broken world moves some to pantheism (a worldview so enamored with the excellence of the natural world that a personal god is not even considered). I personally can’t imagine this world without it having been created by God – a God who loves beauty and order and lavishes both on those created.

What do you think as you soak up this world – turning to Spring for us in the Northern Hemisphere? Or we could just put the thinking aside and rejoice in the sheer beauty of it all.

3) Technology – OK…here I’m going way out of my comfort zone because tech is so not my language. Still… earlier this week, I spent an obscene amount of my life going through pre-digital-age pictures. Photography has been a life-long hobby of mine, leading me to have not just albums upon albums but boxes of pictures and even slides.

Memories…attached to people and places that were moments captured and continents spanned. In photography alone, technology has taken us away from the box cameras of my childhood to digital beauties that pretty much leave us without an excuse on getting that “Kodak moment” (or photo-worthy image for folks who no longer know what Kodak was).

I got a new camera for Christmas. Thanks to that husband of mine.

…he still has to help me with much of my technology…but I’m thankful beyond words for what can be accomplished with it.

4) Words – It’s pretty obvious that I love words. Not the cynical, cutting, mean-spirited ones…but those that are life-giving and hold us up when our knees start to buckle. I have had the opportunity to go to a couple of Global Leadership Summits where a diverse group of world-class leaders come together and speak to thousands, in person and via satellite. This year, one of those speakers is actor Denzel Washington. I can’t tell you all his films I’ve seen, but what he says off-screen is even more delightful than his powerful on-screen presence.Photo Credit: Flickr

Check out his commencement speech on putting God first. As well as another on Falling Forward.

Words mean things. We will not get away with killing with words…we will be found out. On the reverse, when we speak life, using words to lift  and marvel, we are known by these as well. The difference is our being known matter…life given through words is what matters. We all are transformed by the beauty of such words.

Quotes About Words

5) Community – Oh the wonder of real community! Of people coming together for something larger than ourselves. To give aid or to just enjoy one another. I have been graced with grand community.

This week, the beauty of people who serve well really resonated. Also, along with that, the intentional care or stewardship of such folks. I came across this stellar article by non-profit leader Joanne Fritz. She posted on Things Your Volunteers Need to Be Happy: Are You Appealing to Today’s Volunteers?

Now few of us serve as volunteers for what we “get out of it”. Still volunteering has its cost. Especially costly is the service given by those who already have tough work lives. To give out of a dry well still needs to happen sometimes. We must remember that could be the case with any one of us…and honor those who serve so sacrificially.

Fritz quotes from a study on volunteers reported by Join In UK. [Click the link for a brilliant graphic going into the detail of the research – on what sustains volunteers.] Below is the summary (using the acronym GIVERS):

G. Personal growth and well-being

I. Increased sense of purpose, such as knowing just how they make a difference.

V. Voice or how volunteers are asked to give their time.

E. Easy to sign up, to get there, to get the job done.

R. Recognition. Being thanked, appreciated, and celebrated.

S. Social opportunities like making new friends and working on a team.

Making Time – Getting to Givers – Join In UK

Then Fritz prompts 10 observations that can guide us in how to show true care for a community of volunteers:


  • Want you to be prepared for them.
  • Want to feel welcomed.
  • Want good training.
  • Want to do interesting work.
  • Want to know up front how much time the job will take.
  • Want to be appreciated.
  • Want you to communicate with them well and often.
  • Want to know that they are helping to make the world a better place.
  • Want to be socially connected.
  • Want to learn something new.     Joanne Fritz

Things Your Volunteers Need to Be Happy: Are You Appealing to Today’s Volunteers?Joanne Fritz

Her commentary on each point is very helpful as well.

When we treat volunteers as leaders in training – mentors-in-the-making, we move our attention off the task and onto the person, the community. These beautiful serving ones can take us into the future of our organization and beyond. We can make it both about those we serve and those serving…that’s one of the beauties of life, as we remember to see it that way.


That’s my look at the beautiful of this week. What beauty has sparked wonder in you this week? Please share in Comments below. Have a safe weekend, and take each moment as the gift it is…with those loves in your life, those people gifts to treasure.


Like a Child: the Virtue of Children’s Books – Samuel Loncar

Top 5 Ways to Raise a Generous Child at Any Age – Rachael Boyer

The iPad Is a Far Bigger Threat To Our Children Than Anyone Realizes

Do You Choose Convenience Over Principles? – Frank Sonnenberg

6 Secrets of a Utility Player: How to Hire for Indispensable – Karin Hurt

Don’t you wonder where the recycling goes? One day I’m doing a field trip, but for today, these were helpful:

Photo Credit: Brené Brown

Quote: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.Thoreau

Photo Credit: Facebook page Humor Is Contagious

Photo Credit: Writing About Writing, Facebook page

5 Friday Faves – Easter Reading, Classical Guitar Wonderment, Giving Place/Space/Voice, Touches of Whimsy, and Food for Thought

Happy Friday! Let’s jump right in – here are my favorite finds of this week…

1) Easter Reading – Every year during Lent, I pull out a small pile of books. One, in particular has been a companion of mine for 20 years: British author Adrian Plass‘ book The Unlocking: God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. Another book found a place in my pile just this past year, yet the author has many years’ influence in my life as well. This one is Preparing for Easter by another British author, C. S. Lewis.

Both of these books are meant to take us through an examination of our lives and the Lord with us, right up to Easter. Below are just two (very different) excerpts from these two books:

“When we see how all our plans shipwreck on the characters of the people we have to deal with, we are ‘in one way’ seeing what it must be like for God…He sees (like you) how all the people in your home or your job are in various degrees awkward or difficult; but when He looks into that home or factory or office He sees one more person of the same king – the one you never do see, I mean, of course, yourself …You also are just that sort of person. You also have a fatal flaw in your character.

All the hopes and plans of others have again and again shipwrecked on your character just as your hopes and plans have shipwrecked on theirs…God’s view [differs] – He loves the people in spite of their faults. he goes on loving. He does not let go. Don’t say, ‘It’s all very well for Him; He hasn’t got to live with them.’ He has. He is inside them as well as outside them. He is with them far more intimately and closely and incessantly that we can ever be. Every vile thought within their minds (and ours), every moment of spite, envy, arrogance, greed, and self-conceit comes right up against His patient and longing love, and grieves His spirit more than it grieves ours.”C. S. Lewis

“Father, Do I hurt You with my fear? Do I cut You with my cries of desolation? Do You sigh and shake Your head when I cannot understand? Do You long to make it better? Do You seriously consider abandoning Your principles? Do You sleep? Do You lie awake and think of me? Does Your pain roll across creation like thunder? Is it really finished? Daddy, won’t it be good when it is? Amen.”Adrian Plass

Do you have favorite books for the Easter season? Please share with us in Comments below.

2) Classical Guitar Wonderment – I don’t know how he does it, but every Friday, Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posts a new video. His arrangements and performances amaze us all – not just family but friends, both here and around the world. You know I could go on…but I won’t. Here are his two latest arrangements:

YouTube Video – Full Metal Alchemist: Brothers (Kyoudai)

YouTube Video – Civilization VI: Sogno di Volare

3) Giving Place, Space, & Voice – I just want to salute you people out there who give place to others – at the planning and decision-making tables, who give space to others to come at solutions or strategy from a different worldview or frame of reference, and who give voice to those who might not find their voice otherwise.

You are true leaders and true servants. You are the kind of people we want to follow and make proud of us. You are those who create a family, a workplace, a community and a world where we can all realize our God-ordained purposes. Ambition, territoriality, mistrust, personal preference turn some away from such practices. To those of you who guard this discipline in your lives…this three-fold giving…thank you. Thank God for you.

Monday Morning Moment – A Space and a Place on the Team – Deb Mills Writer

How to Help Emerging Leaders Find Their Voice – Ron Carucci

4) Touches of Whimsy – What a joy it is to be going through your day and then, stop right in your tracks at a glimpse of something beautiful. Or an amusing turn of phrase in a conversation causes you to laugh out loud. The world, as hard as it can be, is also still full of whimsy. Just last night I was at a first birthday party for a wee one who was born three months early and weighed in at just over two pounds.  He is every bit a miracle baby. We spent most of the evening just staring at him. Of course, there were doses of adult conversation and lots of shared laughter, but his little chuckles lifted all our hearts…at the wonder of his life.

This week also a friend took me to a belated birthday breakfast. We tried this new restaurant in our neighborhood. SB’s Lakeside Love Shack. It was breakfast all day in the most whimsical little place. Here are just a few pics of what made us keep smiling with delight:

[Sidebar: In case you are my neighbor and you give this restaurant a try on my recommendation, just be advised that it’s not a diner (with diner prices), and it’s small (so crowded depending when you go). The food was delicious and the whimsy was a definite highlight.]

5) Food for Thought – OK, to be honest, I couldn’t decide on #5, so I’m just putting all the “bonus” finds right here.

C. S. Lewis Daily Twitter – “It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge one away from the light and out into the nothing.”

5 Secrets of a Utility Player: How to Hire for Indispensable – Karin Hurt

Don’t Get Seduced into Skipping Stones – Dan Lovgalia

7 Things Black People Want Their Well-Meaning White Friends to Know – Erin Canty

Photo Credit: Brene Brown Twitter

Screen Time Syndrome: Brain Images Explain Why Kids Are Moody, Impulsive & Can’t Pay Attention – Jacqueline

A Kick-starter Campaign by Composer Christopher Tin – the video itself is so beautiful.

This Restaurant Way Out in the North Carolina Countryside has the Best Doggone Food You’ve Tried in Ages – Shatley Springs Inn and Restaurant – Robin Jarvis

I am still buoyed by the incredible beauty of ice skater Yuzuru Hanyu’s performances in this year’s Winter Olympics to Notte Stellatathis one as part of the skating gala exhibition of all the medal winners:

The one below for us writers:

What’s So Bad About the Passive Voice?

That’s it for this week. Love you all. Be safe out there and gentle with yourselves…and each other. Please share below your favorite finds of the week. Thanks for following my blog. You are much appreciated at this house.

5 Friday Faves – Perspective, Academy Awards, Malcolm Gladwell & Success, Relationships, and Changes in the Weather

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)?

[Read the rest here.]

Photo Credit: Flickr

Also innovator Steven King wrote 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.

Photo Credit: Facebook

Could I Have Been the Professor Being Held in North Korea? – Steven King

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.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you have not heard this song yet, I have links below. They are in a particular order, and you definitely should take your lunch or coffee break to watch all of them.

  1. The Greatest Showman – This Is Me [Official Lyric Video]

2. The Greatest Showman – “This Is Me” with Keala Settle (The Making Of)

3. Beyond the Guitar’s arrangement of a Greatest Showman medley (including This Is Me)

4. This Is Me (from The Greatest Showman Soundtrack) – Official Fan Video – Nathan of Beyond the Guitar is included at minute 1:26 and 2:05

[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.]

3) Malcolm Gladwell & Success – Author Malcolm Gladwell is a tireless student of human nature and culture. My husband brought my attention to him through his books The Tipping Point and Outliers.

Gladwell is scheduled this year to teach writing in the online Master Class. In the promo (below), he tells a story about the Goliath’s in our lives.Photo Credit: Guillaime Courtois, Wikimedia Commons

“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):

Gladwell’s 10 Rules for Success

  1. Have the courage to pursue your idea.
  2. Try a new approach.
  3. #Believe in meaningful work.
  4. Constantly revise your conclusions.
  5. Distinguish yourself from others.
  6. Practice.
  7. Explore.
  8. Be patient.
  9. Understand the rules of business.
  10. Outwork others.

YouTube Video – TED Talk – The Unheard Story of David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell

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

Writer Anna Goldfarb gives wise counsel in her piece How to Maintain Friendships. In brief here’s what she advises:

  • Communicate expectations.
  • Nix “I’m too busy”.
  • …Then examine your busyness.
  • Personal, small gestures are the way to go.
  • Cultivate routines.
  • Come through when it counts.
  • Acknowledge efforts made.

Read her whole article for detail and context. Wisdom.

How to Maintain FriendshipsAnna Goldfarb

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.

Before the Person:

(Genesis 2:15-18)

  1. Place
  2. Purpose
  3. Provision
  4. Identity
  5. Parameters

Good teaching, for sure.

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.


Rising Tide Startups – Podcast with Glenn Hirchfield, Entrepreneur & Angel Investor

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:

The rehearsal:

The final performance:


Photo Credit: Facebook, Dementia Awareness Every Day

5 Friday Faves – The Legacy of Dr. Billy Graham, Beyond the Guitar, Teacher Villages, Black Panther, and Belonging

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)

Photo Credit: WTOV

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.

Daddy Is Home – Anne Graham Lotz

Select Chronology Listing of Events in the Life of Billy Graham and the History of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Up Until Rev. Graham’s Retirement in 2005, with a Few Later Significant Events

Billy Graham Reached Millions Through His Crusades: Here’s How He Did It – Cathy Lynn Grossman

Video – Kathie Lee Gifford Reacts to the Death of Prominent Pastor Graham

2) Beyond the Guitar – This week classical guitarist Nathan Mills posted his latest arrangement  of themes from the video game Shadow of the Colossus . This theme  video game has been remastered and re-released this month for PlayStation 4.

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

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?

Teachers Village – Newark, New Jersey

Subsidized Housing May Help School Districts Retain Teachers – Jenie Lindsay

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

YouTube Video – Black Panther – Best Scenes – 14 minutes

I’d like to share Greg Morse‘s take on Wakanda:

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

5) Belonging – I’ve written on this before – on the power of noticing, on inner circles and belonging. It’s something we all need…to be gathered in; to be chosen; to be included; to be a part of something larger than ourselves.Photo Credit: Re-Live

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.”

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.

Am I Invisible? The Pain Relieving Response to Being Rejected or Excluded – Rachel Macy Stafford

That’s it for this week…way overdue. Have an amazing rest of your weekend. You never know what a difference you make in the lives of those around you.


In Defense of Thoughts and Prayers – Scott Jones – one of the most insightful pieces I have ever read following a tragedy – it’s in the bonus section but needs its own deep consideration – I hope you read it and gain as much as I did.

In Defense of Thoughts and Prayers

What the Screen Time Experts Do With Their Own Kids – Anya Kamenetz

40 Profound Life Rules from Jordan Peterson Everyone Should Know – Jon Brooks

40 Profound Life Rules from Jordan Peterson Everyone Should Know

Facebook Photo Album of Amazing Egypt – Hossam Abbas Photography – I discovered this photo album on Facebook and it was such a delight for me – having seen these incredible sights ourselves.Photo Credit: Hossam Abbas Photography

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, Firefighter’s Gender Reveal, Olympic Gold, Black History Month, and Brené Brown on Guns

It’s Friday…again! Here are my favorite finds, with love.

1) Beyond the Guitar – Probably our all-time favorite films are set in Middle-Earth – a wild and beautiful place created by writer J. R. R. Tolkien. Those films are The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit (one book, three films). Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar takes us back, with his arrangement, to that far home place Misty Mountains.

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!

YouTube Video – The Hobbit: Misty Mountains – Classical Guitar Cover (Beyond the Guitar)

YouTube Video – Misty Mountains (Cold) Full Song and Scene with Lyrics

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.

American Revolution – 2019 – Black History Month

Photo Credit: Urban Theological Radio

30 Black Christians You Should Know: Complete Edition

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:

Firefighter and Wife Use Fire Hose for Baby’s Gender Reveal – Inside Edition

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!

YouTube Video – Shaun White Wins Halfpipe Gold with Epic Final Run (Run starts at 1:30)

YouTube Video – Chloe Kim Lands Back-to-Back 1080s, Wins Olympic gold in Halfpipe (Run starts 30 seconds in)

YouTube Video – Savchenko, Massot Win Gold Medal Free Skate with Record Breaking Performance

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:

Gun Reform: Speaking Truth to Bullshit, Practicing Civility, and Affecting Change

It’s a worthwhile read as she exposes the incivility of the gun reform debate and how it doesn’t get us where we need to go. She closes out her piece with a call to discourse and to reasoned action:

When we engage in the “us versus them” argument, we lose. The only person who wins is the person who owns the framing of the argument.

Own your opinion. Fight for what you believe in.
And don’t let others frame your beliefs.

Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil. Take action. – Brené Brown

Photo Credit:  Brené Brown

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.

“When guns are outlawed only the outlaws will have the guns.”

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

Favorite Podcast Interview with weekRising Tide Startups and Career & Business Strategist Mike McRitchie

The Good Doctor – on Arrogance – [I LOVE this TV show.]

The Heart of Man Documentary is now on Netflix (deals with the subject of pornography and other moral failings)

On Responding to an Offense (whew…so convicting):Photo Credit: Scott Phillips, Facebook

Valentine’s Day Friends Gathering

One Old Song & Three New to Me:

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.

Owl City – Fireflies

The Tenors – Lead with Your Heart

Cinematic Orchestra – To Build a Home

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, Picture Quotes, Intriguing Film Trailers, Moral Imagination, and Freebies

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!

The Greatest Showman Medley

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Far Horizons

You can also follow Nathan on his Patreon page. You can become a patron as well, if you choose. Thanks!

2) Picture Quotes – We all love picture quotes, right? Especially if you’re a visual learner…that’s me. I just found this website – Lessons Learned in Life. A great source for picture quotes.Photo Credit: Lessons Learned in Life

Photo Credit: Lessons Learned in Life

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!
  • Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot – a biopic on the life of cartoonist John Callahan. Very dark, but fascinating. Probably won’t see it on the big screen…but very intriguing.
  • I Can Only Imagine – Compared to the two very heavy films above, this one I will definitely see. The trailer informs us that it’s the story of how Christian singer Bart Millard (of MercyMe) wrote this incredibly popular song. A song written out of a hard childhood and then seeing God redeem and restore.Photo Credit: Urban Christian News

Any films you want to see after seeing the trailers? Comment below.

4) Moral Imagination –Thanks to the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, conversations on race have abounded this week. I have benefited (see how here).  We have much conflict and much change in our culture. How do we face them all? Writer Trevin Wax posted on the most pressing, most crucial issue for Christians in 2018.

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.

Photo Credit: Slideplayer

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.


YouTube Video – The Greatest Showman – “This Is Me” with Keala Settle – a behind-the-scenes making-of video that will knock your socks off. Do not miss this!

YouTube – The Greatest Showman – This Is Me Lyric Video – and now watch this song in the film. Whew!

Quote:Photo Credit: Dwayne Pyle

10 Really Hard Prayers to Pray – Chuck Lawless

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

5 Friday Faves – Assassin’s Creed on Guitar, Carey Nieuwhof on Leadership Development, Snow Days, Internet Discoveries, and the Cost of Security

Snow day!!! On a Friday. Do I need to say more?

Hope you are well, warm, and safe.

Here are my Friday faves from this week.

1) Assassin’s Creed on GuitarGuitarist Nathan Mills has just posted his arrangement of the main theme from Assassin’s Creed IV.

If you’re like me, you might not know what that even means – Assassin’s Creed. It’s a popular videogame set in the Caribbean during the 18th century. Lots of swashbuckling, sword-wielding pirates, I suppose. The best part of this game for me (since I never played)? This guy playing this arrangement on this guitar:

Follow Beyond the Guitar here. Every week, more music, just for us.

2) Carey Nieuwhof on Leadership DevelopmentCarey Nieuwhof is a pastor, writer, podcaster, and leadership coach. His thinking on  leadership development goes beyond the church straight into the secular workplace. He has much to offer to anyone wanting to raise up qualified leaders. His own wisdom and experience as a leader and student of leadership make him a worthy mentor. Then there are also his choices of leader interviews for his podcast. I’d like to point you to two he interviewed and then posted among his Top 10 Podcasts of 2017.

They are Todd Adkins and Craig Groeschel.

Adkins on intentionality: Leadership development requires intentionality. If you think that leadership development is going to naturally happen over time, you’re wrong. Usually leaders are also ambitious doers, and striking a healthy balance between doing and developing is only something that happens with intentionality.

Adkins on building leaders from within the organization: Are you building people or buying them? If you look at your staff and realize that you bought most or all of them, then it’s time to reevaluate your leadership development culture. There is a time or a place to buy staff, but a healthy leadership culture also produces leaders from within.

Groeschel on feedback: Create a culture where feedback is craved rather than avoided. The higher you rise in any form of leadership, the harder it is for people to tell you the truth. As a leader, your posture sets the tone throughout the organization. If you don’t ask for feedback and receive it well, you’re limiting your own growth and the growth of everyone working around you. Not only will people refrain from telling you what they think, they will also fail to hear constructive criticism for themselves.

Groeschel on delegating: Delegating empowers other leaders in your church. Lead pastors try to hold on to too much because of issues with trust and control. But delegating empowers other leaders and breaks down the limitations that come with one person carrying the load. Overtime, pastors should give up more than they could ever think possible.

7 Ways to Grow Church Attendance by Increasing Engagement – Carey Nieuwhof – There is so much wisdom here, not just about church attendance but about how to get folks engaged. With the tension of disengagement and productivity in the workplace, Nieuwhof gives sound counsel on how we can demonstrate valuing and increase engagement.

 Photo Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

5 Things Every Church Leader Should Unlearn in 2018 (if You Want to Stay Relevant) – Carey Nieuwhof

3) Snow Days – Love snow days. The sparkle of sun-lit snow. The profound quiet. How all the other colors around us pop against the white background. The breaking up of routine. The pot of a favorite hot on the stove. Movies, books, fires in the fireplace. Mmmmmm.

Thankful also for all those folks out there who keep working – you medical and emergency staff, you power and water company employees, you whoever you are who still get out there in the deep cold. Thank you!

4) Internet Discoveries –The internet is replete with fascinating subject matter. The danger is being drawn off task by chasing rabbits that pop up during a “quick check” of Twitter, Facebook, etc. Here is one that happened to me this week and, as it happens, enriched my life (even momentarily). Photography is my hobby, so when the Master Class with Annie Leibovitz came up in my Facebook feed, I watched the teaser. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the video, she talked about photographing Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Penn Warren. He had cancer at the time and would later die from it. If you love poetry, maybe you know his work. Or that of his daughter, Rosanna Warren. I didn’t know them until now.

Studying some of Robert Penn Warren’s biography and reading father’s and daughter’s  poetry was a highlight of this week’s finds.

Poetry inspires me but I am not a student of poetry. This was a momentary, fascinating find. Have you had one of those finds this week – incidental, serendipitous? Please share with us (Comments below).

5) Cost of Security – Anyone who travels on airlines (especially since the 2001 9-11 bombings) knows something of the cost of security. There have been too many other public attacks since then, moving us to give up personal privacy and freedom for the sake of safety and security. We have all been in these conversations; some of us even in on the decision-making related to security protocol.

So what makes this a find of the week? This statement made around a table of friends earlier this week: “Convenience and habits are the enemies of security.” It got me to thinking about what we are willing to give up, in terms of convenience and routines, to fortify our security (and the security of others, actually). Things like passwords and keys are not easy to keep up with, but they are essential in today’s world. Photo Credit: Slideshare

Routines or habits that make us more vulnerable might need changing. Like going back and forth to work the same time/way every day. Or running alone. Or being the last one out of the building. When we have routines in our public life, we tend to become less situationally aware. If we all do the work of assessing our own security situation and become more in tune to potential hazards, then we may avoid losing more personal freedom and privacy to other agencies given the task of keeping us safe.

Something to think about…and I have this week. Tightening up some habits and tweaking some routines.

Why Convenience Is the Enemy of Security – PC World

Situational Awareness – It Could Save Your Life…or Someone Else’s – Deb Mills Writer

Hope your weekend looms happily ahead of you…with time with those you love. Blessings and Happy New Year!

Oh…and please leave some of your own finds in the Comments below for us all to learn from you.


NegotiatingThe Art of Letting Other People Have Your Way: Negotiating Secrets From Chris Voss – Podcast – Farnam Street Blog

EmpathyGet the Gift of Empathy to Innovate and Digitally Transform Your Organization – Brian Solis

  • “True leaders don’t invest in followers; they empower others to become leaders.” – Brian Solis

Your Body After You Stop SmokingPhoto Credit: WebMD Facebook page

Shyndigz – a dessert restaurant (always a pleasure, not just for the sweets but the surroundings. A beautiful experience. Photo Credit: Screenshot from Shyndigz website

Gel Pens – Celebrating these wonderful little inventions. About the time our daughter moved from pencil to pen, we were living in Cairo, Egypt. In the Korba district of the city, we found a lovely little gift shop called EveryMan’s. This was the place and the season, mid-90s, that we discovered gel pens. I was reminded of the wonder they are this week during our mid-week small group meeting. We were all women in attendance with just Dave as our only guy (which was unusual). At some point, the conversation turned to gel pens (oh, we were writing New Year’s resolutions), and we all sang their praises. Dave commented, “I feel like we wouldn’t be having this discussion if there were more guys here.” Probably…their loss, his gain to be in our mix that night.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Adam Grant’s Book List for 2018

Photo Credit: Grant Snider, Karen Swallow Prior

5 Friday Faves – Rey’s Theme by Beyond the Guitar, Letting Go of Expectations, Together at Christmastime, Christmas Memories, and Christmas Words

It always happens. We are halfway through December, just 10 days until Christmas, and life is in a bit of disarray. I’m way behind on John Piper’s daily Advent readings, and the only present under the tree is one given to me by a house guest. However, from another vantage point, there is still this moment to redeem and still 10 days until Christmas. Although a week has gone by without writing or posting, today will be different. Here are five of my favorite things of this week. I hope you can take a moment, with your favorite hot beverage, and just soak up what’s here. With love and blessings!

1) Rey’s Theme by Beyond the Guitar – As the much-awaited film Star Wars: The Last Jedi lights up the screen, a new arrangement by Beyond the Guitar is also posted. Rey’s Theme performed on classical guitar by Nathan Mills, surrounded by sand dunes, is lovely, both musically and visually. I’m even more ready to see the film.

STAR WARS: Rey’s Theme – Classical Guitar Cover (BeyondTheGuitar)

2) Letting Go of Expectations – Part of what makes any family tradition tricky is that family is a very fluid organism. It grows and changes, and traditions will reflect those changes. Marriage, babies, sometimes divorce and death. Work and school schedules. Altered preferences through the years. They all have an impact. The most beautiful part of family traditions is not the year-to-year repetition of treasured events or rituals – it is the people. Sometimes people get lost in the planning or pulling off of traditions through the years. Just today my friend Kathy alerted me to Suzanne Eller’s piece Don’t Make Your Grown Kids Hate Christmas. It came at an excellent time. In fact, the author could have included a byline And the Same Goes for the Parents. Being gentle with each other goes a long way. Letting go of expectations…especially when a tradition warms our hearts, and the people we love are attached to those traditions…is not easy! However, for the the sake of the relationships, we wrestle our expectations to the ground. We will refuse to be robbed of the joy meant for us in this season…that joy transcends traditions.Photo Credit: Clarity With Charity

I’m Dreaming of an Imperfect Christmas – How to Release Holiday Expectations – Clarity With Charity

Be Kind – Ken Sande

3) Together at Christmas –  When Christmas morning dawns this year, it will be just Dave and me. We will have had our kids all together two days prior. Our youngest works Christmas Day, and when he gets off, we will have dinner together and then it’s off to see Dave’s parents and extended family later in the week.

At first, my heart went to ache right off, thinking of a too-quiet Christmas morning. Now, I am settled. This month like so many Decembers has filled up with hectic, and quiet was way elusive. Maybe this Christmas morning, in the seeming too quiet, we will find what all month we’ve longed for…like Mary and Joseph, alone in that stable, we will welcome the Christ child.

Beyond that sweetness?

Still looking forward to all the laughter, familiarity, beauty and noise of being together with family at Christmastime. Amy Grant’s song To Be Together says it perfectly.

Looking back, early in our marriage, we were states away from both sets of parents. We made that young couple decision of not traveling with little ones on Christmas and our parents were kind to do the traveling. As the time for their arrival got close, our kids would stand like little soldiers, pressed against the living room window, watching the street for their grandparents. As they got older, both the children and the grands, we did more of the traveling. Little compares with that long-awaited reunion with our family.

Ever how imperfect our family situations may be, there is profound hope and love in our continued showing up, no matter what. I love that about Christmas. That opportunity. That possibility.

4) Christmas Memories – The memories are part of the legacy of those family traditions and coming together whenever we can. I’m thankful for memories of my own childhood with parents who loved us generously. Even with limited resources, they made Christmas magical. When their faith in God was rekindled, they reconnected with church, and us with them. We discovered in that community what really makes Christmas worth celebrating. The birth of the promised Savior.  What was once magical became both mysterious and miraculous. All through the years, the wonder of Christmas has multiplied for me.

Last Christmas, our Dad died. Fourteen years prior to that, our Mom.

The memories of all our times together seem to blossom especially at Christmas…like Dave’s mom’s cactus. So thankful.

5) Christmas Words – Every year we watch the short film A Charlie Brown Christmas. In it, Linus explains to Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about:

Simple and profound…taken straight out of Scripture (Luke 2:8-14).

You can be sure I love words. In fact, I will even risk difficult to hear words over silence.  Quiet is appropriate at times, but neglecting to speak when words could make a difference is just wrong. Even when we don’t know what to say…I think people will understand our hearts when our words don’t quite hit the mark. What do you think?

On my computer, there’s a folder entitled Christmas Blessings – quotes I’ve collected over the years. Below are a sample (all these I originally found in Good Reads). Hope these words bless you as they do me.

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” ― Sigrid Undset

“The reality of loving God is loving him like he’s a Superhero who actually saved you from stuff rather than a Santa Claus who merely gave you some stuff.” ― Criss Jami, Killosophy

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”
Eric Sevareid

“Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weaknesses and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and to ask yourself if you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open? Are you willing to do these things for a day? Then you are ready to keep Christmas!” ― Henry Van Dyke

“What’s special about a story if I could have thought it up? What’s special about a story if I was actually courageous enough to play a part in it? What’s special about the Christmas story is that I am incapable of doing either but God did both.”
Craig D. Lounsbrough

“Odd that a festival to celebrate the most austere of births should end up being all about conspicuous consumption.”
Jeanette Winterson, Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days

“But I don’t like it, okay? I don’t like how everything is changing. It’s like when you’re a kid, you think that things like the holidays are meant to show you how things always stay the same, how you have the same celebration year after year, and that’s why it’s so special. But the older you get, the more you realize that, yes, there are all these things that link you to the past, and you’re using the same words and singing the same songs that have always been there for you, but each time, things have shifted, and you have to deal with that shift. Because maybe you don’t notice it every single day. Maybe it’s only on days like today that you notice it a lot. And I know I’m supposed to be able to deal with that, but I’m not sure I can deal with that.” ― David Levithan, The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily

“What images do I associate with the Christmas music as I see them set forth on the Christmas Tree?… An angel, speaking to a group of shepherds in a field; some travelers, with eyes uplifted, following a star; a baby in a manger; a child in a spacious temple, talking with grave men; a solemn figure, with a mild and beautiful face, raising a dead girl by the hand; again, near a city gate, calling back the son of a widow, on his bier, to life; a crowd of people looking through the opened roof of a chamber where he sits, and letting down a sick person on a bed, with ropes; the same, in a tempest, walking on the water to a ship; again, on a sea-shore, teaching a great multitude; again, with a child upon his knee, and other children round; again, restoring sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf, health to the sick, strength to the lame, knowledge to the ignorant; again, dying upon a cross, watched by armed soldiers, a thick darkness coming on, the earth beginning to shake, and only one voice head. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Tree

Quotes About Christmas – Good Reads


Gut Check Podcast – A podcast like no other – with Ted Kluck and Zach Bartles

Life On the Other Side – The Humbled Homemaker – Erin Odom

The Brain Benefits of Your Child’s Dinosaur Obsession – Kate Morgan

5 Friday Faves – Advent Readings, Beyond the Guitar, Preventing Type 2 Diabetes, Family Hospitality, and Christmas Outings

It’s Friday, and the first day of Advent this year of our Lord 2017. My plan is to stretch and savor every single day of this December. I won’t write about every one of those days, but hope to be present in each. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually. No sad memories, regrets, wishing something to be that probably won’t be will sully this bright beautiful series of days. So there’s my hope. Care to share yours?

Following are my 5 favorite finds of this week, culled from so many. Hope you enjoy and please share yours in Comments…for our delight.

1) Advent Readings – I love the daily moments of reflection on Advent (“coming” of Christ) and wrote about it here. If I can be so bold, it’s worth a read today. Resource choices abound for reading and listening on these 25 (oops….24) days to Christmas.

Advent – Welcoming the Savior at Christmastime – Holding a Place for His Coming – Deb Mills Writer

John Piper has taken his Advent readingsGood News of Great Joy – and put them on podcasts. I’m starting those today.Photo Credit: iDisciple

As well as other readings (see that previous blog) in these days I’m determined to seize and savor.

Not celebrate?

Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season?
Your tears have no end?

Not celebrate?

You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
to ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!
For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that a Savior is born this day,
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you.Ann Weems

2) Beyond the Guitar – Nathan’s latest arrangement – a lovely piece from the videogame Final Fantasy X – feels like Christmas. Enjoy To Zanarkand! Looking forward to more Christmasy arrangements from this guy this month.

YouTube Video – Final Fantasy X: To Zanarkand – Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

3) Preventing Type 2 Diabetes – If there is a way to prevent Type 2 diabetes, I want to try. I’ve watched this disease chip away at the health of too many. Sugar is the culprit, I believe. We all love its intoxicant qualities…the anticipation of eating a sugar-laden food and the memory of the experience which cycles back to anticipation of the next experience (I’m that way with my morning cup of coffee as well). Dealing with our sugar dependence isn’t easy nor simple.Photo Credit: Flickr

However, it is doable…if we want to prevent pre-diabetes…and we want to live longer than diabetes will allow us.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

A fascinating podcast with nutrition science journalist Gary Taubes will encourage and empower you – he’s not just another trend-setting diet guru either:

Is Sugar Slowly Killing Us? My conversation with Gary Taubes

Is Sugar Slowly Killing Us – My Conversation with Gary Taubes – Podcast – Shane Parrish of Farnam Street

Don’t Wait Until You Have Diabetes to Make Lifestyle Changes

4) Family Hospitality – Holiday seasons lend themselves to company of various configurations, coming and going, all space to land and food. I love gathering folks together. When our children were growing up and we were overseas, it wasn’t always their preference the enormous numbers of people who came and went from our home. Still they dealt with their parents with grace, most of the time, and we learned gradually to respect their own need for space, for quiet, and for our undivided attention. It was a family process and we all grew through it. I highly recommend exercising hospitality as a family…with everyone involved in some capacity and tempered by the stage and age of family members.

Photo Credit: MaxPixel

Lisa Chan has written a beautiful defense of hospitality in family. It’s entitled “Would You Let a Stranger Live with You? Laying Aside the Fear of Hospitality”. Not all of us would live as Lisa and Francis Chan live – but there is much to learn from them on loving outside our comfort zone.

5) Christmas Outings – Last night I had the pleasure of participating in an international potluck supper. My car was packed with a dear Sudanese family who I’ve grown to know and love in the process of helping the mom with her English in trying to find a job. We had so much fun eating foods from various cultures, meeting new friends, and watching the kids play games together. We drove by some of the Christmas light displays on the way back to their apartment. This is the kind of experience that truly starts the clock for Christmas. The images that follow depict some of the not-to-miss experiences for us in our part of Virginia: Lewis Ginter GardenFest, Maymont Victorian Holidays, VCU Holiday Gala, Henrico Christmas Mother, Busch Gardens Christmas Town, and the Tacky Light Tour – complete with family, neighbors, and friends (old and new).

That’s it for this week. Would love for you to subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already, and would love to have you share your favorite finds from this week (Comments below). In the meantime, as you take in all the brilliance and wonder of this season…be safe and gentle with yourself and each other.


YouTube Video – Selling a 1996 Honda Ad – hilarious!

YouTube Video – CarMax Response to Above Video – brilliant!

7 Powerful Ways How to Give Yourself Permission to Be Happy – Lolly Daskal

Hardcore History Podcast – Hours long – fascinating – for your Christmas car rides

Estate Cleanouts – Checklist – Legacy Navigator

5 Friday Faves – Celebrity, Beyond the Guitar, Happily Ever After, Good News, and Mommies Matter

Friday is here. The Friday before Thanksgiving in America. Kids home from college. Vacation looming. Pantries full preparing for a foodie’s feast day. The anticipation of more time with family. For the moment, a sigh at the end of a long week…and five favorite finds:

1) Celebrity – In the wildly popular TV show This Is Us (season 2), we see deep content on a myriad of issues – including family conflict, racism, weight, alcoholism, loss, adoption and foster care. Even my husband watches this show with me. Actor Justin Hartley, is one of the three siblings, and actually plays an actor on the show. This week’s episode was all about him. No spoilers here. The thing about this character is that he has it in him to be wildly successful. The story though winds around how celebrity and the pursuit of celebrity can actually destroy a person and damage that person’s relationships. Not all of that being on him. We, the fans, the audience, the bedazzled also bring some of what’s toxic to this scenario.Photo Credit: Popsugar, TooFab

Whether it’s celebrity politicians, celebrity preachers, celebrity athletes, actors, or artists…we put them on a pedestal. They can do no wrong. We are determined to trust their character, their motives, their game (whatever it is)…even when they lose their way.

This episode of This Is Us was heart-wrenching as we see what celebrity does to a vulnerable young man surrounded by people who just want to adulate or admire him…not really know or care about him.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Be a Celebrity – Jeff Goins

[Sidebar: We actually were made for glory – but if we get caught up in our own self-importance, we lose sight of what it really means. A friend this week pointed me to The Gospel in Two Poems – written by Christian Burkhardt, pastor at Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA. Tell me what you think (Comments, below).Photo Credit: NewSpring Fuse

2) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest Arrangement – You may be seeing more of these in my Friday Faves, because Nathan Mills‘ is pouring it on, creating an arrangement every week presently. His latest is Evil Morty’s Theme from the adult cartoon TV show Rick and Morty. I’ve never seen the show, but this piece is definitely worthy the listen (composed originally by the rock band Blonde Redhead, arranged for classical guitar by Beyond the Guitar).

3) Happily Ever After – My husband and I have been married over 30 years. Live long enough, single or married, and we all discover that relationships are challenging and do need tending. No matter how much love holds them together.

Some of the best counsel I’ve received about marriage was through the book Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than To Make Us Happy?  by Gary Thomas. “Happily ever after” was less a goal than a sweet dividend of a love that doesn’t quit on God or the other.

[I realize that some marriages are terribly hard and can be lost no matter how much we pour into them.  Sadly. That’s for another day…]

This week I read Richie Norton‘s piece 47 Best Ways to Accelerate Happiness in Marriage by 1000x, Backed by Experience. It was actually quite fascinating. Definitely something to discuss together on a date night…when that happens next.

Sacred Marriage Seminar – A Morning with God, My Husband,  and Gary Thomas – Deb Mills Writer

4) Good News – This week has been shrouded by bad news around here – news of a layoff, a death in our extended family and a friend’s father, as well as the worsening of cancer in a near neighbor. Bad news seems to find us too readily.

It makes good news so much more a thing to celebrate. I have a loved one who has been working hard to fend off the addition of some cardiac drugs to her life. As we get older, it can feel futile trying to make lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, sleep)…changes capable of turning around a diagnosis.

Well, it does happen…and it happened for her. Her doctor actually called her personally to tell her that she doesn’t need the medication the doctor felt warranted just a couple of months previously.

This may seem a small thing, but I’m dancing a jig for her today. Her resolve and hard work paid off. Very motivating for me, as well.

What good news have you received this week?

Photo Credit: SlideShare

5) Mommies Matter – Eric Metaxas posted a book review and commentary this week on the impact of moms at home with their little ones. He reviewed Erica Komisar‘s book Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters.

Photo Credit: The Stream

Komisar’s book and Metaxas’ commentary are bitter pills to swallow for the mom who works outside the home, either because of preference or circumstance. My first-born was cared for parttime by another because, at that time, I loved my career so much I wasn’t prepared to let it go completely. She turned out well…praise God.

But what if…

The research findings and recommendations in Komisar’s book are not what we would imagine. Sure, we all believe moms are important to their little ones. We work out the best possible situation we can, if we have the choice (the dad, a grandparent, a trusted friend). Still, it’s something to consider…how much mommies matter to a child.

Read Metaxas’ review below. I think you’ll want to buy the book after.

Why Mommies Matter: Being Present in the First Three Years –  Eric Metaxas

There’s another Friday Faves. What discoveries would you share with the rest of us? Please use the Comments below.

Be kind to yourself and each other. We never know how much it’s needed.

Bonuses: [They deserve their own Friday Faves.]

Favorite quote of the week: “It does me good to hear what I believe repeated in your voice.”C. S. Lewis

When Vision Betrays: Cataracts, Aging, and Creating Art – Sidney PerkowitzPhoto Credit: Emory Health Digest

Darren Hardy – The Brutal Truth – YouTube Video [on Excuses – really good]

Thanksgiving – in a few days. Grateful.

Magnetic Gratitude: JOIN People Skills Global Chat Nov. 19th | #PeopleSkills