Tag Archives: Guitar

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

You know that shocking experience when you are driving to a known destination and then get lost in your thoughts? At some point, you snap back to attention and wonder, “How did I get here, I wasn’t even thinking about it?!” That is neuroplasticity or brain plasticity. It is an amazing capability we all have and can be nurtured and utilized throughout our lives. Yes, “old dogs CAN learn new tricks“.

What is this phenomenon?

Mike Torres, of Refocuser, gives an excellent definition, as well as an explanation of function, in his piece Neuroplasticity: Your Brain’s Amazing Ability to Form New Habits.

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to restructure itself after training or practice. An example of how neuroplasticity works: when you view the brains of people who frequently practice playing the violin under fMRI (functional MRI) they appear to have developed a larger area of their brain devoted to mapping their fingers.  Photo Credit: Wikipedia

This change is directly related to the quantity and the quality of the practice they’re performing – their brains are adapting in very real and tangible ways unbeknownst to them... The more practice you accumulate, the more ingrained or grooved the pathways become.  Of course the inverse happens as well: if those pathways aren’t utilized, the space will be used by other pathways needing room to grow. Use it or lose it! …Your brain can change based on repeated experience…People of any age have the ability to learn new things and form new habits. Mike Torres, Refocuser

Watching Nathan play intricate, complicated runs on his classical guitar boggles my mind. How can he think that fast? It’s lots of practice that causes the brain to connect to the hands, and those difficult pieces get “under his fingers” almost without thinking.

Years ago a friend gave us this book Never Too Late by John Holt. In his “musical life story”, Holt describes how he learned to play the cello in his 40s. We were encouraged by this during a time we moved to Egypt and learned Arabic in mid-life…when language-learning is supposed to be especially difficult.

I love neuroplasticity but it gives me hope, in getting older, of keeping skills and developing new ones, even as an aging person…unless I give in to dumbed-down practices excusing myself for the same reasons of “getting too old”.

When my older brother suffered a stroke, it was neuroplasticity and the repeated efforts of his medical and therapy team that got him back on his feet. He finally “repeatedly practiced” his way back to independence. The personality changes seemed more ingrained, however, they changed, too, as he exchanged his anger and bitterness for a hopefulness and longing for healthy, loving relationships. As he refused to give into anger and chose soft responses, his personality seriously changed over time…with conscious that eventually turned unconscious practice.

How does all this apply to us in the workplace and life, in general? We are confronted at times with a situation that confounds us – a new uncomfortable skillset, an unpredictable relationship, or an unfamiliar decision-making process. Neuroplasticity helps us to not just give up on mastering either a new work process or a complicated interpersonal situation.

Debbie Hampton has written an excellent summary piece on this that will help kick-start any new habit formation necessary for us to continue to do excellently in our work. She was influenced by Dr. Michael Merzenich’s work published in his book Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life. I have listed below Merzenich’s 10 elements of how we can rewire our brain. You will find Hampton’s summary on each very instructive. [I comment briefly on each but don’t miss what she says in her article.]

10 Core Principles for Remodeling Your Brain

1. Change is mostly limited to  those situations in which the brain is in the mood for it. We have to want to learn and change. If we give up, stay resigned to the status quo, or remain fed-up, change will not happen. Want change!

2. The harder you try, the more you’re motivated, the more alert you are, and the better (or worse)  the potential outcome, the bigger the brain change. Focus and persistence or key to mastery.

3. What actually changes in the brain are the strengths of the connections of neurons that are engaged together, moment by moment, in time. Practice strengthens pathways for behavior. Whether it’s learning a new computer system or developing a different way of communicating with a boss…practice hard-wires.

4. Learning-driven changes in connections increase cell-to cell cooperation, which is crucial for increasing reliability. I see this in musicians who live-stream and can read listener chats, respond to them, and continue playing all at the same time. Crazy.

5. The brain also strengthens its connections between teams of neurons representing separate moments of successive things that reliably occur in serial time. This is definitely the mechanism that gets us to our destination when we stop thinking about where we’re going.

6. Initial changes are temporary. Habit formation takes time, and somehow the brain interprets whether the change is vital. Amazing.

7. The brain is changed by internal mental rehearsal in the same ways and involving precisely the same processes that control changes achieved through interactions with the external world. At the simplest level, this is the mechanism of how we “talk ourselves through” a situation. Or when an athlete goes through his routine in his mind before he’s back out on the track or in the pool.

8. Memory guides and controls most learning. Our brain actually helps us to remember what we did well and discards what we didn’t.

9. Every movement of learning provides a moment of opportunity for the brain to stabilize — and reduce the disruptive power of — potentially interfering backgrounds or “noise.” The more we practice, either a physical skill or a way of thinking through a problem, we actually get better at it because somehow the brain reduces the background noise (which can include insecurity, fear of failure or self-doubt).

10. Brain plasticity is a two-way street; it is just as easy to generate negative changes as it is positive ones. Dr. Merzenich warns us, as we get older that we “use it or lose it” by our own decisions to stop learning and mastering new skills and behaviors.

Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia

How are you using neuroplasticity to help you continue to grow in your work and personal life? Trevor Blake encourages us to set the tone of the day positively and don’t defect from that. Using self-defeating language can blur our focus and mental capacity for mastery. Read more of his excellent counsel here.

As we age, or give in to “what is” at the moment (tracks greased by depression sometimes, or perceived lack of ability or opportunity), we may not realize the great positive effects of neuroplasticity. However, the good news is that we can keep learning and changing and mastering what work and life and relationships bring our way. It’s never too late.

 

Neuroplasticity: Your Brain’s Amazing Ability to Form New Habits – Mike Torres

How to Rewire Your Brain for Success – Trevor Blake

Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life – Trevor Blake

Brain HQ Website

How Does Neuroplasticity Work – an Infographic

Never Too Late: My Musical Life Story – John Holt

Deadly: Brain on Multitasking – Bukunmi Adewumi

Toxic Thoughts – Dr. Caroline Leaf

5 Friday Faves – Zelda on Guitar, Community, Tim Tebow, Podcasts, and Creatives

Happy Friday! It’s been one of those weeks that has made Friday a “Whew, got through it!” kind of day. An anticipated freeze tonight draws me outside and to take in all the early forsythia, red bud and tulip magnolia blossoms in their current glory. Such a beautiful time of the year…this mild winter/early spring combination.

For your enjoyment – should you end up inside and snuggled in front of a fire – my favorite finds of the week:

1) CommunityGrace abounds in genuine community. Don’t we all hope to have a work team that cares about us, neighbors that watch out for each other, and family that looks past our foibles and loves us anyway? True community happens when our focus is on the other…the friend, the neighbor, the coworker. In our strength, we come alongside the weaker ones and take turn-about in our weak times to lean on those who are strong. I can’t describe community very well but I know what it’s like to be in real-life deep community. Someone who has described it well is Cliff Jordan, teaching pastor of Movement Church, Richmond, Virginia. His message from Romans 15:1-6 inspired and affirmed the reality of community if we are willing to go after it and extend ourselves toward others in this way. Listen here to the message: Grace On Display – Community.Photo Credit: MoveRichmond

2) Zelda on Guitar – For both you videogame and classical guitar music aficionados, you’re in for a real treat. Nintendo has launched a new gaming system (Nintendo Switch) and a new version of The Legend of Zelda (Breath of the Wild). In celebration of this launch for all you gamers who grew up with Zelda, classical guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has arranged a Zelda medley.

Not much of a videogame fan, but I am a classical guitar enthusiast. The soundtracks of these games are rendered beautifully on guitar. Watch here or click on video below.

3) Tim Tebow – In the U.S., most every adult out there knows the name and something of the career and character of Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow. I’m a big fan. In particular, I’m a fan of the winsomeness and determination of the man, more than his athletic prowess. Tebow first came on my radar watching the film, Everything in Between, about how he trained and persevered, culminating in becoming a first round draft pick for NFL football. Then I watched his career in the NFL, and then his detour into baseball, sportscasting and commentary. Tim Tebow is one of the hardest working, determined, disciplined, and persevering athletes out there today.

Photo Credit: Tim Tebow

More than his success in athletics, his determination to make a difference in life stands out the most. He shows up in all kinds of situations, serving and showing love to those who might think they are forgotten. Many celebrities and other wealthy benefactors have foundations, as does Tim. Why he does what he does, he shares below.

Tebow Surprises Reporter With Awesome Answer

Tim Tebow has arrived at spring training, and he's already making headlines.

Posted by The Wildcard on Monday, February 27, 2017

“I want to be someone that was known for bringing faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.”

Tebow strives for excellence in all he does, and he brings that to bear on the lives of those who may not have the same opportunities as he does. So for people who question his athletic career, walk awhile in these shoes.

Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms – Tim Tebow

4) Podcasting – Like in every other professional field, there is actually a conference for podcasters. I came late to the entertainment/educational medium of podcasting. Now, however, there are some who have won my heart and car-time. Below is a short list of my favorites:

  • The Popcast – Knox McCoy and Julie Golden post a weekly conversation all about pop culture. I just discovered them this week and find them funny, engaging, and even thought-provoking. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes with her.Photo Credit: The Popcast
  • 5 Leadership Questions or 5LQ – Todd Adkins and Barnabas Piper are co-hosts of 5LQ. Their focus is on Christian leaders but it’s not just about church; their guests include business and other professional leaders. The same five questions guide their discussion:
    • Who are you learning from?
    • What is the main point of emphasis for your leadership team (or self) right now?
    • What obstacles are you currently facing in leadership, either in your organization or personally?
    • What does leadership in your home look like?
    • What would you tell your 20-year-old self about preparing to lead?

    I’m personally kind of a leadership junkie and can tell you I always learn from these guys and their guests.

  • The Podcast – Carey Nieuwhof This writer, conference leader, and pastor does a weekly podcast on leadership as well. Nieuwhof tackles some of the hard issues of leadership. Whether you lead in a Christian or other organization, you will learn and enjoy his meaty and sometimes funny content and stories.

25 Best Podcast Episodes Ever – David Haglund & Rebecca Onion

The 50 Best Podcasts of 2016 – Laura Jane Standley & Eric McQuade

5) Creatives – Using the word “creative” as a noun doesn’t come naturally for me, because I believe in the innate creative abilities of all of us. However, some “creatives” stand out. Writer and podcaster Jeff Goins defines them best in this way:

“A creative is an artist. Not just a painter or musician or writer. She is someone who sees the world a little differently than others.

A creative is an individual. He is unique, someone who doesn’t quite fit into any box.

A creative is a thought leader. He influences people not necessarily through personality but through his innate gifts and talents.

And what, exactly, does a creative do?

A creative creates art…She sings to sing, for the pure joy of making music. And she paints to paint. (And so on…)

A creative colors outside the lines. On purpose. In so doing, she shows the world a whole new picture they never would have otherwise seen.

A creative breaks the rules. And as a result, he sets a new standard to follow.

Why we need creatives

The truth is that we need more creatives in positions of influence — to color the world with beauty and life.Jeff Goins

Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, is a creative…one of my favorites, clearly.

Writer and woodworker Kevin Prewett is both a friend and creative. In fact, I didn’t know how creative he was until this week when I saw some of his woodworking.

Pipe and Sage – Woodwork – Kevin Prewett – Wood and Words

Another favorite creative of mine is Andrew Morgan. His documentary series Untold America is a timely, much-needed look at today’s America…with the potential to bridge a gap between us as a diverse and sometimes polarized people.

Nothing is Louder Than Love

"Nothing is louder than love." Andrew shares a few final thoughts on democracy and differences as we wrap up our first month together. New episodes every Thursday as we prepare to start a new month focused on immigration.

Posted by Untold America on Thursday, March 2, 2017

Untold America Series

These are my favorite finds of the week. Please share yours in the Comment section below. Have a safe, refreshing weekend…and stay warm.

5 Friday Faves – Favorite Videos of the Week, One Favorite YouTube Channel, and a Supermoon

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My Friday Faves. This week has not lent itself to exploring new interests (see Wednesday’s blog of this week). Still, I came across videos that inspired, made me think, and touched my heart.

Were there videos like that for you this week? Please comment and share the link if you can.

Enjoy.

1) Beyond the Guitar YouTube Channel several beautiful videos including the one below:

2) Does Life Have a Purpose? – Explore God

3) Pentatonix & Dolly Parton – Jolene

4) Jimmy Fallon Messes Up His Guest’s Hair

5) Unchained Melody Sung By Michael Young in Subway

Have a restful, blessed weekend. Did you that supermoon tonight? Breathtaking…in a good and glorious way.blog-supermoon-full-moon-earthskyPhoto Credit: Earthsky

On the 27th Birthday of Our Son and New Dad – A Charge, a Quote, a Poem and a Prayer

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Happy birthday, Son. Over the years, you have single-handedly taken me to my knees more often than you realize – praying to be the parent God would have me be for you; praying for you to come to faith at an early age; appealing to God for all the moves (overseas and stateside) to not be too hard for you; asking for comfort when situations were sometimes hard anyway, and thanking Him for all He did for you – the friendships, the opportunities, and His relationship with you from forever.

So many memories. IMG_0034 (2)

“Let’s go kill buffalo!” Following your sister around for play ideas. Grandparent visits. Family vacations at the Chesapeake Bay. Move to Africa. Carpool buddies. Gameboy. Drawing cartoons.IMG_8751Computer games. Getaways to the Red Sea. Dreamcast. Becoming a Christ-follower. Baptism back home in Tennessee. IMG_8749

Roadtrips to the Sahara Desert. Soccer. Cousins. Airports. Basketball.

2006 February -- Rabat BBall Tourney turtles bike 2972007 - June -- Nathan scoresGrumpy when hungry – feed the boy. High School Rock Band. Great friendships. Game Nights. Sleep-Overs. PlayStation. Laughter. Working out. Classical Guitar. 2006 -- Dec -- Nathan, Jeremiah, Jared

VCU. Honors College. Aletheia Praise Band. Guitar Professor Patykula. Sharing a house with your brother, sister, and then Duy.Blog - Parenting 4

Met and married beautiful Bekkah. Nathan & Bekkah collection

Grad school at East Carolina. Then back to Virginia, teaching guitar, playing beautiful music, and making a home…grown. Nathan & Bekkah - New House

With being grown, comes adult friendships, some nurtured since childhood, some within the family, others without. With being grown, comes new work challenges, fulfilling life aspirations, and deepening your faith in God. With being grown, comes new family designations – becoming uncle to your nieces (first niece on our side of the family).

Then that crazy day this summer that you wildly trended on social media through a posting of one of your krue.tv live streams.

Best of all…the day Titus was born…and you became a dad.Nathan, Bekkah, & Titus July 2016IMG_8050Photo Credit: Helen Phillips, Bekkah MillsNathan & Titus lookalikesTakes after his daddy – Titus (l) & Nathan (r)

Nathan, you are settled for now in the U.S. after so many stamps in your passport. Settled in our hearts forever. You make us laugh, and you make us think. Your grown-up heart is so worth the childhood/teen year battles. And your music…what a gift to us. [Videos linked at end of today’s blog]. Whether you’re on electric, acoustic, or classical guitar. Your music goes right to the heart. Thank you for honing the gift God gave you. – that heart of yours first, and that music flowing out of it.Nathan and guitar on stepsPhoto Credit: Duy Nguyen

As you settle into your mid- to late-twenties, I leave you with God’s word to Joshua, Oswald Sanders’ word to leaders, a poem often quoted by our friend Tom Elliff, and a prayer credited to General Douglas MacArthur.

Happy birthday, Son. I’ll love you forever.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

“When a person is really marked out for leadership, God will see that that person receives the necessary disciplines for effective service.” – J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man.
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall praise –
Watch His method, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects;
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which only God understands
While his tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends, but never breaks,
When his good He undertakes. . . .
How He uses whom He chooses
And with every purpose fuses him,
By every art induces him
To try his splendor out –
God knows what He’s about.
– Anon. – often quoted by Tom Elliff

Build me a son - Douglas MacArthurPhoto Credit: Pinterest

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Star Wars Video: Ian Edwards – Cameraman http://www.ian.camera/
Danny Caporaletti – Asst Cameraman http://dannycaporaletti.com
Ruthie Edwards – Animation http://ruthieswebsite.com

Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar

Nathan Mills Live Streaming at krue.tv

J. Oswald Sanders’ Spiritual Leadership

Part of Joni Eareckson Tada’s Testimony – Poem Drill a Man

Book Favorite I’ll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch – Before Helicopter Parenting Became a Cultural Issue

Adapted from a previous blog.

Saturday Short – 2nd & Charles – Geeky Nerdy Marketplace

Blog - 2nd & CharlesPhoto Credit: Wikimedia

In a different era, the words “geek” and “nerd” were derogatory terms of a sort. These days, they are a certain subset of “cool”. When we tune into Krue.tv to watch Nathan live-stream, these superlatives pop up often as he or his fan community describe each other.

Yesterday, at our youngest son Daniel’s request, we stopped in to check out 2nd & Charles. I had heard it was some sort of used book store, but what we found was way more fun and exciting. This enormous marketplace is a brilliant combination of new and used, and the inventory includes books, music, movies, gaming accessories, memorabilia – for all ages and every possible nerdy or geeky bent.IMG_8630IMG_8640IMG_8641IMG_8645IMG_8647

Even their quotes around the store and on their website made me want to hug the clerks when leaving the store…seriously. Embarrassing, but true.

It’s not old. It’s vintage.

It’s not used. It’s pre-loved.IMG_8639

Daniel and I stayed awhile scoping out the books and memorabilia (me) and music (him). He was so enthralled that we’re heading back there today with a box of his books, DVDs, and CDs to see how the trade/sell system works and to shop some more.IMG_8653

To be honest…I was also enthralled. This takes Christmas shopping to a whole new level.

The following disclaimer from another blogger‘s review also works for me:

** I’m in no way affiliated with 2nd & Charles. All opinions are my own. I’m way too opinionated to have it any other way.

Postscript: Nathan, you’re going to love this store. Save your tips.IMG_8654

Youtube Video – Epic Rap Battle – Nerd vs. Geek – Rhett & Link

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog - Oxford University - Beth WaylandBlog - Oxford University - Beth Wayland - 2Photo Credit: Facebook, Beth Wayland

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

My Dear Lucy,

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

your affectionate Godfather,

C. S. Lewis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Friday Faves – Compassionate Baristas, a Foster Child, Joey Feek’s Legacy, a Daredevil Guitar Arrangement, and a John Piper Sermon Jam

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How is it that Friday arrives every week with lightening speed?! Okay, maybe not for everyone…but be glad about that. I am left wondering again: where did the week go? Fortunately it did not pass by without leaving me with some treasures I’ll share with you.

1) Compassionate Baristas – You may have seen the story this week of Dutch Bros. Coffee baristas Pierce Dunn and Evan Freeman. They discovered that a woman in the car line waiting for her order was crying [her husband had died the night before]. They quickly reached out to her, and in a moment of grace-filled spontaneity prayed for her at the window. Her coffee was on the house. Sweet story and video.Blog - Friday Faves - Dutch Brothers pray for customer - March 2016Photo Credit: Daily Mail

2) A Foster Child – The circumstances that force children into foster care can be devastating and tragic. Nathaniel Matanick produced a magnificent short film,  entitled “ReMoved“, about the journey of a foster child (through her eyes). I watched it on Facebook this week and was so moved by the story – the heart-break and the hope. You can watch it here. Also, I just discovered Matanick has finished “ReMoved – Part 2“.Blog - Foster Child - childadvocatesPhoto Credit: Child Advocates

3) Joey Feek’s Legacy – When country singer Joey Feek died, she left behind her husband, Rory, and a darling 2 y/o daughter named Indy (Indiana). Indy has Down’s Syndrome…although the fact seemed irrelevant to their story. Last Fall, Joey realized she probably wouldn’t not survive the cancer and she quite deliberately began a self-less, loving process for Indy’s sake. This little girl who wanted to be with her all the time. This little girl who Joey loved more than anything. Joey began the painful process of intentionally becoming less in Indy’s life and opened up opportunity for Indy’s daddy, Rory, to become more to her. He writes magnificently about it in his blog. What a picture of great love! What a loss! What a legacy!Blog - Joey Feek - legacy - todayPhoto Credit: Today

4)  A Daredevil Guitar Arrangement – Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar just posted a new guitar arrangement of the theme from the Netflix TV show Daredevil. It is beautiful.

5) John Piper Sermon Jam – 3 minutes of powerful preaching about the perfect love of God for us and the deep cost of that love. Don’t miss it.

Hope you have a weekend ahead full of friends, family, and fun (which could mean just a few hours all by yourself). For those of you who celebrate Eastern/Orthodox Easter this weekend, Happy Easter!

“He is risen! He is risen indeed!”

P.S. I know a few men who have a man cave and are still wise (and possibly even great), but I loved this graphic all the same.Blog - Man CavePhoto Credit: Facebook

Would love to hear about your favorite finds of this week. In Comments. Thanks!

5 Friday Faves – Video Games, NFL Man of the Year, Hospitality, Writing, and Animal Courage

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It’s that glorious Friday again. Here are my favorite finds of the week:

1) Video Games – What is the appeal of video games for our boys and men? It is a mystery to me. I do understand the gaming camaraderie between players – some friends, some strangers who become friends, kinda sorta. The cutting-edge graphics designed mostly for the eyes of our guys are clearly appealing. And levels…oh, the levels keep our boys and men coming back for the challenge – the competition on an even playing field – without judging from outsiders. Well, except for the occasional run-ins with wife or mother. Lastly, it’s the welcome mindlessness, I’m thinking. The momentary escape from organic chemistry, or frustrating job, or Master’s thesis, or [fill in the blank].

We all have indulgent time-wasters, and I battled with my boys over video games more than I should have. My regret over that transformed into joy this week, as the guitarist son of mine actually turned a video game theme into a lovely work on classical guitar. Who would have thought it? To see Nathan smile (at minute 1:40 in video) makes me wonder at the sweet memory he has of that game’s music. Hello again, Legend of Zelda. Don’t remember you like this.

2) NFL Man of the Year – I’m not a big football fan, but when we came across the NFL Honors program the night before the Superbowl I was intrigued. Football seems all about leaving it on the field. This was a salute to a band of brothers and the stand-outs among them, both on the field and off. There were three nominees for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for 2015 – Anquan Boldin, Eli Manning, and Benjamin Watson. Each man’s character and philanthropic work were highlighted in video vignettes. With all the tabloid coverage of the antics of some of our professional athletes, it was inspiring to see how others spend their off-season time. Anquan Boldin, the San Francisco 49ers wide receiver, received this year’s award from the Payton family. Read more about Anquan’s work in the global community here.Blog - NFL Man of the Year 2016 - Anquan Boldin (2)Photo Credit: Mercury News

Another highlight of the Man of the Year NFL Honors focus was a welcome reminder of Benjamin Watson and his redemptive statement on Facebook (regarding the 2014 Ferguson Decision). In this profession of moneyed celebrity, it was refreshing to see upclose the caliber of such men as Boldin, Manning, and Watson.

3) Hospitality – Hospitality is defined at Google as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” We live in a culture today of “come as you are; just hanging out with friends; bring your own food/beverage”. I love the comfortable sound and easy experience of that. However, I hope we don’t lose the great global habit of extending generous hospitality – where nothing is expected but the welcome presence of the guest. We lived for many years in North Africa where they expect hospitality of themselves and they lavish it on their guests. Even in the poorest of homes, the cookies and fruit are beautifully presented, and the tea is poured with great ceremony. I learned so much from my Arab and Berber friends and neighbors…and don’t want to forget ever to extend hospitality. There is a difference between service and hospitality – described in TED Talks and distinctive in industry. [I wrote about this here.]

“Hospitality is about looking out instead of looking in…I can look outward and help someone else.”Bobby Stuckey.  The Bible is full of examples of hospitality and encouragements toward it. We are to extend blessing even as far as to our enemies. Benjamin Corey writes eloquently about this Biblical hospitality. Finally, Rosaria Butterfield, in her book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert says this: “Hospitality means bringing the stranger in…you have to meet and respect people where they are…I believe strongly that hospitality is just the ground zero of the Christian life, and of evangelism, and of everything else that we do, apart from the formal worship of God.” Blog - Hospitality - The Secret THoughts of an Unlikely Convert - Rosaria ButterfieldPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

It’s good to remember that we can extend hospitality in a less-than-perfect house, where toys are still scattered and books a bit piled. It’s more the attitude of the heart in celebrating the other. Also, by definition, hospitality doesn’t have to be based in the home. I will never forget spotting a friend, whose husband was also in graduate school, walking up my driveway, with a pot of coffee and favorite mugs. It turned my morning of home-schooling littles in something altogether other. Extending hospitality…mobile and on-the-fly.Blog - Hospitality

4) Writing – I am always grateful for help in this skill of writing. Finding Chris Bailey’s blog (A Life of Productivity) and book (The Productivity Project) was a great boon to organizing my life and writing (my notes here). Daniel Darling’s blog this past week was another huge encouragement. He writes on how to be a prolific writer.

Darling gives 6 helps in writing: 1) I don’t wait for inspiration, for a cabin next to a mountain stream, or a light bulb. I just write; 2) I write from my passions on topics that interest me; 3) Always be cultivating and chronicling ideas; 4) I try to be curious and always learning; 5) I write in short bursts, in the margins of life; and 6) I try not to be a jerk. Don’t miss how he fills out the story on these points on his blog.Blog - Writing & Journaling - Joy List

5) Animal Courage – When our kids were small and we were living overseas, we took with us this wildlife video entitled The Bear. Like other children’s videos (a lot from Disney), there were story bits that needed processing with a loving adult (like how often the mom dies in these stories…sigh). The Bear was filmed with an intentionality of demonstrating the real life struggle of life in the wild for these animals. Also depicted was the almost-human qualities of care and courage in these animals. I have used one scene of this movie in talks over the years on how gracious it is to have an advocate. One stronger or more influential than we are who stands with us, sometimes out of sight, against an adversary. The plot story involves a bear cub, orphaned when his mother dies (again?!) and an older adult male, beleaguered himself by hunters and the sheer strain of survival sometimes, who becomes the cub’s protector. Here’s the scene (fast-forward to minute 2:30 for time’s sake if needed).

I love this scene. It actually reminds me of us sometimes…and God. We stand as tall as we can and roar (like a wee cub) against the wrongs of this world – wrongs against us sometimes. We are not always aware, but the LORD (I believe from experience and His Word) issues a God-sized roar against those same wrongs. Our adversaries will be reckoned with.

YouTube Video – Scene from the film The Bear, 1988 (Cub & Cougar at 2:30 into scene)

Film The Bear

Top Ten Most Courageous Animals

Happy Friday! Have a weekend full of extending and receiving hospitality, quiet times of refreshment, and reflection on the God who watches over us. Also, hug those video-gaming men of yours…when they take a break (don’t want them to lose a level in the midst of wrestling them down to the floor), right? Right.

Any favorites you want to share? Or memories…or words of wisdom. Would love to hear them (Comment below).

Guitarist Nathan Mills & Star Wars – A Force Awakens

Nathan & Guitar - by Ian - December 2015Photo Credit: Ian Edwards

Nathan Mills is a classical guitarist…and beyond that, he crafts music. To hear and watch him play guitar is to experience music at both an intellectual and heart level. He feels the beauty of the music and somehow interprets it to the listener…as a painter does on a canvas.

Nathan got his first guitar for his 13th birthday. As he mastered acoustic and electric guitar, he and his best buddies in high school had a garage rock band. They didn’t “make it big” as a band in their dreamed of adult music world, but they are all still in music (a story for another day).

At 17, as a Senior in high school, Nathan began classical guitar lessons, with a guitar borrowed from a friend. He studied with Marcelo de la Puebla. We lived in Casablanca, Morocco, at that time, and Marcelo flew in from Spain to teach guitar. It was an amazing opportunity for Nathan and he took full advantage of it.

When Nathan returned to the US for university studies, he continued in classical guitar  with Professor John Patykula at Virginia Commonwealth University. With only one prior year of classical guitar study, Nathan felt somewhat intimidated by his late start, but he pushed through, worked hard, and honed his craft.

Since graduating from VCU, he finished his Master’s in guitar performance at East Carolina University. Nathan, with more passion than ever before, continues to play, teach, write and arrange music.

This past weekend, the latest installment of Star Wars opened to wild anticipation. Star Wars – the Force Awakens. With that premier also comes the premier of Nathan Mills’ newest website – www.beyondtheguitar.com. His love for musical expression is evident in his work. His desire for others to stretch, explore and develop their own expression of music is motivating.

It’s never too late to begin, and it’s never too early to revisit crafting your music. For sure, a creative force is awakened in Nathan Mills, and he can help you master the music you love.

I know…I’m his mom – a person who NEVER appreciated classical or instrumental music until I heard someone play it as the composer must have meant it to be played…or maybe because that musician took the music into his own heart and played it right into the heart of the listener.  That someone?

Give a listen:

Beyond the Guitar – Nathan Mills

BLog - Nathan at guitarPhoto Credit: Duy Nguyen

5 Friday Faves – New Duo, In Defense of Christmas Cheer, Christmas PlayList, Introverts & Extroverts, and the Tacky Light Tour

Blog - Friday Faves

  1. New Duo – The Tide Rose, Richmond, Virginia.  Whitney Cavin and Keilan Creech have just debuted with a new EP, The Tide Rose. They have been lighting up TV, radio, and the music events calendar in Richmond recently.  You can see/hear them play here on video from their appearance on Virginia This Morning. I don’t really know how to describe their sound – nautical folk is the phrase used. You will have to listen yourself. We have known Keilan for many years. He recorded a solo EP awhile back (Dying for a Change) with our son, Nathan Mills on guitar. Now, his collaboration with Whitney Cavin is very new and lovely. Their voices weave together so soulfully. Hard to describe really – hauntingly beautiful. Take a listen. Maybe you’ll get to say, “I knew them when.” That’s where we are happy to be. Blog - Friday Faves - The Tide RosePhoto Credit: Facebook.com/thetiderose

2) In Defense of Christmas Cheer – I love Trevin Wax. He is a young theologian, a prolific writer, and regular guy. His blog is only one of two I read every day (the other belonging to Angela).  Trevin’s In Defense of Christmas Cheer was an uncharacteristic “Bah, Humbug!” of another writer theologian (Scott McKnight)’s redress of current Christmas culture. McKnight ‘s blog is also a worthy read.Blog - Five Faves - Trevin Wax - Christmas Cheer - thegospelcoalition.orgPhoto Credit: thegospelcoalition.org

Here are quotes from both (do read them in full – they bring beautiful balance to the whole Christian conversation about Christmas):

“Telling the world about Jesus as Messiah and family under threat is is not Starbucks’ job; it is the church’s mission to to be announcing this at Christmas. But it is not the church’s mission to tell the world a Dickens Christmas story. It is the church’s mission to tell the real story about Christmas, about a God who entered into the world in a socially shamed family in order to lift the socially shamed to the highest name ever. I can’t imagine Starbucks telling that story well.” – Scott McKnight

“Joy and singing and big family dinners and giving and receiving and caring for the poor” may not be what the original Christmas was all about, but it’s certainly part of Christianity as an atmosphere, is it not? And no one succeeded at creating “atmosphere” better than Dickens.

Should we not marvel that even in our increasingly secular age people still sing carols packed with biblical truth every year? ‘Joy to the world,’ indeed. Should we not marvel that in a world of broken homes that big family dinners still take place? That reunions still happen, and that people put aside their differences to share a meal? Should we not marvel that, in a dog-eat-dog world of competition run by the evolutionary motto of ‘survival of the fittest,’ our culture devotes time to running ‘to and fro giving and receiving and caring for the poor?’ 

Christianity is not generosity, but generosity is part of Christianity. Who knows? Perhaps when caught up in the moment of cultural gratitude, the secular heart may long for Someone to thank.

The Dickens vision of Christmas does not take away from the truth, but complements it. ‘Tis the season for joy and feasting!” – Trevin Wax

3) Christmas Playlist – We start listening to Christmas music in October, but the playlist doesn’t really happen until now. In my car, I have the following albums: 1) Amy Grant’s A Christmas Album (Tennessee Christmas has been a favorite song since our years in Tennessee – still miss it); 2) Tommy Emmanuel’s All I Want for Christmas (we are a guitar family – Nathan Mills); 3) Mannheim Steamroller’s A Fresh Aire Christmas 1988; 4) Straight No Chaser’s Holiday Spirits (we also love a cappella); 5) Twila Paris’ It’s the Thought; 6) Kenny G’s Miracles – The Holiday Album; 7) Casting Crowns’ Peace on Earth; 8) Positively Christmas 2012; 9) Steven Curtis Chapman’s The Music of Christmas; and 10) Sarah MacLachlan’s Wintersong.

Blog - Friday Faves - Christmas Songlist

Photo Credit: xgiosiax.blogspot.com

I need to add Charlie Brown Christmas to my car play for Christmas.  Two singles I love and hear a plenty on the radio through December (and via YouTube videos) are Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You and The Drifters’ White Christmas.

4) Introverts and ExtrovertsJennifer Kahnweiler is a champion for introverts. Author of The Genius of Opposites and The Introverted Leader she is a help to all of us. As an extrovert married to an introvert, and working with many as well, I appreciate her writing so much. We can make such a difference at work and home if we understand each other and make an environment where we can all be effective and comfortable together. Here’s a short piece from her with a very amusing video. Love my introverts!Blog - Friday Faves - Jennifer Kahnweiler - Introvert Extrovert leaderPhoto Credit: RedCapeRevolution.com

Bonus: John Platt’s An Introvert’s Guide to Leadership (fast read!)

5) Tacky Light Tour – Every town and city in the US, from Thanksgiving weekend through the New Year have light displays that brighten our winter nights. None can possibly compare with Richmond, Virginia’s Tacky Light Tour. It’s an annual tradition for us. We plan out an itinerary (impossible to take in all the displays in a sane evening) and often squeeze into several vehicles to caravan around the city. “Ooh’s and aah’s”, “selfies”, and “usies” abound as we document the fun of these evenings. Incredible work and creativity go into these displays and we as spectators are wildly grateful. It’s always a temptation to rent a limousine (but…not yet. I still prefer the low luxury version of the Tacky Light Tour. You will not be disappointed. What’s your favorite local equivalent?Blog - Friday Faves - Tacky Light Christmas TourBlog - Stella, Junko, Christie - Tacky Light Christmas TourBlog - Friday Faves - Stella & Junko - Tacky Light Christmas TourBlog - Friday Faves - Tacky Light Christmas Tour

Happy (Black) Friday, Everybody! Be safe out there.