All posts by admindeb

Monday Morning Moment – Lies – and What Makes Us Think We Can Sort Them Out?

Photo Credit: Ask Ideas, Facebook, Enchanting Minds

Freedom of speech is a precious right that deserves our protection.

We are free in this country to speak. We can choose to treat truth as a lie or lies as truth. Without penalty in some cases. Even the Supreme Court has protected the right to lie in one instance (maybe others). The justices’ in-court conversation is fascinating and telling of the sanctity of free speech in our country.

As a nation, our values have included the adage “with rights come responsibilities”. Unfortunately, in the political arena, we may need to ask the question: has lying become an accepted “means to an end”?

For this first (maybe final) term of the Trump presidency, he has been accused of lying on a daily basis, by the Democrats and the main-stream media, among others. Now we are in the last days of a presidential election. Vice-President Biden, the Democratic candidate for President, is also under fire for lying. Even his own Vice-President candidate, Senator Harris, not many months ago, accused him of the same.

Let’s just say, for a moment, that telling the truth is not an American value in 2020. It seems it still is, if we base that assessment on the varied and verbose outcries, on each side of the political aisle. However, how is it that we, the American people, believe our particular candidate is always telling the truth and the other is not?

Here’s what I think? Take it for what it’s worth to you. I don’t think any of us can know who is lying and who is telling the truth.

We live in a political era of spliced sound-bytes, seamless film editing, brilliant speech writing, and high-dollar coaches and advisors. Our party and policy preferences are gathered from our social media posts and internet searches. What we want to hear and see is well-researched and incorporated into political campaigns. Then we have the tech giants and news media fueling what we believe about our preferred candidates…or the other catastrophic choices. This is where we are…in the political arena.

Many of us are disappointed in the amount of pandering politicians do. But that pandering is more a symptom of our high unadjusted expectations and abstract consumerism than it is of flaws of political characters. You can’t compete for the presidency these days without pandering, including meta-pandering — pandering about pandering, saying “You’re good honest folk. You don’t want pandering. You only want straight talk and that’s all you’ll ever get from me.” – Jeremy E. Sherman

The quote above speaks to the jaded nature of politics. “Pandering” is essentially saying what we think others want to hear to get what we want out of the transaction – a political win, in this case. Sad.

The win is what matters. Lie if you have to, to end up on top. Lying, and not getting caught in the lie, is even better. So what if you get caught? Then you lean on your allies to whitewash the lie or create doubt, especially, when possible, by casting doubt on the veracity of the one who exposed the lie. Round and round and round we go.

There’s so much more I’d like to say on this topic, but will stop here. In the US, a huge election is days away, and we are weighing our candidates by what we believe about them. Who has our best interests at heart? Some say they are voting for the “lesser of two evils”. Some are very relieved at their option. Still others believe the whole future of this country is at stake.

What is true here, and what are the lies? What makes us think we can sort them out?

Here’s how? We look past our party affiliation. We start the clock wondering:  how is it that this friend, colleague, family member, educator, legislator, celebrity, thought leader, media talking head…thinks differently from me? Be willing to ask the question, “Could it be possible that I’m the one who believes the lies? Could it be I have drunk the proverbial KoolAid?”

The sleek advertising notwithstanding, lies abound right now. Freedom of speech protects a certain level of lying. The end justifies the means…or so it seems. What we hope is that when the smoke clears on this election, and a winner is finally declared, that we as a people haven’t sold our souls to the Devil…the Father of lies.

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. – 2 Timothy 4:3

Here is the positive, the hope. We can be those who don’t need our ears tickled. We can, no matter the outcome of this election, choose to look for truth (not in the use of the word as in “my truth” or “your truth”) and stand there…together. When we dig down through all the political pandering and propaganda, we can hopefully find bedrock… if not in today’s popular culture…then elsewhere.

Peace.

5 Friday Faves – October Creepy, New Politically Charged Words, Dads, Lockdown, and Family Glue

1) October Creepy – This year, we seem to be in need of bigger and earlier seasonal celebrations. Our neighborhood could totally be a drive-through Halloween fête with houses and yards dressed up on all sorts of creepy ghouls and goblins. The kids must love it!

For musical creepiness, Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar) delivers with five spooky themes (from shows too scary for me).  Never having seen the shows, his interpretation of these themes is lovely and haunting (maybe that’s where the spooky comes in). Enjoy.

Still my favorite October offering of his is the theme from Stranger Things. All that sound from one guitar?! Crazy good! Here it is again:

2) New Politically Charged Words – These words may not be new to you, but they are to me. What words have you had to sort out in these strange times of redefining culture and society? Please comment below with words of your own that have forced their way into your vocabulary. For you non-native English speakers/readers, how about in your language? Any words you’d be willing to teach us?

Photo Credit: Schools Week

Disabuse – to undeceive

Mansplaining – a man talking down to a woman, explaining something he assumes she does not understand

Safetyism – a culture or worldview where safety is considered sacred and must be protected

“Dog whistle” – a coded message communicated through words or phrases commonly understood by a particular group of people, but not by others

Panderto provide gratification for others’ desires; to cater to or exploit the weaknesses of others

Schadenfreude – enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others

Illiberal – opposed to liberalism, not broad-minded

Populista member of a political party claiming to represent the common people

3) Dads – Do an online search of the importance of fathers and you’ll be reading all day. We are so grateful for our moms (see Friday Fave 5 below), but dads are the unsung heroes. My biological father was a ghost in my life. After my parents divorced when I was 5 years old, I saw him once after that. Once. Fortunately we later had a step-dad who became a dad to us.

Having dads actively involved in kids’ lives, whether they live with them or not, can make huge differences in their success in life. Both in how they see themselves and their place in the world. It matters.

These two videos are just a small evidence of impact. Sweet!

Dads make a difference. We all know it. Get up out of the recliner, Dad! We know you’re tired, and we understand it isn’t always easy to connect with your family. Go find that son, daughter, grand of yours…and be to them what no one else can be.

4) Lockdowns – Physical distancing will continue for many of us especially those most at risk for contracting COVID-19, but for the rest of the world, “lockdown is a terrible experiment”. So says Harvard epidemiologist Martin Kulldorff. We’re told to “follow the science” which seems reasonable, but the science is evolving. COVID-19 is a new disease. We are learning every day.

Photo Credit: Twitter, Martin Kulldorff [I took a screenshot in case his Twitter account got shut down or the Tweet deleted.]

Dr. Kulldorff and more and more others are encouraging “focused protection” – with the elderly and others at higher risk the focus. Then everyone  else should take precautions – wash hands, keep some distance, maybe wear masks. However, any proposal to lockdown a whole state or country will only cause its own harm. The unnamed prognosticator Ethical Skeptic says the same as he follows data of deaths not by COVID per se but related to COVID (in particular, lockdowns).

‘Lockdown Is a Terrible Experiment’ – An Interview with Dr. Martin Kulldorff – Fraser Myers

5) Family Glue – When the image below crossed my Facebook newsfeed, it immediately resonated. My mom was our family’s glue (my mom-in-law continues to be the glue on my husband’s side of the family). Photo Credit: Lessons Learned in Life, Cardinal Crossing, Facebook

When Mom died, we still rallied around our Dad.

When he died, things got a little shaky. Someone has to take over that role of family glue, or holiday celebrations shift and family gatherings, in general, become tenuous. I would have loved taking on the responsibility of holding our extended family together, but living far from them made that impossible. Still, we try. How thankful I am for siblings, nieces and nephews who make space in their schedules and nearer relationships to gather to celebrate the memories of great old ones gone before us and the family bond we carry. What a blessing!

Who is your family’s glue? How do you hold together over the years? You folks who still manage family reunions and fun traditions are my heroes. You who put up with all the idioscyncrasies and prickly nature of family hold a deep place in my heart.

I hope our children have family glue in their DNA. My Mom’s delight in us, her readiness to always forgive, her holding us together no matter what are in my DNA for sure. So thankful for her…my mom-in-law, and those in our extended families applying the glue.

Glue only works in contact with what needs gluing.

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Friday Faves on a Monday. The struggle is real sometimes. Like a friend says, life itself must always trump writing about life. Blessings on you, Dear Ones.

Bonuses:

YouTube Video – 200 Kids Sing A Cappella Style – You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban – Peter Hollens

Taking On Inequality in Education – Raj Chetty

Conversations with Coleman – Trump, COVID 19, and Cold War II with Niall Ferguson

Photo Credit: Twitter, Ethical Skeptic

 

Against Fear – Heather Mac Donald – [Don’t let the pro-Trump flavor of the article, any more than with pro-Biden bent, cause you to miss the reasoned content.]

Emily Dickinson’s Revolutionary and Reclusive Life, in a Lyrical Picture-Book from the Lacuna Between Fact and Myth

Hopefully when this Presidential election is over, these neighbors will still be friends.

The waning summer garden gives way to autumn bounty. Kale.

A Date Night idea – hand-delivered to us by a dear friend.

Worship Wednesday – No Shadow of Turning – Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Austin Stone Worship

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! I say, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the person who seeks him. It is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. Because of the loving devotion of the LORD we are not consumed, for His mercies never fail.Lamentations 2:22-26

Thomas O. Chisholm wrote the beautiful hymn-poem Great Is Thy Faithfulness in 1923. This hymn became a worship mainstay in Protestant churches. The lyrics remind us of the steadfastness of God, something we cling to in a world dizzy with change.

In dealing with all the disruptions and differing opinions, our own thoughts and beliefs may feel under attack. What is true? Who is right? Whom do we believe?

The singular truth in our lives that guides us in navigating through varied cultural changes and political ploys…the singular truth is God doesn’t change. In His truth, in His love, in His judgments.

“There is no shadow of turning with Thee”.

No shadow of turning. Praise God for that anchor. That foundation. That light in the darkness.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness!

Verses 2 and 3 of the Austin Stone version of this glorious hymn were written in 2018 by pastor/writer John Piper. He wrote it to further flesh out the God of faithfulness Chisholm lauded in the original hymn – to accentuate Piper’s sermon on Deuteronomy 29-30 (linked below).

“A Matter of Life and Death” – John Piper sermon on Deuteronomy 29-30

Let’s remember Moses’ words to the people of God from that passage in Deuteronomy:

 Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “You have seen with your own eyes everything the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials, and to his entire land. You saw with your own eyes the great trials and those great signs and wonders. Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a mind to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear...Be sure there is no man, woman, clan, or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations. Be sure there is no root among you bearing poisonous and bitter fruit. 19 When someone hears the words of this oath, he may consider himself exempt, thinking, ‘I will have peace even though I follow my own stubborn heart.’..Future generations of your children who follow you and the foreigner who comes from a distant country will see the plagues of that land and the sicknesses the Lord has inflicted on it...24 All the nations will ask, ‘Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this intense outburst of anger?’ 25 Then people will answer, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord…’Deuteronomy 29:2-4, 18-19a, 22, 24-25

When all these things happen to you—the blessings and curses I have set before you—and you come to your senses while you are in all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and all your soul by doing everything I am commanding you today, then he will restore your fortunes, have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you… The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love him with all your heart and all your soul so that you will live... 10 when you obey the Lord your God by keeping his commands and statutes that are written in this book of the law and return to him with all your heart and all your soul.Deuteronomy 30:1-3, 6, 10

Worship with me the great God of faithfulness who will take us through this season as He has taken His people through every season before this. [Lyrics in the link.]

[Verse 1]
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be

[Chorus]
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

[Verse 2]
I could not love Thee, so blind and unfeeling
Covenant promises fell not to me
Then without warning, desire, or deserving
I found my Treasure, my pleasure, in Thee

[Chorus]
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

[Verse 3]
I have no merit to woo or delight Thee
I have no wisdom or pow’rs to employ
And yet in Thy mercy, how pleasing Thou find’st me
This is Thy pleasure: that Thou art my joy

[Chorus]
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

[Spontaneous]
Oh, how great You are
Oh, how great You are
Sing about this
As we sing this
He’s pardoned us
He’s given us an everlasting peace
We are thankful for that
Let’s thank Him together

[Verse 4]
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside

[Chorus]
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me*

*Lyrics to Great Is Thy Faithfulness w/ Austin Stone Worship Team

Great Is Thy FaithfulnessStory of John Piper’s extra verses for Thomas O. Chisholm’s classic hymn

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Monday Morning Moment – the Art of Argument

We were younger than we thought. Fresh out of graduate or med schools. In our first big real-world work. Most Saturdays in those days, we met for breakfast at Horton’s (now a Chipotle) and lingered over coffee. Talking about life and how to solve the problems around us. We didn’t always agree, and sometimes we got loud and passionate…but never unkind. We loved each other after all. We also cared about the same things but often saw those very same things differently.

Each going our separate ways those Saturdays, we had learned from one another. Always coming away with a larger sense of what it takes to make a better world. We valued our debates, our arguments, as much as our happier takes on life. Civil and thoughtful – with space to disagree.

A few years later, we all relocated across the US, in next real-world jobs. I took a teaching post at Yale University. My first foray out of the South. There, I had the same experience as with our Saturday morning breakfast club. Lively debate on life, university regulations, student issues, course content, and the politics of the day. I was definitely an outlier on some of the topics, being one of the youngest on faculty and from a part of the country sometimes maligned for its thinking. Still, the grace and respectful interest given to me by my colleagues again gave room to grow…maybe for all of us as we wrestled together things that mattered. The experience of belonging also breathed consideration into our arguments. We shared commonalities. A tenure track respected no one over another.

Recently, a lawyer friend of mine, in Seattle, sent me the following article on this topic of argument or dissent:

The New Truth – When the Moral Imperative Trumps the Rational Evidence, There’s No Arguing – Jacob Siegel

What we are witnessing, in the rapidly transforming norms around race, sex, and gender, is not an argument at all but a revolution in moral sentiment. In all revolutions, the new thing struggling to be born makes use of the old system in order to overthrow it. At present, institutions like the university, the press, and the medical profession preserve the appearance of reason, empiricism, and argument while altering, through edict and coercion, the meaning of essential terms in the moral lexicon, like fairness, equality, friendship, and love. That the effort wins so much support speaks to the deep contradictions and corruption of American meritocratic institutions, and of the liberal individualist moral regime it seeks to replace.

Moral revolutions cannot tolerate ambiguity, but there is so much that I’m not sure of. How does one argue with this new form of truth? Not in the old way. Not by taking the bait.Jacob Siegel

Siegel writes about the lost art of argument. His is a long and scholarly piece very worth the read. In brief, he states a strong case of how American culture, in particular, has become intolerant of reasoned debate. Pick the issue, and folks line up on one side or the other. If you are not on my side, then you are dead wrong. More than just wrong, you are a racist, sexist, fascist, Communist. And so it goes…far from the days of civil disagreement.

Photo Credit: Prezi, Christopher Lasch, Stephanie Rugo

I am still hopeful.

In the midst of all the meanness, especially in this election year, with political debates upon us, I believe we can turn this around.

Surely, we see the danger of hateful, polarizing exchanges. Part of our dilemma is that we are less face-to-face than we used to be. Before email and social media. Before COVID.

It’s too easy to use social media to make a public case on an issue and then dare someone to expose her biases and disagree.

I’m so thankful to have friends and family who allow for arguments on issues of religion, politics, etc. but without attacking.

The key to the art of argument is our persistent care for the person across from us. We may not love them, may not even like them, but we refuse to belittle or grow contempt for them. We refuse.

We determine to show respect, no matter how hot the argument becomes. We learn how to deescalate because the person matters more than the problem.

Scott Sauls speaks often on this matter of argument. His Tweet below expresses it better than I can.

Twitter source: Scott Sauls

“Attack problems not people…especially problems that attack people.”

Although in the public arena we see too much ungracious confrontations, we can find exceptions. I’ve taken to watching Blogging Heads on YouTube. On split-screen, two people (often educators but others as well) tackle some of our most pressing societal issues. They have been immensely helpful to me. Equipping their listeners on how to problem-solve and see issues in ways we might not have before. Mentoring on how to have respectful, thoughtful discussions on topics they may or may not agree on…but they amicably agree to disagree.

Twitter source: Ian V. Rowe

The art of argument (debate) doesn’t have to be lost. We can choose to weigh in on matters of extreme importance without taking the other person to the mat. Stating our reasoning without condescension. Listening, learning, allowing that we could be missing some part of the issue. Whether or not we get the same treatment, we both lose if at least one doesn’t remember the person in front of us has greater value than winning the the argument.

In closing, you’ll find two clips from Denzel Washington‘s 2007 film The Great Debaters. The plot is based on the true story of the rising debate team of the historically black Wiley College. The time was the 1930’s during the era of Jim Crow. The place, Texas. Washington played the role of Melvin Tolson, the outspoken debate coach. These two clips are riveting examples of an argument and a debate…and how it might be done again.

Thoughts? Please. In the comments below.

The Art of Having a Productive Argument

The Lost Art of Argument – Stephanie Rugo

YouTube Video – The Art of Argument – Jordan Peterson

Social Control and Human Dignity – Ben Peterson

5 Friday Faves – Shrek Revisited, 200 Days, Humanity Over Politics, Civil Thought & Voices, Mushrooms Everywhere

Here we go! Friday Faves late edition.

1) Shrek Revisited – The Fairytale theme from the movie Shrek (by English composers Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell) is  sweetly suited to classical guitar. Especially arranged and performed by Beyond the Guitar‘s Nathan Mills. Enjoy.

2) 200 Days – It’s been 200 days of physical distancing and wearing masks in public. Over half a year. COVID-19 has been a global health threat for many months now. We have learned so much in how to prevent, mediate, and treat. It’s become a political issue which is unfortunate and unfair. It is a novel virus. We are all learning.

For me, the biggest thing, after not contracting the virus, is how to navigate life with physical distancing. I’ve found instead of my capacity for work and people growing, it has contracted. Fatigue is a daily issue to battle. This is so curious since we are in the physical lives of far fewer people…and much of the clutter in our work lives has been removed.

Still…we are challenged to stay in play in life and relationships. I really appreciated the counsel of the two articles below. Won’t elaborate here, but read what you need…and don’t give in to the sluggishness of this constrained life. It will get better or stay different – we want to effectively meet the challenge whatever it is.

The Nine Habits to Increase Your Energy – Scott Young

How to Build Closer Relationships – Advice from 7 TED Speakers on Creating Better Connections – Kara Catruzulla

Photo Credit: Spencer Seim, Facebook

3) Humanity Over Politics – “Don’t let politics take away your humanity. Don’t let the fact that you agree or disagree with someone on various issues, don’t let that stop you from having sympathy for them, compassion…In general, people need to stop trying to dunk on people, insult people, dunking on people when they are…sick, going through dark times. It’s just despicable behavior. This is not me virtue-signaling. This is just me trying to encourage you to be a decent human being. Humanity over politics always!”Zuby

I follow @ZubyMusic on Twitter. This young man is British with an international accent (sounds American to me, raised and schooled in Saudi Arabia). He is truly brilliant with a wide range of giftings – podcaster, rapper, health/fitness coach, author, and culture commentator. He seems to truly care about people…and even us Americans, which is so refreshing. I learn from him daily.

4) Civil Thoughts and Voices – Who are those in your lives? Please comment below and let us in on those we might want to learn from, as well. On the Christian front, writer/pastor Scott Sauls is one of those for me. His book A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us Against Them is a great resource.

In the last several weeks, you have heard me rave about economics professor and social scientist Glenn Loury. He is one of the thought leaders in our world today, and his voice has helped me stay calm in a world gone crazy. He is weekly on a YouTube Blogging Heads episode and also on other media platforms. This week, Loury speaks with Ian Rowe on education and society. There is not one dry point in this whole conversation.

Hope-giving. Whatever your biases or preconceived notions are, Do. Not. Miss. This. Especially if you love children.

Rowe is currently a fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, focusing on education and upward mobility, family formation, success sequence, adoption, and poverty studies. If you truly care about issues related to racism, poverty, opportunity, and family, you want to read everything he writes…and talk about it with whomever and wherever you have a voice.

[Rowe also talks about the role of not only individuals but mediating institutions who will add to the conversation and strengthen the solutions.]

The Power of the Two-Parent Home Is Not a Myth – Ian Rowe

1776 Unites – free US history curriculum, alternative to 1619 Project

Photo Credit: Facebook, Chris Bear & Wendy McCaig

The Politics of Spin and Culture War Fatigue – Scott Sauls

Six Tips for Speaking Up Against Bad Behavior – Catherine A. Sanderson

5) Mushrooms Everywhere – The natural world around us is full of wonder and surprises. I had the pleasure of a walk in the woods this week. Highlighted by a closer to the ground view by two small grandchildren. They spotted and we marveled at the incredible array and variety of mushrooms and fungi growing on the forest floor and downed logs.

We see mushrooms pop up in our yards overnight. How do they do it? Seemingly out of nowhere. Not tackling that here, but you can find several timelapse videos of mushroom growth on YouTube.

For today, I just wanted to post some (not all) of the mushrooms we discovered on that one walk. Phenomenal!

Time-lapse video of composting worms – ok, so this has nothing to do with the above topic, but… When my husband takes the grandchildren fishing, they fish with worms. Dug up from our compost pile. Except for the creepiness factor, it amazes how worms can turn garbage into compost, and over a very short amount of time.

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That’s it for this week. Hope you had a great weekend (given this is posted after the weekend instead of on Friday). Stay well out there.

Bonuses:

COVID-19 Emergency Measures and the Impending Authoritarian Pandemic – Stephen Thomson

Here’s How US Presidents Get Elected (It’s Not Be Winning the Most Votes) – the Electoral College Explained – John Letzing

Warren Buffett Says This 1 Simple Habit Separates Successful People From Everyone Else – Marcel Schwantes  – In case you don’t read the article, the habit is that successful people say “No to almost everything”. Schwantes also quotes Steve Jobs and Jim Collins on how we make our decisions in choosing what really matters to us.

“Every ‘yes’ you say means a ‘no’ to something else.” – my husband, Dave

Twitter source: Kenneth Williams

“There are times in the experience of almost every community, when even the humblest member thereof may properly presume to teach — when the wise and great ones, the appointed leaders of the people, exert their powers of mind to complicate, mystify, entangle and obscure the simple truth — when they exert the noblest gifts which heaven has vouchsafed to man to mislead the popular mind, and to corrupt the public heart, — then the humblest may stand forth and be excused for opposing even his weakness to the torrent of evil.” – Frederick Douglass, from Maria Popova’s article “Frederick Douglass on the Wisdom of the Minority and the Real Meaning of Solidarity

The following video is an intersection in Cairo, Egypt. I never could bring myself to drive when we lived there, but I loved watching how the drivers made their way through all the traffic. Fascinating!

Why the World Needs Heroes – Jenn Phillips

I posted this Howard University commencement speech once before – if you didn’t see it, don’t miss it. Chadwick Boseman.

Worship Wednesday – Christmas in October – Peace on Earth – Casting Crowns

Photo Credit: Casting Crowns, YouTube

Adapted from the Archives

[Our family begins singing/listening to Christmas carols in October. Too many beautiful, God-glorifying songs to fit in one month. So…Christmas in October starts tomorrow…and we sure need it …Him.]

“See, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the Messenger of the covenant you delight in—see, he is coming,” says the Lord of Armies.

You have said, “It is useless to serve God. What have we gained by keeping his requirements and walking mournfully before the Lord of Armies?  So now we consider the arrogant to be fortunate. Not only do those who commit wickedness prosper, they even test God and escape.”

At that time those who feared the Lord spoke to one another. The Lord took notice and listened. So a book of remembrance was written before him for those who feared the Lord and had high regard for his name.  “They will be mine,” says the Lord of Armies, “my own possession on the day I am preparing. I will have compassion on them as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. Malachi 3:1, 14-17

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord… And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” – Luke 2:10-11, 13-14

In December, 1863, American poet and scholar Henry W. Longfellow received his wounded son home from battle. It was Christmas time, and the U.S. Civil War raged on. Having already lost his wife years earlier, Longfellow nursed his son, Charley, back to health. His own thoughts, in turmoil over all that was happening around him, he poured out in the poem “Christmas Bells”.

Longfellow clearly took comfort from God as he wrote, ending the poem with this stanza:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men.”*

I Heard the Bells is a Christmas carol, not a worship anthem. Yet, given continuing wars and current hardships, we must tend the fires of our hope. God is the “lifter of our heads” (Psalm 3:3). He is the One who gives strength to our “weak hands and shaking knees” (Isaiah 35:3). He will do as He’s promised. He is faithful.

We desperately need those bells of Christmas ringing over our cities and countrysides.In fact, wouldn’t it be a lovely concert to hear church bells ringing together over the din of divisiveness right now.

We, in our fleshing out the love of Christ, are the Christmas bells in our culture. May we never be the noisy gong or clanging cymbal of those without love! May we, like Longfellow, nurse those we love, wounded in this world’s battles, back to wholeness and a living hope in Christ.

When you hear the bells ring where you are, take heart in that. We will continue to pray for His peace on earth…and in our own hearts.  We can be vessels of His good-will toward our neighbors, both very near…and far away.

Worship with me…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Lyric video)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

And the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
In my heart I hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir singing (Peace on Earth)
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep (Peace on Earth, peace on Earth)
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they’re ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
And with our hearts we’ll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they’re ringing? (Peace on Earth)
The life the angels singing (Peace on Earth)
Open up your heart and hear them (Peace on Earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men*

* Lyrics to I Heard the Bells – Casting Crowns – Writers: Mark Hall, Dale Oliver, and Bernhard Herms

YouTube Video – Casting Crowns performing I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall On Christmas (Teaching Vignettes)

Christmas Carol Soldier – Story of Charley Appleton Longfellow & the occasion for H. W. Longfellow’s writing of the poem/lyric

The Story Behind I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day – Tom Stewart

*Longfellow’s poem Christmas Bells

Monday Morning Moment – On Maturity in Temptestuous Times – with Coleman Hughes and Ayishat Akanbi

Photo Credit: YouTube, Coleman Hughes

Who are you? With whom or with what groups do you affiliate? How do you identify yourself?

Important questions in any season.

Today, we sift what people say about their beliefs and ideas and assess value based on their groups and affiliations. We do.

For the last several months, we have had the opportunity thrust upon us (if we weren’t so engaged before) to think deeply about what we believe. Now the temptation exists, as we are very much communal beings, to go with groups…groups we have always trusted.

Groups (and group-think) are fluid. Our tendency is to think they are fixed, but they are not.

Of late, I’ve been trying to be diligent to seek out people who don’t look like me, who don’t necessarily think like me, with the goal of listening and learning. Face-to-face is best and most fruitful. However, with COVID and affiliations (associations) too homogeneous (unfortunately), I’ve often resorted to finding these thinkers on-line.

Writer philosopher Coleman Hughes and stylist culture commentator Ayishat Akanbi recently had an immensely helpful conversation. On maturity. On curiosity over defensiveness. You can watch/listen to this bit (a mini-clip) of their conversation here or the whole conversation here.

In fact, below you will find some of Coleman’s and Ayishat’s conversation. I wish there was a transcript for the whole podcast but this segment was so powerful, it’s right here:

___________________________________________________________________________

ColemanMaturity is being able to hear something undesirable about your in-group and view it objectively instead of defensively.

AyishatIt seems to be one of the foundational problems of everything. We cannot hear anything undesirable about a group that we belong to. We are only willing to accept the narrative…only willing to look at the part of the story that focuses [outwardly]. We’re not allowed to acknowledge that any problem could potentially start at home.

We just want to outsource blame constantly.

Conversations are very stagnant.

I prioritize curiosity above many things. If someone was to say something negative about me, before I get defensive, I’m just like, “Hmmm, interesting. I wonder if this is true.” I’m more likely to interrogate at first. If we’re able to look at something with more curiosity than defensiveness, we’re in a better position.

I just think if we’re if we recognize having undesirable aspects of our communities or groups…it doesn’t mean they’re bad; it doesn’t mean you’re a wrong person. It’s a little texture. It think we just see everything as good or bad.

ColemanJust like a person can have flaws and imperfections, a person of maturity can see their own flaws and always be curious about them. If your significant other says, “Hey, you have this thing you always do and it makes me feel bad.” Maturity in that moment is the ability to say, “Wait, are they right? Let me think about this.” Maybe they’re not, but maybe they are.

We all recognize that’s true of the individual case, but when it comes to groups, it seems people aren’t able to do that.

Conversations with Coleman

__________________________________________________________________________

I’d like to close with a bit of transparency. I am a follower of Jesus Christ, which, for me, includes trusting that God has preserved and protected every word of His message to us through the Holy Scriptures. In religious circles, I identify as evangelical, not deterred by our culture’s attack on evangelicals right now. Trying to be curious and not defensive about that. Growing up during the women’s rights movement (ERA), the shockingly late desegration of schools, and Roe v. Wade being made law. Same sex attraction became especially real to me when a cherished friend in college sought a romantic relationship with me. A deep personal loss when she ended that friendship because I turned out to be un-altering in my heterosexuality. Always captivated by politics, I was staunchly liberal and a Democrat…until I wasn’t. Today my politics are more conservative, even Republican, but driven by policy rather than personality. I am an older white woman with all that seems to communicate.

Daughter. Sister. Friend. Nurse. Wife. Mother. Gram. Writer. [Decided I couldn’t leave any of these out. More for me than you.]

How many sentences into the above paragraph did it take, if you don’t know me personally, to think either better of me…or worse? Believe me, I have been there…and, too often, done that.

We have an opportunity before us…to stop thinking we know people by the groups with whom we align…to stop judging people by only what we think we see without learning how we came to that way of thinking. Listen and learn. Outsourcing blame only keeps us divided from one another.

If we want our grandchildren to have a world to thrive in, we can teach them how to listen, learn, and then live according to the greatest good possible. I saw a billboard this weekend. It was a stark black background with the white letters emblazoned brightly: “Love One Another”. For me, it was immediately refreshing and comforting as this is something Jesus taught and lived without exception…even calling us to also love our enemies. On the billboard, the message was attributed to The Beatles band member George Harrison.

The message is true. If we bristle, it’s because our group alignment is showing. The message is still true.

[Postscript: the quote below really has nothing to do with the post above. I just love it because it is a personal struggle, and because I’m listening to Ayishat (the “t” is silent in her name) A. Akanbi.]

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Instagram

Sunday Reflection – Am I My Brother’s Keeper? – On Neglect – Part 1

Blog - Neglect

[From the Archives]

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” – Genesis 4:9

We must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?…Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. – Hebrews 2:1-3, 17-18

Neglect/Neglectful to leave behind, to omit by carelessness or design, to slight, to omit to receive/embrace, to disregard, to be inattentive, to become accustomed to omit what may or ought to be done.

Who wants a life riddled with gaping holes of neglectfulness? Or who wants to leave a heritage of neglect. Who? Yet it can happen ever so subtly in our pursuit of safety and security, circling our wagons tightly around what personally matters most to us.

And the rest of the world?

Not My Business

Not My Problem

Not My Family

Not My Job

Not My Call

Not My Responsibility

Not My Fault

Not My Gift

Not My Calling

Not Worth My Time/Money

Not Worth Saving

The most winsome thing I know of God is that He loves the whole world (John 3:16). I don’t want to line out my life…set boundaries… such that some around me are more deserving of grace than others…that some are worthy of aid or intervention but others are not…that some are outside of the Gospel and others, by “accident” of geography or opportunity, are not.  As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we have been given a great salvation – “so great a salvation” that we cannot neglect His intent of it, for our sakes, and for those around us. There is no such thing as benign neglect.*

We, individually and corporately, can’t save the world, as much as we would like. However, our humanity,  with whatever perceived limited capacity we have, was meant to glorify God by our nature and pursuits. We can determine to live lives faithful and pleasing to God – “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with  God” (Micah 6:8).

If you look at the list of “not’s” above, you may, like I do, see phrases we’ve used before for decisions made and actions not taken. Look now at some of the antonyms for neglect – what it is to not yield to being neglectful – intentional, diligent, constant, loving, inclined, conscious, determined, caring, keeping, dedicated, patient, carrying through, preserving, mindful, attending, cherishing, conserving, celebrating, listening, nourishing, obedient, inspiring, giving, remembering, redeeming, watchful, purposeful.

With so great a salvation that we have received, how could we choose to be any other way toward others?

“To fail to exhibit that we take truth seriously at those points where there is a cost in our doing so, is to push the next generation in the relative, dialectical millstream that surrounds us. ” Francis A. Schaeffer

Part 2 is here.

Denzel Washington, Martin Luther, and Our Strange Neglect of the Bible

Francis A. Schaeffer – a modern-day prophet, author of How Shall We Then Live?

The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence

Do Not Neglect the Weightier Matters of the Law

Charles Spurgeon’s Sermon on Neglecting Our Personal Work in the Kingdom

 Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

Worst-Case Scenarios: The Problem of Neglect

*“Benign” neglect  – a noninterference that is intended to benefit someone or something more than continual attention would.

Worship Wednesday – Let Revival Come (Revive Me) – People & Songs

Photo Credit: Facebook, Let Revival Come

Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.”

Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Our perfect God loves His children perfectly. We, on the other hand, are far from perfect. Between our own sin nature, living in a fallen world, with an adversary in the Devil…life can be a challenge.

Yet we are never alone. God gives grace…glorious, complete, specific to our needs.

Our family needed particular grace this week. A surprising altercation (my experience). A hard decision. A week of long days. An unexpected ailment.

Then smack dab in the middle of it all, God’s grace poured down.

A dear acquaintance of ours, Rev. Michael Catt, senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church and founder of the Refresh Conference was a part of that grace. To begin this year’s Refresh [Online] Conference (always focusing on revival), he invited Rev. Tom Elliff to speak twice this past Sunday at Sherwood.

Tom Elliff is a close friend…many would say that about him because he brings the fragrance of Christ into every conversation and relationship. So loving, joyful, encouraging. Rock solid in his faith in God and in the work God means to finish in His children.

[Husband Dave & Tom Elliff]

On the morning after the hardest night, I found one of Tom’s Refresh sermons online. It was Fresh Surrender (starts at minute 29:28 on this video). In this sermon, he focuses on the Scripture passage 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. It is the Apostle Paul’s testimony of his “thorn in the flesh”. He had prayed for God to remove it, but He didn’t. Then Paul gloriously testifies how God assured that His grace was sufficient for the thorn in Paul’s life. So moved by that experience of God’s love, Paul declared, “I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

[Watch Tom’s Refresh sermons here and here…whatever you’re going through, you will be encouraged.]

Hardships come into all our lives. When they happen, we are tempted to rail at the pain, to question God, and to seek to remove ourselves from that particular hard.

God calls us to surrender our will to Him…our pain, our problems, our preferences…He gives grace to us, and we give glory to Him…when we surrender ourselves to Him afresh.

This can be where revival starts in our own hearts…and in the church.

A song I never heard before was in the mix of worship songs at this year’s Refresh Conference. It is from the worship collaborative of People and Songs“Let Revival Come” is the cry of our hearts…for our own lives and that of our country right now.

Worship with me (it’s 21:30 minutes into this Sherwood Baptist worship service). Also the People and Songs lyric video is here.

Heavenly Father, I come
Don’t have much to offer,
Holy One
I’m humbled by all that you have done

Even though I walk through the valley,
I don’t have to fear, No-
You have called me from my sorrow to gladness, I have you
What more could I want?

CHORUS:
(So) Raise my faith
a little higher
Set my spirit on fire
Lord, we’re asking You to move

Cause You’re the God of Restoration
The One who gives salvation
Lord, Let revival come, Let revival come

VERSE 2:
You are the God who calms the sea
The same God who healeth me
You are the One who makes me strong

BRIDGE: x4
Revive me
Revive me with the
Joy that You bring
Joy that You bring

CHORUS 2:
(So I) Raise my hands a little higher
Now my spirit’s on fire
Lord, we’re asking You to move

‘Cause You’re the God of Restoration
The One who gives salvation
Lord, Let revival come, Let revival come*

*Lyrics to Let Revival Come – Songwriters: Kevin Jones, Joshua Sherman, Jonathan Frazier, The Emerging Sound Publishers

Let Revival Come – Song Story – Kevin Jones

Monday Morning Moment – Sensitiveness – This Might Not Be About You

Photo Credit: QuickMeme

Adapted from the Archives

The word “victim” is one I rarely use because the word itself further victimizes the person. Sometimes we may intend to wound with our words, but often we just state/post a thought, viewpoint, or opinion having no idea what a strong and public reaction we may receive in the aftermath.

Just yesterday, I was in a Twitter conversation where what I said exploded a barrage of words (from passersby not the person with whom I was engaged). My person (we follow each other but don’t know each other) had been victimized by an awful situation and I was trying to comfort and reason with him over it. Then the attacks came (not from him but from others). The words “Karen”, “gaslighting”, “oppressor”, and a “cishet” Christian (not in a good way) were used to describe me (I had to look up the linked words).

We stick to our own in life, in a way to enjoy a certain measure of understanding and acceptance. If we stay surface enough, we hopefully don’t offend, don’t disturb the sensitiveness of another.

Decide to go deeper or venture out among those different from us (be it politically, or gender identity, or race/ethnicity), in our current culture, it can get messy.

I want deep and wide relationships with people, but at times, I will mess up or be misunderstood. Our social media walls can get full of the most always graffiti, well-deserved, others might say.

Real face-to-face conversation and not fleeing the scene can both help…at least the relationship. The passer-bys? Not so much. I want to scream sometimes, “This might not be about you.”

Photo Credit: Flickr

I digress…

Years ago, my best friend and I went on a cross-country sight-seeing trip. Our plan was to camp out a couple of nights and then stay in a hotel for the third, and continue in that rhythm for the two weeks we were on our adventure. It didn’t always go well. I loved camping; she preferred the hotel. Our food preferences were more different than we realized. We did, fortunately, agree on the “not to be missed” aspects of our journey across America.

Along with all the great memories made, we had some humdinger disagreements through the course of our time away and returned home even better friends as an outcome. However, it didn’t come easily for either of us.

It turns out I could majorly stomp on her feelings without even knowing that was happening.

First, you must know I never intended to plow through her preferences to race toward my own. She was my dearest friend. It gave me joy to see her happy. Still…somewhere I crossed a line.

We have both matured greatly since then so this can encourage you…it has encouraged me in more recent times when I find myself in similar situations.

In our responses to one another, as friends, family, colleagues, (even strangers on social media) we can discover things both about ourselves and about the other.

Emotions are different from feelings. I’m not going into the physiological pathways or mental habit formation of all this, but the quote below by Debbie Hampton is very helpful:

Feelings and emotions are two sides of the same coin and highly interconnected but are two very different things…Emotions originally helped our species survive by producing quick reactions to threat, reward, and everything in between in their environments. Emotional reactions are coded in our genes. Emotions precede feelings, are physical, and instinctual. Feelings are sparked by emotions and colored by the thoughts, memories, and images that have become subconsciously linked with that particular emotion for you. But it works the other way around too. For example, just thinking about something threatening can trigger an emotional fear response. While individual emotions are temporary, the feelings they evoke may persist and grow over a lifetime…In the gaps between emotion, feeling, and acting, we all have the power to change and direct our lives for the better. “Debbie Hampton

In the milliseconds between any stimulus and our response to it, we can choose how we will respond emotionally. However, because we have set a course “over a lifetime” of responding certain ways, emotional patterns (feelings) are formed and put into practice. We can change these, if we find them detrimental to our physical, emotional, and relational lives.

That happened between my friend and me. In close proximity, for two weeks, our daily experience being very dependent on the other, we found we could each be irritating. The statements “That hurt my feelings” or “You hurt my feelings” became her lament…this from an accomplished teacher and successful manager of a classroom of tiny people.

For me…inconceivable. I loved her and had no desire to hurt her, ever. Still, it happened.

[By the way, this expression of sensitiveness using the word “feelings” may be more encountered in women, but men have some similar experience – you know you do – but call it different things. “Offended”, maybe? “Annoyed”? Is that where sarcasm or cynicism is birthed?]

Back to the story: In some way, my behavior set off for my friend emotions that were tagged by past feelings of being discounted, not considered, not favored. It wasn’t pretty…for either of us.

Fast forward, decades later.

We live in a culture of lofty sensitiveness. The measure for political correctness in our speech continues to get moved upward. We are a nation so easily offended that we can’t even discern what is truly intentionally offensive from what is just true.

Have you ever been in a season with a friend or colleague that feels emotionally murky? You don’t really know what’s going on, but you sense something is. Then…you step on the landmine – and you say something or do something or your face shows something – that explodes all kinds of feelings in the other person, from what seems a life-time of storing up.

This is what has now been popularized as weaponizing feelings or emotions. The outcome? Guilt, shame, wounding, and (for some) returning fire.

It will make me sad if this post “hurts feelings”, especially of those dear to me who read the blog. The thing is, just like my friend and me, we can go deeper in our relationships when we refuse to let feelings define our friendships. When we refuse to think ill of others we grow a spiritual maturity and neuroplasticity that impacts our emotional responses and our relational resilience.

What got me thinking about all this, this week was actually a reading from British scholar C. S. Lewis

He talks about the danger of weaponizing sensitiveness long before it became the cultural phenomenon it is today:

“‘Did you fight fair?’ Or did we not quite unknowingly falsify the whole issue? Did we pretend to be angry about one thing when we knew, or could have known, that our anger had a different and much less presentable cause? Did we pretend to be ‘hurt’ in our sensitive and tender feelings…when envy, ungratified vanity, or thwarted self-will was our real trouble? Such tactics often succeed. The other parties give in. They give in not because they don’t know what is really wrong with us but because they have long known it only too well, and that sleeping dog can be roused, that skeleton brought out of its cupboard, only at the cost of imperilling their whole relationship with us. It needs surgery which they know we will never face. And so we win; by cheating. But the unfairness is very deeply felt. Indeed what is commonly called ‘sensitiveness’ is the most powerful engine of domestic tyranny sometimes a lifelong tyranny. How we should deal with it in others I am not sure; but we should be merciless to its first appearances in ourselves.Preparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis.

After being an atheist, Lewis did not come to faith in Christ until his mid-thirties. His intense study of the Bible, relationship with God, and deep, gut-honest conversations with a circle of intimate friends moved him to such understanding of people and life…and our responses to both.

Any thoughts on this? Please comment below.

Preparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis

What Is the Difference Between Feelings and Emotions? – Debbie Hampton

The “Weaponizing” of EmotionsWade Trimmer

The A-Z Guide to Feelings and Emotions – Sebastian Gendry

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

Inner Circles – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills

Invisible Wounds of the Sensitive, Empathic and Emotionally Intense Child – Imi Lo – this is a sobering, emotionally charged article. I resonated with it in preparing for the blog above and include it because it might be helpful for some to read. Just a warning that it is hard to read because it honestly did not give much place for hope. [If I missed it, please illuminate me in the Comments below.] Maybe the hope comes in recognizing what we as parents might be doing that’s hurtful to an emotionally intense child and correct course.