Category Archives: Stories

5 Friday Faves – On Being Sober, A State in Mourning, Favorite Podcast, National Cancer Survivors Day, and a Call to Prayer

Happy Weekend! Here are my favorite finds for this week:

1) On Being Sober – Writer storyteller Brené Brown posted this incredible piece this week entitled: What Being Sober Has Meant to Me. I didn’t know she had had a drinking problem. Her story resonates with my own. Here’s a bit of her take on it:

“At first I struggled to feel ‘drunk enough’ to belong at AA. The DUI-divorce-got-fired stories made me wonder if I was in the wrong place. As a rule-follower, I found a sponsor and asked her if I was in the right meetings. She diagnosed me with “a Pupu platter of addictions”— not too much of any one thing, but enough of each one to be concerned. Her advice was to quit drinking, quit smoking, quit emotional eating, and quit trying to control and manage my family’s crises. Awesome. On it.” –  Brené Brown

Photo Credit: Brené Brown, Facebook

My mom never drank alcohol. She grew up impoverished with a dad who was drunk more than not. She saw the destructive nature of addiction and steered clear. I had a short season of social drinking in my 20s. It ended at a party when, after finishing the one glass of wine I had intended to drink, my best friend’s husband appeared immediately with another. He was all smiles, and said, “And here I thought you were a goodie two-shoes about drinking.” A very old expression but his remark burned into my soul. My whole character seemed defined by my stance on alcohol!!

Recently I was having dinner with a friend in her 20s who had decided to stop drinking. Her reason was she found that when she drank she pretty quickly moved into this personality and looseness (for lack of a better word) that were not who she was normally. She decided she much preferred to just be herself, and not drinking was the solution for her. I resonated with her on that (everyone has to determine if this is something to consider for themselves ).

Read Brown’s article – it is NOT shaming but rather encouraging and empowering. One last quote from her for today:

“Over the past two decades, food and work have emerged as my real drugs of choice. Like most addiction, they’re fueled by shame and the “not enough” gremlins. They’re also tricky addictions because I’m good at abstaining but not so good at moderation. Food and work don’t lend themselves to abstinence…If I stay in fit spiritual condition — boundaries, vulnerability, honesty, authenticity, connection to God, healthy food, exercise, and sleep — I won’t be running toward or away from cold beer or warm carbs.” – Brené Brown

What Being Sober Has Meant to MeBrené Brown

Mary Karr Names Names – Nina Puro

Everybody Knows: 10 Lessons from 10 Years of Sobriety Without AA – Mishka Shubaly

2) A State in Mourning– [This demanded a moment of recognition even though it certainly isn’t a usual favorite find for me. it is for us to grieve.] Flags are at half-mast around our state this week because of three separate incidents where a total of 17 people died, including a 9 y/o girl. Our local newspaper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch gave the details of a random shooting, a workplace shooting and a church van accident. A sad week as we, in Virginia, mourned their loss.

3) Favorite Podcast – On a lighter note, my friend and podcaster Kevin Prewett, delivers every single week. Not just entertainment but great counsel on work and life through his Rising Tide Startups podcast.

Kevin’s focus is to help those of us who are dreaming of or actually launching a startup of some sort. His guests come from a wide range of disciplines, from musicians to project managers to business coaches. Through the podcast, each tells her story and gives insight to those on a similar path. Kevin also brings mini-courses to his listeners. His guests present specialized content in a 5-minute segment, like we would have to pay for in another setting.

I have gained so much from his various guests, and starting up a business isn’t on my radar. Just learning volumes from these folks’ life and business experience.

An example of one of his guests is website builder Chris Parker, founder of What Is My IP Address? Here is the podcast and transcript of his interview. So fascinating.

Rising Tide Startups

Rising Tide Startups – YouTube Channel

4) National Cancer Survivors Day – The first Sunday of June each year is National Cancer Survivors Day. It gives us the opportunity to celebrate those who survive their cancer experience (diagnosis, treatment, and recovery).

Photo Credit: National Cancer Survivors Day, Facebook

This week marks 3 years since my diagnosis with Stage 1 lung cancer. That was a shocker! I’m so thankful to have been diagnosed so early in the course of the disease…and to be well today.

We all have loved ones we lost to cancer and we want to honor them always. This commemoration of cancer survivors is also a right thing to do.

National Cancer Survivors Day also calls for celebrating all those who helped us come out the other side of cancer. Our family and friends, colleagues, and the medical personnel involved with our care.

A friend and fellow writer, Ann Lovell, has survived cancer twice. Her dad, Bob Anderson, wrote a beautiful poem about these “angels of mercy”:

Angels of mercy
Their faces aglow
May visit among us
We can’t really know

But we know divine purpose
And power unfold
With struggle reflected
Through luminous souls.

Ann posted: “I am grateful that we never walk alone — that God’s Spirit always carries us, sustains us, and protects us; that God places people in our lives to be the hands and feet of Jesus just when we need Him most….Thank you to the many “angels of mercy” who walked alongside us then and now. I am grateful.” – Ann Lovell

Me, too.

5) A Call to Prayer – Finally, I am struck by the many calls to prayer we hear in life. A sick little boy, a friend in a troubled marriage, the grief of losing a beloved grandmother, the need for a new job, etc. etc.

Many of the world’s religions have a call to prayer as part of their religious practices.

Jesus counseled his disciples to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41)

Photo Credit: Front Royal Church of Christ

I am so thankful that God calls us to prayer. Not because He doesn’t know already what we desperately need, but because He wants us to bring our needs to Him…He hears, He sees, and He will draw near to us as we draw near to Him.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”Hebrews 4:14-16

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That’s it for me this week. How about you? Any favorite finds? Please share in the Comments. Hope you get to rest…and be blessed.

Bonuses:

Indicators of Human Trafficking

On The Time We Have Left With The People Who Matter Most to Us

Why Simplifying May Protect Our Children’s Mental Health

A View From the Other Side

C. S. Lewis Still Has Much to Offer Us – Daniel Peterson

Photo Credit: Marc Merlin, Facebook

Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, is featured this month in the East Carolina University alumni magazine.

Monday Morning Moment – the Hobbit Life – a 30-Day Journey

Photo Credit: Flickr

Monday mornings can start so well and then sort of spiral. This was that sort of Monday around here. So much stress – with tough news, tight deadlines, and too much time in my own head…

Then a lovely idea…sparked by Tea with Tolkien (a Twitter account I follow)…lifted my spirit and cleared my mind. 30 Days to a Hobbit Heart. The focus of these 30 days is “slowing down, choosing simple joys, and forming new hobbity habits together”.

At the top of my movie list are The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (LOTR) and The Hobbit – both from the pen of British author J. R. R. Tolkien. Tolkien’s stories are of great adventures, loyal friendships, and battles for good against evil. The music from these films does justice to the stories. [Sidebar: Two songs from above film series inspired Nathan at Beyond the Guitar to arrange and perform them – here and here.]

I signed up for the 30-day journey. Let me know if you do, and we’ll do it together. The guide for the 30 days is actually a simple checklist of how to order your day in a hobbity way. [I want to say that word at least a few more times.] Suggestions include less screen time (of course), more time outside, more time with friends, simple suppers, second breakfasts, and time for walks, reading, and writing.[Just a bit of my husband’s garden which he makes hobbity time for]

Where do we find the time for these habits of life? If there is room for all that Marie Kondo requires in minimizing our stuff, then there is room for Tolkien’s ideas of reshaping how we spend our time…and with whom.

One of the suggestions is actually reading some of Tolkien’s letters. I’ve already begun today. It was thrilling to read in one letter (#47) how he was nearly finished with the sequel to The Hobbit. He mentioned how it would be a much longer story (The Lord of the Rings) but that the reader would not be disappointed.

Author Cam Clark describes how being familiar with The Hobbit Life actually made him a better person. He talks about how hobbits value the simpler things of life – friends, food, and stories. He also points to two characteristics that distinguish them from folks of our era. They are 1) not beleaguered by status anxiety (fearing have a lower status than others), and 2) they are more technophobic (whereas the villains of Tolkien’s LOTR were advanced in their weaponry). Hobbity people today would not be so bothered by pursuing status, and they would incline toward being less attached to their devices.

So there you have it…this little distraction brightened my day and altered my perspective. Looking forward to the 30-day journey to  wherever this hobbit life idea takes me.

By the way, the tough news and tight deadlines are still there…I’m just differently engaged…hopefully in a better way.

The Hobbit Life: How The Lord of the Rings Helped Me Become a Better Person – Cam Clark

7 Habits of Highly Effective Hobbits – Alex Knapp

A Day in the Life of a Hobbit – Alice

My Own Shire- Living a Hobbit Life in the Modern World – Arwen

Tea With Tolkien

Tolkien the Film

Worship Wednesday – Ascribe Greatness to Our God the Rock – Don Moen

Photo Credit: Bible Screen, Pinterest

For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God!  “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. – Deuteronomy 32:3-4

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23

This is going to be a little random and ranging…but throughout this day, over and over, I was reminded of the faithfulness of God.

This morning, first thing, I routinely get up, quick stop in the bathroom, and make the bed. While making the bed, that amazing old hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness wafted through my thoughts… out of nowhere.

Soon, it’s out the door to pick up one of my grandsons for Play ‘n Pray at church where we gather, kids in tow, and pray while they play.

Do you ever have those times in the car that God seems to speak through something on the radio? That happened briefly this morning across two great songs on my favorite Christian radio station.

First, David Crowder‘s song Red Letters came on. Red Letters refers to the words recorded in Scripture that Jesus spoke. Crowder tells the story of how the Lord gives us freedom though we deserve death because of our sin. Then right after, Lincoln Brewster‘s jumping version of Everlasting God… If a car could rock with praise, mine was rocking! You know how you see some people at traffic lights with their arms raised, or drumming their steering wheel, or heads bobbing…that sort of car-rocking praise.

By the time, my grandson and I arrived at Play ‘n Pray, my heart was so full of the faithfulness of God.

While the kids played on the playground, we moms and grams sat, watching, talking, and finally praying. Between gummy bear snacks, sorting out rows between the kids, and rounding up the scattering crawlers. We prayed. God is faithful to draw near to us in all the chaos of mothering small ones.

I had to leave after our scheduled time was over, but one of the young moms lingered to continue talking to moms from the neighborhood who had joined us on the playground. It was the very thing we hope happens each week…connections, bridges, neighborly links to the very love of God.

On my way to the next thing, with a content little guy in his car-seat behind, an odd memory surfaced. Both sad and lovely. Something I hadn’t thought of in years…

It was a memory that goes back over 20 years to a church for internationals in Cairo, Egypt. Heliopolis Community Church. Living in Cairo in those days, we loved being in the English-speaking congregation of HCC. It was an oasis of sorts where we didn’t have to think or speak in Arabic and we all had in common that we were, most of us, foreigners and we loved Jesus.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Heliopolis Community Church, Cairo, Egypt

Rotating teams of laypeople led the worship part of the service each week. A young man from South Asia led our worship from time to time. Although I do not remember his name, but I’ve never forgotten him…or his story. He was originally of a different faith and had come to receive Jesus as his Savior gradually. First through dreams, then in chance meetings with Christians, in minority where he lived. Finally, he received a Bible and devoured it…especially the red lettered words of Jesus.

He told us that his conversion to Christianity was very hurtful for his parents. He was their only child. His father rejected him and would die still estranged from him. His mother also became fatally ill at some point. In her faith, if her son did not return to the faith of the family, it could create too great an impediment for her to be able to enter Heaven. I didn’t understand how that worked, but for his mother it was a terrible, horrifying belief. She begged him to give up his faith in Jesus…but he could not. She died with that bitter plea on her lips…and that painful dagger in his heart.

He closed out his story by giving witness to the great faithfulness of God in his life…to seek him out, to save him, to love him even when his parents could no longer.

We were all mesmerized by his story and his own faith in God.

He then led us in singing Don Moen‘s chorus Ascribe Greatness. It is a simple song, lyrics repeated (as the praise songs often were in those days – 1990) – taken from Deuteronomy 32:3-4.

Worship with me and consider the faithfulness of God to each of us – His children.

A God of faithfulness without injustice
Good and upright is He
Ascribe greatness to our God, the Rock
His work is perfect
And all His ways are just
Ascribe greatness to our God, the Rock
His work is perfect
And all His ways are just

A God of faithfulness without injustice
Good and upright is He*

As I write, it’s the end of the day. Housework, cooking, community group and the hours passed by. My heart continues full…reflecting on the happenings of today…and the memories of others whose stories we know…stories of the steadfast love and faithfulness of God even in the most difficult of situations.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.Lamentations 3:22-23

*Lyrics to Ascribe Greatness to Our God the Rock – Songwriter: Don Moen

New Mercies Every Morning – Dave Zuleger

Monday Morning Moment – 5 Years Writing – Inspired by Mom

[Adapted from the Archives]

Tomorrow, May 7, marks 5 years of writing this blog. May 7, 2014.

Writing has always been a part of how I processed life. As a little girl, I had the little pink lock-and-key diary. Certainly better that it is not to be found. Then journaling in high school and after. Teaching in a university required research and writing. When the children were little, my writing had to downsize to quick notes in their baby books and daily entries on a big wall calendar.

After moving overseas, so much new happened each day and insisted on being documented. I would send long “journals” home to Mom, Mom-in-law Julia, and those others closest to us.

In 2014, it seemed that my memory was not as good as before. It was a scary season and one pooh-poohed by my doctor. He reassured me that my memory had its normal (for my age) robustness and not to worry. Still, I thought about the kids and decided maybe some things should be written down.

My Mom died in 2002, and it wasn’t even 5 minutes until we had questions that only she could answer.  It’s over 15 years now since she died, and I still miss her every day.  What I also miss is all the knowing she had…all the history, the memories, the funny and sad stories.  She lived an incredible life, triumphant through extreme poverty, resilient after failure and loss, tenacious in making a home for us all.  She was a lioness with cubs.

Sometimes we come too late to the realization that the generations before had great insight.  I learned so much from my Mom, but could have learned more.  Now, my memories of her, and the stories she told, and the wisdom she imparted are a precious treasure to me.  You will hear her voice in mine.

Mom and me

Mom was born during the Great Depression.  She was excruciatingly poor growing up.  Yet, she pushed through her circumstances.  I want to write about her.  And I want to write about so many things…God, people, culture, beauty, family, lessons learned and lessons still to be learned.

All my adult life, people have told me “You should write a book.”  Maybe because of our travels, or maybe because of something else…I’m not really quite sure.  It’s my Mom who should have written, but she would never.  She wouldn’t think she had anything to say that should be memorialized in print.  I am of a different generation.  I am writing…because of her…and for me…and hopefully for another generation.  We’ll see.

Wednesday Worship – Place In This World – Michael W. Smith

Photo Credit: Slideplayer

God has arranged each one of the parts in the body just as he wanted.  And if they were all the same part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.  The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  On the contrary, those parts of the body that are weaker are indispensable.  And those parts of the body that we consider less honorable, we clothe these with greater honorGod has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable,  so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other.  So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:18-23a, 24-27

Have you ever felt out of place? Awkwardly fitting in your family or workplace or church? 1 Corinthians 12 gives us a beautiful picture of how God intended for each of us to have a place. Within the Body of Christ. Where we belong, where we are known, and where we should magnificently fit.

A dear friend of ours, Dave Lyle, is a storyteller. He was our dad’s pastor, and he treated Dad as a good friend. When Dad wasn’t able to attend church anymore, Pastor Dave would still visit and catch him up on news and pray with him and for him. Dad never had to wonder if he had a place in this world, even in his 90s, when his pastor came around.

With his permission, you will read a story Pastor Dave recently shared on his Facebook page. It says a lot about how important it is to communicate to people that they matter…just as they are.

***HE’S NOT YOUR TYPICAL GUEST AT CHURCH, BUT HE’S WELCOME ANYTIME***

Roger came to worship with us, again, at church last night. He’s our friend and happens to be homeless. He looks the part and acts the part, although not dangerous at all. He’s actually a very sweet guy, and smart. Of course, there are reasons he is homeless, and we are not going to change it by analyzing, or preaching. And he won’t take money. I don’t think he needs it- he seems to always have a new project going, and the ability to fund it. Anyhow, I’ve stopped trying to explain Roger to other guests who show up at the same time. I talk with him as a friend, shake his hand, hug him if he will let me. It seems that Roger thinks he is normal, and the rest of us are maybe a bit strange but he loves us anyhow. And he keeps coming back. One time I set out to find his home place, searched far and wide and finally found him living in a dilapidated van behind a warehouse. He was proud to show me the dwellings- his bed, how he cooked and stored things. As he understood it, he was the security for all the businesses in the vicinity. I guess it was a nice gig?

I am learning more with every passing day that, foremost, you are to love people. Yes, change them if you can, lead them to Lord if you can. But before and beyond all the heavy stuff, consider him or her to be a person of value who is worth the time and effort to just hang out with and to get to know. And so, Roger fascinates me. He puzzles me and frustrates me, and I like him.

When worship was over and it was time to leave, he walked by a table at the front of the sanctuary and saw some baby bottles. I told him they were being used to raise money for a local medical clinic for expectant mothers. He made some catty statement about how they waste the money, rambled on with incoherency for about 30 seconds- typical Roger stuff. And then he pulled out a crumpled ten dollar bill and stuffed it in the bottle. You just gotta like the guy! – Pastor Dave Lyle

Now Pastor Dave is probably never going to lead a megachurch or write a bestseller (although he could!)…BUT! He has shown himself a the best sort of servant of God in loving people as they are, seeing their value in the Lord’s eyes. He makes a place for them in the church and points them to Jesus.

Worship with me to an old 1991 Michael W. Smith song Place in this World:

The wind is moving
But I am standing still
A life of pages
Waiting to be filled
A heart that’s hopeful
A head that’s full of dreams
But this becoming
Is harder than it seems
Feels like I’m

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world

If there are millions
Down on their knees
Among the many
Can you still hear me?
Hear me asking
Where do I belong?
Is there a vision
That I can call my own?
Show me I’m

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world*

I’m thankful for all those through my life who, led by the Holy Spirit, made a place for me. Often, our first glimpse of God is through the love of another – a parent, a teacher, a pastor, a friend.

Tauren Wells‘ song “Known” gives us another look at what it’s like to belong…truly belong…and to be fully known and loved by God.

Songwriters: Ethan Hulse, Tauren Wells, Jordan Sapp

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”  Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

Fully Known and Fully Loved – Jill Tracey

“Lord, love through us. Give us an appreciation for every member of the Body of Christ…as we have seen in the friendships of our brother Dave…with Roger…and our Dad. Then, God, help us remember how You gave each of us a place in Your Kingdom. Show us how to give space to others…those that You bring into our lives…to love them and see them as You do…fully known and fully loved.”

*Lyrics to Place in this World – Songwriters: Wayne Kirkpatrick, Michael W. Smith and Amy Lee Grant

Michael W. Smith Reflects on the Power of a Song – 35 #1 Hits Later – Pam Windsor

5 Friday Faves – Giving, Michael Jr., Classical Guitar Heat, Painter Karen Garner, and Fall

The week has drawn to a close. It’s Friday evening here…and I’m enjoying the quiet of an unfilled block of time. Hope you’re having a time of refreshing as well. Here are five of my favorite finds this week.

1) Giving – We have beggars in our city. It’s heartbreaking really. Often, they stand at busy intersections holding up cardboard signs. When the traffic light is green, I just buzz through, noting them but not having to confront need or the tension to respond. It’s when the traffic light is red, and I’m idling, essentially within reach of this person who has laid out his need very publicly. I know there is a charity that does more harm than good…so it’s not something I want to do. Don’t want to give wrong. Still I am driven to respond. A few years back, author Frank Sonnenberg wrote a compelling piece on giving. Fortunately, I discovered it via social media this week. It’s entitled: Giving: The Most Important Lesson in Life. It’s really a very simple message. Essentially, the message is to have an intention toward giving. We can learn to give well and appropriately…unless our hearts have grown hard from the enormous need around us. Don’t let it happen!

Giving: The Most Important Lesson in Life

2) Michael Jr. – One of our absolute favorite comedians is Michael Jr.

Photo Credit: Fathom Events

He is touring right now and also has a comedy film out – both entitled More Than Funny. He is just deeply engaged with his audience and with real life. One of the things he talked about in the film (saw it this week) is the whole setup to humor and its punchline. So meaningful how Michael Jr. talks about how life can be setup in order to deliver unexpected joy to other people. It’s our focus…do we operate in such a way that it’s all about us, or do we setup an environment where people can actually help each other intentionally? Odd to have such a meaningful message in the middle of a comedy act! So Michael Jr. [Watch this for the explanation of his “Be the Punchline”.]

Punchliners

3) Classical Guitar Heat – Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has posted a couple of his classical guitar arrangements. One is the theme from the TV show Dr. Who.

The other is his rendition of the theme from the video game Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.

You don’t have to be an enthusiast of either show or video game to love these piece. Nathan brings the heat.

4) Painter Karen GarnerKaren Garner is a friend of mine…an old friend. We have known each other since teen-aged Karen caught the eye of a friend of mine at a youth retreat. They married; we went overseas. Most of our friendship we haven’t lived in the same city, but we are friends. She is a friend and an artist. Years ago I commissioned a work from her for a cancer center in Tennessee. Since then she has painted hundreds of pieces. Her art has been on our walls all these many years and through all the countries we’ve lived. She somehow infuses joy in her art; I’ve always loved it.Photo Credit: “For Pat, the Prince of Tides” – Karen Burnette Garner

Karen was interviewed recently and featured in this article. It’s a quick read and introduces you to Karen…and her beautiful work.

Art and Life with Karen Burnette Garner

5) Fall – This season is my favorite. The colors; the smells; the tastes. It’s the blissful in-between – after the long languishing summer and before the crisp cottaged winter. It’s the season of long walks and short days. Of an early morning fire in the fireplace. Of pink sunsets and fields of pumpkins. Of a myriad of hot beverages and pies we only eat this time of year. It’s Fall…and I love it. How about you?Photo Credit: Humbert Wolfe, AZ Quotes

Happy Weekend! Be gentle with each other…and yourself.

Bonuses:

Quote: “No matter what happens in your life, you can start over.”Keith AndersonPhoto Credit: Keith Anderson, Facebook

Exclusive Interview with Matt Maher – Alanna Boudreau

One of the bloggers I follow – Taking Route – has a series on making a home, as an expat, in various countries. These pieces are so fun…taking the needs of the family into account and blending both the beauty of one’s home country and that of one’s host country. The “global home” below is Kenya but there are 31 total homes to peruse – enjoy!

This Global Home | Day 5: Kenya

Diner Food – “Food that pleases since 1929” – Majestic DIner – a favorite diner in AtlantaPhoto Credit: Marc Merlin, Facebook

Monday Morning Moment – Thriving Under a Narcissistic Boss and a Not-so-random Inspiring Other Story

If you can spell narcissism, then you have made a study of it somewhere along the way. Possibly trying to figure out how to work successfully with a narcissistic colleague or boss…

[Hard topic for a Monday morning but you will have a sweet story at the end.]

Many years ago, in nursing school, the term narcissistic personality disorder came to my awareness during our coursework on mental health. It is defined as “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

Someone can be narcissistic in temperament and behavior without having a full-on personality disorder.

10 Signs Your Boss or Manager Is a Narcissist – Preston Ni

The experience of having a narcissistic boss or coworker is not mine personally. In fact, this dark topic isn’t one I’d prefer to cover…except for an interesting happenstance this past week. So…here we go.

One favorite podcaster you have seen referenced here in the past is Carey Nieuwhof. Last week he published a leadership podcast which showcased a conversation he had with Erwin McManus.

Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast 212: Erwin McManus on How to Spot a Narcissist in Leadership, Overcoming the Need for Approval, and What He Experienced at the Global Leadership Summit 2018

McManus (starting at minute 35 in the podcast) talks about the high incidence of narcissism in top-tier leaders (CEOs, etc). His focus is on megachurch pastors and the battle against pride. His observations were spot-on in many ways. “Humility is best-expressed in a willingness to decentralize power. The more decisions you make, the less humble you are. You can never know you are humble; you can know if you do humble things.”

In Nieuwhof’s shownotes, he highlighted these points by McManus:

A Narcissist has:

A high need for praise because the world needs to be about him.

A view that there is no one in the world who can do something better than she can.

A Narcissist doesn’t:

Ask for help because he doesn’t believe anyone else could ever solve a problem that he can’t solve.

Take risks because if she fails it will completely violate her identity.

Accept responsibility for failure, because in his mind the failure was someone else’s fault.

McManus’ take on narcissism was so insightful, I did something rare – publishing a comment on the podcast. Somehow that comment, commending Carey for such an insightful interview on narcissism, got swallowed up in other comments on how hurtful their associations with Mr. McManus had been. Where my original comment went is a mystery, but as others commented, bouncing off my own, I was drawn into their pain.

Whether or not Mr. McManus struggles himself with narcissism is not the focal point here. As I listened to the podcast again, he never denies his own particular bent. I don’t know him so I can’t say. As a successful mega-church pastor, he, like others, has had his critics (covered in another Nieuwhof podcast).

What is clear, in this interview and the comments below, is the huge emotional cost to those who come under such a leader.

5 Signs You Might Be a “Christian Narcissist”

Leadership coach Lolly Daskal has written an empowering piece for those who work for a narcissistic boss. Daskal poses two options for those employees – either quit or “stay and deal”.  Here’s how to stay, in 10 points of action, according to Daskal:

  1. Understand the source – Quite probably your boss is not going to improve. You have to start with that understanding.
  2. Respond, don’t react. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a conflict. The narcissistic boss has skills on how to stay on top of any situation. Learn to respond in a way that “keeps you in control of options and choices. If you feel yourself reacting, step away and regain back your control.”
  3. Set clear boundaries. These are for your own benefit. They are a reminder to you of what is right and reasonable in terms of your own operations. Boundaries are essential. You set them for yourself.
  4. Don’t allow them to get under your skin. “Use emotional intelligence to manage your thoughts and actions…remember that any cruel behavior and words reflect badly on the narcissist, not you.”
  5. Don’t feed the beast. “The more you feed the bad behavior the worse it will become. Narcissists surround themselves with only two types of people: those who enable them and those who bite their tongue. Anyone who doesn’t fit into one of these two categories will certainly be fired or banished.”
  6. Don’t empower those who don’t deserve it. “Refuse to follow those you don’t admire, those you don’t trust, and those who lie. Just do your job to the best of your ability and with respect, honor and integrity.”
  7. Fact check everything. Wisdom is to always confirm the facts… especially as far as your work and your work relationships are concerned. No matter what your boss tells you about a situation or a coworker or other work team, as much as you can, be sure you have the facts…before you go too far in your own assessment or putting together a solution.
  8. Don’t argue. The last thing you want to do is argue with a narcissist, because everything you say and do will be held against you. Don’t argue or engage but instead make them invisible–the last thing a narcissist wants.”
  9. Don’t be provoked. Keep your cool. Stay calm.
  10. Stay focused on what’s important. “Working with a narcissist boss means a constant pull to play by their rules and for everything to revolve around them, with no accountability or responsibility when things go wrong. It’s easy to feel angry and frustrated. That’s when you have to take a step back and reconnect with your purpose in being there.” – Lolly Daskal

A Mild Case of Narcissism? – Dana Robert Hicks

As a writer, topics can almost force themselves to be written. I wrestled with this one because maybe it isn’t relevant to most of you….which would be a very good thing. Unfortunately, this topic wouldn’t let go. Then last night, I came across a piece written sometime ago by Joni Eareckson Tada, an advocate worldwide for persons with disabilities. At 17, she became a quadriplegic after a diving accident. That was over 50 years ago.Photo Credit: CBN News

This incredibly gifted and giving woman is the epitome of a person without a bent toward narcissism. She ever points to God and others … empowers others…gives others a voice. She has an accurate understanding of herself, honest about her strengths, weaknesses, and limits. She is diligent and determined to have a positive impact on the lives of those around her.*

[*See article by Carey Nieuwhof below.]

If you’re struggling with figuring out how to thrive under a narcissistic boss, either get out or figure it out. Lolly Daskal’s advice and that of others can help…as well as the refreshing stories of folks like Joni. The light of a life well-lived, no matter the circumstance, can break through any dark place we find ourselves. We can all aim for a life well-lived whatever our work situation, for sure.

Postscript:

“If I were to nail down suffering’s main purpose, I’d say it’s the textbook that teaches me who I really am.” – Joni Eareckson Tada

Whatever our struggle with a difficult boss, we can take that struggle and let it shine a light on our own issues; our own bent and character. If you feel blocked at work somehow, you can respond in bitterness or betterment. You can take heart that learning what being blocked does to your heart and mindset moves you to an understanding of how to grow in ways that no one can block.

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of My Diving AccidentJoni Eareckson Tada

Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni and Friends

Joni’s Favorite Quotes on Suffering (We would do well to make copies of these and put them at eye-level at our work stations. Perspective.)

What Self-Aware Leaders Know that Others Don’t – Carey Nieuwhof

Worship Wednesday – Son of David, Have Mercy on Me – Ghost Ship

Photo Credit: Shelly Duffer, Bobby Nicolescu

They came to Jericho. And as he [Jesus] was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting by the road.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Many warned him to keep quiet, but he was crying out all the more, “Have mercy on me, Son of David!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called the blind man and said to him, “Have courage! Get up; he’s calling for you.” He threw off his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

Then Jesus answered him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Rabboni,” the blind man said to him, “I want to see.”

Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has saved you.” Immediately he could see and began to follow Jesus on the road. Mark 10:46-52

Photo Credit: Free Bible Images

On Sunday, our pastor Cliff preached on the persistent faith of blind Bartimaeus. As you read in the passage above, this is a gripping story of a man who knew darkness too well. He also must have heard of the man Jesus. In this moment, in close proximity to Jesus, he cried out for help.

He must have sounded like a mad man in his desperation to be heard. Those around him tried to shush him, but he would not be silenced. He knew help was almost within reach…in the person of Christ. I can just imagine the pitch of his voice rising higher and higher, not caring if he sounded the fool. He was so focused on Jesus hearing him that he had to be told that Jesus had indeed beckoned him.

When he was brought near, Jesus asked him that incredible question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“I want to see,” gasped Bartimaeus. I want to see!

…and Jesus gave him his sight.

[Catch Cliff’s sermon in its entirety via this week’s podcast. So powerful.]

We have times when we cry out to God to help us see. Or maybe we just want to see without having to face what keeps us blind…if we’re honest. Our God is a confessional God. When we are willing to say out loud what is going on in the darkness of our hearts, He will take the scales off our eyes.

Eyes opened, we will begin to see who God truly is, and who we are apart from Him. We will see clearly our need for Him and our need for one another. What comes after is what happened to Bartimaeus. He left the side of the road where he was bound in his blindness, and followed Jesus on the road.

When we can really see, there is nowhere else we would want to be.

Worship with me to the Christian band Ghost Ship‘s Son of David:

The blind won’t gain their sight by opening their eyes.

A king is coming to His city, and crowds around are following,
If I could see, I would follow too.

He heals the sick with His hands, as He walks by, they reach for Him;
If I could see, I would reach out too.

The blind won’t gain their sight by opening their eyes.

Son of David, have mercy on me! (x2) Son of David, I want to see!
Son of David, have mercy!

I cannot leave this gate since I cannot see my way, but I can stand and call His name.

No I could never leave this gate but I will stand and shout His name, and I will count on His grace!

Son of David, have mercy on me! (x2) Son of David, I want to see! Son of David, have mercy!

I was blind – now I see! Jesus saved me!*

Photo Credit: FaithHub

After Cliff finished the sermon on Bartimaeus, he had an altar call. For those unfamiliar with that, it is a call to action on the part of any in the church who sense their need for Jesus in that moment. It’s an opportunity to privately and publicly “get right” with God – dealing with some hard thing in our hearts, and setting a different course in our lives. This sort of thing seems unusual in the church today, but it is fitting. When we recognize our need, and realize that Jesus can, and wants to, meet us at that need…what would hold us back? Bartimaeus gives us an example of deep desperation and unbridled desire to get to Jesus. When he did, he was rewarded with sight…and a Savior.

Even as a believer, it is too easy to turn a blind eye…on our sin, on our neighbor, on the world. We could all use an altar call from time to time, where we shed our timidity, or self-importance and pride, and run to Jesus…

…and, like Bartimaeus…just keep walking, with our eyes on Him.

[Truth: I met that altar call with a heart deeply moved, a mind set on confession, and feet frozen in concrete. When we think of Heaven, God’s winsomeness and our eyes clear (1 Corinthians 13:12), every pretense will be gone. Silly self-consciousness won’t even be a memory. Maybe one day, in our church gathered, this side of Heaven, we will become “a people marked by confession”. Thanks, Cliff, for leading us in that way.]

*Lyrics to Son of David by Ghost Ship – written by Cam Huxford IV and Shay Carlucci

The Blind Won’t Gain Their Sight… – Shelly Duffer

5 Friday Faves – Pursuing Truth, Giving Voice to the Voiceless, Connecting Skill, Biomedical Treatment for Autism, and an Antique Store Experience

Friday has come…and gone. Finishing up this Faves on an early Sunday morning. Summer has wound down. School starts here in a week. Family visits. New babies. Friends back in town. Lots going on. Still…wanted to close the week out with my faves…and you.

1) Pursuing Truth – Deception is a problem of the culture that can become very personal. When something is spoken through public media as if it’s true, or someone we know speaks with confidence and authority, we are tempted to believe it is true…without weighing its validity. This is not always the case…in fact, too often we must sift through motives and spin to get to the meat of the matter.

From the time our children were little, we have tried to teach them how to sort out what is true. In the culture today, celebrities opt out of critical thinking by saying such things as “your truth”.

There is truth. How can it be colored so many individual ways?

I’m very thankful for the opportunity for table talk even today with our adult children. Sitting over dinner discussing faith, politics, and society…along with music, film, babies, and the latest technology.

I’m also grateful for friends who can be worlds apart on some ideologies but are bound together by relationship. They teach me so much. In fact, I have sought out some friendships, in the beginning, for those very differences. These are people whose passion and determination in living their passions. They help me make sure I haven’t pigeon-holed a certain worldview without considering what is winsome about it.

Nothing has changed about my belief in a good God…that deepens as I get older.  He will answer for Himself one day, as He chooses. On what may have confused any of us, in our human frailty, about both His justice and mercy. I will also answer one day about my own grasp of that and how it influenced my dealings with others.

I do believe that God has given us a guide for life in the Scriptures. I don’t understand it all, but I would not be so bold as to throw out some parts while I cling to others. Absolutely sure He can protect His own story through the ages…from getting lost in translation.

Anyway, what do you think about pursuing truth? It doesn’t happen without intentionality. We are being blasted with “someone’s truth” most all the time. Growing weary of pursuing truth would not go well for us.

Pursuing the Truth Requires Modesty About OurselvesMona Charen

Monday Morning Moment – the Essence and Ethics of Spin in Our Work, Our Politics, and Our Community – Deb Mills

2) Giving Voice to the Voiceless – Two friends and I are doing a study together, along with many others online. It is  Arise: a Study on God’s Heart for Justice. Easy to do – very thought-provoking and convicting.Photo Credit: IF Gathering

It’s a six-week look at God’s heart for justice and came at just the right time for me. Some of us are deeply engaged with turning stories of injustice into hope and healing. I am not one of those but so want to be.Photo Credit: IF Gathering

3) Connecting Skill – Benjamin P. Hardy is a writer that I follow. He is an organizational psychologist and writes on motivation and productivity. This past week, his post had an intriguing title: The Most Important Skill for Interacting with People . Definitely worth a read, but I will also tell you what that skill is:

Compassion/Consideration

Photo Credit: Carl Richards, New York Times

“If you treat every person you meet like they are dealing with a serious challenge, you’ll be right more than half the time. If you entreat people with love, kindness, empathy, and discernment, they will appreciate you so much.

You could change someone’s life today. You could potentially save someone’s life today. You could also indirectly change countless other lives through the ripple effects of making just one person feel heard and seen.

Send the text to a friend.

Make that call to a loved one.

Apologize to a co-worker or employee.

Wrote William Shakespeare, ‘They do not love that do not show their love.'”Benjamin P. Hardy

The Most Important Skill for Interacting with People Benjamin P. Hardy

Ask Yourself: What Burdens Is That Other Person Carrying?Carl Richards

4) Biomedical Treatment for Autism – [This is fascinating to me, but I have some idea how hard this could be to read by parents trying to make decisions about what’s right for their child with autism and the rest of their family. So please bear this in mind, while you read.]

During a conversation this week with a young mom who has a child diagnosed with autism (Autism Spectrum Disorder), my concept of food as intervention was rocked. In her determination to rid her child of the ravages of autism, she is following the counsel of a renowned local pediatrician,  Dr. Mary Megson.  Her approach with autistic children includes intensive testing of biological factors and then applying biomedical measures as appropriate for each child’s findings.

I’m not going into the specifics, but my friend has changed up her child’s diet and has also added a long list of supplements each day. Who would even imagine that giving cod liver oil to a child would have impact on autism? I know her sweet child and the changes I’ve seen just in the last few months are remarkable. The video below captures what another mom did for her son and the difference it made. [Don’t be overwhelmed by all the interventions…every family must decide for themselves what they can believe and manage/afford in the care of their child with autism.]

From my friend’s experience and my wonder at this strange disorder, this type intervention is definitely something to consider…for a season, for the sake of a child. There are just so many diets out there, so I can’t imagine how parents make their decisions. Hopefully the benefits outweigh what can be very isolating and divisive between people who care about each other.

Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes – Ronald E. – one father’s story

5) An Antique Store Experience – This week I was home visiting my family in Georgia. My sister-in-law is an amazing crafts-person – taking dreary scuffed-up (albeit much loved by someone in the past) old furniture and bringing them to life again. She knows all the best antique shops where others do the same sorts of re-purposing and “up-cycling”.

[Someone took a tv cabinet and made it into a beautiful display piece. Do you see the doors of the cabinet were made into the shelving? And how about an artsy chandelier made from bed springs?!]

[Chenille takes me back to childhood before our comfy modern fabrics…when chenille was the softest bed cover to wrap up in.]

RVA Antiques – a Happy Place – Deb Mills

Saturday Short – Sweet Plans for a Day in River City – #RVA – to Celebrate That Lovely in Your Life – Deb Mills

That’s a wrap on this week’s favorite finds. Please favor us with some of yours in the Comments section below. Have a splendid end-of-summer weekend. Be gentle with yourself and with those you meet…you just never know what it will mean.

Bonuses:

Beyond the Guitar – “I’m in a Video Game” – Nathan Mills

YouTube Video – The Chosen – This Movie Changed the Way I Feel About Christmas – The Shepherd Pilot Episode – Don’t miss the ending.

Quote:

Unhinged. My choice word to describe how I’ve felt all week culminating in a Friday to which I awoke with my eyes being super swollen. I’m wearing an outfit I’m 99% sure I already wore this week (hey, I blame it on being European for a short season & go ahead and judge me as though you’ve never done the same). I’ve slept horribly all week because of worry and stress waking up around 4.

I decided I was going to redeem Friday, eat a croissant, have good coffee, and read a book. Please note the weird lighting and spilled coffee in the background. Because this is actually my life.

The book I’m reading is about a surgeon who during WW2 lived in China and served the Lord and the people there until his premature death. A friend asked me where and why I find books like this and suggested I read something lighter (sometimes I do). This morning it hit me that I know the answer why.

Gravity.

The gravity of a life lived before the Lord in a selfless, sacrificial way calls into reckoning my frivolity and selfishness. I need gravity because far too often I am unhinged and need to be reminded that who I am in Christ, swollen eyes/outfit/sleepless soul/etc., is enough because it doesn’t depend on me. God takes my unhinged-ness and allows me to cast my burdens on him.

And I’m working on it. Praise God. – Taryn Blocker, with permission

3 Ways Senior Leaders Create a Toxic CultureRon Carucci

The Dangers of Distracted ParentsErika Kristakis

Photo Credit: Housekeeping 101, Facebook

Photo Credit: Marianne Wink, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine” – My Story About This Song

Photo Credit: New Release Today

The film I Can Only Imagine debuted in the Spring of this year. It’s the story of how a young man, Bart Millard, came to compose one of the most beautiful poignant songs written in recent years.

Millard is the lead singer for the Christian band MercyMe. The song I Can Only Imagine was inspired by his own faith walk and the death of his father to cancer. The lyrics express the wonder at what Heaven will be like for us when our time comes. Photo Credit: To Save a Life

The film featuring this song chronicles Millard’s early life with an angry, abusive father. Bart hated his father, and although he was sure God could forgive his father, Bart believed he himself never would.

Bart Millard: ‘I Can Only Imagine’ Was Born From a Life of Abuse – Jenny Rapson

It is a powerful story that resonates with many of us. My biological father (not this Dad) wasn’t physically violent toward me but he was emotionally abusive in his neglect and indifference toward us four children. Our older brother may have experienced worse abuse from our dad but he never talked about it. What makes me wonder is how angry he was as an adult. My brother died a few years ago, finally beginning to heal out of decades of bitterness and rage…just before he died.

This song and film, birthed out of a childhood marred by violence, remind me of how good God is and how He works healing even in the worst of situations.

My mom loved this song. I didn’t know its significance to her until right before her death in 2002. We were living overseas the year the song came out (2001, and I don’t remember even hearing it until Mom asked a friend to sing it for her, just days before she died. After her funeral, as we returned to “normal”, it seemed I heard that song every day for months. It had become wildly popular, winning two GMA Dove awards, and successfully crossing over to pop/country charts. That connection with her, day in and day out, helped me to grieve and heal the loss of the woman I loved most in the world. . Imagining her life in Heaven was very good for me…then and now.

Years later, when my older brother died, I heard the song again in an odd situation. We were visiting Dad, in the house where I grew up. My brother lived with them for many years, and I went into his bedroom. He had been gone for a few weeks at that time. There was an old-timey, pale blue box radio in the bathroom he used. I switched it on just to see what station he listened to. It was a Christian station which was strange because, although he was a Christian, he wasn’t into “churchy stuff”. The song that was playing when I turned on that radio was “I Can Only Imagine”. There…in a sacred moment, missing my brother, the Lord comforted me again…with this amazing song…and message.

Worship with me please.

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine

Yeah

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine when that day comes
And I find myself standing in the sun
I can only imagine when all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you
I can only imagine, yeah
I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you

I can only imagine*

Just this week, I saw the film for the first time…in the living room, lights dimmed, with sweet family. Some in my close circle of family and friends don’t rush to watch “Christian” films because, they say, they are too amateurish and trite. Not this one. Beautifully filmed, raw dialogue between Bart and his father, layer upon layer of brokenness. Then…the miracle of healing. Of God piercing through the pain and bringing beauty out of ugliness. Reconciling…first with Him…and then with each other.

See the film. Listen to Bart sing his own story of wondering about Heaven…and then let all that settle around you as it has me so many times…just the thought of what Heaven will be like…seeing my Mom again…my brother…others who have gone ahead…and especially the God of this universe…the One who saved me…the One who saved Bart’s Dad and Bart, and then the One gave Bart grace to forgive.

*Lyrics to I Can Only Imagine Written by Bart Millard

YouTube Video – Bart Millard Reveals the Origin of His Biggest Hit “I Can Only Imagine” – Huckabee

YouTube Video – I Can Only Imagine – “Forgiveness” Scene

YouTube Video – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe