Category Archives: Critical Thinking

Monday Morning Moment – Building Our Own Personal Surge Capacity in the Longer Stretch of COVID-19

Photo Credit: Long Running Living

Let’s talk about capacity! I’m still working on my Monday blog on a Tuesday. One of the fall-outs of COVID.

What started, in our country, as a sprint in March is turning into more a long-distance run. 6 months now. 184 days thus far of physical distancing (for this medically at-risk person).

Remember how we first thought it might be just 2 weeks of quarantining to eradicate the threat? OK, I was super-naive.

We’re becoming weary of certain words and phrases. Pandemic. Unprecedented. Uncharted. New normal. We’re all in this together. Even social distancing. [I was thankful when that phrase went out of vogue and “physical distancing” replaced it. “Social distancing” put a wrongful prescription on its hearers. We need to physical distance, yes, but never social distance. We have learned.]

Remember when surge capacity became a worrisome phrase in our daily news cycle. Will our hospitals have enough ICU beds and ventilators to properly care for the rising numbers of persons with grave cases of COVID? That was the fear. We heard the daily troubling reports from New York state officials. Those reports were heard, and hundreds of ventilators were sent, as well as the provision of field hospitals, even the arrival of a huge hospital ship.  Peak hospitalizations with COVID have passed for now. Surge capacity tested and proven ample.

Why does this matter?

Each of us has our own surge capacity (related to stress, trauma, loss). During COVID, we are all having it tested. Some more than others. I think of parents trying to juggle work, child care, and monitoring schooling. Teachers preparing in-class lessons and teaching remotely as well in the various hybrid programs. Essential workers. First responders. Hospital personnel.

Here is a general definition of capacity-building. It is where we are.

Capacity-building is defined as the “process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations and communities need to survive, adapt, and thrive in a fast-changing world.” An essential ingredient in capacity-building is transformation that is generated and sustained over time from within; transformation of this kind goes beyond performing tasks to changing mindsets and attitudes. – United Nations Academic Impact

Remember when we first started experiencing COVID (at least in the news)? We had big plans for the physical distancing and working remotely and the time we would recoup in that experience. We would take a college course, learn a new language, renovate the house, or declutter our lives.

Then we were surprised at the sluggishness that we encountered. The dullness. The quiet that gradually turned into isolation.

We mentally prepared for a sprint, but the rules changed. We had to change how we ran to set our minds and bodies for a longer run.

Science journalist Tara Haelle recently posted an excellent piece on human surge capacity. “We need to recognize that we’re grieving multiple losses while managing the ongoing impact of trauma and uncertainty. The malaise so many of us feel, a sort of disinterested boredom, is common in research on burnout, Masten says. But other emotions accompany it: disappointment, anger, grief, sadness, exhaustion, stress, fear, anxiety — and no one can function at full capacity with all that going on.”

[Her article is one of a collection of three articles at Medium.com on capacity, power surge, zoom fatigue, and workplace diversity and inclusion.]

Haelle writes in detail on our surge capacity and how we can endure and actually build capacity for this season of prolonged uncertainty. Her main points follow (read her piece for greater detail).

  • Accept that life is different right now
  • Expect less from yourself
  • Recognize the different aspects of grief
  • Experiment with “both-and” thinking
  • Look for activities, new and old, that continue to fulfill you
  • Focus on maintaining and strengthening important relationships
  • Begin slowly building your resilience bank account

We don’t want to fall victim to what seemed like it would be a sprint but has turned into a marathon. Organizational psychologist and professor Adam Grant tweeted wisdom about the problem of becoming sluggish or judging that in others. [I do disagree that we’re all socially awkward now…just pointing to his Tweet.]

Photo Credit: Twitter, Adam M. Grant

Moving into the 7th month of COVID experience, we are making decisions on how to better maneuver. Still committed to safe practices but re-engaging in life with people we love…people whose influence and very presence we have missed in these physically distanced days.

Life is precious. There is a balance in what is real and how we can build capacity to meet that reality. Otherwise life becomes something less. We know what’s working and what’s not. If not, we can counsel with each other. I say we go for it…stretching ourselves out for the long distance run, bringing all those we can along with us.

Forgive the “motivational speechiness” – it’s what happens when I think too long on something and yet lack the answers. Recognition, desire and hope all together birth action…so let’s get after it!

Please post in Comments what is working in your life to build capacity. See you on the road.

[Postscript: The image below is one sort of those “both-and” situations Haelle prescribes. We as parents teach our children had to be resourceful and responsible in hard times, and we also teach them how they might make the world a kinder place for us all.]Photo Credit: The Purposeful Parenting Movement, Facebook

I’m Listening – Talk Has the Power to Save Lives – Radio Show

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s Batman Theme, The Good Ones, Some Favorite Thinkers, The Human Library, and “This Is Your Time”

Lightning fast read. Thanks for stopping by.

1) Beyond the Guitar’s Batman Theme – Nathan Mills posted two arrangements this week – super nice for his fans and community.

The Batman Teaser – film scheduled for release October, 2021

Plus this one:

Brawl Stars

2) The Good Ones – Let’s celebrate those “good ones” in our lives. Country artist Gabby Barrett was inspired by her husband Cade Foehner) to write The Good Ones.

YouTube Video – The Good Ones – Official Video (watch it to the end – sweet story of a couple dealing with her paralysis).

Your good one may be a spouse…or it could include a parent or friend. Thank God, for those who love us well. May we love well also.

3) Some Favorite Thinkers – Fake news abounds these days. Social media gurus don’t deny it. In fact, documentaries are being produced about how we are being manipulated by news and social media makers – The Twisted Truth and The Social Dilemma are two.

As conversations heat up about politics, racial unrest, and COVID (heading toward the US Presidential election), we should check our news sources for where we get our opinions on all the above. Even if we try to sample a mix of liberal and conservative sources, we still have to wonder if what we hear is true. How deep does news and political bias go?

We need to seek out thinkers who themselves are burdened by the state of our streets, our politics and policies, and the next generation. Just thinking we’re right and resting on those laurels will no get us to a better place. Reasoning, thinking deeply, listening, talking together (especially with those with whom we don’t necessarily agree)…we need people who will help guide us through to higher understanding and healthier actions than we see around us.

Glenn Loury and Coleman Hughes are two of those men who currently influence my thinking. You can find them at least weekly in some conversation on their own podcasts or others. Blogging Heads is one of my favorite platforms.

Another fascinating person (on Twitter and his/her own blog) is @EthicalSkeptic. I’m not smart enough to understand most of what he says, but it gives pause (especially related to COVID).

The thing about thinkers…you may not always agree with them but what they say can be a check of your own thinking. Are you teachable? Are you listening? Are you willing to consider?

Three, among the many Christian thinkers I follow these days, are Scott Sauls, Karen Swallow Prior, and Jackie Hill Perry.

Who do you follow? Listen to? Read?

4) The Human Library– Twenty years ago, this non-profit was established in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Human Library was designed to give people an opportunity to just tell their stories to other people. For the purpose of understanding, inclusion, and dealing with prejudice or bias. From what I can gather from the website and this Facebook page, people can gather in a library environment and, instead of reading books found there, they share and listen to life stories. The people are “the books”. I want to know more about this…maybe even figure out how to create such an environment or event.Photo Credit: Facebook, Wieteke Koolhof, Facebook

5) “This Is Your Time”  – The recently deceased actor Chadwick Boseman spoke at the commencement service at Howard University, his alma mater, in 2018. He was magnificent. Boseman told stories about his life – powerful stories of his experiences as a student, a young black man, and a believer in God. He quoted the Bible ( Jeremiah 29:11), about God’s plans for our lives. He urged the graduates to steer clear of victimhood but to move toward their purpose with faith and fortitude.

“…Sometimes you need to get knocked down before you can really figure out what your fight is and how you need to fight it…When I dared to challenge the systems that would relegate us to victims and stereotypes with no clear historical backgrounds, no hopes or talents, when I questioned that method of portrayal, a different path opened up for me — the path to my destiny. When God has something for you, it doesn’t matter who stands against it…God will move someone that is holding you back away from the door and put someone there who will open it for you…if it’s meant for you. I don’t know what your future is, but if you are willing to take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes, the one that’s ultimately proven to have more victory, more glory, then you will not regret it. Now…this is your time.

[In the tweet below, you’ll find the closing comments of this speech.]

YouTube Video – Chadwick Boseman’s Howard University 2018 Commencement Speech – 7 minutes into the video is the beginning of his 28-minute powerful speech.

Bonuses:

6 Ways We Make Life Harder Than It Needs to Be – Paul Tripp

De-Escalating a Conflict – Scott Sauls

Are Christians More Confident in Politics Than in Christ? – Eugene Park

Coronavirus: Tests ‘Could Be Picking Up Dead Virus’ – Rachel Schraer

Photo Credit: Of Verona, Facebook

7 years ago, a friend of ours taught English in China for a year. She offered names of her American friends as ways her students could address each other so they could learn name pronunciation, too. This beautiful little girl picked my name. I wonder where she is today and how she’s doing.Photo Credit: Hailey Mullins, Facebook – September 2013

5 Traits of People with High EQ [Emotional Intelligence] – Peter Economy

Worship Wednesday – For Such a Time As This – John G. Elliott

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

The Apostle Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit, penned the instructions above in part of a letter to the Philippian church. He was encouraging the church to deal with a presumed conflict between two of the believers, and then he went on to compel the church to be gentle with each other. Also, he called them not to be anxious but to remember, in everything, to pray with thanksgiving…with the fruit of the glorious peace of God. The “Finally, Brothers….” bit of counsel followed powerfully.

Paul could have been talking to the American church today, in the throes of a contentious political campaign. We as believers agree, for the most part, on Christ and who He is; we do not agree on all things political.

It can get nasty…which is a shame as the world looks on.

Just a couple of days ago, I was drawn into a Facebook conversation with two believer friends, both of whom I know to be gentle, God-fearing people. As more people joined the conversation, it got ugly (you’ve seen and lamented this yourselves, I’m sure). We would never have talked so frankly and harshly in real life.

I pulled out of the conversation….

Not so ironically Philippians 4:8 was our community group’s memory verse for this week.

Pastor writer Scott Sauls, author of A Gentle Answer, addresses the subject of opposing Christian voices in the video below. He states the following: “Three things we all have to have to live in community together are humility, empathy, and putting our life where our mouth is.”

“There’s blood on the hands” of both our parties. Dr. Sauls goes on to talk about how Christians (together, no matter our political party) can come together and “be better at loving the world better than we [government] does” because we put our trust in almighty God and we stand together on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, the born and unborn.

Be encouraged. Press into unity. Pray against division. Forgive one another. Join together to use our collective power (under the authority of Jesus Christ) to make a difference in this troubled world.

John G. Elliott‘s song For Such a Time As This is part of his 1988 album Let All the Thirsty Come. This came to mind as God stirred my heart.

Worship with me if you would:

Each of us was born to hear the holy call

To find our place in God’s unfolding plan

When His voice is heard, it’s glorious to obey

And bear His light and truth to every man

We’re called to be the generation that turns the tide within our nation,

But who will go and who will stand…?

For such a time as this we were born to speak the truth

Anointed words that move the hearts of men

If we are silent now, the Lord will send some other men

Faithful men whose hearts are wholly His

For such a time as this

Each of us was born to know the heart of God

His deep desire to love and to forgive

He does not delight in judgment or in wrath

But calls to all to turn to Him and live.

The words that bring a true repentance

That turn away God’s judgment sentence

Are words that only we can give

For such a time as this we were born to speak the truth

Anointed words that move the hearts of men

If we are silent now, the Lord will send some other men

Faithful men whose hearts are wholly His

For such a time as this

For such a time as this we were born to speak the truth

Anointed words that move the hearts of men

If we are silent now, the Lord will find Himself some other men

Faithful men whose hearts are wholly His

For such a time as this (x3)

In closing,when we read some of the passages (particularly in the Old Testament) which relate to a rebellious people and God’s shaking judgment of His own, they sound strangely familiar to what’s happening now.

…”Fear the Lord your God, and he will rescue you from all your enemies.” However, these nations would not listen but continued observing their former practices. They feared the Lord but also served their idols. Still today, their children and grandchildren continue doing as their ancestors did.2 Kings 17:39-41 (read the whole chapter for excruciating context)

As we see the chaos around us and wonder if a peaceful presidential election is even possible, we must only remember that God has promised He will never leave His people. Even in judgment, He decides what is enough and who executes that judgment. We do not look for saviors in politicians…they are all imperfect. In an odd way, we may be choosing/voting (without the privilege of God’s eyes to see what will come in the future) our “preferred” judgment.

Whatever happens…we must return to the words of our elder brother Paul. We know what we must do – be gentle, don’t be anxious, pray with thanksgiving, rejoice in His peace, and think on what is good…because God is good.

Let’s close on the glorious goodness of God – He is the Overcomer!!

The Saviour: Story of God’s Passion for His People (1994) (majestic choral work – you can find it here in its entirety beginning at minute 9:45 (pick it up at 14:30 with God (powerfully sung by Wintley Phipps) creating Adam.

Take heart, ye children of the Promise
For God will not be mocked
For the Lord will repay,
and His Kingdom remains

Blessed are His children.
Blessed are His covenants
Blessed is His mighty Kingdom
And blessed is the Name of the Lord

Blessed the name of Lord
Blessed the name of Lord
In power, in glory His Kingdom, His Kingdom will come!
His Promise is now and forever and ever Amen! – Kings of the Earth

Let All the Thirsty Come album – John G. Elliott

Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Dave’s Wisdom

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 5

[Adapted from the Archives]

Picture this scenario.

At first, you really liked working with this person. Then, bit by bit, he/she began wearing on you. He is always messing with his phone. Her solution to today’s problem is too labor-intensive. His email responses have become terse. She is late for your meeting. You think, maybe I was wrong about him. He is not the person I thought he was. Maybe, she’s the wrong person on the bus…at least on my bus.

When a relationship begins to deteriorate at work (or home), you are wise to take steps to turn this around as quickly as possible. You could be in a work situation that has been difficult from the outset. It is still possible for you to make inroads in turning that relationship toward a more healthy or positive one. If not altogether, at least from your side. Consider an adage that has had a long and useful run in our family and work.

Your opinion of someone approximates their opinion of you.Dave Mills

There are exceptions, but I have found this to be wise counsel (from my husband, no less) in both personal and professional relationships. When what was a warm, congenial relationship takes a turn toward the negative, you can actually work, from your side, to restore the relationship. Even to take it to a deeper level. It can get more uncomfortable at first, because you have to start with your own thoughts toward that person. How have those thoughts changed?

We send signals to each other – whether we speak or not.

Mom raised us hoping we would be positive, peaceful people – often using the saying from Walt Disney’s film Bambi:

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

Good counsel except for the reality of those conversations that still go on in our heads and color our attitudes, our tone of voice, our preferences, and our decisions.

Let’s say I have an amicable relationship with a colleague, and then something happens. I may not even be aware of it – a misunderstanding, a misconstrued action, an insensitivity unaware. Then a chill develops, or a clear outright dislike. I have a window of opportunity to clear that up. Otherwise, if I don’t act, then a process can begin where I turn around and decide that person is also a jerk and has woefully misjudged me…and off we go.

Remember: This can go both ways. You may have had a few off days with a colleague, and find yourself just not thinking so well of him, then stop it! It’s possible you can keep them from picking up that signal and prevent the relationship from getting more toxic as they decide you’re not so great either.

If I refuse to think ill of another person and discipline myself to be respectful, deferent in my demeanor, and tireless in pursuing understanding, I could restore that relationship. If it doesn’t improve right away, my attitude and actions work for my own benefit and can definitely help rebuild trust with my team members. One day…that relationship may also turn. It’s worth the effort.

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave

Job coach and writer Jon Acuff talks about the four ways we invest in our careers – through skills, character, hustle, and relationships. In an interview with LifeReimagined.com, he had this to say about difficult, or neglected, work relationships:

“Even if you have skills, character and hustle, without relationships, it’s the career version of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Why?”

“If you don’t have relationships, you eventually don’t have people in your life who can tell you the truth about the decisions you’re making. You don’t have people who can tell you no or question you honestly. What I’ve learned is that leaders who can’t be questioned end up doing questionable things.”LifeReimagined.com interview with Jon Acuff

He identifies three types of people in our lives (work or otherwise, really): friends, foes, and advocates. Jon writes in Do Over:

“The best thing to give a foe is distance. We should ignore most foes. The problem of course is that we won’t. If your definition of foe is too loose and is essentially “anyone who kind of bothers me ever,” your job is going to be miserable. If you see people as your adversaries, it’s almost impossible to have a good working relationship with them. The first thing is to understand whether these foes are clueless or calculated. A clueless foe is that person whose behavior encourages you to fail. They are not malicious. They are not trying to make you lose, but with the power of their influence you are. “Bad habits are almost always a social disease – if those around us model and encourage them, we’ll almost always fall prey. Turn ‘accomplices’ into ‘friends’ and you can be two-thirds more likely to succeed.”Jon Acuff, Do Over

I think what Jon says is true. Because of my own worldview and value system (and married to Dave all these years), I don’t think we can just acknowledge there are foes out there and distance ourselves from them. Sometimes, that is virtually impossible to do and still be effective at work. Because what can happen, if we don’t act to keep our own thinking clear, is that we take on some of that “foe-dom” ourselves. Maybe you aren’t going to be bosom buddies with this person, but your own work and other relationships can suffer if you develop bad habits around this person. Better to work on the relationship.

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 6 (2)Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 6

“For no matter what we achieve, if we don’t spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect, we cannot possibly have a great life. But if we spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect – people we really enjoy being on the bus with and who will never disappoint us – then we will almost certainly have a great life, no matter where the bus goes. The people we interviewed from the good-to-great companies clearly loved what they did, largely because they loved who they did it with. – Jim Collins, Good to Great

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 3

For as he thinks within himself, so he is. Proverbs 23:7

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Philippians 4:8

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 2

 Do Over by Jon Acuff

Fourteen Indispensable Leadership Quotes from Jim Collins – Thom Rainer

How to Deal With Difficult Co-workers – Read, keeping in mind that some days you might be the one perceived as difficult.

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 4Photos: Just a few of the men in Dave’s life who required no special work on his part to love and respect…and there are many more. Grateful.

Monday Morning Moment – Chadwick Boseman’s Legacy and Ours

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Shock waves shot around our country and the world at the news of actor and Black Panther superhero Chadwick Boseman‘s death Friday. He was/is a bigger-than-life figure in our culture. [Boseman still “is”. I struggle in using the word “was”.] As we all know now, he had late-stage colon cancer since 2016. That we didn’t know isn’t a surprise given Boseman’s private nature and also the incredible production of 10 of his films from 2016 until now (one of them Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom still to be released). As he fought his battle with cancer at the same time, what grace, focus, and courage he displayed through all the making of those films!

Chadwick Boseman, ‘Black Panther’ Star, Dies at 43

Boseman died on Jackie Robinson Day – August 28, 2020 – at the age of 43.

This weekend, violence raged on in our cities as we grieve not only the senseless deaths and woundings of recent weeks…but now the loss of Chadwick Boseman. I spent my free time this weekend studying his life through his films, interviews, and the words of others who knew him well.

‘Black Panther’ Director Ryan Coogler Pens Emotional, Beautiful Tribute to Chadwick Boseman – Ryan Parker, Borys Kit

Boseman was very commited to raising the opportunity and quality of life for fellow black people. I couldn’t find where he supported the riots that our country is enduring right now, but what I did find was illustrative of his character. He used his work to reflect the dignity of humankind. He showed his own respect for others not only in the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther but in all his films. Several of which were biopics – two of my favorites being Marshall (on the life of Justice Thurgood Marshall) and “42” (on the life of baseball player Jackie Robinson). Both movies are timeless in their handling of justice for blacks in America.Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

After seeing the incredible film Black Panther some time ago, I was reminded of the relatively small part Boseman also played in Draft Day. Two very different films, but both where he played one who took his platform to champion others. This seemed to be true of Boseman’s public and private life.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

After a weekend of trying to get hold of the life and character of this man from Anderson, South Carolina…this man who became a Christ follower as a boy and served in his church’s choir and youth group…I couldn’t get to sleep last night.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

What Boseman accomplished in his relatively short life as a public figure will last as long as we watch the movies.

What can a regular non-celebrity do in our world gone mad? What really can this older white woman in the suburbs of a small city? What can you do?

Last night, in the dark trying not to wake my husband, I grabbed my phone and wrote the following list. It came quickly. Hopefully it is understandable.

  • Listen hard with ears, mind and heart open.
  • Seek to understand.
  • Ask the question: “What are we hearing?”
  • Ask the question: “What are we not hearing?”
  • Ask the next layer of question without judging: “What sounds true? What sounds like deception motivated by something else? How can we know?
  • What is the source of what we are hearing? [Sidebar: Where we get our news is often where we get our attitudes. If we take in news at all, we need a mix of views or we won’t critically be able to sift for what is true…or hopefully true.]
  • Then…
  • Speak up on behalf of one another.
  • Stand up against evil and for the truth.
  • Act up? NO. Act in love.
  • Mobilize our resources, relationships, and influence to actually make a true, lasting difference for those most vulnerable in our country.
  • Who has the courage to say “Enough” to what is hurting more than healing, to what is destroying more than building up, to what is not really for change for those who most need the change?

Boseman once said: “The only difference between a hero and the villain is that the villain chooses to use that power in a way that is selfish and hurts other people.”

Therapist Kalee Vandergrift-Blackwell wrote a beautiful piece (below) on “a brown, immigrant, refugee, colonized Jesus”.

Did You Know Jesus Is Brown? – Kalee Vandergrift

He died at the hands of the political and religious leaders of the day, but…He did not die a victim. He gave his life in all its beauty, courage, and truth – for our sakes…and He gave his life for the political and religious leaders of the day.

I can’t even imagine Jesus burning and looting, hurting people and neighborhoods. Even when He called out the wrong motives of religious leaders and turned over the tables of opportunists, everything He did, He did in love. He calls us, His followers, to do the same.

Jesus calls us to love our neighbors…and even to love our enemies. Not a soft celebrity life, oh no. We aren’t allowed to just take sides…we are to full-bore, wide open love people – to recognize, respect, and validate in all we do the worth, dignity, and God-breathed humanity of all.

This is our legacy…this is what I want to have the courage and the depth of love to leave when my life is over.

Not complacency. Not comfort. Not smugness. Not arrogance. Not blaming another party or one president over another (if there’s blame it extends much farther…). Not violence. Not isolation.

So…that is the burn I got this weekend after taking in and grieving over the loss of Chadwick Boseman.

One last quote from Boseman that is especially poignant and inspiring right now is this: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything You gave me.”

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Chadwick Boseman – AZ Quotes

10 Inspiring Quotes From Chadwick Boseman That Could Change Your Life – A. R. Shaw

YouTube Video – Chadwick Boseman Tribute – Marvel

5 Friday Faves – Theme from Howl’s Moving Castle, Fathers, Best Bits of the Republican National Convention, Dealing with a Narcissistic Boss, and the Late Summer Garden

Hello, Weekend! Here are some of this week’s favorite finds. Enjoy!

1) Theme from Howl’s Moving Castle – When a theme for a movie goes beyond the scope of the film’s story, it’s intriguing and all the more beautiful. The Merry-Go-Round of Life” was composed by Joe Hisaishi as part of the score for the film Howl’s Moving Castle. Classical guitarist Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar) has winsomely arranged this piece for guitar.

I’m not a musician nor have I ever been a fan of instrumental (even classical music) until Nathan began playing. His music has given all who know (or have discovered) him. Even within his preferred genre (arranging covers of movie, TV, and video game themes), he has opened up musical worlds that I might never have discovered.

This piece exactly does that. This lovely theme from a Japanese animated film would have been lost to me except for Nathan’s music.

His podcast, in its own right, does the same thing – drawing our attention to pop and arts culture and what we can learn both for disciplines in life and musicianship, as well as the joy in the journey.

The Free Solo Mindset – Lessons Guitarists Can Learn From Elite Rock Climbers – Beyond the Guitar Podcast

2) Fathers – Fathers are a great benefit to children. We all celebrate our mothers and their role in nurturing us through our growing up years. Fathers, too, make a huge difference. For whatever reasons they are absent, hopefully we look to men in our extended family or friend group, or teachers, neighbors, and city leaders.

Today is the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech.  Photo Credit: Flickr, March on Washington, August 28, 1963

Dr. King was the father of four. He died too young (from an assassin’s bullet at the age of 39). His children were still very young, but they have the legacy of his public life and whatever private lessons he taught his children. We have all certainly learned from him. His speech on this day 57 years ago resonates today.

“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!” – Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963

This week I discovered two other fathers expressing excellent, somewhat counter-cultural counsel to the younger people in their lives and in our country.

One is a Tennessee resident and representative in his state legislature – John Deberry, Jr. A recent speech he made was highlighted by thought leader Coleman Hughes. You can watch it below.

YouTube Video – Rep. John DeBerry

His bold and straight talk had a cost for him, but he would not stand down from the imperative to speak for the sake of those he represented.

The last father I’d like to feature here is Dr. Glenn Loury. He is a Brown University professor in social studies and economics. His commentary on the YouTube channel Blogging Heads has really opened up my thinking on many varied topics. He talks on a recent podcast about the issue of race and agency (how we make decisions and take personal action). This part of his talk begins at 42 minutes.

His “father talk” emphasizes taking up our own battles, not depending on another group of people for our future (equality), push ourselves toward success, avoid victimhood, get an education and needed training, take care of our families.

“Take responsibility for your life. No one is coming to save you. It’s not anybody else’s job to raise your children…Take responsibility for your life. It’s not fair…Life is full of tragedy and atrocity and barbarity…it’s not fair, but it’s the way of the world…Equality of dignity, equality of standing and respect, equality of feeling secure in your position in society, equality of being able to command the respect of others…something you have to wrest with hard work, with your bare hands. You have to make yourself equal. No one can make you equal.” – Dr. Glenn Loury

We depend on our fathers to tell us the hard things…but the true things. Our fathers, like our mothers but different, can empower us to know our value and our possibilities.

African-American Family Structure

3) Best Bits of the Republican National Convention – Okay, so I watched both the Democratic National Convention (last week) and the Republican National Convention (this week). I wish, from the beginning, that I had jotted down the speakers that were especially gripping. Only recorded some of this week’s favorites. Most of them were not even on the published schedule. Sweet surprises. So forgive the candidate endorsement or laments if you can…just enjoy some of their stories. Both conventions showcased the lives of many Black Americans. In these days, it was a step toward healing.

Photo Credit: Flickr

  • Herschel Walker – retired NFL football player, from my home state of Georgia, 37 years of friendship with Donald Trump
  • Daniel Cameron – first African-American attorney general of the state of Kentucky
  • Senator Tim Scott – U.S. senator from South Carolina. His grandfather died in his 90s and Senator Scott said, “from cotton to Congress in one lifetime”.  That’s his story.
  • Rep. Vernon Jones – state representative in Georgia. Right-leaning Democrat
  • Andrew Pollock – father of Parkland High School shooting victim, Meadow. He is an activist for school safety. A School Safety Commission was appointed after this school shooting.
  • Maximo Alvarez – (CEO, Sunshine Gasoline Distributors). Immigrant from Cuba. He loves America. As he watches the rioting, he said, “I hear echoes of the former life that I never wanted to hear again”.
  • Jon Ponder – former felon and founder of the re-entry program “Hope for Prisoners”
  • Jack Brewer – former NFL football player, founder of Black Voices for Trump
  • Clarence Henderson – civil rights activist; president of the North Carolina chapter of the Frederick Douglass Foundation
  • Ja’Ron Smith – assistant to the President and advisor on domestic policy
  • Sean Reyes – attorney general, Utah
  • Ann Dorn – widow of Capt. David Dorn, retired police captain, killed in St. Louis riots
  • Carl and Marsha Mueller – parents of daughter Kayla, kidnapped and killed by ISIS in 2015
  • Alice Marie Johnson – first-time non-violent offender sentenced to life in prison plus 25 years. Received clemency after 22 years by President Trump

Again, these were from the Republican National Convention. Just a few voices on the side of one political party. It was odd that many of their brushes with the current President’s administration were unknown to me.

There were inspiring speakers at both conventions. Who were some of your favorites at DNC or RNC?

Takeaways From the Democratic National Convention – Caroline Linton, Kathryn Watson, Grace Segers

4) Handling a Narcissistic Boss – Volumes have been written on narcissism. One definition that fits here is: selfishness, involving a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and a need for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

Leadership consultant Lolly Daskal gives a 10-point list of actions to help us work effectively with narcissistic bosses. I’m just posting the points but her commentary on each is definitely worth your read.

  1. Understand the source.
  2. Respond, don’t react.
  3. Set clear boundaries.
  4. Don’t allow them to get under your skin.
  5. Don’t feed the beast.
  6. Don’t empower those who don’t deserve it.
  7. Fact check everything.
  8. Don’t argue. 
  9. Don’t be provoked.
  10. Stay focused on what’s important. 

Read the rest of Daskal’s article. Narcissistic people can be in positions of authority and influence. Knowing how to “get along” can mean the difference in impact, work gains, and quality of life. It’s worth the effort…if this is your situation.

5) Late Summer Garden – My husband’s garden is winding down for the summer…and it is still beautiful and fruitful. Here’s a look-see:[Three goldfinches feeding on seeds, I’m supposing, on this little petunia plant.]

Plants for Feeding Birds – Marie Iannotti

Hope you have a peace-filled weekend. Hope also you find grace for the losses of this week, with shootings, violence in the streets, and hurricanes. Trying times, but we are not alone in them.

Bonuses:

A dear friend, Barb Suiter, has published her first book – out this week – Whispers on the Journey – A Practical Guide using the ABCs in Prayer and Praise. Check it out.

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise…

“If” – Rudyard Kipling

These Small Acts Of Kindness Made The World A Better Place

How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle? – Amanda Capritto

[An image of moms and children gathered for a playdate. I miss those pre-COVID days – a good memory and one we’ll make again.]

Loneliness During Pandemic Can Lead to Memory Loss – Christina Ianzito

Photo Credit: Richmond Justice Initiative, Facebook

Pal Barger, the founder of Pal’s Sudden Service, had his 90th birthday this past week. Best birthday cake ever for this dear man.

Photo Credit: Helen Elizabeth Phillips, Facebook

5 Friday Faves – Food Anthropology, The Punisher on Classical Guitar, Pastimes, “Life Has Purpose”, and Community

Weekend! Go….five favorite finds for this week:

1) Food Anthropology – Anthropology is the study of cultures and peoples – their behaviors, values, etc. The TEDx talk below was a walk down the lane of pleasurable food memories for me. Syrian-American food writer Tony Tahhan talked on What Syrian Cuisine Can Teach Us About Humanity. In his talk, Tahhan gives sweet details about growing up in a Syrian home in Venezuela (?!). Then they immigrated to the US, blending more cultures. His stories of Syria itself center on food and culture.

Our first experience of Syrian food culture was when we lived in Cairo, Egypt, for a few years. Our friend Amal, a Syrian-American, often hosted us in her home. She and her husband reflected their culture of gathering and generous hosting of friends and family. Egyptians also have that wonderful hospitality as well..and their own yummy food. Still, being in Amal’s home and at her table was unique. So much food! So much preparation…chopping, blending, baking. Distinct flavors. Beautiful colors. Healthy and satisfying. Dessert, too…not healthy always (unless it was the huge bowl of fruit) but incredibly memory-making. Can you say baklava?

I took lots of food pictures in those days but couldn’t find them for this blog. The image below will have to do. This gives a good idea about Amal’s table. Beautiful and bountiful. Full of love.Photo Credit: Flickr

There is much we can learn from peoples and cultures through their food. Syria has been so traumatized by war. Still, I’m completely positive, that if anyone had an opportunity to sit at a Syrian table, whatever their hosts had would be presented sumptuously for the guest. That’s a lesson for us all.

Thank you, Amal, for the food and the friendship.

Syrian Cooking

The 9 Most Important Things I Learned in Cooking School – Jesse Szewczyk

2) The Punisher on Classical GuitarNathan Mills arranges another beautifully haunting piece – the theme Frank’s Choice from the TV show The Punisher. In the show (which I’ve never seen – too violent for me), Frank Castle has the horrific experience of watching his family be murdered. He then becomes a vigilante, hunting down those responsible. Then he seems not to be able to escape that life, going after other evil criminal types. Nathan (Beyond the Guitar) takes composer Tyler Bates‘ tortured theme (pointing to the “dead man walking” Frank Castle character) to a different place. A quieter, sad longing of a place. Beautiful.

3) Pastimes – The stuff of life outside of work. Hobbies, shopping, classes, volunteering, family/friend time, and desultory activities – being lost in the moment, wanderings.

With social distancing thanks to COVID, our pastimes may be altered somewhat. Before March, I spent a lot of time gone from the house. Now, not so much. Dave also presently works from home.

So when work is done, what do we do? What do you do?

We’re slow adopters. The Mandalorian, the web series on Disney+, wasn’t on our watch-list although we’re huge Star Wars fans. In fact, we didn’t know much about it except for the hype. Oh, and the piece  Nathan arranged and performed, of the show theme.

This week we signed up for Disney+ and are “bingeing” The Mandalorian. It’s a first, the whole binge thing. Such is some of the strangeness that COVID has brought to our socially distanced lives.

Now, watching movies is definitely a favorite pastime. This past week (including the weekend), we saw three “small” films (small in that they weren’t huge boxoffice hits).

I loved them all and recommend them. Lots of heart in these films. Heart and humor.

A few weeks back, I watched the 2020 Netflix documentary 13th (about the abolition of slavery) and I hope to watch  another 2020 documentary Uncle Tom soon. Anybody seen either of these?

During COVID, Dave and I have taken up playing Bananagrams after supper. It’s a quick game – he wins usually.

Just being outside in the back yard with a book, my camera, or a friend is also even more special with the press of COVID.

One favorite verse of mine in the Bible is: “Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor.Romans 12:10 It’s not about competing with one another for God’s favor (He loves His children purely and freely). It’s just an encouragement to be as generous as we can loving and showing honor to each other. out of the love we already enjoy from God. This “outdoing” a pastime worthy of making a skill/habit.

A dear friend dropped off some of her summer bounty for us this week…so for days, we enjoyed that sweet gift.

Then another friend dropped off a card from her little girl to our little granddaughter (these little ones are missing their friends, too). So special.

Finally, I got to be on the dessert delivery list of this amazing baker friend. She just drove pieces of cake around to different fortunate ones of us. Lemon pound cake. Yum! Right?

On the flip side – another friend has a birthday this week but was also heading to the beach…so no opportunity to gather. She is amazing at reaching out to people, always and also during COVID. For one time, I got a jump on her with some beach reading. Happy birthday, Karen!

What pastimes do you enjoy lately? Especially those that lift your heart or others.

4) Life Has Purpose – A friend of mine introduced Ryan and Bethany Bomberger to me via her Facebook post. They are pro-life adoptive parents. They are Christians. Give them a listen whatever your worldview…you’ll be drawn in to their hearts. They are not mush-minded (as some think of those with descriptions like this). Rock-solid people. Their podcast is Life Has Purpose.Photo Credit: Life Has Purpose

They are authors, and Ryan is a songwriter. He wrote Meant to Be as a tribute to his birth mother who conceived him in rape. He was adopted by parents who would adopt 9 other multi-ethnic kiddos.

Photo Credit: The Radiance Foundation

Part of what make finds favorites is that often there’s a beautiful ripple effect – finding favorites of the finds. Neil and Christina Shenvi came along with “Life Has Purpose”. Check them out. Fascinating.

5) Community – This comes up in my Faves from time to time, because it continues to just boggle the mind how essential it is and how deep it can be…even with COVID. [Our community group – so dear]

However…and there is a big HOWEVER here…social distancing can really do a number on community. When we think of how it has affected us as adults, we need to think also how it can affect our children (littles and bigs).

Earlier this week, this short film by 15-year-old Liv McNeil came to my attention and it surprised me with emotion – what it can be like for teens who are isolated by the COVID experience.

We must watch out for each other.

Shared Hope: Friendships Are Life-Saving Medicine – Jane Jayroe Gamble

That’s it for this week. Hope you get some rest and get some time with folks you love and who love you!

Bonuses:

SummerPhoto Credit: Kathryn Visneski

How to Declutter Your Closet with a Single Box – Olivia Muenter

YouTube Video – TEDx Talk – Everyone Has Hardships – John Guyon

The Real Secret to Aging Well & How to Feel the Luckiest About Growing Older Into a Deeply Meaningful Life – Ann Voskamp

Here’s the Science That Explains Why Drinking Diet Soda Makes You Gain Weight – Minda Zetlin

Negative Effects of Sugar-Free Carbonated Drinks – Erica Kannall

Thirty Minutes with the Perry’s – Podcast – Preston Perry & Jackie Hill Perry

These Four Phrases Will Make Life Easier for Teachers and Parents This Fall – Laura Milligan

This Dad and Pastor  Has Advice and Calming Words for Overwhelmed Parents – Erika Sanzi

The Nonconformist – Thomas Sowell on Race, Poverty, and Culture – Coleman Hughes

Two of my heroes at Southwood Community Resource Center:

Worship Wednesday – Keep Me in the Moment – Jeremy Camp

Photo Credit: Ramstein AF

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”Romans 12:1-5

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”Ephesians 2:10

“…and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death.”Philippians 3:9-10

The Scriptures give us a clear look at the large life God intends for us. He has set us apart from the world; He has prepared good works for us; He embeds us with His righteousness to faithfully endure whatever confronts us.

Then comes COVID.

Nothing in the character or purposes of God have altered. His children are still called to live in the present in His strength and to extend His love out to those around us.

[Writer Emma Grey Ellis has posted a fascinating article on the lethargy and depression that plagues us in the isolation of COVID. I can’t help but think there is also a spiritual component at work in this disease and in its prevention.]

This Sunday, our pastor Cliff Jordan of Movement Church finished teaching a series on God’s Kingdom Culture – focusing, this time, on the culture of displacement (listen here).

Displacement for us is that we’re not Home yet (Philippians 3:20). Cliff recalled his years playing high school basketball. It was a very high and privileged experience to be part of the Home team (playing in your own town and your own gym). When he was part of the Away team, it was a very different experience – no special treatment, and the team that most folks in the gym hoped would lose.

The church, here in this moment, is the Away team.

Basketball is a great picture of where we are as believers doing life, dealing with COVID.

When our children were in high school, the two oldest played basketball. At that time, our school was often the newcomer and underdog. What we lacked in experience and status, we made up for in enthusiasm, determination, and perseverance.[Seniors on the team of the 2007 boys’ basketball season of George Washington Academy, Casablanca, Morocco. Nathan “Beyond the Guitar” Mills is on the far right.]

We didn’t have a gym, so we were always the Away team.

As in life, especially in COVID life, we didn’t have to bring our “A” game. We had lots of opportunities to excuse ourselves from being all in. Between being “at-risk” or furloughed or parents all of a sudden juggling work and helping children school at home. The above-mentioned fatigue dampens our enthusiasm and stamina. Being truly “in the moment” as believers has become a challenge unlike any we’ve known previously.

It would be easy, again with the basketball analogy, to just wait out COVID and hope for better days, like the Away team might when the score starts mounting on the Home team’s board. Our enthusiasm wanes and our pace slows. We begin to give up before the game is over. And the bench!! What might have been “Put me in, Coach!” turns into thinking being #OfftheBench might not be a great idea. Our minds wander off the Word of God and onto anything else.

I love the tension of the pic below. The tension in those faces. Absorbed in the action on the court. Focused. Leaning forward. Ready at any moment to launch off the bench.Photo Credit: Needpix

Whether we feel benched by COVID or we’re very much in the game, the fact that we are the Away team doesn’t change anything about how God calls us to be engaged with Him and those around us.

Sure, we have to be creative at how to socially distance (for the sake of others and, at times, our own sakes)…but we don’t have to fall for being socially distanced from God’s glorious will for our lives.

Singer songwriter Jeremy Camp song “Keep Me in the Moment” could have been written for this season. The official video points to the beautiful, pulsating tension of lives lived well as God leads us through every situation. Redeeming the time.

Worship with me.
I’ve been thinking ’bout time and where does it go
How can I stop my life from passing me by, I don’t know
I’ve been thinking ’bout family and how it’s going so fast
Will I wake up one morning just wishing that I could go back?
I’ve been thinking ’bout lately, maybe
I can make a change and let you change me
So, with all of my heart this is my prayer
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Keep me in the moment
Oh, keep me in the moment
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (oh)
When I wake up in the morning
Lord, search my heart
Don’t let me stray
I just wanna stay where you are
All I got is one shot, one try
One go around in this beautiful life
Nothing is wasted when everything’s placed in your hands
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Lord keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
I’ve been thinking about heaven
And the promise you hold
So, it’s all eyes on you
Until the day you call me home
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
(I don’t wanna miss, I don’t wanna miss)
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after (oh)
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (yeah)
Keep me in the moment
Oh, keep me in the moment
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Oh, keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)*
By the way…that Away team analogy is only for a few years. Home is also our experience. Home is where we celebrate with our forever Victor…together.

8 Ways to Be Present – Tom Stuart

Why God Wants You to Live in the Moment – Drew Smith

Worship Wednesday – #Woke – What It Means to This Believer – Amazing Grace

Photo Credit: Statement on Social Justice

[Adapted from the Archives]

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice: blessed are all those who wait for Him.Isaiah 30:18

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.Job 1:22

When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.
 – Matthew 9:36

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”Micah 6:8

In today’s context, “woke” is a word  that I may never understand or fully embrace. However, it is concept that compelled me to research it and consider it.

Being “woke” has some strong, politically and sociologically polarizing applications, but the simplest definitions are captured below. It means “being aware of what is going on in the community; being aware of the social and political environments regarding all socio-economic standings”.Photo Credit: Slideshare, Mike Maccarone

I’d like to tell you a quick story. Then I will hop off anything political and onto the place I’ve landed as a believer.

Last summer, we traveled to a conference in Oklahoma. During the time there, I had the opportunity for a road trip across the Eastern part of the state. It was my first experience of the Native American nations in Oklahoma. Part of my “woke” journey now has this experience folded in. Except for the links below on tribal history and The Indian Removal Act, this topic will be for another day…but it speaks to “wokeness” as well.

We flew back to Richmond, with those experiences still very fresh in my mind.

Walking to baggage claim from our gate, we were surrounded by other travelers from the Atlanta flight. Either visitors to our city or, like us, residents returning home. In front of me for much of the walk was a youngish Black man. He was sharply dressed in khaki pants and a dazzling white t-shirt, and he had all the paraphernalia of someone who travels a lot. A professional appearing man who could easily put on a sport-coat over his white t-shirt and show up for work in some executive suite.

Photo Credit: Augusta Native

It is telling of this man’s experience of his country, this society, and the politics of the day. The slogan first caught my eye (with its particular spelling of America), then the hangman’s noose, and then the list of losses…

[Hard to read because I am grateful to be American. Its history, like so many countries, has dark terrible times in it. I don’t want to forget that…but how to respond to it…]

On his right forearm, this man had a large tattoo in bold capital letters: #BLM (Black Lives Matter).

He was a walking billboard for “wokeness” as a Black person with a loud cry against the injustice he lays on his country.

I don’t think that fellow traveler and I would ever have a conversation. For sure, it felt unwanted that day – an intrusion from a stranger…but I do want those conversations. For now, it begins with my response to him…and others.

In praying through these recent experiences, here are four points of action in this being “woke” as a follower of Christ:

  1. Listen. I’ve been learning to make it a practice to listen with intentionality to people who feel marginalized – for whatever reasons. To hear them, we have to come within hearing. It can be uncomfortable as you know. That’s why we want to avoid it or rationalize or downplay it.
  2. Consider. In nursing school, we learned that Pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he/she says it does” (McCaffery). The same can apply to what we hear of people’s pain – whether in their present experience or a past horror either theirs or others (with whom they feel a kinship). Again, reacting in a way that rationalizes or shifts blame only pushes away. Consider humbly what they are saying.
  3. Separate political from spiritual. When injustice occurs, we are called by God, as believers, to respond. Even better, we are to stand alongside the marginalized, when possible, doing what we can to lessen injustice. Lots could be said about this, but for today, just a check in our thinking. Our government may or may not act in definitive ways. We as the church have a very different call…and loving action is always a part of that call.
  4. Act. Again, so much could be said here, but today a brief take on it. For sure, we know that the Lord doesn’t require us to cover for the sins of others. Nor does He allow us to put our heads in the sand and ignore the suffering of those around us. To move forward we must leave the terrible wrongs of the past to the righteous justice of the Lord. He calls us to act today on behalf of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized…in front of us, all around us. Jesus acted on our behalf; we are to act on theirs.

To be “woke” as a believer is to see the world with God’s eyes and His heart and to engage and respond, in the power of His Holy Spirit. Previously I wrote the following about finishing strong in this life:

An imperative key to our finishing strong is humbling ourselves before God and in relationship to those He places in our lives.

An example of this humility worked out in relationship is the friendship between John Newton and William Wilberforce. Newton, a British slave ship captain until his conversion to Christ, would become a spiritual mentor to Wilberforce, who strongly influenced the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. Wilberforce was able to use his governmental authority to aid in abolishing slavery, but he was also a man of prayer and action in his personal life as well. Blog - Finishing strong - historicalmoviesPhoto Credit: Historical Movies

Jonathan Aitken, author of the biography John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, writes about the relationship between Newton and Wilberforce:

“Humanity will forever be in Newton’s debt for mentoring Wilberforce…their relationship was of pivotal importance for both historical and spiritual reasons.”

Jesus mentored us, His followers, so well. Who are we mentoring in this “wokeness”? Who are we ourselves learning from today?

Worship with me today through this beautiful old hymn, Amazing Grace, written by John Newton. His lyrics speak to being “woke”: I once was lost, but now I’m found; Was blind, but now I see. Consider watching the 2006 film Amazing Grace with your family or friends (who somehow missed it the first time around).

How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine.

Worship Wednesday – Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) – Deb Mills

What’s Wrong With Woke? – Tom Ascol

Slavery, by the Numbers – Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“This Is All Stolen Land”: Native Americans Want More Than California’s Apology – Sam Levin

Half the Land in Oklahoma Could Be Returned to native Americans. It Should Be. – Rebecca Nagle

5 Friday Faves – John Lewis’ Funeral, Resistance, Viola Davis, Neighborhoods, and Wedding Vows

Here’s to weekends…and Faves of the week. Five of mine follow:

1) John Lewis’ Funeral – Shortly before he died of pancreatic cancer (on July 17, 2020), civil rights activitistCongressman John Lewis, D-Ga., wrote an essay for the New York Times. He asked for the piece to be published on the day of his funeral.Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Here is an excerpt from the essay John Lewis wrote, read at his funeral:

“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.”

I was glad to have watched Representative Lewis’ funeral, seeing him honored by old friends, sweet family, and loyal staff. Then fellow politicians, including three past US presidents. Of the politicians, my favorite tribute came from President George W. Bush. No agenda. No barbs. Just all John Lewis.

2) Resistance – When George Floyd was killed, we heard, experienced and even shared in the national outcry. As the protests have turned into riots and looting, some of us are beginning to wonder when will it be enough…or too much. Not the cries for reforms in law enforcement or other changes needed to address those hurting in our country…but taking the protests to a whole different place – that of disrupting and destroying what is good and decent as well.

This Friday night after midnight, on the streets of Portland, Oregon, a group of protestors kindled a fire with Bibles. This city, like many around the US, has been the site of protests for over 60 days. Here and elsewhere, the body count rises of people killed in the riots. Personal properties destroyed. People divided…all in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

This isn’t right. Resistance to a corrupt system is appropriate, but violence just for violence’s sake is not the “good trouble” John Lewis encouraged.

When the Bibles were burned, it stirred a different kind of mad. There is a place for resistance, but there is also a place for resistance against resistance that hurts people…that hurts our country…that impunes whole groups of people.

I read the following article this week. It is definitely partisan in ways and is a hard read, given we all have people we care about on both sides of our political aisles. However, it delivers a critical, and thought-provoking exposé of modern-day Marxism. The YouTube video also linked is a longer, more comprehensive treatment of the subject by the same author/speaker Larry Alex Taunton (13 points instead of the 8 in the article).

Understanding What Is Happening in America: A Christian Response – Larry Alex Taunton

“Evil will not have the last word. Good will ultimately triumph. God is sovereign. As St Thomas Aquinas put it, ‘God is so powerful that he can direct any evil to a good end.’”Resisting Evil, Bible in One Year

Photo Credit: Organic Runner Mom

Thoughts on Resistance and Forward Progress  to Your Goals – Organic Runner Mom

3) Viola Davis – When you think of someone as beautiful, elegant, and articulate as actress, producer Viola Davis, you might be a bit starstruck. I know I am. You may not be aware of the incongruence also present in her life – a childhood of poverty and abuse. This exquisite woman should give hope to all of us.

Today, she is using her fame and professional platform to give back. One way is the documentary she narrated, “A Touch of Sugar”. She is a spokesperson for prevention and treatment of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.

4) Neighborhoods – We all have favorite places and spaces …Richmond, Virginia, is one of those favorite places of mine. It is a patchwork quilt of very different neighborhoods. Once upon a time, Monument Ave., in the Museum District of Richmond, was considered one of the most beautiful streets in the world. Those who thought so were probably not negatively affected by the several monuments of Confederate military generals.

Now the monuments are coming down. The houses on Monument are still beautiful and historic. We’ll see what happens next, after the monuments are gone.

Like in other cities, we continue to have protests, riots, and destruction/defacing of properties. Recently, I made an unfounded comment, “Those rioting probably aren’t even from here, and do they even visit the neighborhoods beyond this one? The neighborhoods where Blacks should hear up-close that their lives do matter.” Again, like I said, it was not a fair statement.

[I wrote here previously the monuments including a local teen’s take on what would help more than monuments coming down here. Original piece by Matt Chaney here.]

Still, I felt compelled to take a trip to some of the neighborhoods of Richmond beyond the Museum District. It had been awhile since my last visit…more beautiful, resourceful, and peaceful than I had remembered.

My own neighborhood is tucked in the near suburbs of Richmond. 10 minutes to downtown. Quiet, safe, middle-class.

When I heard the news of a Tweet that our President made toward suburban home owners not needing to worry about subsidized housing coming our way, I was surprised and saddened. He is known for his tweeting, but this seemed more caustic than usual. Or was it?

In an election year, what would motivate an incumbent to say such a thing unless there was something deeper…something the casual reader might miss?

Pondering this, I came across an article by columnist Eric Levitz which birthed one of those “Aha!” moments.

Those of us Twitter readers who were aghast at our President’s comment would never outwardly show should exclusion of the poor…and yet…

Our city and county schools are in the process of a redistricting campaign (county school redistricting and city school redistricting). As far as I know the decisions have been postponed because of COVID. Still the battle-lines are drawn based on what redistricting will mean more for those homeowners who bought houses to be in a school districts with high ratings. The re-districting, in order to change up the student body percentages in predominantly black schools and predominantly white school, could alter that for them.

Really fascinating. That tweet then takes on a whole new meaning – exposing our not-so-generous motives. Politics can be so twisted it is hard to know what legislation is actually good for the citizenry at large and what is totally related to special interests.

By the way, our neighborhood, as much as I love it, has property values negatively affected by schools with low ratings. We are in the throes of the above school redistricting decision. I, for one, would be glad to see our schools improve in whatever ways seem feasible. Not for my property value’s sake, but for the sake of the children. Also, bring on affordable housing for all…where people can own their own homes and be our neighbors.

Thoughts?

5) Wedding Vows – Let’s happily end on this. Dave and I were married over 35 years ago. As our anniversary comes up again, thinking back over our vows is good for us. We didn’t write them from scratch, but they are totally what we believe…they are our own and we mean to keep them…with God’s help.

This week I came across this sweet little video of last year’s wedding between American Idol finalists Gabby Barrett and Cade Foehner. In this wedding season, with COVID changing young couples’ plans and dates…the most important part of the day is that they make their vows to each other – whether in front of 3 people or 125. You’ll love this. <3

Watch Cade Foehner’s and Gabby Barrett’s Wedding Vows – Jill O’Rourke

That’s it for me…please share your own favorite finds in the Comments. Thanks for pausing here awhile.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Debbie Hampton, Twitter

Photo Credit: Oswald Chambers, Facebook, Pat Findley

This Is Why You Can’t Remember Yesterday – Markham Heid

The World’s Longest-living People Share This Hobby – Why Studies Say It Can Help Add Years to Your Life – Minda Zetlin