Category Archives: Critical Thinking

Monday Morning Moment – Confessional Communities – What Are They? You’ll Wish You Were In One If You Aren’t Already

Photo Credit: Group Therapy Central

[As I was preparing my own take on confessional communities, I came across Aimee Byrd‘s piece on the same, as part of her analysis of Curt Thompson‘s latest book The Soul of Desire. Byrd’s blog is a quick read and very helpful.]

Confessional communities – probably sounds like some sort of monastery life. Or a group with all kinds of touchy-feely exercises framed by unintelligible psycho-babble, right? Oh no! So much more and so much better!

I’ve been awakened to the presence and possibilities of confessional communities since recently reading of the Thompson trilogy below.

What rung intuitively right for me throughout my adult life has actually been tested and found true in something called Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB). No time to go deeply into this now, but, in short, our brains are wired for connection, and that is connection inside the brain/mind itself as well as with others (and God).

Confessional communities are used by Dr. Curt Thompson and others as ways to help clients get in touch with shame, trauma, fear, anxiety, etc. in the company of others struggling with some of the same. Shame, for instance, drives us to isolate from God and others. It compounds interest over time, if left to itself in our own minds, and muffles our desires and longings, as it condemns and flattens us.

“We need to create confessional communities where people are confessing the truth about their life – some of which includes confessing sin or doing things that show my brokenness. Some of it is just things that have happened to me, or things that I feel; things that I sense; things that I dream; things that I long for; things that I’m conflicted about. But I’m trying to tell the whole truth about my life – but not so that anybody can just hear it and then move on.…In confession, what I’m really looking for – in your eyes, in your body language, in your voice – is for you to be able to say, “You’re right, Curt; you were wrong to do that. You’re forgiven. I’m not leaving.” I need to know you can bear the weight of what I know to be really wrong [with me], and that you will still stay. If it’s minimized, it will continue to linger with me…Shame always requires outside help for healing. My shame needs you. If it’s a small thing, I might need only one conversation with you. But, if it’s much bigger than a very, very small thing, I’m going to need multiple conversations with multiple people, because shame will come through multiple different doors into my head when I’m left by myself…”Curt Thompson

Photo Credit: Curt Thompson, Twitter

“…in order for me to be liberated from the shame I carry, …I need to hear that my behavior was really as bad as I think, if not worse, while simultaneously sensing that the person I am confessing to is not leaving. Shame has the effect of coaxing us into pretending that sin is not as bad as it seems; for if it really is that bad, and I have to face it, it would be too much and I fear I would be overwhelmed. When someone seeks forgiveness for the wrong they have committed, we who have been wounded must be able to acknowledge the reality of the pain inflicted if forgiveness is to be real, and if the offender’s shame is to be effectively healed.” – Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame

Confessional communities are spelled out in Thompson’s writing, teaching (found on YouTube), and podcasts (his own and as guest on many others). The common factors include:

  • small group meetings over weeks or months.
  • willingness to tell our stories as truly as we can.
  • intentional leaning in to the stories of other group members such that “being known” is part of the outcome for all.
  • commitment to stay with each other; to “not leave the room”.
  • imagine beauty together – learning to explore and create beauty, to see what is good, true, and beautiful in each other’s personhoods.Photo Credit: Curt Thompson, Twitter

I have a friend who for several months was part of what I would now call a confessional community. She called it “Vegas”. Remember the adage “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”? It was a Bible study/house church. A group of people who committed to care for each other with masks off (not the COVID kind, but the masks we don in shame or fear). A group of people who would stay in the hard and love no matter what.

My Mom modeled this for our family. She died way too soon. My prayer is that our (birth) family will model it for each other, and my children will learn from their Dad and me how to love like this…To have the joy of being fully known and deeply loved. No matter what.

Trauma, Healing, and Side Effects with Dr. Curt Thompson – Jamie Ivey’s Podcast, The Happy Hour

Shining Light on Shame – Curt Thompson, Angulus Wilson, Steve Beers, and Morgan C. Feddes

Curt Thompson – 51 Podcast Episodes

5 Friday Faves – Shame Revisited, Classical Guitar & Squid Game, Cartoons & Classical Music, Left Brain/Right Brain, and Beach Food

Friday Faves! Go!

1) Shame Revisited – [Posted here previously] Author Andy Crouch has written an essay on how our culture has changed. For most of our history as a country, we have been a guilt-based culture. By that, I mean we measured ourselves and others as being “right or wrong” in our thinking, choosing to do right or wrong.

This is how we raised our children. We determined not to measure our children up against (compared with) other people, but to raise them up with a standard of right living and making right choices (for us, it was based on the Bible…on the teachings and life of Jesus). “Right” was not legalistic or moralistic; “right” was loving, kind, serving, non-judgmental.

Only in recent years has our culture been moving toward more of a shame-based view on life. Here the difference is how our character and behavior reflects on a larger community (“how others see us”). This is somewhat different from the traditional shame-honor culture. In that culture, honoring your family, country, religion was all-important. If your behavior did not comply with those values, you were shamed, even ostracized.Photo Credit: The Rise of Shame in America, Honor Shame

Today’s American culture has definitely moved away from a guilt orientation. We hear it all the time in statements like “Well, that may be OK for you.” “You have the right to believe that way.” “Don’t try to put that guilt on me.” However, our culture is not moving toward the traditional shame society, but more a shame-fame culture. Fame over honor. Social media has driven this in recent years. We want to be “seen” a certain way. In fact, a young colleague of ours once said, “It’s my job to make you look good.” I was shocked at that. One, “looking good” was not even on my radar. Either I was “good” (competent, responsible, dependable, etc) or I wasn’t. It demonstrated the culture shift and generational disconnect.

Shaming continues to happen in our culture. Children can be shamed for not behaving in ways that make their parents “look good”. Public shaming of people who don’t agree with each other can be as brutal as real ostracism. And so it goes.

I miss the guilt culture. Where, whatever your religion or political ideology, you could tell the good guys from the bad guys. Or maybe we were naive, but I hope not. Today, it seems all about how we portray ourselves…how we are received by those that matter to us.

Sigh…any thoughts? Please.

[Don’t forget to return and read Andy’s essay and David Brooks’ review of Crouch’s essay and this whole social phenomenon.]

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Postscript: I’m just today beginning to dig into Curt Thompson‘s book The Soul of Shame. So excited really to glean from his wisdom on the subject.

The Return of Shame – Andy Crouch

The Shame Culture – David Brooks

The Rise of Shame in America – HonorShame

When Shame Shapes Our Stories: Five Tips for Rewiring Negative Neural Pathways – Tricia McCary Rhodes

2) Classical Guitar & Squid Game – So whether you’re a fan of Korean cinema or creepy TV shows (insert Netflix’s popular Squid Game), you’re going to love the latest arrangement by Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar. It’s a medley of Squid Game themes, including the classic melody “Fly Me to the Moon”. So gorgeous.

3) Classical Music in Cartoons – Recently I was reading (again in Curt Thompson book – this time the recently published The Soul of Desire. He encouraged an intentional pursuit of beauty (a right brain renewing). He mentioned Dvorak’s 9th Symphony. I’m not a big fan of classical music, although every single time I attend a symphony performance, it slays me. So…I searched out thia particular piece on YouTube and clicked on this performance of the second movement of the symphony. Profoundly beautiful. Then…oddly familiar.

The first time I ever heard this symphony was on Saturday morning cartoons. In those days (late ’50s, early ’60s), cartoons had classical music as their soundtracks! In fact, this practice goes all the way back to the cartoons of the 1930s. Ingenious.

Cartoons and Classical Music – Bring Bach the Good Stuff – Nuriyah Johar

Classical Music in Cartoons

I’m learning later in life how the beauty of music, tucked in the background, can actually enrich what the eye sees on the many screens of our childhood and now that of our children’s children.

15 Pieces of Classical Music That Showed up in Looney Tunes – Mark Mancini [Some of the links are broken in the article but the information is preserved.]

YouTube Video – 10 Classical Music Pieces in Cartoons

YouTube Video – Most Iconic Classical Music Masterpieces Everyone Knows in One Single Video

4) Rain Brain/Left Brain I’ve written on the brain several times (as a learning layperson).

Again, thanks to Curt Thompson‘s recently published book The Soul of Desire, I’ve been learning about these two very different but inter-connected hemispheres in our brain. Thompson talks about how God made our brain for connection, but with trauma and shame, the two hemispheres become less integrated. Neural pathways are hijacked. [Talking very simply here because that’s about the level of my understanding.]

He delineates the two in many ways, but one that really spoke to me was how the right brain (the seat of our emotions and the space where we create and appreciate beauty) is very much focused on “here and with”. Being in the moment and preferably with others we care about. The left brain (our center for reasoning, analysis, and logic) favors more a “separate from” state. Standing back, evaluating, referring to the past and imagining the future.

Photo Credit: Janice Tarleton

Trauma and shame steal the easy flow of having fear and anxiety that is checked by rational reasoning. We can become stuck. Isolated from the healthy thinking we were made to have…and from each other. Thompson gives some excellent helps in his book on how to strengthen pathways between each side of the brain. Much of this is in community. Also upping our intentional appreciation of what is beautiful around us. Left brain activity is rewarded in our culture, to the detriment of right brain activity. We need both…and the beauty and community that comes with such integration.

Want to Sync the 2 Hemispheres of Your Brain? Neuroscience Says to Do This Daily (It Only Takes 4 Minutes) – Melanie Curtin

I Met Jesus in My Right Brain – Janice Tarleton

Photo Credit: Custom Writing

5) Beach Food– A long weekend in Virginia Beach this past week was lovely. Much-needed. Rain and a gusty wind kept us from as much walking as we would have liked, but it did not deter us from eating from favorite restaurants. Every year, we change that list up a bit. 19th Street Italian Bistro has been our #1 go-to restaurant every year and it is not budging from that position of honor.

Two new favorites for the year are (in the #2 spot for beach favorites) C. P. Shucker’s Cafe & Raw Bar

and (#3) Ray Ray’s at the Mayflower.

[Chef Ray is Filipino and adds all sorts of yummy island touches to the menu.]

And dessert? Always Dairy Queen Butterfinger Blizzard.

You don’t want to miss these if Virginia Beach is your destination.

How about you? What is your favorite beach food restaurant? Tell us in the Comments.

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That’s it for this week. Hope you’re able to get some time with those you love in the days ahead. Never take time together for granted. Life is such a gift. Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Monday Morning Moment – Parenting “Knots” and Untangling Them

Photo Credit: Pexels, Hipkicks

Do you remember who taught you how to tie your shoes? Or ride a bike? Or drive a car? We all have persons attached to those lessons and memories as well.

A teacher friend of mine recently posted (on Facebook) Joseph Stroud‘s poem “Knots”. I don’t remember ever reading it…but it stirred vague memories and sharp emotions.

OK…that’s a weighty situation. Most of us as children and teens feel proud and accomplished with each skill mastered in life…and our parents the same for us (and themselves as our parents). Mastery is a blessing that goes in an array of directions.

As parents we don’t get it right all the time, for sure. Rarely do we have the opportunity to go back and do it over again. Shame is a dark process we don’t want stirred up in us nor do we want to plant it in the hearts and minds of our children.

We learn and we grow and, sometimes, we ask forgiveness.

Our youngest son was born prematurely. He had a brain bleed in his first week of life that left him with physical challenges. He has overcome so many in his life that we forget sometimes what an incredible person he truly is. How much he has faced and risen above.

He will probably never forget trying to learn to ride a bike. I know I won’t forget it. As we pushed, cajoled, and sometimes scolded his faulty attempts…little did we know that he physically was never going to be able to ride a bike. And so what?! OK…we finally got it.

I just hope he doesn’t have too many memories like that in Joseph Stroud’s poem. To this day, without any memories I can call to mind, having someone standing over me watching me work is anxiety-provoking. Wonder why.

“…That memory stays with you long after you have grown into an adult who keeps trying to find his way in the world — to be strong and brave and independent and competent — without tripping over his shoe laces, without entangling himself in doubts about his father’s love.”                          – V. Galligan, Knots

In the heat of parenting, when our own “reputation” is on the line, or so we think, we don’t always see these precious children…beautiful and brilliant…and vastly more valuable than anything we think we could possibly shape meerly into our own image.

In recent weeks, I’ve been reading the works of psychiatrists Curt Thompson and Dan Siegel and  wrote about it as well…repeating a bit below:

Dr. Thompson has written a trilogy of powerful, ground-breaking books – Anatomy of the Soul, The Soul of Shame, and The Soul of Desire.  He describes these books as exploring “how neuroscience relates to the ways we experience relationships, deep emotions like shame and joy and especially our own stories — and how we can process our longings and desire for spiritual connection with God and each other to live more fully integrated, connected lives.”

[I highly recommend the above books, and not just for parents.]

Thompson refers often to Dr. Siegel’s “4 S’s of Attachment-Based Parenting“. Those S’s relate to what our children need from us, as infants but throughout life. We want them to know they are “safe and seen” and to experience being “soothed and secure”. This is especially poignant when we introduce the word “No” into the great adventure of their lives. No…and discipline as they get bigger.

“Seen, safe, soothed, secure”

Hard lessons in life don’t have to be laced with fear or shaming. We may have not experienced all the 4 s’s as children, or definitely not all the time, but we can aim to make that happen in our own children (and grandchildren). That they may know they are safe with us (no need to “brace for impact”), that they are truly seen (all the big emotions and struggles), that they can count on being soothed, and that they are secure in the love they have from us.

The 4 S’s of a Healthy Relationship – Kirsten Belzer

I am learning so much about parenting as a grandmother. With small children, the first time around, I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Photo Credit: R. D. Laing

Today parenting helps abound – in all sorts of media. In fact, it is hard to sort it all out while moms and dads are in the hot lab of real-time parenting.  Almost too much information; too much guidance.

Better a fire hose than needing to lean on “a mother’s intuition” which is what I was told would get me through figuring out how to parent my tiny firstborn.

What are some of your best helps? Please post in Comments below.Photo Credit: Pexels, Keira Burton

Photo Credit: The Motivation Hotel

The Neurobiology of Attachment to Nurturing and Abusive Caregivers – Regina M. Sullivan, PhD

Podcasts

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, Senses and Memories, Parenting Well, Fishing Perks, and Attention Alcohol

Late again. That kind of week. Here’s the rapid but not to miss runthrough.

1) Beyond the Guitar – If you love Star Wars, you will love Nathan‘s interpretation of John WilliamsAcross the Stars. Actually…whether you love Star Wars or not, this is achingly beautiful.

Then there is his piece later this week, posting his arrangement of the theme of Genshin Impact video game. This was actually sponsored by the game creators. I am sure they are pleased. Another really gorgeous treatment.

2) Senses and Memories – One of the appealing features of Nathan’s music is the nostalgia attached to much of it. It takes us back. To a scene from a movie, a TV show we shared with family, a video game of one’s childhood. Sound is powerfully attached to memory. We have all had those experiences or have read/watched the positive impact of beloved music on critically ill patients, or those suffering with brain injury or Alzheimer’s. Memory is stirred.

Where we live right now, we can hear the sound of planes, trains, and interstate traffic. The sound is just in the background but it is oftentimes powerful. Looking up at a commercial jet going over takes me back to being new in Cairo, Egypt, walking toward a taxi stand. I wondered at the destination of the flight and in my stress as a newbie to to language and culture, that sound (and sight) comforted me somehow.

The sound of a train takes me all the way back to Sfax, Tunisia, when we lived by a train track. The train whistles marked time for us through the day.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Farther still, the sound of a train took me back to childhood, as we waited for it to pass, and looking between the cars to my friend Evelyn’s house. Her family was only there briefly, but I loved her. She was from a different era. Wore hand-me-down dresses to middle school every day. Old everything. Poor. Stretched by poverty, but she was elegant and full of dignity. Their large, spooky old house peeked between the passing train cars, and I wondered at their lives inside that house. They were gone too soon…but the memory of her remains…with the sound of trains.

We know when Fall is here, because all of a sudden, it is all things pumpkin spice. Flavored coffee, pies, and decor – all pumpkiny.Photo Credit: Pexels – Valeriia Miller

What the Nose Knows – Colleen Walsh

Brain’s Link Between Sounds, Smells and Memory Revealed – Rachael Rettner

Music and Memory – Why the Music We Love as Teens Stays with Us for Life – Catherine Loveday

Comment below what are some of your favorite sensory memories.

3) Parenting Well – Our grandchildren (six years old and younger) have big emotions. Then they act on those big emotions. Whining, crying, hitting, screaming. This is not who these precious children are, but they are trying to communicate what is going on deep inside. How we respond to them – as parents and other significant (to them) adults – is huge!

Emotions relate to desire. This topic hit me hard when I saw the poem below on a friend’s Facebook page.

Our responses to our children (in normal developmental situations as well as in distressed situations) communicate far more than we think. We have recurring opportunities to connect with our children in ways that help them grow into emotionally healthy and relationally mature adults.

Lately I’ve been learning more about this whole parenting thing from two brilliant psychiatrists Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Curt Thompson.

Dr. Thompson has written a trilogy of powerful, ground-breaking books – Anatomy of the Soul, The Soul of Shame, and The Soul of Desire.  He describes these books as exploring “how neuroscience relates to the ways we experience relationships, deep emotions like shame and joy and especially our own stories — and how we can process our longings and desire for spiritual connection with God and each other to live more fully integrated, connected lives.”

[I highly recommend the above books, and not just for parents.]

Thompson refers often to Dr. Siegel’s “4 S’s of Attachment-Based Parenting“. Those S’s relate to what we communicate to our children even as infants but throughout life. We want them to know they are “safe and seen” and to experience being “soothed and secure”. This is especially poignant when we introduce the word “No” into the great adventure of their lives. No…and discipline as they get bigger.

I’ll be writing about this more in the days ahead. For now, check out the “refrigerator sheet” below with Siegel’s 4 S’s, referencing his book The Power of Showing Up.

Photo Credit: Dr. Dan Siegel & Dr. Tina Payne Bryson

The 4 S’s of Attachment-Based Parenting – Daniel J. Siegel – Podcast

The Power of Showing Up – Daniel J. Siegel, MD & Tina Payne Bryson, PhD

Mindful Parenting: 4 S’s of Secure Attachment – Esther Goldstein

4) Fishing Perks – My sweet husband is a fisherman. He is a “catch-and-release” guy, fishing the rivers and lakes of Virginia. This joy started for him as a boy fishing with his dad. Then it grew during our years in Tennessee. Finally now, after years of living in North African cities, just on the edge of the Sahara. There are so many perks to this avocation. Some of which really came to mind on a recent adventure. [I realize this is a “duh” for many, but for me, it was a great revelation.]

  • The Buildup – The day of fishing is preceded by all the planning and preparation. Weather checks, getting the equipment ready, fueling the boat, provisioning for the day. It makes for a happy evening of anticipation…and to bed early.
  • The Thrill of the Hunt – or Thrill of the Catch – You hope not to get skunked, but the marking and revisiting sites where fish were caught once before, the thrill of the pull on the line, and finally the fish pulled into the boat. Fun stuff!

  • Solitude – the single chair on this old dock says it all. The quiet of being on the water in the woods. So refreshing. So invigorating.

  • Beauty – Everywhere you look. Water, trees, wildlife. Sun and cloud playing on the water. Changing colors as the hours pass.

  • Company [I’m glad Dave has fishing buddies who share the experience with him. I fish rarely but always gain from the time with him, in nature.]

5) Attention Alcohol –  Author attorneyJustin Whitmel Earley pointed to an article by journalist Derek Thompson‘s article on social media and its use like that of alcohol.

Photo Credit: Rachel Claire, Pexels

Earley gives these reasons below for considering limiting or taking sabbath fasts from social media:

THREE REASONS SOCIAL MEDIA IS LIKE ALCOHOL:

  • It is Addictive. This means you are not as in control as you think you are. Remember, there are 1,000 people on the other side of this screen paid inordinate amounts of money to get you to keep scrolling.
  • It Changes Your Mental Health. This means it is not neutral. Your interactions with yourself, your family, and your friends are changed because of what you do with social media. You must recognize that to use it appropriately.
  • Someone Needs to Teach You How to Use It. This is one of the hardest things about our cultural moment. Because this technology is so new, none of us had parents to teach us how to use it, set boundaries, and practice moderation. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start to learn now, teach our kids, and help our friends. 

Social Media and Alcohol – Justin Whitmel Earley

Social Media Is Attention Alcohol – Derek Thompson

That’s the 5 for this week. How about you? Please enrich my life and that of other readers with your favorite finds. Comment below. Thanks always for stopping by.

Bonuses:

Quote of the Week: “Beauty is…that which draws our attention with wonder and welcome and that ultimately leads us to worship – not worship of the object itself but worship of God in gratitude, humility, and joy.”Curt Thompson, The Soul of Desire

The “10 Things” Rule Keeps My House Uncluttered, Even with a Family of Six – Alexandra Frost – We actually had the 20 Things rule in our family once the kids were big enough to count to 10. It helped!

YouTube Video – Dr. Curt Thompson – Shame: The Details of Devouring

YouTube Video: Curt Thompson: Vulnerability Reframed: Healing Shame & Promoting Human Flourishing

Photo Credit: Ian Kremer, Twitter

How the Brain Stays Young Even as We Age – Katherine Ellen Foley

My Boyfriend Is Spiritually Lethargic. Should I Marry Him? – John Piper

87-year-old Man Rewrites News Headlines for 2020 and Inspires Us All

Biscuit Lover – Sean Dietrich

100 Skills Every Man Should Know – The Art of Manliness [Some are also excellent skills for us women as well. Not so ambitious about most of them, but glad I know men and women who do.]

Beauty is the extravagance that makes us human

Worship Wednesday – Shame Faced – O Come to the Altar – Elevation Worship

Photo Credit: Heartlight

We have renounced secret and shameful things, not acting deceitfully or distorting the word of God, but commending ourselves before God to everyone’s conscience by an open display of the truth. – 2 Corinthians 4:2

Instead of shame, My people will have a double portion, and instead of humiliation, they will rejoice in their share; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.
 – Isaiah 61:7

For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame.Romans 10:11

No wait. Don’t scroll by.

No shaming here. In fact, we may have stuffed our shame so deep inside ourselves, we are pretty sure it is ever someone else’s problem and not our own.

Wait though. We can know the beauty and freedom in life that comes from wrestling with shame…until it has no power over us. We may think it has no power over us when we tamp it down so effectively that others don’t see it…but we know it’s there.

Shame faced can be defused…and freedom follows. Beauty and fullness of life and relationships as well. Worth the vulnerability.

Until recently I didn’t think much about shame. I was more a guilt-driven person (rather than shame-driven), or so I thought. Guilt is more about doing bad, rather than “being bad” (which defines shame). However, now I see how we hide our shame and hope no one sees.

Canadian pastor Darryl Dash wrote this incredible piece on shame (linked below), taking us right from the beginning. You remember how Adam and Eve were described originally as being “naked but unashamed”? Can you imagine the beauty and freedom in that?

The Beginning of Shame (Genesis 2:24-3:10, 21) – Darryl Dash

Once sin entered, their eyes were opened…to what is now their reality. Naked and ashamed. Fearful. Wanting to hide. They were never meant to experience this darkness…this isolation from God or one another.

Dash reveals the impact of sin:

  • Shame is a result of sin — either ours, or someone else’s.
  • Shame isolates us. It makes us think that if others knew the truth about us, that they couldn’t possibly love us. It keeps us from being known and loved.
  • Shame damages us. Ultimately it can kill us.

Dash also writes about how our strategies to deal with shame only cause us to hide or avoid or attack (ourselves or others) – see graphic below from another source.

Photo Credit: The Compass of Shame, D. L. Nathanson, IIRP

Lastly, Dash reminds us of God’s glorious response to our shame – He pursues us and He clothes us.

Christian psychiatrist Dr. Curt Thompson has written an important, hugely insightful book on shame. The Soul of Shame. The quotes that follow are from this book and help put the pieces of our shame together in ways we can then open ourselves up to healing. Giving those pieces to God.

“When we experience shame, we tend to turn away from others because the prospect of being seen or known by another carries the anticipation of shame being intensified or reactivated. However, the very act of turning away, while temporarily protecting and relieving us from our feeling (and the gaze of the ‘other’), ironically simultaneously reinforces the very shame we are attempting to avoid…Indeed this dance between hiding and feeling shame itself becomes a tightening of the noose.  We feel shame, and then feel shame for feeling shame. It begets itself.”

“The defining relational motif for humankind is not that we need to work as hard as we can, or at least harder than we are. It is not to do our best or to guarantee that our children will have a better life than we had. It is not about being right or the acquisition of power. Each of those (and other versions like them) play into the hand of shame’s anxiety. No – rather, we were created for joy. Not a weak and watery concept of joy that merely dilutes our sadness and pain. Rather it is the hard deck on which all of life finds its legs, a byproduct of deeply connected relationships in which each member is constantly known.

“To relationally confront our shame requires that we risk feeling it on the way to its healing. This is no easy task. This is the common undercurrent of virtually all of our relational brokenness. We sense, image, feel and think all sorts of things that we never say, because we’re far too frightened to be that honest, that vulnerable. But honest vulnerability is the key to both healing shame -and its inevitably anticipated hellish outcome of abandonment -and preventing it from taking further root in our relationships and culture.

“Shame positions itself in such a way so as to keep borders tightly closed and vulnerability at a minimum.”

“In reality, vulnerability is not something we choose or that is true in a given moment, while the rest of time it is not. Rather, it is something we are. That is why we wear clothes, live in houses and have speed limits. So much of what we do in life is designed, among other things, to protect us from the fact that we are vulnerable at all times. To be human is to be vulnerable… Vulnerability is not a question of if but rather to what degree….in seeing the place of vulnerability in the pages of the Bible we cannot but help be amazed at its place and purpose. It begins in the beginning, where we are introduced to a vulnerable God. Vulnerable in the sense that he is open to wounding. Open to pain. Open to rejection. Open to death.

We deeply long for connection, to be seen and known for who we are without rejection. But we are terrified of the vulnerability that is required for that very contact...God does not leave. The loving relationship shared between Father, Son and Spirit is the ground on which all other models of life and creativity rest. In this relationship of constant self-giving, vulnerable and joyful love, shame has no oxygen to breathe.

 We have in Jesus one who was willing to put his naked vulnerability on full display, opening himself to all that we in evil’s employ could throw at him. He was the first to trust us with himself, revealing himself, risking abandonment in the process.” – Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame

We all have shame and can keep ourselves tightly hidden in the comfort of this small group or that…or we can follow Jesus in His naked vulnerability. Recognizing (again) that we all have shame and we all need God and each other. What comes after is the life He means for us to have…not the smaller, hidden life we think is the only one possible. Oh, Dear One…it is meant to be so much more.

Worship with me. [Lyrics in the link]

Are you hurting and broken within
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin
Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well
Jesus is calling

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there’s no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Oh what a Savior
Isn’t He wonderful
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen
Bow down before Him
For He is Lord of all
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen

Oh what a Savior
Isn’t He wonderful
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen
Bow down before Him
For He is Lord of all
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Bear your cross as you wait for the crown
Tell the world of the treasure you’ve found*

[I love the whole of this song in dealing with shame. We hide our shame because we don’t want to confront the pain – either of our own sin or that of another. Following Jesus, receiving all He has for us, includes a cross. However, we never have to carry the cross – whatever it is – alone. He is with us all the way.]

*Lyrics to O Come to the Altar – Elevation Worship – Songwriters: Steven Furtick, Christopher Joel Brown, Mack Donald Iii Brock, Wade Joye

Breaking the Power of Shame – Jon Bloom, Desiring God

What Does It Mean to Be Approved of God? – Ed Elliott

20 Quotes from Curt Thompson’s The Soul of Shame

Monday Morning Moment – How Shame Affects Our Thinking and How We Can Break Free – Deb Mills

Shame is More Common Than You Think with Dr. Curt Thompson – Jennie Allen podcast

Worship Wednesday – Look What You’ve Done In Me – Tasha Layton

Photo Credit: YouTube

“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Blessed is the man who is always reverent, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.” – Proverbs 28:13-14

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God, and that no root of bitterness springs up to cause trouble and defile many.Hebrews 12:15

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” – Colossians 3:13

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19

We have immeasurable gifts in our life!

Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord, and His life, love, and example in all things. The Holy Spirit, Comforter and Guide, indwelling us. The faithful Word of God. The Church standing eternal as God has promised. The call to prayer and the ear of a just and loving Heavenly Father.

How is it then that we struggle so with voices that say “Not so”. Conviction of sin is one thing, but shaming is not a voice we hear from our Father. We shame ourselves, the world tries to do the same, and Satan, the Father of Lies, is a master in accusing us. When we listen to these voices, we deal with our shame by justifying ourselves, or burying our true redeemed selves in regret, or hardening our hearts in bitterness, or daring not to believe we can forgive or be forgiven…again. No more, Dear One!

If we tune our ears to the Lord, we catch His tone, His truth, His love.Photo Credit: Heartlight

Tasha Layton speaks to this in her song “Look What You’ve Done”. Her first verses speak the accusation and shame. Then, it is as if she shakes her head and comes back to her senses. She remembers God. She stands in His presence. She hears Him speak over her. She reflects on all He has done in her life…and she worships.

For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  Romans 10:11

Worship with me…as we all have been saved from sin and shame. No longer ruling over us…or our relationships…anymore… because of what He has done…and who He is…and who we are in Him.

Look what you’ve done
How could you fall so far
You should be ashamed of yourself
So I was ashamed of myself

The lies I believed
They got some roots that run deep
I let em take a hold of my life
I let em take control of my life

Standing in Your presence, Lord
I can feel You diggin’ all the roots up
I feel Ya healin’ all my wounds up
All I can say is hallelujah

Look what You’ve done
Look what You’ve done in me
You spoke Your truth into the lies I let my heart believe
Look at me now
Look how You made me new
The enemy did everything that he could do
Oh, but look what You’ve done

Suddenly all the shame is gone
I thought I was too broken, now I see
You were breaking new ground inside of me

Standing in Your presence, Lord
I can feel You diggin’ all my roots up
I feel Ya healin’ all my wounds up
All I can say is hallelujah

Look what You’ve done
Look what You’ve done in me
You spoke Your truth into the lies I let my heart believe
Look at me now
Look how You made me new
The enemy did everything that he could do
Oh, but look what You’ve done

On the cross, in a grave
With a stone, rolled away
All my debt, it was paid
Look what You’ve done

In my heart, in my mind
In my soul, in my life
With my hands lifted high
I’m singing

Look what You’ve done
Look what You’ve done in me
You spoke Your truth into the lies I let my heart believe
Look at me now
Look how You made me new
The enemy did everything that he could do
Oh, but look what you’ve done

On the cross, in a grave
With a stone, rolled away
All my debt, it was paid
Look what You’ve done

In my heart, in my mind
In my soul, in my life
With my hands lifted high
I’m singing
Look what You’ve done*

Photo Credit: Heartlight

*Lyrics to Look What You’ve Done – Songwriters: Tasha Layton, Matthew West, AJ Pruis, and Keith Everette Smith

Story Behind the Song “Look What You’ve Done” – Kevin Davis

Tasha Layton’s “Look What You’ve Done” – Truth of Scripture Hidden in Today’s Popular Christian Music

Monday Morning Moment – Gently Confronting the Conflict Generated by Reductionism (You Want to Know this Word)

Photo Credit: Quote Master

Today, I want to talk about reductionism – how we reduce a whole person into one part – one facet that we take great pleasure in mocking or deriding. Thinking highly of ourselves in the process. Don’t miss this! Here we go.

Pierce Taylor Hibbs is a writer, teacher, and gentle theologian. I came across a piece he wrote this past week, and it has brought such clarity to a murky subject. The piece is “Reductionism: the Disease that Breeds Conflict”.

Don’t let that big word reductionism put you off. Hibbs will define it, but first, let me give you a scenario or two where we have seen this in action (and when we might have added to the fire of such a situation). We’re at a party of peers. We feel comfortable to just say what we think about any number of people, policies, or processes. No filters. What kinds of things pop up in those conversations? Mind you…they all are met with heads nodding (or shaking), laughter, and attitude. Mocking derision even.

Who are we in this conversation? The chief propagator of said comment. The amused and agreeing audience. The one uncomfortably close in character or worldview of the one being mocked. The one not necessarily close to the subject of putdown, but not comfortable with the putdown…or the people enjoying it.

Now…the definition of reductionism before we weigh in on our conversation topics. Hang in there. it’s so worth it. Pierce Taylor Hibbs on reductionism:

“Reductionism is the stepchild of our desire for mastery (complete control), which emerged from the ancient evil of autonomy Autonomy is the idea that you’re completely and utterly independent…You want full control. The thing is, you can’t have that. . . you know, because you’re not God. You’re limited by nature. That’s how you and I were made. But we’re so stubborn that we don’t accept limitation. We refuse to think we can’t master our own lives. So, within what John Frame calls the fantasy world of autonomy, we chase after mastery, and when we can’t get it (again, we never will get it), then we pretend to have it with . . . reductionism…If we can’t master our lives, then we can simplify them and make it seem as if we’re in full control. We can reduce the complexity of our own lives, the people in them, and the problems that surround us. We can take, in other words, an issue or person with a thousand dimensions and pretend that there’s only one dimension. That’s reductionism. Put differently by my friend and teacher, [Vern Poythress], reductionism happens when people “reduce the world to one dimension of the whole. . . . But reductionism is poverty-stricken, not only in its threadbare endpoint consisting of only one dimension, but also in its explanatory power.””

Reductionism, in short, is when people make something a lot simpler than it is. They do this for the sake of convenience, or egoism, or to build their own self-righteousness. There’s no shortage of motives, but I can’t think of any that are wholesome. And note what Poythress ended with: it lacks explanatory power. Read: it doesn’t actually explain much...In our frustration we reduce people, problems, and situations to manageable bits (ignoring swaths of information) in order to convince ourselves of our own mastery. You can start to predict why this is so destructive.”

Reductionism hurts people because it flattens them. It takes a human life (or a situation, political topic, etc.) and crushes it down to a single dimension, ignoring all of the others. That not only fails to align with reality (reality is always more complicated than we could ever dream); it insults people by making judgments based on that single dimension.”

OK…here we go on the topics “reduced”:

Vaxxers/non-vaxxers. Maskers/non-maskers. Cool/Not Cool. Liberals/Conservatives. Republicans/Democratics. Pro-lifers/Pro-Choice/Abortion. Boomers/Ageists. Patriot/Isolationist. Racists. Privileged. Stupid. Misogynist. Hurtful. Offensive. Homophobe. Sexist. Small-minded. Evangelicals. Enneagram or other reductionist labeling.

We can reduce a person into a box of one word or phrase. What is up with that? Nothing good. It’s handy for a laugh at a party or a sympathetic ear who “gets” people “like that”.

It is not reality. It may be entertaining, but it furthers the accepted divide between people. It degrades not only the subject of the derision but the audience, as well as the person speaking. Hibbs suggests a solution for those who want one:

“Reductionism is killing us because it’s killing our conversations. It’s killing open, receptive dialogue. It’s polarizing the nation, even the world. For our part, we have to start identifying and assaulting reductionism whenever it crops up in our conversations…But what are we supposed to do instead?…We need God and other people to understand not just the world, but even ourselves truly. We need two things: humility and a withholding of assumptions.” – Pierce Taylor Hibbs

He goes on in his piece, giving specifics of how humility and withholding assumptions work together to soften the elements of conflict, even to the possible healing of rifts. Hibbs is a Christian theologian and speaks eloquently of the life of Jesus in his people in the call to a ceasing of conflict. Not just avoiding conflict, but confronting reductionism. Whatever your faith, his counsel is sound in acknowledging the sting of our current biting and devouring social culture. And resisting the temptation of engaging in it…but not be just keeping silent and existing the conversation. Definitely worth our consideration.

Photo Credit; Janet Mock, Audi Quotes

Why Do We Have to Make Others Wrong to Be Right? – Lolly Daskal

Personality Tests: Why Are We Obsessed with Labeling Ourselves? – Sara Abdelbarry

[The above video is fascinating. Wow!]

Bullying: Scoffers, Mockers, Ridicule, and Scorn in the Bible and Today – Kelly Ann Christensen

5 Friday Faves – Life Without Forgiveness, the Power of Words, the CALM Superpower, COVID Close to Home, and the 20th Anniversary of 9/11

Here we go!

1) Life Without Forgiveness – An article on  life without forgiveness by Dave Burchett got me thinking even more about forgiveness. I’m in a study on Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by Lysa Terkeurst. Writing about it, too.

Life without forgiveness sounds truly awful. We imprison ourselves to the past and drag it into our present day and future with treasured grudges. Grudges we feel we can’t afford to lay down. They become part of our identity and how people relate to us – either protecting, justifying, or, at times, “returning evil for evil”.

Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, William Arthur Ward

We have the power to release ourselves and all these entrapped with us…through forgiveness. We need God to help us, for sure. We however must make the decision to forgive. Pretending to do so while hatred gains strength in our hearts is a delusion. God help us.

Here’s a bit of what Dave Burchett says in his article (read the whole here):

“There is no way I have found to release grudges without the healing power of forgiveness. Author Will Davis wrote this powerful insight.

‘Once you decide to forgive, you initiate the healing process. Forgiveness gives your soul permission to move on to the higher and healthier ground of emotional recovery. Forgiveness is to your soul what antibiotics are to infection. It is the curative agent that will help to fully restore your soul. It doesn’t immediately remove the pain of offense but it does start you on the road to recovery.’

I really like that perspective. The decision to forgive initiates but does not complete our healing. You will, in time, heal. I am asking you to pray that you can begin the healing process of forgiveness knowing that only time and God’s mercy can fully heal. That will start you down that road to forgiveness and empowerment to let go of the grudges that are weighing you down. You won’t get there today or tomorrow. But you will never get there without taking the first step of faith.” – Dave Burchett

Photo Credit: Spark People

Burchett refers to the song “Without Forgiveness” by Jerry Salley. Here’s a sweet cover by Jason Davidson:

2) The Power of Words – Words mean things. In fact, they are more powerful than we can imagine. Author, speaker Jackie Hill Perry has referred to a poem which says “Words make worlds”. Now I haven’t been able to find that poem, BUT I have read Genesis 1-3 with the account of God speaking the world into existence.

Photo Credit: Lidia Yuknavitch, @Seek5, Pinterest

Perry spoke on the power of words at a women’s conference. She used the text of the Apostle James’ epistle. James 3. This passage focuses on the influence of the tongue. She elaborated on three points:

  • The tongue is accountable. [We are responsible for our use of words. When we have torn down instead of building up, we will experience consequences. It does not go unheeded.]
  • The tongue is powerful. [We must control our tongues…what we say. Self-control has a wide reach, especially starting with “restraining our speech”. Words can hurt, but they can also heal.]
  • The tongue is inconsistent. [We say one thing to one person and turn around and say another thing to someone else. We may bless God and then curse a neighbor, made in the image of God. Perry talks about the huge disconnect when we speak with reverence of God but with contempt or disdain toward another human being. Words can be a “restless evil”. Pay attention. Are others’ names and personhoods safe on our lips?]

Listen to this fascinating and charged talk by Jackie Hill Perry.

Words Create Worlds – The Language We Use Shapes the Culture We Lead – Eric Geiger

3) The CALM Superpower – Author, leadership trainer Carey Nieuwhof recently interviewed psychologist Jennifer Kolari on his podcast. She spoke on dealing with irrational people, and, in fact, any situation of conflict. I learned so much.

[I’ve written about the brain, decision-making, and dealing with crisis many times. Such fascinating issues!]

Dr. Kolari introduced her CALM technique of dealing with conflict (including helping children in conflict with you or others). In brief, “the CALM method is a way of deep listening using language, compassion and empathy literally as medicine. It will soothe and calm AND bring both participants in the conversation into brain-heart coherence.”

Here’s a brief outline of the framework:
C – CONNECT – connect before correcting; deeply listen; give the sense that you are “for them”.
A – AFFECT – match the affect of the person in front of you; don’t say how the other person SHOULD feel; show understanding.
L – LISTEN – deeply; take that affect above into what you’re hearing; wonder at it; choose your responses based on what is being said to you, including the emotion. Respond not react.
M – MIRROR – allow what’s going on with the person to “hit you right in the heart”. Be in the moment with them/him/her. We do this with babies intuitively. Communicate with your face and body even more than with words.

Listen to the podcast. Check out the resources below. We too often go to correction, with other adults and definitely with children, when they need connection first…and maybe only.

Connect With Your Kids Using the CALM Technique

YouTube Video – Jennifer Kolari – The CALM Technique and Child Brain Development – really fascinating and informative

YouTube Video – The CALM Technique for Babies and Toddlers

4) COVID Close to Home – I’m not saying much here, but COVID has hit very close to home this week. I have friends and family with COVID. Check your thoughts if you’re going straight to “oh…not vaccinated”. Not so in every situation. People who did everything “right” – vaccination, mitigation, all the preventions – can still get COVID. The graphic below is updated often and is super helpful.

Photo Credit: Wesleyan College

The most important points in this conversation are these:

  • COVID is real and we will have to deal with it for some time (not at a pandemic level forever but definitely as endemic).
  • Everyone has to make personal decisions on how to prevent and treat it. To not make a decision is to make a dangerous decision. I’m not saying what to do (enough people are telling us what to do), BUT I am saying to think through our risks and that of those around us, and make informed decisions.
  • Be prepared. You don’t want to start searching out what to do to lessen the impact of COVID when you are already sick.
  • Test early. Even if it might be something else. Testing early helps you and all those who may come in contact with you (if it turns out you test positive.

The pieces below are actually not in support of one methodology or another. In fact, they expose the hard decision-making needed in determining how to act with the threat of COVID. We can depend on (or react against) mandates from government, or we can make the best possible decision we can, given the information we receive.

By the way, my friends and family members are all on the mend… except for one. On a ventilator, with family called in. We are praying still. This is why we can’t be cavalier with our decisions.

Let’s Stop Pretending About the COVID-19 Vaccines – Buzz Hollander, MD

Impact of Masking – Twitter thread – Buzz Hollander MD

FDA Vaccine Regulators Argue Against COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters in New International Review – Andrew Joseph

5) 20th Anniversary of 9/11 – Part of why Friday Faves is coming out on Monday is because I’ve spent an enormous amount of time this week watching, reading, and listening to stories about 9/11. It’s the 20th anniversary of the bombings.

In the twenty years that have passed since 2001, our country has changed so much. We are divided in really unhealthy ways. On that day…for awhile, we came together. We may have had very conflicted views on what happened after (Iraqi War, immigration issues, and the long engagement in Afghanistan). Whatever our opinions are on these, the stories of that day are so worthy of our time and attention.

Photo Credit: Beth Wayland

One of the most beautiful pieces I read this past week was by writer Jennifer Senior for the Atlantic. It was really long, but she did justice to the loss and grief of just this one family. 27 y/o Bobby McIlvaine died that day at the bottom of the World Trade Center. Son, brother, friend, fiancé. His was just one of thousands of stories that day…it matters and it also reflects the many other stories that we don’t know.

The two videos below speak to the day after September 11, 2001 and to the day 20 years later. Take the time…

“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.” – Naomi Shihab Nye

___________________________________________________________________________

Bonuses:

Community – “Every arrow needs a bow: William Wilberforce” — the power of community. If Wilberforce was the arrow that pierced the heart of the slave trade, the Clapham Fellowship was the bow that propelled him. As Pollock writes, “Wilberforce proves that one man can change his times, but he cannot do it alone.” The Clapham fellowship lived by Wesley’s maxim: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” And this was no mere slogan: tensions developed in their relationship that would have splintered most associations, even Christian associations, had they not been so radically centered on Christ.” — “Every Arrow Needs a Bow,” by John Hart, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, July 1998 [This was a quote in my folder of quotes; I can’t find the source online today, but it rings even more true now.]

Photo Credit: Vala Afshar, Twitter

This Is What Happens to Your Brain When You Declutter Your Home – Kelsey Clark

“If we major in criticism, we become polemicists, rather than agents of redemption. Often polemicists excuse their loveless rough edges by the demands of truth. But they lose more than they realize. In fact, when love and the growth of positive truth are lost, truth is also lost. Biblical truth loses its scope, balance, depth, applicability, savor, and growing edge [in this disordered priority]. … Words that are not constructive, timely, and grace-giving are rotten and non-nutritive, whatever their formal likeness to Christian content (Eph 4:29). To lose charity, tenderheartedness, sympathy, and generosity is always to simultaneously pervert the redemptive nature of biblical revelation. Narrowed “truth” may bristle enough to defend one city wall, but it is not good enough to conquer the world.” – David Powlison’s “Cure of Souls” (2007)
Recipe for a Quick and Easy Cherry Cobbler – my husband’s favorite
Photo Credit: Lena Vo, Facebook

 

8 Ways to Build a Strong Foundation for Your Kids – Frank Sonnenberg

Monday Morning Moment – Isolation and Community

Photo Credit: Jackie Hill Perry, Art of It

After one-and-a-half years in COVID, we all have grappled with a need for social distancing and isolation. What happens then when the diligent pursuit of physical safety causes a loss of community?

None of us want to get COVID or its latest variant. However, we also desperately need community. It is on each of us to make creative and persistent decisions toward going after community. Especially the most vulnerable of us, or we will suffer more than the health impact of COVID [see links below].

The dilemma with isolation is somehow it has brought a social lethargy with it. We are becoming more solitary and our community has shrunk to the lowest and tightest we can manage.

Not necessarily out of fear of COVID, but out of a growing incapacity for community. Real community. “Iron sharpening iron” relationships.

I know I am not alone in the need for such community. We have probably all thought of how altered our relationships have become over the last several months. Not the closest maybe, but especially those that spurred us toward a higher accountability, responsibility or integrity. Those relationships where we are helped to make better decisions or extend kindnesses (especially toward those outside our inner circles).

[Whether introvert or extrovert, we can easily sink down into a solitary life of less. And less is not always more. This less can breed a sort of self-serving life where we gauge our relationships by our own gains and extend ourselves by our own comfort levels. Been there, done that. Ugh! ]

COVID or not, we still need other people, and they need us. Whether on a work project better served with team problem-solving or a family crisis that could use “all hands on deck”. Death and divorce are still happening, but life celebrations are also still with us – all calling for the touch of our community.

In the Wiki fandom Mary Shelley article, we read a fascinating take on the impact or lack of community on the characters of Shelley‘s novel Frankenstein.

In the novel, Victor Frankenstein is a brilliant scientist. He is overwhelmed by a series of losses and the grief, as well as his increasingly unhinged genius, drive him into isolation. He decides to make a human-like creature who would be like a son to him.

It did not turn out well. The creature, because of the rejection and isolation he himself felt, was determined to be a monster.

Both Victor and the creature Frankenstein, throughout the story, are plagued with isolation and a terrible lack of caring community.Photo Credit: Pixabay

The theme of isolation in Frankenstein raises many questions about the role of community and its importance. Many characters in the novel find themselves in isolated positions, and a few suffer grave consequences because of it. Characters suffer from both physical and emotional isolation, although, as in the case of the monster, the isolation is not always self-inflicted. Victor Frankenstein, on the other hand, chooses to isolate himself from his family, his peers, and even the monster he created.

In Frankenstein, horrible things happen when a character is isolated from the others. When Victor’s knowledge and ambition are unchecked by his peers, a monster is created…the destructive power lies not in the monster or his creator, but in solitude. Shelley uses this theme and its manifestation in her characters to pose questions about community, knowledge, and its role in society. Is unbridled knowledge always dangerous, or is there a middle ground? Should one abandon his or her pursuits if they are driving him or her away from a community? 

Shelley makes it clear that there are two different types of isolation: self-inflicted and societal. We see self-inflicted isolation manifested in Victor; he detaches from his world and the people he loves and as a result, everyone suffers tremendously. Rejection from society is demonstrated in the monster’s life. Again and again, he is turned away from love and companionship, which what he has longed for since he was first brought to life.” – Wiki-Fandom Analysis of Frankenstein – Mary Shelley, an Academic Wiki

Of course, this is a novel, but incredibly insightful as a tale of human nature. We need community…we are made for community.

Somehow we must rally during this protracted social experience of COVID. What is your mindset on this and what are your intentional actions toward community and away from isolation? The kind of isolation that eventually diminishes us and our relationships. Please comment below.

In closing, I do want to affirm an Isolation in Community. We may have to deal with social distancing for sometime still. Especially those most vulnerable to severe illness from COVID. For some isolation can’t be avoided, but there is an isolation in community. Where we take steps toward and lean in to deeper community. Even if it isn’t always in person. This takes a different sort of effort, but we know it is possible. Fortunately. For me, it’s actually using the phone for conversations (including Facetime). It’s not stepping out of responsibilities (work or community service) because of a need for social distancing, but figuring out alternate ways to serve, or get a job done. I have also experienced the fruit of it, thanks to your efforts. Our mail is less junk mail and more actual real connections through cards/letters. Thanks for that. Again, please comment below what your experience has been here.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Isolation – Good Therapy

Isolation and Community – Helen Thorne – Biblical Counseling UK

Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions – CDC

Creative Communities Are Addressing Social Isolation – Maryjoan Ladden

Worship Wednesday – I Need Thee Every Hour – Fernando Ortega

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Phil Ware

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…”Genesis 1:26-28

Jesus explained, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.”  – John 4:34

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”Luke 23:34

We are needy people…by design.

Years ago, husband Dave and I led a Singles Sunday School class. These young people were top of the heap – well-educated, gifted, socially astute, emotionally intelligent, independent, and committed Christians. Yet, no matter the Scripture being studied that day, Dave always managed to insert two concepts:

  • We are all worms.
  • Obedience is always where we want to land.

I was like (on the first point) “Dude! What about we are fearfully and wonderfully made“?! [Psalm 139:14] [Years down the road, “dude” and “worm” would remind me of this exclamation as “worm” in Arabic is “dooda”. Sorry for the rabbit trail.]

As for the second point – the “O” word…no right or reasonable objection there. Period. Full stop.

Being Needy Is Not a Fault – It Is a Design – Christine Chappell

Yesterday I came across an Instagram story with Jackie Hill Perry talking about our inadequacy and deep need for God. If you know Instagram stories, they seem to last a minute. I wanted to hear it again, but couldn’t. So I’ve been thinking about it and praying since about it. We all have head knowledge about our dependence on God, our need for Him…it just doesn’t always settle into our hearts.

We (ok…is it just me?) go through too much of life with Paul’s affirmation that we have everything we need for “life and godliness” without remembering the context – dependence on His power and through knowing Him, in His glory and because of His goodness. [See verse below.]

His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  2 Peter 1:3

Wow! That right there.

Our days are busy and fraught with care (different depending on each of our situations, but its there…and draws our focus). God does  expect us to show up for work, for our families, for the church, for our communities…That is necessary…but not sufficient.

“Necessary but not sufficient”

“What we do is necessary but not sufficient. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and have substantial creative capacity and we can do a lot of neat things. God expects us to use our abilities, giftings, and capacities, and to work at it as hard as we can. However, all those things fall flat apart from our dependence on God – if He doesn’t breathe His life into our efforts and make them accomplish His purposes. Our work is necessary but not sufficient. He is sufficient.” – Dave Mills

We go to God each day for those things outside our power (cancer, COVID, conflict), but we forge ahead on what we think we can accomplish on our own (including growing our own character and that of our children). What then do we miss, in treating prayer and time in His Word as a sprinkling on our day? A seasoning rather than the meat. [See again John 4:34 above.] We miss God.

We miss God in working out our budgets, in counseling with a friend in crisis, in trips to the grocery store or playground, in studying for an exam. We miss His infusion of His own character, His own wisdom, His own wonder. We wear ourselves out walking in the flesh with just a touch of Him, even though we are indwelt by the very Spirit of God.

Whose image do we take into the public square? His or our own frail self? Preaching to the choir of one here (unless you are singing along with me).

Jesus taught us by His example that He revered the Word of God, and lived in obedience to It, and basked in the Father’s presence, and understood how being human can distract from the greatest reality in our lives – a holy yet approachable God. Even from the Cross, in His greatest need, He prayed for those who participated in the unspeakable. They didn’t know, He said (Luke 23:34).

We know.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses [of my imperfections], so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

“You see, our power as Christians is not in our strength, our own performance, or our own striving towards perfection. Our power comes when we can admit our vulnerability, our weakness, our neediness, and our dependence on the Lord. It was when Paul accepted his weaknesses and his imperfections that he discovered how strong he was in God.  

It’s when we are at our wits end that we discover that His ways are higher than our ways. It’s when we can’t do something that we discover He can. It’s when we realize the power is not in us that we find our strength in Him. Our imperfection is the pathway to the grace of God. It’s in that connection that we find His grace is indeed sufficient, even in spite of our weaknesses. –  Delman Coates

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  –     1 Corinthians 1:27–29

If you feel your neediness on a regular basis, know that you are in good company. All of us are needy, all of the time—we’re just too busy being “independent” to realize it.  We easily forget that neediness is inherent. Take a high-level view of the concept by starting with our neediness in the sight of God. Think back to the garden of Eden and all that Adam required from the Lord to live. Everything Adam had, he was given. Everything he possessed—even his very body and breath—came from God (Genesis 2:7). This truth hasn’t changed since the fall.

Think about it: what do you have at this moment that God did not give to you? …There’s no kidding ourselves: we are utterly dependent upon Someone else for all the things, all the time.

Man’s reliance upon God is a healthy relational construct, not an annoying character flaw. Our neediness is forged out of God’s good design (Genesis 1:31) and is meant to foster fellowship, faithfulness, and fruitfulness. In that sense, dependence upon God and interdependence upon each other is a blessed design meant for our good and God’s glory.Christine M. Chappell

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Be encouraged as I am (after hearing Jackie Hill Perry’s brief story). How different our lives are when we see God as He truly is and see ourselves in proper relationship to Him and each other (my definition of humility, actually). Our lives are small really, no matter how cool, independent or self-sufficient we think we are. How much more beautiful to receive that smallness as a gift in our lives as we walk in the fullness as His increase (in our decrease) (John 3:29-30).

Praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) is cause for rejoicing and gratefulness. I want more of this…more of Him. AND our children and grandchildren need to know they don’t have to grow up so grand and gifted…they can grow up knowing Him in all His power and glory and goodness!

Worship with me to this wonderful old hymn by Annie Hawks. OR if your heart would prefer a newer version then sing with Matt Maher’s Lord, I Need You.

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

Refrain:
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their pow’r when Thou art nigh.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is vain.

Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

[If you prefer the newer pink and blue background, live version of Lord, I Need You, with lyrics, here it is.]

Worship Wednesday – Deep Disappointment – Lord, I Need You – with Matt Maher & Audrey Assad – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – I Need Thee Every Hour – Anthem Lights

Needy People, Mighty God – Steven J. Cole

I Need You Every Hour – Tom Norville

Photo Credit: Heartlight