Category Archives: Beauty of God’s Creation

Worship Wednesday – Most Beautiful/So in Love – Maverick City Music

Photo Credit: Do Not Depart

One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple…When You said, “Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek.”…I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD! – Psalm 27:4, 8, 13-14

Walking through our local botanical garden today, I was reminded of the exquisite beauty of God. The tulips. The flowering trees. So much color. The bluest of skies and the sun breaking through the white clouds. My friends and I were surrounded by such natural splendor that it would be easy to get lost in it.

Flowering Trees at Spring in NYC Parks

Yet, at every turn, we had opportunity to worship God. He is the source of all this beauty. Creator God. How loving and kind of Him to bless us with this profusion of Spring! I’m sure He loves it even more than we do. 

As white petals fell like snow from the Callery pear trees, the beauty of it all filled our winter-weary hearts. So thankful for this perfect day…authored for our pleasure by a loving Father.

This afternoon, I found this little poem by Charles Johnson:

Look at the trees
And what do you see?
The beauty of God.Look at the flowers
And what do you see?
The beauty of God.Look at the sky
And what do you see?
The beauty of God.Now, look in the mirror
And what do you see?
The beauty of God.It’s easy to see the beauty of God in tree and flower. Harder to see it in ourselves sometimes…yet we are made in His image.

In reflecting on His beauty, it’s evident in every mercy. Every grace. Every redeemed moment of our lives. In joy and in sorrow, He demonstrates His great care for us. It’s such a beautiful thing.
He is beauty…infinite beauty. We will enjoy Him forever. Today and forever.
Maverick City Music collaborated on the song Most Beautiful/So in Love. It’s a love song to our beautiful Lord and Savior.

Worship this beautiful God, with me (lyrics and music in link).

We’re in love with You
No one else can take Your place One thing I desire
Only this I seek
Just to dwell, dwell, dwell
Here forever This will be my posture
Laying at Your feet
Oh just to dwell, dwell, dwell
Here forever Dearest Father
Closest Friend
Most beautiful
Most beautiful (You are)
Dearest Father
Closest Friend
Most beautiful (You are, You are)
Most beautiful One thing I desire
Only this I seek
Just to dwell, dwell, dwell
Here foreverThis will be my posture
Laying at Your feet
Oh just to dwell, dwell, dwell
Here forever(Dearest Father) Dearest Father
(You are) Closest Friend
Most beautiful
(Your presence) Most beautiful
(You are Dearest Father) Dearest Father
(Closest Friend) Closest Friend
(Your face) Most beautiful
(Your love) Most beautiful
(Dearest Father) Dearest Father
(No one more loving) Closest Friend
(You are) Most beautiful
(Only You) Most beautiful
(Dearest Father) Dearest Father
Closest Friend
Most beautiful
Most beautifulThere are no words
There’s nothing left
So our love sings to You (Hallelujah)
Oh-oh-oh (Hallelujah, hallelujah)
There are no words (Yeah, yeah)
There’s nothing left
Our love sings to You
Oh-oh-oh (Oh-oh-oh)
(There are no words) There are no words
(To describe Your love) There’s nothing left
(Our love) Our love sings to You
(That’s all we have left to offer) Oh-oh-oh
(Are no words) There are no words
(There’s nothing left) There’s nothing left
(Our love) Our love sings to You
(Oh-oh-oh) Oh-oh-oh
(There are no words) There are no words
(To describe Your presence) There’s nothing left
(Our love) Our love sings to You
(Oh-oh) Oh-oh-oh
(There are no words) There are no words
(To describe Your presence) There’s nothing left
(Our love) Our love sings to You
(Oh-oh) Oh-oh-oh

Dearest Father
Closest Friend
Most beautiful (Only You are)
Most beautiful (Just one glimpse at Your face, You are)
Dearest Father
Closest Friend (The closest Friend)
Most beautiful (You are, You are)
Most beautiful

Oh, and there are no words
There’s nothing left
Our love sings to You
Oh-oh-oh
(Are no words) There are no words
(‘Cause You’ve been that good to us) There’s nothing left
(‘Cause You’ve been that faithful to us) Our love sings to You
(My love, my life, let it sing) Oh-oh-oh
(There are no words) There are no words
(This is my story) There’s nothing left
(This is my song) Our love sings to You
(Praising my Savior, all the day long, all the day long) Oh-oh-oh
(There are no words) There are no words
(There’s nothing left) There’s nothing left
(Our love, our love, our) Our love sings to You
(Oh-oh) Oh-oh-oh
(Lift up your worship, lift up your worship) There are no words
(Yea-eah) There’s nothing left
(Yea-eah) Our love sings to You
(Oh-oh) Oh-oh-oh
(There are no words) There are no words
(There’s nothing left) There’s nothing left
(Our love) Our love sings to You
(Oh-oh-oh-oh) Oh-oh-oh

I’m so in love with You
You’re beautiful
So beautiful
I’ll fix my eyes on You
You’re beautiful
So beautiful
(I’m so in love) I’m so in love with You
(You’re beautiful) You’re beautiful
(So beautiful) So beautiful
(You’re the Author and the Finisher) I’ll fix my eyes on You
(You’re beautiful) You’re beautiful
(So beautiful) So beautiful

So with just one look
Everything changes
I’m captivated
I’ll never be the same
With just one look
Everything changes (Yes, it does)
I’m captivated (Yes, I am)
I’ll never be the same (Say it y’all)
With just one look
(Everything) Everything changes
(I’m captivated) I’m captivated
(I’ll never be the same) I’ll never be the same
With just one look (Of Your holy face)
Everything changes
(I’m captivated) I’m captivated
(I’ll never be) I’ll never be the same
(With just one) With just one look
(Everything) Everything changes
(I’m captivated) I’m captivated (Because You’re in the room)
I’ll never be the same
(With just one look) With just one look
(Everything) Everything changes
(I’m captivated) I’m captivated
(I’ll never be) I’ll never be the same
With just one look
Everything changes
I’m captivated
I’ll never be the same
With just one look
Everything changes
I’m captivated
I’ll never be the same
With just one look

With just one look
One look is enough
One look is enough
One look is enough to change everything
With just one look
My life was changed
My body was healed
My family restored
My life rescued, with just one
With just one look
[?]
My life was changed
My life was changed
My life was changed, with just one
With just one look
On Calvary, You looked at me
On Calvary, You looked at me
On Calvary, You looked at me with just one
With just one look
On Calvary, You looked at me
On Calvary, You looked at me
On Calvary, You looked at me with just one
With just one look
You’re not the only one looking
But He says, “I am looking, too”
He says, “With just one look
I see My son and daughter
And I don’t have to second guess
I don’t have to second look
With just one look
With just one look”
On Calvary, You looked at me
On Calvary, You looked at me
On Calvary, You looked at me with just one
With just one look
On Calvary, You looked at me
On Calvary, You looked at me
On Calvary, You looked at me with just one

With just one look
Everything changes
I’m captivated
I’ll never be the same
With just one look
Everything changes
I’m captivated
I’ll never be the same
With just one look*

*Lyrics to Most Beautiful/So in Love – Songwriter(s): Chandler David Moore, Tony Brown, Dante Bowe, Michael Brandon Lake, Nate Moore, Jonathan Jay, Omari Ade Walthour, Leamond Sloan Jr.

How Can I See the Beauty of God? – Interview with Jonathan King, author of The Beauty of the Lord – Theology in Aesthetics  – Do not miss this interview (either listen to the podcast or read the transcript)! So good!

The Beauty of God – A. Raleigh

5 Friday Faves – Beyond Grumpiness, the Coming of Spring, Shame as Our Personal Assistant, Vulnerability, and Great Marriage Advice

Friday Faves – Go!

1) Beyond Grumpiness –A friend of mine pointed this blog to me today and it bumped its way to the top of my Faves. English professor Alan Jacobs mused about the grumpiness of old people. I don’t know when it happens and why exactly it happens, but it is something that has happened to me of late…and I don’t think I’m old enough yet for it to happen.

Photo Credit: Stream

Here’s a bit of what Dr. Jacobs says about grumpiness, but you should read his whole piece, especially if you’re finding yourself becoming grumpy (whatever age you are).

“I think the explanation for such widespread grumpiness is fairly simple…It’s not the big foul acts or horribly cruel words that do you in, it’s the slow drip drip drip of little annoyances that become over time a vast sea of frustration. Surely you’ve been there? You become exasperated by someone’s passing comment and when they are genuinely puzzled by your anger over so trivial a matter, you try to explain (apologetically, penitently, I hope) that it wouldn’t be a problem if this thing had happened once but it has happened a thousand times. It’s the repetition that kills you.” [Dr. Jacobs goes on to talk about the divisions on which we’ve taken sides give the sense of being new and revolutionary…and yet they are old divisions revisited.] “You can’t learn from the past if you don’t know what happened in it. So yeah, I’m gradually turning into a grumpy old man. Because nobody learns anything…” [About these things that divide us: We seem to care too much, or too little, or just plain not at all. Dr. Jacobs challenges us to that only truly loving people gives us the right to voice an opinion, and definitely not a shaming one.] “It’s a hard path to walk, this Way of avoiding both indifference and ‘the conscious impotence of rage / At human folly.’ But the hard path is the only real Way. (All the others circle back on themselves.) So I try every day to follow it. I don’t think I could manage even that if I did not have an Advocate to accompany me, to encourage me, and to guide me.” – Alan Jacobs, Beyond Grumpiness

Against Stupidity – Alan Jacobs

The Destructive Power of Grumbling and Complaining – Michael Brown

2) The Coming of Spring –March weather – “In like a lion, out like a lamb”. Of course, we’re only mid-way through March, but we have no more predictions of snow. Daffodils bloomed in snow last week, but the winds of March have blown all the rough weather away for now. I’m not rushing Spring, but it is such a beautiful and refreshing time of the year. Here are some pics of our March so far.

Photo Credit: Kathryn Visneski (East Tennessee; we had this same snow but no captures of red cardinals in it.)

3) Shame as our Personal Assistant – In Dr. Curt Thompson‘s excellent book The Soul of Shame: Retelling Stories We Believe About Ourselves, we find the intriguing term shame assistant.

Imagine having a personal assistant who means us only evil. Whispers in our ear of how we’re not prepared enough, not attractive enough, not smart enough…just not enough.

It’s hard not to believe what seems to be coming out of our own reasoned thinking. Maybe…just maybe…we’re not enough.

To defend ourselves, without consciously being aware, we armor up against those thoughts…protecting ourselves from being too exposed to others. Isolating ourselves. This hiding keeps us from community which we need the most in dealing with shame.

At times, we strike out against the shame. Either by punishing ourselves or by blaming someone else for the pain we feel. Again, this further isolates us from others…leaving us alone with the shame attendant of our lives.

There’s good news, though, Friend. See #4.

Shame: Your Inner Attendant – Katelyn Entz

Toxic Shame Has Its Own Neurobiology. The Gospel Offers a Cure – Werner Mischke

4) Vulnerability – Curt Thompson spends a chapter in his book on the remedy for shame. It is vulnerability. How do we convince ourselves, all armored up against being exposed that the path to healing is dropping the armor? Here’s the thing: armor or no, we are vulnerable. Period. Full stop. We can’t keep shame at a distance. It crouches at our mind’s door, ready at a moment’s notice, to destroy our peace…and diminish our relationships.

Photo Credit: Curt Thompson MD, Instagram

“To be vulnerable is not first something we choose. It is something we are.”* We are vulnerable. It is our state of being. We spend an enormous amount of energy protecting it. We can be free of this.

*Being Known Podcast – Vulnerability – Season 1, Episode 3

You know how we teach little ones to say, “Please” and “Thank you”? These aren’t just practices of good manners. They are actually acknowledgements of our vulnerability from an early age. Little ones have to ask for what they can’t get on their own, and then they express gratitude that their need was seen and responded to.

Our willingness to be openly vulnerable within community moves us toward intimacy. “Vulnerability creates opportunity for connection.” When we don’t avail ourselves to these opportunities, we just stay in our protective armor. Opening up to a trusted friend or small group emboldens us to tell our stories and recognize that the stinging words of shame don’t belong to us. We matter. We are enough. Being able to share such things with people who will NOT leave the room gives us the courage to then be more vulnerable with others – like our boss, or professor, or estranged family member.

Dr. Thompson also talks about the other side of being vulnerable – when we are the ones others are being vulnerable with. We may want to move away from the awkwardness of that kind of disclosure. Or we may want to try to fix it which early on is more to help ourselves dealing with the discomfort than the one sharing. “What they most need from us is our empathic presence…” To lean in, to demonstrate that they are being seen, and to connect with them, and validate what they are feeling, to see them in whatever the hard is for them in being vulnerable. In the end, we may ask how we can be helpful but we don’t go right there in the immediate of their telling their story.

This is vulnerability and it moves us to healing, to community, and to joy.

5) Great Marriage Advice – Marriage…whew! Earlier in my adult life, I always cringed at the observation that marriage is work. It didn’t look like work, and having the opportunity to share life with your special person seemed more joy than labor. Then I got married.

It is joy and it is work…not in the dull, redundant sort of work we may have from time to time…but the challenging, invigorating, problem-solving, “in it to win it” kind of work.

I happened across a sweet thread on Jane Lewis’ Twitter page. She reached out to her followers for marriage wisdom. Lots of response!

Below are just some of them…the ones I especially found valuable:

“No one”……and I mean “no one” can read your mind!

Develop and maintain hobbies independent of each other AND protect the hobbies you do together.

Attack the problem, not the person.

Faith (if you are inclined that way), mutual respect, and honest, loving, open communication are the Big Three that get you through life together.

Don’t take the little things for granted.

There is a challenge to live connected but free with your spouse. I’ve read that your primary job in marriage is to protect your spouse from your control.

My advice is laugh a lot, kiss each other often, and pray for and with each other daily.

Forgive quickly and keep a short memory of the bad. Focus on the good and appreciate him immensely!

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate – not just about money, work, chores, kids or health, but also spirituality, fun, world events. 2. Each of you needs ‘me’ time. 3. Do something fun together every week. 4. Sex is great, but marriage is about more than that. 5. Communicate.

Seek to have a quiet heart each day. Thought today of Mary facing extreme excitement (Luke 1:18,19) and deep coming sorrow (Luke 1:35). The Lord is your Keeper in highs and lows.

Don’t criticize or complain about your spouse in public. Smile at the “husbands be like” jokes, but don’t contribute. Be honest & kind. Talk to each other about your problems, not to friends/family. Keep your own hobbies, bank account & bathroom if possible.

Don’t be easily offended. As John Bevere says in his book, it is “The Bate of Satan.”

Stay curious. Keep flirting. Never forget to tell him you appreciate his hard work…never forget the reasons why you fell in love with each other…never forget that you are on the same team.

Neither of you is the same person you will be in 5 years, 20 years, or 45 years. You’re each committing to the version of the person you love now, but you’re also committing to the many versions they will become.

As much as you love him and he loves you, know that you cannot completely fulfill him, nor he fulfill you…it’s unfair to put that burden on either and will only end in heartache.

Have close girlfriends. Be humble when you fight. Hold healthy boundaries. Learn how he processes. Let him be different than you. Stick. Bad times pass. Glorify God. Forgive. Remember marriage is a picture to help us understand Christ’s love for the church. Let that sink in.

Find ways to laugh together and always have compassion for one another.

Find a reason to laugh, fist bump or high five with your spouse everyday.

Mind who you talk about your marriage with and who you listen to about your marriage. There’s a lot of wisdom to be gained from others who have gone before, but there are also people who you shouldn’t let speak to your marriage.

My advice to a new bride- maintain your friendships.with your girlfriends. He does not want to chit chat, go shopping or do your hair the way your girlfriends do. Keep your girlfriends. He will be happier and so will you.

Hold to your integrity. Trust Jesus w everything. Listen deeply. Celebrate madly. Speak truth in love. Have fun! Pray together. Walk together. Hold hands. Let there be space in your togetherness. Let go & hold on.

Give dignity to your differences. Make adequate space for whatever conversation needs to happen. You’ll both still be there tomorrow, and few things are urgent. Have your own tubes of toothpaste.

An abbreviated quote by Camille Paglia: “Men have sacrificed and crippled themselves physically and emotionally to feed, house, and protect women and children. (But the world) portrays men as oppressive and callous exploiters.” Be understanding of his burden.

Talk through how you deal with money and come up with a budget you both agree on. One spouse can pay the bills but both of you should be aware of the state of your finances and financial goals.

You are the same team. In disagreements, in different skill sets and ways of communicating, you are all on the same team. Argue and forgive like teammates. Notice and applaud like teammates. Work out problems and brainstorm like teammates. We use “same team” as shorthand to stop ourselves when we disagree or misunderstand each other. Take a breath and explain what is going on. Learning to argue well, to listen well and be self-aware enough to give names to things and be heard. And give loads of grace.

@janeelisabethh, you have some wise women (and a couple of guys) in your Twitter world. People (and threads) like this are why I am still on Twitter.

Coming up on 38 years with this guy.

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Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp, Tim Keller

Photo Credit: Instagram, Tim Keller NYC

10 Ways to Live Life to the Fullest After 60 – Rebecca Wilson

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s Spider-Man Theme Mashup, Engaging a Person Who’s Harmed You, True Community, Going Through Closets, and Spring Flowers

Friday Faves – super fast!

1) Beyond the Guitar’s Spider-man Theme Mashup on Classical GuitarNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar arranged and performed the three big themes of the three Spider-Man franchises of the last 20 years. So much to love in these movies, in particular the ones starring Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, and Tobey Maguire. You’ll welcome the nostalgia and the heart-filling beauty of what Nathan does with the classical guitar.

Which did you love the most? Share in Comments.

2) Engaging a Person Who Has Harmed You – Who is this person? A parent…a spouse…a child…an employer…a supposed friend? We have a way forward toward healing.

Engaging With Someone Who Has Harmed You – Part 1

I discovered Adam Young Counseling a few weeks back and have dived in to many of his podcasts. His 5-part series above on engaging with someone who’s harmed you was like sitting in a therapist’s office…a GREAT therapist’s office. We have all been harmed by someone, and we ourselves have harmed others, often without knowing or without intending. Still, to have counsel on how to take positive steps toward healing in such a scary situation is amazing. Adam Young has experienced trauma himself, and he has redeemed that trauma in so many ways, in particular his love and help for others.

In these podcasts, Adam Young distinguishes between the garden variety sinner, a wicked person*, and an evil person. I appreciated that he said we do well not to judge people as permanently in those states because God can move to transform any of us. He did however encourage those of us who have been harmed to determine if we are dealing with a wicked or evil person…and act accordingly. His helps are empowering and transformative if we have the courage to walk through them.Photo Credit: Alistair Begg, Truth For Life

*Dr. Young spends much counsel on engaging a wicked person who has harmed us. It helped me to be reminded that a person who is behaving wickedly can, on the whole, be a decent person. What causes a person to act despicably toward us could be generational sin – not to discount that person’s responsibility in harming us, but to strive for understanding and grace (which multiplies toward us, not just to the one who harmed us). Thoughts?

When we have been harmed by someone, we need safe people to counsel with in order to be wise in our engaging others with whom we don’t feel safe. Walling ourselves off from them, trying to just put the harm behind us, or claiming forgiveness when we haven’t – none of these things get us to healing. If you have been harmed by someone, spend some time in these podcasts. Seriously. It will make a difference.

Photo Credit: Adam Young Counseling, Instagram

3) True Community – We desperately need real or true community. Whatever the problem loneliness and isolation were for us before COVID has been severely compounded. We need one anther…not in a surfacy, thin-veneered way, but in a deep well of fellowship with each other. Jennie Allen has written a hopeful and provocative book about this in Find Your People.

The need for true community is neither new nor specific to our culture. It’s been written about, researched, and explored for decades. Two great thinkers and authors Jerry Bridges and M. Scott Peck (both now deceased) are quoted below.

Photo Credit: Jerry Bridges, Quote Fancy

“If we are to master the scriptural principles of true biblical community, we must master this one: True greatness in the kingdom of heaven involves serving one another. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26)…Fellowship is much, much more than food and fun and even more than reading and studying the Scriptures with another believer. Fellowship at times may involve blood, sweat, and tears as we stand side by side with our persecuted brothers and sisters…It implies a responsibility to fulfill our function in the body. We usually don’t think of fellowship in terms of fulfilling a responsibility, but that is because we have lost sight of the biblical meaning of fellowship. Fellowship is not just a social privilege to enjoy; it is more basically a responsibility to assume...But this is what servant-hood within the fellowship of believers is all about: being alert to the little things that need to be done and then doing them.” – Jerry Bridges

True Community: the Biblical Practice of Koinonia – Jerry Bridges

“In genuine community there are no sides. It is not always easy, but by the time they reach community the members have learned how to give up cliques and factions. They have learned how to listen to each other and how not to reject each other. Sometimes consensus in community is reached with miraculous rapidity. But at other times it is arrived at only after lengthy struggle. Just because it is a safe place does not mean community is a place without conflict. It is, however, a place where conflict can be resolved without physical or emotional bloodshed and with wisdom as well as grace. A community is a group that can fight gracefully.”~ M. Scott Peck

Photo Credit: One Community Global

The Four Stages to Building True Community

Do you experienced true community – where you are willing to serve sacrificially and receive that kind of care as well? We need to go after it for ourselves and one another.

4) Cleaning Closets- I’m not a spring cleaning kind of person, although, these days, we are so often called on to declutter, let go, and be free in the area of stuff management. Still we have two closets (among others) where things just get randomly tossed up onto the shelf. I decided to clear them out to know exactly what is stored there. One closet now contains my journals of the last 30 years!! Whew!

Haven’t re-read any of them but lined them up by date and found this little note from my sweet mama in the front of one of them (from many years ago). A treasure…

5) Spring Flowers – The month of March is bringing Spring along here in the US. With temperatures warming, trips to the park are becoming more regular. The glory of Spring is not lost on the kiddos.

I just want to share a few flower pics of recent days. Hope Spring is coming your way (of course, I get that’s only for the Northern Hemisphere…for you Southern Hem. folks, Happy Fall! 

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Thanks for a quick stop-by. It means a lot to me. Hope you’re surrounded by and creating beauty wherever you are…we sure need it in this world today…really every day.

5 Friday Faves – New Year’s Resolutions, Habit Planner, Year-End Review, Word for the Year, and the Last Days of 2021

2021 is rapidly winding down. Whew! Here are my Friday Faves to get us ready for the new year…hopefully a joyful one!

1) New Year’s Resolutions – 2021…the end is in sight. What do we do with this new year ahead? Do we revisit those habits we thought about changing up in this tumultuous year? Maybe so. Or maybe we didn’t alter course so much for good reason. Let’s give pause a moment and consider…

Photo Credit: David Lose

Monday Morning Moment  – 2021 Come On! – New Year’s Resolutions

Are We Doing New Year’s Resolutions After a Year as Lousy as 2020? There’s One I think We Need More Than Ever – Heidi Stevens

How to Make Healthy, Attainable New Year’s Resolutions During COVID-19 – Ashley Welch, Healthline

Are You Making a New Year’s Resolution This Year? Readers Weigh In – Sarah Fielding

I take New Year’s resolutions very seriously. They have served me well through the years in shaking up troublesome habits as well as galvanizing better ones. New (or restored) habits that nurture the body, the spirit….and, when possible, family and community.

New Year’s resolutions are not always exercises in futility. They can be excellent pathways to help us get off to a strong start into the next year. Some of my family and friends treat resolutions with disdain…they never work; they never last. Oh, but not always!

They are really very energizing. Whether we meet our goals or not, there is great promise within the resolution for resetting our thinking. A keen sense of self, or self-awareness, aids in our understanding of habits and true habit change.

Without knowing it, I have actually used a practice of habit change that Ken Sande writes about on his blog, Relational Wisdom 360. He first influenced my life years ago with his work on conflict resolution through his Peacemaker Ministries. He is a gentle guide in many of the issues that complicate our lives.

His article on Seven Principles of Habit Change came at a great time. Sande talks quite kindly about how we develop habits and what it takes to change them. His first principle of habit change gives us a look at the cycle of habits – the cue, the routine (or response), and the reward. I actually followed Ken Sande’s principles below (without knowing the wisdom of it).

  1. Every habit has three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
  2. You can change an undesirable habit by keeping the cue and reward but learning a new routine.
  3. The best way to overcome the temptation to revert to old routines is to have a detailed action plan.
  4. Habit change builds momentum if you can change a single “keystone habit” and then continue to build on consecutive “small wins”.
  5. Will power is like a muscle: it can be strengthened and yet needs to be exerted strategically.
  6. Faith is an essential part of changing habits.
  7. Habit change is more likely to occur within a community (even if it’s just two people).Ken Sande

Self-awareness is a huge factor relating to habit change. I can see that more now having come through seasons of looking at my own habits.

“Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of oneself; it’s a stepping stone to reinventing oneself, learning to make wiser decisions, and helps you tune into your thoughts and feelings. So often we place blame on externalities because it’s the easiest excuse, when in fact we should be thinking about our thinking, reflecting, trying on different perspectives, and learning from our mistakes.”Paul Jun

It is possible to affect true habit change if we are willing to take a studied look at ourselves – our awareness and our engagement with making choices/decisions and within relationship. I used to think that self-awareness was morally charged, i.e., it drove us to become more self-centered. That doesn’t have to be the case. When we take time to really examine where our minds go, through the day, we can train our thinking toward what matters most – related to people, resources, and life purpose.

New Year’s Resolutions and Reality Checks – Wally Bock

When we are willing to do that, New Year’s resolutions can become much more transformative than just a few weeks of good intentions. These habit change principles can apply to anger issues, pornography, other addictions, and pretty much any habitual process that negatively affects your work, relationships or general peace of mind.

Consider these questions as you think on resolutions for 2022:

  1. What do I want to keep from the changes I made to cope with the pandemic?
  2. What do I want to reclaim from the pre-pandemic time?
  3. How would I “build back better” if I were in charge of the world or my neighborhood?Katherine Arbuthnott

Four years back, our pastor Cliff at Movement Church challenged us to commit to some resolutions to the Lord…together [podcast of 12/31/2017 here].  I have kept the resolutions made that day in a visible place, to be reminded of the good change in life, and the struggle… I still have them in view…four years out. Still relevant to now. For 2022, on it again…plus prayer for wisdom how to be creative and intentional, given COVID’s continued intrusion. And also added this year: writing my life’s story (capturing the memories and maybe restoring/refining some as I write).

Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th century preacher and theologian, definitely understood the importance of praying through and writing out resolutions that would inform his daily life. Over the course of several months, he composed seventy resolutions for life. You can read them here. The five resolutions I made during church on a New Year’s Eve are weighty enough for me…can’t imagine 70! Edwards just gives an example of a man who, even as deeply devoted as he already was, did not want to miss God in a busy life of ministry. Nor did he want to miss the people God placed in his life.

Resolutions help us to keep the main thing the main thing. Sure, we may struggle to keep our bodies and houses in order. Those are temporary situations. Where we hope most to be successful is in keeping our hearts tuned to what matters most. Going deep with God and others. Even in the face of a continuing pandemic...if we are ruthless and wise, and don’t give in to another year of listlessness and waiting.

We’ve already enough of that…coming up on two years.

I am resolved…

Photo Credit: Reformed Outfitters

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Do You Want to Change Your Habits? – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Habit Change is a Team Project – Ken Sande

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

Why Self-Awareness Is the Secret Weapon for Habit Change– Paul Jun

RW Acrostics in Action– Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Ten Questions for a New Year – Don Whitney – Desiring God

Need Help With Your New Year’s Resolutions? – David Lose

Understanding True Habit Change and Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions – Deb Mills Writer

2) Habit Planner –Anyone who knows the writing of Justin Whitmel Earley knows his commitment to a life well-lived. He is determined to live intentionally, not leaving the substance of his life to outside powers or sloppy habits.

Unlike resolutions, we actually become our habits. There are no changed lives outside of changed habits. And if we want to actually change, we need to take a sober look at where our habits are leading us.”Justin Whitmel Earley

Habits are the little things we do over and over without thinking about them. And the tiny and subconscious nature of habits makes them powerful. Why? Because they create our “normal.” Normal life is what stays with you from January through December. Normal life is what shapes your kids, your body, your schedule, and your heart.”Justin Whitmel Earley

His two books – The Common Rule and Habits of the Household – lay out a simple path for examining our current lives and then setting strategy for habit change. So accessible and engaging whatever our preferences for methods are. If spreadsheets help, he has one for you. If you need a more fuzzy-boundaried approach (that would be me), you can glean from his wisdom, and alter course accordingly.

Below are his own examples of the habit planner. I appreciate his heart so much. He helps us all he can (in his books and free resources):

Photo Credit: Justin Whitmel Earley, Screenshots

Habits of the Household – Habit Planner – pdf – Justin Whitmel Earley

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

Unlock the Power of Family Habits in 2022 – Justin Whitmel Earley

3) Year-End Review – Business writer Stephen Jones shares author Tim Ferriss’ practice of doing a quick past year review. Ferriss prefers this over new year’s resolutions, and Jones gives a quick snapshot of his 5 steps.

Below is Tim Ferriss’ guide for a past year review from his own blog (and podcast):

  1. Grab a notepad and create two columns: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE.
  2. Go through your calendar from the last year, looking at every week.
  3. For each week, jot down on the pad any people or activities or commitments that triggered peak positive or negative emotions for that month. Put them in their respective columns.
  4. Once you’ve gone through the past year, look at your notepad list and ask, “What 20% of each column produced the most reliable or powerful peaks?”
  5. Based on the answers, take your “positive” leaders and schedule more of them in the new year. Get them on the calendar now! Book things with friends and prepay for activities/events/commitments that you know work. It’s not real until it’s in the calendar. That’s step one. Step two is to take your “negative” leaders, put “NOT-TO-DO LIST” at the top, and put them somewhere you can see them each morning for the first few weeks of 2022. These are the people and things you *know* make you miserable, so don’t put them on your calendar out of obligation, guilt, FOMO, or other nonsense.

We do a year-end review but not in order to plan out the next year. Mostly to celebrate the year rapidly coming to an end and to reflect on how we might reorder the course of the next year (re the negatives).

A creative friend of ours put his “year-end review” into a cool video:

Photo (Video) Credit: Todd AO, Facebook

4) Word for the Year –A year ago, I read Debbie Macomber‘s book One Perfect Word. She tells fascinating stories of persons’ choosing a word to guide their year. Finishing her book and praying a bit, the word compassion became my focus. 2021 was a good year for that as we dealt with so many divisions over COVID, race, politics, etc. Compassion for all on both sides of each issue.

At first I wasn’t going to do “a word” for 2022, and then a rapid series of “coincidences” drew me to the word: joy. As this year ends, I’ve become negative and even a bit cynical. Still having faith in God but not so much in humans, including myself. Even after a year of compassion!!

It dawned on me that I haven’t been “counting it all joy”. Or remembering that “the joy of the Lord is my strength”. Now my heart is resolved to be set on joy in 2022…no matter what.

Lord, help us to be people of joy,

to notice joy in this day and to hope for joy in days to come,

to look for light and share it with others this Advent season,

to see beauty in creation and the people we encounter,

to laugh heartily with childlike glee,

to feel true joy in your presence.     Amen.

Photo Credit: Prayer @inthecoracle, Instagram

5) The Last Days of 2021 – As may have been many of your experiences, we had people we know and love dealing with COVID in this last week of 2021. Still managed a sweet end-of-year. Hope yours was as well.

 

Now on to 2022!! Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot to me.

Bonuses:

Vimeo Video by Rodrigo Souza – Heart – with Nathan Mills, Beyond the Guitar

How to Stop All Procrastination: Dear You Trying to Do that Hard Thing in the New Year – Ann Voskamp (great piece on procrastination and perfectionism – both keeping us from presenting the gifts God’s given us)

Photo Credit: Samantha Reynolds, @Bentlily, Instagram (w/ permission)

52 Week Bible Reading Plan – Michael Coley

What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) and Tips for Building One

Photo Credit: Facebook

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar on a Lava Me 3, Christmas Poems, Overcoming Anxiety, and Which Is It? Christmas or XMas?

The countdown is done. Christmas Day looms. For those with an Eastern Christmas, there is still a week to go. We loved celebrating two Christmases when we lived in Egypt. Then there are the 12 days of Christmas still ahead until Epiphany (or Three Kings Day). So we continue to celebrate. Sweet especially for those of us dealing with COVID interruptions or other struggles (loss, holiday work,etc.). Here are my faves this week. Please share some of yours as well …and Happy Christmas!

1) Beyond the Guitar on a Lava Me 3Nathan Mills‘ most recent piece is an original composition entitled “Dreams”. He plays it on this amazing smart guitar – the Lava Me 3 guitar. Check it out below:

2) Christmas Poems – Christmas is the kind of holy day that inspires poetry. This week, I had the opportunity of catching the online program A Christmas Celebration: Theater, Song, & Scripture. Created and produced by the Fellowship of Performing Arts, it was a lovely mix of classic Christmas songs, poems, and monologues. Some surprisingly humorous and some deeply spiritual. Two poems, both by Scottish poet George MacDonald, were powerfully performed.

Photo Credit: Poem Hunter

Photo Credit: Poem Hunter

My absolute favorite Christmas poem is “Little Jesus” written by English poet Francis Thompson. It’s a bit long but such a treasure.

LITTLE JESUS

by Francis Thompson (1859 – 1907)

Little Jesus, wast Thou shy

Once, and just so small as I?

And what did it feel like to be

Out of Heaven, and just like me?

Didst Thou sometimes think of there,

And ask where all the angels were?

I should think that I would cry

For my house all made of sky;

I would look about the air,

And wonder where my angels were;

And at waking ’twould distress me–

Not an angel there to dress me!

Hadst thou ever any toys,

Like us little girls and boys?

And dist Thou play in Heaven with all

The angels that were not too tall,

With stars for marbles? Did the things

Play Can you see me? through their wings?

And did Thy Mother let Thee spoil

Thy robes, with playing on our soil?

How nice to have them always new

In Heaven, because ‘twas quite clean blue!

Thou canst not have forgotten all

That it feels like to be small:

And Thou know’st I cannot pray

To Thee in my father’s way–

When Thou was so little, say,

Couldst Thou talk Thy Father’s way?–

So, as a little child, come down

And hear a child’s tongue like Thy own;

Take me by the hand and walk,

And listen to my baby-talk.

To Thy Father show my prayer

(He will look, Thou art so fair),

And say: “O Father, I Thy Son,

Bring the prayer of a little one.”

And He will smile, that childrens’ tongue

Hast not changed since Thou was young!

3) Overcoming Anxiety – Even as lovely and magical a time as Christmas can be, we can experience anxiety. Over family gatherings, or under-performing on gift buying, or just a creeping loneliness. Whatever our anxiety, the 4-step approach for overcoming anxiety is a healthy practice. Thanks to NICABM.

Infographic: A 4-Step Approach for Overcoming Anxiety – NICABM

4) Healing From Harm – We hope as parents that we do no major harm to our children. Unfortunately, there are relationships between parents and children that can go terribly wrong. Counselor Adam Young tackles this topic (and others) really well in his podcast . I listened to Episode 23 this week where he interviewed a woman named Autumn, on her relationship with an abusive mother. The title of this episode is “How to Engage a Parent Who Has Harmed You”. Her story gives hope. The dialog between her and Young is both instructive and prescriptive. To be able to get actual help from a podcast is a blessing. Especially in a time when counselors are hard to find (not enough of them or over-scheduled in these days of heightened mental health issues thanks to COVID).

One of Young’s free resources is “How to Write a Story”. I’m excited about this assist, because writing the story of my life since my earliest memories is actually on my list for 2022. Not that my parenting was harmful – I had a wonderful mom and step-dad, but my biological father was neglectful and then eventually just disappeared from our lives. I know the wounds of that have had impact, and actively recalling my growing-up years seems a way to take hold of anything that has harmed and can still be having impact on my family. By the way, this is not an exercise in blaming parents. We all have failings in this area. It’s an exercise to reframe memory such that it doesn’t control us.

Words That Harm, Words That Heal: A Short Guide for Parents – Justin Coulson

Any resources you recommend for healing from harm? Please comment below.

5) Which Is It? Christmas or XMas? – The great thinker and writer C. S. Lewis became a Christ-follower at the age of 33 (in 1931). He did not come to this decision lightly having first rejected God altogether, as a public and punishing atheist, and then a theist, and finally a Christian…the most reluctant convert. He never looked back. His writing and teaching since then have greatly influenced generations to follow. Even the most uncertain have been riveted by his works on the beauty and reality of God, and Jesus, the Son and Savior.

Again, in watching A Christmas Celebration: Theater, Song, & Scripture, I heard, for the first time, Lewis’ essay Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter From Herodotus. He writes of the irony of Christmas celebrated in the two ways done in the West – the sacred and secular – and how we as Christians blend the two. It is a rich narrative, short and very much worth the read. He targets the United Kingdom but it could be about the US as well. We rush around buying, buying, buying, and then partying, partying, partying. To the point, we end up in a heap on Christmas Day with the children wondering aloud “Is there anything else?” As they are practically covered over with wrapping paper and presents. Our little grands said themselves, so wise for so small, “It’s Jesus’ birthday, but we get all the presents”.

I don’t mean this as a rant…just wanted to point to the brilliant, short piece by Lewis…and maybe to call for a pause in the rush. I’m almost past caring that I get equally amazing gifts for the grands. It’s ok for the other grandparents to shine. I’m just thankful to have them all in my life.

So…have a happy Christmas, Dear Ones. For those who get caught up in the maddening rush without the transforming experience of Christ in it, watch for the Hound of Heaven …In the flurry of activity to make Xmas happen, you might chance to notice, like C. S. Lewis did finally, that persistent wooing of God to draw us to Himself…out of His deep love for each of His created ones.

‘Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’

Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly,

‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He Whom thou seekest!” – Francis Thompson (1859–1907)

Bonuses:

Labor to Give (Or Take) No Offense – Jon Bloom

5 Keys to a Great Apology (and Why Leaders Need to Apologize First) – Carey Nieuwhof

Photo Credit: Greg Mathias, Twitter

One of my favorite “Christmas songs”:

The most beautiful and powerful Christmas cantata I’ve ever heard: “Saviour – The Story Of God’s Passion For His People” – written by Greg Nelson and Bob Farrell – the cantata itself begins 9:45 minutes into the video. 

[Product description: Saviour is a pop-classical oratorio created by Bob Farrell and Greg Nelson, in performance around the world since 1994. Recorded live at Gateway Church, this spectacular performance features full orchestra and choir with standout solo performances by Steve Green, Twila Paris, Wayne Watson, Larnelle Harris, and Keron Jackson. – Available on DVD.]

Funny pic captured by our daughter – vultures at Voter Registration – must have gotten wind of the rumored registering dead voters:

Pic below from my dear friend Marc Merlin who captures the most fascinating images at a favorite cemetery – Oakland in Atlanta:Photo Credit: Marc Merlin, Instagram

A favorite Christmas tradition – canstruction for the food bank:

All the candles lit – focused on the coming Christ:

The Christmas cactus – somehow it knows – just days ago, nothing, no buds, nothing – and then…it blooms.

5 Friday Faves – Work Songs, People Who Inquire, Fall’s Breathtaking Beauty, a Rightful Memorial, and a Christmas Tree

Here we go: this week’s Friday Faves. Thanks for reading.

1) Work Songs – On a walk in the neighborhood this week, I pulled open the door of the little free library near us and discovered a tiny book. Its title and cover art were intriguing. It was Matt Johnson‘s Work SongsI tucked it in my pocket and finished my walk, thinking about some of the work songs of my day: The Eagles’ Get Over It or Bachman & Turner’s Takin’ Care of Business or Sam Cooke’s Chain Gang or Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 or Rose Royce’s Car Wash. However, it is not a volume about work songs, per se, but more about the lack of them in our current culture. Johnson has written a book of true stories of notables through decades. People who may have been considered ordinary to begin with but who persevered in the work of their day. He (and they through these short essays) teach us lessons on the impact possible when both individuals and connected groups stay at it and refuse to be dissuaded from their task or their vision. 

Podcaster and leadership trainer Laurie Ruettimann had a fascinating conversation with author Matt Johnson on the topic of his book Work Songs. The title of her piece is “Modern Work Has No Song – How Stories Create Perseverance”.

“For as long as we’ve had language as a species, we’ve actually had music for the work we do,” he says. “We’ve actually, for a long time, had music that actually created meaning — not just unify the sort of actions in the job of the people, but it actually gave them a bigger context for the work they were doing. And what’s interesting is, if you look at the evolution of that, modern work absolutely has no song.”  – Matt Johnson

Work Songs – Matt Johnson – Buzzsprout Audiobook (narrated by Matt Johnson, in individual essay chunks)

This Is How a Book Can Change Your Life – Matt Johnson

2) People Who Inquire – Psychiatrist Curt Thompson preached a sermon in the Spring of this year on the topic “Generational Trauma, Shame & Redemption”. While on errands, I was listening and actually had to pull the car over to capture one quote in particular.

“One of the most important developmental experiences for us, not only as children but that continues for us as adults, is to have others inquire of us and teach us to be people who do the same…Who is inquiring of you?” – Curt Thompson, MD – Generational Trauma, Shame & Redemption

We are told as parents of adult children not to give unsolicited advice. Same actually with friends and coworkers. I get how wary our grown children might be to seek advice because then there is the perceived expectation they must follow it. What happens when young people (and older ones) inquire of others  about life and what their experiences have been? Instead of going straight for the advice offering, our inquiring and listening can be a springboard can encourage and embolden toward wise decision-making. It is a joy to see people inquire of others – wanting to know them in deeper ways as well as wanting to know how more deeply to follow God in life.

In his sermon, Thompson used a passage out of the book of the Prophet Jeremiah.

Thus says the Lord , “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.'”Jeremiah 6:16

In the text, Jeremiah is challenging the people of Israel to take four actions as they proceed in life, especially in situations when they aren’t sure of the direction or struggle with making a sound decision. He says to:

  • Stand – when we come to a fork in any road (relationally or situationally), we should stop. We don’t have to have a knee-jerk response. We are not bound to take a direction we always have in the past. We stop…we stand…and
  • Look (or examine) – we take a breath. We count the cost. We consider.
  • Ask (or inquire) – Inquiring in this passage is done as a people not just an individual. We inquire of each other. We inquire of the Lord. We seek counsel. We explore the thinking of the others. We consider.
  • Walk in the good way. – Then, and only then, do we continue on. We do so with confidence and hopefully with peace and a pure heart…that we have considered God’s definition of what way is good, and we have considered those on the paths with us…not making assumptions but inquiring what is their thinking on the paths before them.

Jeremiah tells the people, if they will “stand…look…ask/inquire …and then walk (in the good path…God’s path, not our own self-serving or impulsive path) – we will have “rest for (y)our souls“.

The sad part of this verse is the last phrase: “But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’.” What makes us break with each other and/or with God? What makes us determined to go our own way, no matter where it leads?

In our culture today, the inclination is toward self-sufficiency and self-determination. We don’t know each other as we might if we would but lean in and inquire of (get to know, truly know) each other. We might do this on a small scale with those very closest to us, but on a larger “people of God” scale, we are what? Disinterested?

What are your thoughts? Please comment below.

The Conversational Habits that Build Better Connections – David Robson

3) Fall’s Breathtaking Beauty – Just a few shots from our neighborhood and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden:

4) A Rightful Memorial – A dear friend of ours died recently and his family arranged a fitting celebration of life. This 91-years-young man was a delight to his family and friends. He took so much joy in the people in his life and the work he relished in his long career. With faltering health and mounting years, his family knew time was precious and did all they could to be very present in his life. I wish I could provide an image of his crinkly, smiling eyes. All I can say is that he took joy in life. His family and friends took joy in his.

Funerals these days aren’t always treated as the opportunity to salute these passing figures entering into eternity. It’s a pity. Our friend (who I don’t identify by name to protect privacy) would himself have been pleased and humbled by this one. Military honors (including an honor guard, presenting the flag, and the shooting of three volleys) were an appropriate part of his funeral, given his military service, followed by his long years as a deep sea tugboat captain. The reading of Scripture and singing of hymns and remembrances from friends were all a part. The pastor spoke of his life and our friend’s relationship to Christ. We prayed and wiped tears away and counted ourselves blessed to know this friend, gone too soon at 91. See you again, dear Brother.

 

5) A Christmas Tree – For many, an early start on Christmas is just wrong. Sorry, not sorry. We start listening to Christmas music in October. Starting to decorate by mid-November is not to laud this holiday above all others. Simply, it is hard to pack in all the joy and remembering that come with Christmas in just the confines of one month. Our main Christmas tree is still stored. It will be covered with white lights and ornaments celebrating the birth of Jesus. [It actually stays up right through February 14 – Valentine’s Day – changing out the nativities to hearts and snowy winter ornaments.]

The Christmas tree we do have up (see images below) is one of a vintage feel. Colored lights (LED but reminiscent of my childhood). Ornaments depicting eras gone-by, storybook characters, and symbols of the past that continue to lift our hearts.

My parents’ names on quilted ornaments

Is your tree up? There’s still plenty of time… The lights have been a sweet respite from the darkness coming so early these days.

AND…for those who would appreciate a nod to our American Thanksgiving – the Hot Turkey Bowl at Wawa’s is amazing!

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Wawa Hot Turkey Bowl

Until next time…thanks for stopping by.

Bonuses:

Nokia to Release New Version of Its 6310 ‘Brick Phone’ – Andrew Court – This is so exciting if you are really wanting to get less screen intrusion in your life and just use your phone as a phone. It does have a camera but less than what we’ve become used to. Watching for its arrival in the US after its introduction to the UK market.

[With permission, the Instagram post below made me smile all over. That sweet girl and the amazing breakfast displayed. I miss Moroccan cafe breakfasts!!!]

Your 9-Step Strategy to Maintain Your Weight During the Holidays – Darya Rose

11 Mental Tricks to Stop Overthinking Everything – Scott Mautz

Leaders, Talk About Power to Protect the Vulnerable – Chris Davis

How to Maintain a Healthy Brain to Reduce the Risk of Dementia – Kailas Roberts

Watching Children Learn How to Lie – Gail Heyman

Gandalf’s Best Lord of the Rings Line Explains the Trilogy’s Magic – Susana Polo

How Anxiety and Depression Can Take Years Off Your Life

Photo Credit: Facebook, Gods Armour

Worship Wednesday – My Father’s World – God Is the Ruler Yet – Maltbie Babcock

[Adapted from the Archives]

Ask the animals, and they will instruct you; [ask] the birds of the sky, and they will tell you. Or speak to the earth, and it will instruct you; let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? The life of every living thing is in His hand, as well as the breath of all mankind.Job 12:7-10
On our walk through the neighborhood this morning, we talked of things heavy on our hearts…of family members struggling financially, of conflict, of the condition of our country, of transitions coming in older age.
As we talked and walked, we were surrounded and comforted by the beautiful of Fall.

 

Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will he do for you?Luke 12:27-28

Whatever is happening in our lives, glorious in its beauty or fearful in the hard…God is present at every turn of life.

Walking through our backyard gate, His creative wonder captured my attention. Changes leaves everywhere, splashed with morning light, shouting God’s glory. Reminded all over again, that whatever is happening in our lives…God’s got this.

“Oh, Lord GOD! You have made the heavens and earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You!Jeremiah 32:17

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” –  Matthew 19:26

Photo Credit: GodTube

Worship with me to this great old hymn “This Is My Father’s World” as performed by Fernando Ortega. I’m reminded today to keep my eyes open to God and what He wants to do – and what He is doing – in us and all around us.

  1. This is my Father’s world,
    And to my list’ning ears
    All nature sings, and round me rings
    The music of the spheres.
    This is my Father’s world:
    I rest me in the thought
    Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
    His hand the wonders wrought.
  2. This is my Father’s world:
    The birds their carols raise,
    The morning light, the lily white,
    Declare their Maker’s praise.
    This is my Father’s world:
    He shines in all that’s fair;
    In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
    He speaks to me everywhere.
  3. This is my Father’s world:
    Oh, let me ne’er forget
    That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
    God is the ruler yet.
    This is my Father’s world,
    The battle is not done:
    Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
    And earth and Heav’n be one.*

___________________________________________________________________________

These words…

This is my Father’s world:
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

We have options in the ways we engage with God and each other.

  • Look up.
  • Reach down.
  • Draw near.
  • Bring it in.

So…thanks to this beautiful Fall speaking the might and glory of God, my mind is cleared. Look outside…walk outside if you can…there’s so much more to our lives than fear, worry, anxiety – there is God: still Ruler of this world, and the battle is not yet done. When it is, it will be won.

We are not here to play, to dream, to drift,
We have hard work to do, and loads to lift,
Shun not the struggle; face it;
’Tis God’s gift.
Maltbie D. Babcock

*Lyrics to This Is My Father’s World – Songwriter: Maltbie D. Babcock

History of Hymns: “This Is My Father’s World”

The Story Behind This Is My Father’s World – GodTube

Thoughts for Every-Day Living – Maltbie Davenport Babcock (read book online here)

5 Friday Faves – “Fly Me to the Moon” Finger-style, Costly Grudges, Building Focus, “Don’t Leave Crumbs”, and Fall & All

Hi All! Friday Faves on a Monday after a busy Friday-Sunday weekend. Go!

1) “Fly Me to the Moon” Finger-style – After Nathan posted his Squid Game medley, he was asked to do a stand-alone “Fly Me to the Moon”. Here it is! The jazzy, up-beat rendition is so fun!

2) Costly Grudges – Is there someone you struggle to like or be in their company? Would you say it’s a grudge, either originating from you or that person? Grudges rupture relationships. They have a negative impact not just on that relationship, but potentially on others as well. Not to mention, their impact on your own health.

Photo Credit: Pinterest UK

Writer Tanner Garrity has written a list of 100 Ways to Live to Be 100. #66 is “Don’t Hold a Grudge”. Here is his take below:

66. Don’t hold a grudge

Happy people live longer. Improve your happiness by practicing “epistemic humility,” an intellectual virtue predicated on the idea that one can’t ever know something for sure. It’s meant to help us admit our imperfections and forgive others. Sounds too good to be true in the 2020s? All the more reason to give it a try.”

When we start to feel a grudge brewing, or we make the first strike and cause the rift with another person, the situation is greatly helped by some measure of humility. We don’t know everything about what just happened. In the midst of a quarrel, assessments are feverishly being made and the tendency is that they favor one over the other. If we treat a disagreement with humility, with the understanding that we can’t fully know what is going on with the other person in the argument, then we stand a better chance of some sort of resolution.

Worth the effort…including the perk of adding to one’s longevity.

What Is Family Estrangement? A Relationship Expert Describes the Problem and Research Agenda – Kristina Scharp

3) Building Focus – Focus is like muscle; it has to be built through exercise. I struggle with attending issues. To come across some simple tasks to add to life and aid focus is a happy occurrence.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Author Eleanor Morgan presents How to Retrain Your Frazzled Brain and Find Your Focus Again. In her piece, she introduces the scholarly work of scientist Amishi Jha, author of Peak Mind: Find Your Focus, Own Your Attention, Invest 12 Minutes a Day.

“We can learn to focus better, but we need to think about attention differently. It is not something we can just choose to do. We have to train the brain like a muscle. Specifically, with short bursts of daily exercises.”Eleanor Morgan

Morgan posts some of the mental exercises that Dr. Jha prescribes, including the 5 tips below:

  1. Pay attention to your breath, and where on your body you feel it most: direct your focus like a beam of light. Do this for three minutes a day, for a week.
  2. Integrate this technique into everyday life – for example, brushing your teeth. If you’re thinking about your to-do list as you’re scrubbing, bring the light back. Focus on the sensations.
  3. A lot of people report that their mind is “too busy.” Your job is not to stop it – your job is to exist with it, and to place your attention back where you want it.
  4. Ignore “mindfulness myths”: you are not “clearing your mind.” This is an active mental workout.
  5. There is no “blissed-out” state you are aiming to experience; in fact, the whole point is to be more present to the moment. – Eleanor Morgan

How to Retrain Your Frazzled Brain and Find Your Focus Again – Eleanor Morgan

I love the idea of being present in the moment…rather than the angst of the past or the unknown of the future. Sure, we have to plan, but the present is a much-neglected experience, and it’s really the only one we truly have. Right this very minute.

I am focusing in on the now.

These Navy Seal Tricks Will Help You Perform Better Under Pressure – Stephanie Vozza

4) “Don’t Leave Crumbs” – So crumbs aren’t anything we want to leave behind (unless you are the fairy tale pair, Hansel and Gretel. The wildly successful actor and author Matthew McConaughey talked about “crumbs” in a university commencement speech he gave in 2015.

“Don’t leave crumbs,” he says. “What are crumbs? The crumbs I’m talking about are the choices we make that make us have to look over our shoulder in the future….They come in the form of regret, guilt, and remorse – you leave ’em today, they will cause you more stress tomorrow, and they disallow you from creating a customized future in which you do not have to look over your shoulder.”Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey’s 5 Rules for a Good Future – Niklas Göke

Relationally, this reminds me of an adage “Keep your accounts short”. This means that your name is safe on my lips, and that I will make a practice of refusing to think ill of you. Keeping accounts short. Leaving no uncomfortable crumbs behind us in relationships or work/play practices.

In McConaughey’s speech he also gave 5 pieces of wisdom:

  • Don’t fall into the entitlement trap.
  • Never say anything is “unbelievable”.
  • Seek joy, not happiness.
  • Define success for yourself.
  • Make decisions you’ll be happy about tomorrow.

He gives more rationale and commentary in the larger speech (linked above). He also used these same points in another talk, incorporating his faith as well. The messages of both seem blended in an artful (10 minute) video. Below.

5) Fall & All – It is my favorite season – Fall or autumn. I just want to close with some images of this brief and beautiful repose between Summer and Winter. It goes so fast and I am savoring it every way possible (except for adding anything pumpkin-flavored to coffee. I just can’t).

   

For me, Fall ushers in Christmas (American Thanksgiving sitting right in between), so I’m completely ok with the mix of all this beauty.

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That’s the Faves for this week. Thanks so much for stopping by. You encourage me…put your own Faves in the Comments below. Until next time.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Facebook, Hallmark Channel

6 Steps to Better Communication – Mental Health Mama

The Good Part About “Waning” Immunity – Katherine J. Wu

Interoception: The Hidden Sense that Shapes Wellbeing – David Robson

How to Identify Your Shadow Emotions and Why You Should – Rachel Fairbank

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.