Category Archives: Beauty of God’s Creation

5 Friday Faves – Spring Flowers, Beyond the Guitar Podcast, Wisdom of Vala Afshar, A Small Town with COVID-19, and Caring Communities

Happy weekend!

1) Spring Flowers – You know the old proverb “April showers bring May flowers”. Well, the April flowers here in the state of Virginia are pretty spectacular right now. Rhododendron, irises, roses, columbine, pinks, and begonias are dazzling with color in our backyard. More varieties will come in May, but these flowers have sure helped us thrive with the “stay at home” COVID-19 order. The rains have come, for sure, and the flowers keep coming. Glory!

2) Beyond the Guitar Podcast – So everyone who visits this page knows we’re huge fans (followers, supporters, whatever) of Nathan Mills (at Beyond the Guitar). The fact that he is our son could be how we “discovered” him, but not the reason we love his music. He is one of the hardest working, most creative, big-hearted musicians I know. When he plays classical guitar you can hear the emotion of the pieces – whether film or TV show themes, or video game music. There was a time when he livestreamed for awhile on an app called krue which is no longer with us but a lot of fun for its season. On his livestreams, he would even sing and talk awhile with us about the music we all loved. #NathanSings and #NathanTalks are rare these days. Well, until now!! Last week, Nathan, with close friend and fellow musician Jeremiah Dias, launched their podcast.  They talk about how it all began – both their friendship and their music careers. Who knows what all they will cover next time, so you’ll want to subscribe.

3) Wisdom from Vala AfsharMr. Afshar calls himself, on Twitter, the Chief Digital Evangelist @Salesforce. I don’t really know what that means, but I do know that he earns a followership because of the dense amount of great information he posts. All encouraging. All fascinating. A few days ago, he listed out 33 bits of wisdom as a thread on Twitter.

Some I’d heard before, but in that long list, I was reminded of how much we have in us (ability/opportunity) to change the course of our lives “as we get older”. Of the 33, here are a few of my favorites:

  • Networking is about giving.
  • If you are waiting for a title to lead, you are not ready to lead.
  • Imposter syndrome is real.
  • Love and cherish your parents by giving them your time.
  • Takers may end up with more, but givers sleep better at night.
  • Good listeners hear the unsaid.
  • Never ruin an apology with excuses.

Did any of these remind you of a favorite wisdom statement? Please comment below. Thanks.

4) A Small Town with COVID-19 – Albany, Georgia. I have a dear friend from that little town in South Georgia and a very large and favorite church calls Albany home.  Other than that, Albany, Georgia, was unknown to me until this Spring when COVID-19 swept through there. It apparently began when an older gentleman came to town in March to attend the funeral of a friend. He either came to town with the virus or contracted it while in Albany. After his death, several others from the funeral party also became ill with COVID-19. As the weeks went by with more and more cases, Albany became the fourth hardest hit town in the US.Photo Credit: Downtown Albany, Ga Facebook page

I have devoured all the news out of Albany over their response to COVID-19. Rural populations don’t have the medical resources available to larger towns and cities. These people must determine how to work together and how best to respond to the health crisis they (nor any of us) were prepared for. So thankful for their resilience.

The Black Pastor Watching the COVID-19 Virus Ravage His Town – David Dent

Rural America Needs Help To Face COVID-19 – Dr. Jennifer Olsen

5) Caring Communities – Of course, none of us prefer the mandates of self-distancing and staying at home. It’s one thing for us individually to take a break from people or to spend a few days in a staycation of our own choosing. To be given orders from our government is something we are not used to.

The isolation is itself difficult but the unknown is worse. Are we making a difference in holding off COVID-19? It is possible we could do less but we will never know (hopefully) how bad it could get if we weren’t self-distancing.

After so many weeks of self-isolating, and the clinical knowledge growing in the medical community, we are beginning to have mixed messages of what is necessary/appropriate.

YouTube Video – ER Physician Drops Multiple COVID-19 Bombshells – Viral

Getting cynical is not the answer. Nor is throwing off caution.

While we are sorting out next steps, what a blessing it is to be in caring communities – surrounded (six feet apart) by people who love one another and encourage and inspire each other.

These communities could be attached to our work or our neighborhood. Our church or civic group. Our family and friends. Photo Credit: Jared Burwell, Movement Church

People we can count on to reach out to us and serve us when we need them the most. People we can reach out to as well.

Community. Always, and especially in these days, we need to know we have it…even if, for now, it comes in the form of a video meeting.

5 favorite finds for this week…what are some of yours? Please respond in the Comments. Keep safe and be well. God is with us.

Bonuses:

A Therapist’s Simple Rule Transformed My Marriage – Jancee Dunn

Captive Thoughts – Sherwood Baptist Church

Country singer and songwriter Lauren Mascitti was, just until last week, a contestant on the TV show American Idol 2020 season. She is amazing. Lauren’s performances on this show, especially her original songs, were so big, full of heart. Her original song “God Made a Woman” is my favorite (minute 2:35 in above link). The lyric version is here.

A Side Effect of the Covid-19 Pandemic? Reading Got a Lot Harder – Emma Pettit

7 Ways to Make a Senior [Citizen]’s Day While Social Distancing

People Recreate Works of Art With Objects Found at Home During Self-Quarantine – Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine

Grandpa Remembers Back When We Were in the Time of Coronavirus

When God Makes Us Wait – Barbara Rainey

Photo Credit: Karen Garner

5 Friday Faves – Happy Tunes with Beyond the Guitar, Hunkering Down, Some Good News, Holy Week, and Surprising Twitter Benefits

We made it! Another Friday, another weekend. Stay safe, Dear Ones. Thanks to all those serving in essential capacities. We are grateful. Praying for you.

1) Happy Tunes with Beyond the GuitarNathan Mills is bringing a lift to all our hearts in these days with this sweet medley of Disney/Pixar movie themes. Enjoy!

2) Some Good News – Actor John Krasinski has redeemed his time at home during the COVID-19 crisis by producing his own news program. Some Good News. It is funny, and celebratory, and nostalgic. Don’t miss it (Episode 1 and waiting on Episode 2 in the next week). In the meantime, we can catch bits of good news on his Twitter and Facebook pages – some he finds and some posted by others of us with good news. Bring it! Thanks, John!

[Sidebar: Can you believe it’s the 15th anniversary of the American TV show The Office?!]

John Krasinski Reveals the Conversation that “Saved” His Relationship with Emily Blunt – Randee Dawn

3) Hunkering Down – This week in the US, we are seeing state after state giving mandates to Stay at Home. As we watch the numbers of new cases of and deaths from COVID-19 continue to escalate, the motivation for social distancing is high. Essential workers still go to work and others of us work from home. The economy has been hit hard, but if we can contain COVID-19, things should get better. Return to normal? Who knows what the new normal will look like? We must stay hopeful.

I have struggled with anxiety and fear, but thankfully focusing on God, praying, and reaching out (appropriately) to others as much as possible have all been restorative in the stress of these days.

Being proactive and cultivating new positive habits will help us endure and thrive through whatever our current circumstances are. Many of us now have friends and family who have contracted this disease. We want to keep the impact of this disease as low as possible…worrying or panic will not help them or us. So…we hunker down.

Photo Credit: Senior Airman Alexa Culbert,  AETC

Photo Credit: Science Museum of Virginia

Photo Credit: Georgia Health News

[Even as I posted the above graphics, the thought came how we’ve all seen maybe more graphics on COVID-19 than we hope ever to see again…we can social distance…we can encourage and stay connected in creative ways and we can pray.]

This Is a War and Where Are the Prayer Warriors to Win This Battle? #PandemicPrayers – Ann Voskamp [included free is a powerful prayer bookmark]

Be calm and shelter on.

Just maybe a sweet daughter-in-law will bring the grands for a drive-by. Hope so.

4) Holy Week – It’s hard to believe that Lent is almost over, and Holy Week starts on Sunday. With our battle against Coronavirus, Lent and Easter will be very different in some ways…hopefully not in the most important ways.

[There is also the breaking of the anxiety, instilling some by humor like the joke going around “not planning to give up quite this much for Lent”.]

We will still observe what happened this week and commemorate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It will be in much smaller gatherings (at home)…not in the church buildings. In fact, I hope since the church “left the building”, we are reaching out to our neighbors and the world, even more in the way Jesus did when he was here in the flesh.Photo Credit: Jared Burwell, Facebook

#HopeNowHopeAlways

Below are two resources for celebrating this Holy Week. I will also be posting daily blogs, as in years past, to mark the history of this last week of Jesus’ earthly life.

Holy Week Devotions – Mission Lakewood (Family, this is nephew/cousin’s Jeremy’s church)

Experience Easter – From Genesis to Revelation – K-Love

Holy Week Timeline – From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Mary Fairfield

5) Surprising Twitter Benefits – Twitter has been a great benefit to me. Some excellent thinkers post their ideas and opinions on there… Of course, there are some profane, divisive, self-absorbed folks who regularly darken the Twittersphere as well. I have been very deliberate in whom I follow and whom I don’t. Now, I do follow people very different from me, but they are good teachers of whatever makes up “the other side”.  Below are tweets from six different persons – no politics involved – four of whom I met through Twitter. Enjoy.

YouTube Video – Italian Music – Background Chill Out

YouTube Video – Italian Restaurant Music – Italian Dinner, Background Music, Folk Music from Italy (2 Hours)

Bonuses:

The Three Kinds of Leaders You See in a Crisis – Carey Nieuwhof

Finally, a few Spring beauties from our friend, Marc Merlin.

5 Friday Faves – Love Your Neighbor, Civility and Cooperation, Fish & Chips, Sidewalk Messages, and Spring Came Anyway

Here’s to the weekend. With social distancing and working from home for some of us, the days blur together. For those essential workers out there, thank you so much! Here are my favorite finds this week.

1) Love Your Neighbor – Writer, attorney Justin Whitmel Earley lives what he writes. His piece 9 Ways to Love Your Neighbor in This Pandemic is practical, beautiful, and freeing. Have a read.

Even with social distancing, we are pointed to many different ways we can extend love to our neighbors. The first and foremost is to stay well ourselves and not carry the virus to others. Photo Credit: Facebook, Brooke Anderson, Elaine Lovelace & Associates, Psychological Counseling

After that, local agencies have packed their social media with ways we can help – either in person, if we’re not at risk, and otherwise through online purchases to aid with material needs or delivery of services and support.

Although children are less at risk for contracting the virus, they still are at risk in other ways. See article below.

The Kids Aren’t All Right – Vann R. Newkirk II

I love the message below. In it, Martin Luther displays the wrestling between faith and foolhardiness, or what might be perceived as such (during the Bubonic plague). First we social distance, and then we have to weigh out decisions…when to enter in to help when if not doing so could mean a worse outcome for the someone. Sobering.

Photo Credit: Twitter, Michael Catt

2) Civility and Cooperation – In times like these, voices of reason are prevailing. Lines of political self-interest don’t seem drawn so deeply in the sand. People usually at odds with each other are showing a greater willingness to cooperate and even to be civil. The arguments of whether the Coronavirus is a true threat have quietened. The video below is the best I’ve heard on the difference between this virus and the flu. Don’t miss it.

YouTube Video – Professor Hugh Montgomery on Coronavirus – How Much More Aggressive the Spread Is Than the Flu (same as above)

I am so thankful for how this crisis, like so many before, is pulling us together…acknowledging that there are some things way more important than the issues that divide us.

Photo Credit: Twitter, Barry McCarty

3) Fish & Chips  When we lived overseas, and traveled through London back and forth, we loved the layovers. England is beautiful all on its own, but we also never missed an opportunity for fish and chips. Yum! My mom and dad had this favorite fish restaurant where they enjoyed their own version of our British delicacy. My folks’ go-to place for fish? Captain D’s . Their weekly dates for fried fish was almost a joke for all their kids. Then, just a couple of weeks ago, I had to repent of all the teasing. I myself stopped into our Captain D’s. Dave was out of town and I wasn’t cooking that day. It could mean I’ve gotten old, as it seemed everyone in the restaurant was older. Or maybe it could mean they had clearly figured out that this is good food. It was so reminiscent of our sweet times in London eateries. I’m going back (after social distancing is over) and plan to take Dave. Not sorry.Photo Credit: Captain D’s

4) Sidewalk Messages – These are days disrupted by the stress of social distancing and the fears of this pandemic. Every positive message and every medium possible should be considered…even sidewalks and driveways. Thankful for friends who led the way on these sweet expressions of hope and faith.

5) Spring Came Anyway. Yay!

 

That’s it for this week. Please share in the Comments your thoughts and faves of the week. We would all appreciate learning from you.

Bonuses:

A Group of Nashville Studio Singers Perform an Epic Cell Phone Choir – Derry London

Some Thoughts on Abortion – Scott Sauls – Don’t miss this one. He is one of the gentlest persons I read.

YouTube Video – Peter Diamandis – Optimistic Look at the Future – The Richmond Forum

Texas Roadhouse CEO Gives Up Ssalary to Pay Frontline Employees During COVID-19

Fed Cattle – the Production Sequence We Love to Hate – A local blogger & farmer who only identifies herself as Patty has written the most fascinating series of pieces on the beef industry. What really goes down in the production of that hamburger you’re about to enjoy. I actually felt better about being a meat-eater after reading this. The link is to the blog that got me started on the series.

5 Friday Faves – Coronavirus Panic, Hans Zimmer’s “Time”, Unless U, Community, and Signs of Spring

It’s Friday! Hope your workweek is ending well and the weekend looms lovely ahead of you. Here are this week’s favorite finds.

1) Coronavirus Panic – I’m not an alarmist. Alarm and panic is wreaking havoc in the US (and maybe around the world) related to the spread and morbidity of the Coronavirus (Covid-19). We all want to contain it and hope not to get it, or worse to spread it to others. Is there reason to be alarmed at present?

OK…so we can’t predict the future. Shaming those around us who are feeling panicky helps no one. Maybe some of us aren’t vigilant enough and may need the advice of those cautious to a fault. We learn from each other.

Five Reasons You Don’t Need to Panic About the COVID-19 Coronavirus – Ross Pomeroy

Pandemic Panic? These Five Tips Can Help You Regain Your Calm – Allison Aubrey

Pandemic? Don’t Panic – Dr. Cathaleen Madsen

While working at home this morning (in a very low-risk setting compared to some of you), I caught a bit of an interview with Dr. Drew Pinsky. It was so helpful. Listed below are his 7 action items. Simple and easy to put into action.

  • Don’t do unnecessary travel.
  • Use your Clorox Wipes wherever you go.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Get the flu shot.

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Social Distancing Not Yet Needed Nationwide to Fight Coronavirus – Today Show

What to Do If You’re Boarding a Plane in the Age of Coronavirus – Harriet Baskas

2) Hans Zimmer’s Time – This is a big week for Nathan MillsBeyond the Guitar. He has launched an Arranger’s Academy for guitarists to have the skill-set to take music they already love to arrange for guitar. [His launch with its reduced membership rate is only for a few more hours. Check it out. Later in the year, he will again take new members at what will be the usual cost].

In the midst of the launch, Nathan also arranged, performed and posted composer Hans Zimmer‘s beautiful theme “Time” from the film Inception. Enjoy.

Nathan Mills Live – Concert March 29 2020

3) Unless U – What can one person do? Here’s a story. Lindy Cleveland is the little sister to two treasured old brothers – one of whom has Down’s Syndrome. It was hard for Jordan as his brother and sister went off to college. He missed them and he wished for some of the experiences they were having. This touched Lindy’s heart so deeply, she had to act. Then others began to show up…

She was able to spark a grassroots movement of fellow educators, family members, and passionate donors and volunteers to create a continuing education campus experience for students with learning difficulties (special abilities). She named it Unless U.

“Unless you [Unless U] get involved, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”Lindy Cleveland

Here’s the story of Unless U:

TEDx Talk – Unless Someone Like You Cares – Lindy Cleveland

4) Community – We are grateful for community, whatever the experience of it. With community, we have a sense of belonging, of being seen/heard, of caring and being cared about. Thanks to Trevin’s Seven, I discovered this thought-provoking article below.

What is Community? An Illustration – Seth Kaplan

Dr. Kaplan‘s definition of community involves: “commitment to a certain social order—and, crucially, a place…We must also be available to help others—mentoring youth, donating money, volunteering for work. To earn acceptance and respect, we model good behaviour… Community formation cannot be easily explained or laid out in a plan of action. At times, it is more mystery than mechanics, subject to a wide range of factors that are beyond the control of any one actor. In general, groups begin as a product of strong, overlapping, interpersonal relationships… Keystone actors and institutions emerge as central supporting hubs, working to break down barriers and integrate disparate parts;…foster(ing) relationships and partnerships that together create a systemic effect well beyond the individuals directly involved. All these activities build trust where it may not have existed.”

This week, a devastating tornado cut a killer swath through middle Tennessee. It happened so fast that little could be done to get to safety for those in the path of this storm. At least 24 are dead and many more injured. One neighborhood in Cookeville, Tennessee, suffered great loss. 8 persons killed. All on one street. Devastating.Photo Credit: Baptist Press, First Baptist Mt. Juliet Facebook page

Within minutes, first responders arrived to help survivors injured or in shock from the deadly disaster. Then, so true to the Volunteer State of Tennessee, people kept showing up. Neighbors, student groups, local volunteers and folks coming from several states over. Then, of course, state and federal agencies, and government leaders.

If there wasn’t community before, this town, this neighborhood is forever changed. In the aftermath of this horrific storm, community showed itself strong…and true.

[There are various ways to give support to these survivors. Here and here are some.

5) Signs of Spring – We’ve had a relatively mild winter in the US, and with that an early Spring. Closing today’s Friday Faves with these signs of Spring.

Bonuses:

Corelle Recommends Using Their Pre-2005 Dishes as “Decorative Pieces” Due to Concerns for High Levels of Lead – Brittany Hambleton

Death on Demand Comes to Germany – Wesley J. Smith

Abortion and Eugenics – Justice Clarence Thomas

Hallmark Channel Censors Pro-Life Movie “Unplanned” From Its Annual Awards Show

12 Survival Skills Your Great-Grandparents Knew (That Most of Us Have Forgotten) – Sarah Schafer

5 Friday Faves – Storytelling, Just Mercy, Productivity Hacks, Birthdays, and the Impact of Our Lifestyles on Our Brains

What a week! A gun rights rally on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Roe v. Wade anniversary commemorated by a March for Life and name change (Sanctity of Human Life Day). An impeachment trial. All of this matters. All of it. We have to stop the hatred, the contempt, the division and start listening to each other…and apply ourselves to real and lasting solutions to our nation’s struggles.

1) Storytelling – We all love a good story, right? In our throw-away culture, stories take up very little room and hold incredible information and insight for us to consider.

Thanks to the Richmond Forum, we were able to hear great stories through three story-telling platforms and their pioneering founders. Dave Isay of StoryCorps. Catherine Burns of The Moth. Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York. Just amazing to hear the stories…

Photo Credit: Richmond Forum

Here are some samples of the stories found on each platform:

StoryCorps – Danny & Annie

The Moth – Anthony Griffith – The best of times; the worst of times. [Be prepared – this story will break your heart.]

Humans of New York – Brandon Stanton’s platform is pictures/videos and interviews of random people on the streets of New York (and now other places in the world). Below is one:

2) Just Mercy – On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Dave and I went to see the film Just Mercy, from the book of the same title.

Photo Credit: IMDB; Barnes & Noble

The author of the book, attorney Bryan Stevenson, is the founder of Equal Justice Initiative. He has worked for over 30 years on behalf of wrongfully accused, minors with harsh sentences, and those incarcerated with disabilities/mental illness.

Don’t miss this film, this book, or this man. I feel so fortunate that we will be hearing him speak at The Richmond Forum next month.

TED Talk – “We Need to Talk About Injustice” – Bryan Stevenson

3) Productivity Hacks – Redeeming the precious commodity of time and adding value are two things we all want to do at work and in life. There’s tons written on productivity including in my own blog.

Photo Credit: Andrea Lane, Redbooth

This week, Rockwood’s piece sparked my interest as did Andrea Lane’s on the same topic. See links below.

What’s Your Productivity Style? How 4 Personalities Can Get More Done – Kate Rockwood

How to Discover Your Personal Productivity Style – Andrea Lane

They talked about 4 personality styles bring different strengths to the work table, and how to optimize the strengths of these folks.

  1. The “Prioritizer” – analytical and competitive
  2. The “Planner” – detail-oriented and deadline-motivated
  3. The “Arranger” – facilitating and communicative
  4. The “Visualizer” – risk-taking and big-picture thinking

These cryptic descriptions may be all you need to find yourself identified, but read these authors’ hacks on how to best work your magic and help others on your team to do/be their best as well.

I am kind of a blend of an arranger and visualizer. Thankful for you prioritizers and planners in my work life that help us keep on task in bringing ideas and plans to execution.

Postscript: Business consultant Cameron Herold has written a book on how incompetent we are at running meetings – Meetings Suck: Turning One of the Most Loathed Elements of Business Into One of the Most Valuable. He coaches on how to successfully manage meetings. He also advises on how to maximize the effort and experience of each of the personalities in attendance – those different productivity types. [Note: read this piece on how he defines the personalities – somewhat differently from the authors above.]

Understanding Personality Types for Productivity – Slideshare – Tom Fox

4) Birthdays – It was my birthday week along with a lot of yours. There’s more and more of a push to make birthdays count for something. In my community, children have fewer parties with scores of friends and presents. The trend is toward experiences over presents which is also cool. For adults, often we are given the opportunity to donate to a cause dear to our birthday friends’ hearts. For me, the best celebration is just being with those I love – family and friends – and to stretch the birthday train as far as I can get away with. This year it was a birthday week… Next year with the turn of a big decade, I might take it to a month. Be prepared. [Thanks for the flowers and sweet cards from those too far to get together. You know how much I love words.] How are you with birthdays these days? Yay or not so much? Well, happy birthday, to you, too…out there, whenever it is.

5) The Impact of Our Lifestyles on our Brains – OK, so you just saw some of the birthday sweets we enjoyed… A sugar detox is always a good idea – for a month, a season, or a lifetime.

Below you will find two articles that were super compelling to me this week. One on the ill effect of unrestrained sugar intake – especially on our brain and mental health.

A neuroscientist explains the shocking impact too much sugar has on the brain

The second article describes 7 habits or lifestyles most damaging to the brain. Definitely something to consider before the longterm impact takes hold.

7 Habits/Lifestyles Most Damaging to the Brain

  • Inflammation – multiple factors cause inflammation – here’s a source for intervention – especially with diet.
  • Overfeeding
  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Toxic exposure – a list of brain toxins
  • Chronic stress
  • Physical stagnation – Exercise may be the single most important intervention on our brain and mental health.
  • Sleep loss

7 Modern Lifestyle Habits Doing the Most Damage to Your Brain

Thanks for reading. This, my Friday Faves, on a Monday. Some weeks are challenging to post on time. Have a great week!

Bonuses:

The Pain of Suicide – Clay Smith

A 2020 Guide to Rabbit Room Content

Worship Wednesday – Hills and Valleys – I Am Not Alone – Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: Heartlight

I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber.
Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.

The Lord protects you; the Lord is a shelter right by your side.
The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night.

The Lord will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life.
The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever.Psalm 121

Hills and valleys. They are part of our lives.

A week ago, I sat silent in the car by this beautiful friend, her face blotched and shining with tears. It had been a low time for her, and, for the moment, she just needed to cry. We were together for her wedding day – the loveliest of high times. There have been other shared mountain-top experiences since…as well as valleys.

When we have those big positive experiences, the valleys are forgotten – that ache of loneliness or undoneness in the times of helplessness or disappointment. Still, we need people in both those experiences…More than that, we need God.

Several years ago, along with some friends, our family visited Mt. Sinai. Dave’s Mom and Dad also joined us, visiting from the US. It was an incredible time. We traveled up toward the summit on donkeys via a camel trail. The last 750 feet we climbed on foot. The view was spectacular. Just under 7500 ft. high, Mt. Sinai is a sentinel in Egypt’s eastern desert. Majestic, beautiful, changing in appearance with sun and shadow. Awe-inspiring.

Even more so, as we think this could be the place that Moses met with God, so many years ago. It is considered a holy mountain by Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Looking out over the desert below, we got lost in our thoughts, reflecting on history and God and the privilege just to be there. It was more a solitary experience, although surrounded by loved ones and strangers. One group of tourists started singing “How Great Thou Art” in a language I couldn’t understand. We joined in, in English. It was truly an obvious mountain-top experience.

Then, the climb down. The camel trail would be slower, so we decided to take the faster route – the Steps of Repentance. Stones placed as stairs from the summit to the valley floor (legend goes that one monk placed them all as an act of repentance). 3750 stone steps. Uneven, rough-cut, some deeper or narrower than others. All requiring care in descending.

[Click on this blog for pics of Mt. Sinai’s summit and the valley below as well as a look at the Steps of Repentance – 3750 steps down to the valley.]

Plodding our way to the valley, step by step, wasn’t taxing at first, but that didn’t last long. As hundreds of steps took their toll on our knees, we started feeling shaky and unsure of our footing. Hoping not to fall or injure ourselves. It helped that we were in a group, in case we needed each other.

On that walk down, I got to see a tenderness in my husband that fit perfectly the situation. He saw his mom was struggling and came alongside her to get safely down to the valley. His dad was fine enough, as was I, although shaking from the pounding down descent. Being careful not to fall. It turned out to be harder than we thought.

Valleys are like that, in general. Ofttimes, harder than we think. We need each other and most importantly we need God. To bring us through the journey that takes us low. To give us the grace to deal with what is in front of us.

Our pastor Cliff Jordan preached on prayer a few Sundays back. Prayer and the postures of prayer. When we are experiencing a mountain-top moment or a downward spiral to a spiritual valley, we pray. As God’s children – for different reasons and with different postures. Remembering that we are not alone. Never. Not ever.Photo Credit: PixabayPhoto Credit: 163atkw.aug

Singer/songwriter Tauren Wells‘ has given us a song about this very thing. Hills and Valleys.

“When you’re on the mountaintops of life, learn to bow low. and when you’re in the valleys of life, learn to stand tall….No matter where we’re at, we’re standing in God’s grace, and that no matter what we have, His grace is enough.” Tauren Wells

Worship with me.

I’ve walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak
And I’ve seen the brighter days
And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven
From my lowest place
And I have held Your blessings
God, You give and take away

No matter what I have, Your grace is enough
No matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone

I’ve watched my dreams get broken
In You I hope again
No matter what I know
I’m safe inside Your hands

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone

Father, You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all You will remain
Over it all
Father, You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all You will remain
Over it all
On the mountains I will bow my life, yeah
In the valley I will lift my eyes
Ohhh, ohhhh

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
No, I’m not alone
I know, I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills
And I am not alone
God of the hills
The God of the valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone*

*Lyrics – Hills and Valleys – Songwriter: Tauren Wells

YouTube Video – Hills and Valleys (Story Behind the Song)

Hills and Valleys – Behind the Song – Kevin Davis

Monday Morning Moment – A Day at the State Fair – A Lesson on Disappointment and 5 Steps to Recovering Joy

[State Fair, 2013 pic]

This week is our state fair. Once a year for 10 glorious days, we have all kinds of opportunities to relish all kinds of good – Fair food, concerts, carnival rides, animal and produce exhibitions, and home cooking and crafting. Did I mention fair food?

We pack in as much as we can in just one day. It’s not a cheap experience, but the sheer yummyness of fried everything is worth the splurge. It’s once a year…the nostalgia alone brings us back again and again.

Then…there was this year’s fair day. Today. Put one very tired adult (not mentioning names) together with little ones with very short attention spans, and grumpiness prevailed. At least with the adults…not so much the littles. Nothing at the fair today was quite what we remembered it to be (except for the funnel cakes…they were as tasty as always).

We did all our usual stuff…things that gave joy in all the years past… but disappointment crept in…starting with our tired person, but not stopping there. The little ones fortunately seemed still to have a great fair day, but the adults were thinking this could be our last one altogether. It was that dreadful for a bit.

Photo Credit: Billy Graham, All Christian Quotes

Then on the drive back home and with the rest of the day full of other people and responsibilities, five revelations unfolded about the disappointment…and any disappointment really.

  1. Expectations are exposed by our disappointments. There it is: expectations. When our expectations are dashed is actually the moment we discover we had them. I try not to let expectations color an experience or encounter, but if we aren’t aware they are always at work, then we are thrown off balance when they are not met…or disappointed. Suffice it to say, my expectations for the day weren’t met…which could have made it difficult for everyone else.
  2. Humility gentles disappointment. When we shake down our expectations, then we have the beautiful possibility of humbly dealing with the possibility that another person’s expectations were thwarted as well. This tired one I refer to had hopes (expectations) of the day as well. He hadn’t planned on the ill effect of a very late night working and a barking dog early awakening him this morning. He was looking forward to the day as much as the rest of us. The rest of us weren’t very empathetic toward his own share of disappointments. Sigh… As we look at our situation with humility, a kinder and healthier other-mindedness comes into play.
  3. Gratefulness deflates disappointment. We still got to try milking a cow. We still watched pig races. We still got to ooh and aah over hand-made quilts, knitted dolls, and other crafts we might try ourselves now (or ask the other grandmother to try, definitely). We still got to watch the ducklings go down the slide and pet the rabbits. We still got to be together, more happily than not. It was a good day…really.
  4. Perspective is a happy outcome of humility and gratefulness. So…we may reconfigure our fair day next time. Some things may need to change…but not the people. I love these people. In light of other much harder things that happened when we returned home (hospice called in for a loved one, in particular)…the frustration of an imperfect outing was brought into real-life perspective. Imperfect was still full of messy, lovely life.
  5. Joy is recovered…restored when we put disappointment in its place. Definitely want to still do life with these people always and for as long as God allows. No walking away from this family. We are a mess sometimes, but the love hangs on…always.

Sandy Peckinpah‘s piece Breaking Expectations…When Life Hands You Disappointment – don’t stop before reading this. Really good!

Don’t Let Overwhelm Steal Your Joy – Sandy Peckinpah

Monday Morning Moment – The Eye of Monet – 5 Books to Extend Your Summer into Fall

Today is the first day of Fall here. After walking this morning, I sat in our garden to cool off. The brilliant summer flowers are on the wane  after days of hot and dry weather. Many have gone to seed, now harvested by the birds (especially the goldfinch). The blooms remaining peek out, through those that peaked earlier and have since finished their season…The garden in early Fall is still a wonder…gloriously fading.

French Impressionist painter Claude Monet (1840-1926) is my favorite artist. Maybe because he made years of study of two of my favorite flowers – the iris and the water lily. He had an eye for such beauty.Photo Credit: Commons WikimediaPhoto Credit: Commons Wikimedia

“Monet has long been regarded, as Cezanne remarked of him, ‘merely an eye, but what an eye’, translating onto canvas the images before him… Monet’s eye was a painter’s eye, an eye with a creative mind behind it, interpreting apparent reality and putting into the context of the thoughts in the painter’s mind, thus creating a new vision for the spectator.”Edmund Swinglehurst

My favorite quote on reading these days is from author and patron of the arts John Ruskin:

“The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion, all in one.”
He could be describing Monet as well.  His paintings of what he saw around him in the natural world bring a beautiful nostalgia with them (similar to that of favorite books and music). Monet painted in a non-pretentious way, not intending to artificially move the emotions. He painted like one who saw the beauty of nature, and, with his own emotions aroused, painted what he saw. That eye of his…
Over the years, I have collected five books on Monet. Each is quite unique. I’d like to give a quick shout-out to each one.
1) Monet or the Triumph of Impressionism by Daniel Wildenstein – This beautiful biography of Monet’s life and rise of Impressionism. It’s a large book (coffee table size)…full of his artwork with exquisite detail of how Monet came to paint the scene and what was going on during the period in which it was painted. Beautiful book.

Monet

Photo Credit: Amazon

2) The Life and Works of Monet by Edmund Swinglehurst – This thin book (only 78 pages and much of it Monet’s artwork) is a quick study of Monet’s life. It’s a very easy read and yet still detailed enough to capture something of the Master Monet’s life, preferences, and influences.Photo Credit: Amazon

3) Monet’s Table – The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet by Claire Joyes – For the foodies among us, this book weaves together biography, art, and cooking. Monet's Table

Photo Credit: Amazon

Although Parisian, Monet lived for over 40 years in a cottage in the village Giverny. With Alice, his second wife, and 8 children. Monet’s Table. The “journal” aspect of the book is less about Monet’s diary entries and more about how he and Alice incorporated their love for good food into the lifestyle they enjoyed of late (by the Giverny years, Monet had become quite successful as an artist). His recipes (written for the American cook – so ounces instead of grams) include fresh and dried herbs from his garden, butter and full cream, and the flavors of France. For any of you who favor French cooking, you will love the recipes. I loved the stories Claire Joyes gives us and the pictures of his kitchen, the foods featured in the book, and the cottage and gardens (from which we have the iris and water lily paintings).  An interesting detail about Monet: he was an often moody and very private man. Although he loved having company in his home, it was always for an early lunch or tea. He retired to bed early to allow for early morning painting.Photo Credit: Apartment Therapy

4) Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork & Lena Anderson – This book is for young readers. Short chapters. Lots of Monet’s paintings. Also whimsical illustrations of Linnea and her trip to Paris, the Marmottan-Monet museum (where many of Monet’s paintings are exhibited), and finally to the Giverny cottage. Linnea in Monet's Garden

Photo Credit: Amazon

A wonderful introduction to Monet for children in early school years. Biographical details pepper the story and a helpful timeline of Monet’s life closes out the book.

[Written in 1985, it may seem a bit strange in today’s world that a young girl would be off traveling with an older neighbor gentleman, Mr. Bloom. Times have changed.]

5) A Picnic with Monet by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober – this is a small boardbook for tiny people. A poem talking through some of Monet’s paintings as if taking off for a picnic makes for easy reading. The paintings are easy to sort out for a preschooler. Sweet book.Photo Credit: Amazon

So…these are my books on Monet. One last detail covered in his biographies as well: Monet developed bilateral cataracts in his 60s. He refused corrective surgery for some time. Finally, he got to the place where he was willing to take the risk, so bothered by the impact of the cataracts on his vision and painting. Enough of a success, he actually returned to some of his painting to touch them up. He also did not finish his Grandes Décorations’ of Waterlilies, on display in Paris’ Musée de l’Orangerie, until after his vision had been restored. Called the Father of Impressionism, the changes in his painting over the years may have been less about a progression of his art and more the reality of cataracts and vision impairment.

The Effect of Cataracts and Cataract Surgery on Claude Monet – Anna Gruener

Who is your favorite artist? How do you share him/her with your visitors or family members? I have a print of one of Monet’s waterlilies paintings over my writing table.

Dave and I went to Paris for our 25th wedding anniversary. It was a trip of a lifetime for us – especially because we set it aside to pursue the feast to the senses that is Paris. On my list was to see Monet’s paintings.

The Best Places to See Monet’s Art in Paris – Lena Blos

We saw some of his paintings, but regrettably a few of my favorites were away on exhibition. Oh well…may have to make it back to Paris one day…and do a day-trip to Giverny.

[Irises from our garden…water lily at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden here in Richmond.]

5 Friday Faves – Overdose Awareness, Quiet Influencers, Primary Physicians, Habits of Purpose, and Museums for All

1) Overdose Awareness – August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. Let’s have the goal of #NotOneMore loved one lost to drug overdose.

“May you never get that call. I did on October 24, 2010. Worst day of my life. I was lucky…he survived………..so many don’t…….These people are someone’s daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, friends…….Don’t judge. Listen to their stories. We need change. Many people need help and there is not always help out there.”Jeanne Barney

Overdose Day Website

Photo Credit: Facebook, International Overdose Awareness Day

“National Overdose Awareness Day! It still surprises me on how many people I talk to seem oblivious to this epidemic in our country and throughout the world. In 2017 the official number of deaths was over 72,000 people [in the US]. More in 2018. These 72,000 people were Mothers and Fathers, Daughters and Sons. Aunts and Uncles. Just think about how many peoples lives were affected by 72,000 deaths. Addiction is real……..Addiction kills……..Lets all get together and find ways to talk about this beast that kills more people than car accidents, guns, breast cancer, The Vietnam War. I pray that my Facebook friends never have to be touched in anyway by the Overdose of a loved one. Unfortunately, the math says …………..you more than likely will.”Jeanne Barney

2) Quiet Influencers – We have all had them in our lives: these quiet influencers. People who gave us their best without needing to be center stage themselves. People who helped us to mature into people of influence ourselves…for some even, people of significant power or renown. These quiet influencers could be our parents. Or peers who saw in us maybe someone we couldn’t imagine ourselves.

Writer Rachel Pieh Jones urges us to capture the stories of our quiet influencers:

Power resides not only in the obvious leaders, the loudest voices, or the wealthiest donors, but also in the quiet influencers.

Search out these leaders, collaborate with them, use their own words, be wise in the details emphasized, and be mindful of how the story will be heard. Pass the mic to these influencers and do your part to elevate their voices. – Rachel Pieh Jones

How (and Why) We Should Be Telling the Stories of Quiet Influencers – Rachel Pieh Jones

I personally am so thankful for the many quiet influencers in my life and work. They are many and they are “just a little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8:5).

Thanks to Jones, I am feeling the need to capture some of their stories…so hopefully you’ll read about them here. How about you? Please comment about your quiet influencers in the Comments below. It’s a good start.Photo Credit: Facebook, Julie McGowan

3) Primary Physicians – You know you’re getting some age on when your doctor retires…especially when he is not so old, or so it seems.

Not everyone in the world has the privilege of having a family doctor. One who both cares for you and possibly your own adult children.

For over 10 years, we have had Dr. Bill Harrington as our primary physician. He’s been with us through all sorts of life transitions…as well as quite a few medical scares. I won’t go into the details here, but a physician who can get a hunch and follow it through – to discover cancer or a potentially life-threatening cardiac malfunction – is a tremendous asset. That is the kind of person Dr. Harrington has been to us. Wise, funny, thoughtful, and intuitive. We will miss him.

I’m counting on him still writing the poetry we have gotten to read – which he began writing just a short time ago. Definitely models for his patients how good life can be around every corner. Retirement blessings, Dr. H. Well-done!

4) Habits of Purpose – I’ve written about Justin Whitmel Earley. He is a very successful attorney who is now also a writer, speaker, and life coach.

Photo Credit: Joshua Straub

His book The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction has become one of my favorites. Below you can find a graphic that gives his habits of purpose in brief (some are daily practiced and some are weekly).

Earley’s website has lots of free helps on it and now he has produced a video series (also free) to help us move our lives more toward purpose. I’m hoping to gather a group of friends to have weekly evenings of watching the short video and talking about how we might incorporate those ideas into our lives. Good stuff!

The Common Rule – Book Review – Darryl Dash

5) Museums for All – We have a family membership to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Photo Credit: Visit Richmond Va

My daughter, grandchildren, and I visited the garden earlier today. It was a marvel, as always!

As we were leaving, I commented what a privilege it was to be able to afford a membership to such a beautiful place. It was then my daughter told me about the Museums for All program.

It flows out of an initiative of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) based in Washington, D.C. For anyone who has an EBT card (for supplemental food assistance), that person can buy and individual annual membership for a museum for $1 or a family membership for $5. That is an incredible benefit for those in our city who couldn’t afford a membership otherwise. So, yay for Museums for All!

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That’s it for this week. Although we still have days in the 90s, with the start of school and the small but clear changes in the environment around us, Fall is coming! I will leave you with a few images we all look forward to. Have a sweet weekend peopled with those you love.

Bonuses:

For you guitarists out there: Beyond the Guitar Academy

The Surprising Benefits of Talking to Strangers

On slavery in North America 400 years ago this August and slavery in the world today:

Photo Credit: Twitter, D. B. Harrison

The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes &

 

Photo Credit: Gzero Media

U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory: Marijuana Use & the Developing Brain

Perfect dessert at a friend’s house after we shared lunch. Fruit in a bowl from North Africa:

Photo Credit: Amazing Things, Facebook

5 Friday Faves – Political Correctness or Not So Much, Claire’s Lion King Medley, Back to School, Michael W. Smith, and The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Here we go! Friday Faves! Just for you…

1) Political Correctness or Not So Much – It doesn’t do any of us good to use language or messaging that inflame division or hatred. The dilemma is that the rules on what is “politically correct” change and grow such that it becomes difficult even to have dialogue  across political or sociological lines. When we differ in how we think on today’s issues, we desperately need to keep talking to each other…listening to each other…to work toward solutions with positive lasting impact.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

What happens to me, in the face of articulate and passionate people who insist on a politically correct and savvy response? I go silent. Silence is serves no one.

This week I discovered author pastor Scott Sauls‘ article “Saying ‘No’ to Political Correctness”.

“What if we’ve gotten it all wrong in our efforts to be politically correct and not risk stirring the pot, ever? What if, in our sincere attempt to become relevant to the culture, we have instead become products and disciples of the culture? If we discovered that skeptics would take us more seriously for being open with our views versus secretive and timid about them, would we become more expressive about the truths we hold inside?” – Scott Sauls

Sauls also acknowledges that those of us who are Christian evangelicals may seem a minority and feel we have no voice…but hopefully it isn’t because we’ve given up our voice. We have a mandate from God to stand for Him, to hear, and to speak, even as a minority.

Ironically, the single thing that makes Scripture relevant to our culture, and any culture, is that Scripture shows no interest in being relevant. Instead, it acts as God still speaking, affirming what’s good and confronting what’s not. Where Scripture and culture are at odds, Christians too must remain countercultural.

But we must not allow our counter-cultural postures to become anti-cultural.

A perception of minority status can easily tempt Christians to get testy, even hostile, against a world God calls us to love. Scott Sauls

Politically correct or incorrect, we are called to love without prejudice or reserve. So I’m moved to listen more than ever. Listening takes getting close to people. Resolved to get close.

2) Claire’s Lion King Medley – When Claire Crosby was three, her dad Dave began videotaping her & posting to YouTube. My first awareness of her was their version of You’ve Got a Friend in Me. Even before that song, she did a totally adorable version of Little Mermaid.Photo Credit: Facebook, Claire Ryann Crosby

Her singing of “A Million Dreams” is amazing! Goosebumps listening to a 5 y/o sing.

Now the whole family has produced a video of Every Song From Lion King. So good. Also don’t miss the behind-the-scenes video of the making of this video. Fascinating and fun.

YouTube Video – Every Song From The Lion King Movie – 6 year-old Claire and the Crosby Family

YouTube Video – We Made a Lion King Video – The Crosby’s

YouTube Video – The Lion King (Main Theme – “This Land” – Beyond the Guitar (my kid’s version)

3) Back to School – [Adapted from the Archives] During the hottest days of summer, a Fall breeze blows through our favorite stores. Back to school supplies and cool kids’ clothes pop up everywhere. I have always loved the smell of pencils and paper. However, I never loved the long hours of school that boxed in our children to spend evenings separated from us and each other with hours and hours of homework. Sorry, wonderful teacher friends of mine. Anyway, seeing school supplies in the stores this week was fun…and also a reminder of the flight of time. Summer slow down (too late to slow down for some of you. Welcome to the next school year).Blog - Back to School Supplies - friday Faves

So much new happens as summer ends, and Fall stretches out before us. Routines and rhythms crank up again. Growth spurts require new clothes. Then there are all the school supplies required for starting a new year.

As our children grew up, we had varying seasons of “back-to-school” between home schooling and other schooling, both in the US and in Africa. It was never easy for me to see them off, when we didn’t homeschool. I missed them…and those moments together when they talked about life as they saw it. I also missed being able to protect them from some of the meanness in the world. Still, the start of the school year, for all of us, is a hopeful time of anticipation and wonder, of new beginnings and possibilities.[Kudos to the teachers, Stacie Mills & Kirby Joseph, whose classrooms pre-student-return, were my inspiration on this fave.]

How thankful I am for teachers who really care for their students. Teachers who see themselves as partners with parents, even us most woefully unprepared…for the sake of these kiddos who will hold the future in their hands one day. What a marvel this is.

Back to School – Teachers On My Mind – Deb Mills

Putting the Basket in the Water: Trusting God in the Next Phase of Your Child’s Life – Ashlei Woods

The Trauma-Informed Teacher – Silent Front Line

4) Michael W. Smith – Singer songwriter Michael W. Smith has given me words to worship God for over 35 years. Either writing himself, collaborating, or performing others’ songs. He has blessed so many of us over the years. Today when it seems people struggle so hard to finish strong, Michael is the real deal. Not yet 60, he has been married to Debbie for over 35 years. He wrote his first song when he was 5 and he’s been writing them ever since.

His “Agnus Dei” is one of my favorites. I’m actually not sure why it is entitled that, but it is a powerful worship song. Few lyrics; but great heart! Like Michael.

This week, I watched the TBN special “35 Years of Friends – Celebrating the Music of Michael W. Smith”. Here’s a highlight reel of that show. So great! All the emotions of decades of music that moved hearts and lives.

Thanks, Michael W. Smith, for living a life on- and off-stage that never compromised what you hold dear – God, your family, and all of us friends of yours.

Michael W. Smith – Grammy Winner and Grandfather – Jeremy V. Jones

10 Best Michael W. Smith SongsPamela Rose Williams (includes his bio and stories)

List of All Songs by Michael W. Smith (A-Z) – with links to the videos

Michael W. Smith – Song List (with links to iTunes)

5) The Last Black Man in San Francisco – Have you ever had to leave a house you loved? One that expressed home almost as much as the people who lived there? When my mom died and we finally had to sell the house where we grew up, it was hard. Every time, I go to home to Georgia, I still drive by that little much-loved house. If its walls could talk…

The film The Last Black Man in San Francisco is the story about a beloved house. I haven’t seen the film yet but it’s on my film list for this summer. Everything I’ve read about it (and watching the trailer below) touched my heart. Comment below if you’ve seen it. I love it already.

YouTube Video – How “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” Was Made – HBO

That’s it for me. Be blessed. Thanks for reading. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Size 14 Is No Longer the Average Size for an American Woman – Chris Adams

Photo Credit: Facebook, Maria Bessler