Category Archives: Friends

5 Friday Faves – Spider-Man on Classical Guitar, American Idol Laine Hardy, Le Tour de France, Moving Day, and the Mid-Summer Garden

1) Spider-Man on Classical Guitar – The latest Spider-Man (Far From Home) debuted in the theaters this week. With it, we have the treat of a Beyond the Guitar arrangement of the film theme.  Composed by the incredible Michael Giacchino, Far From Home Suite Home is this huge orchestral piece that makes just the right backdrop for Marvel’s latest Spider-Man installation. Nathan Mills clearly loves this theme (as he does Marvel film music, in general). His arrangement again does it justice…on that single beautiful classical guitar:

2) American Idol Laine Hardy – I’ve written about our Independence Day celebrations other times (here, here, & here). One accidental tradition of ours is the PBS Capitol 4th TV celebration of the 4th of July (staged in front of the US Capitol building). It’s accidental because, as much as we love to watch fireworks displays, the crowds and traffic keep us home most years…so we watch them on TV. [We get some live fireworks in the neighborhood, but we see most of the magic on TV]. The fireworks in Washington, DC, never disappoint. Nor does Laine Hardy, the 2019 American Idol, who sang for the PBS special. Photo Credit: Countable

Here he is:

3) Le Tour de France – This magnificent bicycling race set annually in the beautiful mountains and countryside of Europe is a not-to-miss  for us. Even with all the doping issues of the past (present?), it’s an amazing bicycling event – 3 weeks long. Beginning in Belgium this year and ending always in Paris, France. My husband, Dave, is a biker. He knows all those NFL stats that guys seem to know, and he has that same capacity, through the years, for Tour de France facts. Every summer we watch. Not yet in Europe…but maybe one day.Photo Credit: Pixabay

How Do Cyclists Physically Survive the Tour de France? We asked a Physiologist and Former Pro Rider – Louis Bien

4) Moving Day – Packing up all your stuff and moving across the world, or even across town, is fairly stressful. You never know how much stuff you have until you actually try to put it all in boxes. Wrestling sofas and mattresses into a rental truck requires a lot of muscle and some engineering skill. This week some friends are moving and we are helping. Every time (at least in the last 5 years or so), after showing up for another friend’s move, Dave says: “That’s the last time.. I’m getting too old for this.” Moving is stressful and the cost of professional movers would add to that stress. Fortunately, friends and family still show up. They take a Saturday morning and determine to fit all the stuff into that rental truck and the cars of the movers. Every time, because they love those people moving. Every time, it always works out. Right? (Or do you have a story where it didn’t?)

5) Midsummer Garden – Our weather has languished for days in the 90s. Hard to just be outside for very long. However, the garden draws us out. The flowers are at their peak or just a bit beyond. Birds, bees, and butterflies tend the blooms almost as much as we do (to be accurate, it’s all Dave). It’s a beautiful time of the year…as it may be where you are as well.

So that’s this week’s favorites for me. Veered away from the more serious issues of late. Those can wait for another day. Blessings on your weekend…and you, in particular.

Bonuses:

Statue in Amsterdan, entitled Addiction:Photo Credit: Bored Panda

5LQ Episode 351: On Reading Well With Karen Swallow Prior

Caring for a loved one is hard work — 6 ways you can fight burnout

Downton Abbey – the Exhibition – Coming Soon to the Biltmore, Asheville, NC

America the Beautiful // Love and Longing – Andrew Arndt

Republicans Don’t Understand Democrats – and Democrats Don’t Understand Republicans – Yascha Mounk

Photo Credit: The Journey Center for Healing Arts, Facebook

5 Friday Faves – ‘Toy Story’ Nostalgia on Classical Guitar, Best Marriage Advice, Reparations, Letter-writing, and Papa’s Garden

Friday Faves on a Sunday. Not too late to find a favorite for yourself.

1) ‘Toy Story’ Nostalgia on Classical Guitar – Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar) has just posted his latest arrangement. “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”. Written by composer singer Randy Newman, it is the musical theme for the Toy Story movies. Nathan’s arrangement is so fun – a little funk, a little blues. Hard to keep still when listening. Check it out below:

2) Best Marriage Advice – Many of us have benefited from good marriage advice through the years and seasons.Photo Credit: Lessons Learned in Life

My favorite marriage advice actually comes out of Bible verses not usually considered for this purpose:

“You have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent [return] and do [repeat] the first works.” – Revelation 2:4b-5a

If you’re in a season when your marriage just feels flat, like you’re a couple of roommates, like the love you have seems faded…then:

  • Remember what it was like in the beginning. What were you like? [Focus there NOT on what your spouse was like.]
  • Repent or return/turn around.
  • Repeat what you did/were like in the beginning.

I was a lot funnier than I am now. More positioned for him to protect me (which was what he is wired to do and it’s lovely). More spontaneously affectionate. More generous with praise and encouragement. When I remember, return and repeat (in action and attitude), something sweet happens. Worth giving it a try…

Lastly, a piece of advice was given to our son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law. It came from an older couple who had been in the audience of one of his concerts. They came up to meet him. When they discovered he was soon to be married, this was their advice:

“Make love often. Always pull from the same end of the rope.”Photo Credit: Twitter, Gold Medal Mind, Joe Afremow

3) Reparations – This week on Juneteenth, reparations was a heated topic in Congress. It is defined as “the idea that some form of compensatory payment needs to be made to the descendants of Africans trafficked to and enslaved in the Americas as part of the Atlantic slave trade.”

The terrible history and aftermath of slavery hangs over our country like a shroud. How do we move forward? I am so thankful for those who are helping us to make strides in racial reconciliation…and, at its most basic element, truly truly caring for one another.

Writer/musician Coleman Hughes spoke against reparations during the hearing on the proposed bill #HR40. His testimony follows:

I don’t know the answer for those descendants of slaves in America…or for the rest of us with such a wrongful legacy. It is a painful issue…needing much wisdom and sound reason.

Should the U.S. Give Cash Payments to the Descendants of Slaves to Atone for Slavery? Here’s What Experts Are Arguing – Emily Hoeven

Everyone Wants to Talk About Reparations But For How Long – Adam Harris

The Impossibility of Reparations – David Frum

Only Black GOP Senator Tim Scott Calls Reparations a ‘Non-Starter’ – Alexander Bolton

Actor Denzel Washington won the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement award. His acceptance speech has nothing to do with reparations but a lot to do with healing a nation:

[Denzel Washington, in his acceptance speech,] shared a 30-year-old video of his father-in-law talking to the camera and preaching a message of love. “God intends for us to love all mankind and by being in a loving mood, caring for one another, that’s our purpose for life,” his father-in-law said in the clip. “We should care for one another and we should help one another.”

Washington closed by reflecting on and reinforcing this message, saying, “In this Twitter, tweet, mean, mean world that we’ve created for our children, the least we can do is consider what we’ve done and think about the young people, the future, and individually, collectively, we can try and do the best we can. I blame no one; I look in the mirror. On the other side of it, what an opportunity we have because tomorrow’s the first day of the rest of our lives, so what an opportunity we have to practice what he preached.”Maureen Lee Lenker, Entertainment Weekly

4) Letter-writing – I used to be a prolific letter-writer. Not so any more, but it was fun for me to receive a letter in the mail this week from one of my very best life-long friends. She and her husband have been emptying her mom-in-law’s house, preparing it for sale. Her mom who I’ve know all my life is/was a very sentimental woman. She must have kept many of the letters I’d sent her over the years. Some of those found their way back home to me. It was fun to re-read them. Have you ever been a letter-writer? Letters to ones we love must certainly be treasures…and I have always loved Mrs. Hazel.

5) Papa’s Garden – Total feast for the senses. How is it that we can smell tomatoes grow (corn, too)? I’ll look that up but for now, just wanted to share pictures from this early summer garden. Growing through the work of my gardener husband.

Even the compost pile has its own stuff growing!

That’s it for me this week. I would love for you to share your favorite finds or your thoughts from anything above. It is a joy to hear from you. Thanks for reading.

Bonuses:

World Refugee Day

How Much Coffee Is Safe to Consume? Research Says Up to 25 Cups Per Day

11 things you need to know in tech today

Donald Trump Donates Salary to Department of Transportation – USA Today, Jessica Estepa

ABC’s of Life: 26 ways to live our lives more deeply…Photo Credit: Facebook, The Art of Learning

 

Photo Credit: Facebook, Pet Assist

Monday Morning Moment – Rewiring Your Brain Toward Thinking in the Positive

Photo Credit: Hubspot, Carly Stec

OK…so today started really great. Then it got a bit murky…then downright dark. I was all set to turn today’s blog into the ultimate rant! Fortunately, something else happened along the way.Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Looking up meanings to words like “disingenuous” and thinking of the ways that people communicate that shut others down. Aarrgghh!

25 Phrases That Kill Workplace Relationships – John Rampton

Which of These Incredibly Annoying Pet Peeves is the Worst? – Analise Dubner

Then…I snapped out of it. Negative thinking is such an unhelpful, unhealthy activity. It is not how I want to be, nor was I ever…routinely negative, that is… until recent years. Getting older seems to bend us toward negativity. My mama sure didn’t raise me to be that way.Photo Credit: Disney Film Bambi, CineLessons, Pinterest

Somewhere in the middle of beefing up my rants on condescension  and exclusivity and those most affected by decision-making not having a place at that table (see the downward spiral?)…I took a deep breath and turned around. Dave will sometimes tell me “pull up” when he could see me mentally plunge downward…and so I did…pull up.

You may have read what I wrote previously about identifying negativity and correcting course. It seems to be a bit of a recurrent subject of late. Those pieces are here:

Monday Morning Moment – Grumpy Begets Grumpy – Understanding It, Not Reacting, and Turning It Around – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Negativity – Its Cost and Cure – Deb Mills

Today, I came across a super-simple prescription for rewiring our thinking toward positivity. The team at Daily Health Post focused on complaining as a culprit that can actually cause our brains to default to anxiety and depression. From experience, I know this is true. Check out the article below:

How Complaining Physically Rewires Your Brain to Be Anxious and Depressed

Photo Credit: Daily Health Post

The prescription for rewiring our thinking is straightforward and easy, with practice. In fact, these four reminders could easily sit on a card at our work station to help us stay on the road and out of the ditch:

  • Be grateful. – Keep a journal and write down things/persons for which you’re grateful – morning and evening. Turn your thoughts toward gratitude when you’re tempted to go negative/complaining.
  • Catch yourself. – Shake off the negativity before your friends/coworkers intervene…or pull away. Learn to catch yourself and change course.
  • Change your mood. – If your emotions start to spiral, shift your environment. Take a walk. Listen to music. Step away from your work station. Grab a few minutes with a friend.
  • Practice wise effort. – Wise effort is the practice of letting go of anything that doesn’t serve you. If your worry won’t improve your situation or teach you a lesson, simply let it go and move on.This is much easier said then done, of course, but if you write it out, ask friends for advice, and take some time to think it through constructively, it really can be done.” – Daily Health Post

All this is common sense. Still, in an age of outrage, we must practice thinking positively until it becomes a discipline…a healthy habit.

So…as fascinating as you would have found my rant, I’m sure…better to let it go…and the stress along with it. For now. There are things, destructive hurtful actions (or communications) that might need our intervention along the way. However, we only hurt ourselves and those closest to us when we just go all negative, faithless, and brooding. Thanking God, this is not how this day will end.

The Art of Being a Great Coworker: 13 Ways to Improve Your Work Relationships – Carly Stec

Photo Credit: Frank Sonnenberg Online

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Brené Brown, Facebook

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

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

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

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

What Being Sober Has Meant to MeBrené Brown

Mary Karr Names Names – Nina Puro

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rising Tide Startups

Rising Tide Startups – YouTube Channel

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

Photo Credit: National Cancer Survivors Day, Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me, too.

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Front Royal Church of Christ

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

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

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

Bonuses:

Indicators of Human Trafficking

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

Why Simplifying May Protect Our Children’s Mental Health

A View From the Other Side

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

Photo Credit: Marc Merlin, Facebook

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

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

Photo Credit: Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Habits of Highly Effective Hobbits – Alex Knapp

A Day in the Life of a Hobbit – Alice

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

Tea With Tolkien

Tolkien the Film

Worship Wednesday – It Is Not Good To Be Alone – I Am Not Alone – Kari Jobe

Blog - I am Not Alone - Kari Jobe FacebookPhoto Credit: Kari Jobe, Facebook

[Adapted from the Archives]

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.”Genesis 2:18

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. “For I am the LORD your God.” Isaiah 43:1-3

In all the good that God had accomplished in creating this world (Genesis 1), He Himself points out the one “not good” thing. “It is not good for the man to be alone.

Pastor Cliff is preaching a series on Genesis, and this was where we landed this past Sunday. He talked about that aloneness as being something we experience apart from intimacy with God and His human provision for us. Not just marriage, but family, close friendships, and genuine community.

What Does Genesis 2:18 Mean?

Our hardest battles are the private ones…the ones in which we feel alone. We could be surrounded by coworkers, family members, friends, yet we can’t really bring to words the terror in our hearts…the questions…the sense of isolation, of aloneness. We are not usually overcome by such things; it’s not who we are. Yet, there are days when it seems, seems, that we are alone. Everyone else is rocking with the latest turn in life…but me. It seems I am somehow alone in this.

First…if we could speak it out loud, we would find others with questions and wondering. We are not alone. Especially in the deepest places. Then, remembering again: we have great and many promises that God is with us through all of where He takes us. Most importantly, He sometimes orchestrates these places of weakness for us to remember His strength. It is for us to learn afresh to trust Him. His desire is for us to see and manifest His glory meant for our good and for those around us. This sometimes comes through those dark, desperate times of seeming aloneness. We. Are. Not. Alone.

Several years ago, I heard a seminary professor, Chuck Lawless, teach on spiritual warfare. He reminded us, through passage after passage from God’s Word, that our battles belong to God. He will fight for us. We are not alone.

“We turn to Job when our own life hits the wall. Job 1:20 – Job worshipped. I hope if I lost everything, I would still worship God. In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. Spiritual warfare – It’s not escaping from the battle; it’s worshipping God in the battle.  Job is in a battle he can’t win. He trusts the Lord anyway. And we must as well.

It is in our weakness that we find victory. When the noose is around our neck. When we can come to a place where we’re content with the worst…then Satan can’t affect us. We lean on God in our weakness – we lean on God. We can say, “I’m o.k. with this.” We don’t like spiritual warfare because we want to hang on to our stuff – our dreams, our idea of ourselves, our position – whatever it is. Hang on to God. Alone.”

When our job is on the line or we are facing an uphill battle in our work, when we face a devastating diagnosis or diminishing health in our elder years, when our marriage is in a hard place or there seems no hope for marriage for us…whatever our situation. We are not alone.

As I listened to Dr. Lawless back then and to Pastor Cliff on Sunday, I looked around the room and my heart filled with love for those people God had placed in our lives. We may be unaware of the struggle…but we know a God who knows and joins us together with Himself and each other…in our struggles.

We have this amazing spiritual privilege, a divine work: to take each other to God in prayer…preemptively. Proactively not just reactively. The more we do this, the more quickly we will remember that the battle belongs to the Lord. [2 Chronicles 20:14-18] Satan would have us divided against each other, feeling on the outside of whatever is the preferred inside, stuck in thinking we are missing whatever is the better part. Not true! God loves us and He fights for each of us. Remember the Truth; cling to Him. We can pray confidently, knowing that we are not alone. Ever.

“The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You.”Kari Jobe

Worship with me to Kari Jobe‘s beautiful, full-of-truth song I Am Not Alone:

When I walk through deep waters
I know that You will be with me
When I’m standing in the fire
I will not be overcome
Through the valley of the shadow
I will not fear

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

In the midst of deep sorrow
I see Your light is breaking through
The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You
Lord, You fight my every battle
And I will not fear

You amaze me
Redeem me
You call me as Your own

You’re my strength
You’re my defender
You’re my refuge in the storm
Through these trials
You’ve always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul.*

13 Truths About Spiritual Warfare for Leaders [or any of us] – Chuck Lawless

Chuck Lawless on Spiritual Warfare – Website

God is Always with Us

Kari Jobe Explains Story Behind ‘I Am Not Alone’; ‘God Fights for You…You Need Only to be Still’

YouTube Video – Kari Jobe – I Am Not Alone (Live)

YouTube Video – Kari Jobe – I Am Not Alone (Lyric Video/Live)  – walk through a forest

YouTube Video – I Am Not Alone – Kari Jobe – Worship Video with Lyrics

YouTube Video – Psalm 23 (I Am Not Alone) [Live at Linger Conference] People & Songs ft Josh Sherman

*Lyrics to I Am Not Alone – KLove – Songwriters: Kari Jobe, Marty Sampson, Mia Fieldes, Ben Davis, Grant Pittman, Dustin Sauder, and Austin Davis

Monday Morning Moment – The Tyranny of Sensitiveness – C. S. Lewis

Photo Credit: QuickMeme

Years ago, my best friend and I went on a cross-country sight-seeing trip. Our plan was to camp out a couple of nights and then stay in a hotel for the third, and continue in that rhythm for the two weeks we were on our adventure. It didn’t always go well. I loved camping; she preferred the hotel. Our food preferences were more different than we realized. We did, fortunately, agree on the “not to be missed” aspects of our journey across America.

Along with all the great memories made, we had some humdinger disagreements through the course of our time away and returned home even better friends as an outcome. However, it didn’t come easily for either of us.

It turns out I could majorly stomp on her feelings without even knowing that was happening. We have both matured greatly since then so this can encourage you…it has for me in the times in recent years when I find myself in similar situations.

First, you must know I never intended to plow through her preferences to race toward my own. She was my dearest friend. It gave me joy to see her happy. Still…somewhere I crossed a line. In our responses to one another, as friends, family, colleagues, (even strangers on social media) we can discover things both about ourselves and about the other.

Emotions are different from feelings. I’m not going into the physiological pathways or mental habit formation of all this, but the quote below by Debbie Hampton is very helpful:

“Feelings and emotions are two sides of the same coin and highly interconnected but are two very different things…Emotions originally helped our species survive by producing quick reactions to threat, reward, and everything in between in their environments. Emotional reactions are coded in our genes. Emotions precede feelings, are physical, and instinctual. Feelings are sparked by emotions and colored by the thoughts, memories, and images that have become subconsciously linked with that particular emotion for you. But it works the other way around too. For example, just thinking about something threatening can trigger an emotional fear response. While individual emotions are temporary, the feelings they evoke may persist and grow over a lifetime…In the gaps between emotion, feeling, and acting, we all have the power to change and direct our lives for the better. “Debbie Hampton

In the milliseconds between any stimulus and our response to it, we can choose how we will respond emotionally. However, because we have set a course “over a lifetime” of responding certain ways, emotional patterns (feelings) are formed and put into practice. We can change these, if we find them detrimental to our physical, emotional, and relational lives.

That happened between my friend and me. In close proximity, for two weeks, our daily experience very dependent on the other, we found we could irritate each other. The statements “That hurt my feelings” or “You hurt my feelings” became her lament…this from an accomplished teacher and successful manager of a classroom of tiny children. Somehow, on this trip, I had the capacity, regularly, of stealing her joy.

For me…inconceivable. I loved her and had no desire to hurt her, ever. Still, it happened.

[By the way, this expression of sensitiveness using the word “feelings” may be more encountered in women, but men have some similar experience – you know you do – but call it different things. “Offended”, maybe? “Annoyed”? Is that where sarcasm or cynicism is birthed?]

Back to the story: In some way, my behavior set off for my friend emotions that were tagged by past feelings of being discounted, not considered, not favored. It wasn’t pretty…for either of us.

Fast forward, decades later.

We live in a culture of lofty sensitiveness. The measure for political correctness in our speech continues to get moved upward. We are a nation so easily offended that we can’t even discern what is truly intentionally offensive from what is just true.

Have you ever been in a season with a friend or colleague that feels emotionally murky? You don’t really know what’s going on, but you sense something is. Then…you step on the landmine – and you say something or do something or your face shows something – that explodes all kinds of feelings in the other person, from what seems a life-time of storing up.

This is what has now been popularized as weaponizing feelings or emotions. The outcome? Guilt, shame, wounding, and (for some) returning fire.

It will make me sad if this post “hurts feelings”, especially of those friends of mine who read my stuff. The thing is, just like my friend and me, we can go deeper in our relationships when we refuse to let feelings define our friendships. When we refuse to think ill of others we grow a spiritual maturity and neuroplasticity that impacts our emotional responses and our relational resilience.

What got me thinking about all this, this week was actually a Lenten reading from British scholar C. S. LewisPreparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis.

He talks about the danger of weaponizing sensitiveness long before it became the cultural phenomenon it is today:

“‘Did you fight fair?’ Or did we not quite unknowingly falsify the whole issue? Did we pretend to be angry about one thing when we knew, or could have known, that our anger had a different and much less presentable cause? Did we pretend to be ‘hurt’ in our sensitive and tender feelings…when envy, ungratified vanity, or thwarted self-will was our real trouble? Such tactics often succeed. The other parties give in. They give in not because they don’t know what is really wrong with us but because they have long known it only too well, and that sleeping dog can be roused, that skeleton brought out of its cupboard, only at the cost of imperilling their whole relationship with us. It needs surgery which they know we will never face. And so we win; by cheating. But the unfairness is very deeply felt. Indeed what is commonly called ‘sensitiveness’ is the most powerful engine of domestic tyranny sometimes a lifelong tyranny. How we should deal with it in others I am not sure; but we should be merciless to its first appearances in ourselves.C. S. Lewis

After being an atheist, Lewis did not come to faith in Christ until his mid-thirties. His intense study of the Bible, relationship with God, and deep, gut-honest conversations with a circle of intimate friends moved him to such understanding of people and life…and our responses to both. Any thoughts on this? Please comment below.Photo Credit: Flickr

Preparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis

What Is the Difference Between Feelings and Emotions? – Debbie Hampton

The “Weaponizing” of Emotions Wade Trimmer

The A-Z Guide to Feelings and Emotions – Sebastian Gendry

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life – Deb Mills

Inner Circles – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills

Invisible Wounds of the Sensitive, Empathic and Emotionally Intense Child – Imi Lo – this is a sobering, emotionally charged article. I resonated with it in preparing for the blog above and include it because it might be helpful for some to read. Just a warning that it is hard to read because it honestly did not give much place for hope. [If I missed it, please illuminate me in the Comments below.] Maybe the hope comes in recognizing what we as parents might be doing that’s hurtful to an emotionally intense child and correct course.

Worship Wednesday – Kara Tippetts – Suffering as an Instrument of Love and Worship

Photo Credit: Mundane Faithfulness

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.2 Timothy 4:6-7

Kara Tippetts is one of the loveliest women I’ve never met. She died of cancer four years ago this month. Although cancer sharpened her experience of life, it did not define her life. She was a Christ-follower, pastor’s wife, mom of 4, writer, and amazing sister and friend. How I know her is through the cancer she battled, through her faith, and through her writing…this is how I know her and how I love her (from my earlier blog on her life).

On March 22, the documentary The Long Goodbye is released. Directed by Jay Lyons, it is an intimate story of Kara’s last months of life here on earth. It is a story of deep love, crazy humor, hard yet sweet moments, and forever faith. [See trailer here.]Photo Credit: Hallels

Some of my friends here in Richmond are joining with me for a premier party to watch the documentary together. I am excited to introduce them to Kara. It will be sad but also funny and supremely victorious.

Premiere THE LONG GOODBYE with your Friends! — Limited Time Offer

Over the course of Kara’s cancer, she wrote three books (with the help of friend Jill Lynn Buteyn). I remember the blog she wrote about signing contracts for the two last books just weeks before she died. Her determination to leave this legacy was buoyed by a husband, family, and friends who helped her keep living the life she loved until the end. These books are so beautiful. I spent a couple of decades doing cancer nursing and those experiences forged an understanding of the rare and beautiful gifts found in suffering. Walking through it with God. Kara has captured so much of that and shares it with us in these sweet, sometimes hard stories.

The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard – Kara Tippetts

Just Show Up: the Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together – Kara Tippetts & Jill Lynn Buteyn

And It Was Beautiful: Celebrating Life in the Midst of the Long Good-bye – Kara Tippetts

By the way, there is way more joy than sorrow in her story. Her love for her family and friends. Her joy in the beauty that surrounded her. Her confidence in the God who loved her. It’s all there.

In her last book, And It Was Beautiful: Celebrating Life in the Midst of the Long Good-bye, she writes a brief letter to the cancer:

“…So here we are. The truth is that now you are in my bones, my bone marrow, my blood-making place. I did not want you there. I asked you not to go there. But you did it anyway. But here’s something. You will never separate me from the Holy Spirit. He’s watching you, every single cell of you. He’s the One giving me all this peace that confounds you. You won’t take my joy, cancer. You won’t keep me from living as close as I can to my people. And I know you think you are killing me with all your fast-growing cell business, but you are not the boss. The day I breathe my last is exactly numbered. You don’t have a say in that, sorry. And when that day comes, and it will come, my people will be kept safe in God’s beautiful arms…I do hate you, and I’m still here.”Kara

Photo Credit: Deb Mills Writer from Mundane Faithfulness

This year during Lent, I’m reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s 40-Day Journey. He writes beautifully about what it is to be a true disciple of Jesus. Here is one excerpt:

Luther translates the Greek word for what is blessed with “to bear suffering.” The important part is the bearing. The community of disciples does not shake off suffering, as if they had nothing to do with it. Instead they bear it. In doing so, they give witness to their connection with the people around them. At the same time this indicates that they do not arbitrarily seek suffering, that they do not withdraw into willful contempt for the world. Instead, they bear what is laid upon them and what happens to them in discipleship for the sake of Jesus Christ. Finally, disciples will not be weakened by suffering, worn down, and embittered until they are broken. Instead, they bear suffering, by the power of him who supports them. The disciples bear the suffering laid on them only by the power of him who bears all suffering on the cross. As bearers of suffering, they stand in communion with the Crucified. They stand as strangers in the power of him who was so alien to the world that it crucified him. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever. Psalm 30:11-12

Kara, in your living and your dying, you taught me so much about being a disciple of Jesus. You knew/know Him so well. Thank you. Photo Credit: Life News

My Other Blogs on Kara – Here, Here, Here & Here

**Memorial – Mundane Faithfulness – read Kara’s blog – her story and her God will change your life.

Monday Morning Moment – the Cultural Phenomenon of Decluttering Stuff and Disposing of Relationships – the Marie Kondo Effect

Photo Credit: Lucy and Claudia

[Starting with Marie Kondo but not staying there, so for those not a fan, hang with me a few minutes.]

Marie Kondo is a petite and lovely Japanese decluttering guru. Her book and Netflix TV show Tidying Up are based on her KonMarie method of organizing one’s home. Such that joy is sparked. She ascribes to the Shinto belief that cleanliness is essential to a good life. In Kondo’s thinking, disposing of everything in your home that doesn’t spark joy brings an order and spiritual calm you wouldn’t have otherwise.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing  – Marie Kondo

YouTube Video – 10 Amazing Tips for Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (the KonMarie Method)

Shintoism: How It Influenced the Lives of the Japanese – Saki Yoshida

The Hidden Religious Promise Behind Marie Kondo’s Decluttering ‘Magic’ – Karen Swallow Prior

Because of the popularity of the KonMarie decluttering method (and other similar approaches), homes (in the West anyway) have less stuff and more open spaces. These are great days to shop in thrift stores because they are full of higher end clothing, antiques, memorabilia, and the nearly new impulse buys of the minimizing upper middle class.

This decluttering can be a good thing because it is visually refreshing and potentially allows for a greater enjoyment of the stuff we do have in our home. The problem comes when we indiscriminately toss items just because they don’t spark joy (joy being a tall order coming from material things). It sets in motion a wider worldview on what is disposable in life. What should be cut out of our lives (possessions) or cut off from our lives (people)?

In this culture of trending decluttering and downsizing, we must beware that the freedom we feel in letting go of things can transfer into an ease in letting go of people. Intentionally, ruthlessly letting go of people…maybe without even being aware we’ve changed along with our homes.

– Cutting off family and friends in the insatiable pursuit of joy –

There are always consequences in decluttering, disposing, letting go …and for sure in cutting off relationships with people.Photo Credit: Haiku Deck

You might say that some people don’t deserve further access to your life – they are complicated or difficult (even abusive). [I am all for getting help and setting boundaries when necessary…especially in the face of abuse.] It’s the cutting off of relationships that feels like it alters who we are as people, set in families, in particular.

My older brother, Robert, experienced enormous loss in his life. Because of all the losses and setbacks, he developed thick skin and a tough heart. He was hard on all of us who loved him. Brutally hard sometimes. There were plenty of occasions I could have walked away from him and not looked back. Fortunately, we had a mom who loved us all well, even when her oldest treated her as he treated us. Also, fortunately, I had two friends who kept counseling me to look beyond the contentiousness and mean words to what was going on inside him. “Hurt people hurt people” they would tell me. I finally came to the place where I didn’t react when he tried to push emotional buttons that would always end in sibling fights and walk-outs. My two younger brothers and I determined together not to get baited and to try to lean in, in love. It wasn’t long at all until he changed – almost as if he woke out of a long and terrible dream. He remembered he loved us and that we loved him.

I thank God that I didn’t cut him off. He died at a young 61, and those last years of being his sister were sweet. Those years were full of joy actually. Worth the wait…and the willingness to give up my own way.

We have all probably had the experience of drifting from relationships, of neglecting friendships, of just not showing up emotionally or physically.

This is part of the imperfect nature of life. What bears examination is the very intentional, thought-out cutting off people from our lives.

“Does it spark joy?” is the question Marie Kondo asks the person deciding whether to keep something or dispose of it.

“Make sure everything you keep sparks joy.” “Unless something makes you happy in your life, why would you hang onto it?”Tidying Up

“Does it spark joy?” Is the Wrong Decluttering Question – Joshua Becker

Beware of the worldview that decluttering leads to joy, because where, then, does it stop?

One writer goes as far as saying out right: “When you are confronted with people who do not bring joy to your life… it’s 100% okay to toss them out of it.”

There is so much being written about how to “Marie Kondo” relationships we perceive as toxic or at the least annoying and joyless. I chose not to link to those in today’s piece.

One really helpful article, though, about the reasons we cut off family members can bring real insight into why we rationalize such a decision:

10 Reasons Why People Get Cut Off From Their Family Dr. Barbara Greenberg

Click on the link and read Dr. Greenberg’s analysis on cutting off family and why we should think it through again. In brief, here are her 10 reasons people make this choice:

  1. Modeling
  2. Power and Control
  3. Exhaustion
  4. Rewriting Narratives
  5. Loyalty
  6. Perceived Slights
  7. Money
  8. Caring for Elderly or Sick Parents
  9. Abuse
  10. Lack of Elasticity

It’s just something I’m thinking about this Monday morning.

People are not stuff. They are made in the image of God. They matter, even with all their cluttered baggage, this side of Heaven. They aren’t disposable. Who we become across our lifetime is framed by those in our family and among our friends…who don’t always spark joy…nor do we.

I welcome your thoughts…in the Comments below.

The Hidden Religious Promise Behind Marie Kondo’s Decluttering ‘Magic’ – Karen Swallow Prior

Our Disposable Culture Means We Toss Relationships As Quickly as We Throw Away Objects – Charlie Sorrel

The Real Reason Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic Doesn’t Work for Parents – Tanya C. Snyder

‘Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” Isn’t Really a Make-0ver Show – Sarah Archer

Clean House, Full Thrift Stores: How Marie Kondo Inspired Mass Decluttering and Donating – Mary Ellen Wright

What Japan Can Teach America About Family Caregiving – Barry J. Jacobs

350 Family Quotes – Wisdom Quotes

5 Friday Faves – Kingdom Hearts, Truth, Artist Karen Burnette Garner, On Reading Well, and Best Movie Scenes

What a week! So much stirred up around here…on what it means, at the deepest level, to be American…with issues both private and public. Not a lot of grace being demonstrated…but below you will find some of the beauty and thought that remind us of how privileged we are to live in America. It is far from perfect, but it is home. For now. At a spiritual level, this, our homeland (at its best and at its worst) is not our home forever. So, for now, I am so grateful to be an American and still hopeful, looking to the future…hopeful in God, for sure.

5 favorite finds of this week:

  1. Kingdom Hearts – Just this week, the role-playing, action video game Kingdom Hearts III was launched worldwide. Its breathtaking score was composed by Yoko Shimomura. This game has been around since 2002 so its music has been with its fans for a long time. Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has arranged the “Dearly Beloved” theme from the game. I can tell you, it has “all the feels”, as described by the many who have commented on the YouTube video. Without any tug of nostalgia, not having played the game, it is beautiful. Listen here.Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

By the way, as supporters of Nathan’s music via Patreon, we get to watch him live stream bits of his process in arranging these songs. Now, many of you know that I am his mom…but put that aside, and let me marvel at the extraordinary music he has introduced us through the years. One day he may compose more himself as well, but his covers of songs, many unknown to me (themes from movies, TV shows, and video games) lift the heart…so welcome these days.

YouTube Video – Kingdom Hearts – Dearly Beloved – Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

2) Truth – The last two weeks in America, we have had a barrage of news related to state legislatures updating their abortion bills. The division over this issue has deepened across our country. It gives pause for us to determine what is political rhetoric and what is truth. What is factual and what is simply posed as fact, with questionable or mixed-motive intent? [See my bit on unmasking evil from last week.]

As we wade through all the social media and op-ed pieces on cultural issues (whatever they are), and think through what the truth is, often our thinking moderates to a larger and more peaceful place. I’m not saying to a place of inaction or dullness but a place where truth can set us free.  [Whatever your religion or spiritual inclination, take a moment to think about this from a different place.]

On the issue of abortion, we are bombarded by the thoughts and unfettered verbiage of legislators, celebrities, newscasters. As if their opinions would be our own if we were enlightened enough. I began searching for the stories of those most impacted by abortion.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Michael Catt, Twitter

These are just two of the many I found. Also searching for stories by women who had abortions, I realized that these might be harder to find because of the private nature of this issue. The one below came through Facebook. Her story speaks volumes of how difficult and poignant the decision to abort is. Politicians (and religious leaders) should take note.

Post Credit: Shawna Downs, Facebook

A high elected official in our state has been very vocal in support of reproductive rights for women (particularly related to abortion). He speaks with authority on this subject. This week something was exposed from his past (not related to abortion but to another hot and hateful issue). His voice was tempered if not silenced, at least for this news cycle. Because of facts coming to light, he has been humbled in a very different, very unforgiving modern culture. Facts that may not necessarily represent who he is today will most probably alter the course of his career. Something to think about… Facts can lead to discovering the truth (the whole meaning of a thing), and they can also color the truth. We must search truth out.

The Difference Between Facts and Truth – Matt Moody PhD

You Will Know the Truth, and the Truth Will Set You Free – John Piper

What Does It Mean that “the Truth Will Set You Free” (John 8:32)?

When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense – Frederica Mathews-Green

3) Karen Burnette Garner – Artist – I have this friend who paints. Well, she is also a poet and a jewelry maker. Just as I am compelled to write, Karen is compelled to create. It has been a joy for me, over these many years, to watch her grow and mature in her craft.

In the beginning, she painted seascapes. Boats at anchor in tiny New England harbors. Her flower-strewn backyard. The fish popping up out of the water of her pond at home. Karen takes inspiration from whatever is before her. We see a world through her eyes that charms us. We are drawn in.

I didn’t discover Karen’s art this week, obviously, but I wanted to give her a shout-out and send-off. She is closing down her Georgia studio and making plans to relocate to Pennsylvania in the Spring.

This acclaimed local artist of Georgia who I thought would never leave her beloved Southern home is moving!

I can’t wait to see how the cornfields, sunsets behind the hills, and snowy winters of Pennsylvania will inspire her. We will see the fruit of that inspiration before too long.

Karen Burnette Garner – Fine Art

Karen Burnette Garner – Fine Art (Facebook page)

4) On Reading WellKaren Swallow Prior, a professor of English at Liberty University, came to my awareness during the #MeToo, and #ChurchToo, movement. She has a brilliant, reasoned voice in the issues we are grappling with in America right now. An unlikely champion really but one I’m thankful to know. We agree on most things, and I can count on her to help me think well on the others.Photo Credit: AnnaClaire Schmeidel, Karen Swallow Prior website

Her latest book On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books is my current read. In this easy-to-engage text, she tackles twelve virtues and writes about them in the context of great novels where they are found. Like diligence in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Hope in The Road by Cormac McCarthy. [Unlike Pilgrim’s Progress which I’ve read a couple of times; The Road was new to me. Not being familiar with the text as of yet did not hamper me from seeing the theme of hope in a post-apocalyptic novel, thanks to Dr. Prior’s thoughtful interpretation.

10 more virtues await, and I’m excited about seeing them, both in the novels reviewed, as well as through Prior’s commentary. I was nervous about the book at first, thinking it the stuff that only English majors could wrap their minds around. It’s a book that invites us to what we can learn about life in the great books withstanding the test of time and history. I’m reading the chapter on justice, next, as seen in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, with Karen Swallow Prior as a trusted guide.Photo Credit: Nate Claiborne

5) Best Movie Scenes – We all have our favorite movies. Even within some lesser movies there are scenes that become part of our treasured lexicon of movie lines.

Family Lexicon – Words that Grow Up With Us – Deb Mills Writer

Or our emotions are so caught up in the scene – whether it is the dialog, the action, the music, whatever – it becomes unforgettable.  Reading the following article got me nostalgic.Not for the horror movies – never for them – but for the others.

The 25 Most Influential Movies Scenes of the Past 25 Years – Richard Lawson and K. Austin Collins

What are some of your favorite movie scenes? Please share them in the Comments below. For me, just a few follow in the links.

YouTube Video – Sully scene “Can we get serious now?” Tom Hanks scene part l – [Watch Parts 3-5 also.] One of my all-time favorite movies and real life stories.

YouTube Video – Pride & Prejudice – Elizabeth’s Pride – still get chills watching them fight in that cold rain. Such great lines!

YouTube Video – Crimson Tide – Mutiny Scene – apart from the F-word, this scene was edge-of-the-seat gripping. Whew!

YouTube Video – Coach Carter – Not the Storybook Ending – love coach speeches in film.

YouTube Video – The Other Woman – Closing scene with Britt Nicole’s song The Sun Is Rising – love that song.

YouTube Video – The Replacements – I Will Survive – the dance scene!

YouTube Video – The Judge – Best Scene – love these two actors!

YouTube Video – The Chariots of Fire – He Who Honors God – everything about it…and this story.

These are just a few…so many more.

I’ve taken enough of your time. Have a sweet weekend. Carve out time to spend with those who love and those who love you. Thank you for reading this and trying to understand my ramblings. It means more than I can say.

Bonuses:

As Recipe Cards Disappear, Families Scramble to Preserve Cherished Memories – Ellen Byron

 

Photo Credit: Frugal Fun For Boys & Girls, Facebook