Category Archives: Friends

Worship Wednesday – Nathanael, Philip, and Jesus – Time Under the Fig Tree

Photo Credit: Howard Carter

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”John 1:43-51

Philip found Jesus. The One. The Messiah. He followed Him…and he sought out his friend Nathanael to tell him the good news. Even as Nathanael mocked the news, Philip persevered.

“Come and see”.

As they approached, Jesus called out identifying Nathanael. It was shocking for Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew) because they had not met before. Jesus called him “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.  Something about what and how Jesus spoke to him caused Nathanael to wonder aloud how Jesus knew him.

Then Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” What?! Of course, we remember this is God, this Jesus. Still, something in His seeing Nathanael under the fig tree meant everything to Nathanael…it meant that He was the One. The Messiah. Nathanael believed.

“Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Now, there are a lot of fig trees in Israel. Most probably, Nathanael sat under them from time to time. Something happened specifically under one of those fig trees that made it hugely significant that Jesus recalled it to him…and told him, “I saw you”.

In the TV series, The Chosen, we watch a story about Jesus, His followers, and His public ministry. We are reminded by the director and others that The Chosen is faithful to the truth of Scripture, but it also tells a story. We don’t know from the Word what was going on in Nathanael’s life “under the fig tree”, but that Jesus saw him was crucial.

The writers of the series have Nathanael wrestling with God over a failed hope. Nathanael had wanted to design buildings that would honor God, and he failed. Under the fig tree, he cried out to God in the words of Psalm 102:1-2:

“Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry for help come before You. Do not hide Your face from me in my day of distress. Incline Your ear to me; answer me…”

In reality, we do not know from Scripture what happened under the fig tree, but when Jesus told him that He saw him there…Nathanael believed. In the Son of God. The King of Israel.

[The scene below is 11 minutes in length. If you haven’t seen it, it is well worth your time. Beautiful. Remember some is story, BUT the passage in John above is faithfully represented…and the emotion is there. The grand emotion of discovering that we are seen…we are known.]

We have all had those moments under the fig tree. Times we thought we were all alone. Times of anguish or fear. Times of feeling completely undone. To be reminded that Jesus sees us changes everything. It is similar, in a God way, to the pronouncement the Samaritan woman made after encountering Jesus at the well. “He told me everything I ever did!” So different from Nathanael but similar in that she met the Messiah who knew her…and still loved her completely.

Worship with me to Jeremy Camp‘s He Knows:

All the bitter weary ways
endless striving day by day
you barely have the strength to pray
in the valley low

how hard your fight has been
how deep the pain within
wounds that no one else has seen
hurts too much to show

all the doubt you’re standing in between
And all the weight that brings you to your knees

HE KNOWS, HE KNOWS
EVERY HURT AND EVERY STING
HE HAS WALKED THE SUFFERING
HE KNOWS, HE KNOWS
LET YOUR BURDENS COME UNDONE
LIFT YOUR EYES UP TO THE ONE
WHO KNOWS
HE KNOWS

we may faint and we may sink
feel the pain and near the brink
but the dark begins to shrink
when you find the one who knows

the chains of doubt that held you in between
one by one are starting to break free

every time that you feel forsaken
every time that you feel alone
He is near to the broken hearted
every tear
He knows…*

As you get back to your day, you might want to bookmark the links below. Nathanael is a lesser known apostle, BUT we can learn so much in his conversion story…about Jesus…about the friend Philip who brought Nathanael to Christ…and about Nathanael, this righteous Jew, overcoming his prejudice and coming to Christ.

*Lyrics from He Knows – KLove

YouTube Video – He Knows (Lyric Video)

Worship Wednesday – He Knows – Jeremy Camp – Deb Mills

Jesus and Nathanael – D. Young

Snowballs and Bowling Balls – Jesus and Nathanael – Brian Rosner

Nathanael and the Fig TreeCharles H. Spurgeon

Under the Fig Tree…Jesus Meets Us Where We Are and Calls Us to Follow Him – Howard Carter

Under the Fig-Tree – How to Live a Holy Life – C. E. Orr

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s “Take On Me”, the Woman Slowly Fading, Mama’s Table, Relationship Hacks, and Voices of Influence

Happy weekend! Here are my five faves of this week – rapid-fire.

1) Beyond the Guitar’s “Take On Me”Nathan Mills does it again.  He takes Norwegian band A-Ha‘s 1985 hit “Take On Me” to a whole new level on classical guitar. So beautiful that lyrics aren’t needed; the nostalgia is already there. This song is featured in the video game The Last of Us Part II. Whether you loved it or hated it in the soundtrack of that game (or not a gamer)…its melody is “all the feels” under the deft fingers of Beyond the Guitar. Enjoy!

2) To The Woman Slowly Fading – I didn’t know the work of Scottish poet Donna Ashworth until my great-niece posted the poem below on her social media. She (my great-niece) is mum to three little ones; in fact, three under the age of three at the time.

She is tired and pulled. Yet in the tired, she is full of joy.

I’m grateful she shared this poem because it told me something about her and it also illuminated something I had been feeling from a very different place. My niece is nearer the beginning of her life’s journey, and I am closer to the ending. Nothing sad here; just what is.

At our latest family dinner, I had that strange thought of fading. A moment of poignancy taking in the lovely scene of adult children and wee ones around the table. Ashworth describes this sense of fading so well. Read for yourself the lines below.

To the woman who has lost her spark.
To the woman whose get up and go, has well and truly gone.
This is for you.
This is to remind you whose daughter you are.
This is to remind you, that you don’t have to be everything to everyone, every day.
You didn’t sign up for that.
Remember when you used to laugh? Sing? Throw caution to the wind?
Remember when you used to forgive yourself more quickly for not always being perfect.
You can get that back again.
You really can.
And that doesn’t have to mean letting people down or walking away.
It just means being kinder to you, feeling brave enough to say no sometimes.
Being brave enough to stop sometimes.
And rest.
It starts the moment you realise that you’re not quite who you used to be. Some of that is good, some of that is not.

There are parts of you that need to be brought back.

And if anyone in your life is not okay with that… they are not your people. Your people will be glad to see that spark starting to light up again.

So, if you have been slowly fading away my friend, this is the time to start saying yes to things that bring you joy and no to things that don’t.

It’s really pretty simple. – Donna Ashworth, To the Women

I do take exception to the one line: “Saying yes to things that bring you joy and no to things that don’t.” Fortunately for my young niece’s children, she is not going to ignore their cries in the middle of the night, or their tears after a fall, or their fears of the unknown. These things do not bring her joy, but they are part of the journey.

Difficult family members, friends in crisis, health issues, mounting drama in the world’s press…we can’t always say no, but we can measure ourselves out in wise and thoughtful ways. There is sacrifice in life, and, with it, joy.

So if we are fading…may it be for good reasons. Squeezing all we can out of life and relationships…even the hard ones. Not leaving anything left on the field when the clock runs out (was that phrase from Vince Lombardi?). No slow fade. Intentional. Deliberate. Owning it.

For believers of Jesus, there is a call reflective of this: On the return of the Messiah one day, we are reminded of the joy of that great day when “He must increase, and I must decrease”. (John 3:30) As on a wedding day, we take in that glorious arrival of the bridegroom for his bride.

Fading may be how we feel, but the reality is we all have various seasons in our life’s journey. Each with its own glory, joy, and exhaustion.

Life…taking it all in.

“You may begin to notice that you’re invisible. Especially if you’re short and gray-haired. But I say to whom? And so what?”Grace Paley on the Art of Growing Older

Donna Ashworth – poetry website

“History Will Remember” – a Pandemic Poem – Donna Ashworth

3) Mama’s Table – Our youngest child, Dan, has been affectionately referred to as a food snob. He loves all kinds of food but can be hyper-critical of what he considers bland food or just the wrong mix of flavors or textures. Fortunately he is a good cook and he has been since middle school. On bake sale days back then, he would take his cupcakes into school and brought empty platters back home. His yeast rolls, from a favorite teacher’s recipe, were amazing. He and a small cadre of high school friends who loved to cook (well, to eat, for sure) even started a cooking club.

They had a great time together, and we enjoyed their feasts with them. Nothing like a kitchen full of friends and all good things – loud laughter, strong opinions, and the yummiest blend of fragrances.

Food has its own culture and anthropology. In fact, Dan has moved on from just cookbooks focused on recipes to thick volumes covering not just the food of Persia, Malaysia, or Russia but the culture that goes along with the food.

The article below reads like some of those texts.

The Economics Behind Grandma’s Tuna Casseroles – Megan McArdle

McArdle tells the story of how decisions were made in homes across America from the 1890s right through present-day. The quote below resonates deeply with the food experience I knew growing up.

“The great blessing of my life is that my mother did not let me become a food snob. She was from a small town in middle America, and she did not view this as any great handicap. Nor did she look down on the culinary tradition she inherited from her mother, a “good plain cook” of the miracle-whip-and-white-bread Midwestern persuasion whose pie crust was infallible. We did not mess around with limp chicken breasts and cans of Campbell’s Soup, but I have eaten plenty of Jell-O salad, and liked it. (On summer days, I still occasionally crave shredded carrots and crushed pineapple embedded in orange jello made with ginger ale. Don’t sneer; it is delightful and refreshing.) Apples, bananas and raisins, dripping with Miracle Whip, were served as a salad in my house, and one of my favorite dishes from my grandmother was ground meat and pasta shells in Ragu. I still bake out of the Betty Crocker 1950 cookbook, and have never found a better guide to the classic American layer cake.”

We got a Betty Crocker cookbook as a wedding present and I still use it. I remember growing up with Campbell soup and Jello salads. Money was always tight so Mom would use pork brains (??) from a can to add to eggs to make them stretch far enough for us four kids. My first pizza was from a Chef Boyardee box. We never ate out at a restaurant, but I remember when a McDonald’s opened up near us (the first one in our area), and Mom took us for burgers and fries as a reward for behaving ourselves at the grocery store. That was a big deal. Church suppers were a big deal as we sampled what our friends enjoyed at their homes. Food was (and is) much more than just nourishment.

How about you? What is your food culture? Or rather the culture you knew as a child. For many of us these days, our food cultures are diverse and delicious…but we still remember the culture of Mama’s table.

4) Relationship Hacks – Just a few finds on how we treat each other, and sometimes ourselves.

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, AZ Quotes

“Every day, we have the opportunity to be more thoughtful, respectful, supportive toward people living with ‘invisible’ challenges.”Ian Kremer

Someone Needs Your Encouragement – Marshall Segal

5 Phrases that Make People Discount What You’re Saying – Gwen Moran

Use the Magic 5:1 Ratio to Improve All Your Relationships – Jessica Stillman

5 Indicators of an Evil Heart – Signs of a Narcissistic Partner – Lesli White

Jacqueline Woodson’s Lovely Letter to Children About Kindness, Presence, and How Books Transform Us – Maria Popova

5) Voices of Influence – Amidst all the voices gracing our lives and in the news media, we have some truly stellar influencers. Below are just a few:

73-17 In the Making – Sho Baraka, Jackie Hill Perry, Propaganda

Rapper’s Twitter Thread About Human Behavior During Pandemic Goes Viral: People Will ‘Demand’ Authoritarianism ‘When Sufficiently Frightened’ – Zuby – Charlotte Pence Bond

YouTube Video – Black Self-Making – Glenn Loury & John McWhorter

YouTube Video – Breaking the Silence – 2021 Documentary on psychosis and psychotic disorders. Written, directed, and produced by Dara Sanandaji.

___________________________________________________________________________
Have a safe weekend filled with sweet times with people you love.
Bonuses:
Photo Credit: Twitter, Ian Kremer
Photo taken at the Jefferson Memorial, Three Panel

Monday Morning Moment – How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

Photo Credit: Vanhercke Christiaan, Geograph

[Here we are two days post Juneteenth and one day post Father’s Day. What’s on my mind? Recovering from a bad fall with back pain slowly dissipating, and its resultant writer’s block. Hard to sit at a computer and write with brain drain from this pain.

However, the pain is improving…and inspiration is returning. In fact, the weekend’s events have spurred so many thoughts and emotions.]

This morning, I slowly rolled out of bed with so many thoughts pinging around my mind…thoughts and accompanying emotions. Then, as happens sometimes, a song, and the question in its title, settled in my brain.

“How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?”

Whether the Bee Gee’s epic original or Al Green’s amazing cover. Here’s a more recent Bee Gee’s performance (2001):

The Bee Gees, Al Green, and “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” – Alyson

Even when our hearts are not presently under attack, we share space with those we love whose hearts are breaking. A dear friend whose husband wants another future. A friend who spent his Father’s Day without his children (because his ex-wife chose a different future). .Friends who lost their fathers before this Father’s Day…or parents who lost their children (whether to death or to an estranged life). Friends heartbroken over the what-ifs or what-may-never-be’s.  Fill in the blank with your own. #BrokenHearts.

[Too heavy for a Monday morning? It does get better.]

Maybe you aren’t so aware of broken hearts. Maybe you haven’t had the experience of sitting on the phone of a friend scream-weeping at the hard reality of her life right now. Maybe you haven’t worked beside a friend whose stone face and deep quiet haven’t touched your awareness of what is going on under the surface of his silence…his pain.

Broken hearts can take us on spirals that lead to self-protective withdrawal, confused anger, terrifying isolation, or hard bitterness.Blog - Bitterness - Lee Strobel quote - azquotesPhoto Credit: AZ Quotes

Or we can heal.

One of the best TED talks I have ever heard is on “How to Fix a Broken Heart” with psychologist Dr. Guy Winch. Check out its 12 minutes of wisdom and helps.

I also found some helps in a somewhat odd place: Kristin Weber‘s Adulting for Jesus. Whatever you currently think about Jesus, this book on adulting is refreshing, funny sometimes, and so real. Midway of the book she talks about developing something she calls godly grit.

“Adulting requires learning how to fall and get back up again, and again, and again.” – Adulting for Jesus, p. 89

Weber presents 10 ways to shift perspective on the struggle (our heartbreak) and develop that grit:

  • Expect hardship.“Western comforts have lulled us into the false assumption that life is meant to be easy and the hard moments few. In reality, much of life is hard, and the easy moments are the exceptions.”  We can learn to live in such a way that difficult situations/relationships don’t catch us off guard.
  • Depend on God.  “…when a relationship [ends] abruptly, failure hurts – often deeply. We can be honest about our hurt and struggles while still trusting God.” We don’t ignore the pain of our broken heart, but we recognize that God hasn’t gone anywhere. He sees; He hears; He will work on our behalf.
  • Ask “What’s Next?”“Rather than ask ‘Why me?’…ask a different question about life: ‘What’s next?’ Obstacles, especially a long string of them, can make us short-sighted. By asking ‘What’s next?’ we recognize this failure or hardship isn’t the end of our story…Hardships will undoubtably change you, but keeping a long-term perspective will prevent them from destroying you.”
  • Look at Adversity through Eternal Lenses.“As a child of God your trials, both big and small, have an expiration date.” When our hearts are broken, we are consumed and exhausted by our loss. We can’t see down the road but so far. “Do the next thing”. Eternity comes but until then we grieve the loss, but we also train ourselves to stay in the moment and hope for a better future…a different future. We have that confidence in God’s care.
  • Appreciate the Bottom. “A lot can be learned on the bottom step of the ladder”. Our broken hearts can bring us low…but that is not where we stay. That is not where we belong.
  • Develop Thick Skin and a Tender Heart.“Try to be slow in getting offended and quick in extending grace. If someone causes you to have a knee-jerk reaction, that person controls you. That person has all the power…Choosing a calm response and keeping a level head, you remain free to live your life.”
  • Be Teachable.“Though we don’t need to let the opinions and critiques of everyone we encounter control our lives, we do need people who can lovingly speak truth into our lives…Our natural instinct is to make excuses or get defensive when someone corrects us, but adopting an attitude of teachability puts us on the track to growth and maturity. We need to take ownership of our actions and be humble enough to receive input about where we can improve.”
  • Do Something.“Big changes happen through tiny actions, and tiny actions require doing something.” Every day…step by step. #MakeYourBed.
  • Laugh. “Once I learned to laugh at myself and find humor in situations that didn’t tip in my favor, I became less stressed and anxious about every little thing. I didn’t dread life or failure as much…Our hope isn’t ultimately in everything going our way, and humor keeps the weight of our circumstances from crushing us.”
  • Count Your Blessings.“Instead of focusing constantly on everything that’s going wrong, take time each day to remember what’s going right. We might find our ‘gratitude attitude’ changes our entire outlook on life.”

Thanks, Kristin. I can tell you’ve known heartbreak and have learned to come out whole on the other side.

Closing out this Monday Morning Moment, for those of us who are sharing space with one or many dealing with broken hearts, we need to remember its pain, and have patience and compassion…be present, listen, and, when we can, speak the truth in love.

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Lanny Henninger

P.S. The Scripture verses are strong anchors and the links below are super helpful. None of us are in these broken spaces alone.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.Psalm 34:18

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.Psalm 73:26

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.Psalm 147:3

“I have chosen you and haven’t rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:9b-10

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Jesus – Matthew 11:28-30

Worship Wednesday – Jesus – the Friend of a Wounded Heart – Wayne Watson, Damaris Carbaugh (with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir), and Avalon – Deb Mills

4 Bible Secrets to Heal a Broken Heart – Dudley Rutherford – really excellent and rapid read.

How to Heal a Broken Heart – Cecil Maranville – another excellent read (also from a Biblical standpoint)

How Can I Recover From Heartbreak? – GotQuestions – another.

Worship Wednesday – From Bitterness to Brokenness – Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – 5 R’s of Handling and Healing Our Past

Photo Credit: Rick Warren, Heartlight

The past. We are never rid of it, nor would we wish to be. Our roots are there. The foundation of our lives. Our first and formative relationships are there.  Both life and death, pain and promise.

Memories are born in the past. Experiences and emotions attached to them that feel exquisitely personal…yet are shared. Others close to us may have our exact same experiences, but have very different feelings and memories attached to them.

Family is complicated and always has been (remember Cain and Abel?). Throughout the history of humankind, family was meant to be a nurturing and stabilizing influence in our lives. It doesn’t always work out that way, but wisdom is to lean in whenever possible and learn both from the brokenness and the beauty available to us.

So how do we deal with the past? Do we ruminate on the wrongs of our past? Do they loom larger than the good? Do we see ourselves in the right in each point of conflict? Or the victim? Is our memory of family colored in ways that make us pull away?

There is a way forward, and I believe it is revisiting the past with the aim of healing…not just for ourselves but for the family as a whole.

[I love alliteration – words with the same beginning letters used in phrases or headings. So it was a personal thrill for me that this came together with alliteration.]

5 R’s of Handling and Healing Our Past

1) Remember – We trust our memories, don’t we? Well, until age shakes that up a bit. Still, our memories can be altered by the power of our emotions and by further experiences that call the past to mind. Then our emotions, deepened by memory, can “resolve” to see things more our way, whatever is happening in the moment. Memories can be reinforced, and not always in helpful ways. We need to take into account that we, family members or friends, can remember something very differently, based on what was going on emotionally for each person at the time. That’s why we must handle memories gently with each other. Love the person her/himself more than what they might remember. Determine not to be put off by memories where we don’t come off in a positive light. Remembering is done best in community. It’s richer and more reliable that way. Of course, this requires tons of trust, transparency, and humility. It may not feel safe in some situations to remember in community. It’s also never helpful to insist our memories are the only ones that are true. Right? Again, it is experience plus emotion. Love covers. Love helps heal when we remember, with care for the other.

2) Reminisce – As we remember, we reminisce. This calls to mind the sweet memories of the past. Even as painful memories rush in, what happy times come to mind? How might these memories weave together? Was it all bad? All good? Reminiscing taps into the positives, and even opens the mind to what the memories of the other might be in the same experience. Are we projecting motive or intent into our experience? As we reminisce, might we look at how an experience was different for the other. Reminiscing done in community is, again, eye-opening. It can be threatening if our side of the memory is on the line, but when we enlarge on what was going on in our past, we gain deeper understanding. A softening of our attitudes can come.

3) Reflect – When we reflect on a particular situation or relationship in the past, we treat it with as much grace as we can muster. We take the past and turn it over and examine it from different angles, considering what we can learn from it. How is it affecting our present – both life experience and relationships? What can we do to glean something positive from a painful past? What is to be gained by holding onto the past? If we choose healing, what is then possible for us and the others involved? What kind of faith would be required? What kind of work? Are we willing?

“Walk a Mile in His Moccasins” – Mary T. Lathrap, 1895

4) Repent and Reconcile when possible (instead of forever Regret ) – Here’s the big leap! Owning our part and doing something about it. This is huge!

Let’s say, our past includes painful memories from our early childhood. What can a child own from situations out of their control? We can own our attitudes today as adults. For instance, it took me a long time to tender my memories of a neglectful biological father. I only have a few memories of him, none great. One memory stands out. Mom had left him, and we were living in a tiny house, supported by her income alone. One night we were awakened by shouting. I don’t remember a lot, but my estranged father, Mom, and an uncle of ours were in some sort of argument. We four children were huddled together on a bottom bunk. I remember blood and our father’s hand wrapped in a handkerchief. Was there a knife? I don’t remember. We were terrified. After that…he was pretty much absent from our lives. I don’t remember asking Mom what all happened. It just took me a long time to feel anything for that dad. Yet, I know he had to have known pain, isolation, and maybe even some regret at the dregs of his relationship with Mom and us. As an adult, I have chosen some compassion for him. Not much but some.

Why did I share that story? It is how as children, when we have trauma (or what we perceive as trauma when maybe it had little to do with us), we process it differently than we might as adults. Revisiting, with humble hearts, can make a difference in how we think about the past as adults.

When our past pushes into our present, and conflicts are revisited, we are tempted to try the offending party in the court of our emotions (re-try them, actually). We resurrect the past and all its emotions, and bring all that trauma to bear on whatever the present misunderstanding is. We are then not able to just deal with the present. All that past comes down on us, that past that may have been once forgiven, and unloads. Making it virtually impossible to deal with whatever is happening at the moment.

This is where we repent. We refuse to nurse old wounds. We deal with the current conflict as it is, without all the past. The current conflict is enough. We deal with it as adults. We repent of our part. I can tell you, if we don’t, there is collateral damage to those who love us. “Friendly fire” is not friendly, and these struggles, heightened by our past, become the past of those around us. Our children. Our grandchildren.

Repentance may take more the form of forgiveness. We refuse to remember (one place where we refuse to remember) the offense of another. We choose to forgive in the most expansive way we can.

I know we sometimes say we forgive that one who offends us, who offended in the past, and continues to do so. We forgive but commit and feel justified to have nothing to do with them ever again. I get that. I get the pain behind such a decision. It’s heart-breaking. Just to reflect: Who does that punish? As wide a circle as our relationship together makes. We are all punished…that is most probably not meant to be the intent.

Repent and reconcile whenever possible. There will be cheering by everyone who loves us both. I know; I’ve experienced it from both sides. The repenting side and the relieved and thankful other side.

[This is often excruciating and not always satisfying. Even if the outcomes are not what we hope. We benefit from trying…as do the generations that follow. Who knows? The situation – and relationship – can still change in that possible future.]

5) Rejoice – Put your hand on your chest. Can you feel your heart beating? Can you feel the rise and fall of your breath? Be grateful. Rejoice in the present. We didn’t die from our past. We still have a chance to put things right. Maybe imperfectly…but it’s possible.

A wonderful scene of this possibility is found in the 1970 film “Scrooge”. “I’ll Begin Again”.

The past doesn’t have to be forever. You have a present. There may be a future…one not framed by the hurting past but built on a healed past. We have that possibility…in our present. We can do our part… it’s the only thing we have in our control. Is it complicated? Of course, but it will always be worth the effort.

*Special thanks to my writer friend, Angela at Living Well Journal, who talked and prayed through this with me…on a neighborhood walk, in the cool of a Spring morning.

A note I found just this week flipping through an old Bible. Mom would leave love notes around whenever she came to visit, and we did the same after her pattern…and taught our children to do the same.

Worship Wednesday – With Every Breath: Praise – Great Are You, Lord – All Sons and Daughters

Photo Credit: MVFC1

[It’s been four years – From the Archives]

In a few days, it will be 5 years since this non-smoker received a lung cancer diagnosis (Stage One, fortunately). When the blog below came around on my Facebook memories this week, it reminded me of the profound condition of good health and how easily it is to take it as an entitlement. My lung cancer diagnosis was an incidental finding. It will be forever grateful to God for the blessing of that early find. The event reported below happened months after the unremarkable surgery and recovery from the lung cancer. I adapted this piece and repost it today as a reminder of the great grace we have for each day we live.

Over these last several months, breath and breathing have become something very precious to me. You can tell when you search my blog archives for either topic. We take breathing so for granted, even when we acknowledge that every breath’s a gift. That rhythmic rise and fall in our chest that strengthens and refreshes us. Breathing just happens.

Until it doesn’t.

There have only been two times as an adult that I couldn’t get my breath. The first was eight months ago (now 4 years & 8 months ago – you can read about it here.) The second time was less than 48 hours ago [now 4 years ago as I repost].

For the second time in my life, I was surprised, just before bedtime, by a rapid and terrifying development of shortness of breath and quickly got to the place that Dave had to call 911. He was still talking to the dispatcher when we heard the sirens.

So thankful for our local fire department and rescue squad.

We live in a quiet neighborhood, and most of the residents are older. The rescue squad shows up often here, and, of course, no one really wants to be the one on the receiving end of their excellent care. Every time it happens, a neighbor or two stand sentinel in the road watching and hoping for a good report. While the rescue squad was getting me stabilized and Dave was waiting in his car to follow to the hospital, he would tell me later of neighbors standing in the shadows. Not wanting to intrude but standing watch. It’s a comforting thing.

From the first hours in the emergency room through the next two days in the top floor ICU, I received excellent and thoughtful care at St. Mary’s Hospital. The crisis was averted, and the testing began again to determine the cause. The same testing that was done previously. The findings were not so much different as they were the first time it happened. Maybe they were taken more seriously with it happening twice. Anyway, I am now in the care of a cardiologist with some meds on board that will hopefully help me NOT to go through this experience again.

[Praising God, four years this month, that it hasn’t happened again.]

To go from thinking you’re going to die to feeling pretty much as well as ever, within hours, is a strange and wondrous experience. We will all die one day, so it doesn’t always end as it did for me these two times of not being able to get my breath. For this, today, I am so grateful to God for breath…and I am reminded it is His to give.

The song Great Are You Lord beautifully presents this truth. The band All Sons & Daughters introduces the song in this way:

“Worship is when we give God His breath back.”

This morning, I give God His breath back in praise. So thankful for a husband who acted quickly for me when I couldn’t, for trained professionals and volunteers, for watchful neighbors, for kids who show up (physically and in prayer), for praying friends and family, for all the many employees at St. Mary’s (including my own youngest son) who were kind in their care …for all of this I’m grateful.

Most of all I am so very thankful for the God who gives us breath.

I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! Death wrapped its ropes around me; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: “Please, LORD, save me!” How kind the LORD is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours! The LORD protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and he saved me. Let my soul be at rest again, for the LORD has been good to me. Psalm 116:1-7, NLT

Would you worship with me praising God for His healing and for His helpers?

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord

All the earth will shout Your praise
Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You, Lord*

*YouTube Video – Great Are You Lord – from All Sons and Daughters (Live) – written by: Jason Ingram, Leslie Jordan, David Leonard

Story Behind the Song – Great Are You Lord – from All Sons and Daughters

Worship Wednesday – Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Hillsong – Deb Mills Writer

Worship Wednesday – Breathing Songs: Just Breathe & It’s You I Breathe (Christ in Me – Deb Mills Writer

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar – Beauty to the Ears & Mind, Mental Health Awareness, Antidote for Self-deceit, Showing Up…Or Not, and Unmasking

1) Beyond the Guitar – Beauty to the Ears & Mind – We think of beauty more in what we experience visually, but there is a powerful connection between music and the mind. Beautiful music soothes the soul and lifts our hearts. Moves us. Often it is because of nostalgia attached to the music, but even without that emotional connection, music can bring our minds to a better place.

Your Brain on Music – Pegasus, UCF

Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has that way about his craft. Moving our hearts with the beauty of his arrangements and performance. I don’t know any of the pieces in his medley of 4 Underrated (but Beautiful) Video Game Themes, but something happens when I listen. Shoulders drop; breathing slows; wonder sets in. Beauty has its way with our ears and our minds.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

2) Mental Health Awareness –  May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The theme message for 2021 is “You Are Not Alone”. Our need for connection is bigger than ever, having gone through so much COVID isolation. Whether mental health issues are our own personal struggle or we are family, friends, caregivers of those who struggle, helps abound. We just must be aware and utilize them.

Tools 2 Thrive – Mental Health America

Mental Health Awareness Month 2021: What to Know – Karen Veazey

Photo Credit: Twitter, Nicolino Frate

Suicide and death by drug overdose have increased during COVID. They are shocking for us and real losses, either for us or for friends. We can’t keep isolating ourselves from each other. Finding ways to help is imperative.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Key Ministry, Your Neighbour #GiveHope

YouTube Video: Unseen: Exposing the Mental Health Crisis Among Special Needs Caregivers | Documentary Trailer

3) Antidote for Self-Deceit –  Self-deceit (or self-deception) is “a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument. Self-deception involves convincing oneself of a truth (or lack of truth) so that one does not reveal any self-knowledge of the deception”.

The Most Dangerous Form of Deception: Self-Deception

I’ve allowed myself to be deceived (either with the help of outside influences or from sheer will and desire, wanting something to be so, or not be so). It’s not pretty. One of my strongest memories was sitting in a circle of friends who essentially did an loving intervention with me. I was in a self-destructive (but non-abusive) relationship, and they had the courage to point me to the changes in my life and thinking. I will never forget it. The life I have now is much impacted by their willingness to go to that place with me. Forever grateful.

Regarding deceit, it is way too easy to get into our own heads and assess life with a self-tuned receiver. I wrote about this before (the practice of noticing). A somewhat dated video (with a still fresh message) speaks to this so well.

During the particular season of self-deception (described above), I got to the place that lying in my bed at night, when I would usually pray, it got impossible to pray. That was terrifying. It’s like all the desires and my rationalizations for them had crowded out any space for God. Especially for a holy God. Like I said, terrifying. No matter how loving God is, I couldn’t justify praying when my own desires trumped His for me.

The Antidote to Self Deception – J. D. Walt

As the video illuminates, as we get out of our own heads, and start seeing other people around us, we find the antidote. Caring more for others than ourselves, we can actually clear our heads some. Self-deception causes us to “circle the wagons” and keep others at a distance. As we determine to get close to people again, especially to genuinely listen and serve, our own deceit can be more readily understood/recognized. Of course, our neglected relationship with God will take its own time and action on our part. He is ready, when we are.

Photo Credit: Chip Scholz

4) Showing Up…or Not – Showing up is a good thing. For all of us. Keeping commitments. Being present. Choosing to lean in. Listening.

So much is said about listening and its positive impact. To listen requires proximity.

On the East Coast, this week, we had a gas shortage (or a perceived gas shortage…not sure which is more accurate). Everyone was making decisions about filling their tanks and sorting out needful car trips vs. those that can be jettisoned for another time.

I was a part of a couple of meetings where some folks didn’t show up. Without a phone call, text, or email message. Was it the gas shortage? Or did it display something else? Honestly, I also wondered how often I’ve done this same thing myself.

We are in a culture right now when a RSVP yes can turn to no without a word. I’m showing my age…but does this matter?

Below you’ll find quotes from three different authors on this and what it can mean. The showing up…or not. After you read their observations, I’d love to hear what you have to say in the Comments.

“Standing someone up is a personal attack. You are saying that you have no respect at all for this person’s time, energy or feelings. This person set aside time from his or her day to hang out with YOU.

And maybe he or she didn’t feel like showing up. But no, this person had enough respect for you to feel as though he or she couldn’t bail on you. Then how did you repay the favor? You didn’t show up. With no warning.

And don’t even get me started on the fact that if this person cared about you enough to make and honor plans with you, odds are that he or she would probably be WORRIED about you when you don’t send a message. Because falling off the face of the Earth is a little alarming….You get the picture here.” – Candice Jalili

Why It Is Literally Never, Ever OK to Just Not Show Up For Your Plans – Candice Jalili

“There are commitments you are not going to keep no matter how hard you try, but even if you fail to keep them, you can still honor them. How do you do this?

“The difference between “keeping” and “honoring” is key: keeping a promise is about the letter of the promise, while honoring a promise is about the spirit. It is even possible to keep a promise while not honoring it. People will forgive an honored but un-kept promise, but it takes a real saint to let go of an un-honored promise—kept or not.

So what are the practical aspects of honoring a commitment? They are:

  • respect
  • communication
  • productive effort

It’s uncomfortable to take responsibility (for a failed commitment), but discomfort is a lot easier to shoulder than disrespect or disappointment. Even if you failed to honor a commitment up until now, it is not too late: disrespect and disappointment can be rolled back or even erased in the face of genuine honor.” –  Kenneth Vogt

How to Cope When You Fail to Honor a Commitment – Kenneth Vogt

[The two writers above have very different tones to their pieces. Both worthy of note. I especially appreciated Vogt’s distinction of honoring a commitment (whether you’re able to keep it or not). Honoring the person by communicating your inability to keep the commitment…as well as the honoring that goes on by making the effort to keep the commitment whether  easy or not. We don’t really know what goes on for another who does the work of keeping a commitment or the one who just can’t. What we do know is what it is like for us to keep or not keep a commitment; to honor or dishonor a person in the commitment. So much more understanding and care come out of the smallest communications. Something to think about.]

Below Rachel Macy Stafford posted an image and (in the link) a Facebook story about sitting in a line for gas this week, and an elderly man, just ahead of her, deliberately nodding her way (as he chose not to completely fill his tank, doing what he could to “leave” some for her). No RSVP’ed commitment. No relationship. But a deeply kind gesture to her that she was seen. We all need that…that being seen.

Photo Credit: Rachel Macy Stafford, Facebook, The Hands Free Revolution

It’s…“a deliberate decision to look out for the person behind (you)…It’s not about us. Even though it’s hard not to think only of our own needs, there is someone behind us…and someone behind that person…with their own set of struggles. If you can…will you look out for them? A wave will do, just so they know they are seen…it’s the kind of gesture that takes people farther than a full tank of gas.”Rachel Macy Stafford

5) Unmasking – Get ready for another new culture shock thanks to the Coronavirus: unmasking!!! I am so excited myself.Photo Credit: Pexels, Gustavo Fring

Based on this week’s CDC recommendations, fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks or physically distance anymore (except in rare defined situations). This, of course, is still only a recommendation and each state must give direction at a local level. Our governor just announced that we will align with the CDC recommendations.

Now, no one is going to know who is vaccinated and who isn’t. If we have learned anything from COVID-19, it is to be wise in dealing with the viral world. Those not vaccinated will probably forego masks as well. The freedom feels intoxicating, honestly, but possibly fearful to some, even some who are fully vaccinated.

I hope we can leave fear behind us. COVID is still rampant in some parts of the world and that is tragic. As we in the US and other countries get past our own experiences with this virus, hopefully we can be a help to those still battling the disease.

The culture shock part is real. I will have my mask with me, and see what the signs say on the doors of each business, store, school, or community space.

Still….so worth celebrating!!!

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That’s a wrap. Would love your comments below on your own favorites of the week. Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot to me.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, Twitter

Angry with God: Living in the Tension of Partial Understanding – Brad Hambrick

YouTube – Podcast – An Honest and Raw Conversation with Francis Chan – Preston Sprinkle

My next read:

Monday Morning Moment – Walking and Engaging with People…Again

Once upon a time, we didn’t have smartphones, or tablets, or Netflix.

Once upon a time, life slowed down to include exploring new towns, meeting new people, listening to stories nothing like our own.

“Once upon a time” can still be now. When we put aside our screens, and get ourselves out the door…be it our house, dorm room, or office…we can engage with real people.

If we don’t take social precautions, COVID will turn us into hermits. Even if we are out full-time, in work or school, we may still have tuned-down sensitivities to what’s going on around us.

Our situational and social awareness has about a 6-ft. circumference. Beyond that, we don’t notice. Also, isn’t it odd how masks seem to dull our hearing and sight? We don’t look into people’s faces or start up conversations with those around us, like we did once upon a time.

So…what measures can we take to tune in more intentionally?

Here’s one big one: commit to walking. Not just in our neighborhoods, although that’s a good place to start…but anywhere there are people.

When we leave our screens somewhere out of reach, our vision and our mind clear.

Now that I am back in stores and other buildings (post-vaccination), I’m trying to speak to people, ask questions when appropriate, and really listen to what they’re saying. I want them to know they are seen, heard, and they matter.

The walking part means I had to get up out of my comfy chair and go where people are. We can do so much online now, we don’t need to see faces. So unfortunate.

Walking requires intentionality. Engaging with people, the same.

We can calendar such things to get started. A walk in the neighborhood could include a friend…or a neighbor. If alone, look for neighbors in their yards. It’s ok to stop and talk a bit.

When calendaring your life, what kinds of interchanges that you might do online or on the phone can be changed to in-person, face-to-face? I know it takes more time…but the time would be well-spent.

Besides all the social benefits of walking and engaging with others, we get tremendous health and memory benefit as well (see links below).

So…enough said. Let us all be noticers today.

https://m.facebook.com/148689625181672/photos/a.149731118410856/779176505466311/?type=3&source=57

Getting out the door myself. Have a great Monday!

Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain – Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D.

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

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

Let Us All Be Noticers Today – Facebook – The Hands Free Revolution – Rachel Macy Stafford

In a Pandemic: Walking as Healing, as a Spiritual Discipline for these times

5 Friday Faves – Music and the Soul, Asking Good Questions, Hygiene Theater, Life-transforming Poetry, and 5 Energizing Habits

5 favorite finds of the week. Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!

1) Music and the Soul – We all know the soothing touch of music on our souls. It lifts us and takes us to nostalgic places. Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, J. S. Bach

Nathan at Beyond the Guitar is like an online music therapist. Sweet guitar melodies that cause us to travel to a film, TV show, or video game that brought us fun, but more often, joy in the experience.

Nathan’s latest posted arrangement for classical guitar is linked below. Sweet piece.

YouTube Video – Zach Snyder’s Justice League Meets Classical Guitar – Beyond the Guitar

Occasionally he plays a song just for his patrons. This week he performed Leo Brouwer‘s Cancion de Cuna. Such a romantic classical guitar piece. I wish I could bring you that video, but unless you’re already a patron, you will miss that one. Here’s him playing it in 2009 (thanks to his filmmaker roommate Duy Nguyen. He was a youngster then, but the soul knows. Enjoy the loveliness.

I love his music and how it elevates our souls. Words can often do the same for us, especially us extroverts. Below are links about how many see the impact of music on our hearts and health…here, words are used.

Music Is Good for Your Soul, and Your Health – Gary Drevitch

Power of Music Quotes – Good Reads

75 Music Quotes on How It Heals Our Soul

130 Inspiring Music Quotes That Will Fuel Your Soul

2) Asking Good Questions – Several years ago, we were in charge of a cross-cultural post-grad experience for groups of 20-somethings (millennials). One time, a mom came out to visit her son, and she gave us some good advice (although at the time it wasn’t something I wanted to hear). I’ll get back to that advice shortly.

In this cross-cultural context, these young people had many hurdles to quickly master – language, culture, worldview, physical and emotional challenges. Having lived well for many years in this particular culture, we could very easily fall into just “telling” them what to do and how to succeed, and often we did just that.

This mom told us, “Young adults want to discover their own way through difficulty. Ask them good questions and they will find the answers for themselves.”

Sigh…OK. I get it. It may take longer and require more work on the part of the teacher, mentor, supervisor…but it is excellent advice.

Asking the right questions is an art. Too often, we just default to giving the answer rather than asking the question. Four excellent articles on this are linked below. Asking questions (the right way with the right intent) can build trust and transparency. We also find out what we need to know rather than making suppositions that could be way wrong.

Photo Credit: Alison Wood Brooks & Leslie K. John, HBR.org – Brilliant article linked below

7 Keys to Asking Better Questions (What I’ve Learned From My Leadership Podcast) – Carey Nieuwhof

Good Leadership Is About Asking Good Questions – John Hagel III

How to Be Amazingly Good at Asking Questions – Mike Martel

The Surprising Power of Questions – Alison Wood Brooks and Leslie K. John

3) Hygiene Theater – We have dear friends who are still terrified by COVID-19. Even after so many of us are vaccinated. Lives have been severely altered by the safeguards put in place with the advisement of the CDC and other government agencies as we “follow the science”. That sacred science changes weekly because we are gaining new understanding of the virus with increasing data helping us to open up our lives more.

Thus the flurry of articles and videos now on the topic “hygiene theater”. Remember early on when we were told to sanitize our surfaces, wash our vegetables/fruits, and vigorously clean all public places on a daily basis.

Photo Credit: KUT, Pixabay

What have we learned? How have we changed in our mediation of COVID impact? Now that I’m fully vaccinated and so many in my life have been, I look forward to welcoming people back into my home and visiting others as well. Shopping, though still often online or curbside pickup, has been happily opened up. Still, it seems we live in a world that is strangely toxic. All of us wearing masks and wiping down surfaces wherever we go. In this seemingly apocalyptic space.

When is the fear of COVID, of dying, so paramount that it squeezes all the joy and quality out of our lives? How can we move forward?

Now, I won’t play down the danger of COVID. We have lost friends and colleagues to it over this year. Not many, praise God, but some. The fact that there is still such a fear of it, over a year in, seems inordinate. Given the numbers. For sure in the US. Especially when COVID-related deaths reported appears suspect.

Maybe I am unwisely cynical. However, the deep cleaning still being advised (in our schools, for one huge example) seems unnecessary. Given all the findings. Given what we know about the transmission of COVID (through air and not surfaces). Follow the science, right?

I’m grateful for every turn in the COVID pandemic that restores life processes for our good. Kids in school. Friends visiting in each other’s homes. Work forces back in full. Weddings, births, graduations, funerals, hospital stays with our people in attendance, fully supporting us.

Enough with over-sanitizing. Now, on to masking. When is it truly protective and when is it theater?

Deep Cleaning Isn’t a Victim-less Crime – Derek Thompson

Now the CDC Wants to Shut Down Hygiene Theater – Kent Sepkowitz

4) Life-transforming Poetry – OK, maybe not everyone loves poetry. Yet. The poetry of artists like Preston and Jackie Hill Perry, Ezekiel Azonwu, and Janette…ikz have such a way with words. They lay down truth with their poetry. It is unique and powerful. God and person honoring. Check it out below:

5) Energizing Habits – Author, entrepreneur Scott Young has posted The Nine Habits to Increase Your Energy. See his post for strong commentary and quick-starts, but here’s the list of 9 habits:

  1. Go to bed early.
  2. Exercise every day.
  3. Twenty-minute naps.
  4. Do your hard work in the morning.
  5. Set your intention the day before.
  6. Sell yourself on your goals. [Motivate and incentivize yourself toward meeting your goals.]
  7. Get better friends. [Not about getting rid of friends, but if some are particularly needy, then set boundaries, if necessary, and make time for the friends who energize and encourage you as well.]
  8. Read better books.
  9. Align your life. [What are your priorities? Are some necessary parts of your life taking too much from other parts (work, family, health, hobbies)? Work out the conflicts.

The Nine Habits to Increase Your Energy – Scott Young

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Hope you’ve had some of your own favorite finds. Please share in the Comments below. It means a lot you came for a read.

Bonuses:

Fave Quote This Week: “We are sometimes faced with circumstances that seem as if they must mark the final act. We sometimes encounter providences that make us believe the book has been closed and all has been lost. Yet when we are pressed, we must not think we have been crushed, but believe that God can still bring about a great redemption. When we are struck down, we must not think we have been destroyed, but rather have confidence that we are being prepared for some great blessing. When we are persecuted we must not determine we have been abandoned, but know that we are being made ready for some great usefulness to God’s plans and purposes. We must wait, we must withhold judgment, we must read to the end! For no story, least of all our own, makes sense until we have read all the way to the final page. It is only then, in light of the whole, that we see the skill, the ability, the genius of the Author.”Tim Challies, Always Read the Story to the End

[A girl’s diary from 1929 – borrowed from a friend. The first owner of the diary is not written anywhere in it. Amazing for me to read her words about daily life almost a hundred years ago.]

Changes I’m Making in my 70s Heading Toward My 80s – Ellen van der Molen – Facebook

ImagePhoto Credit: Twitter, Ian Kremer

What to Say When Someone’s Gaslighting You – Elizabeth Yuko

The Problem with “Mom Boss” Culture – Amanda Montei

New favorite source of quotes embedded in images: Square Quotes

Photo Credit: Tim Challies, John Newton, Square Quotes

Monday Morning Moment – Building and Re-building Community

Just before the start of COVID’s mandate for physical distancing (just a year ago), group video calls were only a thing at work. Not with people in your other life. Not with your community.

Yet it has become normal now.

Except for my family, no other people have been in my living room in a year. That is staggering for me to register…even now. This roomwas made for people…like my heart is. It’s been a strange year.

Community isn’t gone. It has changed. It is just as precious and just as vital to healthy, flourishing living.

One day many of these and other dear ones will gather again around our table and sprawl around our living room. I’ll be so glad.

Until then, we do what we can with video calls, cards and phone calls, and physically distanced visits in yards and driveways.

Community is not cancelled, just challenged.

Right now I’m plowing through a book by Sarah, Sally, and Joy Clarkson. Girls’ Club – Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World. “Plowing through” because the messages are deep and thought-provoking. Good for the soul and great for kick-starting community.

Sally Clarkson’s daughter Sarah writes about creating community. She references the great “love chapter” in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13). In this text we are reminded what love looks like. Sarah goes on to talk about how she incorporates the character of love in growing community.  In the coming aftermath of COVID – can you hear my hope? – three keys to building and rebuilding community come to bear:

  1. Remember and rekindle – We have all known community, hopefully at its fullest. A place of being known and loved, just as we are. A place where we can serve and be served. A place of rest also. Post-COVID, our culture will be changed, but our need for community will not be changed. In fact, we may need it even more, but will we go after it? This is where we must rekindle, as Sarah puts it, our vision to reach out to one another in meaningful ways.
  2. Renew and revitalize. Community takes effort and intentionality. We don’t have to do all the work ourselves nor is it even wise to do so. Find partners, neighbors, like-minded people who will add their own gifts and energy to the process. My husband and I actually live in a neighborhood with such folks. What a joy it is to know we are there for each other and will show up, regularly, when there is a need…or just for the pleasure of it.   [Memorial Day parade in our neighborhood; May, 2020]
  3. Really love and rejoice over each other. Community is not a project. It is a way of life, a mindset, a worldview. People matter. Life is short. When we truly invest in one another, our lives are enlarged. Both the giver and the receiver. I have missed the ease of pre-COVID community. I took it for granted. Now I value it more than ever. Hopefully it is a lesson that won’t be easily forgotten. Hopefully we go after community like never before, having learned in a hard way how much we need it.

[The section below is retrieved from one of my recent blogs.]

In the book above, Sarah also writes a chapter entitled Saturday Mornings: The Girls’ Club Prototype. In this chapter, she describes “five progressive actions…central to the powerful cultivation of friendship”. They are imperative in building and rebuilding community as well:

  • Invite – Reach out and bring in a new someone to an adventure and your life.
  • Plan – Work out the logistics of an event, a meetup, an outing. Make it a welcome ritual or routine.
  • Provide – Show love, Sarah says, by preparing the table, so to speak. Whether it is the physical space itself (your home, for instance) or your own “mind and heart” to wholly receive the new friend.
  • Stay – This is huge! Whether distance or circumstance separate you, be a continual presence in the life of a friend. Be there. Show up. This takes effort and intentionality, and it’s not easy. It requires both forgiveness and faithfulness…no matter what.
  • Pray – When we remember that every single person we meet is an image-bearer of God, we are reminded of the value there. Even those “mean girls” in our lives didn’t get mean in a vacuum. “Hurt people hurt people”. They have God’s imprint like every other imperfect person… When we recognize our own frailty and that of others, we are drawn to pray. For our own hearts to love like Jesus. For eyes to see how God sees people…and to reach out in love…as only He has made us to do so.

So thankful for all the ways we’ve experienced friendship and community, both here and far from here.

I’d like to close with some wise words from Rosaria Butterfield from her incredible, autobiographical book “The Gospel Comes with a House Key”. Until you read the whole of it, soak up some of her quotes from GoodReads (written to Christians, but, honestly, anyone who longs to create community can take the good from this book).

“Hospitality always requires hands and heads and hearts, and mess and sacrifice and weakness. Always.” – Rosaria Butterfield

“Are Christians victims of this post-Christian world? No. Sadly, Christians are co-conspirators. We embrace modernism’s perks when they serve our own lusts and selfish ambitions. We despise modernism when it crosses lines of our precious moralism. Our cold and hard hearts; our failure to love the stranger; our selfishness with our money, our time, and our home; and our privileged back turned against widows, orphans, prisoners, and refugees mean we are guilty in the face of God of withholding love and Christian witness. And even more serious is our failure to read our Bibles well enough to see that the creation ordinance and the moral law, found first in the Old Testament, is as binding to the Christian as any red letter. Our own conduct condemns our witness to this world.” – Rosaria Butterfield

We introverts miss out on great blessings when we excuse ourselves from practicing hospitality because it exhausts us. I often find people exhausting. But over the years I have learned how to pace myself, how to prepare for the private time necessary to recharge, and how to grow in discomfort. Knowing your personality and your sensitivities does not excuse you from ministry. It means that you need to prepare for it differently than others might.” – Rosaria Butterfield

Living out radically ordinary Christian hospitality means knowing that your relationship with others must be as strong as your words. The balance cannot tip here. Having strong words and a weak relationship with your neighbor is violent. It captures the violent carelessness of our social media–infused age. That is not how neighbors talk with each other. That is not how image bearers of the same God relate to one another. Radically ordinary hospitality values the time it takes to invest in relationships, to build bridges, to repent of sins of the past, to reconcile. Bridge building and remaking friendships cannot be rushed. – Rosaria Butterfield

 

Beginner’s Guide to Reaching Out to Your Neighbors – Angela Sackett

How to Build a Unique Community – 10 Lessons By a Master Community Builder – Michael Burkhardt – this excellent piece is more bent toward a business community or alliance/affiliation BUT also has great takeaways for any type of community building.

10 Key Components of Healthy, Equitable Communities – Again, this article is also a comprehensive look more at community planning at a municipal level – fascinating stuff.

Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig, Embrace Richmond, Embrace Communities

Monday Morning Moment – the Story of a Girl and Friendship

[School Days, Cairo, Egypt – a couple of decades ago]

This delightful girl has a birthday today.

I want to celebrate her here. The girl and the understanding of friendship she has brought to her mom and to those who have best known her.

She was born on a windy March morning. Our first-born. I have brothers, and my Mom had all brothers. Having a daughter as our first was a complete joy and wonder to me, as my Mom tells me I was for her in the midst of all boys.

She would be my sidekick for many of our early adventures together. Welcoming two brothers during her preschool years. Enjoying the friendship of neighbors and church family. Homeschooling in East Tennessee.  

I will never forget the Spring when she came home from Jack and Barbara Lavender’s Sunday School class with two tiny cups of growing seedlings. We planted them in her daddy’s garden and they grew an enormous bed of Cushaw squash. From those two little seeds. Sweet memories of friends who invested in our girl’s life.

Then there was the terrible time when she got desperately ill with what we would, over too many days, finally discover to be a ruptured appendix. This girl has always had a high threshold of pain, and it took four trips to the pediatrician’s office before I was taken seriously. She ended up with big surgery and 10 days on IV nutrition. This image shows her having her first meal over a week after her surgery (pillowcase from our friend, Kay – she still has this pillowcase).

Then our travels outside East Tennessee began.

For this quiet girl, having her life, and childhood friendships, disrupted was hard. Despite the incredible experiences of many moves across four countries, she learned resilience the hard way.

In those days, before smartphones, we carried our memories of people and places in tangible ways. Photo albums. This girl would often go deeper with new people in her life by introducing them to her previous life…through these cherished photo albums.

Everywhere we went, everywhere we lived, we have the photo memories of the sweet parts of those years. They are a treasure.

Friendships were not always easy for this girl. Well, not being able to easily make friends, adjusting to all the changes imposed on her life by her parents’ work moves. She was not the life-of-the-party, center-of-attention, making things happen, people magnet sort of girl. She loved books and they were often her friend. In the reality of multiple moves and too many goodbyes.

She did have two constant friends who went through all those moves with her. Her two brothers. They are still close. Remembering all the good, all the tears, and all the big sister times with her [calling her “Auntie” when she observed and advised where they preferred to be left to their own devices].

As this girl grew up, she learned how to recognize mean girls and not to take them personally nor to become one…which can easily happen for any of us in strained situations. She learned to embrace the new and sift for where she belonged in the different. And could even make a difference.[Her tiny Senior class, 2005, Casablanca, Morocco]

[Noor, a dear friend from high school, knowing the experience and also understanding what it’s like to move places and countries with your family]

[Maria, a fellow student and enduring friend as they both tackled teaching together. Different schools but similar challenges.]

Besides her brothers, this girl had two men she knew she could count on. Her Dad…and in time, her beloved whom she would marry. I love to catch snippets of conversations she and her Dad have on visits home. For two introverts, their words pour out with each other…safe people, safe places.

[This girl and her boy who would capture her heart and parent two little ones by her side – no pics of the littles – this girl’s preference and I honor it]

In this season of making a home and family, she has grown into this beautiful woman (OK…if you’re still reading, you either love her or the idea of her or you have such a her in your own lives). I am in awe of this girl. Not because she is anything of celebrity but because of how she handles today’s bumps. Also how she has taken both the bad and the beautiful of her growing up years and turned them into her own story.

This Christmas  she gave me a book by Sarah, Sally, and Joy Clarkson. Girls’ Club – Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World.

This sweet girl has recommended Sally Clarkson to me often in the last year as a mom and mentor in life. In the book above, Sally’s daughter Sarah writes a chapter entitled Saturday Mornings: The Girls’ Club Prototype. In this chapter, she describes “five progressive actions…central to the powerful cultivation of friendship”. They are:

  • Invite – Reach out and bring in a new someone to an adventure and your life.
  • Plan – Work out the logistics of an event, a meetup, an outing. Make it a welcome ritual or routine.
  • Provide – Show love, Sarah says, by preparing the table, so to speak. Whether it is the physical space itself (your home, for instance) or your own “mind and heart” to wholly receive the new friend.
  • Stay – This is huge! Whether distance or circumstance separate you, be a continual presence in the life of a friend. Be there. Show up. This takes effort and intentionality, and it’s not easy. It requires both forgiveness and faithfulness…no matter what.
  • Pray – When we remember that every single person we meet is an image-bearer of God, we are reminded of the value there. Even those “mean girls” in our lives didn’t get mean in a vacuum. “Hurt people hurt people”. They have God’s imprint like every other imperfect person… When we recognize our own frailty and that of others, we are drawn to pray. For our own hearts to love like Jesus. For eyes to see how God sees people…and to reach out in love…as only He has made us to do so.

I’ve watched this girl executing all the above without having read the book. She has commented that making and nurturing friendships as adults has also been a challenge, maybe because of all the other pieces of life that need our attention. I think she is learning to juggle all this, and me with her.

I’ll close this “Happy Birthday” piece on this note: our girl has a fierce faith in God that brought her through the hard so far in her life. I’m confident that whatever lies ahead – joys and sorrows – she will lean into God to sustain her. She will be there for those whom God has placed in her life – family, friends, and friends-to-be.

Like her, I will leave you with a few last images of life we’ve enjoyed together. Hope your day is filled with joys familiar and joys anew. Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl.[Learning to make biscuits with Memaw – my Mom, the master cook]