Category Archives: Friends

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

Photo Credit: Do Not Depart

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

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

Flowering Trees at Spring in NYC Parks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Beauty of God – A. Raleigh

Worship Wednesday – Sidelined? By Whom? – A Musical Account of Moses and His God – Ken Medema

Photo Credit: Heartlight

The Lord asked him [Moses], “What is that in your hand?”
“A staff,” he replied.
“Throw it on the ground,” he said. So Moses threw it on the ground, it became a snake, and he ran from it. The Lord told Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grab it by the tail.”
So he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand.
“This will take place,” he continued, “so that they will believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”Exodus 4:3-5
The life of Moses inspires us all. He definitely had seasons when he must have felt side-lined…looking out the palace windows with no royal way to help the Israelite slaves; then 40 years tending sheep on the far side of nowhere; and finally after leading God’s people through the wilderness to the Promised Land, dying without entering himself.
Who sidelines us? What exactly sidelines us? Too often we are our own limiting factor…we put ourselves on the bench.
Is God not still at work in our lives…through every season?
Earlier this week, I was lamenting (maybe even whining) to a friend about something that gets to me from time to time. That feeling of being sidelined…after a lifetime of great productivity and unmerited influence. What is it, I asked her (or maybe God), about this season that is so hard? That feeling of being place-less, ministry-less. Surely it’s not my age or gender…or is it? Is there no more fruitfulness to look forward to this side of Heaven?
Can I execute bountiful pity parties or what?!
Then even in this talk with my friend, God’s sweet truth broke through. Dr. Curt Thompson is spot on when he talks about how we can come “to our senses” just in the simple experience of being seen…being known by a trusted friend. At the end of that conversation, as we prayed, the tears flowed (which is rare for me), and God reminded me of His own goodness and good purposes – and while I had breath, nothing was about to thwart what He was doing in and through me…in and through all of us.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Just in the course of a few hours after that conversation, the Lord worked His grace in my heart, and I’m back in the life He has so generously given me.

5 lessons God taught me…again:

  • Let go of the past. – We can romanticize and pedestalize previous seasons of our life and work. We look back over the plow (Luke 9:62) and long for other days. This is the field. This is the day where He has us now. I don’t want to miss what He has for my life today because my thoughts are languishing, settled in the distant past. We don’t forget the past, but we remember it, glorifying God, not glorying in our own supposed “usefulness”. Sigh…
  • Check your heart. – Anytime a spirit of complaining clouds our thinking, it is a good reminder to see what’s going on in our hearts. Am I feeling unseen, unappreciated, under-utilized? [So what?! If that happens then we’re completely free to listen more closely to how God is directing.] Arm-chair quarterbacking is not a good look for any of us. I remember my mom was a treasure to the young pastors she had through the years. In fact, three of them preached her funeral…with others in the room, with the same testimony. They talked of how she loved them, spoke truth to them, and prayed over them faithfully. In her own quiet life, growing older…closer to God. The Lord got hold of me the other day in this area. So thankful for His love and care…and forgiveness.
  • Watch for the new thing. – God is always with us and at work in us. He may take us down familiar, well-worn paths (those we get caught up longing for), but He also chooses to stretch our faith and build our capacity for loving Him and loving others. Not necessarily in grand and glorious ways, but in small and subtle ways where we have the opportunity to decrease while He increases. Whew! Watching for it.
  • Will there be barriers? Always. The thing we should have learned from previous seasons of life and work is that God is our over-comer. More often than not, we find the battle belongs to God; all we have to do is stand. We forget that sometimes. We stare at the barriers (fashioning them, at times, to look like our own brothers and sisters in Christ), and fume about them…forgetting that our battle is NOT against flesh and blood…nor is it really our battle. [There’s a very short story that comes to mind about how we’re called to push against what seems an impossible weight…but God* (see below, worth the read). Compared to the person and presence of God, all seeming barriers are small.
  • Eyes on God – The most beautiful reminder out of this pity party of mine is that setting our eyes on God changes everything. If He means for me to finish in this life’s “Promised Land” or, like Moses, looking down into it but not quite arriving…it is His to make happen and for me to follow. The Scriptures do not record Moses grumbling about not getting to enter with all those he led… I think the reason it’s not recorded is that it didn’t happen. For Moses, being with God was enough. More than enough. Period. Full stop. Eyes on God.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.Colossians 3:1-4

OK…so Moses…he may have felt sidelined…and except for the years in Pharaoh’s palace, he did the sidelining to himself. God, however, did not let him stay on the bench. Singer songwriter Ken Medema wrote and performed an incredible account of Moses’ early encounter with God (the verses above, Exodus 4:3-5).

Worship with me, or listen to this amazing and revealing story of God…and His servant Moses. [In the video, you may notice Ken Medema is blind…but in his heart, he can see and sing God so clearly!].

“Do you know what it means, Moses?
Do you know what I’m trying to say, Moses?
The rod of Moses became the rod of God!
With the rod of God, strike the rock and the water will come;

With the rod of God, part the waters of the sea;
With the rod of God, you can strike old Pharaoh dead;

With the rod of God, you can set the people free.”

What do you hold in your hand today?
To what or to whom are you bound?
Are you willing to give it to God right now?
Give it up, let it go, throw it down.Ken Medema

I Stutter All the Time: Moses by Ken Medema

Photo Credit: Rick Warren, Heartlight

Thanks for joining me today. Do you ever struggle in this area? Maybe you don’t…yet. Maybe you do. Would love for you to share some of your own insight on how God redeemed that season for you.

Prayerfully…

What do you hold in your hand today?
To what or to whom are you bound?
Are you willing to give it to God right now?
Give it up, let it go, throw it down. from Moses by Ken Medema

Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:1-13

Worship Wednesday – Surrendering What’s Precious in Exchange for the Doubtless…the Supernatural Movement of God – Deb Mills

The Two Hurdles of God’s Will – Greg Matte

Intimacy with God Is the Main Thing – Letter to My 30-Year-Old Self – Kim Cash Tate

I’m Too Distracted with Life to Meditate on Christ – John Piper

*Pushing the Rock – Joshua Adams

The greatest gospel force is the lay person in the pew equipped by the preacher in the pulpit! Scott Sullivan

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

Friday Faves – super fast!

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

Which did you love the most? Share in Comments.

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

Engaging With Someone Who Has Harmed You – Part 1

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Adam Young Counseling, Instagram

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

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

Photo Credit: Jerry Bridges, Quote Fancy

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

True Community: the Biblical Practice of Koinonia – Jerry Bridges

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

Photo Credit: One Community Global

The Four Stages to Building True Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday Morning Moment – Reflecting on the Story of a Girl and Friendship

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

[From the Archives]

This delightful girl has a birthday tomorrow.

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

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…most probably related to adjusting to all the changes imposed on her by her parents’ many 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.

Two Christmases ago 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 years 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. She has commented that making (and nurturing) friendships as an adult has had its own challenges, maybe because of all the other pieces of life that need our attention. However, I rejoice with her that she has settled into a life fairly full of friends with littles and some without (including me).

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]

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

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

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

Photo Credit: David Lose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Year’s Resolutions and Reality Checks – Wally Bock

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

Consider these questions as you think on resolutions for 2022:

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

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

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

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

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

I am resolved…

Photo Credit: Reformed Outfitters

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

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

Habit Change is a Team Project – Ken Sande

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

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

RW Acrostics in Action– Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Justin Whitmel Earley, Screenshots

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

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo (Video) Credit: Todd AO, Facebook

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

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

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

Lord, help us to be people of joy,

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

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

to see beauty in creation and the people we encounter,

to laugh heartily with childlike glee,

to feel true joy in your presence.     Amen.

Photo Credit: Prayer @inthecoracle, Instagram

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

 

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

Bonuses:

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

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

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

52 Week Bible Reading Plan – Michael Coley

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

Photo Credit: Facebook

Worship Wednesday – I Know that My Redeemer Lives – Handel’s Messiah & Nicole C. Mullen

Photo Credit: Heartlight

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27

We are in the third week of Advent. On Sunday the joy candle was lit, and Pastor Cliff preached on “Hope Deferred”.

“We live in a period of already but not yet, a time of deferred hope. With the Holy Spirit active in our lives, we can take part in God’s kingdom here on earth. However, the kingdom will not reach its fullest expression until Jesus’ return.” – Erin Franklin, Our Hope Has Come

Sometimes we have to wait on answered prayer…on someone’s forgiveness…on a cure…on peace to be restored to our hearts. Hope deferred. Yet, in every situation of life, we have His Word to remind us that waiting (and suffering) is but for a season, and with it comes great gain.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:1-8

“While we were still sinners…” Not after we’d cleaned up our act, but while we were in the muck and mire of our lives. What a Savior!

In our small group tonight, we processed Cliff’s sermon and the whole concept of hope deferred. Our group leader asked us what Scripture verses encourage us when our hope is weakened. We all had our favorites…Romans 8 has several treasures.

I wish I could transport you to that moment…friends gathered in our living room, warm inside on a cold December night, Christmas lights aglow, recalling Scripture after Scripture on the hope we have in Christ. It recalled still another account in Scripture when grief-stricken followers of Christ (journeying home after his crucifixion) encountered him after his resurrection.

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us as He spoke with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, gathered together and saying, “The Lord has indeed risen”…!Luke 24:32-34a

Finally, one of our friends reminded us of Job…that Old Testament saint who lost so much and yet clung to his God. What a huge testament of the goodness of God even in the midst of suffering and hope deferred. Job 19:25-27 tells us that Job knew his Redeemer lived and he would see him one day.

As we read the passage in Job, a song bit came to mind. It was “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s Messiah.

Glory! How thankful I am that Jesus died for me…to take the penalty for the awful sin in my life. He was my substitute, and now He is my Savior.

Worship with me to Nicole Mullen’s “My Redeemer Lives”. Not as difficult to sing as Handel’s Messiah but every bit as true.

Who taught the sun
Where to stand in the morning?
And who told the ocean
“You can only come this far”?
And who showed the moon
Where to hide till evening
Whose words alone can
Catch a falling star?

I know my redeemer lives
I know my redeemer lives
All of creation testify
This life within me cries
I know my redeemer lives
(yeah)

The very same God
That spins things in orbit
Runs to the weary, the worn and the weak
And the same gentle hands
That hold me when I’m broken
They conquer death to
Bring me victory

Now I know my redeemer lives
I know my redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
Let this life within me cry
I know my redeemer

He lives to take away my sins
And He lives forever, I proclaim
That the payment or my sins
Was the precious life He gave
But now He’s alive and
There’s an empty grave

(repeat chorus over and over)*

Advent: The Journey to Christmas – Redemption for Deferred Hope – Rod Lindemann

Photo Credit: River Valley Mission

*Lyrics to My Redeemer Lives – Songwriter: Nicole Coleman Mullen

A Little Preview! (Job 19:25-27) – The Bereans Blog

YouTube Video – Nicole C. Mullen: “Call on Jesus” (33rd Dove Awards) – more goosebumps at this reminder of the presence and power of Jesus

YouTube Video – The God Who Sees – Kathie Lee Gifford & Nicole C. Mullen

Monday Morning Moment – As Adults We Still Need to Feel Safe, Seen, Soothed, and Secure

Photo Credit: Nicole Michalou, Pexels

[Adapted from previous posts on parenting here and here.]

American Thanksgiving brings families and friends together for a big day of food, football, and (hopefully) fun. Social media this week will be crammed (at least in the US) with images of smiling people leaning in to pack the frame. What we don’t see is those sadly missing from the frivolity. Maybe it’s too far to travel. Or work claims too large a chunk of the day. Or another family’s turn this year. Or possibly, unfortunately, Thanksgiving is too complicated a day to spend all together.

By its very name, Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what we have – the food, good health, the other bounties of life, but most especially, our relationships. How thankful we are to be in the land of the living with those we love.

How do we communicate our love? How do we experience love from each other? Is it complete joy behind those smiles or is it also courage. Showing up even when it’s hard sometimes.

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

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

Such good books!

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

Now…fast forward to adulthood. OK…maybe your childhood (or parenting) had some tough spots or (for parents) regret. We can’t go back…we can’t fix what got broken. We can still learn to love well today. Siegel’s 4 S’s, referenced in his book The Power of Showing Up, primarily relate to parenting. However, he and Thompson both talk about these 4 experiences being needed throughout our lives. Take a look at the briefest explanations of them below:

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

As adults, we want the same things – to be safe (no “bracing for impact” in relationships), to be seen (truly known by those most significant in our lives), to be soothed (our emotions understood and acknowledged, without judgment, even when they are big and out of proportion), and secure (that no matter what, we are loved. Our persons are NOT leaving the room).

Whatever we may have experienced as children, we can alter our present. Whatever we did as young and overwhelmed parents, we can move, with love and insight, to a better situation with our kids. The past is just that…the past. We can be truly with each other, in the here and now…if we are brave and willing to be humble.

Something to think about during Thanksgiving week. Let’s don’t miss those people across the table or room from us. The ones we are missing…because for whatever reason, they are not there…let’s figure out how to show up in their lives, in meaningful, redeeming, and healing ways.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving Day with those you love…whether it’s your holiday or not. Thanks for showing up here.

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

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

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

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

Monday Morning Moment – Living Between Adult Kids and Older Parents

God put us in families. All of us.

God put me in the middle of boys with a mom who loved us completely and a father of whom I have little memory. His relationship with us was not one of outright abuse but neglect and eventual abandonment. When I was five, my exhausted mom divorced this never-working man. She  would later explain that action as simply “just one less mouth to feed”. She soon after came back to faith in Christ and brought us with her (unchurched until then). Our dad had long since disappeared from our lives.

Fast forward to the present: married to a man who deeply loves the Lord and loves us well also. We have three adult children and two added by marriage, and now four precious grandchildren.

All our parents (including a beloved step-dad) are gone except for Dave’s exquisite praying mom.

Sandwiched between adult kids and older parents is where we are, and I’m grateful. In fact, I think about our kids and their littles (and some of you) now in this same season, just a different generation. 

The room is delightfully crowded (not without challenge) with multiple generations – each bringing extended families of their own. So many faces and so many voices.

Every family member (and each of us in that family) has great value to God. His desire for us is to bear  the fruit of His love (Galatians 5:22-23) – making it beautifully tangible to others. He is with us in this.

What if our parents made life hard for us either by trauma or, as adults, by intrusion or neglect? Or what if we find ourselves in awkward places in our adult children’s lives? These “what if’s” make us want to pull ourselves out of obedience to God, as we feel justified by our pain to distance ourselves from some in our family. The ripple effect of pulling away is wide-reaching in a family. Wider than we can imagine.

Even when relationships are healthy, the heavy responsibility of parenting young children puts its strain on our precious adult children. We feel the pull – torn between kiddos and our olders or others (sibling families, too). We also model for next generations what family looks like. How we handle the hard is quite probably how they will handle the hard.

We all choose, consciously or not, from among four ways to engage with or disengage from our families.

  1. Embrace. We can trust God with the families He has given us. We can love them well. We forgive and seek forgiveness. We spend time with each other and attune to how God sees them. We who share adult space try to find the balance of loving each other well without our own preferences getting in the way. The older ones will only be with us for a moment. They have stories and history and lives that matter. Our younger ones also grow up and have their own families and life pressures. We extend ourselves in both directions – up and down.
  2. Debase/Disgrace. Sometimes members of our family wrong us or another beloved family member. We “triangle” talking about them with others, without them being present. Their behavior may warrant our disdain. We are tempted to debase them privately or disgrace them publicly. However, God is not finished with them or they wouldn’t still be here. Wisdom is to take our sorrows to God and appeal for Him to help us love these hard-to-love ones. He is able. It helps to remember we may also be the ones not so easy to love. [I forget that sometimes.]
  3. Replace. We are tempted to completely replace hard family members with friends. Adult friendships are such a gift from God. They fill in empty places in our hearts. They can actually help empower us to love and live like Jesus with these family members. Or they can usurp their place in our lives. Friends, help bolster our resolve, as we choose to “stay in the room” with family members. Let’s be that one who is not going anywhere – that picture of Christ for these.
  4. Give Grace. This is similar to “Embrace” but with God-guided boundaries in place. The Word is full of instruction, like Colossians 3:12-14. Living between olders and youngers, I want to be that one who gives grace both ways. Speaking love often and always. Not judging or applying pressure. We can choose to honor one another, which, in turn, honors God. Giving grace includes giving grace to ourselves.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Gods Armour

 Do I get this wrong? All the time. We are works in progress. God’s door of healing is always open to us.

Photo Credit: Samantha Reynolds, Bent Lily (w/ permission)

[One last pic – my mom, our youngest son, and me sandwiched between them & behind the camera – wishing I could roll back the years to when she was still here. Embrace & give grace. The years rush by.]

Monday Morning Moment – Holding Space for the Generations in Our Lives

We have a moment.

Everyone talks about how the weeks fly by, and I can tell you it does not slow down…at least it hasn’t for me. The wise live like there’s no tomorrow. That’s not to say we don’t plan for the tomorrows of life but we should never presume upon them.

My Mom (pic above) had cancer for three years. A very treatable cancer. She should have been cured of it…but she wasn’t, at least on this side of Heaven she wasn’t. I miss her every single day and she’s been gone almost 20 years.

I wish we would have had more time. More time with her and our kiddos with her as well. They gained so much from her…and would have gained so much more. From her and also from my Dad who’s now in Heaven as well.

In the extended family on my mom’s side, I am now the oldest. So weird. Especially living states away from siblings and their families. In reality we find our relationships shrink down to a couple of visits a year…and in those visits just a few hours of face-to-face time.

I long for more and attempt to open that window a bit. Phone calls and an occasional card. Social media contact. They have busy lives (we all do, for sure)…and we live far apart. And so it goes.

These young ones receive well my small communications and treat me as a cherished member of their family. It means the world…because my world without my folks, my older brother, and others in that generation past…is emptier. Yours?

We have a heritage. Our parents instilled values – deep, enduring, life-transforming values. We shook up and sifted those values in our own young adult lives, and held on (and passed on) those most treasured. As children grow up, marry, and have adult friendships, values are influenced and reshaped.  It is the way of generations folding one into another. Some values we may ourselves have mislaid and have been reinvigorated thanks to our children, spouses, and young friends.

All that to say…

Our parents’ impact in our lives continues. Their own love and struggles translated into their parenting and into the hard wiring of our own brains. Love and struggle. We pass it on. Fortunately, as we see in our children’s lives, some of the best of their grandparents remains in them (and us hopefully).

A much-loved 91y/o father and grandfather in our extended family died this weekend. Unexpectedly. As we grieve, we are comforted in the knowledge that he knew the Lord and was prepared for the inevitable last day of his life. We are also comforted that he knew well how much he was loved and honored, not just by his children, but by his grandchildren as well.

This is huge.

We have a moment with these old ones. These grandparents of ours. Spend it well. Draw strength and wisdom from them in these final years of their lives and ours with them. Communicate love for them. Allow yourselves the treasure of drawn-out visits with them. There is time. There won’t always be time, but there is time today.

In our little family, our kids only have one grandparent remaining. MomMom. She prays for them every single day and through the day. She is not a polite, check-the-box  pray-er for them. She fearlessly storms the throne-room of the King of the universe. She wrestles against the evil in this world on their behalf and she dreams big for these grandchildren of hers. What a blessing she is! So thankful she is still in the crowded rooms of our lives.

Saving space for you, MomMom. Thank you for reflecting the beauty of generations…the beauty of God Himself. Thank you for being so real and so human. We see Jesus in you. So grateful for you and these moments with you…

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

Photo Credit: Group Therapy Central

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Curt Thompson, Twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Curt Thompson – 51 Podcast Episodes