Category Archives: Monday Morning

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. 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

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

Monday Morning Moment – Worldly and Wordly Wisdom – Podcasts and Jesus

Wisdom…such a great treasure. I’m sure you can name people in your life who not only speak wisdom to you but who also live wisely.

Worldly wisdom is defined as “experienced in the ways of the world; understanding of the affairs of the world”. Wordly wisdom is a different take on that with God as the source of wisdom. “Wordly” being a play on words, meaning the wisdom that comes from the Word of God (both the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ).

Godly vs. Worldly Wisdom – Jennifer Sum

Both worldly and wordly wisdom can be extremely useful in maneuvering through life…no matter your religious beliefs. However, you will have to wrestle with the experience of conflicting “wisdoms”…when you have to choose which path seems most true; most appropriate. The popular “your truth”/”my truth” philosophy of today rarely works in facing conflict of reason. Thoughts?

Writer, storyteller Srinivas Rao, host of The Unmistakable Creative podcast, on his 43rd birthday, posted 43 quotes, things he’d learned, from some of his podcast guests. My 10 favorites of those are listed here:

  1. Don’t Wait to Spend time with the most important people in your life. – Frank Ostaseski
  2. Your life is the result of what you focus your attention on – Cal Newport
  3. Happiness is an input to a great life. Not a bonus you get at the end of one. – Nataly Kogan
  4. We are all amateurs at loving each other –Bob Goff
  5. You can’t cross the extra mile without going the essential mile. –
    T.K. Coleman
  6. You can find extraordinary joy in ordinary things. –Ingrid Fetell Lee
  7. If you don’t appreciate what you have now, you’ll never appreciate what you’ll get later – Tim Ferriss
  8. Choose Wonder over Worry – Amber Rae
  9. Don’t label people after the worst things they’ve ever done –
    Joe Loya
  10. A story well lived is told after the fact – Donald Miller

43 Things I’ve Learned From Podcast Guests – Srinivas Rao, Facebook

I love Srini Rao’s podcasts. As do I love several others (some linked below). They help me have a sense of both popular thinking and the wisdom of contemporaries.

What if Srini could interview Jesus of Nazareth? That would be something to listen to. We have the Scriptures to know what Jesus said or would say about anything we might encounter today (weighing out the whole of what is written in the Bible).

If Rao’s list of what he’s learned from podcast guests included Jesus, the following quotes might be considered wisdom. All from Jesus:

 “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘No,’ ‘No’.” – Matthew 5:37

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” – Matthew 6:27; Matthew   6:34

“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” – Matthew 12:25

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!” – Matthew 18:21-22

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” – Matthew 22:37-39

“Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” – Luke 6:27-28

“Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” – Luke 6:41

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” – Luke 12:21

“Whoever is faithful with very little will also be faithful with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” – Luke 16:10

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” – John 13:34

What worldly or wordly wisdom do you have to share? Please put any of your favorites in the Comments below. Thanks for stopping by.

Worldly Wisdom vs. Wordly Wisdom – Clay & Sally Clarkson

The Glenn Show – Glenn Loury Podcast

The Carey Nieuwhoff Podcast (Leadership)

Alisa Childers Podcast

Jesus and Holy Week – Monday, Day 2 – Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Restores the Temple to a House of Prayer

[Adapted from the Archives]

On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!”Mark 11:12-14

When Jesus woke on Monday morning, after that glorious Sunday entering Jerusalem…I wonder what he thought. Did he know that, in just four days, he would be crucified? Whew…

Back to Monday:

During that week in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples spent the nights with friends in Bethany, two miles outside of the city. Each morning, they would walk into Jerusalem. On that Monday morning, just four days prior to his crucifixion, Jesus became hungry on the walk in. Seeing a leafy fig tree, he looked for fruit. With fig trees, where there are leaves, there should be figs. Since green figs are edible, and it wasn’t yet harvest season, there should still be some fruit on the tree.

When he found no figs, Jesus cursed the tree. This seems out of character for Jesus, until his action is put in the context of his culture and community. Throughout his public ministry, especially as he became more known and revered, the Jewish religious leaders held him in contempt. Jesus’ teaching of our dependence on God’s righteousness and not our own flew in the face of the Pharisaical teaching of the day – that of strict adherence to Jewish law as the only hope of finding favor with God. For Jesus, the leafy barren fig tree must have been a picture of religious Jews of that day, all flash and finery but no fruit of faith.

“Christ’s single miracle of Destruction, the withering of the fig-tree, has proved troublesome to some people, but I think its significance is plain enough. The miracle is an acted parable, a symbol of God’s sentence on all that is ‘fruitless’ and specially, no doubt, on the official Judaism of that age. That is its moral significance.”C. S. Lewis

Jesus was left still physically hungry. He remained spiritually hungry  as well – for this people of the Book to receive the good news that the Messiah had come.

Finally, arriving back in Jerusalem, Jesus was deeply troubled by what he found inside the Temple. The crowds of Passover pilgrims did not disturb him, but temple grounds turned marketplace did. In this sanctified place, meant only for worship, there were money-changers and sellers of animals for sacrifice, right in the Court of the Gentiles – in the only place where non-Jewish God-believers could worship. Photo Credit: Bible Universe

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”Matthew 21:12-13

Often in film depictions of Jesus cleansing the temple, he appears a crazed individual, flailing about, throwing tables and flinging pigeons into the air. I can’t even imagine him that way. We can’t know how it happened except that in Jesus’ anger, he did not sin. He would not sin. I know the Jesus Film is a director’s rendering of the Biblical account, but in this scene, Jesus showed considerable restraint. Disturbed at the buying and selling that actually kept believing Gentiles from worshiping, he moved to correct the situation. He was unafraid of the temple officials, burning with zeal for his Father to be truly worshiped in that place.

Zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.Psalm 69:9

Later in the week, he himself would be the one for sale – sold for 30 pieces of silver, betrayed by one of his own disciples, to satisfy the wrath of the religious leaders. That story is for another day.

This Holy Monday, we are drawn again to this Messiah who teaches us that the way we live our lives matters but not more than the way we relate to God. He makes space for us…room for all of us to receive Him. He is holy, and in His righteousness, we stand…on solid ground.

Photo Credit: KLove, Experience Easter Series

Holy Week – Day 2: Monday Jesus Clears the Temple – Mary Fairchild

Holy Week Devotions – Mission Lakewood

Spotify Playlist – From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Beth Wayland

Experience Easter – From Genesis to Revelation – K-Love

YouTube Video with Lyrics of In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

Reasoning Why Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree – Sam Shamoun

Monday of Holy Week

How Can We Be Angry and Not Sin? – Jon Bloom

Cleansing the Court of the Gentiles – Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Jesus Film Media – website & app to watch videos

Preparing for Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings From C. S. Lewis – C. S. Lewis

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 – How Shame Affects Our Thinking and How We Can Break Free

Photo Credit: Pixabay, John Hain

Shame is not something I’ve actually thought much about. Now guilt…that is a whole other matter. I know guilt…intimately. Shame as an emotion can affect all of us but less for some than others. In the last few years, and especially in recent months, I’ve taken to studying shame…for my own sake and that of those who deeply feel it.

Shame differs from guilt. Eve Glicksman in Your Brain on Guilt and Shame describes them both as “self-conscious emotions linked to real or perceived moral failures. Their motivations and outcomes are different, though, and you can have one without the other. Guilt arises when your behavior conflicts with your conscience. Shame is triggered when we think we’ve damaged our reputationWith shame, the focus is on someone else discovering your misdeed.” Guilt is an emotional response to a bad behavior, separate from the person. Whereas shame is a much larger response transferring the bad behavior onto the self, making self a bad person.  Guilt deals with the behavior only, not the self, but shame, if found out, will do whatever it takes to protect self, to not be devalued by others.

Photo Credit: The Compass of Shame, D. L. Nathanson, IIRP

The experience of shame is to be avoided so the one with a bent toward shame will withdraw from people, attack (either self or the other person), or avoid through addictive behaviors.

Brené Brown, professor and researcher, has done ground-breaking work in the area of shame. Her TED Talk below, Listening to Shame, is riveting. She talks about how shame tries to taunt us with “You’re not good enough” and “Who do you think you are?”. Guilt says, “I did something bad”, but shame says, “I am bad”.

“The ability to hold something we’ve done or failed to do up against who we want to be is incredibly adaptive. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s adaptive.” – Brené Brown, Listening to Shame, TED Talk

When shame is our struggle, if we are willing to break out of the secret life, the silence that binds us, we can begin the healing. If we’re willing to be vulnerable with others, even if it’s a few safe others to begin with, we can create a new life. We can change.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” – Brené Brown, Listening to Shame, TED Talk

As I learn more about shame, it has dawned on me that my mom didn’t shame us growing up. I didn’t know that until recent years. It just didn’t happen. For that I am thankful, and the way she parented us is how I’ve parented our children.

Shaming stays with us…from childhood through adulthood, unless we take intentional steps to not let it define us.

“Shame is contagious if you take on the lethal projections of shame from a partner–especially one who is abusive. In this same way, shame is especially difficult, if not toxic, for children because it is an emotion that is concealed, especially by victims of aggression or abuse. The anticipation of being shamed by peers creates anxiety in a child if he or she is a victim of bullying…Shame can be experienced as such a negative, intense emotion of self-loathing that it can lead one to disown it, and, in the case of one who acts like a bully, give it away by evoking that emotion in others.” – Mary C. Lamia, Ph.D.

Shame: A Concealed, Contagious, and Dangerous Emotion – Mary C. Lamia

Before shaming (whether another adult or a child), pediatrician Claire McCarthy offers 5 questions that you should ask yourself:

  • Is this something they can change?
  • Is it important that they change it?
  • Is this a good place and time to say anything?
  • Do they want to change this behavior?
  • Is there a better way of changing this behavior?

In a moment of high emotion, these questions may be hard to consider, BUT those moments if not handled well can turn into memory and can even change the wiring for us of how we deal through life with “bad behavior” and what we think of ourselves.

Think Hard Before Shaming Children – Dr. Claire McCarthy

The Clearview Treatment Program staff post excellent helps on various topics in mental health. Their piece on 5 Ways Shame Can Shape Your Life is brilliant. Here are their 5 ways (go to article to read the added commentary):

  1. People who live with shame often avoid relationships, vulnerability, and community. 
  2. People who live with shame are prone to suppressing their emotions. 
  3. People who live with shame often feel worthless, depressed, and anxious.
  4. People who live with shame are less likely to take healthy risks. 
  5. People who live with shame are more likely to relapse back into problem behaviors. 

Then they list 5 ways out of shame. So helpful and empowering!

  1. Seek out relationships and commit to vulnerability with safe people.
  2. Move out of your head and into the open.
  3. Develop self-compassion.
  4. Take one small risk.
  5. Believe that healing is possible.

If you struggle with shame and need a mental health or counseling professional, do your homework and find one who truly knows how to help. You don’t have to live the way you’re living now…you don’t have to hide from others or avoid or withdraw or attack. You can be free…to be the person you want to be, giving and receiving empathy and having empathy for yourself.

Photo Credit: Pixabay, John Hain

A Psychotherapist Says There Are Four Types of Shame – Here’s What They Are and How They Affect Us – Lindsay Dodgson

The Soul of Shame – Curt Thompson – Goodreads Quotes

20 Quotes From Curt Thompson’s The Soul of Shame

Emotions! Making Sense of Your Feelings – Mary C. Lamia

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]

Monday Morning Moment – One Shocking Revelation After Another – Shaking Off Our Fantasies and Grounding Ourselves in the Real

A dear old friend gave me a book shortly before Christmas of 2020. Just starting to read it in January, and once in, I realized I was way behind. Debbie Macomber‘s One Perfect Word gives a strong case for choosing a word for the year. A word to dissect, and meditate on, and to make real in both our thoughts and walks of life. One Perfect Word. For the year.

[Thanks, Kay, for this book.]

Here, a bit into this year, the word compassion has become my word for 2021. For clarity: It is best defined as: to recognize the suffering of others and then take action to help. Compassion embodies a tangible expression of love for those who are suffering.

For those who know or think they know me, compassionate is a word that might seem already descriptive of who I am. “Seem” is the operative word.

10 Ways to Show Compassion – Katie Krawczyk

You see I have always thought of myself as compassionate. Being there for friend and family. A cancer nurse for many years. Hospice, as well. Living overseas for love’s sake. Volunteering in my community and beyond. Love God. Love neighbor. Love even my enemies. This is life…the life Jesus lived; the life I’ve ascribed to live.

So I chose a word compassion to examine and flesh out in my life.

As fate would have it, some friends and I decide to tackle an old and brilliant book: C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters (1942). In affectionately abbreviated TSL, Lewis presents a series of fantastical letters from a master demon (Screwtape) to his nephew, Wormwood. The nephew is on assignment to mess in the affairs of a certain young Englishman. In the letters, God is referred to as The Enemy.

[I recommend this book to everyone, whatever your worldview or belief system – the wisdom captured on the pages of this small book is phenomenal. Our human nature and struggles or challenges in life are exposed. Fortunately, we are also given a way forward; oddly by looking at the schemes set in place to trip us up or cause us to fail.  This book is both fascinating and heady. It requires a deep read, for sure.]

In Chapter 6 of TSL, the demon uncle advises his younger on how to trouble the human assigned to him. In the particular area of worrying about the future. This is where fantasy can overtake the real, and, fortunately vice versa: the real can prevail, if we pay attention. Remember my word, compassion.

Screwtape gives much “good counsel” to Wormwood on how to trouble the human by keeping his thoughts on the fears of and hopes for the future rather than on what is right in front of him. For those who do believe in God’s providential care of people, Lewis wholly satisfies us readers as well.

The main message of Screwtape is to keep the human off balance and focused on himself, thinking that he cares for people and outcomes and that he is a good person. The reality is that the human is actually overcome by cares of the world yet does little about them.

How do we shake off our fantasies and ground ourselves in the real?

Screwtape instructs Wormwood to deal with the human as one made up of concentric circles of will, intellect, and fantasies or imagination. Our will, or our heart in spiritual terms, is the deepest part of who we are. It is where we make our choices on how to act and then, in turn, take action. Different than intellect, or what we know about life (intellect) or what we imagine or fantasize about life…or about doing life.

YouTube Video – Screwtape Letter 6 – Providence eLearning – Dr. Arthur Hippler – a clear and excellent resource

Photo Credit: Providence eLearning, YouTube, Screwtape Letters

So I can think I am a compassionate person. In fact, one can choose to be compassionate. However, we can also simply apply our intellect to the whole idea of compassion and then only fantasize or imagine ourselves doing acts of compassion… This is NOT what we think it is. Compassion, in its truest most real sense, happens in the will…and in the moment. Oh, we can plan on acts of compassion and put in place steps toward compassionate outcomes… but, until we act, compassion itself lies in the realm of imagination or fantasy.

Sobering and extremely helpful.

A huge and relevant example in modern culture right now is the statement, and call to action, “Black Lives Matter”. Do black lives matter? Absolutely. Do all lives matter? Of course. Do lives “womb to tomb” matter? Not to everyone…but that’s for another day.

We can say and lean into powerful messaging. Yet, until we grapple with the realities of that messaging, and sort out what truly communicates the truth of that message…not just in word but also in deed…then, in fact, the messaging is just so many words.

Screwtape has wreaked his havoc in our culture and in us as fellow humans, as we struggle with how to respond to messaging. Both in our news and social media platforms, and conversations with neighbors and friends. What is fantasy and what is reality and how shall we then act?

“Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your [human’s] soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary.Screwtape to Wormwood, Chapter 6, The Screwtape Letters

Related to compassion, my word for 2021, I no longer want to stay locked in debate over whose lives matter or what hasn’t been done than needs to be done. I would love to settle in my will to act…with compassion. Not thinking I am showing some sacrificial compassion out there among those I don’t even know…but in fact, acting in compassion, toward my housemates, my extended family and friends, this neighborhood and beyond. Leaving off the malice of disagreeing or tweaking each others messages out there in the world somewhere.

This is the goal: shaking off my fantasies about compassion and the idea of my being a compassionate person and grounding myself, my very will, in the real…acting in compassion, in the moment and moving toward making it habit.

Restless Pilgrim – Pints With Jack – The Screwtape Letters 6 – “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”the most fun to be had in diving deep into C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

YouTube Channel – C. S. Lewis Doodle

Monday Morning Moment – Poet Langston Hughes on Life and America

Photo Credit: The Wisdom Daily

American poet Langston Hughes was born in 1902. His life as a black man in such a time as this gave voice to that of many in America. Especially blacks, but to others as well who also found themselves marginalized by the powerful and influential of their day. He died much too young at 65.

I discovered his poetry in 2020…very late to the party or revolution.

Raised by a loving, Godly mom, I was taught to be color-blind regarding races of people. It turns out that didn’t prove to be healing to black friends, neighbors, and strangers on the street. Blacks whose lives had been deeply and darkly affected by a racism I simply had not learned or experienced. How could that be? Yet, it is true.

[My mom had a pure heart; I’m sure of this. She wanted to believe that there was only one race, the human race. She grew up poor, worked hard all her life, mostly making minimum wage, held her family together, and kept her faith. Much like the black women who lived in that distant, unknown part of town. She just didn’t know what was happening in government and the private sector that divided us…and diminished some. All of us, by degrees.]

Racism is wrong and must be exposed and wrestled down. I don’t believe that what has happened in the US over 2020 will move us in that direction.  I could be wrong. For sure.

Still…I’m so thankful for people who, despite the wrongs done to them or around them, have flourished. Like the rising tide, raising all boats in its wake. My desire is to recognize and support those who resist street-level thuggery and use platforms that don’t divide but draw us all in.

Langston Hughes is an example of that sort of person. [Now, he died during a pivotal time in the Civil Rights Movement, a year before Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed. Had he lived longer, I don’t know how his thinking or poetry would have changed.]

I’d like to let just a few of Langston Hughes’ words speak for him:

“Looks like what drives me crazy
Don’t have no effect on you–
But I’m gonna keep on at it
Till it drives you crazy, too.”
“I swear to the Lord,I still can’t see,Why Democracy means,Everybody but me. ”

“I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”
Langston Hughes

On this day, commemorating Hughes’ birthday, a friend of mine posted on Facebook the two following poems (one by Walt Whitman followed by a poem of response by Langston Hughes):

I Hear America Singing – Walt Whitman – 1819-1892

*I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.”*

I, Too – Langston Hughes – 1902-1967

“I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.”*

Hughes wrote about America and life as a black person in America. Especially as it related to freedom of expression:

“This is the mountain standing in the way of any true Negro art in America — this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible...Then there are the low-down folks, the so-called common element, and they are the majority — may the Lord be praised!…These common people are not afraid of spirituals, as for a long time their more intellectual brethren were, and jazz is their child. They furnish a wealth of colorful, distinctive material for any artist because they still hold their own individuality in the face of American standardization. And perhaps these common people will give to the world its truly great Negro artist, the one who is not afraid to be himself.” – Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues

Here, on the first day of Black History Month, in a more somber America 2021, I salute the great poet Langston Hughes. May we learn from him and from each other.

[May we also beware of those who “seem to be influential” in our culture today – those who would divide and diminish us – when we have the capacity and capability to help each other flourish…all of us. – This warning coming of all places from my reading in the Bible this early snowy morning, Galatians 2.]

I’d like to close with just an excerpt of the powerful Hughes poem “Let America Be America Again” (recited in full in the YouTube video above):

“O, let America be America again– The land that never has been yet– And yet must be–the land where every man is free. The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME– Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, Must bring back our mighty dream again. Sure, call me any ugly name you choose– The steel of freedom does not stain. From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives, We must take back our land again, America! O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath– America will be! Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain– All, all the stretch of these great green states– And make America again! “

I Dream a World – Langston Hughes

*Poets – Lesson plan, which features poems by Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes and Elizabeth Alexander

10 of Langston Hughes’ Most Popular Poems – Rachel Chang

The Bold Wisdom Within Langston Hughes’ Poems – Ellen Levitt

Black Lives Mattered to Langston Hughes – Robin Bates

Monday Morning Moment – Flipping COVID Lethargy into a Larger Life Productivity – Tim Challies

Photo Credit: Tim Challies, How to Get Things Done

How do we get everything done in our day? We can’t. Well, consider that maybe we aren’t supposed to…then we choose a path…driven by external forces (the tyranny of the urgent, the job as defined by the manager, the should’s and ought-to’s)…or internal. What are our internal forces? What kind of life do we hope to live, and the product we hope to leave as foundational for those we care most about?

A favorite old proverb of ours goes like this:Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.” (Proverbs 14:4). Canadian writer Tim Challies presents this proverb as a parable on productivity. That “much increase” can be enhanced by having the right tools (oxen, for instance). However, given the right tools, productivity can still be very messy. Hard to perfectly control, thus, cycling back, needing the best tools for the job. Sometimes those tools are people in our lives and workplace, and sometimes they are lists, schedules, apps, or right equipment – even a vacuum cleaner (my highly organized, hard working daughter-in-law had a new vacuum on the top of her Christmas list this year).

Several years ago, Challies wrote an incredibly practical blog series on How to Get Things Done. He has become a master at “learning how to simplify life and how to maximize productivity”. Now in the era of COVID, his counsel on productivity is even more timely as we slog through this pandemic.

[Now for those of you who are essential workers and you lay down exhausted every night, it may seem this isn’t for you. However, with the restrictions of life with COVID, you probably struggle with redeeming time with family and deciding how to maximize your time off the job. Tim Challies has wisdom for you as well. Thanks, also for how you serve us all, out there every day.]

In Challies’ blog intro to his book “Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity”, he offers several work sheets useful for those of us who need to organize our thoughts and time toward greater simplicity and productivity.

Don’t try to do it all. Do more good. Better.

Photo Credit: Tim Challies, Amazon

Too often, we measure the purpose of our lives by “how much” we can get done. What if we flipped that? What if we first sort out what the mission (or purpose) of our lives is? …Given our gifts, our education, our experiences, our opportunities, the people in our circle of influence, and the season in which we live at the moment. COVID informs that as well…informs but doesn’t define.

We do the work of sorting out our purpose, and then we order our days with that as foundation. We can’t do everything, therefore, we set our days on “doing more good…better”. Does that mean my house is always clean or my inbox is always manageable? No…but it is a shift away from shame/guilt and toward intentionality and joyful making of new habits. Sometimes we will have to say no, but the “yes’s” that are then ours to speak can be so freeing.

For me, this kind of restructuring my routines and thinking toward productivity require some prayer and reflection. Then, old-fashioned worksheets help. Challies also suggests other more techy tools, but I prefer starting with pen and paper.

Challies writes: “To be productive, you need a system. You need to build it, use it, perfect it, and rely on it. Your system needs to gain your confidence so that you can trust it to remember what needs to be remembered, to alert you to what is urgent, to direct you to what is important, and to divert you away from what is distracting…When you ought to be working on your computer, you are only ever one or two clicks away from checking out your friends on Facebook or welcoming a few minutes of mindless entertainment on YouTube. Text messages provide a welcome distraction from deep thinking, and binge watching the latest series on Netflix can set you back a week. You are surrounded by temptations to laziness and may succumb far more often than you think.”
COVID has not affected my health, for which I’m very thankful. However, the physical distancing has reeked havoc with daily life, work, routines of a few months ago, and even relationships. We have to work harder…smarter to keep high engagement in life and with our people. Tim Challies’ blog series, productivity tools, and book are a great starting place…for that good night’s sleep. Sweetly exhausted from “doing more good…better”.

Monday Morning Moment – A New Day – It’s Gonna Be OK

Sometimes rolling out of bed is an act of faith. I’d been awake for an hour already. Trying to clear the dark thoughts out of my head. Praying. Remembering what is true and distinguishing what is only speculation. This time it had to do with a family concern…what could we do to help? What could I do? Only God could do anything at this point. So I prayed.

Prayer can clear the mechanism, for sure. Going to God when we are distracted beyond good sense, disoriented by the noise in our heads, worried that nothing good is coming down the pike. By concentrating our thoughts into a cry to God, we gain clarity. Maybe on how to deal with an issue ourselves, or finding no clear answer, on the goodness of a holy and wise God.

So I rolled out of bed, had coffee, spent a bit of time in Scripture, got my clothes on, and headed out the door.

What a sky! Past the vivid colors of sunrise, but still with the hint of pink, streaking the clouds. It was beautiful! In a split second, taking in the largeness of the sky and the clean slate of a Monday morning, I head out…with hope…and peace in my heart.

Just like the sky changes through the day, so do our thoughts. Is the family concern still real and present? Yes. As far as I know. Do I have a clear path to help? No. However, it’s a new day. Anything could happen.

Dark clouds are rolling in, and just a hint of blue remains before the rain starts.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. No big celebrations this time because the 2021 US Presidential Inauguration is in two days. This year our United States capital as well as state capitals, are under high alert for armed protests. Parades are just not happening.

FAQs: 2021 inauguration plans after Capitol riot, amid pandemic

Even since last year, when I wrote here on Martin Luther King Jr., our country seems changed. Divided, blaming, hostile, cautious. Remembering Dr. King is a good thing. He did much to bring us together, even as divided we were across racial and ideological lines.

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote, Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the car this morning, a song came on, unfamiliar to me. It was “Into the Sea (It’s Gonna Be OK”). By singer/songwriters Tasha Layton and husband Keith Everette Smith.

Perfect for reflecting on the action by which God had rescued me from my own thoughts. Giving me the will and determination to take on a new day.

The songwriters created this song from the Biblical text below.

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah  – Psalm 46: 1-3, 10-11

The song above, “It’s Gonna Be OK”, was born out of dark times for the songwriter couple, through which God brought them into light. A song just right for us going through COVID and this year of 2020.

We may not have any idea what “OK” is going to look like…but we can grab hold of it, and take each new day as both promise and possibility.

YouTube Video – Look Up, Child – Lauren Daigle

Clear the Mechanism: Finding God in the Middle of Anxiety – Joshua Crawford

For Love of the Game