Since my teens, friends (and not so friendlies) have used the word “Pollyanna” to define my responses and outlook. That person is defined as one who “looks for the good in everyone and everything – and she finds it!” For some odd reason, it wasn’t to be considered a compliment. Even one of my sons has said, “You can’t trust Mom’s take on people” – the reason being I see beauty in everyone, and all sorts of redeeming qualities. Well…I used to anyway.
Now, in recent years, reluctant contrarian is more what I’ve become. [After writing this piece, I came across someone who writes under the title of reluctant contrarian. Funny.] It certainly wasn’t my ambition to become curmudgeonly…but life happens. We see the things that, if tweaked, could make a difference in a person, product, or process…and wonder aloud why not? Then, if we persist in our opinion, we become like a dripping faucet or clanging cymbal. Sigh…
When my friend gave me the card (image above), it set in motion a resolve in me. To rediscover that Pollyanna inside. To look for the good. To extend grace. To brighten the day. To play Pollyanna’s Glad Game…until it becomes a habit again.
This contrarian/curmudgeon thing that happened to me in the last few years probably relates to some process of entropy – how life in this broken world drifts toward disorder or randomness…unless we constantly intervene. This idea breaks down with those who start as contrarians. They don’t move toward being more Pollyanna’ish over time, BUT…it could be they move to being curmudeongly. What do you think?
[Sidebar: I asked my husband – who naturally bends more in the direction of contrarian: “Which would you say you are: Contrarian or Curmudgeon?” He answered quickly: “Are those my only two choices?!” We got a good chuckle out of that…and then decided he was serious more than contrarian, analytical more than curmudgeonly.]
What’s the contrast between these extremes? Night and day.
I do think there is a healthy place in the world for us to co-exist. The Pollyannas and the Contrarians. In fact, The article above – Walter – Analyst Contrarian – Corsairs – speaks to this somewhat in the workplace. I see the wisdom of cooperating “adversarial pairs” in any setting. Here’s a bit of what the article poses:
“There are two sides to most things. Honestly, most things are wickedly multi-dimensional but most humans are only good at comparing two things…two distinct points of view…Forcing alternate perspective is a great technique for combating cognitive bias…It doesn’t prevent it. It simply makes it more apparent…Minimally, take the contrarian side of every issue…Always test the opposite hypothesis…By forcing a counter view, you expose both sides of the argument…Taking the opposite position artificially, occasionally exposes that your initial inclinations were actually dead wrong. Two perspectives create intellectual leverage…use it.” – Walter – Analyst Contrarian – Corsairs
For life in the world beyond business, I have had the great pleasure of being on advisory boards and ministry teams, both having very different sorts of people as members. Some more task-oriented, some more people-oriented. Some more thinkers, some more feelers. This is reminiscent of Roger Martin’s The Opposable Mind – regarding integrative thinking – where you are able to seriously consider different points of view – like how we grab hold (with our hands) and understand assessments not our own.
Beware, if you’re looking at yourself [people who think just like you] all around the board or conference room table. We gain from both the Contrarian and the Pollyanna… and all those in between.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8
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).
An old Eagles song came on today and just ripped out my heart. It’s “Heart of the Matter” and it’s about heartache, brokenness, and forgiveness.
We expect attacks from those we know don’t care for us or, in fact, want us gone. They want our jobs or see us as threats, or they can’t stomach our beliefs or ideologies. These confrontations are a part of life and work and we take them in stride; hurtful as they may be, they are expected.
It’s the surprise attacks that catch us off-guard, especially when we come under-fire by those who should have our backs. “Friendly fire” is a phrase coined from military situations when something goes very wrong in battle, and a fellow soldier is wounded or killed by a comrade in arms. Too often, we have experienced the sting of friendly fire.
We may endure long periods of hardship at the hands of difficult bosses or through relentless attacks by acquaintances or colleagues who think very differently than we do. What happens, though, when those who believe as we do (in this case, fellow Christ-followers) fire on us…sometimes over and over again? Here is where the breath is knocked out of us and we straighten up again, bewildered, disoriented, and deeply hurt.
This isn’t supposed to happen. As Christians, we know to love one another, even our enemies, to forgive without exception, and to bear with one another and be deferent toward each other. This is not the stuff of doormats or deer “in the headlights”. This is living life in community (whether, work, family, or church) as Jesus calls us to live. I think that’s why we’re caught off-balance when someone who identifies with Christ fires away at us…and especially if there’s no repentance of that “friendly fire”.
How are we to respond in those situations? In fact, how are we to live with our eyes wide open, knowing friendly fire happens, and understanding that we might be the perpetrator the same as anyone else.
Michael Milton wrote an excellent piece on this entitled Hit By Friendly Fire: What To Do When Christians Hurt You. If you are right now dressing the wounds of such an attack, his counsel may be hard to bear. The truth is, though, that the wounds you have right now will never really heal until you do what is necessary for a full recovery. In fact, as we follow Jesus’ example of enduring such attacks, then we can recover much quicker and refuse to retaliate ourselves. We also restrain from launching such barbs ourselves in the heat of some battle.
Milton offers 3 steps in responding when someone hurts you – and this someone can be a family member, friend, colleague or one in authority over you (a Christian boss or pastor).
Step 1 – Take up Your Cross – Followers of Christ are not kept from pain; it is part of our lives as much as it was part of the life of Christ Himself. Even looking back to Old Testament accounts, we see betrayal, deceit, and hurt of every kind. The story of Joseph (Genesis 50:15-21) sold by his brothers into slavery, and then falsely accused and placed in prison for years is a great example. Joseph would finally end up in a position of influence where he was able to save his whole family from famine. He told his terrified and repentant brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:15-21).
Milton points out the lesson of taking up our cross in the face of friendly fire: “Every sorrow, every act of treachery, every act of betrayal [becomes] a point of identification with Christ.” He calls us to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). Even when we are hurt or offended or betrayed. “You and I are called to take up our cross in every way, including our relationships. It is true that you may be hurt, but you are a disciple of One who was betrayed, who was hurt, and you are no better than Jesus.” (Milton) As we wrestle with this truth, we actually move from being victims to victors in Christ.
Step 2 – Take Off Your Crown – When we are injured by another, we want that person to pay for it. We want to be in control of determining the punishment that person deserves. The truth is we are not sovereign, not in control; only God is. The crown of sovereign rule belongs to Him, and we really wouldn’t want it any other way. In the Genesis account, Joseph “escaped being a victim and became a victor by naming God, not as the author of evil, but the One who caused it to work together for good…The crucial step in coming to terms with any pain that has come against us, including getting hurt by someone close to us, is to say, ‘God, You are in control. What do You want me to learn?’” (Milton)
Step 3 – Go to Your Gethsemane – The Apostle Paul trusted God through his many hardships and imprisonments to use that suffering, sometimes at the hands of people who knew him well, to make him more like Jesus.
“I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ..that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” – Paul (Philippians 3:8, 10)
Milton urged: “Gethsemane is the place where, like Jesus, like Paul, like Joseph, you come face-to-face with your crucifixion and with the fact that God is in control. If there is to be resurrection – a new life to emerge from the pain, the betrayal, the hurtful words – there must be a crucifixion, and if there is to be a crucifixion – by the Father for the good of many – there must be a Gethsemane moment when you say, ‘Not my will but yours.’There must be a moment when you say, even when the shadow of pain is falling over you, ‘They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.’”
God loves us so much. He knows very intimately the pain of the cross. He knows the weight of sovereignty. He knows the deep surrender of a Gethsemane moment. He calls us to a life gloriously beyond being victims, or “walking wounded”. Milton closes his piece with this proclamation of truth: “He will transform you who have been hurt, wounded, abandoned, sinned against, betrayed, from a victim to a victor by trusting in the One who was hurt, wounded, abandoned, sinned against, betrayed, but who pronounced forgiveness from the cross. In Him there can be no more victims – only victors.”
We are to pray for one another – those who have come under friendly fire, for months or a moment – and those who have fired on another – to trust God to bring us through victoriously…for His glory and our good…for the good of all of us. When we forgive, as He has forgiven us, He is glorified.
Do you have conflict in your marriage? Or even in roommate, friend, or family relationships? Maybe even at work with colleagues?
Of course, you do. Oh, there’s the rare situation where people can work out their differences amicably. My mom-in-law would always say she and our father-in-law never had a fight…well, once maybe. I’ve been around them in all sorts of situations, and I have to agree. Early in marriage, they worked out a system where they served each other and the family in complimentary ways. They genuinely loved and enjoyed each other.
Their oldest son, having grown up in this sweet and peaceful home, fell in love with a woman from a very different family…a home full of love but also where conflict and chaos sometimes reigned. That woman would be me.
Over the course of our 30+ years of marriage, we have matured. With age and experience, with resultant understanding, the fights are rare. The tears and silences are also pretty much absent.
We never ever considered divorce an option. Both of us have had too much experience with divorce (in my biological family and his in his extended family). We didn’t want it for ourselves or for our parents or children. So….we white-knuckled from time to time. In the end, I’m so thankful we hung in there with each other. It’s what I tell couples considering divorce…hang in there…it gets better.
OK…maybe not always, BUT the resources for helping us to do marriage and relationships are vast and easily accessible…if not in-person then online. If one or both of you are willing to inquire.
[Also, please, this is not meant to hammer anyone who’s experienced divorce. A betrayal is devastating and feels impossible to overcome.]
Dave and I had the opportunity just this weekend to hear couples therapist Esther Perel speak. She is Belgian and the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. She is married and has two sons. Her practice is international. She is a prolific writer and a life-long learner.
After hearing this brilliant, insightful, caring woman speak, I started looking for her online. So many YouTube videos, interviews, articles. Her podcasts, too. Among the topics was something she called a dance of negative escalation. What this entails is a process whereby two persons address an issue with one of maybe 3 or 4 responses.
Both listening and sharing, engaged, connected which would NOT be the dance of negative escalation.
Both withdrawing into their own thoughts – away from the perceived conflict or threat. Not outright escalation but no resolution either.
Both attacking, escalating into screaming and violence until…This wouldn’t even be considered a dance probably. I’m still learning.
One felt to be attacking, and the other felt to be withdrawing. This is where the dance takes place).
Perel defines this dance of negative escalation in this way: a “pattern occurs when one partner stonewalls and the other, in reaction to this refusal to engage, allows their emotions to escalate…For both partners the part of themselves they struggle with today is the very trait that saved them as a child. Sometimes what works as a survival strategy backfires when we are no longer under threat.”
All kinds of light bulbs went off for me in reading and listening to Perel talk about this phenomenon.
There are always two sides. Two views of a situation. With two different histories (all the way back to childhood potentially). Two different emotional meanings.
When a conflict builds, the combative one, the aggressor, is usually seen and experienced as “the bad guy”. However, we all know from the classroom, that a child can be drawn into a negative response through the badgering of or intentional exclusion by another child. Yet, when the teacher is late to notice the interaction, only one child, the responder, is disciplined, and the other seemingly “good child” is left unchecked in the altercation.
We all want to be heard, to be valued, and none of us want to carry the responsibility or blame of an escalation. Four things are mentioned by Perel as being devastating to a marriage or long-term relationship. This can also be true of work relationships. Any of these can mark a relationship in peril. They are:
We don’t want to go there in our relationships. Or if one partner or the other is there, the other can still begin to make positive change.
If you are in a relationship with the pattern using the dance of negative escalation to deal with issues , there is such hope! The links below are incredibly helpful…and they are just a few of the many resources available by Esther Perel and others.
I just wanted to introduce this subject. For those of you who know you struggle with these negative cycles, start with the links and go on your own journey of healing and restoration.
In her talk the other night, Esther Perel described the experience of having more than one marriage, sometimes with the same person. In a way, I experienced that with my sweet husband. We have a thick cord of continuity through our marriage, but, in ways, our marriage has passed through such seasons that almost feel like we are in a different marriage. I’m so thankful we stuck it out with each other.
Series : Marriage with a Chronically Self-Centered Spouse – Brad Hambrick – Dr. Hambrick is an excellent “counselor to the church”. He covers a lot of ground on this topic related to the different aspects of being self-centered in a marriage: the low emotional intelligence self-centered spouse, the lazy or apathetic self-centered spouse, the situationally explosive self-centered spouse, and the intentionally manipulative self-centered spouse. Fascinating. Great helps as well.
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.]
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”.
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…
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.
Whether sugar detox or a decluttering project, 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.
A couple of times in my life, I resolved to go off sugar. It was a successful endeavor for over a year each of those times. Excluding sugar from my diet. Never having really lost the weight from my first pregnancy, I decided to remove sugar from my diet for the pregnancy of our second-born. In those days, there was a chapter of Overeaters Anonymous in our town, and that group was a great help in my dealing with pretty much a sugar addiction.
The second time I “gave up” sugar was over 4 years ago, and I stayed the course of that habit change for over 1 1/2 years. Less accountability but even more resolve. Although I am back having dessert or sugary snacks sometimes, I am still operating with more self-awareness than ever before. Self-awareness, not self-condemnation. A very different experience.
Without knowing it, I was using 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. For me, in eating sugar (or in overeating, in general), the cue could be a number of things – fatigue, anxiety, loneliness, the mere presence of yummy food. It never takes much to send me to the refrigerator or pantry. The routine: feed the cue, whatever it is…with high-carb oral gratification. The reward: a brief soul satisfaction and temporary relief from whatever was the cue.
In my two seasons of not eating added sugar, I actually followed Ken Sande’s principles below (without knowing the wisdom of it).
Every habit has three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
You can change an undesirable habit by keeping the cue and reward but learning a new routine.
The best way to overcome the temptation to revert to old routines is to have a detailed action plan.
Habit change builds momentum if you can change a single “keystone habit” and then continue to build on consecutive “small wins”.
Will power is like a muscle: it can be strengthened and yet needs to be exerted strategically.
Faith is an essential part of changing habits.
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.
When we are willing to do that, New Year’s resolutions can become much more transformative than just, for instance, going off sugar for a few weeks. These same 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 2021:
What do I want to keep from changes I made to cope with the pandemic?
What do I want to reclaim from the pre-pandemic time?
How would I “build back better” if I were in charge of the world or my neighborhood? – Katherine Arbuthnott
Three 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…two years out. Still relevant to now. For 2021, on it again…plus prayer for wisdom how to be creative and intentional, given COVID.
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 pandemic...if we are ruthless and wise, and don’t give in to a year of listlessness and waiting.
1) Twitter Gold – Social media definitely has its pluses and minuses. Twitter has taken a lot of hits lately, and deservedly, for its censorship of persons and content. It can be very negative and even mean-spirited. I’ve had the pleasure of following and learning from men and women whom I’d never have the opportunity to meet. They have taught me much about the varied positions of partisan politics, racial unrest, faith and work. Below are just a couple of the kind of tweets that have encouraged me and made me think. Who do you follow on Twitter (or other platforms) that have made a difference in your thinking.
2) Refusing to Not Care – The American Thanksgiving is this next week and many of us are looking forward to being together with family. At the same time, the CDC and many of our elected officials have advised not to travel and not to gather. What do we do?
Of course we care about those we love and even those we pass on the street or on those quick trips into stores or businesses.
We can refuse to not care. I know that is awkward wording, but it is what’s before us. We will take precautions, but to leave our elderly loved ones isolated still is not right and the lockdowns themselves can do harm as well.
I don’t like the language of “not caring.” I do think many people are weary because: – uncertain timelines (a week, then a month, then a year) – unnatural patterns (humans are made to gather) – unfair restrictions (favoring one kind of gathering and restricting another) https://t.co/JAJn476jXk
We don’t want to be reckless with those we love. We also see the double standard in some of our nation’s recommendations as crowds gather for various self-interests, and yet the private citizen is urged to stay apart.
As our COVID winter continues, we will be wise to search the conflicting and ever-evolving science on prevention and mediation.
We will continue to physically distance, wear masks around others, but we will also cautiously spend time with our family over the holidays. We will not stop caring.
In fact, anything that Dr. Thompson has written (or spoken to via podcast or YouTube video) you will find enormously. He is a Christian psychiatrist who teaches and counsels on shame, belonging, and interpersonal neurobiology. What a blessing to have this kind of access to a psychiatrist’s helps in such an isolating, disorienting time as COVID has given us.Photo Credit: Curt Thompson Associates
His teaching on COVID fatigue and how to successfully deal with it is excellent. Also he teaches about the differences in our right and left brain function and how we can develop our ability to process information in a much healthier way (neuroplasticity). Fascinating stuff.
Did you know that when we feel danger, our tendency is to isolate (sounds like what we’re doing now with physical distancing)? Yet, our brains need human connection. Video calls help but they are exhausting because we are taking in all the faces 1) without the many other physical cues we’re used to and 2) without always making a real personal connection with anyone.
Thompson also talks about how our left brain is more focused on the past and the future. In fact, we are actually rewarded when we think more out of our right brain (analytical, rational, problem-solving, etc). Our right brain, however, focuses on the present…the moment. Picking up all the little details, and the beauty of our surroundings, including the faces of those all around us (differently than on video calls). Our right brain helps us create. These days we consume much more than we create. We might want to try to turn that around.
4) Christmas Comes Early – OK, so first we will have American Thanksgiving which I have lovingly written about here.
Thanksgiving won’t be missed, even with COVID restrictions, but it feels like Christmas needed to come early this year.
When our children were little, we put on a family Christmas play. Now our children have children, and thanks to a friend who can envision and execute the sweetest Christmas costumes, we’re getting another generation ready for this year’s family fun.
Then we put up the Christmas trees and lay out the nativities. Every ornament has its own memory attached. The nativities do as well – coming from around the world or crafted by a daughter.
The very best part of Christmas, after celebrating the birth of the Messiah, is communicated on this ornament: Gather together. Can’t wait!
5) A Message to President Trump –
Dear President Trump,
I’ve never written you before, although your staff has received emails from me about the issues I cared most about in your four years of office.
Until the lawsuits have run their course, it is not completely settled, but it appears, if all things stay the same, that Vice-President Biden will be taking your place in the White House. I’m sure you will do the right thing for our country, as you have tried over these four years in office.Photo Credit: Wikipedia, Shealah Craighead
President Trump, I want to thank you for all you have done to benefit our country. We don’t hear much about it in the news, but you were determined to keep as many of your promises as you could (given the checks and balances of our country’s government). Your accomplishments (at least many of them) are listed here, here, here, and here.
I have prayed for you these four years (as we must for all our presidents). There have been times when your words and actions have brought calamity on you and on us…it may have cost you your second term. However, your willingness to call out people for their own behavior has actually been refreshing.
You’ve been called a liar by the media…and yet, what if we find you have actually been telling more the truth?…albeit in an unpopular way…
You have seemed to really care about the regular guy. Your policies and presence weren’t just about the elites of our society. So many people seemed to feel seen and valued by your administration. You could see that in the rallies…and in the surprising (to the media) voter turnout.
I loved your State of the Union addresses. Whoever your speech writer was really helped you demonstrate your most human side. All presidents brag on themselves during these addresses, but you also pointed out person after person who deserved the spotlight on them for a moment. You were generous to share that with them and with all of us watching. It made me sad that many of our elected officials treated you with such contempt by boycotting your addresses, and even tearing up your speech.
Having lived in countries with far less freedom than we enjoy, it has shocked me the disrespect and disregard our media has shown you over these four years. That would have never happened where we lived. How you were able to keep your focus and keep at the important work of your office, with daily ridicule and push-back, is mind-boggling.
I’m ashamed of how you were maligned…not guilty myself, but ashamed as part of a nation. Why people didn’t try to figure out how to work with you is astonishing to me. We have all had bosses we didn’t prefer, but we do what we can to get along and get the job done.
It is also appalling how the First Lady was not revered as she should have been. Her courage and tenacity are a credit to her.
Anyway, I’ll repeat this in a real letter to you, but I just wanted to say as simply as possible, thank you. We, as a nation, have much to be grateful for in this Thanksgiving season…even in the very hard economic times of COVID. Thank you for trying to help people keep their jobs and hold their families together.
I’m also appreciative of the people, the ones I respect, who either love you or hate you. I’ve learned from them both. How strange that decent people can have such opposing views. I wonder what you think.
You have been more silent in these days since the election than in all the rest of your time in office. We pray for your health and the resolution of our current tangle. We pray God has become more real to you in these years like none other in your life. We pray these next weeks also will be some of the most productive and profitable for these United States, as is possible for a sitting President. I know you will try.
God bless America, and God bless you, Mr. President.
My husband always brings me coffee. He did again this morning. When I asked what he had on his schedule, he replied, “Work…the usual stuff”. Then he asked about my day ahead.
“I’m going to change the world.”
Now, that isn’t a usual Monday morning response. It actually surprised me. I really have absolutely nothing on my schedule. Nothing.
When he gave his take on his day, it reminded me of our Sunday night.
We both sometimes struggle with a bit of depression and foreboding on Sunday evenings…especially after a sweet weekend.
Kind of a shudder and shake preparing our heads for a new week.
Well…it’s Monday morning now…who knows what can happen, if we look for it. I am going to clear my head of all the sluggishness that’s set in from devouring too much political news…it’s a new day.
Making the bed every morning has been a habit of mine since childhood. Somehow in the middle of the chaos and clutter of life, that “made” bed stands in hopeful defiance.
Admiral William H. McRaven a highly decorated Navy Seal, retired in 2014 from a 37-year military career. He oversaw Operation Neptune Spear – the military operation that culminated in the death of Osama bin Laden. In the year of his retirement, he was commencement speaker at the graduation ceremony of University of Texas – Austin. Photo Credit: Pinterest
As he encouraged the young graduates, he told of 10 lessons in his SEAL basic training. Beginning with “Make Your Bed”, they follow in brief (you can watch the video of his speech or read more detailed highlights here).
10 Life Lessons to Change Your World
1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
2. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.
3. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.
4. If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.
5. If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.
6. If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.
7. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.
8. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.
9. If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.
Adm. McRaven closed the commencement speech with the following challenge:
“Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often . . . but if you take some risks, step up when the times are the toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up….if you do these things, the next generation, and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today, and what started here will indeed have changed the world for the better.” – Navy Adm. William McRaven
You WILL change the world!
Besides making the bed, a habit of prayer and time in God’s Word also helps clear my head and set the course of my day. This morning, a resolve was stirred afresh to set myself on the course of a world-changing God. He loves us and will work good out of every situation for those who love Him and respond to His call on their lives (Romans 8:28).
A powerful piece by Jon Bloom a few years back continues to encourage and inspire. Below is just an excerpt:
“You will change the world, more than you know. And because of that, because your life will impact so many others, Jesus wants you to live prayerfully (Ephesians 6:18), walk carefully (Ephesians 5:15), and seek his kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). If you do, if you faithfully invest the “little” he has entrusted to you, no labor of yours in this life will be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58) and he will entrust you with more in the life to come (Matthew 25:21).” – Jon Bloom, Desiring God
So to you out there…and especially to you, Dave…the bed’s made. Praying for you and for me…as we prepare and brace ourselves to change the world. Who knows what God will do as we stand ready?!
[Postscript: Thank you, Dave, for your willingness to follow God where He leads you…and all the amazing people, memories, and God-lessons we have in our lives because of that willingness. Thank You, God, for every stamp in my passport, and for being there every step of the way…including this very day. Help me to take hold of it…I can change the world, because of You.]
Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my poweris perfected in weakness.”
Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Our perfect God loves His children perfectly. We, on the other hand, are far from perfect. Between our own sin nature, living in a fallen world, with an adversary in the Devil…life can be a challenge.
Yet we are never alone. God gives grace…glorious, complete, specific to our needs.
Our family needed particular grace this week. A surprising altercation (my experience). A hard decision. A week of long days. An unexpected ailment.
Then smack dab in the middle of it all, God’s grace poured down.
Tom Elliff is a close friend…many would say that about him because he brings the fragrance of Christ into every conversation and relationship. So loving, joyful, encouraging. Rock solid in his faith in God and in the work God means to finish in His children.
[Husband Dave & Tom Elliff]
On the morning after the hardest night, I found one of Tom’s Refresh sermons online. It was Fresh Surrender(starts at minute 29:28 on this video). In this sermon, he focuses on the Scripture passage 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. It is the Apostle Paul’s testimony of his “thorn in the flesh”. He had prayed for God to remove it, but He didn’t. Then Paul gloriously testifies how God assured that His grace was sufficient for the thorn in Paul’s life. So moved by that experience of God’s love, Paul declared, “I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
[Watch Tom’s Refresh sermons here and here…whatever you’re going through, you will be encouraged.]
Hardships come into all our lives. When they happen, we are tempted to rail at the pain, to question God, and to seek to remove ourselves from that particular hard.
God calls us to surrender our will to Him…our pain, our problems, our preferences…He gives grace to us, and we give glory to Him…when we surrender ourselves to Him afresh.
This can be where revival starts in our own hearts…and in the church.
A song I never heard before was in the mix of worship songs at this year’s Refresh Conference. It is from the worship collaborative of People and Songs. “Let Revival Come” is the cry of our hearts…for our own lives and that of our country right now.
Worship with me (it’s 21:30 minutes into this Sherwood Baptist worship service). Also the People and Songs lyric video is here.
Heavenly Father, I come
Don’t have much to offer,
I’m humbled by all that you have done
Even though I walk through the valley,
I don’t have to fear, No-
You have called me from my sorrow to gladness, I have you
What more could I want?
(So) Raise my faith
a little higher
Set my spirit on fire
Lord, we’re asking You to move
Cause You’re the God of Restoration
The One who gives salvation
Lord, Let revival come, Let revival come
You are the God who calms the sea
The same God who healeth me
You are the One who makes me strong
Revive me with the
Joy that You bring
Joy that You bring
(So I) Raise my hands a little higher
Now my spirit’s on fire
Lord, we’re asking You to move
‘Cause You’re the God of Restoration
The One who gives salvation
Lord, Let revival come, Let revival come*
At first, you really liked working with this person. Then, bit by bit, he/she began wearing on you. He is always messing with his phone. Her solution to today’s problem is too labor-intensive. His email responses have become terse. She is late for your meeting. You think, maybe I was wrong about him. He is not the person I thought he was. Maybe, she’s the wrong person on the bus…at least on my bus.
When a relationship begins to deteriorate at work (or home), you are wise to take steps to turn this around as quickly as possible. You could be in a work situation that has been difficult from the outset. It is still possible for you to make inroads in turning that relationship toward a more healthy or positive one. If not altogether, at least from your side. Consider an adage that has had a long and useful run in our family and work.
Your opinion of someone approximates their opinion of you. – Dave Mills
There are exceptions, but I have found this to be wise counsel (from my husband, no less) in both personal and professional relationships. When what was a warm, congenial relationship takes a turn toward the negative, you can actually work, from your side, to restore the relationship. Even to take it to a deeper level. It can get more uncomfortable at first, because you have to start with your own thoughts toward that person. How have those thoughts changed?
We send signals to each other – whether we speak or not.
Mom raised us hoping we would be positive, peaceful people – often using the saying from Walt Disney’s film Bambi:
Good counsel except for the reality of those conversations that still go on in our heads and color our attitudes, our tone of voice, our preferences, and our decisions.
Let’s say I have an amicable relationship with a colleague, and then something happens. I may not even be aware of it – a misunderstanding, a misconstrued action, an insensitivity unaware. Then a chill develops, or a clear outright dislike. I have a window of opportunity to clear that up. Otherwise, if I don’t act, then a process can begin where I turn around and decide that person is also a jerk and has woefully misjudged me…and off we go.
Remember: This can go both ways. You may have had a few off days with a colleague, and find yourself just not thinking so well of him, then stop it! It’s possible you can keep them from picking up that signal and prevent the relationship from getting more toxic as they decide you’re not so great either.
If I refuse to think ill of another person and discipline myself to be respectful, deferent in my demeanor, and tireless in pursuing understanding, I could restore that relationship. If it doesn’t improve right away, my attitude and actions work for my own benefit and can definitely help rebuild trust with my team members. One day…that relationship may also turn. It’s worth the effort.
Job coach and writer Jon Acuff talks about the four ways we invest in our careers – through skills, character, hustle, and relationships. In an interview with LifeReimagined.com, he had this to say about difficult, or neglected, work relationships:
“Even if you have skills, character and hustle, without relationships, it’s the career version of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Why?”
“If you don’t have relationships, you eventually don’t have people in your life who can tell you the truth about the decisions you’re making. You don’t have people who can tell you no or question you honestly. What I’ve learned is that leaders who can’t be questioned end up doing questionable things.” – LifeReimagined.com interview with Jon Acuff
He identifies three types of people in our lives (work or otherwise, really): friends, foes, and advocates. Jon writes in Do Over:
“The best thing to give a foe is distance. We should ignore most foes. The problem of course is that we won’t. If your definition of foe is too loose and is essentially “anyone who kind of bothers me ever,” your job is going to be miserable. If you see people as your adversaries, it’s almost impossible to have a good working relationship with them. The first thing is to understand whether these foes are clueless or calculated. A clueless foe is that person whose behavior encourages you to fail. They are not malicious. They are not trying to make you lose, but with the power of their influence you are. “Bad habits are almost always a social disease – if those around us model and encourage them, we’ll almost always fall prey. Turn ‘accomplices’ into ‘friends’ and you can be two-thirds more likely to succeed.” – Jon Acuff, Do Over
I think what Jon says is true. Because of my own worldview and value system (and married to Dave all these years), I don’t think we can just acknowledge there are foes out there and distance ourselves from them. Sometimes, that is virtually impossible to do and still be effective at work. Because what can happen, if we don’t act to keep our own thinking clear, is that we take on some of that “foe-dom” ourselves. Maybe you aren’t going to be bosom buddies with this person, but your own work and other relationships can suffer if you develop bad habits around this person. Better to work on the relationship.
“For no matter what we achieve, if we don’t spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect, we cannot possibly have a great life. But if we spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect – people we really enjoy being on the bus with and who will never disappoint us – then we will almost certainly have a great life, no matter where the bus goes. The people we interviewed from the good-to-great companies clearly loved what they did, largely because they loved who they did it with.” – Jim Collins, Good to Great
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8