Category Archives: fresh start

5 Friday Faves – New Year’s Resolutions, Habit Planner, Year-End Review, Word for the Year, and the Last Days of 2022

[Adapted from the Archives]

2022 is rapidly winding down. Whew! to finish out the year, these Friday Faves can help us get ready for the new year…hopefully a joyful one!

1) New Year’s Resolutions – 2022…the end is in sight. What do we do with this new year ahead? Do we revisit those habits we thought about changing up in this year? Maybe so. Or maybe we didn’t alter course so much for good reason. Let’s give pause a moment and consider…

Photo Credit: David Lose

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

New Year’s resolutions are not always exercises in futility. They can be excellent pathways to 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 can be super energizing. Whether we meet our goals or not, there is great promise within the resolution for resetting our thinking. A keen sense of self, or self-awareness, aids in our understanding of habits and true habit change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Year’s Resolutions and Reality Checks – Wally Bock

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

Five 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]. That was such a pivotal exercise that I have kept the resolutions made that day in a visible place, to be reminded of the good change in life, and the struggle… Still in view…five years out. Still relevant to now. For 2023, on it again.

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 with the continuing threat of COVID...if we are ruthless and wise, and don’t give in to another year of listlessness and waiting.

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

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

Habit Change is a Team Project – Ken Sande

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

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

RW Acrostics in Action– Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

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

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

New Year’s Resolutions After a Year as Lousy as 2020? There’s One I think We Need More Than Ever – Heidi Stevens – This is a great read about being stone-catchers – protecting the most vulnerable from the stones thrown at them.

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Justin Whitmel Earley, Screenshots

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

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

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

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

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

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

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

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

At first I wasn’t going to do “a word” for 2022, and then a rapid series of “coincidences” drew me to the word: joy. As 2021 ended, I had become negative and even a bit cynical. Still having faith in God but not so much in humans, including myself. Even after a year of compassion!!

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

Lord, help us to be people of joy,

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

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

to see beauty in creation and the people we encounter,

to laugh heartily with childlike glee,

to feel true joy in your presence.     Amen.

Now looking at 2023…what word? For awhile, I thought the word would be persevere. Dave and I both agreed that perseverance is essential but did I want to make it my word of the year? Prayed that one down. Then in the last several days, the Lord keeps bringing the word wonder to mind.

In the start of 2023, I’m studying Tyler Staton‘s book Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools: An Invitation to the Wonder and Mystery of Prayer. During this Christmas season, the song I Wonder as I Wander stayed with me for days.

I’m thinking God is preparing me for a year full of wonder…with eyes fixed on Him.

5) The Last Days of 2022 – What a year! Losses and gains as most years bring. The losses feel more lonely, and the gains more glorious. Maybe it’s my age, but as this year ends, I’m just incredibly grateful for God, for life, for loves in this life…and for opportunity…welcoming 2023 holding onto God and those around us…with joy and wonder.

Now on to 2023!! Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Resolve in 2013 to mend fences, repair broken bridges, build appropriate gates, and tear down unnecessary walls. — Burk Parsons @burkparsons

Christmas Ads 2022 – YouTube Playlist – 100 different commercials in lots of languages and traditions!

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

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

52 Week Bible Reading Plan – Michael Coley

Photo Credit: Facebook

Monday Morning Moment – Sins of the Fathers – Neglect and Abandonment – It Stops Here.

Photo Credit: William James, Heartlight

My older brother was 10 when he handed off our infant brother into my small arms in the backseat of the car, as Mom drove us away. 4 kids driving away from my biological father. I was five years old.

That father didn’t disappear from our lives just after the divorce. He already had, while still living in the house. Mom was the sole provider, and she hired babysitters for us because, although our father didn’t work, he also didn’t take responsibility for caring for us.

The three smaller of us kids have no memories really of those years. My older brother has since died, but I wish I had asked him about growing up with our dad. He never shared any positive memories in those years following that day of leaving. He actually shared no memories and he, at 10,  was old enough to have some.

The Father I Never Knew – On Father’s Day – Deb Mills

I have written about the topic of generational sin previously, but I wanted to return to this subject, maybe one last time (maybe not). The reality of sin passing through generations is sobering. When we have experienced harm, or at the very least, a lack of care from a parent or parents, we are at risk of repeating that exact same harm in our own children’s lives. As a parent myself, I want any generational sin to stop right here!

Engaging with Someone Who Has Harmed You – Part 1 of a 4-part Series – Adam Young Counseling

We don’t want to linger in the past, nor do we want to disparage a parent, especially one who has since died. “They did the best they could” is often what we say and hear. I’m not at all about blaming parents for ill treatment of their children, but I do think when we refuse to acknowledge the wrong or harm done to us, then we may find ourselves repeating those same patterns with our own children – patterns we learned too well ourselves growing up.

We can change the course of our lives…and that of our children…and it’s not just through distancing ourselves from parents who harmed us. Otherwise all we teach our children is how to disengage. We don’t give them the skillset to recognize harm and disarm the situation. When we feel the victim, we too often teach our children more what that looks like, rather than how to turn it around for our sake and theirs…and maybe even for our parent(s).

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

Monday Morning Moment – Generational Sin and Trauma – Don’t Trip Over What’s Behind You – Deb Mills

The Sins of the Fathers Visited Upon The Children – S. Conway

When a Father Abandons a Child

In my family’s childhood home, neglect and abandonment happened even with both parents in the home. Mom was working; she had to work. Given that, she had no choice but to place us in the care of others. Somehow I felt a strong attachment to my Mom following those years (maybe even during those years living with our dad). I’m not sure if my brothers had the same experience, since their dad just wasn’t there for them. Was it harder for them because their same-sex parent wasn’t bonded to them?Photo Credit: Gabor Mate, dr_anniephd, Instagram

We are not left without help these days. Even on social media, we can find solid counsel (even when we can’t afford or feel awkward going to a counselor in person). Check out the full thread of Dr. Nicole LePera’s below (she posts helps every day).

Photo Credit: Dr. Nicole Lepera, Twitter (Thread)

Dr. Nicole Lepera Twitter Thread of November 15, 2022

Whether we experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment from our fathers, or our mothers…the impact of their lives continues with us through ours…either steering us along the same course or moving us to take a very different one. We can keep our distance from those sinful patterns as adults without necessarily sacrificing those relationships. That’s a whole other pattern we can guide our children in – that of understanding, humility, and forgiveness.

Photo Credit: James 4:17, Heartlight

Fathering – Celebrating Men Who Did It Well; Forgiving Men Who Didn’t – Deb Mills

My father disappeared from our lives. The neglect and abandonment present in our preschool years became permanent. We would never know him…what his own growing up years were like…why he couldn’t seem to love us. We would never know. What spurs me on is the profound love of a great mom and a steadfast God. I know my siblings and I have experienced some sort of imprint from previous generations, but recognizing it is a huge step forward. We then can steer clear of its negative impact on us and our children.

If you experienced harm from a parent, you may not be able to do anything to change that situation, but you can be an instrument of change in your own life…and for the sake of your children.

Also, even with the gift of a deeply loving and bonded parent, like our Mom, don’t be surprised if she/he hasn’t endured trauma from their own childhood home. Be aware of that generational connection.

Understanding the possibility of intergenerational transfer of trauma is not to make victims of a future generation. Understanding allows us to recognize if we have vulnerability and to set in place healthy barriers against the impact of our parents’ trauma.

I actually don’t know what my father’s childhood was like. My mom grew up with an alcoholic father who vented his frustrations about life on his wife and children. Mom stood against his abuse of her own mother and brothers. Her fighter responses were tempered as an adult when she became a believer (follower of Christ). Still that quickness to take offense and wariness of mean-spiritedness were reactions she had to fight all her life. I see that also in myself. – Deb Mills

In The Lord of the Rings, there is a powerful scene of Gandalf standing between those in his care and a monstrous enemy. He called out to this evil creature: “You shall not pass!” When it looked as if he had victory over the beast, he turned his back away from him. This turned out to be disastrous (minute 1:50 into this scene below). There’s a lesson here that just ignoring trauma, even when it feels like we’ve put it behind us, won’t keep it from rearing up again. We are wise to be alert, aware, and prepared for its circling back around.

The Season of Small Ones – Mothering, God, & Gandalf – Deb Mills

Boundaries are talked about a lot these days. Forgiveness also… True forgiveness is actually its own boundary. It keeps our hearts tender and our minds free to take a better path in parenting and in relationships, in general. Like in Gandalf’s situation, we would be unwise to prematurely think we have conquered the evil of generational sin. That sin that may have been transferred to us, if not genetically then familially.

Not to despair. Being vigilant is wise in two areas: 1) guarding our hearts against bitterness and hatred toward our parents and 2) caring for and leading our children in the same ways. We have vast resources available to us these days, and we have a God who does not turn away from us as we seek to love as we are loved. No matter what kind of love we received (or receive) from our earthly parents.

“He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5b-6

Photo Credit: Dr. James Lamb, Heartlight

Finally, I want to leave you with this encouragement of steps you can take towards bringing an end to the “sins of the fathers” – at least detoxifying it for the rest of your life and future generations.  What would you add to this list? [Share in Comments.]

  • If you are willing, pray for the person who has harmed you. Not necessarily for them to change but for God to bless them. Weird, right? The winsomeness of this sort of prayer is the impact it has on our own your own care for that person. Our hearts are tendered when we pray.
  • Tell your story. All of it. To someone you can trust. Someone who will not just sympathize or take up an offense against that person but who truly cares for you and your own healing.
  • If abuse is part of your story, sort out boundaries without building walls. The walls not only keep that person out; they imprison us within. They also teach our children that walls are the way to go when harm happens…more prisons.
  • Recognize the sin in “the sins of the fathers”. You may already see a leaning toward it in your own life as an adult. Put safeguards (accountability) in your life to help you choose another path.
  • Seek understanding (you may need a counselor or that trusted friend above). For health and healing, don’t try to figure this out by yourself.
  • Remember the one who harmed you may have also been similarly harmed. The sins of his/her own fathers and grandfathers could be imprinted on his life and actions. Not justifying the behavior here but recognizing it might not have started with his relationship with you.
  • Resist blaming. We want to avoid living as a victim. This is definitely contagious for our children. The person who harmed you did wrong. Calling it sin is a start, then, rather than blaming, forgive. No small thing. When we blame, we carry the brunt of the sin with us into our adult life…with the pain we experienced as a 5 y/o, or 15 y/o. As an adult we can look at that pain with mature eyes. It was wrong, but blaming empowers the sin to continue hurting. We are grown now and don’t have to come under that hurt anymore.
  • Pursue peace, as much as you yourself can (Romans 12:18; Psalm 34:14; Hebrews 12:14-15. Reconciliation is extremely hard work. We resist it. That work of resisting, trying to ignore that person, carving out our lives away from that person, pretending it doesn’t matter – so much more exhausting and debilitating. Reconciliation requires at least two people, but it can start with one and hopefully the door stays open for future possibilities.
  • Don’t be deceived thinking you will not fall into the same hurtful pattern you experienced. We can pass that onto our children without even trying…hard warning here. It may look different but it is not gone without our determination to end it with us.
  • Acknowledge that more people are affected by this sin (for me, neglect and abandonment) than just you and your dad. What is your hope, your goal? If it is just to lessen your own pain (which matters), those who love you will join into the work of that…and its burden. What can you do to lessen that burden on yourself and those around you? [This is a big step forward.]
  • Increase your capacity for tolerating negative emotions. [See link below.] They do not have to disrupt your joy or destroy your peace. They are indicators for what’s going on under the surface. You don’t have to live in them. They are actually helpful in pointing to next steps.

Growing in Negative Emotion Tolerance – Brad Hambrick

  • Do what you can to nurture the relationship. Don’t expect your father (or mother) will have the same skillset nor understanding that you have developed over time. Give grace.
  • When we give grace, we experience the bountiful good of it ourselves, and our children learn a huge life lesson that benefits them as well.
  • In the end, we seek to forgive. We can say we forgive but if we keep putting bricks in the walls between us and the one who harmed us, there is no fruit in that “forgiveness”. The fruit is not just for your father/mother, it’s for you and your children. Forgiving doesn’t let that one off the hook; really, it keeps that hurt from dominating our lives (or that of our children’s). Check out resource below on this.

If I Forgive, Doesn’t That Let Them Off the Hook? – Clare Bruce and David Reay

Photo Credit: Mark Groves, Facebook

Okay, I’ll close out now. Not a counselor but one who’s lived this and done a lot of work towards my own health and healing and hopefully it shows. Much love. Thanks for staying to the end.

Monday Morning Moment – In or Out – Your Choice, but You DO Choose – Deb Mills

Sins of the Father – Bible Verses

Worship Wednesday – Remembering Dad at His Passing – Grateful to God – This celebrates the dad who became my father later in life.

Fathers Who Give Hope – John Piper

Just Like Mother: How We Inherit Our Parents’ Traits and TragediesApril Dembosky

Worship Wednesday – Big Love, Small Moments – JJ Heller

Photo Credit: Heartlight

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.”Luke 10:27

“I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received: with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, and with diligence to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”Ephesians 4:1-3

What beauty we know in the love of Jesus – talk about BIG LOVE!

Even from the cross, He appealed to the Father to forgive those who sought to destroy him saying, “Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing!” [Luke 23:34] He calls us to that same kind of love.

Often, big love is rolled out in one small moment after another small moment after another. We’ve all experienced that and hopefully we’re all in lives of executing those small moments for others.

I’d like to showcase two sets of folks who demonstrate such love. I don’t know them personally but they loom large in my social media.

1) Tony and Karen Vick were married in 2015. Two years later, Tony was diagnosed with ALS. I came across their story on Instagram @thekaregiver. Karen is her husband’s primary caregiver and also manages her own small business. Every day she posts videos (on their various platforms) – videos that give a glimpse of small moments in their lives. Whew! So much love. Both from Karen to Tony and vice versa. Even a devastating, terminal disease like ALS can’t keep us from communicating love to others. They both do this so beautifully. Pray for them, too, as you get to know their stories.

Photo Credit: Russell Colburn, Twitter

The Karegiver on Facebook

Photo Credit: The Karegiver, Facebook

Tony and Karen Vick – Faith Over Fear – Video

2) Stan MitchellStan Mitchell is a pastor and the son of this beautiful lady in the picture. His mom, Mrs. Shirley, was a church organist for 40 years but now struggles with dementia. Still, with minimal prompting, she sings the beautiful old Gospel songs many of us grew up with. Such a blessing in these waning years of her memory…and life. [Check out Rev. Mitchell’s Facebook page for some of that sweet singing of hers.]Photo Credit: Stan Mitchell & his mom – Facebook

Rev. Mitchell founded GracePointe Church in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2003. Under his leadership, in 2015, GracePointe moved to be completely inclusive of LGBTQ+ persons in the church family. Then a great upheaval followed within the church body. The church has survived and flourished, in a different direction than the beginning.

I’m not really sure what all Stan Mitchell does professionally but he seems to work with churches around our country in consultation to help them love better those in the LGBTQ+ community. Rev. Mitchell describes himself actually as progressive and liberal, cis-gender and heterosexual. He is also the fortunate son of Mrs. Shirley.

How I first came across Rev. Mitchell I couldn’t tell you. Maybe it was through a mention from seminary professor and thought leader Karen Swallow Prior. Ever how he came to my awareness, in our fractured world, I am learning from him on a big love within small moments. He has the wordsmith skills of a writer and preacher. He is quite clear in what he believes and his goal seems to be prompting us, as Christ-followers, to love those in the LGBTQ+ community …bigger.

[Most all of you who read this blog regularly know I’m fairly conservative in my thinking. I take the Scripture quite literally. In some camps of Christian theology, there does seem to be a disconnect, unfortunately, in the truth and grace conversation. We either lean heavily one way (toward truth/knowledge) or the other (toward grace/mercy). I want to learn how to love well (big) without compromising the truth of God’s Word. That gets revealed by our focus and decisions made in the small moments of every day life. There is the challenge.]

Worship Wednesday – Until Unity – Francis Chan – Deb Mills

Stan Mitchell’s Facebook posts pop up often on my Facebook newsfeed…thanks to that unknown social media giant’s algorithm. I read them to see the videos of his visits with his mom. Hearing her sing those old Gospel songs, even with memory darkened by dementia. I read them for what he says about people with whom he has counseled in and about the LGBTQ+ community. He is probably not someone I’d know, but he is giving me food for thought about how to love big…a particular population of people who don’t feel loved by churches who also love the Scripture.

We have these two commandments that Jesus calls the greatest. Just two.

  • Love God.
  • Love people.
How we learn to love big…to love like Jesus…is in moment-by-moment obedience to Him. We refuse to be stalled out by self-loathing or self-righteousness. We do what is needed…by a husband who can’t do everything for himself, as with Karen and Tony. Or by Pastor Stan who is spending these days treasuring his mom in this most vulnerable time of her life and extending the love of at least his church to the LBGTQ+ community. As with the Vick’s, pray for Rev. Mitchell and his mama.
I have been convicted by both the Vick’s and the Mitchell’s – to seek God’s face and His Word in bringing His large love into the lives of those closest to us…and to those who are not drawn so much to people like us. Whoever is on your heart right now, may they know the love of Jesus…it’s the biggest love available to us…and He is not diminished by an ideology, theology, or worldview.
Christian singer, songwriter JJ Heller gave us the captivating piece below – “Big Love, Small Moments”. She doesn’t call the name of Jesus…but He is there. His big love in all the small moments.

Catch this song (lyrics and music here) with the Lord in mind.

Heartbeats only happen one at a time, one at a time
You can’t rush a moment so don’t even try, don’t even try
There’s a symphony you’re missing
If you only listen you’ll find…

Big magic in the mundane
The big picture in a small frame
Everything is sacred when you take time to notice
Big love happens in the small moments
Big love happens in the small moments

There’s no use in chasing nickels and dimes, nickels and dimes
Riches all around you, open your eyes, open your eyes
You can’t buy the peace you’re after so don’t even try
‘Cause you’ll find…

Big magic in the mundane
The big picture in a small frame
Everything is sacred when you take time to notice
Big love happens in the small moments
Big love happens in the small moments

Feel the rain on your skin, feel my hand in your hand
You can’t do it all, so just do what you can
Feel the rain on your skin, feel my hand in your hand
You can’t do it all, so just do what you can

Feel the sun on your face (Feel the sun on your face)
Bare feet on the ground (Feet on the ground)
I know you’ll see beautiful things if you look around, yeah
Just look around
And you’ll find

Big magic in the mundane
The big picture in a small frame
Everything is sacred when you take time to notice the…
Big magic in the mundane
The big picture in a small frame
Everything is sacred when you take time to notice
Big love happens in the small moments
Big love happens in the small moments*

[Closing with some small moments that make our hearts swell with big love. God is so good. His love shapes our world. It is His. We are as well. Hallelujah!]

[We have other grands, who are not on social media or the internet, but are loved big as well. Just adding that to be clear. :)]

*Lyrics to Big Love, Small Moments – Songwriters:  Dave Heller, Cason Cooley, Jennifer Heller

Big Love, Small Moments – a blog post by JJ Heller

Big Love, Small Moments – Katrina Kenison

Monday Morning Moment – Loneliness in Isolation – Fighting Against It and Occasionally Successful

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Just last night I was confronted again with one of the tolls of the COVID epidemic. That toll being a physical isolation that has grown into a lingering social isolation. A friend texted me about her sense of feeling disconnected, even unseen, in the midst of her church community, of all places. She is reaching out but has not yet found her people. I tried to encourage her to keep reaching out and she would eventually find those friends, that connection for which she is longing. This isolation, this loneliness, is something I, too, was fighting against and occasionally successful.

She told me this had to be my next blog (title) and so it is…although I don’t have answers…but will share what I’m learning from my own journey and from wise others.

“Here’s what we do: We spend hours alone in our crowded, noisy, screen-lit worlds, we invest only sporadic time with acquaintances, and then we expect close friends to somehow appear in our busy lives.”Jennie Allen, author of Find Your People: Building Deep Community in a Lonely World
Being retired from my usual work has afforded me much discretionary time…time which can be lavished on others or on disciplines like study, prayer, and writing. Too often…this time on my hands has taken me to places too quiet…where I get lost in my thoughts. That is an excellent description of this loneliness that comes from isolation.
We think too much maybe. Get lost in those thoughts and become slow to respond. Instead of going after friends, we wonder where those friends are…is it us? Is it them? We look for reasons for the unsought solitude we find ourselves in yet we can’t seem to fight off the sluggishness of too-long isolation. We text instead of call. We do electronic meetings instead of face-to-face ones. We cling to smaller rhythms instead of restoring larger lives.
OK…is that just my issue? I don’t think so. The phrase “new normal”, no longer in vogue, is a misnomer. It deludes us into a posture of waiting…rather than seizing on what’s right in front of us. Whatever is the present normal…that is what we have. This present normal.
This present that we have is fleeting, temporary…but the people  around us are not. Yet, relationships require some level of intentionality. A wise counselor once told us, during a season of multiple moves for work, to “put down your roots as deeply as you can – wherever you are”. COVID mediation has pushed us toward shallow relationships. We don’t want to miss people in the dullness of this odd season.
My beautiful friend above is already on the way to an answer to her loneliness because she is recognizing the “what’s not right” about her current situation and she’s not holding on to the status quo. That is forward motion right there. I am hopeful for her and for myself.

Writer, speaker, and mom Kari Kampakis wrote a fascinating post on Instagram and Facebook. It was titled: “What Middle School Girls Should Know About Friendship”. She wrote to girls but the lessons are redeeming for all of us, especially in this world that’s become COVID-isolated.

“What Middle School Girls Should Know About Friendship” – Kari Kampakis – Blog

“Friendships change.” Following you will find Kampakis’ 10 thoughts (abbreviated from her blog) on the struggle – written for middle school girls but applicable to any of us. Especially as we face loneliness and isolation and want to either jump-start or strengthen our friendships:

1. It’s normal for friendships to evolve and change.

2. Everything will be okay. – Be patient, pray for good friends, and pray to be a good friend.

3. Rather than focus on finding the right friends, concentrate on being the right friend. – When you treat people well, you’ll attract friends who treat you well too. By holding yourself to high standards, becoming the friend you wish to find, and choosing to be an encourager rather than a critic, you set yourself up for positive and long-lasting relationships.

4. Even when you find your “people”, always leave room at the table to invite someone new in. – Kampakis lamented: “One regret I have from high school and college is not reaching out more beyond my circle and letting God open the door to unexpected blessings.”

5. Love your friends well, but keep a loose grip. Give them space to explore new friendships and explore new friendships yourself.

6.Remember that everyone is learning and gradually maturing. Just because you don’t click with someone now doesn’t mean you won’t click later. 

7. The biggest friendship killers are jealousy, comparison, insecurity, and fear – fear of rejection, fear of being left out, and fear of being alone. Acting on these emotions can turn you into someone you’re not. – By being aware of your negative emotions yet learning the self-control to not act on them.

8. Form your own opinions about people, and don’t believe everything you hear. – Treat everyone like a friend until they give you a good reason not to, and when possible, give people the benefit of the doubt.

9. Know the difference between committed friends and casual friends. – Committed friends are the kind you carry through life. They have your back and will stand in your corner even if they’re your last friends standing. Casual friends are the kind you have for a season of life, maybe a few seasons.

10. Be kind, and keep in mind that kindness is more important than popularity.  

Photo Credit: Kari Kampakis

“What Middle School Girls Should Know About Friendship” – Kari Kampakis – Blog

Those 10 points were written for middle schoolers. It was a great reminder to me of the sweet simplicity of pursuing friendship. Both in rekindling neglected relationships and sparking new ones.

The world won’t all of a sudden become warm and welcoming…but I am ready to stretch again. It feels almost like a hungry bear coming out of a long hibernation.  It’s possible to shake off the sleep of shallow relationships. To be more present with people – not just on my terms but open to enter into their space…both heart and head.

Even if it’s one person at a time.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Life does not stand still for us. I have friends and family that are dear to me and yet we rarely see each other. Do we think that is going to happen somewhere down the road? Magically? There’s a place for urgency in dealing with the habitual loneliness we have come to know in recent months. My friend above is taking steps as am I. Cautiously, awkwardly…but occasionally successfully.

How about you? What’s your story? [Comment below.]

[Sidebar: If you’ve read this whole piece and wondered what’s the issue because you have great friendships – current and satisfying – maybe see Kampakis’ #4 again.  “Leave room at the table for someone new.” Don’t circle the wagons. If you are basking in the experience of an inner circle, turn around – someone who may need you, or you them, may be just outside. Invite her in.. New friendships can be costly but the benefits are worth the expense and the risk. *]

*Monday Morning Moment – Real Friendship – on Friends Who Wound, Fierce Friends, Friends Who Turn Around, and Friends Who Stay – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Monday Morning Moment – a Parable of Lost Sons and Their Father

Photo Credit: Rembrandt, Wikipedia

Whatever your faith base is or even if you have none to speak of, the parables of Jesus are magnificent stories that call us to deep thinking about life…and the choices we make.

The parable reflected in Rembrandt’s extraordinary painting above is one such story. In brief, you see a father and his older son (both in red robes) and a younger prodigal son, returning home, repentant.

The Return of the Prodigal Son – Rembrandt – Wikipedia [read the short and powerful article – a beautiful synopsis of the work.]

“The Parable of the Lost Son” is found in only one of the Gospels – Luke 15:11-32 (the whole of his story is found in the link, within the larger context of Luke 15 – read that here). Jesus was responding to the questioning and contempt of the religious leaders of his day. Their problem with Jesus was the two opposing facts that he was a religious authority himself and yet he took company with sinners.

In Jesus’ response to them, he spoke of loss and our reaction. We go after what is lost, and we rejoice when it is found.

His story tells how a younger son wants his freedom and asks his father for his inheritance. He wanted something that would not normally come to him until his father’s death, but he demanded it still. The father then divided his estate between his two sons. The one left home to spend his wealth on folly, and the other, the older son, stayed, out of duty or love (we don’t really know).

The younger son’s foolishness quickly leads to a wasted, impoverished life. He longs for the life he once knew in his father’s house. He finally “came to his senses”, remembering his good father and how well even the hired workers in his household lived. He determined to return home and ask his father’s forgiveness – not to be restored as his son but in hopes of becoming one of those workers.

Jesus’ story goes on to show the father’s deep and loving character – seeing the son approaching from a distance, he ran to him. Receiving him back to himself, in joyous celebration.

This was part 1 of Jesus’ parable of the lost sons. Part 2 begins here with the older brother. He had been working out in the fields as always, and, returning at day’s end, he hears the noise of a party. When he asked a servant what was going on, he was told the younger brother had returned home and their father had ordered a celebration. Here, we find the other lost son’s response…

…he became angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him.
But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.
But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’
” ‘Son,’ [the father] said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” – Luke 15:28-32
Again, we capture the beauty of the father’s character. He loved both sons. He was generous with them both, and he invited both into his merciful love.
Jesus shared this story (as well as the story of the lost coin and lost sheep) with religious leaders who questioned his care for sinners. In a way, these religious ones were much like the older son.
Do you identify with one of these sons? One is reckless and searching – allowing his self-indulgent longings to take him far from home. The other is dutiful and obedient. Accepting the responsibilities of life to shape his character…and his subsequent lack of care for both his father and brother.
[My husband preached a sermon on this story years ago and I am often reminded of his reflection on it – how the elder brother must have thought he was pleasing his father because he stayed at the plow. What if that older brother would have come to the father and said, “Hey, Dad, would it be all right if I go and look for my brother?” If he truly knew the heart of his father, he would have left home, at some point, to search for that lost brother and bring him back to their dad.]
The father in this story is reflective of God. He is home. Whether that is your belief or not, we are place-oriented as humans. What (or who) we regard as home has a huge impact on how we do life.
I take heart in both of these brothers…my life has taken me far from home in both these ways. Wanting popularity and the stuff of this world as well as longing to do what is right and the influence that comes with that. Neither extreme brings us the joy we can have in being known and loved for who we are…and loving others the same.
Henri Nouwen‘s book The Return of the Prodigal Son is a short, winsome engaging of these three men in Jesus’ story.

Here are a few of Nouwen’s observations on Jesus’ story:

“Anger, resentment, jealousy, desire for revenge, lust, greed, antagonisms, and rivalries are the obvious signs that I have left home.”
“I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.”
“…the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”
“There are many elder sons and elder daughters who are lost while still at home.”
“The more I reflect on the elder son in me, the more I realize how deeply rooted this form of lostness really is and how hard it is to return home from there. Returning home from a lustful escapade seems so much easier than returning home from a cold anger that has rooted itself in the deepest corners of my being. ..Isn’t it good to be obedient, dutiful, law-abiding, hardworking, and self-sacrificing? And still it seems that my resentments and complaints are mysteriously tied to such praiseworthy attitudes… It seems that wherever my virtuous self is, there also is the resentful complainer.”
“In all three of the parables which Jesus tells to explain why he eats with sinners, God rejoices and invites others to rejoice with him. “Rejoice with me,” the shepherd says, “I have found my sheep that was lost.” “Rejoice with me,” the woman says, “I have found the drachma I lost.” “Rejoice with me,” the father says, “this son of mine was lost and is found.” All these voices are the voices of God.”
In closing, I would love to hear your thoughts in the Comment section of this blog. What struggle do you have in coming home? Or thinking of yourself as never having left, do you still feel alienated even at home? The best part of this story is that whether we feel more like the older brother or the younger brother, Jesus communicated that we can come home. A loving father is watching for us.
[Below are two sermons that got me thinking again about this great story – one of many Jesus told to those with “ears to hear”.]

YouTube Video – Parable of the Lost Sons – Part 1 – Sermon by Khiry Cooper – Movement Church RVA – September 18, 2022

YouTube Video – Parable of the Lost Sons – Part 2 – Sermon by Cliff Jordan – Movement Church RVA – September 25, 2022

5 Friday Faves – A Lullaby by Beyond the Guitar, the Art of Neighboring, the Beauty of Fall, Ethnic Foods, and Telling Our Stories

Friday Faves. Here we go!

1) A Lullaby by Beyond the Guitar – Nathan Mills has been on hiatus from his public YouTube channel as he worked through the summer creating course content for his other channels. Big news: he’s back!!

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Talking through and then performing his treatment of the Game of Thrones theme (his previous arrangements of this can be found here). He takes Ramin Djawadi‘s epic piece and makes it into an ethereal lullaby. Just plain gorgeous.

2) The Art of Neighboring – Several years ago, my husband and I landed in an incredible neighborhood. With great neighbors. As happens, our neighborhood has changed significantly with elderly neighbors downsizing and moving away and new families coming in. The tight-knit feeling we had toward each other has changed…not lost but changed.

This Fall, our community group at church is studying “The Art of Neighboring”. This aligns closely with my deep dive, over the last several months, into our need for being known.

Being Known Podcast with Curt Thompson MD

Photo Credit: Art of Neighboring

There is neighboring where we might know someone by sight or even name, but little else. Then there is neighboring which leans in, where we know each other in ways that honors, enjoys, and serves.

It’s an art and it adds to our quality of lives and that of each other in immeasurable ways.Photo Credit: Grace Fellowship, The Art of Neighboring

The Art of Neighboring – Website, Book, Resources – Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon

3) The Beauty of Fall – Just a quick salute to the end of summer and beginning of Fall. Cooler weather prompting pulling out our hoodies and cozying up to fire pits. The harvest continues. The flowers, many going to seed, still have a glory that moves artists to paint. And pumpkins!

Photo Credit: Karen Burnette Garner, Facebook

4) Ethnic Foods – Our family has had the rich experience of living in several countries and enjoying the yummy “home cooking” of local friends. Some of that food is also sold by street vendors or in tiny restaurants for such a cheap price you wonder how they can afford to sell it, except for the volume of customers.

We search out those authentic food opportunities here, and various food festivals help fill the bill. Recently, we attended Armenian and Egyptian food festivals. So good! Visiting friends took us on the hunt of discovering new restaurants serving up foods so good they could have been cooked in mama’s homes.

In America, ethnic foods are not cheap. Part of that, I’m sure, is the cost of ingredients and labor. I couldn’t imagine paying the equivalent of $12 for a falafel sandwich when we lived overseas. Here, I’m just glad for the opportunity.

What Is ‘Ethnic’ Food? – Aaron Hutcherson

In the Hutcherson piece linked above, the phrase “ethnic food” may even be offensive in today’s cancel culture. Of me, it’s the best of home cooking served outside the home. America is such a cultural “melting pot” that we may come to the place where international foods become a part of the American food culture. Blended in. Beautifully.

“American food is the mixture of all food brought by our immigrants. Perhaps the recipes have been tweaked a little here, but they originate from past cultures, from identities new and old, and from our ethnic nation. Ethnic food is American food.”

This encouraging American ideal explains why Americans long to assimilate almost every food culture into their diets. It is socially encouraged to be more and more inclusive. The main way people try to find common ground is through food.

Ethnic food can best be described as a classification for types of food favored by cultural groups of people. This is different from authentic, which is a word used to describe food as something genuine or real. American cuisine may be classified as being only ethnic food because of the rich cultural diversity of its population. – DevTome

Still…I think we foodies will still look for the dining experiences that take us back to our mom’s table…or that table of friends in far-away places. Sweet memories.

Here in Virginia, we have an ethnic equivalent of food that’s hard to find anywhere but here and it’s Ukrop’s – a family-owned bakery, deli, and grocery business that’s been around since 1937. Their baked goods are very American. I say this because we have been told, by our international friends, that American sweets are “too sweet” for them. Maybe this is one American food that is uniquely American. I don’t know…but it’s good! No one does buttercream frosting like Ukrop’s. 

4) Telling Our Stories – Storytelling is in our very DNA. We appreciate the stories that draw us in – whether through books or film – or in the telling of our own lives.

Memory tends to embellish. A detail is added or emphasized beyond what really happened.

“Well, all good stories deserve embellishment.”J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

The Link Between Memory and Stories – Shawn Callahan

Embellishment entertains but what if our memory of an event or conversation stays the same even as we have grown into a person who has changed.

I think of childhood trauma or an incident that changed the course of our relationship with a person or organization. Sometimes all it takes is one circumstance.

Something may come to mind right now.

Is that a something that you want to affect your story forever?

Many of you may never have seen the 1981 British sports film Chariots of Fire. If you haven’t I highly recommend it. It gives an account of the Olympic Games of 1924. In particular, two runners, who compete against each other, are the focus. Two runners with very different stories.

Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell.

These two athletes had two very different stories…very different motivations and goals for life. In the film, some of their story may be fictionalized, but there are lessons for us here. Check out the film clips linked below.

“10 lonely seconds [will] justify my whole existence.” – Abrahams

“When I run, I feel His pleasure.” – Eric Liddell

[An extra: In the film, Eric was pushed off the track during an Olympic race, falling to the ground. He got back on his feet and got back on the track. In the crowd, a man was asked if Eric could do (recover the time lost), and he said, “his head’s not back yet”. Eric would put his head back as he felt the pleasure of God on him. And where did the power come from? Another clip.]

YouTube Video – He Who Honors God – Chariots of Fire – don’t miss this scene.

What is your story? Whether you know it or not, you’re telling a story? Is it the one you want to be remembered for? Or is there a healing, a reconciliation, a resolve you want to leave behind as part of your legacy?

Something to consider.

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s it for this week. Hope you have a delightful weekend. Thanks for stopping by.

Bonuses:

8 Rules to Do Everything Better – Brad Stulberg

What To Do When You Feel Like You Don’t Fit in at Work – Lisa Evans

How to Say the Unsayable – 10 Ways to Approach a Sensitive Daunting Conversation – Kathryn Mannix

Photo Credit: Facebook, Marjolein Bastin

Worship Wednesday – Community – People Need People – Cain

Photo Credit: Gainesville Times, Small Group Movie

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – Jesus – John 13:35

“Let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:24-25

This week our church launched our new small groups for this school year. It is an exciting time to meet new people in the church and to dig in, both in our relationship with God and with each other. “Life on life” community. Not a simple thing but definitely a beautiful thing as we lean in to one another and set our minds to NOT “grow weary in well doing” (Galatians 6:9).

A friend recommended a film to me, one I’d not heard of. “Small Group – the Movie”. This is not a documentary although it proposes the idea of a documentary for the audience. It tracks a young filmmaker who was hired to do an exposé on the diminishing relevance of Christianity. He and his family embed themselves in a small group of an evangelical church in Georgia. 5 couples who become friends and encouragers to each other in a Christian context. It has a striking mix of comedic and dramatic themes. Fascinating.

“Small Group” is rated PG-13 for brief gang violence and drug/alcohol references. It came at a perfect time for me as we were preparing to join a new group ourselves, not knowing at all what it would be like.

I have been in various kinds of church-affiliated small groups pretty much all my life. Maybe you as well. The dialogue in this film was familiar in ways but also stretching. It reminded me that community is not just having coffee together, retreat weekends, or surface talk before ducking out of group and heading home. Checking small group off our list for the week.

It’s so much more. In fact, I’m revisiting this even after having written about it recently. We have a deep need for true friendship. Not to replace intimacy with God but rather a both/and walk with Him.

Jesus declared, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”Matthew 22:37-40

Gathering this week with people we don’t know well, or at all, we could feel the joy and anticipation of the Holy Spirit of God sensing His “Well pleased” with this little group of His own. Are we nervous? Sure…but our hope is to be people who love well and stay in the room with these other brothers and sisters. To enjoy that experience of knowing them, growing and serving with them, and being truly known by them.

Worship with me to Cain‘s People Need Peoplereleased during the COVID pandemic.

You can go and build a mighty mansion
But with no family, all that house just goes to waste
You can fix a feast to feed an army
But with no friends, there’s no need to celebrate
Back in the beginning there were two in the garden
No, we were never made to be alone
God knows

People need people, need people, need people
To the Father there’s nothing better
Than when the kids all comе together
Peoplе need people, need people, need people
When there’s nothing, but love between us
We can finally start to see what God knows

People need people, need people, need people
People need people, need people, need people

‘Cause You know love is just like water (Water)
It’s no secret we all need it to survive (Woah, woah, woah) (Woah)
It won’t last long without your brother (Yeah)
‘Cause when you fall, he’ll lift you up every time
(Oh) God knows

People need people, need people, need people
To the Father there’s nothing better
Than when the kids all come together (Come together)
People need people, need people, need people
When there’s nothing, but love between us
We can finally start to see what God knows

People need people, need people, need people

People need people, need people, need people

The weak need the strong
The strong need the weak
We’ve all got something missing
And we’re all the missing piece (We’re all the missing piece)
The strong need the weak (Oh)
The weak need the strong
We’re all searching for an answer
That’s been here all along
People
People need people, need people, need people
Oh

People need people, need people, need people
To the Father there’s nothing better (There’s nothing better)
Than when the kids all come together (Oh)
People need people, need people, need people
When there’s nothing but love between us
We can finally start to see what God knows (What God knows)

People need people, need people, need people (Woah-woah)
People need people, need people, need people*

Worship Wednesday – The Faithful Love of God Wakes Us with Singing – with Zach Williams, Matthew West, Tasha Layton, & Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: Heartlight

“Don’t worry [be anxious] about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”Psalm 30:5b

My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my being. Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, O LORD, among the nations; I will sing Your praises among the peoples. For Your loving devotion extends beyond the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; may Your glory cover all the earth.”Psalm 108:1-5

My dear mom-in-law prays hard and often. She and I pray in unity on many, many things. Situations some of which she knows few details. Still she prays. Her prayers never end without the phrase “with thanksgiving”. Her anticipation of God’s answering prayer is thrilling…and inspires my hope and confidence in the heart of God.

Yesterday, I woke with heavy thoughts of many concerns: the dad of a colleague critically ill in the hospital, a visitation hearing on a beloved foster child in our family, the condition of our country, health issues with one of our kids, and the spiritual condition of some very close to us. There were also occasions for “joy in the morning” – the baptism of a precious great-niece of ours on Sunday and my husband’s birthday.

As those thoughts continued circulating in my head, I spent the morning with an Afghan refugee, a grandmother, who needed dental care. A lot of it. After her appointment, and translation help before leaving, we drove home in the silence of no shared language. [The love between us kept company, so there was that.] I used the radio to soften the silence.

Four songs in a row. Four songs in a row about the exquisite love of God. My friend couldn’t understand the words, but the lyrics moved me so much I had to stop and write the songs down to remember for today’s blog.

Then my quiet reading for today was Psalm 108 (the verses above captured my heart). Psalm 108:1-5. Oh God, no matter our situation, may we wake the dawn with singing of your great heart, your great love!

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship together with me to Zach WilliamsHeart of God (full lyrics and music in this link).

I know you’re hurtin’, I can see it in your eyes
So, pull back the curtain and take off your disguise
Whoever told you ain’t worth the fight
The cross tells a story that’ll change your mind.

No, He’s not sittin’ there shakin’ His head
Writin’ you off, leavin’ you lost
He’s not sittin’ there shakin’ His head
Wishin’ He’d never went to that cross
He’s not sittin’ there shakin’ His head
Writin’ you off, leavin’ you lost
He’s not sittin’ there shakin’ His head
He went to that cross, He went to that cross
‘Cause He loves you so much
Ooh-ooh-ooh, yeah

There’s only love in the heart of God
No room for shame in His open arms
There’s beauty from ashes, so come as you are
And there’s only love in the heart of God.

YouTube Video – Zach Williams – Heart of God – Official Music Video

…and worship also with Matthew West‘s The God Who Stays (full lyrics and music here).

If I were You I would’ve given up on me by now
I would’ve labeled me a lost cause
‘Cause I feel just like a lost cause
If I were You I would’ve turned around and walked away
I would’ve labeled me beyond repair
‘Cause I feel like I’m beyond repair

Oh, but somehow You don’t see me like I do
Somehow You’re still here

You’re the God who stays
You’re the God who stays
You’re the one who runs in my direction
When the whole world walks away
You’re the God who stands
With wide open arms
And You tell me nothing I have ever done can separate my heart
From the God who stays

My shame can’t separate
My guilt can’t separate
My past can’t separate
I’m Yours forever
My sin can’t separate
My scars can’t separate
My failures can’t separate
I’m Yours forever
No enemy can separate
No power of hell can take away
Your love for me will never change
I’m Yours forever

‘Cause You’re the God who stays.

YouTube Video – The God Who Stays – Matthew West (Official Music Video)

Now, let’s worship with the help of Tasha Layton‘s How Far Your Love Will Go (full lyrics and music here).

How far is too far
I thought I’d be there by now
I followed shame to the place
I was sure Your grace ran out

I kept running and running and running
You kept chasing and chasing and chasing

A million miles of my mistakes
Still couldn’t keep Your love away
However far away I am from home
That’s how far Your love will go… go…

Mercy’s arms stretched open wide
You paid it all
What kind of love lays down His life?
Willing to cross

A million miles of my mistakes
Still couldn’t keep Your love away
However far away I am from home
That’s how far Your love will go…

YouTube Video – How Far – Tasha Layton (Official Music Video)

Finally (for now), let’s close out with Tauren WellsKnown (full lyrics and music here).

It’s so unusual it’s frightening
You see right through the mess inside me
And you call me out to pull me in
You tell me I can start again
And I don’t need to keep on hiding

I’m fully known and loved by You
You won’t let go no matter what I do
And it’s not one or the other
It’s hard truth and ridiculous grace
To be known fully known and loved by You.

YouTube Video – Known – Tauren Wells (Official Music Video)

Whatever is going on with you – on the negative – be it shame, regret, fear, bitterness, sorrow – let known of that isolate you from the God who loves you. We can never get too far from God. We are fully known by Him. He is a God who stays. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”Psalm 30:5b

Photo Credit: Tauren Wells

YouTube Video – Joy in the Morning – Tauren Wells (Live Performance)

YouTube Video – There Was Jesus – Zach Williams, Dolly Parton (Official Music Video)

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship Wednesday – Asking Questions – 4 Questions the LORD Asks – Psalm 27 – Motion Worship

Photo Credit: Highland Park LC, Daily Verses

Daily our prayers are full of questions. We “inquire (ask from) the Lord”. The questions in our heads don’t always end up in our prayers, but they are there nonetheless.

Earlier this week, I wrote about the discipline of leading with powerful questions. God has certainly shown the way in this.

Why Does God Ask Questions If He Is Omniscient?

He wants us to wonder about Him, about life, about people…with Him. He also means for us to use His own explorations as a model for our interactions – our deep interactions – with each other.

Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson writes about four questions the Lord asks (in his book The Soul of Desire). These questions, when we ask them of each other, within context of relationship, can forge a path. A path for that other person to experience being “seen, soothed, safe, and secure” with us.   

1) “Where are you?” – God asked Adam this question (in Genesis 3:9), not because He didn’t know where he was but to give him an opportunity to say for himself what had happened. After Adam and Eve had sinned, they hid from God. In fear and shame. They had succumbed to distorted thinking after being tempted by the Evil One. They doubted the goodness of God and made the eternally consequential decision to choose for themselves what was good.

We also hide. We might not ask of another “Where are you?” exactly, but we might ask, “What’s going on?”, “What’s on your mind?” or “What are you feeling right now?” Rather than react to another’s anger, fear, or other distress, we lean in. Just as God was drawing out Adam, we give space for a person to feel safe to come out of hiding. We give space to ourselves in the same way when we go deep with God around this question.

2) “What do you want?” – In the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, two of John the Baptist’s disciples began following him. His first question to them was “What do you want?” (John 1:38) We don’t often ask God what He wants with us because the Scripture is clear. Yet, we struggle with what we want. Are our desires in line with the Lord’s? Do we ever edit or stifle our desires because we can’t fathom they are in line with the will of God? What if they are? Or some form of them? This is where we inquire of the Lord. This is also where we can be helpful to each other by giving opportunity to wrap words around those desires. To bring them out in the open in a safe environment with a trusted friend/family member. This, like Question 1, is something we also can explore with and seek affirmation from our Heavenly Father.

3) “Can you drink the cup?” – In Matthew 20:22, Jesus responded to a voiced desire of James and John to sit on each side of him in His kingdom. His question communicated that their desire implied a cost – a cup of suffering. They naively said they could drink the cup. His gentle reply was that they would drink that cup but the decision was not his but the Father’s. What beauty in the freedom of transparency and intimacy Jesus and his disciples had with each other.

“If we want to be this close to Jesus – if we are willing to enter into a confessional community and ask the first two questions – we must be prepared to suffer. Naming where we are and what we want invariably leads to discoveries that bring us great comfort but also demand that we be present to the brokenness of our own lives and that of others.” Curt Thompson, The Soul of Desire, p. 201

Part of the benefit of exploring the two first questions with a trusted someone is that we come to question 3. No longer is the stuff in our minds and emotions still hidden, but it’s out there. In the real world. This is when we can confront the cost…and this is where we find both healing and flourishing.Photo Credit: Heartlight

This is where we can have hope. Where our fear and shame can be removed. Where our addictions can be faced. Where our delights in the Lord can be fortified…within community.

“Evil does not intend to go quietly into the night. In this way, we will suffer; we will drink the cup that represents our resistance to evil as we swim against its current… In the context of a confessional community, we suffer, we grieve together, and as such our suffering itself is transformed…I learn to hope. I hope not in receiving exactly what I thought I wanted in the way I wanted it, but more.”Curt Thompson, The Soul of Desire, p. 205

4) “Do you love me?” – After his resurrection, Jesus appeared several times to his disciples before ascending to Heaven. This question he put to Peter. Now Peter was probably still reeling with shame from his denial of Jesus. He felt disqualified. Purposeless. Such that he returned to the trade he did before ever knowing Jesus. Jesus’ question “Do you love me?” clearly had multiple layers. He understood the rupture that happened when Peter acted the way he did. It wasn’t ruptured from Jesus’ side but was, in Peter’s head, from his side. Jesus drew close to Peter to fix that rupture and to remind him of the great work he had called Peter. “Feed my sheep”.

“Jesus takes the essence of our traumas and its attendant shame and creates New Wine. There is beauty to be found everywhere. But never is beauty more poignant than when we see it through our trauma and shame. We see Good Friday through the lens of Easter and everything about its brutality, its pulverization of God in the person of Jesus, is transformed into the beauty of the resurrection. This is what it means to fully answer the question, “Do you love me?”Curt Thompson, The Soul of Desire, p. 210

Worship, with me, the God who seeks after us and draws us close – the God who will create beauty in and through our lives as we live in the real, with Him within. [Psalm 27Motion Worship]

One thing I ask, one thing I seek
To live in Your house, to sit at Your feet
All of my days, delight in Your ways
And dwell in Your temple

So hide me in shelter when troubles may come
My feet set on high ground, my head lifted up
When darkness surrounds, in You I am found
And there’s joy in this temple

[Chorus]
I will sing, I will praise
With all that’s within me
I will seek, seek Your face
Jesus, my one thing
Oh Jesus, my one thing
(Yeah, yeah)

My heart believes, our eyes will see
The goodness of God in the land wе’re living
So we will be strong, and Hе won’t be long
And we’ll wait on You, Lord, yeah

[Chorus]
And I will sing, I will praise
With all that’s within me
I will seek, seek Your face
Jesus, my one thing, yeah
And I will sing, I will praise
With all that’s within me
And I will seek, seek Your face
Oh Jesus, my one thing
And oh Jesus, my one thing, yeah
Oh Jesus, my one thing (Oh, yes, You are, You are)
Oh Jesus, my one thing (Yes, You are, yes, You are)
Oh Jesus, my one thing, yeah

[Bridge]
And there’s joy in this temple, there’s praise in this house
With light and salvation, no fear can be found
When enemies rise up, they tremble and fall
None stand against Jesus, the name above all
There’s joy in this temple, there’s praise in this house
With light and salvation, no fear can be found
When enemies rise up, they tremble and fall
None stand against Jesus, the name above all

[Chorus]
And I will sing, I will praise
With all that’s within me
I will seek, seek Your face
Oh Jesus, my one thing
Oh Jesus, my one thing
Oh Jesus, my one thing (You are)
Oh Jesus, our one thing
Yes, You are our one thing (Jesus, my one thing)*

*Lyrics to Psalm 27 (Whom Shall I Fear?) – Motion Worship (Songwriters: Jesse Reeves & Caitlin Reeves)

Inquiring of the Lord – Posturing Ourselves for Success – Selenia Vera, International House of Prayer, Kansas City

Monday Morning Moment – “Be Curious, Not Judgmental.” – Leading With Questions

Photo Credit: Quotefancy

“Be curious, not judgmental”. This brilliant and pithy statement is attributed to the American poet Walt Whitman. I’d never heard it before today, and yet it speaks volumes to any human relationship – whether personal or professional.

There comes a time in knowing people that we think we have them figured out. Or we know enough…for better or worse. We stop asking questions. Whether in marriage or in the workplace. We think we know all we need to know about a person… ironically, just when we are feeling the less fond of them. When conflict bubbles up. When a critical decision is being made. When a door closes in our face…or on our way out.

This is humorously and poignantly illustrated in a scene from the TV show Ted Lasso. [Full disclosure: I have never seen the show itself. Also my understanding is the language is fairly unfiltered, so this isn’t exactly a recommendation…but this scene is perfect.]

Be Curious, Not Judgmental: A Leadership Lesson From Ted Lasso – Connie Whittaker Dunlop – super helpful article using the video above to introduce a great leadership lesson.

“Be Curious, Not Judgmental” – Something Walt Whitman Used to Say – Steve M. Nash – read this! You’ll be glad you did.

Questions are the main ingredient in curiosity. And curiosity is itself an important component of the communication patterns that generate psychological safety, quality in interpersonal relations, and collective intelligence. In other words: all the different elements that impact on the quality of our collaboration, decisions, and actions, and which ultimately become a determining factor for the results and value we create for our customers and the wider world.

We can ask questions in many different ways, and all are not equally constructive. For example, there is a great difference between a leader asking his employees: Why didn’t you do something about the problem? and asking: What do you see as possible solutions to the problem we are facing? The first question reflects the leader’s view that the employees ought to have responded and taken responsibility earlier. It creates a focus on blame. The second question expresses the view that there is a problem that everyone involved needs to address and come to a solution together. It invites employees to commit and involve themselves in finding solutions in a forward-looking movement. Being aware of our way of asking questions has a big impact on the way we relate to each other – and also on our ability to contribute, do, and achieve things together. As such, good questions can’t really be put in a template. The quality and effect of the questions always depend on the context they are asked in.” – Henry Kleive, Thomas Johansen and Thomas Specht, “Leadership for Sustainability Powered by Questions”

What if we went into conversations or meetings with an open mind and questions aimed at honoring and understanding the person across the table? What if we wanted to reconcile our relationship as much as we wanted to prove ourselves right about the project, or problem, or predicament?

Learning to ask powerful questions and being willing to use them can make a huge difference in our relationships.  Asking questions well can demonstrate care for that person. Sometimes questions actually help both the one who asks and the one who answers with what they really think about a situation…questions draw us out…often in positive and fruitful ways.

https://image.slidesharecdn.com/questions-130807203819-phpapp02/95/the-art-of-powerful-questions-7-638.jpg?cb=1424648128Photo Credit: Slideshare, Mark Gillow, The Art of Powerful Questions

So whether or not we think we’re right about a person – their motives, intentions, abilities, or intellect – we won’t do justice to the relationship if we stop asking questions.

Get to know him or her again…use the questions offered in the resources above and below. Find common ground, through good questions. See if you can turn the (relation)ship around…not just for the sake of the team, organization, or family…but because of the benefit to each of you.

“Lead From Within: A leader is as good as their questions. When you ask questions, you will change what you know. When you change what you know, you will have a new understanding. When you have a new understanding, you change your actions—and, ultimately, your leadership.” – Lolly Daskal

The Art of Asking Powerful Questions and 51 Powerful Questions to Ask in Different Situations – Sumit Gupta

The Art of Powerful Questions – Catalyzing Innovation, Insight, and Action – Eric E. Vogt, Juanita Brown, and David Isaacs – PDF

The Art of Powerful Questions – Slideshare – Mark Gillow (concise slideshare on book above)

The Art of Powerful Questions – Slideshare – Peter Bricknell (refers to the interviewing style from Mahan Khalsa’s bookLet’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play‘ 

“Leading With Questions” – Michael Marquardt – Notes by Dave Kraft

YouTube Video – Top 10 Most Heartwarming Ted Lasso Moments