Category Archives: creativity

5 Friday Faves – “Beyond the Guitar” Doing What He Does, From Cynicism to Delight, the Glad Game, a Great Life & a COVID Death, and Life’s Comforting Rhythms

Happy Weekend! Staying on the positive in my finds this week.

1) Beyond the Guitar Doing What He Does –Classical guitarist Nathan Mills, on the platform Beyond the Guitar, arranges and performs themes from movies, TV shows, and video games. The last couple of weeks he has showcased two arrangements of his that display his genre at its best.

YouTube Video – The Mandalorian/Force Mashup – Classical Guitar Cover

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, YouTube

YouTube Video – Spider-man: Miles Morales (PS5) Main theme on Guitar

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, YouTube

Nathan teaches privately and via his Arrangers Academy (membership opens twice a year). His music (videos, sheet music, and MP3s) are why we are patrons. Well, and because we love the guy playing the guitar. Beautiful, nostalgic themes. Heart-soothing on every level and on any day.

2) From Cynicism to Delight – With that noise of social media and biased news media, we struggle to know what to believe about what’s going on around us. The tendency is to gradually go cynical, thinking ill of others, moving toward mistrust. Our thinking becomes negative, and we become suspicious of motives, questioning authority, and even disbelieving people trying to do right by others.

Negativity can become a habit…a negative habit.

This is no way to live. Cynicism dulls our thinking and darkens our heart.

How do we upend cynicism? Writer Jennie Allen talks on a podcast about how we can move away from cynicism and toward delight. Now, that is a surprising and almost old-fashioned idea. Delight is defined as “a high degree of gratification or pleasure; joy; giving keen enjoyment”.

Jennie Allen Podcast – Cynicism vs. Delight

What do you take delight in? It requires a measure of savoring, pausing to take note, considering a different possibility. We rush around in life, or at least in our thoughts – flipping channels, scrolling endlessly, moving from class to class or meeting to meeting with little notice to what’s going on around us (or in our own heads). What if? What if? We stopped, or slowed down, our minds and just took note.

Allen talks about the importance of what we put into our minds. Do we even think about it? 20 minutes on social media (depending on those we friend/follow) could begin a stubborn funk in our thinking. What about the people in our lives? She doesn’t encourage cutting people off, but guarding our conversations against the negative –  gossiping, complaining, criticizing, thinking ill.

In the space we intentionally gain from the guarding above, we can begin practicing delight. At how well things are going instead of how badly, for instance. How beautiful the weather is, thoughtful your neighbor, generous your colleague, wise your mom or dad…This isn’t putting our heads in the sand; it is just considering life from a different angle…just as true/real as the negative, cynical take.

Allen encourages taking note of art as a fast track to delight. Whether it is music, or poetry, or painting. The world is full of beauty. We forget that sometimes in our “screened-in” lives. Many of us live in a place of four seasons. There’s always something to marvel at in nature. For many years, we lived in a part of the world with only two seasons. In each was still a myriad of beautiful discoveries. I have always enjoyed watching people, taking in all that’s there for the observer, without intruding. Then, of course, there is the wonder of God. How he continues to infuse our lives with good and possibility.

“The opposite of being cynical is being life-giving, and some might call you naive for it, but for the most part, people just need that in their lives. Most people will want to go to coffee with you because they need someone to speak life into them and actually believe it.”Jennie Allen

Photo Credit: Empowered Living, Facebook

3) The Glad Game – There is so much we can learn from sweet Pollyanna and young Anne of Green Gables. Either through the book about Pollyanna or the movie. Or Anne: the books or the movies/TV series.

Both these girls were orphans, and both had figured out a way to thrive in their circumstances. Very different ways, but fascinating.

Ten Things Anne of Green Gables Taught Me – Samantha Ellis

Anne of Green Gables vs. Pollyanna – (In the Battle for My Mind)

I was reminded (see Friday Fave #2 above) of Pollyanna’s Glad Game. She was determined to find something good in every situation… something to be glad about.

YouTube Video – Pollyanna and the Glad Game

YouTube Video – You Surely Will (Pollyann’s conversation with the minister)

“When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will.” – Abraham Lincoln

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Abraham Lincoln

If Your Behavior Is Contagious, What Will People Catch?

Networking Lessons from Pollyanna and Anne of Green Gables – Marzena Podhorska

4) A Great Life and a COVID Death – As we continue to physically distance during this pandemic, we are beginning to know people who have died from COVID-19. The nearest one to us died just before Christmas. Reverend David Pickard. He was just 76. One of the pastors Mom wanted to preach her funeral. He did. The pastor who officiated at Dave’s and my wedding close to 40 years ago. 

Pastor David has always held a special place in my heart. So full of joy. A smile and presence that would shake the chill off any roomful of people. He genuinely loved God and people. Generous and good, this man.

He always made time. That meant so much to us as first our mom became ill with cancer, and then years later, our dad with Alzheimer’s. Pastor David was no longer in their church, but he continued in their lives.

We have been in separate countries (for awhile) and states now for many years. When we heard he was in the hospital with COVID, we prayed hard like everyone else who loved him. It wasn’t meant to be. His time here was done, but not without leaving a wide wake of love and Gospel truth to everyone he had a bit of time with. He is so missed.Pastor Dave and his sweetheart for life, Mrs. Dottie.

5) Life’s Comforting Rhythms – Here’s to all the rhythms of our lives that we count on and continue to bless us. Christmas cards, even in 2020 (although most of them arrived in 2021 through a weary postal service).

Christmas cactuses blooming right on schedule (how do they do it?).

Kale planted in the Fall still yummy in January.

Daffodils and irises pushing up through the soil with the promise of blooms in the Spring of this new year.

Sharing hot soup on a cold day with old friends (the lunch location altered somewhat by COVID)

And birthday greetings [this one from a lifelong friend who hung with me through our many losses and gains, and my lapses in communication] and a memoir by someone we have also shared through the years – through radio and concerts. #Garrison[Karen, hope you don’t mind. Your note says it all. Especially getting through all the latest hards.]

That’s it for this Friday Faves.  Please comment yourself on the rhythms that comfort you and the things that bring you delight. Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Ten Habits of People Who Lose Weight and Keep It Off – Gina Cleo

7 Good Things That Came Out of 2020 (It Actually Wasn’t All Bad)

Here’s How to Get Stronger After 50 – Abigail Barronian

5 Things People With Tidy Homes Don’t Do

What If We Have Another Year Like 2020 – Nice Lessons Leaders Should Already Have Learned – Eli Amdur

Amazing Image of Unborn Baby at 18 Weeks Is Called the Photograph of the Century – Micaiah Bilger

Image may contain: 1 personPhoto Credit: Eric McCool, Facebook

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

Photo Credit: David Lose

[Adapted from the Archives]

2020…the end is in sight.

What do we do with this new year ahead? Do we revisit those habits we thought about changing up in this tumultuous year? Maybe so. Or maybe we didn’t alter course so much for good reason. Let’s give pause a moment and consider…

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

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

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

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

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).

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

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

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

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

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:

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

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.

We already had a year like that.

I am resolved…

Photo Credit: Reformed Outfitters

New Year’s Day – Resolved – Deb Mills Writer

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

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

Habit Change is a Team Project – Ken Sande

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

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

RW Acrostics in Action – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

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

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

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

5 Friday Faves – Christmas Guitar Mix, the Mercy of Forgiveness, Virtual Christmas Parties, Festive Foods, and Forever Friends

Friday. Deep breath. Hope you can rest some and take in all the sweetness of this time of you. Here are this week’s favorite finds.

1) Christmas Guitar Mix Nathan at Beyond the Guitar has arranged guitar pieces for each Christmas over the past few years. Looking forward to the one coming out this year also (a surprise so far). Here’s the collection so far. Enjoy!Photo Credit: Tyler Scheerschmidt, TSVideoProduction

YouTube Video – 3 Christmas Movie Classics on Guitar – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – A Star Wars Christmas – Classical Guitar Mashup – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – December Song (Peter Hollens) – Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (w/ Surprise Guest!) – Beyond the Guitar

2) The Mercy of Forgiveness – Talking to my sweet mom-in-law this morning, and she was commenting on how “life is too short for unforgiveness”. Immediately the thought came to mind “and eternal life is way too long for unforgiveness”. We may have a lot to forgive, and we may think we have forgiven (willing & hoping to never see that person again in our lives)…the thing is, I’m pretty sure we know in our hearts if we have truly forgiven or not. Unforgiveness is living in the past, ruminating over the offenses and the person who did them, negative thoughts that permeate our mind. Can’t get clear of them …without forgiveness. Photo Credit: Twitter, C. S. Lewis

Peace in the present…that’s what forgiveness gives. It also frees us from the self-imposed imprisonment of unforgiveness…which imprisons us, our families/friends/coworkers – depending who all our unforgiveness includes. Forgiveness – it’s what we’re counting on from God. How can we think our reasons for unforgiveness are higher than His in forgiving us? Peace. P.S. I get how hard unforgiveness can be. So thankful my mom (in Heaven now for almost 20 years) practiced and taught us to keep short accounts with others. Short accounts, knowing we can hurt others, too…and we do.

The following is an excerpt from an excellent piece on “Forgiveness in the Family” by writer Ed Chinn:

“Every home (like every other micro-society) has a distinct culture. In other words, every home reflects a pattern of unspoken assumptions which convey the approved way to perceive, think, and feel.

One of the most important things parents can do is to create a culture of forgiveness in the home.

It begins with a gracious tongue. Parents should be quick (and sincere) to speak grace into every corner of family life. The language of graces and manners – “Please,” “thank you,” “pardon me,” and “I’m sorry” — should flavor the family conversation.

Additionally, parents should not tolerate disrespect, shrillness, selfishness or cynicism.

We didn’t dishonor our children; they couldn’t either. House rules.

[Included in our house rules as well]

Forgiveness should never be extended purely as a model or teaching tool. However, parents should be quick to apologize to each other and to the children. And, of course, children should be taught how to extend and receive forgiveness.

In view of God’s incomprehensible generosity, how can we remain locked up in the prison of resentment? We are free to forgive each other freely and generously because we have been freely and generously forgiven.”Ed ChinnPhoto Credit: Flowers On the Rubbish Heap; Forgiveness by C.S. Lewis

Scriptures on Forgiveness: Even When It’s Hard – Sunshyne Gray

How to Let Go of Resentment and Grudges – Sunshyne Gray

7 Dangers of Embracing Mere Therapeutic Forgiveness – Mike Leake

Therapy & Theology: What Forgiveness Isn’t and Isn’t According to the Bible – Proverbs 31 Ministries; Podcast with Lysa Terkeurst Transcript from the Podcast

Pinterest Page with Forgiveness Quotes

Photo Credit: Sunshyne Gray Christian Counseling & Coaching

3) Virtual Christmas Parties – Most all of our Christmas festivities this year have been cancelled thanks to COVID. Well, except for small family gatherings. We did decide to convert one annual friend party into a virtual “get-together”. A White Elephant gift exchange has always been part of our party tradition. How do we do that, physically distanced?

We gathered on a zoom call and chatted while we all ate our respective suppers in our respective dining or living rooms.

[A surprise element to this party was also a gender reveal. So fun!]

We had some extra gifts in case folks forgot or just didn’t come prepared…we had it covered.

Each party friend took turns choosing a gift. With Zoom, we just showed off the gift we had made or bought and kept it in view as turns were taken and gifts were secured or stolen by another.

In the days after the party, we work out a driveway visit with those who chose our White Elephant gifts. What a plus that we get to see our friends face-to-face, albeit physically distanced. Sweet times.

How about you? How have you altered your festivities? Please comment below. We all need ideas for this year, especially.

4) Festive Foods – So many holidays have festive foods attached to them. When friends of ours dropped by this past week, for a backyard visit, they brought a copy of their Christmas menu. They live in a 55+ community and will have these foods offered in their dining room. It was sumptuous with something yummy for everyone.

As we count down to Christmas, all sorts of goodies are gifted or created in our own kitchens.

What are some of your festive foods? Again, please share in Comments. The stew below isn’t attached to Christmas memories. It is a meatball tajine with memories of Morocco in every bite. Yum!

5) Forever Friends – I wanted to close with a salute to those forever friends in our lives. Because of COVID and all the restrictions, like many of you, I have not visited with friends as often or in the more usual ways. It’s been nine months now…nine months. Our friends, especially those who live out of town, have kept in touch by phone, social media messaging, and video calls. Even cards as birthdays and holidays have passed without our seeing so much of each other… or not at all. What a blessing that we have forever friends who will hang in there with us through this and whatever comes after.

On one of my rare outings to a favorite thrift store recently, I found this little Pooh ornament. The sentiment is true. So thankful for you.

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That’s it for this week…hope you have a weekend full of peace and joy. Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, and Merry, Merry Christmas!

Bonuses:

Crossroads Christmas Special with Lecrae and Amy Grant

Food Bank Collection at Home with Help from the Little Ones

To Live Remarkably, Repeat This One Affirmation Every Single Day for the Rest of Your Life – Jeff Haden

What Can You Do When You’re Flattened by Depression? Plan for It – Daryl Chen

The Rockettes Are Teaching Free Virtual Dance Classes This Holiday Season – Faith Brar

Facebook capture – the story of actor James Stewart, PTSD, and “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Video below is a walk down memory lane for me. Having lived in Cairo for many years, this was fun to watch some old familiar places.

Monday Morning Moment – Chef José Andrés Feeds the World – Inspiring Us to Do Likewise

Photo Credit: Screenshot from The Richmond Forum; Chef José Andrés, speaking to us from Honduras, where he and his team were feeding people after the Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

The first offering of the Richmond Forum‘s 2020-21 season was this past weekend. Because of COVID, it was virtual. Dave and I would miss our traditional pizza before the show, and talks with our friends at the Altria Theater, but comfy at home was not a bad option either.

We didn’t know this evening’s speaker, José Andrés, but with all who come to the stage of the Richmond Forum, we knew we would come away with a larger sense of the world and our part in it.

Photo Credit: José Andrés, World Central Kitchen, Bahamas, 2019

Chef José Andrés is an extraordinary person who challenges us to move that descriptor into the ordinary column. Here’s a brief intro to this amazing man – just a bit of his extensive bio from his website: “José Andrés is an internationally-recognized culinary innovator, New York Times bestselling author, educator, television personality, humanitarian, and chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup. A pioneer of Spanish tapas in the United States, he is also known for his groundbreaking avant-garde cuisine and his award-winning group of more than 30 restaurants located throughout the country and beyond, ranging in a variety of culinary experiences from a food truck to his multi-location vegetable-focused fast casual Beefsteak, to world-class tasting menus…As a naturalized citizen originally from Spain, Andrés has been a tireless advocate for immigration reform. In 2010, Andrés formed World Central Kitchen, a non-profit that provides smart solutions to end hunger and poverty by using the power of food to empower communities and strengthen economies. Notably, his team served over 3.6 million meals to the people of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.”

Photo Credit: José Andrés, World Central Kitchen – 2019 in Review

This celebrity chef who owns restaurants all over the US, writes cookbooks, and entertains us with his TV appearances.

However, you look at his face and see his heart. He says, “I am a cook. I feed the few, but I love to feed the many”.

He grew up in Spain with parents who were nurses. At times, one parent heading to work, would bring their four sons to the emergency room to exchange with the parent leaving work.   His parents also loved to cook for the family and for friends and neighbors. He tells the story of his father making a huge pan of paella. When his mother asked his father what if too many people come and there is not enough food. “We just add some more rice”.

Andrés credits his father with an early love and understanding of cooking. His father would tell him “Learn your fire. Control your fire. Master your fire. Then you will be able to cook anything you want.” He took that cooking lesson and applied it to his life.

As a young man, he dreamed of coming to America, of being a part of “We the People”. When he finally was able to immigrate to the US, he wasted no time in beginning work in a restaurant. He continued growing and learning…and before long, teaching others himself. Not just about cooking itself but what food brings to all of life.

“Respect people. Teach them to work. Give them a plate of food.”

He feels very strongly about giving back (especially to his beloved America) as well as giving to all who are suffering. “There’s nothing more nurturing than a plate of hot food.”

After responding to the Haiti earthquake in 2010, his vision to “feed the many” came to fruition with the World Central Kitchen. Andres took his ability to cook and his experience in leading and mentoring staff in his restaurants and applied it in the worst of situations. Through this non-profit, he and his teams would be “boots on the ground” after earthquakes,wildfires, wars, flooding, hurricanes, and other disasters. They came and found a kitchen and bought local food. They listened and learned. They mobilized others to help, and thousands upon thousands were fed.

[We sat mesmerized at this man and his stories of real life. This immigrant. This cook. With a heart as big as the world. He could have just enjoyed the great successes of his American dream realized, but this is not who he is.

We spent our evening with him (thanks to Richmond Forum). Hearing stories of how a few fed many…in Honduras, in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, and years ago in Haiti. These were just some of the many stories of the work of this chef and World Central Kitchen.

As questions came in from the Richmond Forum audience, he taught us, just as if we were standing in his kitchen, or his classroom. As if there was already a relationship there. As, for sure, he cared for us, somehow.

Nothing he said was the stuff of unapproachable genius. He put his hand to a cascade of difficult situations and made a difference. It gives hope to any of us willing to try. He changes recipes to fit the circumstances and peoples they served. He looks for new ways to make things happen. He uses food not as a charity but as a healing connection in a community – sustenance and support, pulling people together to heal and restore their lives and livelihoods.

His goal: to do good in the world.

“I have work to do. I’m here to be an improver of the world. Not by talking but by doing. There will always be a job to do.”

Andres has even worked with the US Congress on the Feed Act and the Restaurants Act that have come out of our battle with COVID-19. Food insecurity and restaurant closures should not be happening when the former can be helped by the latter – subsidizing restaurants to feed people in need. Who knows what will come out of all this, but that can-do creativity and great generosity of heart are at the heard of what makes America great.

Get to know José Andrés. It will not be one-sided.

He closed the evening with this: “Maybe I’ve added an ingredient or two to your life. I look forward to one or two from yours one day.”

Youtube Video –  José Andrés on 60 Minutes in 2017; Feeding Puerto Rico

YouTube Video – José Andrés on Giving Back to America

YouTube Video – When Disaster Strikes, Jose Andres Brings Hot Food and Hope – PBS

The 10 Best Lines From Jose Andres’ GWU Commencement Speech

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s “Spirit”, Reducing Brain Fog, Crucial Conversations, the Precious Nature of Life, and What We Have in Common

1) Beyond the Guitar’s “Spirit” – Below you will find the latest Beyond the Guitar video from the 2002 movie Spirit: the Stallion of the Cimarron. Nathan’s treatment of “Homeland” theme by masterful composer Hans Zimmer 2002 movie theme is beautiful. One of the commenters on his YouTube video stated that it was as if Zimmer composed it for guitar. Nathan’s arrangement definitely does justice to this incredibly triumphant orchestral piece. Enjoy!

2) Reducing Brain Fog – Brain fog is an inability to concentrate. It is essentially a feeling of “being in a fog” – you feel slowed-down, tired, draggy, unable to think clearly or even find the right words at times.

Photo Credit: Marcus Aurelius, Pexels

Writer and business consultant Thomas Oppong wrote this brilliant article on what we can do to reduce brain fog. He goes into great detail so be sure, if you struggle with this issue, to read his piece. He doesn’t quote from the science literature but his takes on the six points below make enormous sense. All worth a try.

  • Give up the clutter. – Decluttering bit by bit will lower stress and sharpen focus.
  • Stop the multi-tasking. – “Narrow down your most important tasks to 3, and then give one task your undivided attention for a period of time. Allow yourself to rotate between the three, giving yourself a good balance of singular focus and variety.”
  • Give up the urgent distraction. – We have our lists and our goals, but the easier and lesser things around us draw away our attention. Resisting the distractions help us stay on track.
  • Stop feeding your comfort. – Beware of the well-worn ruts in work and life. “Seeking new experiences, learning new skills, and opening the door to new ideas inspire us and educate us in a way improves mental clarity.”
  • Don’t sit still. – Plan physical activity into the day.  It helps us stay mentally fresh and focused.
  • Stop consuming media and start creating it. – Social media can rob us of our hours and energy. “Let creation determine consumption. Allow curiosity to lead you to discover and pursue something you deepy care about. Make time to create something unique. The point is to get lost in awe and wonder like you did when you were a child. When you achieve that feeling from a certain activity, keep doing it!” – Thomas Oppong

How to Overcome Brain Fog From a Long-time Sufferer – Tim Denning

3) Crucial Conversations – So many conversations don’t happen because they are just too risky. They make us feel too vulnerable. Yet we long for deep conversations. For conversations that enlarge us and bring understanding, even between people who don’t share opinions or worldviews.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High – Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, & Laura Roppe

Top 10 Takeways From Crucial Conversations – Tabitha Bower

Last week, I listened to a Jennie Allen podcast on “life-giving conversations”.

Between the current political division and the physical distancing necessitated by COVID, we are having fewer crucial conversations. That’s not to say we aren’t on video meetings or phone calls for much of the day, but we have to work harder to have satisfying conversations.

March 2020 (BC – Before COVID mediation)

April 2020 – AC (After COVID mediation)

Certainly conversations between people who disagree are happening less. They are just too hard. Especially via screens. Especially when opportunities to talk deeply are just not there.

What got me thinking about this is a couple of podcasts (see below) and also watching (and feeling) the strain of months long requirements of video meetings with work (and church) groups…instead of in-person opportunities.

How to Have Life-Giving Conversations – Podcast – Jennie Allen

How Shame Affects All of Us – Podcast – Jennie Allen with Dr. Curt Thompson

Crucial conversations, whether one-on-one or in a group structure, are harder these days. How can we get past the superficial or the daily grind kinds of talk? I’m thinking there’s a discipline we can develop – to really dig in and want to know the person(s) in front of us and to ask questions and pose topics others can really engage with…especially if we can communicate that we are safe with each other.

“We want to be seen and known in the place we live… we want to ask questions that invite people to be curious and creative. Tell me about something this past week that was really hard for you. Caused you joy.  That caused you to be creative. Regularly take time to validate that in each other. We want to invite people to be curious and creative.” – Jennie Allen, Dr. Curt Thompson

Anything with psychiatrist and writer Dr. Curt Thompson involved is great quality content. Whether it is on belonging, vulnerability, shame, or dealing with physical/social distancing, he has a wealth of practical and neurologically sound counsel. Just watch the YouTube videos with him talking.

Thoughts?

4) The Precious Nature of Life – What we think on this has divided our nation – those more for life from conception and those more for the rights of the conceiving adults.

As a mother and grandmother who has lost all but one of her cherished older relatives, I want to celebrate the precious nature of life. I want to invite you to celebrate as well.

We never know when we will be gone from here or when those we love will be either. We just never know. Thus, the imperative to not let anything stand in our way of loving…or at least honoring the lives of those in our own.

Why this for a Friday Fave?

The 21 y/o son of friends of ours died this week. The whole wrong gone of this dear young man has stopped us all in our tracks. God’s grace holds people up…as does His grace with clothes on, friends and other family, leaning in to love. His passing has been very much on my mind, and his parents on my heart.

Canadian author Tim Challies also lost his son, Nick, recently…also suddenly. 20 years old. We are thankful that the Challies family has a huge circle of support, too. He has been writing about their loss of Nick in a series of blogs. Here is one: The Cruelty of Quarantine: A Lament.

If you could use some help with your own grief, walk with Tim through his.

Cherish these loved ones we’re privileged to have in our lives. In all their scruffiness, various differences, political activism or not…they are gifts to us. We don’t throw them back. We figure out how to love them and be there for them…and hopefully, they do the same for us.

Right?

COVID (and its mediation) is putting incredible stress on our lives and relationships. Important to keep our eyes and minds clear on the precious nature of life…not just ours, but each others, of course.

5) What We Have in Common – When there are rifts (political or familial) or a growing discontent (in a relationship or at work) or a vain sense that life could be better with someone else, it’s good to give pause to that thinking, and consider: What do we have in common with each other? What might we be giving up that we may not see in the every day but that, once out the door, we may miss and regret the decision?

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Think of the person(s) you’re may be having difficulty with. Now, come up with what you have in common, make as long a list as possible. Be creative.

I’m thinking…ok, here goes:

  • We share the same core values.
  • We care about the world we’re leaving to our children.
  • We both want to be successful, but also to be effective.
  • We’ve both lost a parent (or two).
  • We are both American (fill in your country) and we care about our country.
  • We’ve both been to the doctor way too many times this year.
  • We both struggle with insecurity, although it surfaces differently.
  • We both have trouble talking with each other about these things.
  • Yet, we both know we are a part of a greater story.

Can we take the things we have in common and move toward each other instead of more apart?

_________________________________________________________________________

Just a few thoughts that didn’t get laid down until after a busy, lovely weekend. Hope the rest of your week is peaceful and full of good.

Bonuses:

How to Overcome the 5 D’s of Leadership and Life: Doubt, Distortion, Discouragement, Distraction, and Division – Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast – with Guest Jon Gordon (Podcast & Transcript)

The Curse of the Honeycrisp Apple – Deena Shanker and Lydia Mulvany

Fall Leaves in All Their Glory (Before the Rains Came)

Monday Morning Moment – Building Our Own Personal Surge Capacity in the Longer Stretch of COVID-19

Photo Credit: Long Running Living

Let’s talk about capacity! I’m still working on my Monday blog on a Tuesday. One of the fall-outs of COVID.

What started, in our country, as a sprint in March is turning into more a long-distance run. 6 months now. 184 days thus far of physical distancing (for this medically at-risk person).

Remember how we first thought it might be just 2 weeks of quarantining to eradicate the threat? OK, I was super-naive.

We’re becoming weary of certain words and phrases. Pandemic. Unprecedented. Uncharted. New normal. We’re all in this together. Even social distancing. [I was thankful when that phrase went out of vogue and “physical distancing” replaced it. “Social distancing” put a wrongful prescription on its hearers. We need to physical distance, yes, but never social distance. We have learned.]

Remember when surge capacity became a worrisome phrase in our daily news cycle. Will our hospitals have enough ICU beds and ventilators to properly care for the rising numbers of persons with grave cases of COVID? That was the fear. We heard the daily troubling reports from New York state officials. Those reports were heard, and hundreds of ventilators were sent, as well as the provision of field hospitals, even the arrival of a huge hospital ship.  Peak hospitalizations with COVID have passed for now. Surge capacity tested and proven ample.

Why does this matter?

Each of us has our own surge capacity (related to stress, trauma, loss). During COVID, we are all having it tested. Some more than others. I think of parents trying to juggle work, child care, and monitoring schooling. Teachers preparing in-class lessons and teaching remotely as well in the various hybrid programs. Essential workers. First responders. Hospital personnel.

Here is a general definition of capacity-building. It is where we are.

Capacity-building is defined as the “process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations and communities need to survive, adapt, and thrive in a fast-changing world.” An essential ingredient in capacity-building is transformation that is generated and sustained over time from within; transformation of this kind goes beyond performing tasks to changing mindsets and attitudes. – United Nations Academic Impact

Remember when we first started experiencing COVID (at least in the news)? We had big plans for the physical distancing and working remotely and the time we would recoup in that experience. We would take a college course, learn a new language, renovate the house, or declutter our lives.

Then we were surprised at the sluggishness that we encountered. The dullness. The quiet that gradually turned into isolation.

We mentally prepared for a sprint, but the rules changed. We had to change how we ran to set our minds and bodies for a longer run.

Science journalist Tara Haelle recently posted an excellent piece on human surge capacity. “We need to recognize that we’re grieving multiple losses while managing the ongoing impact of trauma and uncertainty. The malaise so many of us feel, a sort of disinterested boredom, is common in research on burnout, Masten says. But other emotions accompany it: disappointment, anger, grief, sadness, exhaustion, stress, fear, anxiety — and no one can function at full capacity with all that going on.”

[Her article is one of a collection of three articles at Medium.com on capacity, power surge, zoom fatigue, and workplace diversity and inclusion.]

Haelle writes in detail on our surge capacity and how we can endure and actually build capacity for this season of prolonged uncertainty. Her main points follow (read her piece for greater detail).

  • Accept that life is different right now
  • Expect less from yourself
  • Recognize the different aspects of grief
  • Experiment with “both-and” thinking
  • Look for activities, new and old, that continue to fulfill you
  • Focus on maintaining and strengthening important relationships
  • Begin slowly building your resilience bank account

We don’t want to fall victim to what seemed like it would be a sprint but has turned into a marathon. Organizational psychologist and professor Adam Grant tweeted wisdom about the problem of becoming sluggish or judging that in others. [I do disagree that we’re all socially awkward now…just pointing to his Tweet.]

Photo Credit: Twitter, Adam M. Grant

Moving into the 7th month of COVID experience, we are making decisions on how to better maneuver. Still committed to safe practices but re-engaging in life with people we love…people whose influence and very presence we have missed in these physically distanced days.

Life is precious. There is a balance in what is real and how we can build capacity to meet that reality. Otherwise life becomes something less. We know what’s working and what’s not. If not, we can counsel with each other. I say we go for it…stretching ourselves out for the long distance run, bringing all those we can along with us.

Forgive the “motivational speechiness” – it’s what happens when I think too long on something and yet lack the answers. Recognition, desire and hope all together birth action…so let’s get after it!

Please post in Comments what is working in your life to build capacity. See you on the road.

[Postscript: The image below is one sort of those “both-and” situations Haelle prescribes. We as parents teach our children had to be resourceful and responsible in hard times, and we also teach them how they might make the world a kinder place for us all.]Photo Credit: The Purposeful Parenting Movement, Facebook

I’m Listening – Talk Has the Power to Save Lives – Radio Show

5 Friday Faves – Food Anthropology, The Punisher on Classical Guitar, Pastimes, “Life Has Purpose”, and Community

Weekend! Go….five favorite finds for this week:

1) Food Anthropology – Anthropology is the study of cultures and peoples – their behaviors, values, etc. The TEDx talk below was a walk down the lane of pleasurable food memories for me. Syrian-American food writer Tony Tahhan talked on What Syrian Cuisine Can Teach Us About Humanity. In his talk, Tahhan gives sweet details about growing up in a Syrian home in Venezuela (?!). Then they immigrated to the US, blending more cultures. His stories of Syria itself center on food and culture.

Our first experience of Syrian food culture was when we lived in Cairo, Egypt, for a few years. Our friend Amal, a Syrian-American, often hosted us in her home. She and her husband reflected their culture of gathering and generous hosting of friends and family. Egyptians also have that wonderful hospitality as well..and their own yummy food. Still, being in Amal’s home and at her table was unique. So much food! So much preparation…chopping, blending, baking. Distinct flavors. Beautiful colors. Healthy and satisfying. Dessert, too…not healthy always (unless it was the huge bowl of fruit) but incredibly memory-making. Can you say baklava?

I took lots of food pictures in those days but couldn’t find them for this blog. The image below will have to do. This gives a good idea about Amal’s table. Beautiful and bountiful. Full of love.Photo Credit: Flickr

There is much we can learn from peoples and cultures through their food. Syria has been so traumatized by war. Still, I’m completely positive, that if anyone had an opportunity to sit at a Syrian table, whatever their hosts had would be presented sumptuously for the guest. That’s a lesson for us all.

Thank you, Amal, for the food and the friendship.

Syrian Cooking

The 9 Most Important Things I Learned in Cooking School – Jesse Szewczyk

2) The Punisher on Classical GuitarNathan Mills arranges another beautifully haunting piece – the theme Frank’s Choice from the TV show The Punisher. In the show (which I’ve never seen – too violent for me), Frank Castle has the horrific experience of watching his family be murdered. He then becomes a vigilante, hunting down those responsible. Then he seems not to be able to escape that life, going after other evil criminal types. Nathan (Beyond the Guitar) takes composer Tyler Bates‘ tortured theme (pointing to the “dead man walking” Frank Castle character) to a different place. A quieter, sad longing of a place. Beautiful.

3) Pastimes – The stuff of life outside of work. Hobbies, shopping, classes, volunteering, family/friend time, and desultory activities – being lost in the moment, wanderings.

With social distancing thanks to COVID, our pastimes may be altered somewhat. Before March, I spent a lot of time gone from the house. Now, not so much. Dave also presently works from home.

So when work is done, what do we do? What do you do?

We’re slow adopters. The Mandalorian, the web series on Disney+, wasn’t on our watch-list although we’re huge Star Wars fans. In fact, we didn’t know much about it except for the hype. Oh, and the piece  Nathan arranged and performed, of the show theme.

This week we signed up for Disney+ and are “bingeing” The Mandalorian. It’s a first, the whole binge thing. Such is some of the strangeness that COVID has brought to our socially distanced lives.

Now, watching movies is definitely a favorite pastime. This past week (including the weekend), we saw three “small” films (small in that they weren’t huge boxoffice hits).

I loved them all and recommend them. Lots of heart in these films. Heart and humor.

A few weeks back, I watched the 2020 Netflix documentary 13th (about the abolition of slavery) and I hope to watch  another 2020 documentary Uncle Tom soon. Anybody seen either of these?

During COVID, Dave and I have taken up playing Bananagrams after supper. It’s a quick game – he wins usually.

Just being outside in the back yard with a book, my camera, or a friend is also even more special with the press of COVID.

One favorite verse of mine in the Bible is: “Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor.Romans 12:10 It’s not about competing with one another for God’s favor (He loves His children purely and freely). It’s just an encouragement to be as generous as we can loving and showing honor to each other. out of the love we already enjoy from God. This “outdoing” a pastime worthy of making a skill/habit.

A dear friend dropped off some of her summer bounty for us this week…so for days, we enjoyed that sweet gift.

Then another friend dropped off a card from her little girl to our little granddaughter (these little ones are missing their friends, too). So special.

Finally, I got to be on the dessert delivery list of this amazing baker friend. She just drove pieces of cake around to different fortunate ones of us. Lemon pound cake. Yum! Right?

On the flip side – another friend has a birthday this week but was also heading to the beach…so no opportunity to gather. She is amazing at reaching out to people, always and also during COVID. For one time, I got a jump on her with some beach reading. Happy birthday, Karen!

What pastimes do you enjoy lately? Especially those that lift your heart or others.

4) Life Has Purpose – A friend of mine introduced Ryan and Bethany Bomberger to me via her Facebook post. They are pro-life adoptive parents. They are Christians. Give them a listen whatever your worldview…you’ll be drawn in to their hearts. They are not mush-minded (as some think of those with descriptions like this). Rock-solid people. Their podcast is Life Has Purpose.Photo Credit: Life Has Purpose

They are authors, and Ryan is a songwriter. He wrote Meant to Be as a tribute to his birth mother who conceived him in rape. He was adopted by parents who would adopt 9 other multi-ethnic kiddos.

Photo Credit: The Radiance Foundation

Part of what make finds favorites is that often there’s a beautiful ripple effect – finding favorites of the finds. Neil and Christina Shenvi came along with “Life Has Purpose”. Check them out. Fascinating.

5) Community – This comes up in my Faves from time to time, because it continues to just boggle the mind how essential it is and how deep it can be…even with COVID. [Our community group – so dear]

However…and there is a big HOWEVER here…social distancing can really do a number on community. When we think of how it has affected us as adults, we need to think also how it can affect our children (littles and bigs).

Earlier this week, this short film by 15-year-old Liv McNeil came to my attention and it surprised me with emotion – what it can be like for teens who are isolated by the COVID experience.

We must watch out for each other.

Shared Hope: Friendships Are Life-Saving Medicine – Jane Jayroe Gamble

That’s it for this week. Hope you get some rest and get some time with folks you love and who love you!

Bonuses:

SummerPhoto Credit: Kathryn Visneski

How to Declutter Your Closet with a Single Box – Olivia Muenter

YouTube Video – TEDx Talk – Everyone Has Hardships – John Guyon

The Real Secret to Aging Well & How to Feel the Luckiest About Growing Older Into a Deeply Meaningful Life – Ann Voskamp

Here’s the Science That Explains Why Drinking Diet Soda Makes You Gain Weight – Minda Zetlin

Negative Effects of Sugar-Free Carbonated Drinks – Erica Kannall

Thirty Minutes with the Perry’s – Podcast – Preston Perry & Jackie Hill Perry

These Four Phrases Will Make Life Easier for Teachers and Parents This Fall – Laura Milligan

This Dad and Pastor  Has Advice and Calming Words for Overwhelmed Parents – Erika Sanzi

The Nonconformist – Thomas Sowell on Race, Poverty, and Culture – Coleman Hughes

Two of my heroes at Southwood Community Resource Center:

Worship Wednesday – Keep Me in the Moment – Jeremy Camp

Photo Credit: Ramstein AF

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”Romans 12:1-5

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”Ephesians 2:10

“…and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death.”Philippians 3:9-10

The Scriptures give us a clear look at the large life God intends for us. He has set us apart from the world; He has prepared good works for us; He embeds us with His righteousness to faithfully endure whatever confronts us.

Then comes COVID.

Nothing in the character or purposes of God have altered. His children are still called to live in the present in His strength and to extend His love out to those around us.

[Writer Emma Grey Ellis has posted a fascinating article on the lethargy and depression that plagues us in the isolation of COVID. I can’t help but think there is also a spiritual component at work in this disease and in its prevention.]

This Sunday, our pastor Cliff Jordan of Movement Church finished teaching a series on God’s Kingdom Culture – focusing, this time, on the culture of displacement (listen here).

Displacement for us is that we’re not Home yet (Philippians 3:20). Cliff recalled his years playing high school basketball. It was a very high and privileged experience to be part of the Home team (playing in your own town and your own gym). When he was part of the Away team, it was a very different experience – no special treatment, and the team that most folks in the gym hoped would lose.

The church, here in this moment, is the Away team.

Basketball is a great picture of where we are as believers doing life, dealing with COVID.

When our children were in high school, the two oldest played basketball. At that time, our school was often the newcomer and underdog. What we lacked in experience and status, we made up for in enthusiasm, determination, and perseverance.[Seniors on the team of the 2007 boys’ basketball season of George Washington Academy, Casablanca, Morocco. Nathan “Beyond the Guitar” Mills is on the far right.]

We didn’t have a gym, so we were always the Away team.

As in life, especially in COVID life, we didn’t have to bring our “A” game. We had lots of opportunities to excuse ourselves from being all in. Between being “at-risk” or furloughed or parents all of a sudden juggling work and helping children school at home. The above-mentioned fatigue dampens our enthusiasm and stamina. Being truly “in the moment” as believers has become a challenge unlike any we’ve known previously.

It would be easy, again with the basketball analogy, to just wait out COVID and hope for better days, like the Away team might when the score starts mounting on the Home team’s board. Our enthusiasm wanes and our pace slows. We begin to give up before the game is over. And the bench!! What might have been “Put me in, Coach!” turns into thinking being #OfftheBench might not be a great idea. Our minds wander off the Word of God and onto anything else.

I love the tension of the pic below. The tension in those faces. Absorbed in the action on the court. Focused. Leaning forward. Ready at any moment to launch off the bench.Photo Credit: Needpix

Whether we feel benched by COVID or we’re very much in the game, the fact that we are the Away team doesn’t change anything about how God calls us to be engaged with Him and those around us.

Sure, we have to be creative at how to socially distance (for the sake of others and, at times, our own sakes)…but we don’t have to fall for being socially distanced from God’s glorious will for our lives.

Singer songwriter Jeremy Camp song “Keep Me in the Moment” could have been written for this season. The official video points to the beautiful, pulsating tension of lives lived well as God leads us through every situation. Redeeming the time.

Worship with me.
I’ve been thinking ’bout time and where does it go
How can I stop my life from passing me by, I don’t know
I’ve been thinking ’bout family and how it’s going so fast
Will I wake up one morning just wishing that I could go back?
I’ve been thinking ’bout lately, maybe
I can make a change and let you change me
So, with all of my heart this is my prayer
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Keep me in the moment
Oh, keep me in the moment
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (oh)
When I wake up in the morning
Lord, search my heart
Don’t let me stray
I just wanna stay where you are
All I got is one shot, one try
One go around in this beautiful life
Nothing is wasted when everything’s placed in your hands
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Lord keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
I’ve been thinking about heaven
And the promise you hold
So, it’s all eyes on you
Until the day you call me home
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
(I don’t wanna miss, I don’t wanna miss)
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after (oh)
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (yeah)
Keep me in the moment
Oh, keep me in the moment
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Oh, keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)*
By the way…that Away team analogy is only for a few years. Home is also our experience. Home is where we celebrate with our forever Victor…together.

8 Ways to Be Present – Tom Stuart

Why God Wants You to Live in the Moment – Drew Smith

5 Friday Faves – School Re-openings, Restraint, Tiny Harvests, Your Next Job, and Communication During Covid

Happy weekend, y’all! This week was another one of those steep learning curve weeks for me. So much to think about and then to figure out how to apply practically to life. Step by step. My faves of the week follow:

1) School Re-openings – Where we live, the final decisions have come down on this Fall’s school re-openings. Finally, we have the answer. What makes this a Friday Fave for me is that NOW we know what is before us – as parents and friends/family of you parents.

For those parents who need to keep working with small ones at home, it will be a continuing challenge. Our city school system and 2 out of the 3 county systems will have on-line instruction (at least for the first quarter of the school year). Photo Credit: Wallpaper Flare

The 3rd county has choice for the parents to pick either all in-school instruction or all on-line. Nice when parents have a choice. There will be health guidelines (masks, social distancing, etc.), but the risk is there for the in-school option should COVID cases start ramping up within the school population (teachers, staff, students, families).Photo Credit: Pixabay

This has been a hot topic since the start of COVID-19 this Spring. Which is better – in-school instruction or online learning? What is considered safer for the short-term may be detrimental in the long run. Brown University economist Emily Oster‘s article “Parents Can’t Wait Around Forever” supports the data that returning to school may not present a great risk. So many stands on this topic in the U.S…

As Central VA school districts opt for virtual learning, CDC releases guidelines in favor of reopening schools

CDC Sides with Trump, Says Students Need to Go Back to School – Tim Pearce

Texas Officials Offer Schools Option to Hold Online-only Classes Until November – Brooke Seipel

Millions of children forced into labor as COVID-19 creates global hunger crisis: World Vision – Anugrah Kumar

Private schools in our area are opening with in-school instruction. Daycare centers and preschools continue to provide support for little ones, but what do working parents do with their school-aged children? It is a conundrum for many.Photo Credit: Pikrepo

Homeschooling is becoming more the norm – whether it’s parental (or other adult) supervision of students with on-line instruction or the exit from public schools to all-out homeschooling. Fortunately, for parents new to homeschooling, resources abound. Almost to a dizzying level.

Photo Credit: Homeschool Hive, Facebook, Instagram @Lifeographer

What’s happening where you are?

I feel for the parents and children (especially those families most vulnerable – single-parent, poor, non-native-English speaking, etc.). On the flip-side, I can also understand the trepidation school systems trying to provide a safe space for learning on-campus. Getting students back in school as soon as can be well-managed seems best for long-term learning, social and mental (maybe even physical) health, and (unpopular opinion, but essential) for the sake of the economy.

What are your thoughts?

2) Restraint – My husband is an introvert; I am not. He commended my every day early-morning restraint in holding onto my thoughts until he had his first cup of coffee. I’m glad, after all these years, he still notices. Restraint is a good thing. It is defined as “the act of holding something back”.Photo Credit: Flickr, Raphael Love

Restraining ourselves is way different than being restrained or restraining others (in case, that word gives a negative connotation). Our culture these days seems not so into restraint. Social media as well as the streets of our cities are ablaze with the activity of “casting off restraint”.

Some actions and ideologies demand intervention on the part of those most affected and those standing with them. Still, restraint has its place in honoring one another. We are not so far down the path of mean-spirited self-expression and group-think that we can’t change the course of culture. That is my hope anyway.

My voice doesn’t always have to be heard. What we do with our thinking is exponentially more impacting than what we say. Especially if we are tempted to “speak” with bricks and lasers… [I get that it feels like a last-ditch effort in some cases.]

Practicing some measure of restraint gives space to hear others and to treat them with dignity if not yet understanding.

For many in our country, we will speak with our vote in the November elections. For every day, we can use restraint as a demonstration of true caring for those around us, provided the action energized by the restraint is well and rightfully aimed.

The Benefits of Restraint – What Are We Practicing? Greed or Restraint? – Alison Bonds Shapiro

Divine Restraint – Alex M. Knight

A Eulogy for a Friend, a Lament for Our Nation – David French

3) Tiny Harvests – This is the time of summer when we are gathering the harvest of tomatoes and peppers. It’s the time for many of our flowers to pass from previous glory into the magnificent “going to seed”. We have many little visitors in our garden these days. I especially love how the goldfinches harvest the seeds of the coneflowers.Photo Credit: Piqsels

They are joined by all kinds of other little feeders and harvesters. Have a look with me.

4) Your Next Job – In 2015, I read a Jon Acuff book, during a season of huge change. It had a huge impact on my thinking regarding career moves. The book was Do Over. It inspired me to actually do a blog series on the book; it was that good.

Dave and I read the book. On a mini-vacation that summer, we took Acuff’s book along and, together, we did his exercise on using index cards to help us look at our strengths and passions. In the pursuit of either a different career or recognizing our fit for our current one. It was very instructive and affirming. Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, table and indoor

In these days, we have friends who were furloughed because of the COVID-19 impact on the economy. You might find this exercise helpful. Jon Acuff has given us a 14-minute how-to YouTube video. As he guides the viewer through this exercise, he encourages us to think big through our strengths.  “This is the hero’s slow walk from the explosion moment. What’s something you’re good, dare I say amazing, at?” Consider doing this exercise whether you’re looking at a job change or you are just fine with your job. It’s a revealing and elevating experience.

5) Communication During Covid – Communication happens. Badly at times. However, we keep at it. Visits in the yard. Drive-bys. Social media. Email. Video calls. We want and need that touch with others.

We are either more consuming or more creating. Sending or receiving or, hopefully, a combination of the two.

I’m so thankful to those creating content. Podcasts and written media. We may not know these creators, but they resonate with us. Many give us something to consider, even to shake up our thinking.  Others just give us a touch into the lives of others. They draw us in and help us feel our own humanity more. We feel kindred.

Feeling kin is a precious commodity. Like in families, we don’t always agree but we belong with each other. Organizations and individuals who are innovating in this whole area of communication will help us stay engaged with each other.

Please share in Comments about communication innovators in your COVID experience – whether it’s a fairy godmother-type neighbor (we have one of those) or a team of folks who keep communication fresh and interesting – drawing a circle around everyone in the organization.

Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, is a classical guitarist who arranges covers of TV, film, and videogame themes. During COVID, he began a podcast. What?! It’s honestly been a lot of fun listening to him and cohost Jeremiah Dias, both musicians and friends since high school. They talk music, career, family, and pop culture. It has the feel of a comfortable hang-out or a family gathering listening to the young people talk. It draws the listeners close – to Nathan and Jeremiah – and, in a way, to each other.Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar Podcast

I also listen to an array of podcasts under the umbrella of Blogging Heads. In particular, I listen to The Glenn Show. Economist Glenn Loury describes his show as “Glenn Loury invites guests from the worlds of academia, journalism and public affairs to share insights on economic, political and social issues.” It sounds pretty heady, right? It can be but it is so engaging we can all learn from these guys. My favorite episodes are when he and linguistics professor John McWhorter dialog. They are not always in agreement but their respect for each other and their complete focus in the conversation teach us as much about communication as about their subject matter. So good!Photo Credit: YouTube, The Glenn Show

Confession: I consume communication more than I create. However, if anybody out there wants to create communication and wants some ideas, I have some. In the meantime, it’s drivebys, phone calls, and yard visits.

Hope you get some rest in this weekend. Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Mike Pineda, Facebook

Your Kids Aren’t Too Young to Talk About Race – Resource Roundup – Katrina Michie

You remember this day? That first check…and the amount you really brought home (after taxes).

5 Friday Faves – Growing Up with Pixar, Pursuing Unity, Bringing Hope, Agility in Today’s Realities, and Making Music Happen

Happy Weekend! With so many of us either working remotely or with otherwise altered work situations, some rhythms are shifted. One for me is writing. I miss it. Please bear with me…and stay with me…as I carve out time and temperament to write something worth the read. You give me courage.

1) Growing Up with Pixar – Classical guitarist Nathan Mills (of Beyond the Guitar) knows exactly how to take any film song he chooses and draw out every bit of emotion possible. Related to Pixar, he did that previously with medleys of both the happy theme songs and the sad ones. This week, Nathan arranged and performed the heart-wrenching Randy Newman song “When She Loved Me”. You will recognize this song from the film Toy Story 2. It’s the poignant story of Emily and her cowgirl toy Jessie. At first, little girl Emily adores her toy and Jessie feels so loved, through their tireless play. Then…Emily grows up. Jessie ends up in a cardboard box donated to a charity. Many of our children have grown up with Pixar and have had lessons on life reinforced – love, loyalty, friendship, and determination – through these films. Nathan’s sweet rendition of this song will take you back.

Also check out his latest podcast on The Truth About Going Viral.

2) Pursuing Unity – We live in a world torn by division. Whatever our political ideology or religious fervor, we don’t have to just sit by and watch it burn. I am reminded of one who prayed for unity for us. One who died the next day in a world divided.

“May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.”Jesus, John 17:21-23

I want to align myself with those who choose unity…those who keep reasoning together, and refuse to hate, and who are determined to forgive and to find answers and to love no matter what.

Photo Credit: Wallpaper Flare

A veteran officer of the United States Marine Corps and a teaching pastor, Grant Castleberry, wrote exquisitely about pursuing unity. Here’s a bit of his article:

“The New Testament emphasis, over and over again, is that true Christian unity is only built on a right understanding of the gospel. No matter our national allegiance, economic background, political party, or ethnicity, the gospel unites believers in one faith, one ‘body’ (1 Cor 12:12, 17)…The family of God outstrips all our other allegiances and affiliations. This includes our allegiance to a political party or ethnicity. Identity, and therefore unity, in the New Testament is almost always linked to the fact that we have been united to Christ in faith through the gospel…we should be defined by a spirit of love and forgiveness…In our divided culture, unity in the Church will be only nurtured and maintained, using the methods and principles that Jesus and the Apostles have outlined for us in the New Testament…These bodies of believers, from diverse backgrounds and idealogies, will serve as beacons of unity in a divided world.”Grant Castleberry

3) Bringing Hope – What kinds of things have brought you hope in these days? I have experienced and observed so many acts of kindness – simple ones and costly ones. People being creative and hopeful themselves and lavishing it generously on others.

Actor writer John Krasinski is one of those persons. He created this little YouTube channel with the focus on Some Good News (in the face of all the bad). Only eight episodes in total but he celebrated so much in those eight weeks – health care and other essential workers, our beloved sports teams, and the big Spring events that have been disrupted (graduations, proms, weddings, etc) secondary to COVID-19.

John Krasinski Fights Back Tears During Emotional Some Good News Finale – Emily Belfiore

Column: What I’m Glad to Say Goodbye to John Krasinski’s ‘Some Good News’ – Mary McNamara

I guess John Krasinski has some projects coming up because he ended his broadcasts after the eighth episode. Or maybe with the opening up of our countries, we will be making even more good news. Like visits with beloved grandparents after three months of “social distancing”. Now that’s some good news!!!Photo Credit: Facebook, Eryn Cobb

Finally, the most hope-bringing message: “Jesus loves me/you; this I know!”

4) Agility in Today’s Realities – We often think of agility in terms of sports – that ability to change directions quickly, but it’s that and so much more. What does agility mean in life and work?Photo Credit: Gunther Verheyen, Scrum

We hear a lot these days about a “new normal” after we come out of the COVID-19 crisis. Maybe we are better off thinking not new but real – what is real now and how could it change or be changed?

Wisdom is taking what we are learning about this virus and maximize prevention and sound treatment while, at the same time, figure out how to still do life…work…all that matters to us.

Try things. Experiment. Think in teams. Acknowledge the fails. Try something different. Strengthen the successes. Broaden them.

I’m talking very simplistically here, but we have a lot of smart and innovative people out there. Let’s figure out how to be agile in our decision-making.Photo Credit: Facebook, TobyMac

5 Disruptive Leadership Trends that will Rule 2020 – Carey Nieuwhof

The Original 2020 Is History. 7 New Disruptive Church Trends Every Church Leader Should Watch – Carey Nieuwhof [insight beyond churches as well]

5) Making Music Happen – I had an opportunity years ago to direct a Christmas program in a tiny church in New Haven, Ct. It was a magical experience – for me for sure. Then years later, I had another opportunity to produce a fine arts program in a school in Casablanca, Morocco. Again, to bring singers and musicians together to make something beautiful was an incredible experience. Below are two videos of music that we might not have had except for COVID-19.

Also the following are now-famous songs from the film musical The Greatest Showman. They are “in the making” versions and bring us close to what it’s like for the singers to create something musical and joyful for us all. In the middle you’ll find another “virtual ensemble” bringing to life one of those great songs during the social distancing of today.

Bonuses:

Blue Bloods’ Reagan Family Dinner:

MercyMe’s Hurry Up  and Wait

Core Values List: 115 Values That I Filtered on Practicality – Darius Foroux

30 Days in the Shire – Adapted for Use in the Midst of Coronatide – Tea with Tolkien

“And people stayed at home
And read books
And listened
And they rested
And did exercises
And made art and played
And learned new ways of being
And stopped and listened
More deeply
Someone meditated, someone prayed
Someone met their shadow
And people began to think differently
And people healed.
And in the absence of people who
Lived in ignorant ways
Dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
The earth also began to heal
And when the danger ended and
People found themselves
They grieved for the dead
And made new choices
And dreamed of new visions
And created new ways of living
And completely healed the earth
Just as they were healed.”

The above poem was published on March 16, 2020, by writer Catherine O’Meara (aka Kitty O’Meara)

Photo Credit: Facebook, Elaine M. Lechanski

Photo Credit: Facebook; Wonders of Nature, Robert E. Saddler