Category Archives: Community

5 Friday Faves – Red Dead Redemption 2, National Day of Mourning, More Christmas Adverts, Holiday Musical Evenings, and Family Gatherings

Here we go! My 5 favorite finds of this week:

1) Red Dead Redemption 2 – A Western-themed video game, Red Dead Redemption 2, debuted this Fall. The score written by Woody Jackson has a classic feel to it – reminiscent of old western films some of us grew up with. Beyond the Guitar, Nathan Mills‘ classical guitar arrangement of the video game themes does justice to the romance of the Old West featured in the score. Have a listen:

2) National Day of Mourning – For one day, the ugly partisanship in our country fell silent in the shadow of a gracious leader’s life. The 41st US president, George H. W. Bush, died this week. On Wednesday, December 5, 2018, a national day of mourning was called for us to remember him. A two-time vice-president under Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush would only serve one term as President himself. How he will be remembered in history, only time will tell. I remember him as gracious, always gracious. The eulogy for him by his son, 43rd US President George W. Bush, was beautiful and gave the reflection we all needed of a “kinder gentler” man and time in America. May it be so again…Thank you, President Bush.

YouTube Video – Alan Simpson  Eulogy for Preside George H. W. Bush

Bret Baier – George H. W. Bush – a Letter to Live By

3) More Christmas Adverts – I couldn’t resist pointing to a few more Christmas adverts. So sweet and fun. Take time to watch. They will lift your day if you’re having a hard one.

This Hallmark Crown keepsake ornament commercial made me cry:

4) Holiday Musical Evenings – There is nothing like little children, in angel or shepherd garb, singing Christmas songs. We are all proud of them, whether they belong to us or not.Photo Credit: Weldbham, South City Theater

This week marked an annual musical tradition for our family – the VCU Holiday Gala. This evening of rich sacred and secular Christmas songs performed by most all of the current musical groups at VCU is a feast for the ears…and eyes. The students and faculty fancy up nicely. http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Blog-VCU-Holiday-Gala-John-Patykula-2.jpg

I would love to share video of the VCU Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, under the direction of Dr. Terry Austin – best performance ever. Since that’s not possible, you just have to come. For the moment enjoy the versions by the United States Marine Corps Orchestra and André Rieu ‘s Johann Strauss Orchestra. Mark it on your calendar, if you’re local, for next year!

Also if you’re local…there’s still time for more. Here’s one not to miss:

Annual Advent Lessons and Carols – Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

Any of your favorites? Please give a shout-out in the Comments.

5) Family Gatherings – My growing-up family had its times – good and not so good. We have always had strong beliefs, and sometimes even stronger opinions…and we were not shy about them. As the years have gone by, we have gentled the opinions for the sake of relationship. We have lost some precious family members, too, which has made us more conscious of the fragile nature of life and the gracious gift of family. We’re none perfect but we belong together. That’s why we block out time on the calendar, buy the plane tickets, and soak up family in all its craziness. The young adults we’re so proud of, the sweet new babies, the siblings and spouses.

We don’t always get to see everyone (so we will buy more plane tickets)…nor do we get to see all the friends…but the hope of “next time” is something we build on.

Along with the family time is the Christmas festiveness alongside. My sister-in-law goes all out for us, and we welcome her welcome.

How about you? Home for the holidays?

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That’s my five (plus the quick bonuses below). Any of your own you want to share? My hope for you this month is you savor the good in your life and let go of what are lesser things. We can’t get it all done. So…no matter. We can be gentle with ourselves…and each other.

Bonuses:

Henrico Christmas Mother – my favorite local community outreach:

The Birth of Jesus in the New Testament – One Event, Four Narratives – Dr. Corne J. Bekker

Eating Cheese and Butter Every Day Linked to Living Longer – Kashmira Gander

This Holiday Season, $16 Billion Will Be Wasted on Unwanted Gifts – It’s Time for a New Approach – Joshua Becker

Raising Children Near Their Grandparents Is One of the Most Valuable Gifts You Could Ever Give Them – [We didn’t raise our children near their grandparents; so thankful for siblings & siblings-in-law who did. What a blessing for both grandparents and the kids/grandkids.]Photo Credit: Elisabeth Elliot, Facebook

How to Declutter Your Home to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Jimmy Stewart’s Beautiful Short Film on the Nativity (a comment on the YouTube video: “From IMDB: James Stewart approached the scene where Mr. Kreuger talks to the infant Jesus very seriously. Before filming this scene, he told the producer Michael McLean, “I’ve got only one of these in me. Everyone who doesn’t need to be here, get them out. Tell them I want this to go well. I can do other takes, but this will be the right one. There will only be one.” After the scene was finished, McLean asked the cameraman, “Did you get it?” “I hope so,” was the reply, “because I was crying.””)

 

5 Friday Faves – December Song, Christmas Adverts, Food Insecurity, God’s Purposes, and Giving

This week and the month of November has come to a chilly close. December brings in the the season of Advent and the countdown to Christmas. I will do everything possible to slow down time, to savor the month ahead, and to remember, as Thanksgiving already prompted us, all the reasons we have to be grateful. Here are this week’s favorite finds (also revisiting some old precious ones):

1) December Song – This time in 2016, singer Peter Hollens introduced an original Christmas song. It is now one of my favorite songs of the season. How he introduced it was quite creative. He orchestrated a contest for people to do covers for the song and he had the entrants juried by a small hand-picked group of judges. Nathan (Beyond the Guitar) submitted an arrangement, and in the hundreds of contestants, he came in 16th in the hundreds of contestants. Here is the beautiful December Song and Nathan’s arrangement as well.

2) Christmas Adverts – Remember the Hallmark Christmas commercials of years past? Like this one. I am a sucker for sappy Christmas adverts. Tear up like clockwork. Many of the very best commercials come from Europe and other parts of the world. Here are some faves from this year and years past:

[The one below was produced with a pittance of $65 cost. Brilliant.]

3) Food Insecurity – This is the social dilemma of not having adequate access to fresh, healthy food. When marked by geography, the phrase food deserts is also used.Photo Credit: Mary Lide Parker

A simple Facebook post by a friend generated a thought-provoking, rich conversation on this topic.

Photo Credit: Alee Swanner, Facebook

I share the links from that conversation below.

The Root of the Problem – an Interview with Lindsey Haynes-Maslow – Mary Lide Parker

The Role of Local Food Availability in Explaining Obesity Risk Among Young School-aged Children – Helen Lee

School and Residential Neighborhood Food Environment and Diet Among California Youth – Ruopeng An & Roland Sturm

Studies Question the Pairing of Food Deserts and Obesity – Gina Kolata

Should the Concept of a Food Desert By Deserted? – Layla Eplett

Always being aware of those who may need food is important. This time of the year, we are more likely to give to food banks, church food pantries, and other outreach ministries. This is just a beginning place…but it is a beginning. The family below introduced “canstruction” to us, and we do it every Christmas because of them.Photo Credit: Brenda McEwan, Facebook

4) God’s PurposesWisdom Hunters writer Shana Schutte has posted a fascinating list of 12 ideas on the purposes of God. Please take the time to read them. Comment below which ones were the most meaningful to you at this time. Mine were #1, #11, and #12. [For those of you who rarely click on my links – you know who you are – this one is not to miss.]

Photo Credit: Shana Schutte

Look Up, Child – [Speaking to Culture’s Preference to Youthful Leadership – Samuel D. James

To Survive Our High-Speed Society, Cultivate ‘Temporal Bandwidth’ – Alan Jacobs

5) Giving- On a trip to Walmart this week, I heard the Salvation Army bell ringing for the first time this year. Looking for the ringer, I saw the kettle but not the person. Finally saw him. He was an older black man standing away from the kettle, beyond the shadows of the building, to be able to soak up the warmer rays of the afternoon sun. He was very thin, “breath and britches” my mom-in-law would say. Ringing that bell for the sake of others less fortunate. Sure inspired me to give.

This is the season. I love the video below because we are not always open to give of ourselves…sometimes we need a nudge. Thankful for the nudges and the nudgers.

10 Overlooked People You Should Give Gifts to This Christmas

Baptist Global Response – Gift Catalog

That’s it for this week. Have a lovely weekend – this month fills quickly with all sorts of activities and adventures. Choose wisely and leave space for the unexpected. Maybe even a Christmas miracle.

Bonuses

Eight Blue Zone Lessons for Slowing Down – [Disclaimer: One of the 8 is “Do Happy Hour” – I don’t drink (lots of alcoholism among people I love and have loved – figure I’m vulnerable). So for those like me, I’m thinking any sort of afternoon break in the day – teatime, Happy Hour sans alcohol – would also work.]

FAQA – Frequently Asked Questions by Atheists – Six Day Science

Snowman Memories – This pic reminds me of a wonderful Christmas memory when our kids were small and we lived in Tennessee. Our Delaware family would arrive sometime over Christmas Day. Uncle Mark and Aunt Stacie didn’t make it until the evening because of a Christmas snow that blew in and complicated their travel. Almost immediately after they arrived, they took the kids outside and built a huge snowman out of the fresh and sticky snow. The kids named him “Oatmeal”. By morning, with the temperatures rising, he was quickly diminished but that sweet memory remains.Photo Credit: Beth Taylor, Facebook

…and the seed catalogs arrive:

Friday Faves – Black Friday Bonus – Many More Than the Usual Five

Sometimes life just gets busy. Writing and compiling favorite finds, in particular, get pushed to the back burner. Today, I’m just posting all my faves of the past 3 weeks. Choose what looks interesting to you… and leave the rest for another time. Blessings on you all for visiting today.

1) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest Arrangements

2) #Ephesians429Darrell B. Harrison is definitely a voice crying in our cultural wilderness. He is a writer, speaker, podcaster and brings a very different view for our consideration. Earlier this month he proclaimed a day  #Ephesians429. This comes from a Bible verse: No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.Ephesians 4:29 We could use more days when we use our voices for only the good of others, and not ill.

3) Comedian Dustin Nickerson – Comedian and podcaster opened for John Crist on tour earlier this month in Richmond. So good. Clean comedy. Hilarious.

4) First Responders – The California wildfires and those displaced by them are much on our minds these days in America…and in our prayers. So thankful for all the fire-fighters and other first responders – which include local church pastors. Here’s one story.

5) First Snows – One image from a friend – Fall and Winter combined.Photo Credit: Lara Fraser, Facebook

6) Growing Older and Growing Newer at the Same Time – Thought-provoking piece on growing older without wasting that season on just being old. “The benefit of a renewed mind is that it’s the only way to make peace with an aging body.” – Abigail Dodds

Photo Credit: Get Old

7) Holiday Sweetness – With American Thanksgiving just past and Christmas coming, we will be met with many cultural messages that target and touch our hearts. Here’s one:

Also this sweet idea: No Stress, No Fuss Christmas Pageant & Worship Part I

[Please post some of your holiday favorites in the Comments so we can all enjoy.]

8) This Is Us – the Missing Piece – Husband Dave watches little TV. The one show he has watched with me over the last couple of years is This Is Us. There is just about no stone un-turned in this gripping story. Family, death, adoption, infertility, parenting, foster care, obesity, depression, addiction, divorce, marriage, race, job loss, fame…and I could go on. Only thing missing? Religion. Beautiful, beautiful story…except for not one mention of God. Odd, really. Photo Credit: TV Line

9) Lauren Daigle – a rockstar in the contemporary Christmas music arena. Her voice and the songs she writes have touched our hearts.   She now has received national attention with appearances on The Ellen Show and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. You sing, Girl.

10) Madame Guyon – Over my adult life, this 17th century French woman and Catholic mystic, Madame Guyon, found her way into my devotional life. She has influenced many Christian leaders through the years by her writing and her life itself. I discovered her, quoted often in many of the books I’ve read. When a short biography of her came to my attention, this week, she became even more intriguing to me as she lived two very different lives – that of a vain and wealthy young woman and also, in later years, a completely transformed believer in Christ. She spent many years in prison for her faith and still wrote volume after volume which we can still enjoy today.Photo Credit: iPerceptive

Perhaps her own Christian experience is best described in the following words from her own pen:

 “To me remains nor place nor time ;

My country is in every clime ;

I can be calm and free from care

On any shore since God is there.” – J. Gilchrist Lawson, Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians

So…a couple of weeks of faves. Hope after the blast of family and friend fun at Thanksgiving (if you’re American), you can have a day or two to recuperate. For those who hail from elsewhere, the weekend is here…hope you can spend it in joyful ways.

Much love. Please share in Comments what are your favorite finds of late.

Bonuses:

Vacation Books – Every time I pack my bags to go anywhere, books are tossed in. Whether I read them all or not is irrelevant, but books are part of the pleasure of days out of the routine. I was thrilled recently to meet best selling author Grace Greene. She writes books perfect for vacation. Her books are set in the locations we prefer when we have time away. She actually lives right in our same city which I didn’t know until we met. These are two of her books out of many more. One will be my next vacation read…

Jonathan Franzen’s 10 Rules for Novelists – Jonathan Franzen

Melting Pot – The Voices of Melting Pot

There’s Got to Be a Day After [The Midterm Election] – Bill Wilson – Intercessors for America

Thanksgiving Memories – All Good Gifts

2006 -- Nov -- Thanksgiving table

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17

[Adapted from the Archives]

For most of 20 years, we lived in North Africa where a Thanksgiving holiday was a foreign concept. “Eid el Shukr” (“Feast of Thanks” in Arabic) was understood but not a day set aside. We, along with other expat Americans, brought Thanksgiving with us and invited our local friends into the experience. On the surface, American Thanksgiving has pretty much three constant components – food, family, and football.

Back in the States, the old traditions are changing and yet stay sweetly familiar. My Mom, who always laid out an incredible Southern-style feast on the kitchen counter at home in Georgia, is no longer with us. As with some of you, I’m sure, I miss her still every day and how she lavished love on us through these family times together. Our children are grown now and establishing their own traditions with more families and friends added into the mix. Each year, we find ourselves re-working our own traditions as well.

Thanksgiving is again, for us, all about food, family, and football…but there’s also another element…faith… I am grateful every day for the kindnesses of God and those he’s placed in our lives. Celebrating Thanksgiving allows us to put an exclamation point on being grateful. It’s not just about a table full of food, although food is clearly a focal point. Thanksgiving, even as a national holiday and not a religious one, focuses our sight beyond ourselves. There is an object in Thanksgiving beyond ourselves.

Over 30 years ago, a funky little Broadway musical was turned into a film – Godspell. It was an adaptation of the life of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew. At that time, I was in the season of life that young people pass through of searching out what exactly I believed. It wasn’t going well at that time. Praise God, He did not forget me during those days when I had all but forgotten Him. Watching the film Godspell was one of the occasions God used to wake me up. There’s a wonder and delight in the young followers of Jesus in the musical. It reminded me of what I had once with God…and what could be again.

All the songs in the musical Godspell are lovely. Composer and Lyricist, Stephen Schwartz, beautifully captured some of Jesus’ teaching and the depth of love and rightness between Him, His followers, and creation, in general. All Good Gifts, adapted from an old hymn, is one such song and is a pure and proper doxology of praise for Thanksgiving.

Worship with me.  [Here’s the YouTube video from Godspell to give you the melody.]

All Good Gifts*
We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land..
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand..
He sends us snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain…
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain…

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love…

We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seedtime and the harvest, our life our health our food,
No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts
But that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts!

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love..

I really wanna thank you Lord!
All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love..

2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 010Food – Family Favorites in Mom’s Kitchen2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 012 a (2)

Football – on T.V. or out on the street with cousins and friends2010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 204

Family – Time together…savoring every minute2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 015

Happy Thanksgiving…

Oh…just in case Thanksgiving is a struggle…and it isn’t all happy family fun…I pray you take courage and rein in your heart to remember that God sees and loves you. We can be a Thanksgiving blessing to each other…if you’ve read this far…you are a blessing to me. Wish you were at our table…maybe one day you will be. You are definitely welcome at God’s table.

YouTube Video – Take Courage – Kristene DiMarco

*Lyrics and Story Behind the Song – All Good Gifts (Godspell)

YouTube Video – All Good Gifts (Godspell 1990)

YouTube Video Clip – All Good Gifts (Godspell original cast 1973)

Wikipedia article on original hymn/lyric – We Plough the Fields and Scatter (1862)

Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart – Part 3 – Constancy

[Today’s blog is Part 3 of 3 – excerpts from a talk given at an ISBC Women’s Ministry Holiday Dinner with the theme: Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart. See Part 1 – Capacityhere; Part 2 – Caringhere.]

We’re talking about matters of the heart – the kind of character our Godly mothers, grandmothers, and great-aunts demonstrated…that we learned and want to pass onto to our children and grandchildren.

…which takes us to the last character trait to consider…for us in this generation, and for generations forward (when we will be considered vintage…but God isn’t).

Constancy

No matter how old we are, we have people in our lives who are constant. They are those we count on; those who always show up. No. Matter. What. They are faithful to God and faithful to us. Let’s just take a moment to think, even looking around us, at some of those dear women in our lives. Let’s remember those who aren’t with us anymore but who taught us how to be constant in our love and in our lives.

When we lived overseas, we were daily reminded of how only God could work the miracles that must be worked for people to receive the truth of the Gospel. Our neighbors were steeped in a very different worldview. They saw Jesus as a good man but the Saviour. The fact that we desperately need Him to restore us to a holy God was foreign to them.

Every day…every single day…God called us to show up with His love and His word…in those places and for those people. That constancy was tested every day because it would have been so easy just to stop showing up.

One of the verses from God’s Word that kept us going was Galatians 6:9 where Paul encouraged believers, saying, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap a harvest if we do not lose heart.”Photo Credit: Pinterest

God has already promised us that His purposes are not thwarted; He will complete His work; He will finish what He started in us.

God calls us to keep showing up…following His example in our own lives.

This is how we get to “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). By showing up, time after time, with whatever gifts we have. We don’t have to be rockstars of any kind…we have a God who equips us to be exactly what is needed in any situation. Our constancy radiates His greatness. We can count on Him.

A few years back, I discovered a Christian sister, by the name of Kara Tippetts. We never met but she wrote in her blog in such a way it was like receiving a letter from a dear friend. She wrote about her walk with God through a relentless cancer. Over the course of her diagnosis and treatment, she adjusted to a very different life. However, she continued to show up. For her family. For her friends. For all of us who watched for every report of her life and how God met her each step of the way. She modeled showing up…and emboldened those in her life to show up for her…in all that hard.

Photo Credit: Mundane Faithfulness

Just shy of her 40th birthday, she finished her race and went to be with the Lord. Leaving behind 4 sweet children and an adoring husband.

It was both terribly sad and gloriously beautiful.

In the last months of her life, she managed to write three books…three books!!! The last one was a dialog between her and her friend, Jill. By that time, it was all Kara could do to show up, the disease had so done its ill.

This is what she had to say about constancy…even in the hardest of situations…

“If God asks us to do something, then He’s also going to show up to carry us through it. And when we walk in community with one another, we will be kept.”

Photo Credit: Just Show Up, Kara Tippetts & Jill Lynn Buteyn

Completely cared for by God Himself.

He is faithful. His infinite capacity fills our small hearts; His perfect love magnifies the care we offer to others, His steadfastness gives us what we need to be constant.

In His strength and love, we become the women of that adage: “When her feet hit the floor, the Devil says ‘Oh no, she’s up!’” The evil one battles with us to fail…but we will not, with our eyes on God.

From Genesis through the whole of Scripture, we see the word “shield” and that God is our shield. Against any evil. When we take God seriously and put our lives wholly in His hands we become a force to reckon with – whether we’re 14 or 50 or 82. We will experience attacks from the evil one – he doesn’t want us to be successful as Christ’s image-bearers. We may even take friendly fire from other believers. It happens, and sometimes the enemy is us…but God take what was meant for evil and make it for good in our lives. We have His promise.

Photo Credit: FBC Mt. Pleasant

Hear the Word the Lord: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full of armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.Ephesians 6:10-11

 

Brent Curtis, a Biblical counselor and author of a favorite book of mine The Sacred Romance, wrote about how God demonstrates His own constancy when we show up for someone:

“God graciously showed me this several years ago while I was in the midst of an intense, three-year spiritual battle on behalf of a client.

One night, David (not his real name) called me on the phone at three in the morning, in the midst of painful spiritual torment.  We talked and prayed and I began to read from the Psalms.  Finally, I could hear by his deep breathing that he had fallen asleep.  As I lay on my dining room floor…something wonderful and strange took place.

In my heart, I heard a voice say, “Brent, forget about the battle.  You’re here with me now.  Rest.”  I looked up, actually expecting to see God in some way, or perhaps an angel.  What I did see was the light in the room change.  I find myself wanting to say it grew more distinct, almost more personal.  I only know I discovered that my hand was raised in the air in worship.  I didn’t decide to raise it.  I am not, by any means, an expressive person in the charismatic sense of the word.  It was simply as if there was no other appropriate response and my hand acted accordingly.  For several minutes I basked in what I can only describe now as God’s warmth and love toward me.  The epiphany ended with me reading the Twenty-third Psalm and others it seemed the Lord had chosen to assure me that I was not alone in the battle.”

When we live with capacity for Him, caring for others, and constancy in being there, we may, at times, come under attack, but we will never be alone.

The Old Testament prophet Zephaniah reminds us of this: “The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in His love. He will delight in you with singing.”

No matter what your situation…even when you feel God has been “too quiet” in His love…or you have been waiting such a long time for something…God’s love is constant, trust in that, and God is in the waiting, with us, Dear Ones.

[Special thanks for the ISBC Women’s Ministry and the opportunity extended to me to speak at their holiday dinner. The sweet beauty of the Vintage Christmas displays was surpassed by the faces and hearts of the women present. They would make their grandmothers proud. I was unable to get images of all the women so will leave you with a few more images of just some of the tables. Blessings.]

Monday Morning Moment – When You Walk Out of a Meeting, and You Ask Yourself, “What Just Happened?”

Photo Credit: Media.Defense

Have you had that experience? Where you are meeting with your supervisor…either one-on-one or during a team meeting. She is guiding the conversation and asking compelling questions. Then you give your take on something, and it is as if you’re speaking another language. Then you make the judgment that this isn’t the meeting for you to lay out a strategy or viewpoint, so you stay silent. The meeting ends with your boss commending you/everyone in the room on a good outcome…”we got a lot done”.

Hmmmmm…”What just happened?”

I’ll never forget a strategy meeting earlier in my career. Fairly new to the team, I had been faithful to task in learning the processes and applying myself to fitting into the structure rhythms of our work team. When my supervisor called me in to talk about future directions, he asked my input on our marketing strategies. I actually thought he wanted to know what I thought. As we dialogued back and forth about what we were doing and what we could do to strengthen our messaging, I felt like a genuine and valued part of the team. Then my earnestness and enthusiasm must have gone too far. He commended my “good ideas” (a phrase that has come to mean a negative since then) and asked me to draw up a 5-year plan and we’d talk about those ideas again then.

Although he and I remain friends, we no longer work together. I never did that plan. The kind of work we did was so rapid in it evolution and execution that a 5-year plan was clearly irrelevant. It was clearly just a delay tactic for me to take my “good ideas” and tamp them down.

Not bitter…just wiser. So for that I’m thankful.

A meeting…or series of encounters that leave you wondering “what just happened” could relate to many factors. Culture shift, mission drift, power mongering. Any other factors come to mind for you?

I’d like to pose 3 actions that might help in awkward situations like these. They are by no means comprehensive. Just three helps.

1) Take notes in meetings. Put away your phones and other electronic devices. Pen and pad. Not being distracted by anything else will keep you more fully engaged with the conversation at hand. Note-taking is not for everyone, but you’ll be surprised how helpful it will be to refer back to the meeting conversation. Who said what? Where were the good ideas coming from? What were the responses? You can then keep communication going after the meeting in a healthy manner. You have captured the essence of what happened…important information is not lost…whatever happens next (execution of a plan or further planning meetings) potentially have the clarity you missed in today’s meeting.Photo Credit: PxHere

By the way, maybe someone is already tasked with note-taking. It’s for your sake…maybe only your sake. Worth it if you’ve been having head-scratching experiences of late.

2) Refuse to think ill of others. – Whenever possible, keep your thoughts away from negativity. Especially in judging the motives and character of people you work with. When we operate out of a determination to think well of them, communication can have greater clarity. For sure from our side. It’s when we allow our thoughts to go negative that we conversations can go murky.

Photo Credit: Entrepreneur

Now, there are limits to this, and I get that. In fact, we are wise to isolate out those who have shown themselves untrustworthy. Dr. Henry Cloud wrote the book  Necessary Endings which has an excellent chapter on the three kinds of people in the world – wise, foolish, and evil. Cloud explores, with little sentimentality, how we are to act in the company of each. I’m sure we all hope to find ourselves among the wise.

Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward – Henry Cloud

Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Workplace Wisdom – Deb Mills

3) Recognize that “gaslighting” can be operating in a meeting and no, you’re not going crazy. Recognize it; don’t take it personally; deflect; confront the perpetrator. Move on if possible.

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.” – Wikipedia

“Gaslighting is a colloquial term that describes a type of psychological abuse in which the abuser denies the victim’s reality, causing him/her to question him/herself, his/her memory, or his/her perceptions. The term gaslighting is also sometimes used to apply to the use of inflammatory behavior or language that provokes someone to behave in an uncharacteristic way.” – TheGoodTherapy.org Team

Photo Credit: Style Whack

I wrote about gaslighting before here.

Gaslighting for BeginnersGaslighting Techniques to Use at Work – Sarah Cooper

Gaslighting often happens in relationships when one person uses a sometimes subtle manipulation to cause the other to think maybe she/he misunderstood or over-reacted to something the former did or said. In this unhealthy situation repeated over the course of the relationship, the one being “gaslighted” can begin to distrust her/himself and even go as far as to question their sanity.

I have had this experience and it is highly unsettling.

Ironically, gaslighting can be done by a “good guy” who has developed some habits he uses without mean intent. It can happen to all of us…I’m thinking.

Read psychologist Stephanie Sarkis‘ two pieces below. Very helpful.

11 Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship

Are Gaslighters Aware of What They Do? – Stephanie Sarkis

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

You’re Not Going Crazy: 15 Signs You’re a Victim of Gaslighting – Aletheia Luna

The Culture of Any Organization Is Shaped…By the Worst Behavior the Leader Is Willing to Tolerate – Rich Lochner

Gaslighting in the Workplace Part 1 – What Is Gaslighting and Who Does It? – Heather Bowden

Gaslighting in the Workplace Part 2 – Oh no! I’m a Gaslighter! – Heather Bowden

If you got to the end of all this, here is quite a different piece on “What just happened?” – when your boss may be impressed with you without showing it. Enjoy!

12 Signs Your Boss Is Impressed with You, Even Thought It Doesn’t Seem Like It – Aine Cain

5 Friday Faves – A Life that Matters, Factory Tours, Early Morning Habits, Elections, and Making Place

Happy Friday, y’all. How was your week? Mine was a bit different – not bad, or anything like that…but different. More introspective (if you can imagine)…quieter… If yours was more hectic and chaotic, I hope you can take a breath this weekend, re-orient your mind and heart, and refresh with those you love.

Here are five faves for this week:

1) A Life that Matters – Author and thought leader Andy Crouch is one of my go-to guys on how to have impact on a broken world. I read his stuff and then try to see this world through a lens he offers. Photo Credit: Christianity Today

He was guest on a podcast recently that again stirred my heart toward the possibility of making this a flourishing world. A world where everyone has the opportunity to be successful. Jessica Honegger is the podcaster and she is also the founder and CEO of Noonday Collections – a fashion accessory company that partners with artisans all over the world giving them opportunities to flourish through their own work.Photo Credit: Medium, Erika Ashley

On the podcast (so worth your time), Jessica talks about how cushioned we are by the bubble wrap we pull tightly around our lives. In ripping off the bubble wrap, we can discover something of a life that matters. Andy Crouch talks about a life of pilgrimage as a way to rid ourselves of the bubble wrap:

“I try to just constantly be planning to be in places that are going to be difficult for me, that I’m not going to have a lot of competence, I’m not necessarily going to have a lot to offer, but I have a lot to learn, and I trust that…I mean, for me as a Christian, that God is there in those places, in some way is willing to meet me in those places in a way that…I suppose God is willing to meet me every day, but that I’ll never find out about unless I take those journeys. So, that’s just a habit of my life now.”

[Pilgrimage is a good place to start, and I’ve begun ever so gingerly to make that a habit. Just yesterday I discovered an Islamic Center just 2 miles from my house…just scratching the surface of knowing my part of town.]

As these two talked through the podcast, they continued to focus on lives that matter…that make a difference. Issues like bias toward action, overcoming paralyzing fear, seeing that we are all creatives (made in the image of God), and that competitiveness is a diminisher of others.

“What do I most want? It’s to know that my life mattered, it’s to know that I participated in creating something very good, that I was ultimately who I was created to be. That is the reward, and nothing else. There’s nothing else on offer, actually, than God saying, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ at the end of our lives.” – Andy Crouch

“If I Could Inspire Any Movement, It Would Be a Going Scared Movement” with Jessica Honegger – Yitzi Weiner

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

Imperfect Courage: Live a Life of Purpose by Leaving Comfort and Going Scared – Jessica Honegger

Worship Wednesday – Up and to the Right with Andy Crouch – Deb Mills

2) Factory Tours– Don’t you wonder how things are made? When I would take trips home to see my folks, we would pass by a food company ( Suzanna’s Kitchen) where the fragrance outside matched their slogan: “the cooking that takes you home”. I always wondered how you could make large quantities of food well – to be packaged and sold in grocery stores and served in restaurants.

That would make a great factory tour.

This week I had a blast from the past when a friend posted the picture below of another local favorite: Edwards Baking Company.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Marc Merlin

When I was in college, we would pass by this factory, knowing how great the pies were, and wonder what it was like inside.

Something I want to do is take my grandchildren on a few factory tours while there are still people managing most of the manufacturing. Artificial intelligence is a great thing, worthy of a look-see as well, but I’d like the grands to see actual people making all things good for us…

Fun of Factory Visit Is Off the Pie Chart – John Kessler

29 Free Factory Tours Worth Checking Out – Erin Huffstetler

3) Early Mornings – Habits of early morning are intriguing and encouraging to me (helps to be a morning person, for sure). I’ve written before about  Ben Slater’s very doable routine (from his piece 5 Simple Daily Habits That Lead to Ultimate Success). Mind you, his daily habits aren’t all early morning but they are set on a foundation of starting early. They are:

  1. Wake up early.
  2. Exercise regularly.
  3. Focus, don’t multitask.
  4. Learn from mistakes.
  5. Make personal investments.

A friend of mine, as she and her husband discover new rhythms with an empty nest, has leaned into early morning rituals. Life-giving and mind-setting habits that help to order her thinking and actions through the day. Her habits are encouraging me in my own.Photo Credit: Kathryn Visneski

In thinking about this, I came across a piece by Carey Nieuwhof which gives perspective. The habits themselves can bring on bragging rights and, with time, turn into just talk and less walk. It’s good to remember not to beat up on ourselves when we don’t start the day thusly, but take each day as a gift to begin again. Wisdom:

“In an age where most people seem to be accelerating their talk more than they’re accelerating their walk, one of the best things you can do to increase your integrity is to humble your talk and accelerate your walk.
If you simply make your talk match your walk, the gap between who you are and who you want to be becomes smaller almost instantly.”Carey Nieuwhof

[I’ve written a lot about habits – see below – mostly because of preaching to myself. :)]

Monday Morning Moment – Notes on Chris Bailey’s Life of Productivity – DebMillsWriter

Monday Morning Moment – Make Your Bed Every Morning and Be Ready to Change the World – DebMillsWriter

Monday Morning Moment – Screen Time – Give It a Rest – DebMillsWriter

Monday Morning Moment – Understanding True Habit Change and Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions – DebMillsWriter

4) Elections – We are days away from the US mid-term elections. I will be so glad when it’s done and settled and the American people have spoken. We are divided on issues, for sure. The politics of US elections aren’t anything to be proud of. Munch of the money that goes into campaigns could so be used in better ways. Too bad I didn’t save the many sleek political postcards we’ve received over the last weeks. They would have made a great pile, worthy of a fire on a cold Fall night. We are almost to election day, and the people will have their say.

I don’t usually point to political articles or interviews, out of respect to you and a desire to remain peaceable. We all have strong opinions most probably and they are better served with face-to-face dialogue. However…here goes. This week a podcast (like above) popped up on my social media feed, involving two people I didn’t know. Classical liberal Dave Rubin and libertarian Andrew Klavan.

Whatever your views, this interview meant a lot to me because it came from two persons who didn’t agree on everything but who were wholly committed to civility, dialog, and learning from each other.

My politics have shifted wildly as I’ve gotten older. I resonated with Andrew Klavan who commented: “I’m a conservative because I’m a liberal.” Pretty much sums it up for me today…awkward and uncomfortable as it is…

YouTube Video – Andrew Klavan and Dave Rubin: Left vs Right, Trump, and the Dishonest Media (Full Interview)

The A to Z of the Mid-terms – Sandra Rodriguez Chillida and Roland Hughes

5) Making Place – This is a new term for me. “Making space” is something that has been part of my chosen lifestyle for years – “making space at the table”, ” being inclusive”, “giving way”. Making place however is something much deeper.

Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community. Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value. – Project for Public Spaces

Photo Credit: Project for Public Spaces

Our city, Richmond, Virginia, has much for us to see in terms of murals, green spaces, and neighborhoods. I’m not sure how much of the placemaking has been done by those most impacted by it. It surprised me to find out that the many murals painted on the peeling walls of city building were done by outside artists. They are an art display of sorts around the city, but they don’t really seem to make place for those of us who live here.

What if we ourselves took ownership in “making place” in our neighborhoods? What would we want to add to make our own home places more welcoming, more of who we are and what we want for our children?

Photo Credit: Place/Making

Photo Credit: Urban Bio

What Is Placemaking?

There you go…would love your comments…but mostly, would love you to just pull away and be with those you love, making place together.

Bonuses:

Stranger Things Meets Classical Guitar – Beyond the Guitar – Fits this week:

Daily blogging – not there yet. Oh, I’ve written over 600 blogs but not one every day. This Seth Godin article gives me hope:

The first 1,000 are the most difficult

5 Friday Faves – Nicest Place in America, Combating Anxiety, Accountability Partners, Christmas Shopping, and Heart-thrilling Music

A rainy Friday here. Fall has definitely come to our part of the world. The folks who seem to know tell us we won’t be seeing a lot of color, with leaves just turning brown before they fall…oh well. I will capture what I can and share with you.

Here are my Friday Faves:

1) Nicest Place in America – On one of the morning TV shows this week, the winner of a national contest was announced. It was Reader’s Digest Nicest Place in America. Now, if we were asked what we considered “the nicest place in America”, there would probably be a myriad of answers. This year’s winner of the contest was Yassin’s Falafel House in Knoxville, Tennessee.Photo Credit: Square

Tennessee Falafel Shop Named Readers Digest Nicest Place – Good Morning America

Yassin is a Syrian refugee who loves people and loves America. He also has both the gift of Syrian hospitality and Syrian food sense. Next time, I’m in Knoxville, I will be eating there for sure.Photo Credit: Yassin’s Falafel House

This year Richmond, Virginia had its first Egyptian Food Festival. I would love to see a falafel restaurant in Richmond. So…if we don’t have Syrians like Yassin in Richmond, maybe we have some Egyptians with the same knack for good business. I sure hope so.

[What would you say is the nicest place in America? Comment below.]

2) Combating Anxiety – It’s such a crippling experience…anxiety. I’ve written about it before – here and here. Counsel helps – from professionals and as well as those who have figured how to pull themselves out of crippling anxiety. Here is a piece I found helpful.

Eleven scriptures to combat anxiety

What have you found to be helpful when anxiety creeps in?

3) Accountability Partners – Accountability can be uncomfortable…too much push. However when you find yourself in accountability partnerships where everyone wants the same thing and are all figuring it out together…that’s the best.

I recently met two women who without their knowing have become strong influences in my life…accountability partners in a way because they inspire me to move out of my comfort zone on to meaningful action.

Shelby Brown with Mission From the Heart and Wendy McCaig with Embrace Richmond, author of From the Sanctuary to the Streets, are those two women. I am thankful for their lives and their example.

Two friends have also become accountability partners. Together, we did a 6-week course on justice. Arise – a Study on God’s Heart for Justice. Now we’re done, but not really. In a month, we will gather again to see how it is going in applying our new knowledge and greater awareness to some real life situations. Accountability in its most fundamental application is the “ability” to “account” for…filling in the blank for whatever is at stake. I’m grateful for the partnership we have because it takes the passion already present and turns up the heat to move passion to action.

What God does in guiding us to opportunities to “do justice” is something I strongly anticipate…for myself and all of us.

5 Steps to an Effective Accountability  Partnership, and 2 Things to Never Do – Marissa Levin

4) Christmas Shopping – It’s still weeks away from Christmas, but some of you are already out there checking off your lists. You are my heroes. As I’ve gotten older and with the changes in our culture, Christmas shopping has become tricky. We all want to give those we love something special for Christmas, but it isn’t easy. Now with our more minimalist younger generation, challenges abound. Fortunately, we are getting help through online lists (like the ones below). Many families want experiences for their children more than toys. We have gone the route of a small toy and then money toward college. These lists help guide conversations and then buying. What would you add?Photo Credit: Lena @WhatMommyDoes

50 Non-Toy Gifts For Every Age – Becky Mansfield

5) Heart-thrilling Music– Our whole family are music enthusiasts. With a son who is a professional classical guitarist, we are beyond blessed with rich beautiful music on a regular basis. I love choral music as well, and although I’ve tried to get Nathan to sing on some of his pieces, it hasn’t happened…yet.

Below you will find two very different choral artists who have given us heart-thrilling performances.

Pink (with her tiny daughter) and Ken Medema.

Enjoy!

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Have a sweet weekend. Be gentle to those around you…and to yourself. Good memories are to be made…right in front of you.

Bonuses:

Pastor John Piper’s Favorite Bible VersePhoto Credit: ScriptureMe

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? A Memoir – Roz Chast (a hilarious and poignant book with incredible illustrations on the subject of aging)

Love Chast’s illustration below – one of many from her book (my kids all the time tell me, “Mom, don’t run!”)

30-Day Declutter Challenge – Becky Mansfield

Photo Credit: Facebook, The Light FM

Artist: Jan Priddy

Worship Wednesday – Yearn – Shane & Shane

[Adapted from the Archives]

“…so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being.”Acts 17:27-28a

Yearn is a word that has too long been neglected. Owned by sonnet-writers and dreamers, this could well-describe God-worshipers. I remember a time when I rediscovered the meaning of that word. It was during a lazy evening with friends. One is a Chinese student ravenous to master English vocabulary. We were looking in one of my textbooks and a list of feelings/emotions caught her attention. Many of the words were familiar to her from conversations with American friends, but one stood out unknown and, for us native English speakers, hard to describe: yearning.

As we were trying to describe it, her nearest friend in our group  pulled up a song on YouTube. It is “Yearn” by Shane & Shane.

Worship with me…

Holy design; This place in time

That I might seek and find my God, my God

Chorus – Lord, I want to yearn for You; I want to burn with passion over You And only You

Lord, I want to yearn for You; I want to burn with passion over You; And only You Lord, I want to yearn

Your joy is mine, yet why am I fine

With all my singing and bringing grain in light of Him

Oh, You give life and breath; in You we live and move. That’s why I sing

[2004 River Oaks Music Company/True Bliss Music/Waiting Room Music/BMI (adm. by EMI CMG Publishing)]

When you go to bed at night, do you ever struggle to get your mind quiet enough to sleep? Do your longings push through such that until you pray them out you can’t sleep? That’s how I feel from time to time. I long to know God’s purpose for these days in my life…I long to be closer to my children…I long for some of my friends and family to know Jesus…I long for….so many things. And sleep finally comes.

Some mornings the ache of those same longings wake with me. Then in the quiet,  with my coffee and the Word, a yearning for God Himself settles those other longings into their proper place.

“Father, I cry out to You. Let me rest in Your arms, that the world might not press in so, disturbing the peace. You only are the One who completely satisfies – otherwise we lean toward wanting more and more of something less. God, bring me to a place where obeying and following You is all I want. My soul gets tormented by things that are undone or not yet – relationships that aren’t where I’d like them to be; responsibilities that seem beyond my abilities; God, draw me to Yourself. Help me to be where You want me to be, and then everything else will be, at least, ordered rightly. Father, I lay down these longings – these relationships; these responsibilities – and lift my face toward Yours, yearning only for You right now. I love You, Lord. Teach me to love You more. In Jesus. Amen.”

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:29

Story Behind Yearn

Shane & Shane Singing Yearn (YouTube)

Chords

How to Become a Follower of Jesus

Monday Morning Moment – Your Company’s Secret Change Agents – with Richard T. Pascale, Jerry Sternin, and Chinese Philosopher Lao Tse

Photo Credit: Waggl

We have all encountered people in life who are bright stars in our universe. They aren’t necessarily those who climb the corporate ladder or win public office. However, in their own niche, in their own small place in a company or community, they are brilliant change agents, people making a difference and moving us to a better situation. Just by showing up.

[Please take the time to share in Comments your experience of such a person – either at work or in your family or friend space.

Organizational change is usually driven from top-down planning and execution. Occasionally, those changes are not received well by the company employees or organizational members. Ownership doesn’t follow and at some point the change fizzles into something altogether different.

Wouldn’t it be wisdom to create successful and sustainable change? What is missing from typical change orchestration? Is change planned in the isolation of the executive conference room or in the company of those most impacted by the change.

Business authors and educators Richard T. Pascale and Jerry Sternin wrote several years ago about the very environment where positive and impactful change takes place. Their piece is titled Your Company’s Secret Change Agents and was introduced to me by a friend in a huge time of change himself. I wondered if his own situation resonated with this piece.

Pascale and Sternin write about the power of positive deviance. it is defined below.

Photo Credit: Slideshare

Positive Deviance is based on the observation that in every community there are certain individuals or groups whose uncommon behaviors and strategies enable them to find better solutions to problems than their peers, while having access to the same resources and facing similar or worse challenges.

Five basic steps serve as the backbone of the approach. The 5 D’s are:

  1. Define the problem, its causes and common practices, and articulate desired outcome.
  2. Determine presence of PDs,
  3. Discover their uncommon but successful behaviors & strategies through PD inquiries,
  4. Develop activities based on the inquiry findings
  5. Discern (monitor and evaluate) the results. – Positive Deviance Initiative

The Power of Positive Deviance – How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems – Richard Pascale, Jerry & Monique Sternin (Slideshare produced by Melih Arat)

Your Company’s Secret Change Agents – Richard T. Pascale and Jerry Sternin

The Power of Positive Deviancy – Jerry Sternin and Robert Choo

What Pascale and Sternin discovered was the essential component to change embraced by those impacted was the work done to find and learn from those “positive defiants” in the particular community. The practice of PD inquiry sorts out who those persons are and then discovers what they are doing well that others within the workplace or community aren’t. It’s not a judgment as much as a fact-finding mission.

“It’s easier to ACT your way into a new way of THINKING, than to THINK your way into a new way of ACTING”. – Pascale and Sternin

Too often we think our own personal expertise (knowledge) can move us and others to a changed attitude which would then impact practice. For sustainable change to take place (as in habit formation), we figure out what effective practice is and as we begin doing it, then our attitude changes and our knowledge grows. What are your thoughts about this?

The authors quote 6th century Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu in simply and eloquently describing this process:

Learn from the people

Plan with the people

Begin with what they have

Build on what they know

Of the best leaders

When the task is accomplished

The people all remark

We have done it ourselves

Photo Credit: Brilliant Ink

I love when worlds converge giving greater import to what is happening. In recent weeks, I’ve been taking a course with Wendy McCaig, executive director of Embrace Richmond, instructing. The topic is Asset-based Community Development – (ABCD). It is very similar to positive deviance in setting out toward change.

ABCD is community and relationship driven. It’s not a more resourced agent coming in and trying to fix the problems of a workplace, organization, or neighborhood. It is a “working with process”. Like the PD inquiry, ABCD uses a methodology focused on listening – to individuals and to communities. These listening conversations are geared toward finding the positive deviants within that community…and seeking out their practices, attitudes, and particular knowledge.

What Is Asset-based Community Development? – Graeme Stuart

Something I ask friends and former colleagues (free-lancing as I am now) often, especially when they are struggling with a top-down decision- and change-making structure is “Who is thriving in your situation?” “What are they doing to thrive?” “What are you doing to add to or contribute to the health of your organization?”

Too often, we get tunnel vision regarding change; thinking we have no other option but to respond…or react. Like Pascale, Sternin, Lao Tse, and also Wendy McCaig…I know and believe in those secret change agents. If you don’t know any, search them out.

Or…become one.

Both/and really. Search them out AND become one as well.

[Do your bosses, your organizational leads, and yourselves a big favor…introduce them to your company’s secret change agents…those positive deviants in your lives.]