Category Archives: Community

Monday Morning Moment – Life

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Life…it’s precious. It’s what we know. We depend on it. We think it lasts forever. Here. In our best health. Surrounded by our people.

The thing is, what we also come to know is life’s brevity. The Bible calls it “a vapor, a mist, a breath, a passing breeze.” Yet, life is also described as something beyond our finite understanding – beyond our wildest imaginings – in its possibilities, its purposes. It stretches across into eternity. Nothing is wasted. All of life is meant to be lived fully – the great good of it along with the sudden sorrows.

Life – Bible Study Tools [short article; worth the read]

America was rocked this weekend by the helicopter crash that killed athlete and philanthropist Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi, two of her basketball team friends, parents, coach, and the pilot. One very famous person but also eight others who all leave families and friends grieving their instant deaths. Life is precious.

Then here in Richmond, a man in his early 40s in a near neighborhood also died this weekend. He was crossing a busy street at night, on his way back home from a store, and was hit by a car. It was fatal. This man had, months ago, left his friends and work in another state and came here to care for his grandparents, in their 90s and frail in health. Like the nine people above, this man also died suddenly. Leaving behind those who will grieve him, too.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Robert Kuykendall

I contrast these two because in life and in death, we matter, whatever our circumstance. To each other and to God. Our lives matter…and when death interrupts…it affects us…even when it happens to strangers.

Today, a friend of ours is undergoing surgery for cancer. For several hours he will be in the operating room, surrounded by an excellent surgeon and staff specialized in his particular kind of surgery. Family and friends wait outside…praying. We are all praying. He is young and we are praying for him to do extraordinarily well.

As you read this, your own stories may come to mind. People who make life what it is for you. By faith, trusting in God for good outcomes. These are the kinds of stories and situations that give us pause and move us toward gratitude for this life.

Our wee grandchildren live near us. It is a joy to see them often. Their take on life is much simpler than ours as their adults. Their joys are simple, too – time with their people, a favorite toy, snacks they get to choose, a hug and kiss for comfort, a new discovery, any cause for laughter.

They don’t understand death…but neither do we, really.

I’m re-learning from these grandchildren to squeeze all the goodness to be had out of this life. Being older and understanding that death comes, I also get to look forward to what comes after… life forever with a God who is good and who is love, and with all those who went before us.

Choosing life…here and there.

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, Good Housekeeping

5 Friday Faves – Storytelling, Just Mercy, Productivity Hacks, Birthdays, and the Impact of Our Lifestyles on Our Brains

What a week! A gun rights rally on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Roe v. Wade anniversary commemorated by a March for Life and name change (Sanctity of Human Life Day). An impeachment trial. All of this matters. All of it. We have to stop the hatred, the contempt, the division and start listening to each other…and apply ourselves to real and lasting solutions to our nation’s struggles.

1) Storytelling – We all love a good story, right? In our throw-away culture, stories take up very little room and hold incredible information and insight for us to consider.

Thanks to the Richmond Forum, we were able to hear great stories through three story-telling platforms and their pioneering founders. Dave Isay of StoryCorps. Catherine Burns of The Moth. Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York. Just amazing to hear the stories…

Photo Credit: Richmond Forum

Here are some samples of the stories found on each platform:

StoryCorps – Danny & Annie

The Moth – Anthony Griffith – The best of times; the worst of times. [Be prepared – this story will break your heart.]

Humans of New York – Brandon Stanton’s platform is pictures/videos and interviews of random people on the streets of New York (and now other places in the world). Below is one:

2) Just Mercy – On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Dave and I went to see the film Just Mercy, from the book of the same title.

Photo Credit: IMDB; Barnes & Noble

The author of the book, attorney Bryan Stevenson, is the founder of Equal Justice Initiative. He has worked for over 30 years on behalf of wrongfully accused, minors with harsh sentences, and those incarcerated with disabilities/mental illness.

Don’t miss this film, this book, or this man. I feel so fortunate that we will be hearing him speak at The Richmond Forum next month.

TED Talk – “We Need to Talk About Injustice” – Bryan Stevenson

3) Productivity Hacks – Redeeming the precious commodity of time and adding value are two things we all want to do at work and in life. There’s tons written on productivity including in my own blog.

Photo Credit: Andrea Lane, Redbooth

This week, Rockwood’s piece sparked my interest as did Andrea Lane’s on the same topic. See links below.

What’s Your Productivity Style? How 4 Personalities Can Get More Done – Kate Rockwood

How to Discover Your Personal Productivity Style – Andrea Lane

They talked about 4 personality styles bring different strengths to the work table, and how to optimize the strengths of these folks.

  1. The “Prioritizer” – analytical and competitive
  2. The “Planner” – detail-oriented and deadline-motivated
  3. The “Arranger” – facilitating and communicative
  4. The “Visualizer” – risk-taking and big-picture thinking

These cryptic descriptions may be all you need to find yourself identified, but read these authors’ hacks on how to best work your magic and help others on your team to do/be their best as well.

I am kind of a blend of an arranger and visualizer. Thankful for you prioritizers and planners in my work life that help us keep on task in bringing ideas and plans to execution.

Postscript: Business consultant Cameron Herold has written a book on how incompetent we are at running meetings – Meetings Suck: Turning One of the Most Loathed Elements of Business Into One of the Most Valuable. He coaches on how to successfully manage meetings. He also advises on how to maximize the effort and experience of each of the personalities in attendance – those different productivity types. [Note: read this piece on how he defines the personalities – somewhat differently from the authors above.]

Understanding Personality Types for Productivity – Slideshare – Tom Fox

4) Birthdays – It was my birthday week along with a lot of yours. There’s more and more of a push to make birthdays count for something. In my community, children have fewer parties with scores of friends and presents. The trend is toward experiences over presents which is also cool. For adults, often we are given the opportunity to donate to a cause dear to our birthday friends’ hearts. For me, the best celebration is just being with those I love – family and friends – and to stretch the birthday train as far as I can get away with. This year it was a birthday week… Next year with the turn of a big decade, I might take it to a month. Be prepared. [Thanks for the flowers and sweet cards from those too far to get together. You know how much I love words.] How are you with birthdays these days? Yay or not so much? Well, happy birthday, to you, too…out there, whenever it is.

5) The Impact of Our Lifestyles on our Brains – OK, so you just saw some of the birthday sweets we enjoyed… A sugar detox is always a good idea – for a month, a season, or a lifetime.

Below you will find two articles that were super compelling to me this week. One on the ill effect of unrestrained sugar intake – especially on our brain and mental health.

A neuroscientist explains the shocking impact too much sugar has on the brain

The second article describes 7 habits or lifestyles most damaging to the brain. Definitely something to consider before the longterm impact takes hold.

7 Habits/Lifestyles Most Damaging to the Brain

  • Inflammation – multiple factors cause inflammation – here’s a source for intervention – especially with diet.
  • Overfeeding
  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Toxic exposure – a list of brain toxins
  • Chronic stress
  • Physical stagnation – Exercise may be the single most important intervention on our brain and mental health.
  • Sleep loss

7 Modern Lifestyle Habits Doing the Most Damage to Your Brain

Thanks for reading. This, my Friday Faves, on a Monday. Some weeks are challenging to post on time. Have a great week!

Bonuses:

The Pain of Suicide – Clay Smith

A 2020 Guide to Rabbit Room Content

Monday Morning Moment – the Culture of Contempt and How to Change It…or At Least Yourself Within It

Photo Credit: Paul Ekman Group

Today is Martin Luther King Day. It’s also my birthday, but that’s not today’s subject. In Richmond, Virginia, today a gun rights rally is scheduled because of new gun control laws slated to be passed in our state. Thousands are expected to attend. Some argue that having such a rally on Martin Luther King Day is morally wrong. The political divide on the issue of guns in our country is as wide as it’s ever been.

Later today, Dave and I will see the film Just Mercy, based on Bryan Stevenson‘s book of the same title.  The film tells the story of one of the cases attorney Stevenson fought and won for the release of an innocent man from death row. It speaks to the hatred and contempt found in culture, along racial lines, but also along the lines of class, authority, and privilege.

Our country…America…”one nation under God” a phrase still in our pledge (for now)…is woefully divided. With our presidential election looming later this year, we are sturdying ourselves to withstand the character assassinations of one political party for the other…Either trying to determine truth from falsehood and where we can stand. No matter what side politically we lean, we find it awkward and uncomfortable because of the behavior of those on our side and their contempt for the other.

“Contempt is the deadliest form of relationship cancer. So says John Gottman…[he] defines contempt as trying to speak from a higher level while attempting to push another down to a lower level. Contempt – closely related to disgust – is all about hierarchy and wielding elitist power to hatefully exclude another from the community.”Robert E. Hall

Is there any way forward in this culture of contempt? I believe there is. In fact, many are writing and speaking from their different platforms on how that might look…and how we might engage with one another.

Author and social scientist Arthur C. Brooks is one of the voices in this crucial conversation. His book Love Your Enemies speaks to a way we can counter contempt in our own character and culture. 

“We don’t have an anger problem in American politics. We have a contempt problem. . . . If you listen to how people talk to each other in political life today, you notice it is with pure contempt. When somebody around you treats you with contempt, you never quite forget it. So if we want to solve the problem of polarization today, we have to solve the contempt problem.” – Arthur Brooks, Love Your Enemies

I experience contempt – not personally as much as from the social media broadcasting again “people like me”. If people who would have contempt for people “like me” really knew how deeply I feel about some of today’s issues, the contempt register would get personal.

From reading, listening to others, and trying to understand how to even be a healthy, engaged part of our culture…these 5 actions items are what I subscribe to:

1) Determine to stay engaged with those “on the other side”. Now I understand how we come to the point of needing to block others’ opinions in our lives (social media or social distancing in real life). However, I don’t think that gets us anywhere positive. [This is not to say a person must stay in an abusive relationship. Exit for safety’s sake, but bear in mind, healing requires more than exiting.] Exiting relationships out of contempt means the opportunity to move forward is gone…with that person and future “like” persons. We are practicing an exit clause that can become habitual across wider life experience. Arthur Brooks has much to say on this. Simply, “Just because you disagree with something doesn’t mean it’s hate speech or the person saying it is a deviant.” 

2) Listen.Listening Is an Act of Love. Too often we listen to respond, right? What if we listened just to know the other person? Just to show love and to communicate, “You are being heard. You are seen. You have value.” StoryCorps is even launching a venture giving opportunity for people who have polarized views and relationships to sit face-to-face and explore their differences and what they are about. Check out One Small Step.

3) Love your enemies. Jesus spoke these words to those who would follow him. Evangelicals have gotten a bad rap in our country these days, and maybe some of it is deserved… but if they are true followers of Jesus, they are not your enemy. A bold statement, but true if Jesus’ teaching is paramount to their lives. As for those politically polarized from each other…the far right and the far left… what if we truly tried to love them, to show them respect, to not make sweeping judgments on who they are as people? What if…

4) Pray. A huge way to deal with contempt is to pray for the individual (or group) for whom you feel it. Not to pray that she/he/they fail, but to pray for wisdom, to pray for excellent counsel in their lives, to pray for understanding. Prayer, in the very act of doing it, can change our hearts toward other people. Talking, talking, talking about people for whom we battle contempt…with those who feel the same as we do just fuels our contempt. Unless we are committed to pray and have our understanding of them seasoned with the love of God. Our stand on issues aren’t the issue. It’s our opinion of other people, not the issues, that can change our culture.

5) Take action with hope and good faith. Lean in. Forgive…every single time. [Not easy, nor will it be for someone who questions my heart or take on things.] Work toward listening opportunities with those we may oppose or who oppose us. Find ways in our workplaces, churches/etc, communities to join with others, maybe not like us, to learn, grow, gain understanding, in hopes of making substantive change for our world.

“Push opportunity to the people who need it the most.”Arthur Brooks

Even as I write this, there’s this creeping sense that those reading might think “She has really lost it now”. The thing is, I have always believed that “together we can make things better”. Nothing original here. This cultural calamity of contempt has gotten so big that even people I might not align with agree something has to change…and I am with them.

Sick and Tired of the Culture of Contempt? Here Are 5 Ways You Can Subvert It – Arthur Brooks

Take One Small Step with StoryCorps

What Is Contempt? – Paul Ekman Group

Saving America From Our Culture of Contempt – Arthur Brooks Lecture, UVA – Miller Center (Video)

The Pursuit – A Better World For All Starting at the Margins – Arthur Brooks Documentary

YouTube – Arthur Brooks on the Eric Metaxas Show

To Change Our ‘Culture of Contempt’, Arthur Brooks Suggests All of Us  ‘Love Your Enemies – Helen Raleigh

How You Can Subvert Our Pervasive Culture of Contempt – Leroy Seat

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar Loveliness, Spoiling Our Children, Answered Prayer, the Gentling Nature of Christmas, and a Bunch of Great Reads

Happy New Year! With travel and a family illness, I have been more out-of-pocket than usual. It will show in my Friday Faves. Some of them are carry-overs from previous weeks but not to be missed. Hope your New Year is off to a grand start.

1) Classical Guitar Loveliness – Since it’s been a bit, this Friday Faves includes 3 videos by Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar. Enjoy!

  • The Witcher 3: The Slopes Of The Blessure – composed by Piotr Musial.  Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

  • Netflix “The Witcher”: Toss A Coin To Your Witcher – composed by Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli. Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

  • FRIENDS – “I’ll Be There For You” – composed by The Rembrandts. Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

2) Spoiling our Children – What does that even mean really? We all want the best for our children…at least we want to want it, for sure.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Wikimedia

As parents we have many layers of responsibilities plus we are faced with our own inadequacies and outright fatigue. How do we keep from disadvantaging our children by our parenting? Everyone has an opinion – some more educated and well-thought-out than others. Here are two:

The Silent Tragedy Affecting Today’s Children – Victoria Prooday – Prooday is an occupational therapist and educator on parenting all-round healthy children. This article sets up her premise that parents are the most instrumental in providing their children with the foundation for growing up resilient. Her bullet points are easily accomplished in most situations: technology-free meals, chore assignments, time outside, training children in emotions, and teaching them manners are just some of what she advises. Read and consider the other of Prooday’s points. Being invested and emotionally connected ourselves to our children is crucial.

Do You Agree With This Viral Post About the “Silent Tragedy” of Spoiled Children? – Jessica Suss – English teacher, writer Suss sounds a cautious rebuttal to Prooday’s article. She agreed with much of what she prescribed, but she objected to the tone of the “Silent Tragedy” piece. Suss argues that Prooday was talking to wealthier parents rather than those who might not have the means to carry out all her prescriptions. “Healthy food at every meal is a great goal, so long as you can afford it. But when more than 100 million people in America are food insecure, getting anything on the table is a better goal. Playing outside is also great, but if you live in the city or in an area that’s unsafe (as many lower-income families do), you’re not going to be able to complete the daily, hour-long hike Prooday says is necessary for a healthy child. And family game nights and dinners are all well and good, but when parents are working two jobs (or nontraditional hours), that might not be feasible.”

Two viewpoints – one prompting parents to be more intentional and the other giving a pass to parents – depending on the day and the situation, we need both.

10 Alternative Parenting Styles That Might Be Right For You – Samantha Steiner – Interesting Read; 10 parenting styles? Still, interesting.

3) Answered Prayer – I mentioned at the top about family illness. Our youngest granddaughter was very ill for about a week.

I can’t say enough of what it meant that so many prayed for her. We are so thankful for answered prayer and that she is back to her fun, lively self. When life takes us and those we love into the back of ambulances and down corridors of emergency departments of hospitals…we never know what will happen next. So thankful for those who wait with us, and encourage us, and serve us…all when they have their own situations that need attention. Thank God, thank you, and thank God for you.

4) The Gentling Nature of Christmas – It’s long since passed, both Western and Eastern Christmas. We still have our Christmas lights up…just because. It’s winter and feels darker than the rest of the year. Those lights warm the world where we are, so we have no rules as to exactly when we put away all the decorations.

Whether we celebrate Christmas or not, I think it’s true that there’s a gentling nature in this holiday. People are more thoughtful of others, more generous, more willing to give space to others. In general. Even in politics…well, sometimes.

I wanted to just include three short videos with Christmas themes that speak to the beautiful and connecting nature of Christmas. One is a scene from The Andy Griffith Show. The second is a performance of Saviour – The Story of God’s Passion For His People. [On the second video, 14 minutes in, you hear the singer Wintley Phipps. Any opportunity to hear him sing is magical.] The last video is the 2019 John Lewis Christmas advert…so darling.

5) A Bunch of Great Reads – It’s been over a month since I’ve posted my Friday Faves. Lots of stuff that has influenced and enlightened me. I didn’t want to miss sharing it all with you. Photo Credit: Needpix

So here goes. 10 of my favorites from the last few weeks – all very different – take your pick.

10 Simple Ways to Take Care of Yourself

We’re Treating Friendships Like Transactions and It’s Ruining Relationships – Ephrat Livni

What Happened to Richmond’s Thriving Black Community of Navy Hill?

10 Books to Give You Superpowers in 2020 – William Treseder

Emily Norton Opens Up About Battling Depression as a Caregiver – Alikay Wood

What Widowers Wonder at Night – Erich Bridges

Q & A with Sherry Stout – Building Capacity and Collaboration for Energy Resilience [Sherry Stout is a dear friend of ours. Fun to see her in print.]

No One Wants Your Used Clothes Anymore – Adam Minter

The Curse of the Honeycrisp Apple Deena Shanker & Lydia Mulvany

Who Killed the Knapp Family? Nicholas Kristof and

Bonuses:

The True Story Behind Your Thanksgiving Cornbread – Adina Steiman

Enneagram & Coffee Facebook Page

Photo Credit: Facebook, Country Girls Do It Better

Monday Morning Moment – Focus – This Won’t Take Long

Photo Credit: Picpedia

Click. Click. Click.

Notifications. Notifications. Notifications.

Meetings. Meetings. Meetings.

We live and work these days in a culture of distraction where focus is a rare commodity.

“The culture of distraction makes your ability to think deeply and creatively constantly threatened. Conceiving ideas and putting them into practice requires time for reflection, and for that you need a personal organization method like GTD: if you are able to create a space where you can think and reflect, you will be able to move forward with more things, with less energy and less time.”Francisco Sáez

Doing research this morning on focus, I came across the Tweet below:

All these devices can make our lives hackable, too. Our deep thinking time…our complex problem-solving capability…vulnerable.

What can we do to recover our focus? To be able to expand our recall and use our memory…our mind to its greatest capacity?

Entrepreneur and teacher/mentor William Treseder, co-founder of BMNT has written a book on this topic:

Reset: Building Purpose in the Age of Digital Distraction

Photo Credit: Amazon

While you’re waiting for the book to arrive, Treseder has also written a rapid read on focus where he outlines The Two Things Killing Your Ability to Focus . Those two killers are screen distractions (smart phones/tablets) and meetings.

He offers 5 easily executable ways out of our mental chaos and into focus. They are listed below but don’t miss his commentary on each here.

  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Organize tasks.
  • Clean up.
  • Shrink meetings.
  • Preserve buffers.

I am personally very easily distracted. To make these few adjustments is worth getting my focus back. Thoughts?

Oh…last thing: Treseder also wrote a thought-provoking piece on How to Develop a Mission Mentality. This takes the issue of focus to a much more “big picture” place. When we have set the “why” and “who” of our daily focus, we are compelled to stay at the task and bring others with us. That is mission mentality.

10 Tips to Stay Focused – Francisco Sáez 

Photo Credit: Paul Clear

Monday Morning Moment – New Year’s Resolutions and Habit Formation…Resolved

Photo Credit: David Lose

[Adapted from the Archives]

What do we have? 1 more day in 2019 of reckless eating, not enough sleep, routines all turned topsy-turvy. Then…resolved. Right?

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 AND the spirit.

Whether sugar detox or a decluttering project, New Year’s resolutions are not always exercises in futility.They can be excellent devices 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. With a resolution like that, it meant abstaining from chocolate…which is a topic all its own.

Anyway, I was successful for over a year each of those times in 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 3 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. Anyone who loves chocolate can understand this easily. 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

[If any readers want to talk further about habit change regarding sugar addiction, I would love the exchange, either through the comments or email.]

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 becoming 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 to us – related to people, resources, and life purpose.

When we are willing to do that, New Year’s resolutions can become much more life-changing than just 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.

A couple of years back, our pastor Cliff challenged us at Movement Church 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 2020, on it again.

Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th century preacher and theologian, definitely understood the importance of praying through and writing out resolutions that would inform his daily life. Over the course of several months, he composed seventy resolutions for life. You can read them here. The five resolutions I made during church on a New Year’s Eve are weighty enough for me…can’t imagine 70! Edwards just gives an example of a man who, even as deeply devoted as he already was, did not want to miss God in a busy life of ministry. Nor did he want to miss the people God placed in his life as the focus of that ministry.

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. 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

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

13 Questions to Increase Your Self-Awareness – The Mojo Company – Matt Monge

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

Worship Wednesday – This Is Christmas – Kutless

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! – John 1:1, 14

This is Christmas. So many beautiful and as well as a few hard memories attached to it. My dad died on Christmas Day in 2016. He loved Christmas and made it all the more fun for all of us.

I wanted to write today…but like many days recently, the words are not coming. Writing takes time…and thought. Life itself takes precedence even though writing can be life to us writers.

Life is precious and calls for us to notice it and to savor every moment, and every person within those moments. It’s been 3 1/2 years since my breath-taking cancer diagnosis, I am fortunate. 3 1/2 years out is a very good thing.

My writing will come back, but for today it will be just a moment with you…a moment, a few pictures, and a worship song.

Merry Christmas. If it’s not your holiday, enjoy its gentling nature.

What is Christmas?

Wonder…of children, grandchildren, and the birth of one special baby…the Christ child.

Christmas Music – so varied and glorious we start listening in October.

Family – both with us and not able to be.

Friends – near and far.

Food…so much food.

Serving others.

Traditions – favorite books and movies, all the lights, treasured ornaments on the Christmas tree, outings…and those quiet staying in times.

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown:

Worship with me to the song This Is Christmas by the band Kutless:

Do you find it hard to sleep tonight
Resting by the Christmas lights?
Could there be something you forgot?
Beyond the bows, and mistletoe
The tree with presents wrapped below
There’s more to this than you had ever thought?
Have we lost the reason that we celebrate each year?

[Chorus:]
What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas without Christ?

Remember how the story goes
God’s gift was wrapped in swaddling clothes
Beneath the star, one great and holy night
The shepherds heard the angels sing
The wise men brought an offering
Peace on Earth began in Bethlehem
Have we lost the reason that we celebrate each year?

[Chorus:]
What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas?
If the angels never sang ‘Glory to the new born king?’
What is Christmas without Christ?

There’d be no
Glo-oo-oo-oo-ria
In excelsis deo
Glo-oo-oo-oo-ria
In excelsis deo

What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas without Christ?
This is Christmas
It’s all about the Savior wrapped in a manger
This is Christmas
Because of Jesus Christ
This is Christmas
Because of Christ
Because of Christ*

I pray your Christmas is filled with all the good of this day. Whether words come or not…that you may know the love meant for you in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. May we also take every opportunity to “give it away“.

[Video above featured Samaritan’s Purse which is a great organization. We personally support the smaller Baptist Global Response. Both give us opportunities to give to world’s neediest.]

*Lyrics to This Is Christmas – Songwriters: Jon Micah Sumrall, David  M. Lubben

A Christmas Letter to Every Mama – Sally Clarkson

When Christmas Is Hard – the God of Comfort and Joy – Deb Mills

Merry Christmas, from Dave & me

Worship Wednesday – Advent – Is He Worthy? He Is – Andrew Peterson

[Adapted from the Archives]
We live in a “not so much”,  “couldn’t care less” world.
Our senses are bombarded with the material – the stuff we think adds value. The “too cool for school” attitude of self-importance pushes past high school into adulthood. We think highly of ourselves, and the coolest of us settle into tight tribes – actually cool or not, we find our people and tuck ourselves in.
Advent gives pause. Even for those who do not celebrate Christmas, the presence of a God-child, a baby like no other, must be grappled with…even for a transformative moment. For believers and non-believers alike, we can stop the show of our lives…and consider Jesus.
Who is he? What is there in him that must be, at least, examined?
Consider.
So much of Scripture is plain and clear in its teaching such that any of us could follow it and apply it to our lives. The last book of the Bible, Revelation, written by the Apostle John under the direction of the Holy Spirit…is not like any other text. It is full of the mystery of God and yet can yield great truth to the least theological of us. Read what John, in his last days on earth, wrote about Jesus:

“Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides, sealed with seven seals. I also saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or even to look in it. I wept and wept because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or even to look in it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Look, the Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered so that he is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.

Photo Credit: The Henry Luke Journey

Then I saw one like a slaughtered lamb standing in the midst of the throne… He went and took the scroll out of the right hand of the one seated on the throne.

When he took the scroll…they sang a new song:

You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slaughtered,
and you purchased people
for God by your blood
from every tribe and language
and people and nation.Revelation 5:1-9

The passage above from Revelation 5 is derived from a God-infused vision that John experienced and then transcribed for us to learn from it.  We don’t know for sure what the scroll represents – is it the purposes of God? Is it the finale of world history? Is it the judgment for the sins of all humankind? We don’t know for sure, but what we do know, is the scroll could not be opened…except by One worthy. Not just able to open it, but worthy to open it.

Jesus, the sinless Savior, was/is worthy. He is given many names in Scripture. The spotless Lamb of God is one. The perfect sacrifice. He alone could give His life for ours. He alone could pay our debt to a holy God. He, without sin, gave Himself in our place for us to be reconciled to God. Jesus is also called the Lion of Judah. One day He will come for us in the might and majesty of a conquering king – this lion of God, unmatched by any foe, wholly able to deliver us to the Father.

During the weeks of Advent this year, our praise team at Movement Church is leading us through this beautiful song, considering Jesus: Is He Worthy?

Singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson wrote this song for a congregation to participate responsively with the worship leaders. The reading or singing of this song is liturgical in form…something I’m not used to…but appreciate.

“One of the things I like best about liturgy is the more or less constant involvement of the congregation. The word “liturgy” means “the work of the people.” It’s not so much about us coming to sit while the pastor and the elders do everything, but about all of us together rehearsing the story of redemption, edifying each other by reading Scripture aloud, reaffirming what we believe, embodying worship by kneeling or singing together—all of it culminating, of course, in the Lord’s Supper. I can’t overstate how much I crave the moment at the end of the service when I kneel at the front and a friend of mine places the unleavened bread in my open hands, looks me in the eye and says, ‘Andrew, this is the body of Christ, broken for you.’

Every week my wayward, hungry soul is confronted by the love of Jesus. Like clockwork.” – Andrew Peterson

Photo Credit: GodTube, Andrew Peterson

Let’s worship together with this glorious anthem by Andrew Peterson.

[Verse 1]
Do you feel the world is broken? (We do)
Do you feel the shadows deepen? (We do)
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? (We do)
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? (We do)

[Verse 2]
Is all creation groaning? (It is)
Is a new creation coming? (It is)
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? (It is)
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? (It is)

[Chorus]
Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave

[Refrain 1]
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy of this?
He is

[Verse 3]
Does the Father truly love us? (He does)
Does the Spirit move among us? (He does)
And does Jesus, our Messiah hold forever those He loves? (He does)
Does our God intend to dwell again with us? (He does)

[Chorus]
Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave

[Bridge]
From every people and tribe
Every nation and tongue
He has made us a kingdom and priests to God
To reign with the Son

[Refrain 2]
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?
He is!
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
He is!
He is!*

[Sidebar: If you worshiped God with the help of this video, you saw a sea of white faces as the singers. Andrew Peterson wrote an apology worthy of your time. Let’s none of us falter from what he calls a misstep and miss the larger message of this beautiful song.]

Jesus…You are worthy.

“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slaughtered,
and you purchased people
for God by your blood
from every tribe and language
and people and nation.”Revelation 5:9Photo Credit: The Rabbit Room

*Lyrics to Is He Worthy? by Andrew Peterson

Story Behind the Song Is He Worthy? by Andrew Peterson – Kevin Davis

Waking Up to Is He Worthy?: an Apology – Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson’s New Song for the People – The Gospel Coalition – Andrew Peterson

Revelation 5 – The Lion, the Lamb, and the Scroll – Commentary – David Guzik

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar Star Wars, Christmas Music, Adult Children, Christmas Happenings, and the Perks of Walking

Happy Weekend! Well, I should ask how was your weekend as Friday Faves posts on the Monday after. These Fridays come so fast! Anyway, if you have a minute, there’s a lot of Friday joy here for your Monday.

1) Star Wars Classical Guitar – We are Star Wars geeks around here. This movie franchise is part of our Christmas tradition through the years, going together to see the latest film coming out. Those of you who, like me, are fans of Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar, may remember his holiday mashup A Star Wars Christmas.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Of course, if you are Star Wars fans, you have probably already listened to Beyond the Guitar’s library of various themes. So much sweet nostalgia.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Thanks to Disney+, we have a Star Wars space western that we can stream between the big screen escapades. The Mandalorian. If you love Star Wars, you will love it. Here is Nathan’s rendition of the main theme:

2) Christmas Music – It’s been our jam since October, and still need more time to savor it all. From the ridiculous to the rapturous. Love most all of it. How about you? Do you have favorites to share? In Comments, please.

December is full of way too many music events to take them all in. Community sing-alongs of The Messiah, King College styled Lessons and Carols performances, spontaneous Christmas pageants, just to name a few. One of our family’s annual traditions is the VCU Holiday Gala. This Friday night, one of our littles also joined us. A next generation joy.

On a larger scale, the Christmas band for King & Country performs an amazing Little Drummer Boy. A drumming feast for the senses!

3) Adult Children – If we have grandchildren, then we have adult children. Loving them both in ways they understand is a crucial part of our life journey. This week I came across 3 very different but thought-provoking articles that were meaningful to me and you may also find them to be so for you (the adult children or you parents of same).

  • Alison Wright‘s The Death of the Family Gathering – We’re in a season when extended family gatherings only happen over a funeral or wedding. My birth family never did reunions but they always looked so fun. We would, from time to time, gather at grandparents at the same time, but it was never planned. Wright’s article touched my heart. Then a great-niece wrote a beautiful Facebook post about the same article… We work to make family dinners happen once a month and a family vacation each year. Worth the battle with busy schedules.
  • Deb Wolf‘s How to Love Your Adult Children Really Well is pure wisdom and worth your read. https://countingmyblessings.com/love-your-adult-children/
  • Daniel Kurt‘s Long-term Care Insurance – Is It the Right Move for My Aging Parents? This may seem an odd post for a Friday Fave, but for ever how much time long-term care insurance is still around, it is definitely a consideration for us to give ourselves and our adult children…or invest in a family compound of some sort where everyone cares for everyone else. Either way, it’s a chunk of change, but worth it.

4) Christmas Happenings – Beyond the Christmas music events, so much goes on in the month of December around here. Henrico Christmas Mother is a charitable venture that helps needy families, the elderly and the disabled of our county. I only minimally volunteer for this, but it is an incredible experience to see how people and organizations come together to help those less advantaged have a happy Christmas.

In Richmond, we have the Tacky Light Tour which makes driving around the city at night a shimmering, and sometimes silly, wonder.

Gatherings with friends and family or nights at home when overwhelmed or just needing a quiet place…all part of Christmas.

Then…then there are the platters, boxes, small bags full of Christmas cookies – made with love, shared.Photo Credit (last pic): Facebook.com – Cookies by Patricia Good Eckard

5) The Perks of Walking – So after all the Christmas cookies, I’ll close with this helpful piece on the perks of walking. We all know the perks actually, but we’ll be doing more walking come the New Year, for sure.

6 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Walk Every Day

Have a great week! I have to tell you that sometime during the night I woke with the wonderful realization that we are still over 2 weeks away from Christmas. I went to bed thinking it was just 10 days away. When trying to squeeze all the glorious goodness of this special time of year, the days fairly fly. It was a pre-dawn gift to know that…there is still time.

Bonuses:

Team of Retired Navy Seals Are Saving Teenagers From Human Trafficking – Mark Pygas

Zipper Mergers Are a Target for Road Rage, but They’re the Ones Doing It Right, VDOT Says – Joann Kimberlin

Do You Take Hours to Make Simple Decisions? You May Have FOBO (Fear of Better Options)

The Problem with “Hey Guys” – Joe Pinsker

What Makes You “Multicultural” Stacey Fitzsimmons, Davina Vora, Lee Martin, Salma Raheem, Andre Pekerti, C. Lakshman

Monday Morning Moment – Advent Begins and Christmas Memories Follow

[Adapted from the Archives]

In our attic, there’s a space is filled with bins of Christmas loveliness. Tree decorations, wall and room decor, linens, and nativities from around the world (including a few of the made in China sort).

This time each year I clear out some of the stuff, albeit still lovely but nothing my kids would cherish.

Driving to the thrift store with the bags of what will become someone else’s treasures, my thoughts filled with memories of Mom.

In those bags, among the bits of stuff, were several sets of Christmas placemats and cloth napkins. During our childhood, Mom used to decorate our small rancher with so much beauty at Christmas. Most of it either homemade or bought at the local discount store. Still…when the family gathered around all the tables scattered through the house, it was magical. Color and light. Wonder at how she brought the fragrance of loveliness out of so little.

I had a hesitation in the thrift store parking lot. Could I let go of them? In that moment it was like peeling away a part of my memory of Mom and my heart ached.

Still in the driver’s seat, with the car running, a song I’d never heard on the radio came on. It was Michael W. Smith’s Somewhere In My Memory (from his 2014 album The Spirit of Christmas.

In this song, his granddaughter Audrey sings (when did Michael W. Smith get old enough to have a granddaughter?!). The song was actually originally featured in the film Home Alone. The musical score was composed by John Williams.

Have a listen:

Candles in the window
Shadows painting the ceiling
Gazing at the fire glow
Feeling that gingerbread feeling

Precious moments, special people
Happy faces, I can see

Somewhere in my memory
Christmas joys all around me
Living in my memory
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home here with me

Precious moments, special people
Happy faces, I can see

Somewhere in my memory
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home
here with me*

What a gift music is (right, Nathan?). It was one of those “Christmas comes” moments. I sat and listened to that song, remembering a mom who could stretch her income better than anyone I knew. Probably because it was always about bringing joy to others. I didn’t have to have those placemats to remember what a gift Mom was to all of us.

So Happy start of Advent, kind readers. Whether we get the gifts right or not this year, Christmas still comes for us. What your loved ones want most for Christmas…might just be you.

We have good advice, on choosing love, in this image of a holiday bucket list:

I am so enamored this year with the graces God gives us in this season – small remembrances of what matters more than trying to find that perfect Christmas gift… Solitude instead of having every minute of our December weekends filled with parties or other seasonal events. One such grace for me was seeing the plaque below, at a local Chick-Fil-A. Surprised by the joy of it.

A Better Way Ministries -a place of refuge for men struggling with life controlling issues such as drug and alcohol addictions

Anyway….there you have my Monday morning rambling on this second day of Advent 2019.

One day a Christmas book for my children (like the one below I found in an estate sale) is going to be my gift to them.

Until then?

“All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home here with me”.

*Michael W. Smith – Somewhere In My Memory Lyrics | MetroLyrics

YouTube Video – Michael W. Smith – Somewhere In My Memory Feat. Audrey Smith