Category Archives: Kindness

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:

Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart – Part 2 – Caring

[Today’s blog is Part 2 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 and Part 3 – Constancyhere.]

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 next generations.

From building capacity, we can move to that character trait of genuine caring. Caring that comes from a heart full of love. We all love…it’s part of our nature. This kind of caring isn’t the love that we in our human effort alone can make happen. This is a love that comes from Jesus to us…and then through us to others.

Every morning, I wake up to this view – my bedside table and the wall beyond it. A framed print hangs right where I see it first thing – a little cherub nestled in an open heart with the words inscribed: “Heart full of love”. A dear friend gave this to me before we went overseas. Like other keepsakes from so many of our friends and loved ones, it reminds me of their caring, and inspires me to be and do likewise.

The Bible is full of calls to love. God is perfect in His own love for us and He then commands us to care for one another. Through every season of our lives. The earliest God-fearers mentioned in the Old Testament were taught to 1) love God and 2) love each other as they would themselves. Jesus also taught these two very same greatest commandments.

The night before He was crucified, in a room with his closest friends and followers, Jesus took that commandment up a notch: “A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another just as I have loved you; you also are to love one another.”

Without Jesus filling us with such love, we could never even fathom how to love others like He loves us. Laying down our lives for one another as He laid his life down for us.

It is obvious how we all benefit from such great love received by Him and lavished on others. During that last supper together, Jesus and those dear to Him, He went on to give one more incentive to love – one more world-shaking incentive. “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Photo Credit: The Fellowship Site

As we love God, and receive His love, we are moved to keep our eyes on Him and allow Him a place in our lives to display His love in all kinds of ways…we can care for others as He cares for us.

“We love because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19

In all the seasons of our lives, we deal with people not like us, people we consider haters or spoilers. People who hate us so we are tempted to hate them right back. There are also those people who are just plain indifferent to us or to those we love. Lastly, there are those who are stranger to us. We don’t know them; we don’t need to know them, we think. Whether we believe we are this way or not… how we act toward others is telling.

We were living overseas when 9/11 happened. We came home a year later, and we discovered an America that had suffered so much loss. It was like we as a people had circled our wagons. Even in the South, people didn’t make eye contact, or chat with store clerks or strangers on the street, or generally engage people they didn’t know. It seemed just easier, less risky, to be home with just a few people. Us four and no more, right?

Jesus calls us to care for those closest to us, those easy to love, those who care for us. It’s a joy to love them. His call goes much farther, though…for our own sake and that of all we encounter.

God calls us to care…to love…as He does.

This is the largest sincerity check of our lives. The life of the Christ-follower is a life of love…of deep caring…of caring beyond comfort.

We have all heard the response “Well, it’s not about you.” In our flesh, we totally want it to be about us…but…

When we make the substance of our lives about ourselves, our lives get very small. They seem big to us because of all the responsibilities we carry; all the cool stuff we get to be about. However…what could our lives be like if we cared, truly cared, about others…any others, all others?

“To fill up on God, you begin to have more than enough love for others and yourself because the God Who IS love is operating on the inside of you.”Cassia Glass

Photo Credit: Jill E. McCormick

We can be the people through whom the world sees Jesus. Because of our love, our care, for each other.

This kind of caring is costly. It cost Jesus everything. Whatever the cost is to each of us, young or old, we gain so much more than we give. A 19th century missionary, Amy Carmichael, spent her whole life serving orphans in India, cast-off little girls who would come to know God’s love…through Amy. She had this to say about what caring costs and what we gain in caring:

“Let us not be surprised when we have to face difficulties. When the wind blows hard on a tree, the roots stretch and grow the stronger, let it be so with us. Let us not be weaklings, yielding to every wind that blows, but strong in spirit to resist.”

Photo Credit: AZQuotes

I want to just stop right here a moment. You…you women right here have shown yourselves to be this kind of Christ-follower. You have built capacity for God to show up through you. You love through all kinds of hard. You know from God’s Word that our battle is not against one another…the Evil One wants to break us and divide us and tarnish what the world sees of God in us. You stay strong, Dear Ones…and keep tending the embers of love, in the midst of this hard place. God will keep showing up.

Photo Credit: QuoteFancy, John Groberg

Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart – Part 1 – Capacity

This past weekend, I was privileged to speak at a women’s holiday event in Kingsport, Tennessee. 150 women gathered to bring in a vintage Christmas together. Photo Credit: ISBC Women’s Ministry, Facebook

The food was delicious, the company was old friend-comfortable, and the memories wrapped around us like a Tennessee quilt.

The Festival of Tables was amazing – designed by the women hostessing. Just a few of the table toppers shown below:

[Today’s blog and the next two – Part 2 and Part 3] are taken from the talk I gave that evening on “Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart”. The following are excerpts of the talk because some who couldn’t come wanted me to post. Though written for Christian women, there is much to apply to any of our lives.]

“Vintage” can mean something very different to each one of us, depending on our ages and life experiences.

Vintage…one day our grandchildren and great-grands will look way back to our Christmases and call them vintage. They will look back on us as the women of old in their lives – the grandmothers (and great-grandmothers) of their faith.

What do we see when we look back? What will they see when they look back?

When I look back to my growing up years, it’s my Mom and women like her who come to mind. Godly women – tirelessly serving their families, church and community and pointing us to Jesus.

In thinking about Vintage Christmases and matters of the heart, God has placed three character traits on my mind. Three qualities we probably saw in our Godly grandmothers and great-aunts.

Strong and steely traits that we can develop across a lifetime walking with God. These traits are all matters of the heart. We see them in the life and character of Jesus. As we wrestle with them in each season of our lives, we can hope to carry them forward to future generations.

The first is capacity defined as the maximum that something can contain or produce.

In every season of our lives, we have those moments or days of coming to the end of ourselves. We feel like we just can’t do one more thing. We are DONE. When I talk about capacity, it’s not about adding more stuff to lives that are over-packed or over-scheduled lives. God doesn’t call us to be Energizer Bunnies…until we burn out, or dry up, or give in to the busy.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Capacity isn’t just about getting a lot done. Nor is it, on the flip side, about shaking up those of us in seasons of life that have been downsized –  intentionally or unintentionally. Unless God is speaking into that…which He sure did with me.

Building capacity means to look to God to order our days and to watch for Him to show up in our schedules and “chance” encounters.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve come through both a cancer diagnosis and a couple of cardiac emergencies that could have taken my life. Having half a lung removed diminished my physical capacity for awhile. Then moving into retirement diminished my other capacities even further. I felt old. In our previous work circles and in our church, whatever purpose or identity I had before seemed to fade with time and age. It wasn’t pretty.

Maybe you have experienced this sort of thing, whatever your age is. A situation where you have passion or desire to be a part of something but the doors seem to all be closed. When it seemed there was no way forward, I just settled into a slowed-down, lesser life.

In the middle of all this, the Lord in His great kindness, pretty much asked me, out right, “Is that it? You’re done?” I sure didn’t want to be done. With age and what seemed to be dwindling opportunity, life had become small for me.

Or did I do it to myself? Was I looking to people for opportunities to serve…or to God?

Now those of you with heavy academic loads, small children or big responsibilities in your work may not even be able to imagine this…but think with me a minute. Is our capacity such that God could show up and do as He wills in us…or are we pretty much maxed-out or turned-in?

Does God have our hearts? Or is our capacity dulled because He is more a tenant in our hearts rather than the Lord?

Is there space in our hearts He would fill if we didn’t already have them packed with other stuff?

Now, we all have responsibilities in life. For some, papers have to be written, babies must be fed, and payrolls managed…fill in the blank in your thoughts of where you have to show up every day…

What happens when we show up with our eyes on Jesus and the possibility of what He might do in and through us?

That realization from the Lord that “if I wasn’t done, then what?” started a spiritual journey for me… Last December, as part of a New Year’s resolution, and in response to our pastor’s challenge, I determined to make God’s voice the first voice of my every day. I’m a morning person, so quiet times before dawn may come easier for me than for some. Still for God’s to be the first voice does require me NOT to pick up the cell phone, or sit down at my computer, or turn on the TV news. In my season of life, there are no children to feed or to get schooled, so you with children have different challenges of making God’s voice first.

Whatever our challenges, it doesn’t change our great need of hearing Him speak truth and love into our hearts. Early. Every day.

When God did get first voice, He began helping me to clear out the clutter in my heart which changed the contents of my conversations and my calendar…Bit by bit, God added space to my life. Space to hear Him speak and to “interrupt” the rhythms of my day.

The discovery that I seemingly had more time wasn’t magic…it was God.

The visual below is so perfect of Christ flooding our heart with His love and all the good things God has for us, and in turn our hearts are cleansed, cleared of all the junk that distances us from Him, and then the contents of our hearts pour into others. Jesus talked to the religious leaders of his day about this very thing: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”Photo Credit: HolyTrinityPTC

Another way to look at this is related to what we hold in our lives as treasure. Jesus taught us that “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Photo Credit: Heather C. King

You can guide your heart with your treasure. Wherever you put your treasure or whomever you make your treasure, your heart will follow. Your treasure leads your heart.

This was so helpful for me because I had stored up quite a bit of self-absorbed treasure in recent years – my own significance being one part of that. Even wanting to be useful to God somehow had become an idol. That sort of thing just happens when we take our eyes off Him and onto ourselves. Right?

Days turned to weeks of God being the first voice each day in my life. I started doing life more in present tense with Him, listening for His voice through the day. Like a real conversation. Sometimes it would be a prayer; sometimes a complaint; just being in His presence. The barriers keeping life small seemed to start coming down. Such that, even when life was small, I was becoming more content. We keep our eyes on God, and He guides…sounds too simple, I know…but it has given the most mundane day or situation a sense of the divine.

The prophet Isaiah captures this so well when he says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it”. [Isaiah 30:21] Of course, we may not hear God speak audibly, but He will lead us just that clearly as we tune our hearts to His voice. We’ve all experienced that. To walk daily like this builds capacity…

Photo Credit: Francis of Assisi, Brainy Quote

We start by doing what’s necessary…this is sometimes where we stop…short.  If…we keep our hearts on the Lord, the necessary can open up to being a part of something only possible with God in it…and then…the impossible.

 If we are faithful to make a capacity for Jesus…He will fill that capacity with Himself.  “Make of yourself a capacity and I will make myself a torrent!” – Catherine of Siena

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Quotemeal

[Part 2 on Caring and Part 3 on Constancy]

Monday Morning Moment – Respect & Civility – and the Lack Thereof – in the Workplace and Public Life

Photo Credit: Real Wellness Doc

In the summer of 2002, we returned home to the US from living in Cairo, Egypt for many years. I was surprised at the change in our culture. People passing each other didn’t make eye contact as much anymore. There was less acknowledgement in general. Once the cell phone (and especially the smart phone) became, not just en vogue but, normative, we became even more disconnected from people around us.

Then the humor at others’ expense escalated. As did impatience at others’ foibles and perceived differences (in traffic, at the ball-field, and in the workplace).

Respect had to be earned…not just given.

Tolerance is the public message, but genuine acceptance of another is altogether something else. On any side of the argument.

What do you take of all of this?

Is it possible to restore respect and civility in a culture? First, we have to know what that even means. When unkind habits become part of our lives, we don’t always know it’s happened.

Let’s focus on incivility.  Just last week, I watched business consultant Christine Porath’s TED Talk on incivility. Her research with Christine Pearson on respect and civility was eye-opening for me. Incivility is edgy in its acceptance in our culture.

We are both shocked and even sometimes amused when people are abrupt, sarcastic or rude with others. This is dependent on our age, gender, and cultural background.

The problem with incivility is that it is contagious. It can infect a whole culture. Incivility, and disrespect, can move subtly to bullying.

Photo Credit: Patricia Bouweraerts, Martha Stout, WorkplaceStory

Author and podcaster Michelle McQuaid interviewed Christine Porath on “the cost of incivility”.  Following are my notes in brief from that podcast:

  • Incivility is defined as rude, disrespectful or insensitive behavior (whether or not the actor sees him/herself as being uncivil or disrespectful – it has to do with what the receiver hears or feels).
  • We are all biased. We may not know our behavior is uncivil. The only way we can know is to seek feedback…and truly listen to and consider constructive criticism.
  • Technology is a relationship distractor. It muddies civility. With our faces in our various e-screens, we miss verbal and nonverbal cues, make wrong assumptions, lose the tone and tenor of the conversation in front of us…and so on and so on.
  • The cost of tolerating such behavior in the workplace: performance, mental and physical tolls, personnel retention, cognitive tolls (memory, attention, creativity), and less help within a team or across departments (incivility breeds mistrust – collaboration and cooperation just don’t happen in such an environment).

Porath gives some excellent counsel on what can help in an environment that has become disrespectful and uncivil. Unfortunately, incivility is too often expressed by those with authority/power. The best organizational intervention, then, is to recruit for civility, coach and train toward civility and practice civility. Respect and civility have to be core values of the organization. See Bryan Cave Law Firm‘s Code of Civility below:

Photo Credit: Bryan Cave, Christine Porath

For us as individuals, Porath counsels to take the high road in regards to civility. Do what you can to effectually put the incivil person “in a bubble”. Then work on your own habits of respect and civility. Smile at people…genuinely, warmly, acknowledging them. Listen – tune in, invest, make eye contact. Build relationships with your team, especially those who report to you. Humbly reach out.

Porath also gave a shout-out to Adam Grant‘s advice along the same lines: to share resources and recognition; give credit; show gratitude; say thank you; share purpose and meaning. [She did the same thing she encourages us listening to do.]

Porath is the author of Mastering Civility: a Manifesto for the Workplace. Definitely on my to-read list now.

I took her quick and easy assess yourself survey and tried to be as honest and forthcoming as I could be. The result was 64 our of 100 points (“good” on her civility assessment). It surprised me – thinking it would be a higher score. Along with the number score she gives a great strengths and “things to focus on” determination and guide. Take the survey. Worth your time.

We can pull ourselves up and out of a culture that thinks it shows confidence to yell at people or that it’s ok to laugh at someone else’s expense. We have the power to rise above and to bring back health to our organization. One small respectful and civil gesture at a time.

The Cost of Incivility With Christine Porath

Assess Yourself – Christine Porath

The Price of Incivility – Christine Porath and Christine Pearson

Choosing Civility – 25 Rules to Live By – with P. M. Forni – Barb Schrader

YouTube Video – Civility: a Conversation with P. M. Forni

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

5 Friday Faves – Giving, Michael Jr., Classical Guitar Heat, Painter Karen Garner, and Fall

The week has drawn to a close. It’s Friday evening here…and I’m enjoying the quiet of an unfilled block of time. Hope you’re having a time of refreshing as well. Here are five of my favorite finds this week.

1) Giving – We have beggars in our city. It’s heartbreaking really. Often, they stand at busy intersections holding up cardboard signs. When the traffic light is green, I just buzz through, noting them but not having to confront need or the tension to respond. It’s when the traffic light is red, and I’m idling, essentially within reach of this person who has laid out his need very publicly. I know there is a charity that does more harm than good…so it’s not something I want to do. Don’t want to give wrong. Still I am driven to respond. A few years back, author Frank Sonnenberg wrote a compelling piece on giving. Fortunately, I discovered it via social media this week. It’s entitled: Giving: The Most Important Lesson in Life. It’s really a very simple message. Essentially, the message is to have an intention toward giving. We can learn to give well and appropriately…unless our hearts have grown hard from the enormous need around us. Don’t let it happen!

Giving: The Most Important Lesson in Life

2) Michael Jr. – One of our absolute favorite comedians is Michael Jr.

Photo Credit: Fathom Events

He is touring right now and also has a comedy film out – both entitled More Than Funny. He is just deeply engaged with his audience and with real life. One of the things he talked about in the film (saw it this week) is the whole setup to humor and its punchline. So meaningful how Michael Jr. talks about how life can be setup in order to deliver unexpected joy to other people. It’s our focus…do we operate in such a way that it’s all about us, or do we setup an environment where people can actually help each other intentionally? Odd to have such a meaningful message in the middle of a comedy act! So Michael Jr. [Watch this for the explanation of his “Be the Punchline”.]

Punchliners

3) Classical Guitar Heat – Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has posted a couple of his classical guitar arrangements. One is the theme from the TV show Dr. Who.

The other is his rendition of the theme from the video game Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.

You don’t have to be an enthusiast of either show or video game to love these piece. Nathan brings the heat.

4) Painter Karen GarnerKaren Garner is a friend of mine…an old friend. We have known each other since teen-aged Karen caught the eye of a friend of mine at a youth retreat. They married; we went overseas. Most of our friendship we haven’t lived in the same city, but we are friends. She is a friend and an artist. Years ago I commissioned a work from her for a cancer center in Tennessee. Since then she has painted hundreds of pieces. Her art has been on our walls all these many years and through all the countries we’ve lived. She somehow infuses joy in her art; I’ve always loved it.Photo Credit: “For Pat, the Prince of Tides” – Karen Burnette Garner

Karen was interviewed recently and featured in this article. It’s a quick read and introduces you to Karen…and her beautiful work.

Art and Life with Karen Burnette Garner

5) Fall – This season is my favorite. The colors; the smells; the tastes. It’s the blissful in-between – after the long languishing summer and before the crisp cottaged winter. It’s the season of long walks and short days. Of an early morning fire in the fireplace. Of pink sunsets and fields of pumpkins. Of a myriad of hot beverages and pies we only eat this time of year. It’s Fall…and I love it. How about you?Photo Credit: Humbert Wolfe, AZ Quotes

Happy Weekend! Be gentle with each other…and yourself.

Bonuses:

Quote: “No matter what happens in your life, you can start over.”Keith AndersonPhoto Credit: Keith Anderson, Facebook

Exclusive Interview with Matt Maher – Alanna Boudreau

One of the bloggers I follow – Taking Route – has a series on making a home, as an expat, in various countries. These pieces are so fun…taking the needs of the family into account and blending both the beauty of one’s home country and that of one’s host country. The “global home” below is Kenya but there are 31 total homes to peruse – enjoy!

This Global Home | Day 5: Kenya

Diner Food – “Food that pleases since 1929” – Majestic DIner – a favorite diner in AtlantaPhoto Credit: Marc Merlin, Facebook

Monday Morning Moment – Wrong-doing – Concealing, Confessing, and Covering

Photo Credit: Godly Daddy Blog, Dan Ericson

Do any of us really believe we can conceal a wrong forever? Do we truly think we can get away with something…especially something with impact on another? Or maybe we could if a wrong only affects me? Right? No one has to know…right?

Concealing

We are in a time in history and civilization where, like never before,  “Your sins will find you out”. It is ironic because being that we’re in a post-Christian era, sins are not taken as seriously by many as they were just a generation or two before. However, called another name… wrong-doing… or abuse…will be exposed. Eventually that sin will be brought out of the darkness.

“He who covers his sins will not prosper.”

Photo Credit: My Bible, Debra Aiken

The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Darkness cannot withstand light, nor can wrongdoing forever be concealed…it will be exposed. That should be a comfort to those who have been the victim of the wrongful actions of another.

Precept Austin Commentary on Proverbs 28:13 (great resource)

Are You Covering or Confessing Your Sins? – Debra Aiken

Are You Covering Up Your Crimes? – Lifeway, Facts & Trends

10 Common Ways We Try to Hide Our Guilt and Shame – Andy Barlow

There is a dark place in our hearts where we delight in others being “found out”…their wrongdoing exposed. Humility, true humility, sorrows, knowing too well, that it could happen to any of us, for we have all wronged others. All of us.

Confessing

When we face our part in wronging another, when we “come clean”, healing can begin in both parties. For those who have long concealed, this is very difficult to do. To bear the responsibility of a wrong. Time doesn’t heal wrong; it seems to just grow and grow… with time. However, when we shine a light on that dark place and own our wrongdoing, we can hopefully begin to turn things right. Make restitution if possible. Ask forgiveness. Humble ourselves.

But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  – 1 John 1:7-9

Confessing Our Sins Together – Ryan Griffith

What keeps us from confessing is the whisper of a hope that we are not to blame, that we had our reasons, that it wasn’t that bad, or that it wasn’t us. Or, we know we did wrong, and the prospect of consequences that could follow confessing is just too terrifying.

Covering

When we fall on the mercy of God, we can free ourselves of covering up and actually know the joy of being covered. Forgiven. Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for us, we are justified…“just-as-if I’d never sinned”. Now we may still have to reckon with righting a wrong against another person, as much as is possible, even paying society for a wrong. From God’s side, when “we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ” (1 John 1:9)

How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!Psalm 32:1

Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered.Romans 4:7

In our culture today, we are bombarded by blaming and blame-shifting, fingers pointing at wrong-doers or even those it’s not clear are wrong-doers…they are just a race or gender or political party we determine to be wrong-doers.

Thank God, we have a Judge who sees our hearts perfectly and weighs our actions and intents with both justice and mercy. In that courtroom, grace abounds.

The Covering of Sin – writer pastor Wayne Jackson

Postscript: My Mom used to quote a Bible verse in circumstances when one of us, fortunate enough to be loved by her, had done wrong.

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8

Now, she would guide us to right living, and she would be tough with us in doing right to those we wronged. In her love, in her quiet handling of our sins as youngsters and young adults, we learned about the love of God…both just and full of mercy.

Mom didn’t feel the need to expose our sin or wrong-doing to others, giving God room to move in our hearts and alter the course of our lives. God’s love covers our sins, through the sinless life of Jesus, and His sacrifice poured out on our sinful selves.

Cover the Sins of Others – Tim Porter

5 Friday Faves – Emotional Pixar Themes, Relationships, Care for the Most Vulnerable, the Question, and Reason

TV is on in the background. Watching our government come apart at the seams. Or so it seems. Here are my lightning-speed Friday Faves;

1) Emotional Pixar ThemesBeyond the Guitar posted his arrangement this week of some of the heartbreaking Pixar movie themes. Masterful music – you just don’t expect to feel sad in a children’s animated film. Still the sweetest memories of these nights at the movies. Did you see them all?

2) Relationships – I discovered a few unique articles this week on the precious, life-giving quality of relationships. One of those articles even deals with relationship-shattering divorce (I have dear friends and family who have experienced the hard of divorce. This article is for those who have had divorce thrust on them or they are considering divorce as their only recourse…at least worth the read…).

Photo Credit: AFMC

So here they are:

You Won’t Make it Alone: Five Reasons You Need Good Friends – Drew Hunter

What is a Kind Husband?  Five Characteristics of True Kindness – Douglas Wilson

To a Spouse Considering Divorce – John Piper

If you have a resource you have found affirming regarding relationships, please share in Comments.

3) Caring for the Most Vulnerable – What does it take to care for our most vulnerable neighbors? There are so many books out there with warnings about charitable giving, or help that hurts. Giving is a good thing but it’s not a complete thing. Raleigh Sadler wrote a paper that speaks to this so well: Jesus’ Invitation to Care for Our Most Vulnerable Neighbors. He addresses five ideas regarding these we long to help but don’t know how. These ideas are: Identify, Empower, Protect, Include, and Collaborate. [His article is a quick read…let him answer your questions.] Along these very lines, Embrace Richmond does training on Assets-Based Community Development. Wendy McCaig, the trainer and executive director of Embrace Richmond, guides those in the audience in learning how to do community listening.Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig

Those we want to care for are the ones we need to get to know, look them in the eye, and give ear…then we might be able to come alongside them, and together we help make their lives better.

Look for this sort of effort in your own community.

4) The Question – Nope, it’s not “Will you marry me?”

This week marked TV’s Fall Season premiers. Lots of great story-lines and ensemble casts. My favorites are law, medical, and police shows. New Amsterdam is a new program that highlights the patient care in a huge medical center with all the drama of politics and corruption affecting the patients. A new medical director, Dr. Goodwin, comes on the scene, in the first episode, and turns the status quo upside down, for the sake of those most vulnerable. Over and over, he asked the question:

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

He drew in discouraged physicians, harried nurses, and desperate patients and families with this question.

I love the question…it works magic in the workplace, in families, everywhere.

‘New Amsterdam’ Premiere Recap: How Can Dr. Goodwin Help? – Emily Longeretta

5) Reason –The Supreme Court of the United States has a vacancy. The US President nominates a candidate. The next step is for the Senate Judiciary Committee to do the heavy and serious work of examining the fitness of the candidate before releasing their name to the Senate for a vote. This is a weeks-long process.

Finally the candidate sits before the Committee to answer their questions. The Judiciary Committee is made up of 11 senators – men and women. Documents and witnesses are presented. It can be a grueling process for everyone.

Our current situation is the accusation of sexual assault by a woman who once knew the nominee. This week, she gave testimony, and the nominee gave his response. She said…he said.

Everyone in the US who cares knows the facts of this proceeding in great detail…our political bias impacts what we believe is true…whether we admit it or not. [Great article below.]

Blasey Ford-Kavanaugh Testimony Tells a tale of Two Internets – Emma Grey Ellis

Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, establishing and verifying facts, applying logic, and changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information. It is considered to be a distinguishing ability possessed by humans.

Using reason, or reasoning, can also be described more plainly as providing good, or the best, reasons. For example, when evaluating a moral decision, “morality is, at the very least, the effort to guide one’s conduct by reason—that is, doing what there are the best reasons for doing—while giving equal [and impartial] weight to the interests of all those affected by what one does.Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Watching the proceedings of this confirmation hearing was like nothing I have ever seen before. The vitriole. The partisan divide. The reckless treatment of people. The lying (there must be lying somewhere).

Whoever watched these proceedings would take one side or the other. There is no room for fence-sitting on these issues. How do we reason out what is happening here? How do we reason together when it seems people refuse to hear and try to understand the other side?

Where I would see reason, another person might see something very different…and on the flip side, I also saw something else…so damaging to the individuals interviewed this week…and to our country. God help us.

Ten Reasons to Love Thinking – Dawn Field

All that said…It’s Not Over Yet.

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That’s the five for this week. How about you? Please share. Have a relaxing weekend…spent with people you love. Blessings!

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Karen Burnette Garner [my life-long friend Karen]

She Shaped Me: Ten Exemplars of Faith – Kelli B. Trujillo

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

5 Friday Faves – Tavern Music, Kindness, International Overdose Day, a Film and its Book, and Signs of Fall

Friday! A holiday weekend is upon us here in the US. Labor Day on Monday. Where we live that means this is the last weekend before public schools start their Fall session. On this hot, thunder-stormy weekend, the last sweetness of summer will be savored.

Here are my five faves of the week:

1) Tavern Music – My heritage is a mix of Scottish-English. I’m thinking, because of that, tavern music might be part of my family’s DNA. When Nathan Mills arranges and plays a tune reminiscent of Celtic music, he might come by the joy of it quite honestly.

Hearthstone is an online video card game set in a tavern. The theme music has very much a Celtic feel to it. Beyond the Guitar was actually asked by someone on the Hearthstone creative team to do an arrangement. Here it is for your enjoyment.

2) Kindness – Author Peter Economy has written a couple of pieces on kindness – one on kindness quotes and the other on the impact of kindness when expressed by our leaders.

“There is something incredibly appealing about leaders who place themselves on the same level as their employees without losing their authority as leaders. Tapping into kindness and small (and big) acts of showing your appreciation for your team allows those around you to know that you care–leaving them feeling like their work matters, and encouraging their engagement and loyalty.”Peter Economy

I find my tendency is to think I am kind but that kindness is not necessarily executed in a way others experience. It’s worth a few moments to consider how we think of kindness, what it means and how we could actively and intentionally express kindness at work or wherever else we find ourselves.

Photo Credit: Flickr

3) Overdose Awareness Day – Put August 31 on your calendar for next year. It is International Overdose Awareness Day.  We must bring this out of the closet. #NotOneMore

Photo Credit: Facebook

“Today is National Overdose Awareness Day! It still surprises me on how many people I talk to seem oblivious to this epidemic in our country and throughout the world. In 2017 the official number of deaths was over 72,000 people. (more in 2018) These 72,000 people were Mothers and Fathers, Daughters and Sons. Aunts and Uncles. Just think about how many peoples lives were affected by 72,000 deaths. Addiction is real……..Addiction kills……..Lets all get together and find ways to talk about this beast that kills more people than car accidents, guns, breast cancer, The Vietnam War. I pray that my Facebook friends never have to be touched in anyway by the Overdose of a loved one. Unfortunately, the math says …………..you more than likely will.”Jeanne Barney

4) A Film and Its Book – A strangely titled little book continues high on my top 5 books for recreational reading. It is:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Photo Credit: East Ridge News Online

This book gives the reader a glimpse into the lives of those who endured the 5 years of Nazi occupation of the English Channel islands during World War II. It is a story mixed with deep affection, dry humor, long grief and sweet romance. I highly recommend this book to anyone – men or women.

This year marked the debut of the film of the same name (aired on Netflix in the US). I’m so thankful Netflix picked it up otherwise we might have missed it altogether. Such a lovely film, true enough to the book, and a feast for the eyes. Several actors from our beloved Downton Abbey are part of the cast. You will love it…trust me.Photo Credit: Battle Royale With Cheese

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Trailer

5) Signs of Fall – This week has been hot and humid, but still there were signs of Fall all around us. Pumpkin spice has entered all of our coffee shop experiences again. Our young ones are back in school. The geese have taken wing for distant places again..

Photo Credit: Max PixelAnd Dave’s garden has the messy, overgrown beauty of late summer. Last blooms pushing out and flowers turned to seed for the birds to eat and scatter. Early brown leaves and surprise buds that couldn’t wait until Spring. Welcome Fall, my favorite season of the year.

What signs of Fall do you love…or not so much?

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Hope your weekend is filled with kindnesses.

Bonuses:

“To know the will of God, you need an open Bible and an open map.” – William Carey

Raising Our Kids Near Their Grandparents Is The Greatest Gift We Could Ever Give Them

Skim Reading Is the New Normal. The Effect on Society Is Profound – Maryanne Wolf [Along these lines, check out On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior]

Charlotte Non-profit Restaurant Hires Those Considered ‘Unemployable’ – Meilin Tompkins

Photo Credit: Quotes Gate, Facebook

Ethics in the Workplace: 5 Ways to Honor Christ from Cubicle to Boardroom – Leah Marianne Klett

Tulane Psychiatrist Wins National Award for Research that Shows How Trauma Seeps Across Generations – Keith Brannon

The video below is a biopic on a neighborhood near and dear to me heart in the Richmond metro area. For you, Lakesiders: