Category Archives: Kindness

Worship Wednesday – Giving and Receiving Blessing – We Need It Now – Elevation Worship

[The tapestry above hangs beside our door…one of God’s many blessings upon His peoples.]

This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind, who makes the flesh his strength and turns his heart from the LORD. He will be like a shrub in the desert; he will not see when prosperity comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives, but blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. He is like a tree planted by the waters that sends out its roots toward the stream. It does not fear when the heat comes, and its leaves are always green. It does not worry in a year of drought, nor does it cease to produce fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8

 Beware of division. Having just finished reading Francis Chan‘s book Until Unity, I am way aware of how divided we are as church, family, people. We curse too easily and withhold blessing too often.

In the book of Jeremiah, the Lord speaks about this very thing. In these days of COVID, political and economic upheaval, and media’s feeding on any and every weakness and falling of the church, we take sides. We trust (or distrust, depending on our preferences) governments and authorities. We lean on our own reasoning and make that our strength. Too often, we turn our heart from God and His Word.

We are addicted to our own opinions, our own sense of rightness or rights or entitlement, our own form of judgment and retribution.

This…from the self-proclaimed “people of God”.

God, forgive us. Clear our minds. Help us to see as You see. Help us to bless and not curse. Soften the soil of our hearts toward those around us – for Your purposes. We know extending our roots deep into Your Word, surrendering ourselves to the Lordship of Christ, and obeying the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives – are the source fruitful lives.

As Your image-bearers, Father, help us to be a blessing to those around us…to speak blessing over them. Loving others as You love us …and them. We receive such generous blessing from You, Lord. Remind us we are blessed to be a blessing.

I will never forget our children’s high school graduations, all in Morocco. As part of our son Nathan’s graduation, parents are selected to give the invocation. Because of the makeup of the Senior Class, it would usually be a Muslim parent and Christian parent. In Nathan’s graduation, the Christian parent stood and lifted his hand over the class and spoke blessing to them from Scripture. I can’t remember the exact blessing, but it was powerful to us in the audience, watching this man speaking and showing blessing over our young people.

So reminiscent of Jesus’ blessing in His Sermon on the Mount:Photo Credit: Heartlight

In March 2020, at the start of the COVID pandemic, Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes helped write and then performed a song entitled The Blessing. The lyrics are straight out of Scripture and a true blessing from the Lord. It became the worship standard for our experience of God in a year full of crisis. Covered in many languages. Still such a blessing. So much beauty!

YouTube Video – The Bay Area Blessing – Churches Sing ‘The Blessing’ over the San Francisco Bay Area

We continue in a time when people seem so willing to devour one another…to curse and slander those different from or in opposition to them. This song, born out of Scripture, reminds us of God’s intent for His children…to be a blessing, out of the overflow of His own blessing in our lives, and not a cursing. He will judge the wrong and wrongs of this world. We look for whatever/whomever we can bless…and we extend blessing. Just as that parent extended his hand of blessing…we extend ourselves to those around us…in Jesus’ name. Photo Credit: Bible Verses 2 U

Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, Bear with one another and forgive any complaint you may have against someone else. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which is the bond of perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, for to this you were called as members of one body. And be thankful.Colossians 3:12-15

I thank God for this reminder of blessing. In fact, just this week, I have blasted this song at home and in my car multiple times. What a blessing we have in Him. A blessing He means for us to extend without reserve. It’s His blessing…not meant to keep only for ourselves.

Worship with me.

The Lord bless you [Numbers 6:24-26]
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

May His favor be upon you [Deuteronomy 7:9]
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you [Deuteronomy 31:8]
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

*Lyrics to The Blessing – Songwriter(s): Christopher Joel Brown, Cody Carnes, Kari Brooke Jobe, Steven Furtick

Photo Credit: The Common Rule, Twitter

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed to Be a Blessing – Andy Flannigan – Deb Mills

When Our Greatest Fears Come True – The Story Behind “The Blessing” by Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes, and Elevation Worship – Jen Roland

5 Friday Faves – Life Without Forgiveness, the Power of Words, the CALM Superpower, COVID Close to Home, and the 20th Anniversary of 9/11

Here we go!

1) Life Without Forgiveness – An article on  life without forgiveness by Dave Burchett got me thinking even more about forgiveness. I’m in a study on Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by Lysa Terkeurst. Writing about it, too.

Life without forgiveness sounds truly awful. We imprison ourselves to the past and drag it into our present day and future with treasured grudges. Grudges we feel we can’t afford to lay down. They become part of our identity and how people relate to us – either protecting, justifying, or, at times, “returning evil for evil”.

Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, William Arthur Ward

We have the power to release ourselves and all these entrapped with us…through forgiveness. We need God to help us, for sure. We however must make the decision to forgive. Pretending to do so while hatred gains strength in our hearts is a delusion. God help us.

Here’s a bit of what Dave Burchett says in his article (read the whole here):

“There is no way I have found to release grudges without the healing power of forgiveness. Author Will Davis wrote this powerful insight.

‘Once you decide to forgive, you initiate the healing process. Forgiveness gives your soul permission to move on to the higher and healthier ground of emotional recovery. Forgiveness is to your soul what antibiotics are to infection. It is the curative agent that will help to fully restore your soul. It doesn’t immediately remove the pain of offense but it does start you on the road to recovery.’

I really like that perspective. The decision to forgive initiates but does not complete our healing. You will, in time, heal. I am asking you to pray that you can begin the healing process of forgiveness knowing that only time and God’s mercy can fully heal. That will start you down that road to forgiveness and empowerment to let go of the grudges that are weighing you down. You won’t get there today or tomorrow. But you will never get there without taking the first step of faith.” – Dave Burchett

Photo Credit: Spark People

Burchett refers to the song “Without Forgiveness” by Jerry Salley. Here’s a sweet cover by Jason Davidson:

2) The Power of Words – Words mean things. In fact, they are more powerful than we can imagine. Author, speaker Jackie Hill Perry has referred to a poem which says “Words make worlds”. Now I haven’t been able to find that poem, BUT I have read Genesis 1-3 with the account of God speaking the world into existence.

Photo Credit: Lidia Yuknavitch, @Seek5, Pinterest

Perry spoke on the power of words at a women’s conference. She used the text of the Apostle James’ epistle. James 3. This passage focuses on the influence of the tongue. She elaborated on three points:

  • The tongue is accountable. [We are responsible for our use of words. When we have torn down instead of building up, we will experience consequences. It does not go unheeded.]
  • The tongue is powerful. [We must control our tongues…what we say. Self-control has a wide reach, especially starting with “restraining our speech”. Words can hurt, but they can also heal.]
  • The tongue is inconsistent. [We say one thing to one person and turn around and say another thing to someone else. We may bless God and then curse a neighbor, made in the image of God. Perry talks about the huge disconnect when we speak with reverence of God but with contempt or disdain toward another human being. Words can be a “restless evil”. Pay attention. Are others’ names and personhoods safe on our lips?]

Listen to this fascinating and charged talk by Jackie Hill Perry.

Words Create Worlds – The Language We Use Shapes the Culture We Lead – Eric Geiger

3) The CALM Superpower – Author, leadership trainer Carey Nieuwhof recently interviewed psychologist Jennifer Kolari on his podcast. She spoke on dealing with irrational people, and, in fact, any situation of conflict. I learned so much.

[I’ve written about the brain, decision-making, and dealing with crisis many times. Such fascinating issues!]

Dr. Kolari introduced her CALM technique of dealing with conflict (including helping children in conflict with you or others). In brief, “the CALM method is a way of deep listening using language, compassion and empathy literally as medicine. It will soothe and calm AND bring both participants in the conversation into brain-heart coherence.”

Here’s a brief outline of the framework:
C – CONNECT – connect before correcting; deeply listen; give the sense that you are “for them”.
A – AFFECT – match the affect of the person in front of you; don’t say how the other person SHOULD feel; show understanding.
L – LISTEN – deeply; take that affect above into what you’re hearing; wonder at it; choose your responses based on what is being said to you, including the emotion. Respond not react.
M – MIRROR – allow what’s going on with the person to “hit you right in the heart”. Be in the moment with them/him/her. We do this with babies intuitively. Communicate with your face and body even more than with words.

Listen to the podcast. Check out the resources below. We too often go to correction, with other adults and definitely with children, when they need connection first…and maybe only.

Connect With Your Kids Using the CALM Technique

YouTube Video – Jennifer Kolari – The CALM Technique and Child Brain Development – really fascinating and informative

YouTube Video – The CALM Technique for Babies and Toddlers

4) COVID Close to Home – I’m not saying much here, but COVID has hit very close to home this week. I have friends and family with COVID. Check your thoughts if you’re going straight to “oh…not vaccinated”. Not so in every situation. People who did everything “right” – vaccination, mitigation, all the preventions – can still get COVID. The graphic below is updated often and is super helpful.

Photo Credit: Wesleyan College

The most important points in this conversation are these:

  • COVID is real and we will have to deal with it for some time (not at a pandemic level forever but definitely as endemic).
  • Everyone has to make personal decisions on how to prevent and treat it. To not make a decision is to make a dangerous decision. I’m not saying what to do (enough people are telling us what to do), BUT I am saying to think through our risks and that of those around us, and make informed decisions.
  • Be prepared. You don’t want to start searching out what to do to lessen the impact of COVID when you are already sick.
  • Test early. Even if it might be something else. Testing early helps you and all those who may come in contact with you (if it turns out you test positive.

The pieces below are actually not in support of one methodology or another. In fact, they expose the hard decision-making needed in determining how to act with the threat of COVID. We can depend on (or react against) mandates from government, or we can make the best possible decision we can, given the information we receive.

By the way, my friends and family members are all on the mend… except for one. On a ventilator, with family called in. We are praying still. This is why we can’t be cavalier with our decisions.

Let’s Stop Pretending About the COVID-19 Vaccines – Buzz Hollander, MD

Impact of Masking – Twitter thread – Buzz Hollander MD

FDA Vaccine Regulators Argue Against COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters in New International Review – Andrew Joseph

5) 20th Anniversary of 9/11 – Part of why Friday Faves is coming out on Monday is because I’ve spent an enormous amount of time this week watching, reading, and listening to stories about 9/11. It’s the 20th anniversary of the bombings.

In the twenty years that have passed since 2001, our country has changed so much. We are divided in really unhealthy ways. On that day…for awhile, we came together. We may have had very conflicted views on what happened after (Iraqi War, immigration issues, and the long engagement in Afghanistan). Whatever our opinions are on these, the stories of that day are so worthy of our time and attention.

Photo Credit: Beth Wayland

One of the most beautiful pieces I read this past week was by writer Jennifer Senior for the Atlantic. It was really long, but she did justice to the loss and grief of just this one family. 27 y/o Bobby McIlvaine died that day at the bottom of the World Trade Center. Son, brother, friend, fiancé. His was just one of thousands of stories that day…it matters and it also reflects the many other stories that we don’t know.

The two videos below speak to the day after September 11, 2001 and to the day 20 years later. Take the time…

“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.” – Naomi Shihab Nye

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Bonuses:

Community – “Every arrow needs a bow: William Wilberforce” — the power of community. If Wilberforce was the arrow that pierced the heart of the slave trade, the Clapham Fellowship was the bow that propelled him. As Pollock writes, “Wilberforce proves that one man can change his times, but he cannot do it alone.” The Clapham fellowship lived by Wesley’s maxim: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” And this was no mere slogan: tensions developed in their relationship that would have splintered most associations, even Christian associations, had they not been so radically centered on Christ.” — “Every Arrow Needs a Bow,” by John Hart, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, July 1998 [This was a quote in my folder of quotes; I can’t find the source online today, but it rings even more true now.]

Photo Credit: Vala Afshar, Twitter

This Is What Happens to Your Brain When You Declutter Your Home – Kelsey Clark

“If we major in criticism, we become polemicists, rather than agents of redemption. Often polemicists excuse their loveless rough edges by the demands of truth. But they lose more than they realize. In fact, when love and the growth of positive truth are lost, truth is also lost. Biblical truth loses its scope, balance, depth, applicability, savor, and growing edge [in this disordered priority]. … Words that are not constructive, timely, and grace-giving are rotten and non-nutritive, whatever their formal likeness to Christian content (Eph 4:29). To lose charity, tenderheartedness, sympathy, and generosity is always to simultaneously pervert the redemptive nature of biblical revelation. Narrowed “truth” may bristle enough to defend one city wall, but it is not good enough to conquer the world.” – David Powlison’s “Cure of Souls” (2007)
Recipe for a Quick and Easy Cherry Cobbler – my husband’s favorite
Photo Credit: Lena Vo, Facebook

 

8 Ways to Build a Strong Foundation for Your Kids – Frank Sonnenberg

Monday Morning Moment – Isolation and Community

Photo Credit: Jackie Hill Perry, Art of It

After one-and-a-half years in COVID, we all have grappled with a need for social distancing and isolation. What happens then when the diligent pursuit of physical safety causes a loss of community?

None of us want to get COVID or its latest variant. However, we also desperately need community. It is on each of us to make creative and persistent decisions toward going after community. Especially the most vulnerable of us, or we will suffer more than the health impact of COVID [see links below].

The dilemma with isolation is somehow it has brought a social lethargy with it. We are becoming more solitary and our community has shrunk to the lowest and tightest we can manage.

Not necessarily out of fear of COVID, but out of a growing incapacity for community. Real community. “Iron sharpening iron” relationships.

I know I am not alone in the need for such community. We have probably all thought of how altered our relationships have become over the last several months. Not the closest maybe, but especially those that spurred us toward a higher accountability, responsibility or integrity. Those relationships where we are helped to make better decisions or extend kindnesses (especially toward those outside our inner circles).

[Whether introvert or extrovert, we can easily sink down into a solitary life of less. And less is not always more. This less can breed a sort of self-serving life where we gauge our relationships by our own gains and extend ourselves by our own comfort levels. Been there, done that. Ugh! ]

COVID or not, we still need other people, and they need us. Whether on a work project better served with team problem-solving or a family crisis that could use “all hands on deck”. Death and divorce are still happening, but life celebrations are also still with us – all calling for the touch of our community.

In the Wiki fandom Mary Shelley article, we read a fascinating take on the impact or lack of community on the characters of Shelley‘s novel Frankenstein.

In the novel, Victor Frankenstein is a brilliant scientist. He is overwhelmed by a series of losses and the grief, as well as his increasingly unhinged genius, drive him into isolation. He decides to make a human-like creature who would be like a son to him.

It did not turn out well. The creature, because of the rejection and isolation he himself felt, was determined to be a monster.

Both Victor and the creature Frankenstein, throughout the story, are plagued with isolation and a terrible lack of caring community.Photo Credit: Pixabay

The theme of isolation in Frankenstein raises many questions about the role of community and its importance. Many characters in the novel find themselves in isolated positions, and a few suffer grave consequences because of it. Characters suffer from both physical and emotional isolation, although, as in the case of the monster, the isolation is not always self-inflicted. Victor Frankenstein, on the other hand, chooses to isolate himself from his family, his peers, and even the monster he created.

In Frankenstein, horrible things happen when a character is isolated from the others. When Victor’s knowledge and ambition are unchecked by his peers, a monster is created…the destructive power lies not in the monster or his creator, but in solitude. Shelley uses this theme and its manifestation in her characters to pose questions about community, knowledge, and its role in society. Is unbridled knowledge always dangerous, or is there a middle ground? Should one abandon his or her pursuits if they are driving him or her away from a community? 

Shelley makes it clear that there are two different types of isolation: self-inflicted and societal. We see self-inflicted isolation manifested in Victor; he detaches from his world and the people he loves and as a result, everyone suffers tremendously. Rejection from society is demonstrated in the monster’s life. Again and again, he is turned away from love and companionship, which what he has longed for since he was first brought to life.” – Wiki-Fandom Analysis of Frankenstein – Mary Shelley, an Academic Wiki

Of course, this is a novel, but incredibly insightful as a tale of human nature. We need community…we are made for community.

Somehow we must rally during this protracted social experience of COVID. What is your mindset on this and what are your intentional actions toward community and away from isolation? The kind of isolation that eventually diminishes us and our relationships. Please comment below.

In closing, I do want to affirm an Isolation in Community. We may have to deal with social distancing for sometime still. Especially those most vulnerable to severe illness from COVID. For some isolation can’t be avoided, but there is an isolation in community. Where we take steps toward and lean in to deeper community. Even if it isn’t always in person. This takes a different sort of effort, but we know it is possible. Fortunately. For me, it’s actually using the phone for conversations (including Facetime). It’s not stepping out of responsibilities (work or community service) because of a need for social distancing, but figuring out alternate ways to serve, or get a job done. I have also experienced the fruit of it, thanks to your efforts. Our mail is less junk mail and more actual real connections through cards/letters. Thanks for that. Again, please comment below what your experience has been here.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Isolation – Good Therapy

Isolation and Community – Helen Thorne – Biblical Counseling UK

Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions – CDC

Creative Communities Are Addressing Social Isolation – Maryjoan Ladden

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s “Take On Me”, the Woman Slowly Fading, Mama’s Table, Relationship Hacks, and Voices of Influence

Happy weekend! Here are my five faves of this week – rapid-fire.

1) Beyond the Guitar’s “Take On Me”Nathan Mills does it again.  He takes Norwegian band A-Ha‘s 1985 hit “Take On Me” to a whole new level on classical guitar. So beautiful that lyrics aren’t needed; the nostalgia is already there. This song is featured in the video game The Last of Us Part II. Whether you loved it or hated it in the soundtrack of that game (or not a gamer)…its melody is “all the feels” under the deft fingers of Beyond the Guitar. Enjoy!

2) To The Woman Slowly Fading – I didn’t know the work of Scottish poet Donna Ashworth until my great-niece posted the poem below on her social media. She (my great-niece) is mum to three little ones; in fact, three under the age of three at the time.

She is tired and pulled. Yet in the tired, she is full of joy.

I’m grateful she shared this poem because it told me something about her and it also illuminated something I had been feeling from a very different place. My niece is nearer the beginning of her life’s journey, and I am closer to the ending. Nothing sad here; just what is.

At our latest family dinner, I had that strange thought of fading. A moment of poignancy taking in the lovely scene of adult children and wee ones around the table. Ashworth describes this sense of fading so well. Read for yourself the lines below.

To the woman who has lost her spark.
To the woman whose get up and go, has well and truly gone.
This is for you.
This is to remind you whose daughter you are.
This is to remind you, that you don’t have to be everything to everyone, every day.
You didn’t sign up for that.
Remember when you used to laugh? Sing? Throw caution to the wind?
Remember when you used to forgive yourself more quickly for not always being perfect.
You can get that back again.
You really can.
And that doesn’t have to mean letting people down or walking away.
It just means being kinder to you, feeling brave enough to say no sometimes.
Being brave enough to stop sometimes.
And rest.
It starts the moment you realise that you’re not quite who you used to be. Some of that is good, some of that is not.

There are parts of you that need to be brought back.

And if anyone in your life is not okay with that… they are not your people. Your people will be glad to see that spark starting to light up again.

So, if you have been slowly fading away my friend, this is the time to start saying yes to things that bring you joy and no to things that don’t.

It’s really pretty simple. – Donna Ashworth, To the Women

I do take exception to the one line: “Saying yes to things that bring you joy and no to things that don’t.” Fortunately for my young niece’s children, she is not going to ignore their cries in the middle of the night, or their tears after a fall, or their fears of the unknown. These things do not bring her joy, but they are part of the journey.

Difficult family members, friends in crisis, health issues, mounting drama in the world’s press…we can’t always say no, but we can measure ourselves out in wise and thoughtful ways. There is sacrifice in life, and, with it, joy.

So if we are fading…may it be for good reasons. Squeezing all we can out of life and relationships…even the hard ones. Not leaving anything left on the field when the clock runs out (was that phrase from Vince Lombardi?). No slow fade. Intentional. Deliberate. Owning it.

For believers of Jesus, there is a call reflective of this: On the return of the Messiah one day, we are reminded of the joy of that great day when “He must increase, and I must decrease”. (John 3:30) As on a wedding day, we take in that glorious arrival of the bridegroom for his bride.

Fading may be how we feel, but the reality is we all have various seasons in our life’s journey. Each with its own glory, joy, and exhaustion.

Life…taking it all in.

“You may begin to notice that you’re invisible. Especially if you’re short and gray-haired. But I say to whom? And so what?”Grace Paley on the Art of Growing Older

Donna Ashworth – poetry website

“History Will Remember” – a Pandemic Poem – Donna Ashworth

3) Mama’s Table – Our youngest child, Dan, has been affectionately referred to as a food snob. He loves all kinds of food but can be hyper-critical of what he considers bland food or just the wrong mix of flavors or textures. Fortunately he is a good cook and he has been since middle school. On bake sale days back then, he would take his cupcakes into school and brought empty platters back home. His yeast rolls, from a favorite teacher’s recipe, were amazing. He and a small cadre of high school friends who loved to cook (well, to eat, for sure) even started a cooking club.

They had a great time together, and we enjoyed their feasts with them. Nothing like a kitchen full of friends and all good things – loud laughter, strong opinions, and the yummiest blend of fragrances.

Food has its own culture and anthropology. In fact, Dan has moved on from just cookbooks focused on recipes to thick volumes covering not just the food of Persia, Malaysia, or Russia but the culture that goes along with the food.

The article below reads like some of those texts.

The Economics Behind Grandma’s Tuna Casseroles – Megan McArdle

McArdle tells the story of how decisions were made in homes across America from the 1890s right through present-day. The quote below resonates deeply with the food experience I knew growing up.

“The great blessing of my life is that my mother did not let me become a food snob. She was from a small town in middle America, and she did not view this as any great handicap. Nor did she look down on the culinary tradition she inherited from her mother, a “good plain cook” of the miracle-whip-and-white-bread Midwestern persuasion whose pie crust was infallible. We did not mess around with limp chicken breasts and cans of Campbell’s Soup, but I have eaten plenty of Jell-O salad, and liked it. (On summer days, I still occasionally crave shredded carrots and crushed pineapple embedded in orange jello made with ginger ale. Don’t sneer; it is delightful and refreshing.) Apples, bananas and raisins, dripping with Miracle Whip, were served as a salad in my house, and one of my favorite dishes from my grandmother was ground meat and pasta shells in Ragu. I still bake out of the Betty Crocker 1950 cookbook, and have never found a better guide to the classic American layer cake.”

We got a Betty Crocker cookbook as a wedding present and I still use it. I remember growing up with Campbell soup and Jello salads. Money was always tight so Mom would use pork brains (??) from a can to add to eggs to make them stretch far enough for us four kids. My first pizza was from a Chef Boyardee box. We never ate out at a restaurant, but I remember when a McDonald’s opened up near us (the first one in our area), and Mom took us for burgers and fries as a reward for behaving ourselves at the grocery store. That was a big deal. Church suppers were a big deal as we sampled what our friends enjoyed at their homes. Food was (and is) much more than just nourishment.

How about you? What is your food culture? Or rather the culture you knew as a child. For many of us these days, our food cultures are diverse and delicious…but we still remember the culture of Mama’s table.

4) Relationship Hacks – Just a few finds on how we treat each other, and sometimes ourselves.

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, AZ Quotes

“Every day, we have the opportunity to be more thoughtful, respectful, supportive toward people living with ‘invisible’ challenges.”Ian Kremer

Someone Needs Your Encouragement – Marshall Segal

5 Phrases that Make People Discount What You’re Saying – Gwen Moran

Use the Magic 5:1 Ratio to Improve All Your Relationships – Jessica Stillman

5 Indicators of an Evil Heart – Signs of a Narcissistic Partner – Lesli White

Jacqueline Woodson’s Lovely Letter to Children About Kindness, Presence, and How Books Transform Us – Maria Popova

5) Voices of Influence – Amidst all the voices gracing our lives and in the news media, we have some truly stellar influencers. Below are just a few:

73-17 In the Making – Sho Baraka, Jackie Hill Perry, Propaganda

Rapper’s Twitter Thread About Human Behavior During Pandemic Goes Viral: People Will ‘Demand’ Authoritarianism ‘When Sufficiently Frightened’ – Zuby – Charlotte Pence Bond

YouTube Video – Black Self-Making – Glenn Loury & John McWhorter

YouTube Video – Breaking the Silence – 2021 Documentary on psychosis and psychotic disorders. Written, directed, and produced by Dara Sanandaji.

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Have a safe weekend filled with sweet times with people you love.
Bonuses:
Photo Credit: Twitter, Ian Kremer
Photo taken at the Jefferson Memorial, Three Panel

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar – Beauty to the Ears & Mind, Mental Health Awareness, Antidote for Self-deceit, Showing Up…Or Not, and Unmasking

1) Beyond the Guitar – Beauty to the Ears & Mind – We think of beauty more in what we experience visually, but there is a powerful connection between music and the mind. Beautiful music soothes the soul and lifts our hearts. Moves us. Often it is because of nostalgia attached to the music, but even without that emotional connection, music can bring our minds to a better place.

Your Brain on Music – Pegasus, UCF

Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has that way about his craft. Moving our hearts with the beauty of his arrangements and performance. I don’t know any of the pieces in his medley of 4 Underrated (but Beautiful) Video Game Themes, but something happens when I listen. Shoulders drop; breathing slows; wonder sets in. Beauty has its way with our ears and our minds.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

2) Mental Health Awareness –  May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The theme message for 2021 is “You Are Not Alone”. Our need for connection is bigger than ever, having gone through so much COVID isolation. Whether mental health issues are our own personal struggle or we are family, friends, caregivers of those who struggle, helps abound. We just must be aware and utilize them.

Tools 2 Thrive – Mental Health America

Mental Health Awareness Month 2021: What to Know – Karen Veazey

Photo Credit: Twitter, Nicolino Frate

Suicide and death by drug overdose have increased during COVID. They are shocking for us and real losses, either for us or for friends. We can’t keep isolating ourselves from each other. Finding ways to help is imperative.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Key Ministry, Your Neighbour #GiveHope

YouTube Video: Unseen: Exposing the Mental Health Crisis Among Special Needs Caregivers | Documentary Trailer

3) Antidote for Self-Deceit –  Self-deceit (or self-deception) is “a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument. Self-deception involves convincing oneself of a truth (or lack of truth) so that one does not reveal any self-knowledge of the deception”.

The Most Dangerous Form of Deception: Self-Deception

I’ve allowed myself to be deceived (either with the help of outside influences or from sheer will and desire, wanting something to be so, or not be so). It’s not pretty. One of my strongest memories was sitting in a circle of friends who essentially did an loving intervention with me. I was in a self-destructive (but non-abusive) relationship, and they had the courage to point me to the changes in my life and thinking. I will never forget it. The life I have now is much impacted by their willingness to go to that place with me. Forever grateful.

Regarding deceit, it is way too easy to get into our own heads and assess life with a self-tuned receiver. I wrote about this before (the practice of noticing). A somewhat dated video (with a still fresh message) speaks to this so well.

During the particular season of self-deception (described above), I got to the place that lying in my bed at night, when I would usually pray, it got impossible to pray. That was terrifying. It’s like all the desires and my rationalizations for them had crowded out any space for God. Especially for a holy God. Like I said, terrifying. No matter how loving God is, I couldn’t justify praying when my own desires trumped His for me.

The Antidote to Self Deception – J. D. Walt

As the video illuminates, as we get out of our own heads, and start seeing other people around us, we find the antidote. Caring more for others than ourselves, we can actually clear our heads some. Self-deception causes us to “circle the wagons” and keep others at a distance. As we determine to get close to people again, especially to genuinely listen and serve, our own deceit can be more readily understood/recognized. Of course, our neglected relationship with God will take its own time and action on our part. He is ready, when we are.

Photo Credit: Chip Scholz

4) Showing Up…or Not – Showing up is a good thing. For all of us. Keeping commitments. Being present. Choosing to lean in. Listening.

So much is said about listening and its positive impact. To listen requires proximity.

On the East Coast, this week, we had a gas shortage (or a perceived gas shortage…not sure which is more accurate). Everyone was making decisions about filling their tanks and sorting out needful car trips vs. those that can be jettisoned for another time.

I was a part of a couple of meetings where some folks didn’t show up. Without a phone call, text, or email message. Was it the gas shortage? Or did it display something else? Honestly, I also wondered how often I’ve done this same thing myself.

We are in a culture right now when a RSVP yes can turn to no without a word. I’m showing my age…but does this matter?

Below you’ll find quotes from three different authors on this and what it can mean. The showing up…or not. After you read their observations, I’d love to hear what you have to say in the Comments.

“Standing someone up is a personal attack. You are saying that you have no respect at all for this person’s time, energy or feelings. This person set aside time from his or her day to hang out with YOU.

And maybe he or she didn’t feel like showing up. But no, this person had enough respect for you to feel as though he or she couldn’t bail on you. Then how did you repay the favor? You didn’t show up. With no warning.

And don’t even get me started on the fact that if this person cared about you enough to make and honor plans with you, odds are that he or she would probably be WORRIED about you when you don’t send a message. Because falling off the face of the Earth is a little alarming….You get the picture here.” – Candice Jalili

Why It Is Literally Never, Ever OK to Just Not Show Up For Your Plans – Candice Jalili

“There are commitments you are not going to keep no matter how hard you try, but even if you fail to keep them, you can still honor them. How do you do this?

“The difference between “keeping” and “honoring” is key: keeping a promise is about the letter of the promise, while honoring a promise is about the spirit. It is even possible to keep a promise while not honoring it. People will forgive an honored but un-kept promise, but it takes a real saint to let go of an un-honored promise—kept or not.

So what are the practical aspects of honoring a commitment? They are:

  • respect
  • communication
  • productive effort

It’s uncomfortable to take responsibility (for a failed commitment), but discomfort is a lot easier to shoulder than disrespect or disappointment. Even if you failed to honor a commitment up until now, it is not too late: disrespect and disappointment can be rolled back or even erased in the face of genuine honor.” –  Kenneth Vogt

How to Cope When You Fail to Honor a Commitment – Kenneth Vogt

[The two writers above have very different tones to their pieces. Both worthy of note. I especially appreciated Vogt’s distinction of honoring a commitment (whether you’re able to keep it or not). Honoring the person by communicating your inability to keep the commitment…as well as the honoring that goes on by making the effort to keep the commitment whether  easy or not. We don’t really know what goes on for another who does the work of keeping a commitment or the one who just can’t. What we do know is what it is like for us to keep or not keep a commitment; to honor or dishonor a person in the commitment. So much more understanding and care come out of the smallest communications. Something to think about.]

Below Rachel Macy Stafford posted an image and (in the link) a Facebook story about sitting in a line for gas this week, and an elderly man, just ahead of her, deliberately nodding her way (as he chose not to completely fill his tank, doing what he could to “leave” some for her). No RSVP’ed commitment. No relationship. But a deeply kind gesture to her that she was seen. We all need that…that being seen.

Photo Credit: Rachel Macy Stafford, Facebook, The Hands Free Revolution

It’s…“a deliberate decision to look out for the person behind (you)…It’s not about us. Even though it’s hard not to think only of our own needs, there is someone behind us…and someone behind that person…with their own set of struggles. If you can…will you look out for them? A wave will do, just so they know they are seen…it’s the kind of gesture that takes people farther than a full tank of gas.”Rachel Macy Stafford

5) Unmasking – Get ready for another new culture shock thanks to the Coronavirus: unmasking!!! I am so excited myself.Photo Credit: Pexels, Gustavo Fring

Based on this week’s CDC recommendations, fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks or physically distance anymore (except in rare defined situations). This, of course, is still only a recommendation and each state must give direction at a local level. Our governor just announced that we will align with the CDC recommendations.

Now, no one is going to know who is vaccinated and who isn’t. If we have learned anything from COVID-19, it is to be wise in dealing with the viral world. Those not vaccinated will probably forego masks as well. The freedom feels intoxicating, honestly, but possibly fearful to some, even some who are fully vaccinated.

I hope we can leave fear behind us. COVID is still rampant in some parts of the world and that is tragic. As we in the US and other countries get past our own experiences with this virus, hopefully we can be a help to those still battling the disease.

The culture shock part is real. I will have my mask with me, and see what the signs say on the doors of each business, store, school, or community space.

Still….so worth celebrating!!!

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That’s a wrap. Would love your comments below on your own favorites of the week. Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot to me.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, Twitter

Angry with God: Living in the Tension of Partial Understanding – Brad Hambrick

YouTube – Podcast – An Honest and Raw Conversation with Francis Chan – Preston Sprinkle

My next read:

5 Friday Faves – Music and the Soul, Asking Good Questions, Hygiene Theater, Life-transforming Poetry, and 5 Energizing Habits

5 favorite finds of the week. Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!

1) Music and the Soul – We all know the soothing touch of music on our souls. It lifts us and takes us to nostalgic places. Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, J. S. Bach

Nathan at Beyond the Guitar is like an online music therapist. Sweet guitar melodies that cause us to travel to a film, TV show, or video game that brought us fun, but more often, joy in the experience.

Nathan’s latest posted arrangement for classical guitar is linked below. Sweet piece.

YouTube Video – Zach Snyder’s Justice League Meets Classical Guitar – Beyond the Guitar

Occasionally he plays a song just for his patrons. This week he performed Leo Brouwer‘s Cancion de Cuna. Such a romantic classical guitar piece. I wish I could bring you that video, but unless you’re already a patron, you will miss that one. Here’s him playing it in 2009 (thanks to his filmmaker roommate Duy Nguyen. He was a youngster then, but the soul knows. Enjoy the loveliness.

I love his music and how it elevates our souls. Words can often do the same for us, especially us extroverts. Below are links about how many see the impact of music on our hearts and health…here, words are used.

Music Is Good for Your Soul, and Your Health – Gary Drevitch

Power of Music Quotes – Good Reads

75 Music Quotes on How It Heals Our Soul

130 Inspiring Music Quotes That Will Fuel Your Soul

2) Asking Good Questions – Several years ago, we were in charge of a cross-cultural post-grad experience for groups of 20-somethings (millennials). One time, a mom came out to visit her son, and she gave us some good advice (although at the time it wasn’t something I wanted to hear). I’ll get back to that advice shortly.

In this cross-cultural context, these young people had many hurdles to quickly master – language, culture, worldview, physical and emotional challenges. Having lived well for many years in this particular culture, we could very easily fall into just “telling” them what to do and how to succeed, and often we did just that.

This mom told us, “Young adults want to discover their own way through difficulty. Ask them good questions and they will find the answers for themselves.”

Sigh…OK. I get it. It may take longer and require more work on the part of the teacher, mentor, supervisor…but it is excellent advice.

Asking the right questions is an art. Too often, we just default to giving the answer rather than asking the question. Four excellent articles on this are linked below. Asking questions (the right way with the right intent) can build trust and transparency. We also find out what we need to know rather than making suppositions that could be way wrong.

Photo Credit: Alison Wood Brooks & Leslie K. John, HBR.org – Brilliant article linked below

7 Keys to Asking Better Questions (What I’ve Learned From My Leadership Podcast) – Carey Nieuwhof

Good Leadership Is About Asking Good Questions – John Hagel III

How to Be Amazingly Good at Asking Questions – Mike Martel

The Surprising Power of Questions – Alison Wood Brooks and Leslie K. John

3) Hygiene Theater – We have dear friends who are still terrified by COVID-19. Even after so many of us are vaccinated. Lives have been severely altered by the safeguards put in place with the advisement of the CDC and other government agencies as we “follow the science”. That sacred science changes weekly because we are gaining new understanding of the virus with increasing data helping us to open up our lives more.

Thus the flurry of articles and videos now on the topic “hygiene theater”. Remember early on when we were told to sanitize our surfaces, wash our vegetables/fruits, and vigorously clean all public places on a daily basis.

Photo Credit: KUT, Pixabay

What have we learned? How have we changed in our mediation of COVID impact? Now that I’m fully vaccinated and so many in my life have been, I look forward to welcoming people back into my home and visiting others as well. Shopping, though still often online or curbside pickup, has been happily opened up. Still, it seems we live in a world that is strangely toxic. All of us wearing masks and wiping down surfaces wherever we go. In this seemingly apocalyptic space.

When is the fear of COVID, of dying, so paramount that it squeezes all the joy and quality out of our lives? How can we move forward?

Now, I won’t play down the danger of COVID. We have lost friends and colleagues to it over this year. Not many, praise God, but some. The fact that there is still such a fear of it, over a year in, seems inordinate. Given the numbers. For sure in the US. Especially when COVID-related deaths reported appears suspect.

Maybe I am unwisely cynical. However, the deep cleaning still being advised (in our schools, for one huge example) seems unnecessary. Given all the findings. Given what we know about the transmission of COVID (through air and not surfaces). Follow the science, right?

I’m grateful for every turn in the COVID pandemic that restores life processes for our good. Kids in school. Friends visiting in each other’s homes. Work forces back in full. Weddings, births, graduations, funerals, hospital stays with our people in attendance, fully supporting us.

Enough with over-sanitizing. Now, on to masking. When is it truly protective and when is it theater?

Deep Cleaning Isn’t a Victim-less Crime – Derek Thompson

Now the CDC Wants to Shut Down Hygiene Theater – Kent Sepkowitz

4) Life-transforming Poetry – OK, maybe not everyone loves poetry. Yet. The poetry of artists like Preston and Jackie Hill Perry, Ezekiel Azonwu, and Janette…ikz have such a way with words. They lay down truth with their poetry. It is unique and powerful. God and person honoring. Check it out below:

5) Energizing Habits – Author, entrepreneur Scott Young has posted The Nine Habits to Increase Your Energy. See his post for strong commentary and quick-starts, but here’s the list of 9 habits:

  1. Go to bed early.
  2. Exercise every day.
  3. Twenty-minute naps.
  4. Do your hard work in the morning.
  5. Set your intention the day before.
  6. Sell yourself on your goals. [Motivate and incentivize yourself toward meeting your goals.]
  7. Get better friends. [Not about getting rid of friends, but if some are particularly needy, then set boundaries, if necessary, and make time for the friends who energize and encourage you as well.]
  8. Read better books.
  9. Align your life. [What are your priorities? Are some necessary parts of your life taking too much from other parts (work, family, health, hobbies)? Work out the conflicts.

The Nine Habits to Increase Your Energy – Scott Young

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Hope you’ve had some of your own favorite finds. Please share in the Comments below. It means a lot you came for a read.

Bonuses:

Fave Quote This Week: “We are sometimes faced with circumstances that seem as if they must mark the final act. We sometimes encounter providences that make us believe the book has been closed and all has been lost. Yet when we are pressed, we must not think we have been crushed, but believe that God can still bring about a great redemption. When we are struck down, we must not think we have been destroyed, but rather have confidence that we are being prepared for some great blessing. When we are persecuted we must not determine we have been abandoned, but know that we are being made ready for some great usefulness to God’s plans and purposes. We must wait, we must withhold judgment, we must read to the end! For no story, least of all our own, makes sense until we have read all the way to the final page. It is only then, in light of the whole, that we see the skill, the ability, the genius of the Author.”Tim Challies, Always Read the Story to the End

[A girl’s diary from 1929 – borrowed from a friend. The first owner of the diary is not written anywhere in it. Amazing for me to read her words about daily life almost a hundred years ago.]

Changes I’m Making in my 70s Heading Toward My 80s – Ellen van der Molen – Facebook

ImagePhoto Credit: Twitter, Ian Kremer

What to Say When Someone’s Gaslighting You – Elizabeth Yuko

The Problem with “Mom Boss” Culture – Amanda Montei

New favorite source of quotes embedded in images: Square Quotes

Photo Credit: Tim Challies, John Newton, Square Quotes

Worship Wednesday – Tyler Perry’s “Refuse Hate.” and Revolutionary by Josh Wilson

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.Psalm 4:4-5, 8

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.Ephesians 4:26-27

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”Matthew 5:43-45

The 2021 Oscars (Academy Awards Ceremony) this week delivered the lowest ratings in the award show’s history. It’s been a strange year. The highlight for us was actually the acceptance speech for this year’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. The recipient is the filmmaker and benefactor Tyler Perry.

Watch his very different, almost politically incorrect, 3-minute acceptance speech below. [Full transcript here.]

An excerpt follows:

I refuse to hate someone because they’re Mexican or because they are Black or white, or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they’re a police officer. I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian. I would hope that we would refuse hate.
So anyone who wants to meet me in the middle, to refuse hate, to refuse blanket judgment and to help lift someone’s feet off the ground, this one is for you, too. God bless you and thank you Academy, I appreciate it.”Tyler Perry
As  followers of Christ, we cannot join the throngs of people who hate. We may want to block or cancel the words or actions of others. Yet, we are confronted ourselves by the truth that we were all once the enemies of God…and He forgave us. Do we presume that our indignation is more righteous than His? Do we consider our being wronged as more needful of judgment than His own? God have mercy!
What is the response of the believer toward those we are tempted to feel hate?

Only love. Spoken and acted out in kindness and mercy.

Do we stomp and kick the dust at that calling and command? Do we hold tighter to our stones? Do we give lip service to “forgiving” but everything in our actions and attitudes tells a different story?

How thankful we can be to a God who is all-wise and all-loving! He understands us completely. He walked among us, in the sandals of the incarnate Christ. He experienced hatred and persecution, even to His last breath on this earth. Yet…He forgave, He loved, He administered the greatest kindness possible – His life for ours.

In His loving mercy, He has taught us how to live in this life.

We are to love. We are to forgive. We are to keep our own hearts from sinning against another. We are to remember that we and our neighbor (enemy or friend) are both made in the image of God. We are not to forget our own bent toward sin…the very sin that caused Jesus to take the cross upon Himself…for us. Not just for another.

God calls us to remember whose we are. He is at work in our hearts, in that of our neighbors (and enemies), and in the nations.

We can join Him…through revolutionary acts of kindness.

I’ve just recently discovered the writing of Lois Tverberg. She teaches the Scripture in context, meaning within the culture of the world in which it was written. We might think Jesus’ command to us to love our enemies is hard. Yet, if we recall our own struggle with sin and how neighbors and enemies are not so different from us, we can access the grace of God to love…and show kindness.

Jesus’ Most Radical Teaching – Lois Tverberg

Loving Your Neighbor, Who Is Like You – Lois Tverberg

Instead of striving to be right…what if we strove to be kind – loving, serving, and praying for those our flesh cries out to hate? This is the way of Jesus.

Josh Wilson (with a team of other songwriters) gave us the song “Revolutionary” in October 2019, having no idea what 2020 or 2021 would hold. It was a prophetic call to the church to love…all.

“It seems natural, almost effortless, to focus on our differences with others rather than our similarities. Drawing attention to those differences keeps us glued to the news and social media because of the moral outrage we feel towards the “other.” I think there’s a better way though, and that’s the way of empathy and understanding, the way of kindness….No matter what side of the political spectrum we’re on, deep down I know that we are not as different as we are led to believe. There is peace to be made, there are names to be learned, meals to be had, chasms to be crossed, and it all starts with kindness.Josh Wilson

Worship with me.

Maybe you’re not like me
Maybe we don’t agree
Maybe that doesn’t mean
We gotta be enemies
Maybe we just get brave
Take a big leap of faith
Call a truce so me and you
Can find a better way
Let’s take some time, open our eyes, look and listen, yeah
And we’re gonna find we’re more alike than we are different, yeah
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
I’m turning the TV down
Drowning their voices out
‘Cause I believe that you and me
Can find some common ground
See maybe I’m not like you
But I’ll walk a mile in your shoes
If it means I might see
The world the way you do
Let’s take some time, open our eyes, look and listen
And we’re gonna find we’re more alike than we are different
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
What would Jesus do
He would love first
He would love first, hmm
What would Jesus do
He would love first
Yeah, He would love first
So we should love first
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
God help us get revolutionary*
“‘Revolutionary’ is all about kindness,” shares Josh Wilson. “I believe that kindness matters. It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the negativity we see in the world and on the news, and this song is a reminder that we are called to more than that. We’re called to love as Christ has loved us. I am so encouraged by the acts of kindness I’ve seen recently, even amidst a worldwide pandemic, even in an election year. In many ways, our struggles are actually bringing us together. We’re learning that we all have a lot more in common than we thought, and it’s beautiful to see the ways people are serving each other. The lyrics are a prayer for God, through us, to start a revolution of kindness. Will you join us?”Josh Wilson

Postscript:

Josh Wilson also wrote “Dream Small” which I covered here. He capturing how God has wrapped all commands into two – for our good and to the glory of our magnificent God:
Love God
Love others.
“Keep loving, keep serving
Keep listening, keep learning
Keep praying, keep hoping
Keep seeking, keep searching
Out of these small things and watch them grow bigger
The God who does all things makes oceans
From rivers.”

Worship Wednesday – Dream Small – Josh Wilson – Deb Mills

Story Behind the Song “Revolutionary”

Sunday Grace – A Valentine’s Day Reflection on the Deep, Deep Love of God

Photo Credit: Heartlight Gallery

[Adapted from Archives]

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7

I love Valentine’s Day. Maybe, more than anything, it is a bright red, shiny day that punctures the darker gray ones of winter. Being married now for many years, the season of longing for love should be long forgotten. It is not. I remember.

The curious thing about the years of singleness – the many Valentine’s Days spent more with great girlfriends than with a guy – was the weathered joy in those years. The loneliness and seeming “not belonging to someone” brought keen awareness of the contrasting actual truth that I was NOT alone. Indeed, I was loved deeply, more deeply than ever possible by another human as needy as me.

On Valentine’s Day, I’m drawn back to an old hymn. One actually that only became familiar to me during our years in Egypt, worshiping with British expats. They brought their beloved hymns into our collective worship experience.

Englishman Samuel Trevor Francis penned,  in King James English, a beautiful hymn extolling the love of Christ. The lyrics are so powerful and life-giving. You can just hear the great church organ of the past pounding out the beat and breadth of the melody…and the message of love we find in Jesus.

On this snowy winter day, please worship with me. The Christian band Selah has prepared an updated version for us, retaining the feel of the old hymn. The lyrics and music to accompany are found here.

1 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
vast, unmeasured, boundless, free,
rolling as a mighty ocean
in its fullness over me.
Underneath me, all around me,
is the current of Thy love;
leading onward, leading homeward
to my glorious rest above.

2 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
changeth never, nevermore!
How He watcheth o’er His loved ones,
died to call them all His own;
how for them He intercedeth,
watcheth o’er them from the throne.

3 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
love of ev’ry love the best;
’tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’tis a haven sweet of rest.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’tis heav’n of heav’ns to me;
and it lifts me up to glory,
for it lifts me up to Thee.*

The trappings of Valentine’s Day will leave you a little empty… unsatisfied, no matter your situation. Find in the great love of God the refuge and shelter He means to be for each of us.

He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield.Psalm 91:4

Photo Credit: Kensington Gardens

*Lyrics to O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus – S. Trevor Francis

Postscript: Another favorite hymn of mine is How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – below find Selah’s version of this one as well.

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Selah – YouTube Lyric Video

Love Notes – Mom’s Birthday Just Ahead of Valentine’s Day

[Today is Mom’s birthday – 19 of them now in Heaven. This blog adapted from the Archives. ]

Our little family never lived close to the grandparents. This was not easy…for any of us. Before I married, I did live close to home, and Mom was my best friend. She died several years ago, and I often say to people who knew her that “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.

Mom and I shared a weakness for words…they are probably excessively important to us, delivering both positive and (sometimes) negative weight. She was an amazing encourager. She rarely missed an opportunity to lift another’s spirit or to speak loving truth to someone desperate for God’s touch.

Mom pictures for website 012

When I moved away to take a teaching job, she and my dad helped me with the move. New Haven, Connecticut would be a 2-day drive from Georgia. It was the farthest I had ever wandered from home. She stayed a week to help me settle in.  While there, she was such great company. We explored the city together and laughed over a new culture and cried at the missing that was ahead for us.

She filled my freezer with her baking, and, while I was at work, she wrote notes. Then she hid them everywhere. After she flew home, I began finding them. In my coffee mug. Under my pillow. In the pocket of my coat. Among my reference books. Behind my music books on the piano. She was with me in the love notes she left, and it made the distance between us…less.IMAG2720 (2)

My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I have kept every one of her notes. These from that move over 30 years ago are fading…red ink on pink paper. There is a lifetime of notes between Mom and me. The tradition she started on that first move has become a life-long tradition for our family. Our visits back and forth, across the US and then the globe, have been papered by these little notes.

Our children, from the time they could write, entered into this tradition much to the joy of their grandparents. Before we would leave from visits with them, these three young ones would write of their affection for their grandparents and hide them all over their houses. I delighted in their cooperation in this conspiracy of love.

Mom always wrote notes…not just to us but to so many. She and her Sunday School Class ladies would send cards every week to the sick ones or the sad ones. She had a special burden for the elderly, for widows (including functional widows, deserted by husbands) and for fatherless children (again including those “orphaned” by still-living fathers). She inspired me by her humble ambition .

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27

I am so thankful for my mom’s bits of paper…for her love…and for her perseverance in encouraging and serving others. Her generation is sadly almost gone, and it is for us to pick up these traditions, or traditions like them. Passing them on somehow to the next generations…Maybe there won’t be bits of paper or love notes like in the past. I do hope we still take the time to write. Definitely, the call to serve and to encourage is as current as ever. My life continues to be rich with those, young and old, who reach out with words of kindness and encouragement. Written or spoken, they are love notes to the heart.

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

Memory-of-Mildred Byrd McAdams

Monday Morning Moment – One Shocking Revelation After Another – Shaking Off Our Fantasies and Grounding Ourselves in the Real

A dear old friend gave me a book shortly before Christmas of 2020. Just starting to read it in January, and once in, I realized I was way behind. Debbie Macomber‘s One Perfect Word gives a strong case for choosing a word for the year. A word to dissect, and meditate on, and to make real in both our thoughts and walks of life. One Perfect Word. For the year.

[Thanks, Kay, for this book.]

Here, a bit into this year, the word compassion has become my word for 2021. For clarity: It is best defined as: to recognize the suffering of others and then take action to help. Compassion embodies a tangible expression of love for those who are suffering.

For those who know or think they know me, compassionate is a word that might seem already descriptive of who I am. “Seem” is the operative word.

10 Ways to Show Compassion – Katie Krawczyk

You see I have always thought of myself as compassionate. Being there for friend and family. A cancer nurse for many years. Hospice, as well. Living overseas for love’s sake. Volunteering in my community and beyond. Love God. Love neighbor. Love even my enemies. This is life…the life Jesus lived; the life I’ve ascribed to live.

So I chose a word compassion to examine and flesh out in my life.

As fate would have it, some friends and I decide to tackle an old and brilliant book: C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters (1942). In affectionately abbreviated TSL, Lewis presents a series of fantastical letters from a master demon (Screwtape) to his nephew, Wormwood. The nephew is on assignment to mess in the affairs of a certain young Englishman. In the letters, God is referred to as The Enemy.

[I recommend this book to everyone, whatever your worldview or belief system – the wisdom captured on the pages of this small book is phenomenal. Our human nature and struggles or challenges in life are exposed. Fortunately, we are also given a way forward; oddly by looking at the schemes set in place to trip us up or cause us to fail.  This book is both fascinating and heady. It requires a deep read, for sure.]

In Chapter 6 of TSL, the demon uncle advises his younger on how to trouble the human assigned to him. In the particular area of worrying about the future. This is where fantasy can overtake the real, and, fortunately vice versa: the real can prevail, if we pay attention. Remember my word, compassion.

Screwtape gives much “good counsel” to Wormwood on how to trouble the human by keeping his thoughts on the fears of and hopes for the future rather than on what is right in front of him. For those who do believe in God’s providential care of people, Lewis wholly satisfies us readers as well.

The main message of Screwtape is to keep the human off balance and focused on himself, thinking that he cares for people and outcomes and that he is a good person. The reality is that the human is actually overcome by cares of the world yet does little about them.

How do we shake off our fantasies and ground ourselves in the real?

Screwtape instructs Wormwood to deal with the human as one made up of concentric circles of will, intellect, and fantasies or imagination. Our will, or our heart in spiritual terms, is the deepest part of who we are. It is where we make our choices on how to act and then, in turn, take action. Different than intellect, or what we know about life (intellect) or what we imagine or fantasize about life…or about doing life.

YouTube Video – Screwtape Letter 6 – Providence eLearning – Dr. Arthur Hippler – a clear and excellent resource

Photo Credit: Providence eLearning, YouTube, Screwtape Letters

So I can think I am a compassionate person. In fact, one can choose to be compassionate. However, we can also simply apply our intellect to the whole idea of compassion and then only fantasize or imagine ourselves doing acts of compassion… This is NOT what we think it is. Compassion, in its truest most real sense, happens in the will…and in the moment. Oh, we can plan on acts of compassion and put in place steps toward compassionate outcomes… but, until we act, compassion itself lies in the realm of imagination or fantasy.

Sobering and extremely helpful.

A huge and relevant example in modern culture right now is the statement, and call to action, “Black Lives Matter”. Do black lives matter? Absolutely. Do all lives matter? Of course. Do lives “womb to tomb” matter? Not to everyone…but that’s for another day.

We can say and lean into powerful messaging. Yet, until we grapple with the realities of that messaging, and sort out what truly communicates the truth of that message…not just in word but also in deed…then, in fact, the messaging is just so many words.

Screwtape has wreaked his havoc in our culture and in us as fellow humans, as we struggle with how to respond to messaging. Both in our news and social media platforms, and conversations with neighbors and friends. What is fantasy and what is reality and how shall we then act?

“Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your [human’s] soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary.Screwtape to Wormwood, Chapter 6, The Screwtape Letters

Related to compassion, my word for 2021, I no longer want to stay locked in debate over whose lives matter or what hasn’t been done than needs to be done. I would love to settle in my will to act…with compassion. Not thinking I am showing some sacrificial compassion out there among those I don’t even know…but in fact, acting in compassion, toward my housemates, my extended family and friends, this neighborhood and beyond. Leaving off the malice of disagreeing or tweaking each others messages out there in the world somewhere.

This is the goal: shaking off my fantasies about compassion and the idea of my being a compassionate person and grounding myself, my very will, in the real…acting in compassion, in the moment and moving toward making it habit.

Restless Pilgrim – Pints With Jack – The Screwtape Letters 6 – “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”the most fun to be had in diving deep into C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

YouTube Channel – C. S. Lewis Doodle