Category Archives: Attitude

5 Friday Faves – LOTR’s “May It Be”, Easter Reading, Forgiveness, On Death and Dying, and Music in the Family

1) LOTR’s “May It Be”Classical guitarist Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, and singer Malinda Kathleen Reese previously collaborated on a beautiful cover of May It Be. This week, he arranged, performed, and posted a full rendition of “May It Be”. Take in all the beauty here.

2) Easter Reading – Every year, sometime early in Lent, I pull out the books below to read in anticipation of Easter. Rich and inspiring.

This year, I added Timothy Keller‘s new book Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter. Wow! It is taking time to read because every page is full of meaning…requiring savoring and reflecting. Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City (since 1989). Since 2017 he oversees the work of Redeemer City to City – teaching, mentoring, and writing. The book Hope in Times of Fear was written during the year of COVID-19 (2020) which is also the year he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Hopefully God will give him, and us, many more brilliant and beautiful books. For now, this is my new favorite. Thanks, Dr. Keller.

Just here you will find one of the stunning passages in this book:

“The claims of Jesus Christ, if they are truly heard for what they are, never evoke moderate response. Jesus claimed to be the Lord God of the universe, who had come to earth to give himself for us so that we could live for him. That is a call for total allegiance. You will have to either run away screaming in anger and fear or run toward him with joy and love and fall down at his feet and say, ‘I am yours.’ Nothing in the middle makes any sense. Unless you are running away from him or running toward him, you actually don’t really know who he is. Peter has done both. Because of the instruction that he has received from the risen Jesus, Peter now knows enough about the gospel of grace to realize he has nothing to fear from Jesus’s divine presence. But there is a great deal of unfinished business between Peter and His Savior.”Tim Keller, p. 98, Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter

3) Forgiveness – I don’t have a lot to say right here. To me, it’s so clear. We are wise if we forgive. We are wise if we ask forgiveness.

This past week, I listened to this old Eagles song “Heart of the Matter”.  It’s a sad song…about regret. The focus was the need to forgive…before it’s too late.

It reminded me of a blog I wrote some time ago (I’ve written many about forgiveness or the lack of it).  Singer songwriter Matthew West wrote a really beautiful song titled Forgiveness, out of a story of terrible loss and extravagant forgiveness.

I just want to leave the lyrics right here:

It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve

It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word…

Forgiveness
Forgiveness

It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness

It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it’s power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness

I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me
Forgiveness, Forgiveness.*

Why Do We Add to Our Trouble? – Tim Challies

YouTube Video – Forgiveness (live) by Matthew West

Story Behind the song “Forgiveness”

4) On Death and Dying – Having been a cancer nurse, I am familiar with this topic more than most maybe. However, it is never an easy one, given we don’t want to lose people we love nor do we want to leave people we love.

It is important for us to talk about death and preparations for dying, even if it is uncomfortable. It is a loving thing to do. My husband’s sweet dad, John, prior to having surgery some years ago, executed an advance life directive spelling out his wishes for end-of-life. He did great through that surgery and lived many healthy years afterward. Julia, his wonderful wife, didn’t think about it again. Then after years of poor health with Parkinson’s, he had a massive stroke. We were so grateful that the medical staff were able to retrieve a forgotten document that made decisions regarding his care so much easier for us. John had made decisions in his love for his family… years before. Because of this, we got to bring him home, with hospice support, and be with him, caring for him, until he died a week later.

With COVID, and now even with vaccines, we have had to take a clear-eyed look at death. When my neighbor, who is a bit older but as healthy as me, told me she and her husband had met with the funeral home to do their planning, I was a bit stunned. Yet, it is important and such a loving thing to do for a family.

Julia, my precious mom-in-law, and I, on a visit last year, had challenged each other to complete our own advanced care (or end-of-life) directive. We haven’t done it yet. Either one of us. So I pulled it up again…and hope to finish it this weekend.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, one of President Biden’s medical advisors on COVID, has been very public in his desire not to live past 75. Of course, he is only 63, this year. 75 may not seem as young to him as it might in a few more years. He talks about the diminishing returns of getting older, and that it its own loss, for the person and for those who would care.

I don’t care for Dr. Emanuel’s take on this, but I do very much agree with the following:

  • Think seriously about your beliefs in God and what happens in the after-life.
  • Get right with God and reconcile with those you are at odds with…especially family members. For them, if not for yourself.
  • Decide what your wishes are about end-of-life. Write it down. Tell your children or medical representative.
  • Make whatever arrangements you can while you still have your health.
  • Be sure your will is clear and understandable to those for whom it will matter most.
  • Then live your life in all its beauty. When dying begins, it can have its own meaning and purpose. I think of Kara Tippetts and so many others who died as they had lived.

What else should be added to these points? Please comment below.

The Hope That Sustained Tim Keller Through 2020 – Matt McCullough

Growing My Faith in the Face of Death – Timothy Keller

20 Quotes From Tim Keller’s Short (New) Book on Death – Ivan Mesa, Tim Keller

Passing On – Documentary – Arizona Public Media – thoughtful documentary on end-of-life planning. Also the complementary film “Dying Wishes”

The Passing On Movie – a Documentary – on disappearing traditions of Black funeral homes

Advanced Life or End-of-Life Directive – State of Virginia – pdf

Kara Tippetts and other stories of redemption – Deb Mills Writer

Photo Credit: Screenshot, Life in the Labyrinth

5) Music in the Family – Wow! Don’t know how I missed the Kanneh-Mason siblings until recently. They have been playing, both together and as soloists, since at least 2017. Ranging in age from 11 to 24, these seven are incredibly talented and hard working in their craft – playing either cello, violin, or piano. When the COVID pandemic hit, they were all home together, in Great Britain, and made even more music together. The video below of them playing Redemption Song is how I first heard them. Wow!

The Kanneh-Mason Website

We are a musical family as well. Not world-class maybe (yet…who knows?!). However, we do know what it is like to hear music all the time and to always have an audience or somebody who plays alongside. The Kanneh-Mason siblings have really benefited from growing up together with supportive parents. Read this great piece to find out Everything You Need to Know About the Kanneh-Mason Family.

I have in my to-buy wish list their beautiful album Carnival of the Animals.

Raising The Kanneh-Masons: The World’s Most Musical Family – Jessica Duchen

That’s it for this week. Thanks so much for stopping by. It means a lot. Enjoy the weekend and those you love. Keep the door open…

Bonuses:

Banana Pudding – Karen Burnette Garner

YouTube Video – I Waited For You – Janette…ikz Wedding Vows

Photo Credit: Facebook, Tropical Life Food and Fun

My Favorite Things for a Civilized Life – Sally Clarkson

YouTube Video – A Song for Mama – Boyz II Men – This song is new to me. Heard it this past week as part of a funeral to a mom who died of early-onset Alzheimer’s. It was a fitting tribute by her two sons.

Monday Morning Moment – Gentle and Empowering Wisdom on American Racial Struggle – Bryan Stevenson

Photo Credit: The Richmond Forum, Bryan Stevenson

My children didn’t grow up in the South. They are TCK’s (third culture kids) spending most of their childhood in other countries. They/we were minorities in those countries, so they understand some of what that means. A big difference is that we were still privileged minorities. We had the blue American passport. We could be forbidden entrance to those countries in the future but, once in, we would most probably always be allowed to peacefully live in and peacefully leave from those countries.

These children of ours have all now spent their college years and early adult years back in the US. Their understanding of racial differences has been impacted, having lived as “different” in other places.

Their parents, that would be Dave and me, taught them from a color-blind Biblical ideology. That’s how our parents taught us and I’m thankful for that kind of worldview. God loves everyone; we are to love everyone. Never based on what they look like, including skin color, an immutable characteristic. This is always a bent that moves people toward each other. We had been sheltered in life from the hardships and challenges of what it was for some to grow up black in the US. We didn’t know. We should have. Now we know more. What we may not know is what it is to love and experience love across differences (be it race or social status).

Our kids, since returning to the US, have found themselves in a culture of outrage, blaming, and unforgiveness. The push for academics and work environments to include Critical Race Theory and anti-racism is much more divisive than healing. Do not hear in anything I say below in support of such teaching.

What is the answer? What can we do? When a hardship or marginalization falls along racial lines? The Richmond Forum took us many steps forward by hosting Bryan Stevenson as speaker this weekend.

Stevenson is an American attorney who founded and directs the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Stevenson works with some of the hardest cases in the court system. He advocates for those who did not receive fair and right judgments and find themselves in long prison terms, some even on Death Row. He also fights the situation where children are tried and imprisoned as adults…when it is not necessary for the sake of society, at the detriment of the child.

He talked and we listened. Stevenson, without judgment or contempt, talked about what it would take to move forward. He listed four actions we could all, no matter our race or privilege, do.

  1. Find ways to get proximate to people who are suffering. – Stevenson focuses intently on proximity. We can’t presume to know what it is like to be poor, marginalized, abused, or excluded. We have to come near. Find meaningful ways to do so. True innovation is only possible when we develop real understanding of those who feel the burn of racial, societal, or socioeconomic difference. Stevenson encourages us to “wrap your arms around the excluded and affirm their humanity and dignity”.  We know we live in a culture where “if you’re rich and guilty, you’re treated better than if you’re poor and innocent”. This isn’t a victimizing statement. It is simply true. Do you disagree?
  2. Assess and change our narratives if they keep us indifferent to people. What is our belief, our story, about race in our country? Is there bias in that story? Does our story disbelieve racial injustice? Is our narrative meant to protect us from feeling any sense of responsibility, or even compassion, for today’s racial tensions? “A narrative of racial difference made us indifferent and comfortable with slavery. We had to create a false narrative to justify slavery. That narrative gave rise to white supremacy.” White supremacy is such an emotionally charged phrase in these days. Stevenson gives a space for us all to consider how that had impact in the past, and what lingers today in people’s narratives. What do we fear? What makes us angry? He asked the question, do any of us have “a presumption of dangerousness and guilt regarding blacks”? This may be what law enforcement officers wrestle with in their work in parts of our cities. Have we taken it on as part of our beliefs? To get to truth and justice, and that narrative, we must create space for truth-telling. Stevenson spoke of how other countries have very publicly dealt with their own unjust treatment of fellow countrymen. South Africa, Germany, Rwanda. In recent years, he and others established the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. In hopes that America one day can heal in this painful part of our past.
  3. Stay hopeful. Stevenson talked about hope being our super-power. If we become calloused and cynical, we help no one. Least of all our children. For they will have someone’s narrative thrust on them – either through education systems or news media. Better for us to confront what is true about racial bias by listening and learning from those most affected. Listening and learning from each other, then incorporating that into our own narrative, life, and work. [I have a writer friend, an intelligent articulate young man, wise beyond his years, who happens to be black and who strongly insists the listening and learning must be in both directions. He actually gives me the most hope for what is possible in this American situation.]
  4. Be willing to do what is uncomfortable and inconvenient. There are no shortcuts…Truth-telling is the first priority. Healing is a possibility.” We can move forward with the smallest of steps that will grow larger as we persevere. One option is to get involved with the Equal Justice Initiative, from wherever we are. We can find out what agencies in our towns are working toward healthy communities and learn from them. Plugging in where we can. Embrace Communities is one of those agencies in our state. Also, as my parents taught me, we can be kind, lean in, vote for what’s right, and serve others…all others, for we all need each other.

Stevenson said so much more than I covered here. To hear this brilliant, thoughtful, hopeful black man speak on this painful and divisive issue was thrilling and captivating for us. If you’ve ever had one of those awakening experiences [not “woke” – that word has darkened the conversation politically for many of us] – like a black friend telling how he has been pulled over by the police on multiple occasions, having done nothing wrong; or reading Stevenson’s book Just Mercy (or seeing the film of the same name), or visiting someone desperately poor, or watching the documentary 13th, or what? You say…what are we allowing to gentle and mature our own narratives, reckoning with “the implicit and unconscious biases” of our lives?

I’d like to close with some of Bryan Stevenson’s remarks from an interview almost a decade ago. His honoring wisdom was not an outcome of the terrible summer of 2020. He’s been beating this drum for all his adult life. We are wise to listen and learn.

What is justice? I think justice is a constant struggle. That’s as good a definition as I can come up with. I think that injustice is evident when people are not struggling to protect the norms, the values, the goals, the aspirations of the entire community — for fairness, equality and balance.Bryan Stevenson

When I talk about race and poverty, I’m not talking about doing things for African-Americans. I’m talking about doing things for the entire community.Bryan Stevenson

An Interview with Bryan Stevenson: What Is Justice? – Kyle Whitmire

Worship Wednesday – Proximity to God and the Marginalized – Nearness – Nearer to God – Deb Mills

Just Mercy Quotes – Good Reads

“Do Some Uncomfortable and Inconvenient Things”: A Civil Rights Champion’s Call to Action for CEOs – Matthew Heimer (watch the video at start of the article)

YouTube Video – True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality (HBO/Kunhardt Films, 2019) – Documentary

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

YouTube Video – 13th – full-length documentary – Netflix [“The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime”. – Wikipedia

Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror – EJI Report

Interfaith Day of Prayer – Prayer by Bryan Stevenson

Photo Credit: Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy, Pinterest

Worship Wednesday – St. Patrick’s Day – Be Thou My Vision

[Adapted from the Archives – Here and Here]

St. Patrick’s DayLá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit! Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Wearing green. Corned beef and cabbage…and my family background is Scottish…so a bit of a mix for us.

I am also planning to watch the David Kidd documentary Patrick. A friend who heard David Kidd speak shared the following with me via email – notes from his talk on the real Patrick (legends removed):

  • He was born in 396 AD and died in 471 AD.
  • Patrick was brought up in a Romano British Christian home somewhere in southwest Britain (his father was a deacon and grandfather a priest).
  • He was kidnapped at 16 (didn’t really know God at that time), trafficked, and taken to the West Coast of Ireland where he worked as a shepherd and learned to speak Irish.
  • As a slave, Patrick came to see the hand of God in his troubles. God broke through his defenses, and Patrick faced his unbelief and pride. Later he described how he turned to God whom he realized had been watching over him all the time. He became aware of God’s protection, and he discovered that God loved him as a father loves his son.
  • Before this, he knew he had ‘sinned’ and believed that God punished him.
  • God spoke to him in a dream about a ship coming to take him home. At 22, he managed to escape slavery.
  • At home, he had another dream of the people in Ireland calling him back.
  • He was obedient to the Spirit and went back to West Ireland (“the ends of the earth” at that time).
  • He was beaten, harassed by thieves and robbers, admonished by his British superiors, but his work grew and he remained humble.
  • He protested against injustice, esteemed women highly, and identified himself as Irish.
  • His legacy was a vibrant Christianity which lasted hundreds of years while Britain and Europe fell into the Dark Ages.

On St. Patrick’s Day, what we can do to honor Patrick’s memory?

  • The Past: Remember a humble man who had been mistreated, heard from God, obeyed, loved his enemies, lived his life for Jesus, and made a significant difference – not just in Ireland, but much of Europe.
  • The Present: Use Patrick’s life to help people focus on what really matters…Christ Jesus.
  • The Future: Be as faithful as Patrick and live for Jesus and His Kingdom – making a difference in this world with fruit that lasts.

Through slavery, Patrick’s life was essentially taken from him. In the loss of his freedom, he ultimately found Christ. That glorious salvation brought him eternal freedom. He managed to escape his slavery, but then surrendered his life, this time in his love for and obedience to God. returning to Ireland for the sake of the Gospel.

But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ.  More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ-the righteousness from God based on faith. [My goal] is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.Philippians 3:7-11

The strongest memories I have of the old Irish hymn Be Thou My Vision are connected with worship in North Africa. We sang it across three countries in Heliopolis Community Church (Cairo), St. George’s (Tunis), and St. John’s (Casablanca). When our children were growing up, we expat families, from various Christian denominations, gathered once or twice a week to worship in English.  We sang great hymns, old and contemporary, with guitar accompaniment, and followed worship leaders with more British accents than American. Photo Credit: Eurobishop

I remember our little family, strung out along a pew of these little churches. Our stair-step children, with shoulders squared, singing from hymnals in the early years and then with lyrics projected on the stuccoed front walls.Before our children all launched back into life in the US, we “attended” traditional church less and became a part of house churches. There we still sang Be Thou My Vision, still with guitar…less with a British accent.

Back in the US, when we sing Be Thou My Vision, we are still reminded of its great truths and of other years, in other places, where His truth was being made known. In places where we prayed to see people as He sees them…and to love them as He loves.

[Movement Church, Adapted from the Archives]

Worship with me to the rendition performed by Welsh singer Noel Richards. A bit slower than I’m used to but it allows us to soak up the words in worship. Also, all five verses are included which is important.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tow’r:
Raise Thou me heav’nward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.*

Worship Wednesday – In Christ Alone – Townend & Getty – Deb Mills

*Lyrics to “Be Thou My Vision” – an old Irish hymn (in the Celtic Christian tradition) – translated into the English above by Eleanor Hull in 1912

10 Steps to Developing God’s Vision For Your Life – J. P. Jones

Be Thou My Vision – Wikipedia – English Methodist Lyrics, 1964

Be Thou My Vision – She Reads Truth – Claire Gibson

Hymn Story to Be Thou My Vision

You are My Vision – Rend Collective – Official Live – acapella part at 2:23 will seriously give you cold chills 

YouTube Video – Be Thou My Vision – Nathan Pacheco

Photo Credit: UTubers

Worship Wednesday – On Unity and Love – Hymn Medley – Maverick City

Photo Credit: Heartlight

“Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”Mark 12:28b-31

“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”JesusJohn 13:34-35 

 “I pray not only for these [Jesus’ disciples], but also for those who believe in me through their word. May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.”JesusJohn 17:20-23

“Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”the Apostle Paul, Ephesians 4:1-6

Unity in diversity. Not uniform but unified.

When the Lord speaks in Scripture, or when one of His faithful followers speaks in Scripture, we are meant to pay close attention.

Also when Jesus prays – speaking to the Father, borne up by the Spirit of God – we know He prays in the will of God. He will answer.

John 17 is the prayer of benediction over Jesus’ disciples and for all of us who would become His followers through the ages. They had finished their last supper together, and just hours later Jesus would be taken to be crucified the next day. This prayer speaks to the very heart of God for both His glory and for His people.

How do we glorify God in our lives? In our love for and obedience to Him in both word and deed.

Today’s social media can be both a platform for a witness of our experience of God or a public square for an exposé of others who violate our Christian sensibilities. Both Twitter and Facebook can be brutal in the treatment of both believers and unbelievers.

I’m so thankful for some of the great lights that penetrate the dark side of social media. Michael Catt and Jackie Hill Perry are just two. Here are three tweets from them this week that encouraged me (even in the harder one by Perry – it points to Truth and reminds us how to live).

Photo Credit: Michael Catt, Twitter

 

Photo Credit: Michael Catt, Twitter

 

Photo Credit: Jackie Hill Perry, Twitter

I’m a follower of Jesus, as you know. And Baptist by doctrine. And Southern Baptist by church affiliation. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has come under fire of late for its origins prior to the American Civil War and subsequent race issues, its supposed political leanings, and the moral failures of some of its pastors. The SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the US. It has a voice, not always positive, and when notable members criticize it or even more dissociate from it, there is a public ripple effect.

I’ve never felt the need to leave Southern Baptists because I love that we love God and His Word (imperfectly but its foundational to belonging to these churches). I love that we try to be unified in purpose and mission. Again, not always peacefully but resolutely.

No Christian church or organization will be as it should be this side of Heaven because it is made up of saved sinners, still grappling with sin, and personal preferences and sensibilities. My husband sometimes quotes his childhood pastor, Richard Bailey who quoted Charles Spurgeon, when he says,

“The day we find the perfect church, it becomes imperfect the moment we join it.”

Today’s blog is not a defense of an organization…or a particular church. It is also not meant to be a dig at anyone else’s struggle to align with such an organization.

Today I just want to point to a God who loves us and who calls us to a unity, a unity in diversity. A unity that requires us to love across all sorts of philosophical and political lines. A unity that must be fought for in such a time as this – as Jackie Hill Perry’s tweet implores quoting from Paul’s letter to Timothy.

God, help us not to always be looking for the wrongs of others rather than Your rightness. Help us not to be so easily offended thus enabling ourselves to forget our own offenses. God, help us to see others as You see us all. In love. Forgiven through the substitutional death of Christ on the cross. Help us to rise to a newness of life that empowers love, gentleness, honor, long-suffering, and forgiveness. You, O Lord, are doing a great work in Your church. Thank You, Father, for not giving up on us. Help us never to give up on each other. For Your glory and for the sake of each other, and for those who don’t yet know. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

Jesus prayed for us to be united. Why? So that the world would believe that Jesus was sent by God, and so that the world would know that God loves us. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus believed the unity of His church would communicate all of this to the world? – Francis Chan, Multiply, p. 69

I’d like to just close with Maverick City Music‘s “Hymn Medley”, featuring Chandler Moore. The medley includes “Great Is Thy Faithfulness“, “‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus“, and “It Is Well“. Just spend this 16 minutes (sometime today) basking in the love of God who calls us to Himself and to be one with Him and with each other.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

5 Friday Faves – Romantic Flight on Classical Guitar, Snow Days Turned to Spring, Normal, Relief vs. Rescue, and Carefully Taught

Happy weekend! Hope this finds you well and enjoying the many small miracles of life. I’m a bit behind on posting Friday Faves. Sometimes they are so excellent they still end up in my Friday Faves weeks later…some of these are like that, and others are as fresh as this weekend. These are all for you. Enjoy!

1) Romantic Flight on Classical Guitar – Anyone new to this blog will have the pleasure of experiencing Nathan Mills‘ music, maybe for the first time. He is a classical guitarist whose work is found under the brand Beyond the Guitar. He arranges and performs themes from movies, TV shows, and video games. A heart and body lift on sweet nostalgia. We probably all know the positive impact of music on our minds and bodies. I personally never cared for instrumental music before Nathan’s journey with classical guitar. Now, we always had music in our home. Always. My preference was anything vocal. The thing that’s interesting in Nathan’s music. It feels vocal. He makes the guitar speak to the heart. Maybe the nostalgic familiarity of the tunes is part of it, but there’s something in his expressive playing…just so heartening. Check him out with his latest arrangement: Romantic Flight from the film How to Train Your Dragon. #LikeSubscribeShare

2) Snow Days Turned to Spring – In Central Virginia, our snow days might be past us. Early Spring flowers are popping up and flowering trees are beginning to brighten the gray of our landscape here.

A friend pointed me to the poet Billy Collins and I’d like to present in contrast his “Snow Day” poem and his poem celebrating Spring entitled “Today”. The kids (above) are ours and the flowers (below) are in our yard/neighborhood.

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows
the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.
In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.
But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news
that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—
the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School.
So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.
And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.

“Today” – Billy Collins

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

3) Normal – What does that even mean? As we come up on a year physical distancing and wearing masks to keep COVID at bay, people don’t even talk anymore about a return to normal. Nor even about a new normal. We are reinventing normal. If we’re wise, we’re also looking “down the road” to where our choices today will lead.

Photo Credit: Old Comic Strip, Bill Watterston, Calvin and Hobbes

One issue for me is my struggle with reckless eating. COVID restrictions have not been my friend in this area. I overeat for about every reason possible – for recreation, out of boredom, when under stress, and even when happy. Food is just such a lovely go-to. Until this last year’s isolation pushed me to the highest weight I’ve ever been…but that’s again in the past.

In October I started seriously looking “down the road” to a life possibly shortened by my casual over-eating. Started using the My Fitness Pal app and asked for a Fitbit for Christmas. The non-Premium app is free and we caught a sale on the Fitbit.

After four months, I’m way below the highest weight I’ve ever been.

Do I miss the reckless eating? Absolutely! I miss McDonald’s double-cheeseburgers and fries. I miss Waffle House. I miss eating all I want. I miss Shyndigz fresh fruit cake and Piccola Italy‘s feta cheese and sausage pizza. One day those things will come back in my life… maybe. What I don’t miss is the normal of too often getting short of breath climbing hills and struggling to get up off the floor after playing with our grands. Also what I hope to miss is a stroke or…(almost hard to write this scary thing) dying from COVID because I put myself at even greater risk.

Now normal is weighing and logging food, eating less than I would before, listening to my brain when I’m actually full, and having only one cookie instead of 3…or 5. It all works out to a beautiful different…a new normal.

.

The change in eating is one thing. Way more challenging is how to be in people’s lives with the struggle of physical distancing and Zoom fatigue. That I am still figuring out…but one shot down and one to go and it will become less of a challenge hopefully. And a different normal will emerge.

[Sidebar: There was a time in the not too distant past when I went off sugar for over a year. It happened, there was benefit, but I don’t want to repeat it. As I get more fit, do I miss the chew of a French baquette or a perfect frie? Absolutely. Sugar though is still a part of my daily intake…and there will come a day when I will enjoy my daughter’s birthday cake again and MomMom’s refrigerator coconut cake. Many times over. For now: a Kathy Kaye popcorn ball is enough. Sorry for the long sidebar – like confessing in an Overeaters Anonymous group. 🙂 ]

4) Relief vs. Rescue – Words mean things. The 2020 CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act)  and the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act reflect a difference in meaning and approach. I just want to focus on two words: relief vs. rescue. Relief communicates easing the pain or stress of someone in a difficult situation. Rescue communicates much more. Rescue is to come to the aid of someone who can’t help her/himself. Rescue is freeing or delivering someone from an impossible situation. Both describe a response but one is a greater response and a greater need. Can words be prescriptive? Making us think we have a greater need? Making us think we need a greater response? Making us think we are helpless without the intervention of government?

The power of words is well-known and well-documented.

“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”Diane Setterfield

We can woo and cajole with words. We can speak with an authority that demands acquiescence. We can speak with such brilliance or passion that we must be believed.

Check out this little TikTok video below (forgive the thumbnail shot of the young woman; it’s the second woman, @thesavvy, you will see that brings the point). Now I haven’t done fact-checking, but she I believe. How about you?

Two educators I’ve discussed before also talk often on the power of words in our world. They are economics professor Glenn Loury and linguistics professor John McWhorter.Photo Credit: The Glenn Show; YouTube

We don’t agree on everything, BUT their authenticity and brilliance in calling out the use of words to move political agendas and change culture is super fascinating. See one of their videos linked below.

YouTube Video – In Defense of Knowledge – The Glenn Show – Blogging Heads – Glenn Loury and John McWhorter

YouTube Video – Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Debate in U.S. Senate (C-SPAN) – February 2017 – just another example of the use of words to actually draw differing sides together.

5) Carefully Taught– The food for thought on this fave of the week is the painfully exquisite song from the Rogers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific. Classic movie released in 1958. Remade in 2001. The song You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught relates to an American military officer who has fallen in love with a young woman from the islands during WWII. He struggles with his own prejudice even in the face of his love for her. I saw the first movie sometime in my childhood. It was confusing for me then because I had not been raised to hate people different from me.

We are confronted right now with so much racism and presumed racism, it’s hard to know how to think critically on it or what to do definitively about it. Somehow we must separate the politics (driven to divide) from the persons (being used by those various platforms).
The song speaks to the incredible importance of parenting our children to choose love over hate; understanding over withdrawing. I do wonder if we are born with a bent toward racism…of choosing people who look like us, for whatever reason. Fortunately, if that’s the case, we don’t have to stay there. Parenting matters. Thankfully.

Photo Credit: Norman Rockwell

Six Words: ‘You’ve Got to Be Taught‘ Intolerance – Michele Norris – NPR

Are Racists Born or Raised? If You’re a Racist don’t Blame It on Your DNA – Grace Russo Bullaro

How I Learned to Care About Social Justice Growing Up Southern Baptist in Oklahoma – Mark Wingfield

YouTube Video – James Taylor – You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught

That’s all. Have a great week. Filled with people you love and those you can serve. It means a lot you stopped by.

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Bonuses:

The most extraordinary quote I’ve just discovered:

The question is not whether the things that happen to you are chance things or God’s things because, of course, they are both at once. There is no chance thing through which God cannot speak—even the walk from the house to the garage that you have walked ten thousand times before, even the moments when you cannot believe there is a God who speaks at all anywhere. He speaks, I believe, and the words he speaks are incarnate in the flesh and blood of our selves and of our own footsore and sacred journeys. We cannot live our lives constantly looking back, listening back, lest we be turned to pillars of longing and regret, but to live without listening at all is to live deaf to the fullness of the music. Sometimes we avoid listening for fear of what we may hear, sometimes for fear that we may hear nothing at all but the empty rattle of our own feet on the pavement. But be not affeard, says Caliban, nor is he the only one to say it. “Be not afraid,” says another, “for lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” He says he is with us on our journeys. He says he has been with us since each of our journeys began. Listen for him. Listen to the sweet and bitter airs of your present and your past for the sound of him. – Frederick Buechner, from The Sacred Journey and Listening to Your Life

YouTube Video – Without You – For King & Country – Ft. Courtney [If you’ve ever faced a cancer diagnosis or a critical illness – life and those we love take on an even deeper meeting. This song says it.]

The Hope that Sustained Tim Keller Through 2020 – Matt McCullough

Key takeaways from Atomic Habits by James Clear – Genevieve Deaconos

Just a little bit of James Taylor and Carole King…you’ll be glad you stayed:

Monday Morning Moment – the Story of a Girl and Friendship

[School Days, Cairo, Egypt – a couple of decades ago]

This delightful girl has a birthday today.

I want to celebrate her here. The girl and the understanding of friendship she has brought to her mom and to those who have best known her.

She was born on a windy March morning. Our first-born. I have brothers, and my Mom had all brothers. Having a daughter as our first was a complete joy and wonder to me, as my Mom tells me I was for her in the midst of all boys.

She would be my sidekick for many of our early adventures together. Welcoming two brothers during her preschool years. Enjoying the friendship of neighbors and church family. Homeschooling in East Tennessee.  

I will never forget the Spring when she came home from Jack and Barbara Lavender’s Sunday School class with two tiny cups of growing seedlings. We planted them in her daddy’s garden and they grew an enormous bed of Cushaw squash. From those two little seeds. Sweet memories of friends who invested in our girl’s life.

Then there was the terrible time when she got desperately ill with what we would, over too many days, finally discover to be a ruptured appendix. This girl has always had a high threshold of pain, and it took four trips to the pediatrician’s office before I was taken seriously. She ended up with big surgery and 10 days on IV nutrition. This image shows her having her first meal over a week after her surgery (pillowcase from our friend, Kay – she still has this pillowcase).

Then our travels outside East Tennessee began.

For this quiet girl, having her life, and childhood friendships, disrupted was hard. Despite the incredible experiences of many moves across four countries, she learned resilience the hard way.

In those days, before smartphones, we carried our memories of people and places in tangible ways. Photo albums. This girl would often go deeper with new people in her life by introducing them to her previous life…through these cherished photo albums.

Everywhere we went, everywhere we lived, we have the photo memories of the sweet parts of those years. They are a treasure.

Friendships were not always easy for this girl. Well, not being able to easily make friends, adjusting to all the changes imposed on her life by her parents’ work moves. She was not the life-of-the-party, center-of-attention, making things happen, people magnet sort of girl. She loved books and they were often her friend. In the reality of multiple moves and too many goodbyes.

She did have two constant friends who went through all those moves with her. Her two brothers. They are still close. Remembering all the good, all the tears, and all the big sister times with her [calling her “Auntie” when she observed and advised where they preferred to be left to their own devices].

As this girl grew up, she learned how to recognize mean girls and not to take them personally nor to become one…which can easily happen for any of us in strained situations. She learned to embrace the new and sift for where she belonged in the different. And could even make a difference.[Her tiny Senior class, 2005, Casablanca, Morocco]

[Noor, a dear friend from high school, knowing the experience and also understanding what it’s like to move places and countries with your family]

[Maria, a fellow student and enduring friend as they both tackled teaching together. Different schools but similar challenges.]

Besides her brothers, this girl had two men she knew she could count on. Her Dad…and in time, her beloved whom she would marry. I love to catch snippets of conversations she and her Dad have on visits home. For two introverts, their words pour out with each other…safe people, safe places.

[This girl and her boy who would capture her heart and parent two little ones by her side – no pics of the littles – this girl’s preference and I honor it]

In this season of making a home and family, she has grown into this beautiful woman (OK…if you’re still reading, you either love her or the idea of her or you have such a her in your own lives). I am in awe of this girl. Not because she is anything of celebrity but because of how she handles today’s bumps. Also how she has taken both the bad and the beautiful of her growing up years and turned them into her own story.

This Christmas  she gave me a book by Sarah, Sally, and Joy Clarkson. Girls’ Club – Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World.

This sweet girl has recommended Sally Clarkson to me often in the last year as a mom and mentor in life. In the book above, Sally’s daughter Sarah writes a chapter entitled Saturday Mornings: The Girls’ Club Prototype. In this chapter, she describes “five progressive actions…central to the powerful cultivation of friendship”. They are:

  • Invite – Reach out and bring in a new someone to an adventure and your life.
  • Plan – Work out the logistics of an event, a meetup, an outing. Make it a welcome ritual or routine.
  • Provide – Show love, Sarah says, by preparing the table, so to speak. Whether it is the physical space itself (your home, for instance) or your own “mind and heart” to wholly receive the new friend.
  • Stay – This is huge! Whether distance or circumstance separate you, be a continual presence in the life of a friend. Be there. Show up. This takes effort and intentionality, and it’s not easy. It requires both forgiveness and faithfulness…no matter what.
  • Pray – When we remember that every single person we meet is an image-bearer of God, we are reminded of the value there. Even those “mean girls” in our lives didn’t get mean in a vacuum. “Hurt people hurt people”. They have God’s imprint like every other imperfect person… When we recognize our own frailty and that of others, we are drawn to pray. For our own hearts to love like Jesus. For eyes to see how God sees people…and to reach out in love…as only He has made us to do so.

I’ve watched this girl executing all the above without having read the book. She has commented that making and nurturing friendships as adults has also been a challenge, maybe because of all the other pieces of life that need our attention. I think she is learning to juggle all this, and me with her.

I’ll close this “Happy Birthday” piece on this note: our girl has a fierce faith in God that brought her through the hard so far in her life. I’m confident that whatever lies ahead – joys and sorrows – she will lean into God to sustain her. She will be there for those whom God has placed in her life – family, friends, and friends-to-be.

Like her, I will leave you with a few last images of life we’ve enjoyed together. Hope your day is filled with joys familiar and joys anew. Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl.[Learning to make biscuits with Memaw – my Mom, the master cook]

Monday Morning Moment – Conflict in Marriage – The Dance of Negative Escalation – with Esther Perel

Photo Credit: YouTube, Esther Perel

Do you have conflict in your marriage? Or even in roommate, friend, or family relationships? Maybe even at work with colleagues?
Of course, you do. Oh, there’s the rare situation where people can work out their differences amicably. My mom-in-law would always say she and our father-in-law never had a fight…well, once maybe. I’ve been around them in all sorts of situations, and I have to agree. Early in marriage, they worked out a system where they served each other and the family in complimentary ways. They genuinely loved and enjoyed each other.
Their oldest son, having grown up in this sweet and peaceful home, fell in love with a woman from a very different family…a home full of love but also where conflict and chaos sometimes reigned. That woman would be me.
Over the course of our 30+ years of marriage, we have matured. With age and experience, with resultant understanding, the fights are rare. The tears and silences are also pretty much absent.
We never ever considered divorce an option. Both of us have had too much experience with divorce (in my biological family and his in his extended family). We didn’t want it for ourselves or for our parents or children. So….we white-knuckled from time to time. In the end, I’m so thankful we hung in there with each other. It’s what I tell couples considering divorce…hang in there…it gets better.
OK…maybe not always, BUT the resources for helping us to do marriage and relationships are vast and easily accessible…if not in-person then online. If one or both of you are willing to inquire.
[Also, please, this is not meant to hammer anyone who’s experienced divorce. A betrayal is devastating and feels impossible to overcome.]
Dave and I had the opportunity just this weekend to hear couples therapist Esther Perel speak. She is Belgian and the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. She is married and has two sons. Her practice is international. She is a prolific writer and a life-long learner.
After hearing this brilliant, insightful, caring woman speak, I started looking for her online. So many YouTube videos, interviews, articles. Her podcasts, too. Among the topics was something she called a dance of negative escalation. What this entails is a process whereby two persons address an issue with one of maybe 3 or 4 responses.
  • Both listening and sharing, engaged, connected which would NOT be the dance of negative escalation.
  • Both withdrawing into their own thoughts – away from the perceived conflict or threat. Not outright escalation but no resolution either.
  • Both attacking, escalating into screaming and violence until…This wouldn’t even be considered a dance probably. I’m still learning.
  • One felt to be attacking, and the other felt to be withdrawing. This is where the dance takes place).

Perel defines this dance of negative escalation in this way: a “pattern occurs when one partner stonewalls and the other, in reaction to this refusal to engage, allows their emotions to escalate…For both partners the part of themselves they struggle with today is the very trait that saved them as a child. Sometimes what works as a survival strategy backfires when we are no longer under threat.”

“It takes two people to create a pattern, but only one to change it.”
Esther Perel, Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence

All kinds of light bulbs went off for me in reading and listening to Perel talk about this phenomenon.
There are always two sides. Two views of a situation. With two different histories (all the way back to childhood potentially). Two different emotional meanings.
When a conflict builds, the combative one, the aggressor, is usually seen and experienced as “the bad guy”. However, we all know from the classroom, that a child can be drawn into a negative response through the badgering of or intentional exclusion by another child. Yet, when the teacher is late to notice the interaction, only one child, the responder, is disciplined, and the other seemingly “good child” is left unchecked in the altercation.
We all want to be heard, to be valued, and none of us want to carry the responsibility or blame of an escalation. Four things are mentioned by Perel as being devastating to a marriage or long-term relationship. This can also be true of work relationships. Any of these can mark a relationship in peril. They are:
  • Indifference
  • Neglect
  • Contempt
  • Violence

We don’t want to go there in our relationships. Or if one partner or the other is there, the other can still begin to make positive change.

If you are in a relationship with the pattern using the dance of negative escalation to deal with issues , there is such hope! The links below are incredibly helpful…and they are just a few of the many resources available by Esther Perel and others.

I just wanted to introduce this subject. For those of you who know you struggle with these negative cycles, start with the links and go on your own journey of healing and restoration.

In her talk the other night, Esther Perel described the experience of having more than one marriage, sometimes with the same person. In a way, I experienced that with my sweet husband. We have a thick cord of continuity through our marriage, but, in ways, our marriage has passed through such seasons that almost feel like we are in a different marriage. I’m so thankful we stuck it out with each other.

Remember, a negative cycle is the problem. It may have absolutely nothing to do with the character of either spouse. “Name the cycle” rather than blaming your explosive partner or feeling betrayed by the withdrawing one. Start there. Then take steps to slow down the conflict in a safe environment in order to see what is happening underneath. With grace, accountability (external and internal), and time, you can come out on the other side, stronger, healthier, and with love rekindled and restored.

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Where Should We Begin? Podcast – It’s Very Hard to Live with a Saint – Esther Perel – excellent example of the dance of negative escalation. The podcast is an actual marriage counseling session. If you prefer reading, the transcript is here.

Marital Destructive Styles of Communication – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Couples Negative Cycles – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Naming Your Negative Cycle – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Withdrawers  Desire Safety – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Negative Couples Cycle: Finding the Bad Guy – Kevin Leapley, Round Rock Couples Counseling

YouTube Video – Fight Smarter – Avoid the Most Common Argument Patterns – Esther Perel

Emotionally Focused Therapy – a Roadmap for Working with Couples (pdf) – Tanya Radecker

Series : Marriage with a Chronically Self-Centered Spouse – Brad Hambrick – Dr. Hambrick is an excellent “counselor to the church”. He covers a lot of ground on this topic related to the different aspects of being self-centered in a marriage: the low emotional intelligence self-centered spouse, the lazy or apathetic self-centered spouse, the situationally explosive self-centered spouse, and the intentionally manipulative self-centered spouse. Fascinating. Great helps as well.

Growing in Negative Emotion Tolerance – Brad Hambrick

Worship Wednesday – the Small Virtue of Humility – the Grand Journey of Self-Forgetfulness

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:3-8

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”Jeremiah 9:23-24

I’m still making my way through a re-read of The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. Long over-due. Although the chapters are super short, each contains such a wealth of wisdom to think through and process.

In The Letters, a senior demon, Screwtape, is advising his nephew on how to draw away a young Englishman from his new-found faith in God, whom the demon calls The Enemy. The nephew is given strategies to muddle up “the patient’s” thinking on God and how one is to live, “loving our neighbors as ourselves”.

Chapter 14 (in just 3 pages) dissects the issues of humility, pride, and self-forgetfulness. We may think ourselves that humility is having and expressing a low regard of self, even self-deprecation. That is not humility. In the fullest sense, humility is a right understanding of God, other people and ourselves, in relation to all. God and others.

True humility is a growing awareness of how all things work together, including the hard things in life, and an appreciation of the good and glory in the world. Celebrating God, and His choosing to continue to display His goodness in all of life…in mine and yours, and throughout the natural world.

When we can pull our eyes off our own successes or, on the flip side, our challenges, perspective comes. Not puffing ourselves up or bringing yourselves down, but just seeing God everywhere. He purposefully and beautifully knit each of us together and His purposes are not thwarted.

Focused on God and others, we can live in a place of self-forgetfulness. Satan wants to destroy such peace by pressing us to ever compare, ever put ourselves down, or ever feel envy and longing regarding others’ good works. Or, if he can to even push us into pride, thinking more highly of ourselves, even though we operate out of the gifts and opportunities God gives us.

Here’s a bit of Screwtape’s instruction to Wormwood in the tempting of the young Christian:

“To anticipate the Enemy’s strategy, we must consider His aims. The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents – or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall.C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Chapter 14

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote

Let’s worship the God who frees us from self as we turn our eyes each day, and through the day, onto Him. Why this old song? It speaks to troubled hearts. If humility is not where we live, our hearts become troubled – either in some embattled state of self-loathing or self-obsessing. We can live free of all that.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Chorus:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

Chorus

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Chorus*

Why did I call humility “a small virtue”? Because it doesn’t draw attention to itself. It points to God and to others. However, it doesn’t leave us out. We also get to be on this grand journey. We are flesh, so when God gives us the opportunity to do something amazing, we naively may say, “Wow, I did that!” Pride rears its head, even for a moment. We can then either beat ourselves for the pride and make ourselves small in some sort of false humility or…we regain perspective. “Wow, I got to do that! Thank You, God!” If it was someone else who “got to do that”, we rejoice the same. It is the beautiful sphere of self-forgetfulness.

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – Tim Keller

Room for everyone on the podium in a very real way…because God is at the foundation of every podium we will ever encounter. Actually, forget the podium. The ground is level at the foot of the Cross. We’ve all heard this. Humility is where we live it.

“The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself…True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.”– Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: 2 Chron 714 Network, Facebook

*Lyrics – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus – Songwriter: Helen Howarth Lemmel

Humble and Kind – Restless Pilgrim Blog & Podcast on The Screwtape Letters – Chapter 14

YouTube Video – Blessed Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller – Edited Synopsis – 7 Minutes

YouTube Video – Lyric Video – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus – Hillsong Worship

Worship Wednesday – On Compassion – Lead Me to the Cross – Brooke Fraser Ligertwood

Photo Credit: Music Notes World

When he saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Matthew 9:36-38

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.”Matthew 16:24

“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. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus, the night before He gave His life for us – John 13:34-35

Did you ever ask your child or grandchild, “Do you know how much I love you?” Then you stretched out both arms as far as you could reach, and, with stretch in your voice, exclaimed, “This much!!!!”

That’s the kind of love we experience from Jesus, and that’s the kind of love He calls from us for others.Photo Credit: Your Quote

After reading One Perfect Word, I prayerfully chose a word to saturate myself in and explore the breadth of it…across this year. The word is compassion. You can find the beginning of this journey here. A good friend, also a writer, emailed me last night, having read that blog on my taking on the word, and life of compassion. He asked for action steps toward the goal of being more compassionate – how does one get there?

I don’t have the steps…except for this: the journey to compassion starts at the foot of the cross. Throughout Jesus’ earthly life, He pointed His followers to the Father and to one another, a widening circle of “one anothers” which would encompass the whole world. We are staggered by such a calling. Yet, if we remember His word, He has already given us all we need for a Godly life, and He has promised always to be with us. Always.

What are the steps to a compassionate life? Maybe in a few weeks or months into this year, I might have a different answer to that question. For now, it is small and, at the same time, tall. Love God and love others. Not on my terms…but His. Whew! I am not sure exactly how to make that work, given the conviction that I was a compassionate person, and yet now I think not so much. It has been a fantasy of mine…but in real life terms, in the will or heart…not on the daily.

With COVID and few routine outlets as a person at risk and retired, I can easily pull a blanket over my life…and feel almost justified in it. How about you? Has this been a struggle?

Praise God, I’ve wakened out of that dull slumber, with compassion lying dormant. Where this “wokeness” leads me, only God knows. He, in His kindness and mercy, will shake us out of our sleepiness; then we see where He takes us.

I don’t have the steps of my own making, but He has already given us a few to start just in the Scripture above.

  • Pray.
  • Give up our own way.
  • Follow Him – which would include that taking up His cross and not one of our own making or choosing.
  • Love others as He has loved us – which takes us back to the cross.

Like with New Year’s resolutions, if we make goals and put steps in place toward meeting those goals…those steps and goals just lie in our imagination, our fantasy life, UNTIL we take action. Every day, take action. As I deal in the real with letting go of personal preferences and sacrifice, then the wonder of Romans 5:3-5 happens:

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Tuning our heart toward the leading of the Holy Spirit and following Jesus can move us to lives where compassion becomes habit, through perseverance, and then character follows, bathed in the love of God.
Hallelujah!
Now, did Jesus have moments of counting the cost? Being God yet human, for an instant, He did, and we learned from Him. In the garden that night before He died, He asked the Father if it was possible not to have to die…but without hesitation He spoke His resolve, “Not My will, but Yours be done”.
This is where the work of building a life of compassion begins…and continues. Prayer and obedience. Prayer and obedience.
[Wall plaques by the door I take to get out of my house – my comfort zone]
So this is where I am today, with this new journey, exploring the word compassion, both in word and deed. Lead me to the Cross, Lord.

Photo Credit: IMB Photos

Worship with me to Brooke Fraser Ligertwood‘s “Lead Me to the Cross” – where life truly began for us…and the place where we learn how to truly love others.

Savior I come
Quiet my soul remember
Redemption’s hill
Where Your blood was spilled
For my ransom
Everything I once held dear
I count it all as loss

Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me to the cross

You were as I
Tempted and trialed
Human
The word became flesh
Bore my sin and death
Now you’re risen

Everything I once held dear
I count it all as loss

Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me to the cross

To your heart
To your heart
Lead me to your heart
Lead me to your heart

Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me

Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Oh, lead me
Lead me to the cross*

Photo Credit: IMB Photos

Postscript: Below you will find several other worship songs that may prove a blessing to you as they were to me in seeking God’s face to see with His eyes, to love with His heart, and to follow Him in the daily and the real.

*Lyrics to “Lead Me to the Cross” – Songwriter: Brooke Fraser

YouTube Video – Lead You to the Cross – No Other Name

YouTube Video – Give Us Your Heart – The Emerging Sound of People & Songs (feat. Melanie Tierce)

YouTube Video – Give Me Your Eyes – Brandon Heath

YouTube Video – Follow Me – Casting Crowns

YouTube Video – I Will Follow – Chris Tomlin

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

Worship Wednesday – Worshipping Together and By Ourselves – God Draws Near – Deb Mills

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