Category Archives: Attitude

Monday Morning Moment – Steps Forward in “We the People” Becoming True for All Americans

Photo Credit: Flickr, gnuckx

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it…”from The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson

We are coming off a very different 4th of July (Independence Day) weekend here in the US. Protests are continuing into a second month following the killing of George Floyd. Violence erupting, in cities like Atlanta and Chicago, has taken more lives.

Confederate monuments in our city are coming down, but until they do, they are the focal points of what is going on here. Public reaction to George Floyd’s death and the racial injustices of decades past.

What can we do? What can be done in our country to right these wrongs or, at the very least, prevent future wrongs? With more than sad and angry words spray-painted on signs and statues. [Please don’t hear me say anything other than that…the change may need to start right here…right here on Monument Avenue…but it has to continue from here to wherever we all live, work, and go to school…]

Ben Peterson, a brilliant doctoral student in political science, recently published a definitive essay on this topic, entitled Social Control and Human Dignity.

I quote heavily from his article below, but if you can tackle the whole of his scholarly piece, please do. If you don’t have the time or choose not to take time to read the quotes below, then please read my own bullet points on his take (and that of Dr. Glenn Loury). Dr. Loury, by the way, is an esteemed educator, a professor of social sciences and economics at Brown University. He writes prolifically on both economy and on race. I am thankful to have found his voice recently.Photo Credit: Dr. Glenn Loury, Wikimedia Commons

My takeaways from Ben Peterson’s article:

  • Violent crime is a serious social problem, but punishment alone (especially through mass incarceration) will not alter our course as a country…or keep all our communities safer. In fact, such punishment with no other provision/recourse is damaging to those communities who bear the brunt of mass incarceration.
  • We must hold people accountable for criminal behavior, but with dignity and humanity. We have responsibility in this to assure laws and punishments are fair, and to search out any elements of racism in our laws and punishment.
  • We can strive for the perspective of “we, us, and our” in thinking of persons and communities, instead of “they, them, and their”. In so doing, we press for laws and punishments that we can morally support for our own brothers, husbands, and sons…and that of our neighbors.
  • If a community is struggling, we must treat it as our own, not seeking only punishment for crime, but also developing pathways for restoring those previously incarcerated fully back into their families and neighborhoods. Listening to the leaders in these communities is priority. They live there; they know the strengths; they know the needs.
  • We put reforms in place for law enforcement and education, such that we all benefit from the best our country has to offer. No matter how vulnerable our community is.
  • Racial indifference is not an option for us, if we truly care for our neighbors and this country.

Those were my takeaways. Below you will find some of the powerful and salient quotes from Ben Peterson’s article. I hope I get to vote for him some day.

“…young black men commit a disproportionate amount of the violent crime that persists in this country. That fact surely helps explain why police disproportionately apply force against black men and interact with black men. It also helps explain why our prisons disproportionately house black men. That’s a critical point, but I don’t think we can stop there.”

“…we as a society have chosen to deal, or perhaps not deal, with the persistence of crime in poor black communities.”

“…violent crime is a much greater threat to black lives than police violence, by the numbers.”

“[Loury] argues that our method of social control has damaging effects on many of our communities and the people whose lives the criminal justice system touches, effects disparately borne in poor black communities. These effects are such to make the method of social control we have adopted a systemic injustice that demands the attention of policymakers and leaders around the country. Loury’s analysis is distinguished from others in that he insists on applying moral categories and acknowledging personal agency. He sees the problem in its multidimensional entirety: not simply as a crime or mass incarceration problem, but a problem of social control and ultimately human development. He calls us to a greater sense of social responsibility than our policy since the 1970s has exhibited. We should heed his message.

“…part of treating people with respect and dignity is to hold them accountable for their behavior. One theme in [Loury’s] analysis of race and inequality is that black people have agency and are not mere victims of systemic racism. This is a deeply humane argument, for to deny a person’s agency is to deny his humanity. Loury argues that black leaders and communities have to exercise this agency and find a way to effectively condemn and control immoral behavior in their own communities.”

“While he insists on personal agency and accountability for behavior in black communities, he does not absolve the larger polity of responsibility for the ills of high-crime black communities. He insists that Americans need to shift our thinking, so that we don’t treat the problems of poor black communities as the problems of “those people.” He argues that racism played a role in the development of our policy of social control.”

“…systemic injustice, or a social injustice, [is] a legal and accepted social practice that fails, on a wide scale, to render to each person his or her due…our incarceration system and treatment of people formerly incarcerated, fails to adequately respect the human dignity of prisoners, former prisoners, and their families and communities.

“The charge of injustice is based not on the fact of punishment, but on the reality that the total result of our method of social control is a failure to prevent crime in many communities, a failure to rehabilitate offenders and integrate them back into society, and a failure to leave poor minority communities better off…That argument is certainly debatable, but I would at least submit that many white people don’t see struggling black communities as our own communities.

Racial indifferenceThe problem is not so much with what we do as what we fail to do, which is to allow for the human development of many people and communities, overly relying on a punitive justice system to control the results of social dysfunction.”

“First, we need reforms in the justice system to encourage more dignified treatment of suspects, prisoners, and the communities who the system affects.”

“…find and amplify what’s working well in high-crime communities, offer models for consideration. We may need public funding and more involvement on the part of community members, especially churches and other institutions, in similar efforts aimed at strengthening those bedrock institutions in struggling communities.”

“We need to give more attention to our educational institutions and finding real solutions for lagging academic performance.”

“While we cannot ignore the behavioral problems of the so-called black underclass, we should discuss and react to those problems as if we were talking about our own children, neighbors, and friends. It will require adjusting ways of thinking on both sides of the racial divide. Achieving a well-ordered society, where all members are embraced as being among us, should be the goal. Our failure to do so is an American tragedy. It is a national, not merely a communal, disgrace. Changing the definition of the American “we” is a first step toward rectifying the relational discrimination that afflicts our society, and it is the best path forward in reducing racial inequality.Glenn Loury

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Finally, I want to close with a story about a person very dear to me who found himself on the wrong side of the law. As a young man, he got swept up into drug addiction (naive in ways at the recreational use of drugs and then too soon addicted). Without details, he would make some choices, affecting no one but himself, that would lead to him being charged with a felony. Even with the best legal counsel money could afford, he ended up with a felony conviction. He served some jail time, but he never had to go to prison. Again, thanks to financial support that allowed for a drug rehab program rather than incarceration. He benefited greatly from the rehab program where he was treated with dignity and respect. Unless the laws in his state change, he will be considered a felon the rest of his life…not right. There’s too much “not right” in our country, but not so much that “we the people” can’t work toward change.

The Glenn Show – Glenn Loury and John McWhorter and Others“make space for serious people of all races interested in understanding and discussing problems of race, police, and crime in a holistic way that does not force them to deny obvious facts.”

Embrace Communities – “strengthening and empowering communities from the inside out” – love this organization’s ABCD methodology of community development [What organizations can you recommend to us? Comment please.]

[Below is a short video on anti-racism. I found it helpful.]

Sunday Blessing – The Church Segregated – Black & White – Erskin

Photo Credit: Church Leadership

[From the Archives, 2017. Today we are going through a raw and painful season, hopefully that will lead to real change in how we extend love to one another and how we work to heal the hurt in our society. I made very few adjustments in the text…because it is as true today as it was then.]

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
 – Galatians 3:28

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.Ephesians 2:14

Racial segregation in the church must break the very heart of God. How is it that we, who love Jesus and want to live as He modeled and taught us, continue to live and worship apart from one another racially?

We live in a racially complex city. Richmond, Virginia, was once the capital of the Confederacy. Even now, the racial divide is shamefully wide. The church, both black and white congregations, has Christ’s mandate to come together. To be reconciled. To live at peace with one another. To enjoy community together.

My family is part of a church that has a vision to reach Richmond. Our city is ethnically diverse. To reach Richmond includes figuring out how to not just be another white church in the neighborhood.

Erskin Anavitarte is a Christian songwriter. On his website, he also identifies as a diversity spokesman and adoption advocate. He is a Kingdom builder and a reconciler. This is a man who calls us to enlarge our lives and our churches to include one another.Photo Credit: Erskin Music

He wrote a little song Black & White which really touched my heart this week. Simple and yet profound lyrics.

“One song may not make much difference, but my prayer is that we remember that God made us all and perhaps bridging the gap begins by focusing our eyes on Jesus. That’s the message of this song.”Erskin Anavitarte

After our country’s last election, I was burdened afresh how racially polarized we are as a nation, and even in the church. This can’t be the case, in daily life, for Christ followers. Not in daily life. Not in corporate worship. How do we come together?

As we worship the Lord today, we ask Him for wisdom and for opportunity. We ask for compassion and understanding. We determine to “love beyond the limits of our prejudices…to speak love and embody love” (Rev. Michael Walrond, Jr.).

Today, God loves both the black church and our essentially white church, both in the same neighborhood. Oh God, help us – to join together with each other – with those who love God also…and who love this city in a way that can stretch our own love…Maybe it could go beyond the reach of either of us. Just maybe.

[Let’s close in worship now. Check out the super helpful links below, later.]

Worship with Erskin and me, would you?

The most segregated time in our country

Is Sunday morning 11 o’clock

Black churches, white churches

Right next door

They’re on the same block.

Both with hands raised high for Jesus

Still a million miles between us

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

We all want to walk with Jesus

We all want to be about His will

How do we break down the unseen walls

Where bridges need to be built

This song may not change your mind

Jesus won’t let me keep it inside.

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Maybe it all begins

By not focusing on ourselves

Fixing our eyes on Him

Living our lives as friends.

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal.

Photo Credit: James Estrin, The New York Times

YouTube Video – Erskin – Black & White – Official Lyric Video

A Shift in Demographics at a Church in Harlem – Samuel G. Freedman

YouTube Video – Global Spirituality: Pastor Michael Walrond at TEDxHarlem

They’re Playing Our Song – The Secret Multiracial Churches Know About Music – Michael O. Emerson

7 Key Characteristics of Diversity-Oriented Churches – Brian Leander

Racial Reconciliation in Richmond, Virginia? – Wendy McCaig

[Links below showcase Christian comedians who help us with some of the things that unnecessarily make us uncomfortable with each other’s church cultures…although I couldn’t find one that caricatured white church worship for blacks. Could someone help me?]

YouTube Video – Gary Owen – My First Time at a Black Church

YouTube Video – Unwritten Black Church Rules – KevOnStage

YouTube Video – Black Church Phrases Explained – KevOnStage

Monday Morning Moment – Searching Out the Truth in All the Voices

Photo Credit: Dunk, Flickr

I was talking to a friend recently about longing to be in dialogue where I can actually sort out what is true in all the public outcry.

She said, “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” It went right to my heart. I would find out later that this quote is credited to social activist Maggie Kuhn.

My shaky voice has kept me from writing, and even speaking on some of the issues we are facing today. Yet, the voices all around us are getting louder and louder.

We are in a season (I’m determined it is a season and not a new normal) where voices on the streets, messages on signs, even on facial masks are persuasive and divisive.

I’m committed to listening and searching out the truth of what people are saying…but.

Here’s the but:

As long as I’m still free to choose, I can’t support an organization or movement that seems to stir up hatred as part of its strategy. That might not be the intent, but…hatred bubbles up. Hatred for those seen as enemy, as culprit, as guilty with no presumption of innocence.

In the last month, my understanding of our society has grown enormously. Too many times, I’ve had to acknowledge: “I didn’t know.”

Watching the documentary 13th was riveting. This feature-length film exposes how after the passing of the 13th amendment on the abolishing of slavery, and then, decade after decade, the governmental and cultural undermining that decision right through to today. [If you aren’t inclined to watch “13th”, then take 10 minutes and watch Ryan DavisThis Is America.]

I have started realizing that the truth is although I wasn’t consciously racist, somehow culturally and spiritually, I have enjoyed privilege and have been indifferent to many in our country who are hurting.

This broke my heart. Even after years of working in a large public hospital in Atlanta, years working in community development, and years of what could be called Christian service. I lacked the compassion and critical thinking that, ironically, should have been clear and obvious in a life of following Jesus.

So where does that leave me…us? Have you struggled with the cultural messages you are hearing…about yourself, in particular, if you’re white? Have you wholeheartedly agreed with the messages? That we are at fault for all the terrible suffering we are seeing now (if we didn’t see it before), and we have to make it right? I don’t have an answer here…only more questions.

Systemic Racism Explained – Ryan Davis

I am so ready for an advancement of good in our country.

Dialogue. Civil discourse. Reasoning together. Searching for solutions…sustainable, dignifying solutions.

Here’s where I am right now. Listening to friends. Asking questions. Watching news reports and reading commentary. Looking for people who are speaking on the problems in our country, without power or profit agendas. People who seem to care, truly care, for the hurting, but who refuse to go the way of hatred.

An example of what helped to clear confusion for me was discovering the operating strategy of cultural Marxism.

“A collectivist application of Marxist class warfare along a far broader spectrum of identities, such as race, gender, and sexuality, as opposed to solely along class lines; intersectionality.
First, Marxism only spoke to the oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, but now men oppress women, whites oppress blacks, heterosexuals oppress homosexuals, the able-bodied oppress the disabled, & cisgendered folk oppress trans folk; WHO you are is irrelevant, all that matters now is WHAT you are, which groups you are a member of, your personhood reduced to your arbitrary characteristics, to that of an object; this is Cultural Marxism. –  Urban Dictionary

That is what I’m seeing in the loud and angry voices in the public arena right now. Class warfare. One group against another group. This is not the disruption that will enlarge any of us as Americans. We are all objectified by this kind of identification/definition. No justice in this. Only destruction and disunity.

The video below by theologian educator Dr. Voddie Baucham was enormously helpful for me to understand cultural Marxism. [I will warn you: he takes issue with the politics of a very popular US president.] His teaching actually gave me hope. Truth sets us free.

Be encouraged.

We can be a part of a redemptive work. Even with shaky voices and shaky knees. Our only recourse is NOT what the loudest voices call for…but we do need to listen to those who genuinely represent the hurting. And, most urgently, the hurting themselves.

Before closing, here are some of the voices that have encouraged and emboldened me in recent days. They are not all alike in their message, but they speak reason, love, and hope.

Rayshawn Graves. Bryan Stevenson. Scott Sauls. Anthony Bradley. Rolland Slade. Glenn Loury. Bevelyn Beatty. Senator Tim Scott. Darrell B. Harrison. Virgil Walker. Karen Swallow Prior. David Lyle. Jackie Hill Perry. Coleman Hughes. Jared Burwell. Tim Keller. Shelby Steele. Michael Catt. Keith Smith. John McWhorter. Voddie Baucham. Just to name a few.

I’d love to close with a few of the lyrics of Andrew Peterson‘s A White Man’s Lament for God’s Beloved:

“…the mercies of the Lord
Will be the chords to every song…
…it begins as I repent
And bow my head as I lament this broken world
‘Cause every victim, every villain
Was a precious little boy or little girl
This is me and this is you
This is the truth, if you believe it or not
You have always been beloved
They have always been beloved

George, Breonna, Ahmaud
All beloved of God

5 Ways Christians Are Getting Swept Into a Secular Worldview in This Cultural Moment – Natasha Crain

Worship Wednesday – You Will Never Stop Fighting For Me – Riley Clemmons

Photo Credit: Mazur, Flickr

“For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” – Deuteronomy 20:4

“Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you.” – Deuteronomy 3:22

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

I have struggled to find voice in recent days. We are bombarded, in recent weeks, by images of violence and hatred, of grief and bewilderment. Unbelievable the unrest in our country right now.

To what ends? Clearly something must happen to prevent further wrongful deaths…we have to figure out how to prompt change without destroying our neighborhoods. Fear is palpable. Fear and anger. Confusion and chaos.

As the church we are called to stand with each other, to show love without bias, to right wrongs, and to reflect the personhood of a holy and just God.

In our current situation, how to do this is not so clear. Even as clear as Scripture is. As clear as the life of Jesus is for us to follow.

Today, though, I have found some words. Hope has stirred. While the rioters burn, loot, vandalize and criticize, real transformative conversations are happening all around…beyond the noise of agitators. The church is listening.

A 60-minute Conversation on Race in America – SBC Executive Committee – Facebook

Our greatest hope comes from this: even though we might have thought being “color-blind” was a way to show love, even though we came late to understand something of the pain that others feel in this country, even though we rejected that we were racist or had “privilege”…God is showing us the way through to a reconciliation with Him and with each other. We may not outright hate people, beautifully made in His image, but indifference and closing our eyes to the pain of others is its own sin for which we need repentance. (Romans 12:3-5, 9-18)

God is faithful. He loves us. He stands up for us. He gives grace when our strength is gone. He forgives. He is for us, and He fights for us.

As we look to Him, we will see each other as He sees us…and we can love and stand with each other, as He does the same with us.

Worship with me to Riley Clemmons‘ anthem of praise to the God who fights for us and stands with us:

I need the kinda love
That can outlast the night
I need the kinda love
That is willing to fight

When the going gets tough
And my strengths not enough
I see You showing up like never before
This battle for my heart
You took on from the start
You are the peace when my mind’s at war
And oh

You will never stop fighting for me
When I can’t fight for myself
Every word is a promise You keep
Cause You love me like nobody else
You stand up for me in the darkest night
When my faith is weak You’re still by my side
You will never stop fighting for me
You will never stop fighting for me

In the perfect timing
You make all things right
You paint a silver lining
In this heart of mine

When the going gets tough
And my strength’s not enough
I see You showing up like never before
This battle for my heart
You took on from the start
You are the peace when my mind’s at war
And oh

You will never stop fighting for me
When I can’t fight for myself
Every word is a promise You keep
Cause You love me like nobody else
You stand up for me in the darkest night
When my faith is weak You’re still by my side
You will never stop fighting for me
You will never stop fighting for me

Your love
Is winning me over
Your heart
Is pulling me closer
Your love
Is winning me over
Your heart
Is pulling me closer

You will never stop fighting for me
Fighting for me
Every word is a promise You keep, oh

You will never stop fighting for me
When I can’t fight for myself
Every word is a promise You keep
Cause You love me like nobody else
You stand up for me in the darkest night
When my faith is weak You’re still by my side
You will never stop fighting for me
You will never stop fighting for me*

Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel, not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance–and this is from God. Philippians 1:27-28

“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – Jesus John 13:35

*Story Behind the Song Fighting for Me – NewReleaseToday – Kevin Davis

YouTube Video – Riley Clemmons – Fighting For Me – Piano Version

When Life Is Hard: 9 Reminders That “The Lord Fights For You” – Debbie McDaniel

Worship Wednesday – Standing Firm, Side by Side, Not Afraid – in God’s Strength and His Salvation

Photo Credit: Philipp M., Pexels

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. – the Apostle Paul to the Philippian Church Philippians 1:27-28

God’s Word is powerful and freeing. We are emboldened and sustained by it – for life, for love, for forgiveness, for endurance.

When I read this passage again a few days ago, a charge from these words sizzled through me like electricity. Goosebumps and all.

Another translation of Paul’s writing introduced the above Scripture passage with the phrase “Just one thing”. We are living in confusing and shaky times, but God is unchanged. His truth is as riveting and reliable as when first written for us.

For months now, we have been kept apart by the social distancing of COVID-19. Since last week, we have been brought together by the terrible loss of George Floyd. Brought together and at the same time torn apart. Protests and a pandemic. Racial unrest and a radical disease.

A group of friends and I are going through a Bible study together which has turned out to be incredibly timely. We can’t be together so we meet over a video call, working through Jennie Allen‘s Get Out of Your Head. In this book, Allen talks through our struggle with the kind of thoughts that spiral downward taking us with them. The text she takes her readers through is Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He was in prison and yet wrote this short life-transforming letter to encourage the church experiencing its own hardship.

In confusing and chaotic times, our thoughts can be our worst enemy. We juggle the “what if’s” until they become more than we can manage. We question what’s right, what’s true, what’s our place in all of it…what’s God’s place. We become suspicious of others’ motives, and even sometimes our own. We grow weary of sorting it all out. We can withdraw…making six feet apart way too easy.

Jennie Allen reminds us that we have a choice; we can flip the downward spiral. We can make our aim, in all things,God’s glory and His headship. Keeping our focus on God, we then seek peace, do justice, love even our enemies, and trust God with our lives (whether the threat is COVID and or violence in the streets).

“As theologian and emeritus professor D. A. Carson has observed, People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”Jennie Allen
So how do we avoid that drift Dr. Carson talked about above?
In community. Standing firm, side by side, not afraid – in God’s strength and His salvation – Philippians 1:27-28.
However, even if community is shaky, God never is. We remind ourselves and each other that He is our refuge and we never have to be shaken...no matter the situation.

Psalm 62 – Trust in God Alone

For the choir director; according to Jeduthan. A psalm of David

I am at rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will never be shaken.

How long will you threaten a man?
Will all of you attack
as if he were a leaning wall
or a tottering fence?
They only plan to bring him down
from his high position.
They take pleasure in lying;
they bless with their mouths,
but they curse inwardly. Selah

Rest in God alone, my soul,
for my hope comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will not be shaken.
My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock.
My refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts before Him.
God is our refuge. Selah

Common people are only a vapor;
important people, an illusion.
Together on a scale,
they weigh less than a vapor.
Place no trust in oppression
or false hope in robbery.
If wealth increases,
don’t set your heart on it.

God has spoken once;
I have heard this twice:
Strength belongs to God,
and faithful love belongs to You, Lord.
For You repay each according to his works.Psalm 62

Worship Wednesday – The Forgiven Forgive – David Crowder & Matthew West

Photo Credit: FBC Yorktown, NY

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”Matthew 6:12

Early in Jesus’ earthly ministry, he preached out on a hillside to a great throng of people. This Sermon on the Mount set in motion the public teaching of Christ. In it, he focused on the hearts of men and women rather than on the religious law.

Toward the end of this sermon, he taught those in hearing how to pray. Within this beautiful prayer is the verse above:

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

In this short verse, we hear both our need for God’s forgiveness as well as our need to forgive others.

All my life, I have heard how important it is to forgive:

  • “Keep short accounts.” – my mama
  • “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes
  • “Don’t retry people in the court of your emotions.” – Tom Elliff
  • “As long as you don’t forgive, who and whatever it is will occupy a rent-free space in your mind.” – Isabelle Holland

The verse from the Lord’s Prayer calls us to ask God’s forgiveness for the debt of sin we owe and are unable to pay (thus needing Jesus as Savior). We ask God’s forgiveness as we forgive others – even if we are determined they owe us something (thus the word debts/debtors).

Seeking forgiveness for ourselves and forgiving others have high priority to God. They both relate to keeping our hearts pure before the Lord, keeping us from having a seared conscience, and acting for the sake of our brother/sister, restoring our fellowship with him/her (unity).

It is urgent that we ask for forgiveness and take action to forgive. Right away.

If we have sinned against another, leave our gift and go ask forgiveness.Matthew 5:23-24, also Mark 11:25

Leave Your Gift and Go – Life Action

As soon as we sense, or hear, or are made aware that we have sinned against someone, we need to move to make it right. Quickly. There is much at stake: our right relationship with that person, and guarding our own hearts from apathy, justifying ourselves, or shifting blame. In other words, sin heaped upon sin. When we remember how much God has forgiven us, we are tuned into the destructive nature of sin on ourselves and others.

Then, on the flip side, if someone has sinned against us, go to him and seek peace…be reconciled. – from Matthew 18:15-17

In my 20s, I had this great friend and roommate. She required very little from me. In fact, we got into a routine of her taking out the garbage and me letting her. It just seemed she preferred doing it, or so I wrongly thought. It may seem a small thing, but it grew big as sin does when it is left uncorrected. After some time, it became a point of contention, and she confronted me with my lack of care for her in this. I was truly sorry and asked her forgiveness.

She wasn’t ready to just let me off with my “I’m sorry.” We were both pretty serious Christ followers at that time, and I blurted out:  “You HAVE to forgive me.” We knew what the Scripture said on unforgiveness.

She forgave me, and that conversation was a turning point in our friendship. I am forever thankful for her courage in confronting my sin and forgiving me. We are still friends, many years later.

What To Do If Someone Sins Against You: the Teaching of Jesus – Mark D. Roberts

When Jesus told his disciples to pray for forgiveness as they forgive others did he not, then, mean that I should pray something like this: “Father, forgive me for my failure today to forgive [Dave]. I was irritable and wrapped up in myself and when he said what he said I flew off the handle at him and held a grudge all day, savoring in my mind how I might show him up, and keeping count of all the times he wronged me. My conscience smote me this afternoon when you reminded me of your constant mercy toward me. So I went to him and apologized (Mark 11:25). I do not desire to hold the grudge any longer. You have rid me of my selfish indignation and so I pray you will forgive my failure to forgive [Dave] earlier today and let me not fall into that temptation again.” Forgiveness is not a work by which we earn God’s forgiveness. It flows from a heart satisfied with the mercy of God and rejoicing in the cancellation of our own ten million dollar debt (Matthew 18:24). With man it is impossible, but not with God. – John Piper

Forgive Us Our What? Three Ways to Say the Lord’s Prayer – Jon Bloom

If I Fail to Forgive Others, Will God Not Forgive Me? – John Piper

It is not easy to forgive always. Some wounds are deep and reopened often. God gives grace. We cling to Him and to the amazing grace we have because of His forgiveness. Our emotions may lag behind and may take time, but we can forgive in an instant. Mark it down and remember it to God, ourselves, and (when necessary) the Evil One who accuses. We can forgive in an instant, and healing will begin.

Two songs come to mind in thinking about our hearts toward forgiveness. David Crowder’s Forgiven and Matthew West’s Forgiveness. They both take us to the very teaching of Christ – how much our sin separated us from God – and how we who are forgiven from our burden of sin will never want hold onto the sin of unforgiveness. The forgiven forgive.

Worship with me with the help of these two songs pointing us to a heart of forgiveness, a heart bent toward God. A heart He tenders toward those who need forgiveness, too.

Heavenly Father, thank You for this pattern of prayer that Jesus taught. Give me a gentle spirit and help me to be quick to forgive all those who have hurt or abused me… knowing that for Christ’s sake I have been forgiven of so much. I pray that I may maintain close fellowship with You, and be swift to forgive those who sin against me – in Jesus name, AMEN.” – Daily Verse

Precept Austin – Exhaustive study of Matthew 6:11-12

Forgiven to Forgive – Allen Webster

Forgiveness – First Presbyterian Church, Yorktown, NY

Monday Morning Moment – Resilience – Socially Distanced but Emotionally Engaged

Photo Credit: Resilience, Seoraksan National Park, South Korea, Chris Campbell, Flickr

Let’s talk about resilience – that ability to weather hardship over time; to endure and stand strong; to bounce back to a new normal. A new normal not thrust on us but one we help create.

“Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress – such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.” – The Road to Resilience

When strong winds come (whether illness, financial setbacks, or social distancing prescribed to avoid COVID-19), we can bend or break.Photo Credit: Wallpaper Flare

There is a more middle place as well, when the bending leaves us bent rather than just stretched. We are in a season where we might feel bent. In a “fog” of sorts, disoriented by our circumstances, ill-equipped for what we currently face. The lethargy, fatigue, and emotional/mental dullness are confusing when we actually have more opportunity than ever before to create and innovate.

This is where resilience comes in. After weeks of “staying at home”, getting work done in different ways than before, we are teetering on whether to remain cautious or throw caution to the wind.

Tapping into that mental energy for decisive action can move us toward resilience.  What do we want as a long-term outcome of this season?

Author James Clear writes about habit formation. He says it takes 2 months or so for a new habit to become automatic. He also cautions against focusing on the amount of time it takes more than the work it takes. “Do the work”. From Day 1 until whatever day our lives will “return” to normal.

Have you thought about what you hope to gain from this time we’re in “together”? We can’t control everything, of course. We will continue to have days where it seemed we weren’t able to accomplish much more than keeping our kids safe and fed. Underneath the sluggishness of this season of “staying well” or “staying in” for the sake of others…there is a rock-solid foundation of future possibility.

Let’s go after resilience. Let this be something we and our children look back on as a gain from 2020. Photo Credit: George Mason University

I’d love to hear your thoughts, your struggles, and how you are tackling the framing of that new normal. How are you staying mentally and emotionally engaged in spite of social distancing?

I’d like to close with some wisdom from Patrick Lencioni:

Hope Despite Coronavirus Fatigue – Trillia Newbell – my inspiration for today’s post

The Road to Resilience – Excellent resource (pdf)

Enhancing Resilience – Beth Payne (quick & helpful read)

The 6 Domains of Resilience – Jurie Rossouw (deeper dive, another excellent resource)

7 Successful Battle Strategies to Beat COVID-19 – Euvin Naidoo – for both work and personal life

You Can’t Think Yourself Out of Feeling Bad – Brianna Wiest

The Twisted Trees of Slope Point, New Zealand

5 Friday Faves – Spring Flowers, Beyond the Guitar Podcast, Wisdom of Vala Afshar, A Small Town with COVID-19, and Caring Communities

Happy weekend!

1) Spring Flowers – You know the old proverb “April showers bring May flowers”. Well, the April flowers here in the state of Virginia are pretty spectacular right now. Rhododendron, irises, roses, columbine, pinks, and begonias are dazzling with color in our backyard. More varieties will come in May, but these flowers have sure helped us thrive with the “stay at home” COVID-19 order. The rains have come, for sure, and the flowers keep coming. Glory!

2) Beyond the Guitar Podcast – So everyone who visits this page knows we’re huge fans (followers, supporters, whatever) of Nathan Mills (at Beyond the Guitar). The fact that he is our son could be how we “discovered” him, but not the reason we love his music. He is one of the hardest working, most creative, big-hearted musicians I know. When he plays classical guitar you can hear the emotion of the pieces – whether film or TV show themes, or video game music. There was a time when he livestreamed for awhile on an app called krue which is no longer with us but a lot of fun for its season. On his livestreams, he would even sing and talk awhile with us about the music we all loved. #NathanSings and #NathanTalks are rare these days. Well, until now!! Last week, Nathan, with close friend and fellow musician Jeremiah Dias, launched their podcast.  They talk about how it all began – both their friendship and their music careers. Who knows what all they will cover next time, so you’ll want to subscribe.

3) Wisdom from Vala AfsharMr. Afshar calls himself, on Twitter, the Chief Digital Evangelist @Salesforce. I don’t really know what that means, but I do know that he earns a followership because of the dense amount of great information he posts. All encouraging. All fascinating. A few days ago, he listed out 33 bits of wisdom as a thread on Twitter.

Some I’d heard before, but in that long list, I was reminded of how much we have in us (ability/opportunity) to change the course of our lives “as we get older”. Of the 33, here are a few of my favorites:

  • Networking is about giving.
  • If you are waiting for a title to lead, you are not ready to lead.
  • Imposter syndrome is real.
  • Love and cherish your parents by giving them your time.
  • Takers may end up with more, but givers sleep better at night.
  • Good listeners hear the unsaid.
  • Never ruin an apology with excuses.

Did any of these remind you of a favorite wisdom statement? Please comment below. Thanks.

4) A Small Town with COVID-19 – Albany, Georgia. I have a dear friend from that little town in South Georgia and a very large and favorite church calls Albany home.  Other than that, Albany, Georgia, was unknown to me until this Spring when COVID-19 swept through there. It apparently began when an older gentleman came to town in March to attend the funeral of a friend. He either came to town with the virus or contracted it while in Albany. After his death, several others from the funeral party also became ill with COVID-19. As the weeks went by with more and more cases, Albany became the fourth hardest hit town in the US.Photo Credit: Downtown Albany, Ga Facebook page

I have devoured all the news out of Albany over their response to COVID-19. Rural populations don’t have the medical resources available to larger towns and cities. These people must determine how to work together and how best to respond to the health crisis they (nor any of us) were prepared for. So thankful for their resilience.

The Black Pastor Watching the COVID-19 Virus Ravage His Town – David Dent

Rural America Needs Help To Face COVID-19 – Dr. Jennifer Olsen

5) Caring Communities – Of course, none of us prefer the mandates of self-distancing and staying at home. It’s one thing for us individually to take a break from people or to spend a few days in a staycation of our own choosing. To be given orders from our government is something we are not used to.

The isolation is itself difficult but the unknown is worse. Are we making a difference in holding off COVID-19? It is possible we could do less but we will never know (hopefully) how bad it could get if we weren’t self-distancing.

After so many weeks of self-isolating, and the clinical knowledge growing in the medical community, we are beginning to have mixed messages of what is necessary/appropriate.

YouTube Video – ER Physician Drops Multiple COVID-19 Bombshells – Viral

Getting cynical is not the answer. Nor is throwing off caution.

While we are sorting out next steps, what a blessing it is to be in caring communities – surrounded (six feet apart) by people who love one another and encourage and inspire each other.

These communities could be attached to our work or our neighborhood. Our church or civic group. Our family and friends. Photo Credit: Jared Burwell, Movement Church

People we can count on to reach out to us and serve us when we need them the most. People we can reach out to as well.

Community. Always, and especially in these days, we need to know we have it…even if, for now, it comes in the form of a video meeting.

5 favorite finds for this week…what are some of yours? Please respond in the Comments. Keep safe and be well. God is with us.

Bonuses:

A Therapist’s Simple Rule Transformed My Marriage – Jancee Dunn

Captive Thoughts – Sherwood Baptist Church

Country singer and songwriter Lauren Mascitti was, just until last week, a contestant on the TV show American Idol 2020 season. She is amazing. Lauren’s performances on this show, especially her original songs, were so big, full of heart. Her original song “God Made a Woman” is my favorite (minute 2:35 in above link). The lyric version is here.

A Side Effect of the Covid-19 Pandemic? Reading Got a Lot Harder – Emma Pettit

7 Ways to Make a Senior [Citizen]’s Day While Social Distancing

People Recreate Works of Art With Objects Found at Home During Self-Quarantine – Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine

Grandpa Remembers Back When We Were in the Time of Coronavirus

When God Makes Us Wait – Barbara Rainey

Photo Credit: Karen Garner

Monday Morning Moment – Maximizing the Benefit of Video Meetings and Minimizing “Zoom Fatigue”

Photo Credit: Flickr, John Kless

What would we do during these days of COVID-19 without FaceTime, Zoom meetings, Microsoft Teams, or Skype?! Sheltering at home, working from home, and social distancing have all drawn us into more of a solitary work and life. Having these online conversation opportunities keeps our daily lives open to those we wouldn’t otherwise see. Unfortunately just as meetings in real life as well as large family gatherings can exhaust us, so can the electronic facsimiles.

We want the good of them, and we sure don’t want to burnout on them before our stint with the Coronavirus is over.

Thankfully there are clinicians, creatives, and other thought leaders out there who are keeping online meetings fresh and inviting.

Psychologist Steven Hickman has written an incredibly insightful article on Zoom fatigue. Here are some of his observations:

[Related to his various Zoom meetings during COVID-19] “I have felt joy arising to see the faces and hear the voices of people whose faces and voices I first encountered when we were breathing the same air, standing in the same physical space, each (in Dan Siegel’s term) “feeling felt” by the other. And so it was nice to be with them electronically in this age of social distancing and sheltering in place.

And that was it, it was nice. I’ve been so busy lately that I thought perhaps I was just fatigued. But the more it happens, the more I realize that I end up feeling both connected but disconnected to these dear people.”

“…when we start to be over-stimulated by extraneous data that we haven’t had to process in the physical world [all the faces on a Zoom meeting, the pets, the background, our own fiddling with phone or other outside the screen’s view], each new data point pushes us just a little bit farther away from the human-to-human connection that we all crave and appreciate.

“Italian management professor Gianpiero Petriglieri recently tweeted ‘It’s easier being in each other’s presence, or in each other’s absence, than in the constant presence of each other’s absence.’

Zoom Exhaustion Is Real. Here Are Six Ways to Find Balance and Stay Connected – Steven Hickman

Dr. Hickman then offers 6 interventions to boost the benefit of these online meetings while dissipating their down-side:

    • Take a few moments before clicking “Start” to settle and ground your attention. [My note: I find this so helpful because otherwise we are rushing into an online meeting, as if we’re running late for an in-person meeting. All the emotions and some of the guilt of being late.]
    • Take the time to truly greet whoever is in the room with your full attentionoffer your attention to each face that appears (if the group is not too big). Give yourself a moment for each person to make an impression on you, and “take in the good” as Rick Hanson would say. Give yourself an opportunity to feel what it feels like to be in the presence of another. [My note: I LOVE his reminder of mindfulness. We struggle with truly being present with people…in the moment. Good word.]
    • Choose “speaker view.” In Zoom, one can choose Speaker View or Gallery View. [My note: I didn’t notice before that a “speaker view” is available. I love seeing all the faces, but maybe they can be distracting as well. Something to think about, especially for a work or content meeting.]
    • Resist the urge to multitask. I need to let go of a bit of “efforting” and let my attention rest more lightly and lovingly on what (and who) is before me. [My note: This multitasking adds to our “Zoom fatigue” when we are trying to get more done than is reasonably possible and stay tuned into what’s going on in the online meeting. We may need to look away or focus more lightly on the screen, but multitasking will take away from our experience of those in the meeting.]
    • Try to take measured breaks between sessions.
    • And finally, remind yourself periodically that this is a new place between presence and absence that we will have to learn how to accommodate as we go forward into the uncertain future. It is both better than absence…and not quite as resonant as presence.

Thank you, Dr. Hickman, for this excellent piece of counsel.

What counsel do you have to keep online meetings engaging and pleasurable for those in attendance? Please comment below.

In my experiences of late with video meetings, we have tried to keep things rolling in terms of content and invite the addition of humor/play if it doesn’t already exist. Game nights came even be planned as online meetings. Family dinners, coffee breaks, teatimes, or happy hours can also be orchestrated via Zoom or one of the other platforms. Time limits are helpful. Chatroom groupings as part of a larger online meeting are helpful. One friend of ours actually added a dressup/costume element to his video meetings.

Online meetings should be just part of our arsenal of tools to stay in touch with each other. It’s way too early in this historical season for us to grow weary of them. I am grateful and will continue to be…let’s help each other to keep them beneficial for all involved…whether it’s two people or a large roomful.[Our son who is an essential worker and therefore unable to visit us because of his potential exposure to COVID-19 at work. So grateful to see him at least this way.]

Zoom Fatigue: Don’t Let Video Meetings Zap Your Energy – Some “Cheats” to Help You Beat Zoom Fatigue Before It Beats You – Suzanne Degges-White

6 Pro Tips for Overcoming Zoom Meeting Fatigue – Kelsey Ogletree

I’ll Be Right Back. How to Protect Your Energy During Zoom Meetings – Elizabeth Grace Saunders

6 Tops For Avoiding Zoom Fatigue in the Age of COVID-19 – Leah D. Schade

5 Friday Faves – Some Good News, Final Fantasy VII on Guitar, Sound Thinking, Coronavirus Survival Tips, and Busting with Bonuses

https://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Blog-Friday-Faves-006-2.jpg

Hey Everybody! Hope you’re faring well through these days of Coronavirus and social distancing. Many of you may be still going out to work, and we are grateful for all your essential services keeping us supported in our different living situations.

I didn’t post Friday Faves last week. So we have Friday Faves from two weeks today. Hope you’re finding joy in this odd journey of ours right now. We may be physically distanced, but we are together in this (that’s almost become cliche except for it’s still true).

1) Some Good News – We can find it, or create it if need be. Some good news. Actor John Krasinski has done just that. He is scripting and posting a weekly YouTube video entitled appropriately Some Good News. His first post focused on the 15th anniversary of the American TV show The Office. Below you will find Episodes 2 and 3.

Please share in the Comments your own brush with good news this week and any good news you made happen for others. Let’s safely crush this physical distancing experience!

YouTube Video – SGN Prom with John Krasinski and Friends

2) Final Fantasy VII on Guitar – If the lilting music of the Final Fantasy videogame franchise has special meaning to you, then Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar gets it. The chief composer of the Final Fantasy themes is Nobuo Uematsu. Nathan’s latest arrangement from the franchise is Aerith’s Theme from Final Fantasy VIIHere it is:

YouTube Video – Final Fantasy XV: Valse di Fantastica – Classical Guitar Cover

YouTube Video – Final Fantasy XV: Main Title Theme (Somnus) – Classical Guitar Cover

YouTube Video – Final Fantasy X: To Zanarkand – Classical Guitar Cover (Beyond the Guitar)

3) Sound Thinking – One of my go-to Bible verses in scary situations is 2 Timothy 1:7 where the Apostle Paul states: For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” Some translations use sound mind or self-control for the phrase “sound judgment”.

Either way, there is such a thing as sound thinking, and it is worth determining whether we are pursuing and exercising that level of reason…or not. Otherwise, we will continue to keep passing each other in conversations, even good friends, shaking our heads when we disagree with ideologies. Preferring to discount, blame or revile, rather than understand each other’s take on something that matters to both of us. Especially in today’s super-charged political conversations and in our government’s decision-making.

Photo Credit: Trainer Collective

In my wondering on sound thinking, I found a very helpful book chapter by author Martin H. Levinson. The 2006 book (its revised edition just released) is Sensible Thinking in Turbulent Times and the chapter was General Semantics: Sound Thinking for Every Day Life.

In this chapter, Levinson offers Ten Blocks to Sound Thinking – with General Semantics “Correctives”. The blocks follow; read the succinct and incredible helpful correctives in this rapid read chapter. I would love an opportunity to sit around a circle with friends and associates of mine who think vastly differently than I do on a range of topics and sort out how we might come more to the center using these helps.

10 Blocks to Sound Thinking (Martin H. Levinson)

  • Allness Attitudes [communicating as if we know all there is to know about a subject]
  • “Knee-jerk Reactions
  • Either-or Thinking
  • Rigid Evaluations
  • Projection Problems [stating opinions as if they were facts]
  • “Useless” and Poorly Structured Questions
  • Elementalism [assuming there is only one cause of something]
  • Jumping to Wrong Conclusions
  • Relying on Common Sense [taking assumptions for granted]
  • Labeling and Category Errors

So much to consider. I will close this with a quote, measured and sound, from a friend of mine, Helen Phillips, on the topic of our country’s mediation of the Coronavirus pandemic:

“We’ll never know whether these drastic measures have spared us from a fate we cannot fathom with thousand or tens of thousands more people sick and dying, or not. If the stats tempt you to feel indignant, and a false sense of ‘perhaps the whole thing was a big fat overreaction’, how do you claim to know which is which? Who can be certain what’s ‘real’ and what’s successful mitigation through extreme precaution as intended. Everyone is speculating, everyone is claiming someone else is wrong, everyone has an opinion and a conspiracy theory from the cheap seats with no ‘skin in the game’.

At the end of the day, who among us bends under the burden of tremendous responsibility? Who among us truly believes they have solutions for the world’s problems? Who among us rarely sleeps, evaluating the deluge of evolving data? Who among us thinks they know what’s best for an organization, a state or a nation?

Perhaps instead of feeding the dragon of obsession and negativity, maybe we should do a little more soul searching, heart checking, gratitude evaluating, neighbor loving and realize the roots of our faith are growing deeper.”

What  a 16th Century Mystic Can Teach Us About Making Good Decisions – Annmarie Cano

4) Coronavirus Tips for Survival – Have we exhausted this subject yet? I can’t imagine we have. Fortunately, I have a good friend who is also a cancer nursing specialist. She helped me devise a survivorship plan after my bout with cancer. She is also the source of much of my plan for staying healthy and hopefully surviving COVID-19 should I contract it. First a little musical respite with DJ Brinson and Emily Gardenire:

I have listed several sources below with a wide range of viewpoints on keeping COVID-19 at bay or surviving it should you get hospitalized. The tips are just based on what I’ve read and what conclusions I’ve made. Not scientific, not tested, etc., etc., etc.

  • Pray, trusting God isn’t finished with me yet…or if my time is done on earth, then trusting Him for grace for me and for my family.
  • Be aware of what surfaces I’m touching (especially outside of my home environment) and wash my hands often and thoroughly. Hand sanitize regularly.
  • Keep my hands off my face.
  • Social distance. Stay 6 feet apart from those not in my “stay at home” environment. Only gather in very small groups with others abiding by same rules (family, close friends, colleagues when necessary).
  • Although social distancing, be creative and purposeful – serve others and stay in contact. Pray for those around you and far from you.
  • During social distancing, make time to complete or update an advance medical directive.
  • Vitamin C.
  • Learn to sleep on my abdomen and sides (this may be necessary if I end up hospitalized).
  • If hospitalized, up to being put on a ventilator, I want it all (oxygen, of course; hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin (if available); testing and treatment for cytokine storm syndrome; red blood cell and plasma infusions; whatever else is the latest and greatest.
  • Have whatever contact is possible with my family.
  • Ventilator…not at all sure about this one.

Here’s a Playbook for Stopping Deadly Cytokine Storm Syndrome

Being Prepared in the Time of COVID-19 – Three Things You Can Do Now – The Conversation Project

Why Some COVID-19 Patients Crash: The Body’s Immune System Might Be to Blame – Geoff Bromfiel

Covid-19 Had Us All Fooled, But Now We Might Have Finally Found Its Secret – LibertyMavinStock

YouTube Video: Empowering Talk: Protecting Families During COVID-19 Pandemic – Dr. David Price – New York City

Nightmares, Flashbacks, Uncertainty: A 29-year-old Recovers After Coronavirus Brought Him Near Death – Marissa J. Lang

Coronavirus Survival Tips from a Doomsday Prepper

Deaths Delayed – Carl R. Trueman

John Piper on the Coronavirus and Christ – Podcast & Transcript – Collin Hansen

Do you have any tips for us about staying well? Please comment below.

Photo Credit: The Jeff Katz Show, Facebook

5) Busting with Bonuses – I couldn’t decide on a fifth favorite so will leave you with these bonuses as the fifth. The Spring here is spectacular and I’m especially grateful having been “staying at home” for over a month now. Hope you’re doing well. Thanks for reading and keeping company with me.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor

Don’t Waste Your Ruined Plans – Gaye Clark

You Can Thrive in the New Normal – Here’s How – Matt Monge

Fight Songs (The question was asked by a friend, “What is your fight song?” – this week I had two. They follow below.)

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp

The book titles below (left to right, first row and then second) tell a story. #CoronavirusPhoto Credit: Casual Christian Comedy 2, Facebook