Category Archives: Attitude

Worship Wednesday – Thanksgiving Edition – Everything – Lauren Daigle

2006 -- Nov -- Thanksgiving table

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.James 1:17

Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises.2 Peter 1:2-4a

Happy Thanksgiving, Family and Friends. Through the years, I’ve written so much about this loaded holiday we love. Links to some of those blogs are below.

5 Friday Faves for Thanksgiving – the Gathering, Family Recipes, Table Talk, Living Room Sprawls, and All the Emotions – Deb Mills

Thanksgiving Memories – All Good Gifts – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – a Thanksgiving Moment – God’s Enduring Mercies – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Songs of Thanksgiving – Great Are You Lord – All Sons & Daughters – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – All Good Gifts – Thanksgiving Memories – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Thanksgiving – For the Beauty of the Earth – as Fall Fades into Winter – Deb Mills

Today, I have few words. Just so grateful. For health. For family. For friends, colleagues, neighbors, and church family. For work. For rest. For so much good in all this crazy and complicated life.

Especially for a good and gracious God. He gives us everything we need. He is “everything we need”.

Photo Credit: Heartlight Gallery

Worship with me to Lauren Daigle‘s song Everything.

Even the sparrow has a place to lay its head
So why would I let worry steal my breath
Even the roses, You have clothed in brilliant red
Still I’m the one You love more than this

You give me everything
You give me everything
You give me everything I need

Even the oceans push and pull at Your command
So You can still my heart with Your hand
You tell the seasons when it’s time for them to turn
So I will trust You even when it hurts

You give me everything
You give me everything
You give me everything I need
You give me everything
You give me everything
You give me everything I need

When I can’t see, You lead me
When I can’t hear, You show me
When I can’t stand, You carry me
When I’m lost, You will find me
When I’m weak, You are mighty
You are everything I need

You give me everything
You give me everything
You give me everything I need
You give me everything
You give me everything
You give me everything I need
[Repeat until end]*

*Lyrics to “Everything” – Songwriters: Jason Ingram, Paul Mabury, Lauren Daigle

Monday Morning Moment – Chef José Andrés Feeds the World – Inspiring Us to Do Likewise

Photo Credit: Screenshot from The Richmond Forum; Chef José Andrés, speaking to us from Honduras, where he and his team were feeding people after the Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

The first offering of the Richmond Forum‘s 2020-21 season was this past weekend. Because of COVID, it was virtual. Dave and I would miss our traditional pizza before the show, and talks with our friends at the Altria Theater, but comfy at home was not a bad option either.

We didn’t know this evening’s speaker, José Andrés, but with all who come to the stage of the Richmond Forum, we knew we would come away with a larger sense of the world and our part in it.

Photo Credit: José Andrés, World Central Kitchen, Bahamas, 2019

Chef José Andrés is an extraordinary person who challenges us to move that descriptor into the ordinary column. Here’s a brief intro to this amazing man – just a bit of his extensive bio from his website: “José Andrés is an internationally-recognized culinary innovator, New York Times bestselling author, educator, television personality, humanitarian, and chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup. A pioneer of Spanish tapas in the United States, he is also known for his groundbreaking avant-garde cuisine and his award-winning group of more than 30 restaurants located throughout the country and beyond, ranging in a variety of culinary experiences from a food truck to his multi-location vegetable-focused fast casual Beefsteak, to world-class tasting menus…As a naturalized citizen originally from Spain, Andrés has been a tireless advocate for immigration reform. In 2010, Andrés formed World Central Kitchen, a non-profit that provides smart solutions to end hunger and poverty by using the power of food to empower communities and strengthen economies. Notably, his team served over 3.6 million meals to the people of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.”

Photo Credit: José Andrés, World Central Kitchen – 2019 in Review

This celebrity chef who owns restaurants all over the US, writes cookbooks, and entertains us with his TV appearances.

However, you look at his face and see his heart. He says, “I am a cook. I feed the few, but I love to feed the many”.

He grew up in Spain with parents who were nurses. At times, one parent heading to work, would bring their four sons to the emergency room to exchange with the parent leaving work.   His parents also loved to cook for the family and for friends and neighbors. He tells the story of his father making a huge pan of paella. When his mother asked his father what if too many people come and there is not enough food. “We just add some more rice”.

Andrés credits his father with an early love and understanding of cooking. His father would tell him “Learn your fire. Control your fire. Master your fire. Then you will be able to cook anything you want.” He took that cooking lesson and applied it to his life.

As a young man, he dreamed of coming to America, of being a part of “We the People”. When he finally was able to immigrate to the US, he wasted no time in beginning work in a restaurant. He continued growing and learning…and before long, teaching others himself. Not just about cooking itself but what food brings to all of life.

“Respect people. Teach them to work. Give them a plate of food.”

He feels very strongly about giving back (especially to his beloved America) as well as giving to all who are suffering. “There’s nothing more nurturing than a plate of hot food.”

After responding to the Haiti earthquake in 2010, his vision to “feed the many” came to fruition with the World Central Kitchen. Andres took his ability to cook and his experience in leading and mentoring staff in his restaurants and applied it in the worst of situations. Through this non-profit, he and his teams would be “boots on the ground” after earthquakes,wildfires, wars, flooding, hurricanes, and other disasters. They came and found a kitchen and bought local food. They listened and learned. They mobilized others to help, and thousands upon thousands were fed.

[We sat mesmerized at this man and his stories of real life. This immigrant. This cook. With a heart as big as the world. He could have just enjoyed the great successes of his American dream realized, but this is not who he is.

We spent our evening with him (thanks to Richmond Forum). Hearing stories of how a few fed many…in Honduras, in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, and years ago in Haiti. These were just some of the many stories of the work of this chef and World Central Kitchen.

As questions came in from the Richmond Forum audience, he taught us, just as if we were standing in his kitchen, or his classroom. As if there was already a relationship there. As, for sure, he cared for us, somehow.

Nothing he said was the stuff of unapproachable genius. He put his hand to a cascade of difficult situations and made a difference. It gives hope to any of us willing to try. He changes recipes to fit the circumstances and peoples they served. He looks for new ways to make things happen. He uses food not as a charity but as a healing connection in a community – sustenance and support, pulling people together to heal and restore their lives and livelihoods.

His goal: to do good in the world.

“I have work to do. I’m here to be an improver of the world. Not by talking but by doing. There will always be a job to do.”

Andres has even worked with the US Congress on the Feed Act and the Restaurants Act that have come out of our battle with COVID-19. Food insecurity and restaurant closures should not be happening when the former can be helped by the latter – subsidizing restaurants to feed people in need. Who knows what will come out of all this, but that can-do creativity and great generosity of heart are at the heard of what makes America great.

Get to know José Andrés. It will not be one-sided.

He closed the evening with this: “Maybe I’ve added an ingredient or two to your life. I look forward to one or two from yours one day.”

Youtube Video –  José Andrés on 60 Minutes in 2017; Feeding Puerto Rico

YouTube Video – José Andrés on Giving Back to America

YouTube Video – When Disaster Strikes, Jose Andres Brings Hot Food and Hope – PBS

The 10 Best Lines From Jose Andres’ GWU Commencement Speech

Worship Wednesday – God’s Purposes Are Not Thwarted – “Where Were You?” – Ghost Ship

blog-where-were-you-job-pray-write-growPhoto Credit: PrayWriteGrow

[From the Archives]

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?…”Job 38:1-4a

I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.  – Job to God, Job 42:2

How can this be?! How could this have happened? No way could this be right. No way could this be God’s plan.

We are all given to platitudes. “It’s all good.” “It’s not your fault.” “God’s still on His throne.” They may be true but they’re not very satisfying.

When we’re hit by a strange and unsettling reality, we want to call it something else. We want to cry out that it’s not good and it’s got to be someone’s fault…we ache to point our finger at someone…anyone. At times, the blame ascends all the way to Heaven…to God Himself.

Job, a righteous God-fearer whose story is chronicled in the Bible, found himself in that very situation. He didn’t just wake up one morning to news that he couldn’t stomach; he was singled out for the most devastating personal loss – the deaths of all his children and his own health ruined. His questioning of the rightness of this unimaginable occurrence was understandable.

Having friends who offered all sorts of scenarios as to how this could have happened…gave Job no relief.

Finally, he took his case to God, objecting to how such a thing could happen. In God’s defense of Himself in the matter (Job 38-41), He opened Job’s eyes to the wonder and goodness of all that He does.

God is not put off by our questioning, our fears, our confusion…this God who lovingly asks questions Himself for us to see our own strange thinking about Him…this God who is the answer to every question that’s whispered or shouted from the depths of our beings. Where were you, Child? …Where were we?! How gentle He is with our self-righteousness and presumptuousness that we know better than He. We may not understand…but we can be assured that He is working out our good and His glory in every page turned in history. We can question, absolutely…but He calls us to continue following Him, even in our questioning…to love Him, to love others…with everything in us.

On this Sunday, four years ago, we gathered at Movement Church, and worshiped together. That Sunday followed the 2016 Presidential election, the outcome of which probably surprised every voter and non-voter in America…either joyfully or sorrowfully.

This Sunday, like every Sunday, was made for worship. No back clapping, or derision, or condescending opinions of any political ilk. Whatever hopefulness and whatever despair were set aside. Just voices raised in community to the God whose purposes are not thwarted…no matter what.

Worship, with me, through this great lyric Where Were You? (by Ghost Ship) – taken straight from the Job narrative.

I said, “God, I do not understand this world
everything is dying and broken
why do I see nothing but sufferingimg_0418

God I’m asking could this be Your plan
Sin has taken hold of this whole land
Will You not say anything else to me?”
He said, “Where were you the day that I measured
sunk the banks and stretched the line over
all the earth and carved out its corner stone?img_0423
Where were you the day that I spoke and
told the sun to split the night open
caused the morning dark with its light to show
Who shut in the ocean with stone doors
marked the reach of tides on those new shores
hung the day the waves rose and first broke forth
Have you seen the springs of that great sea
walked the caverns carved in the black deep
through the gates of darkness there on its floor

 

Have you seen the armory I hold
snow and hail are stacked up in silos
for the times of trouble and war and strife

Can you raise your voice to the storm cloud
would the thunder answer and ring out
does the lightning ask you where it should strike

Who has cleft the channels for torrents
rain to sprout the desert with forest
in the wilderness that my hand has built

Can you hunt the prey for your lions
can you use the cords of Orion
is this whole world bending beneath your will?”

I spoke of things I did not understand
things too wonderful for me
although I had no right to ask
my God knelt and answered me*

For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?  Isaiah 14:27

Lyrics to Ghost Ship’s Where Were You?

The Plan of God – J. I. Packer

Worship Wednesday – Do Something – Matthew West – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – In Suffering – Where Were You? – by Ghost Ship – Deb Mills

blog-where-were-you-tumblrPhoto Credit: TheMadeShop – Tumblr

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s “Spirit”, Reducing Brain Fog, Crucial Conversations, the Precious Nature of Life, and What We Have in Common

1) Beyond the Guitar’s “Spirit” – Below you will find the latest Beyond the Guitar video from the 2002 movie Spirit: the Stallion of the Cimarron. Nathan’s treatment of “Homeland” theme by masterful composer Hans Zimmer 2002 movie theme is beautiful. One of the commenters on his YouTube video stated that it was as if Zimmer composed it for guitar. Nathan’s arrangement definitely does justice to this incredibly triumphant orchestral piece. Enjoy!

2) Reducing Brain Fog – Brain fog is an inability to concentrate. It is essentially a feeling of “being in a fog” – you feel slowed-down, tired, draggy, unable to think clearly or even find the right words at times.

Photo Credit: Marcus Aurelius, Pexels

Writer and business consultant Thomas Oppong wrote this brilliant article on what we can do to reduce brain fog. He goes into great detail so be sure, if you struggle with this issue, to read his piece. He doesn’t quote from the science literature but his takes on the six points below make enormous sense. All worth a try.

  • Give up the clutter. – Decluttering bit by bit will lower stress and sharpen focus.
  • Stop the multi-tasking. – “Narrow down your most important tasks to 3, and then give one task your undivided attention for a period of time. Allow yourself to rotate between the three, giving yourself a good balance of singular focus and variety.”
  • Give up the urgent distraction. – We have our lists and our goals, but the easier and lesser things around us draw away our attention. Resisting the distractions help us stay on track.
  • Stop feeding your comfort. – Beware of the well-worn ruts in work and life. “Seeking new experiences, learning new skills, and opening the door to new ideas inspire us and educate us in a way improves mental clarity.”
  • Don’t sit still. – Plan physical activity into the day.  It helps us stay mentally fresh and focused.
  • Stop consuming media and start creating it. – Social media can rob us of our hours and energy. “Let creation determine consumption. Allow curiosity to lead you to discover and pursue something you deepy care about. Make time to create something unique. The point is to get lost in awe and wonder like you did when you were a child. When you achieve that feeling from a certain activity, keep doing it!” – Thomas Oppong

How to Overcome Brain Fog From a Long-time Sufferer – Tim Denning

3) Crucial Conversations – So many conversations don’t happen because they are just too risky. They make us feel too vulnerable. Yet we long for deep conversations. For conversations that enlarge us and bring understanding, even between people who don’t share opinions or worldviews.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High – Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, & Laura Roppe

Top 10 Takeways From Crucial Conversations – Tabitha Bower

Last week, I listened to a Jennie Allen podcast on “life-giving conversations”.

Between the current political division and the physical distancing necessitated by COVID, we are having fewer crucial conversations. That’s not to say we aren’t on video meetings or phone calls for much of the day, but we have to work harder to have satisfying conversations.

March 2020 (BC – Before COVID mediation)

April 2020 – AC (After COVID mediation)

Certainly conversations between people who disagree are happening less. They are just too hard. Especially via screens. Especially when opportunities to talk deeply are just not there.

What got me thinking about this is a couple of podcasts (see below) and also watching (and feeling) the strain of months long requirements of video meetings with work (and church) groups…instead of in-person opportunities.

How to Have Life-Giving Conversations – Podcast – Jennie Allen

How Shame Affects All of Us – Podcast – Jennie Allen with Dr. Curt Thompson

Crucial conversations, whether one-on-one or in a group structure, are harder these days. How can we get past the superficial or the daily grind kinds of talk? I’m thinking there’s a discipline we can develop – to really dig in and want to know the person(s) in front of us and to ask questions and pose topics others can really engage with…especially if we can communicate that we are safe with each other.

“We want to be seen and known in the place we live… we want to ask questions that invite people to be curious and creative. Tell me about something this past week that was really hard for you. Caused you joy.  That caused you to be creative. Regularly take time to validate that in each other. We want to invite people to be curious and creative.” – Jennie Allen, Dr. Curt Thompson

Anything with psychiatrist and writer Dr. Curt Thompson involved is great quality content. Whether it is on belonging, vulnerability, shame, or dealing with physical/social distancing, he has a wealth of practical and neurologically sound counsel. Just watch the YouTube videos with him talking.

Thoughts?

4) The Precious Nature of Life – What we think on this has divided our nation – those more for life from conception and those more for the rights of the conceiving adults.

As a mother and grandmother who has lost all but one of her cherished older relatives, I want to celebrate the precious nature of life. I want to invite you to celebrate as well.

We never know when we will be gone from here or when those we love will be either. We just never know. Thus, the imperative to not let anything stand in our way of loving…or at least honoring the lives of those in our own.

Why this for a Friday Fave?

The 21 y/o son of friends of ours died this week. The whole wrong gone of this dear young man has stopped us all in our tracks. God’s grace holds people up…as does His grace with clothes on, friends and other family, leaning in to love. His passing has been very much on my mind, and his parents on my heart.

Canadian author Tim Challies also lost his son, Nick, recently…also suddenly. 20 years old. We are thankful that the Challies family has a huge circle of support, too. He has been writing about their loss of Nick in a series of blogs. Here is one: The Cruelty of Quarantine: A Lament.

If you could use some help with your own grief, walk with Tim through his.

Cherish these loved ones we’re privileged to have in our lives. In all their scruffiness, various differences, political activism or not…they are gifts to us. We don’t throw them back. We figure out how to love them and be there for them…and hopefully, they do the same for us.

Right?

COVID (and its mediation) is putting incredible stress on our lives and relationships. Important to keep our eyes and minds clear on the precious nature of life…not just ours, but each others, of course.

5) What We Have in Common – When there are rifts (political or familial) or a growing discontent (in a relationship or at work) or a vain sense that life could be better with someone else, it’s good to give pause to that thinking, and consider: What do we have in common with each other? What might we be giving up that we may not see in the every day but that, once out the door, we may miss and regret the decision?

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Think of the person(s) you’re may be having difficulty with. Now, come up with what you have in common, make as long a list as possible. Be creative.

I’m thinking…ok, here goes:

  • We share the same core values.
  • We care about the world we’re leaving to our children.
  • We both want to be successful, but also to be effective.
  • We’ve both lost a parent (or two).
  • We are both American (fill in your country) and we care about our country.
  • We’ve both been to the doctor way too many times this year.
  • We both struggle with insecurity, although it surfaces differently.
  • We both have trouble talking with each other about these things.
  • Yet, we both know we are a part of a greater story.

Can we take the things we have in common and move toward each other instead of more apart?

_________________________________________________________________________

Just a few thoughts that didn’t get laid down until after a busy, lovely weekend. Hope the rest of your week is peaceful and full of good.

Bonuses:

How to Overcome the 5 D’s of Leadership and Life: Doubt, Distortion, Discouragement, Distraction, and Division – Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast – with Guest Jon Gordon (Podcast & Transcript)

The Curse of the Honeycrisp Apple – Deena Shanker and Lydia Mulvany

Fall Leaves in All Their Glory (Before the Rains Came)

Wednesday Worship – What Are We Defending in Anger – Who Is Your Defender? – Francesca Battistelli & Steffany Gretzinger

Photo Credit: Wendell Berry, QuoteFancy

My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.James 1:19

The LORD will fight for you, and you must be quiet (stay still/hold your peace).”Exodus 14:14

Have you been angry lately? You find an internal burn firing up over an offense? An injustice. A false accusation. A public rebuke. A mean comment. A certain look or tone.

Your anger rises, and you feel justified – to react, to strike back, to level…that person or persons “at fault”.

Anger in itself is not a sin. What we do with it keeps it righteous or turns it into something damaging. God has shown us what righteous anger looks like. He also warns us about anger turned sinfully toward ourselves or others. Or even toward Him.

He will take our anger…because He loves us and won’t stop loving us.

This week, I listened to Bible teacher Jennie Allen‘s podcast on Anger. It was a great launch into a deeper look at anger. In her podcast, Allen referred to a sermon by Pastor Tim Keller.

YouTube Video – The Healing of Anger – Tim Keller (12 minutes in, for sure, but all of it is important so take the time)

In this podcast, Keller tells of how just waiting on his food order in a restaurant, he found himself getting angry at the wait. The question came to him, “What are you defending?”

“Anger is defending something you love.”

When we get angry, we may be defending our own (or someone else’s) rights or entitlement to something. It could be our reputation, our ego, our sense of importance. What do we love? We will defend it.

“What is it that you love so much?…I’m afraid of how I’m going to look, I’m afraid that it’s going to come out…I’m defending my ego. I’m defending me…There’s a place in Jeremiah where God says, ‘Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.’ [Jeremiah 45:5]…We are ordering our love…Disordered love [leads to] disordered anger…”Tim Keller

If God’s love is not more important than any other love, we will be at the whim of disordered anger.

“When anything in life is an absolute requirement for your happiness and self-worth, it is essentially an ‘idol’, something you are actually worshiping. When such a thing is threatened, your anger is absolute. Your anger is actually the way the idol keeps you in its service, in its chains. Therefore if you find that, despite all the efforts to forgive, your anger and bitterness cannot subside, you may need to look deeper and ask, ‘What am I defending? What is so important that I cannot live without?’ It may be that, until some inordinate desire is identified and confronted, you will not be able to master your anger.” – Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods

In his sermon, Keller talked about three ways we deal with anger. We either stow (stuff) anger, blow anger, or slow anger. Neither of the first two types are good for us or for anyone else.

God calls us to be slow to anger. He knows our frame. He loves us and He loves those who “make” us angry or whom our anger targets.

If we die to our rights/entitlements as God calls us to do, then our love for Him and for others becomes ordered in such a way we are less prone to striking out in anger.

Defending ourselves using anger is exhausting and can leave relationships broken or destroyed. When the situation is someone else angry with us, Keller gives us a way (the way) to deal with the disordered anger: A surgical strike on disordered anger from another without losing the relationship:

  1. Come in close.
  2. Insist on the truth (staying with what you and he/she know is true – not just how you/they feel.
  3. Absorb the pain of their disordered rage without paying back.

This is huge.

This is what Jesus did for us, in his life and death. This is our great Defender.

Francesca Battistelli with songwriter Steffany Gretzinger gives us a beautiful anthem in praise of our “Defender”.

Let’s worship together.

You go before I know
That You’ve even gone to win my war
You come back with the head of my enemy
You come back and You call it my victory, oh-ooh

You go before I know
That You’ve even gone to win my war
Your love becomes my greatest defense
It leads me from the dry wilderness

And all I did was praise
All I did was worship
All I did was bow down, oh
All I did was stay still

Hallelujah, You have saved me
So much better Your way
Hallelujah, great Defender
So much better Your way

You know before I do
Where my heart can seek to find Your truth
Your mercy is the shade I’m living in
And You restore my faith and hope again

And all I did was praise, ohhh, oh-ooh
All I did was worship
All I did was bow down, oh
All I did was stay still, stay still

Hallelujah, You have saved me
So much better Your way
Hallelujah, great Defender
So much better Your way

When I thought I lost me
You knew where I left me
You reintroduced me to Your love
You picked up all my pieces
Put me back together
You are the defender of my heart
When I thought I lost me
You knew where I left me
You reintroduced me to Your love
You picked up all my pieces
Put me back together
You are the defender of my heart
When I thought I lost me
You knew where I left me
You reintroduced me to Your love
You picked up all my pieces
Put me back together
You are the defender of my heart

Hallelujah, You have saved me
So much better this way
Hallelujah, great Defender
So much better Your way
So much better Your way (I know it’s so much better)
So much better Your way (I know it, I know it)

And all I did was praise
All I need to do is worship
Lord, I will just bow down
I’m just gonna stay still*

*Lyrics to Defender – Songwriters: Steffany Gretzinger with Rita Springer and John-Paul Gentile

Story Behind the Francesca Battistelli’s New Song “Defender” – Mornings with Rebecca and Burns

100 Bible Verses about God As Our Defender

YouTube Video – Heartsong Cedarville University – A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Monday Morning Moment – Gratitude and the Brain – All Good Gains

Photo Credit: Twitter

Have you noticed the increased expressions of gratitude on your social media? At least in the US, we are gearing up for Thanksgiving. Some of us take this occasion as an opportunity to daily and publicly express our gratitude. Based on what we know from research, this could make November one of our happiest and least stressful months of the year.

Below you’ll find quotes from some of these authors, reporting on both clinical research and anecdotal data that support how the practice of gratitude can actually alter our habits of thinking and our sense of well-being. It’s all good for us and those around us.

“Our brain is always on alert to threat and is more predisposed to look at the negative side of life [stress response]. There are many things that happen to us everyday that are positive but we don’t notice them because we are always looking for the next threat to us. Now these actions are below our level of awareness. It takes some concerted effort to get our brain to move to the positive side of life. And that is where paying attention and expressing gratitude plays a role in establishing that positive mindset. When we start to place attention on the positive events in our life our brain responds by producing the neurotransmitter dopamine…We do feel better when dopamine is flowing but that also makes are brain wanting more – so it becomes the motivating neurotransmitter also…In addition, the brain loves confirmation bias: it looks for things that prove what it already believes to be true. Dopamine then strengthens that action. So if you start seeing things in your life that you are grateful for, your brain will start looking for more things to be grateful for.”Patricia Faust, How Gratitude Affects the Brain

Six Habits of Highly Grateful People – Jeremy Adam Smith

  1. Once in awhile, they think about death and loss. – As we think of past losses and future losses (say of those we love), we remember and reflect on the good we’ve known in those situations or relationships. Of future losses, we then take action to savor and bless those persons while we have them near.
  2. They take time to smell the roses. – Whether our current situation feels difficult or just mundane, we look for the beauty.
  3. They take the good things as gifts, not birthrights. – We see entitlement for the life-diminishing thing it is.
  4. They’re grateful to people, not just things. – We can be thankful for great food, for blue skies, for warm clothing, but we go beyond that to the one(s) who provided the good we have.
  5. They mention the pancakes. Being grateful for the specific little things disciplines us to enlarge our gratitude for the greater things in our lives. Those things that can cause stress if we don’t remember the value and significance in them.
  6. They thank outside the box. Even in adversity or hard times, we can find things for which to be grateful. Gratefulness doesn’t minimize the difficulty; it actually strengthens us to endure.

What Gets in the Way of Gratitude? – Robert Emmons

“Given its magnetic appeal, it is a wonder that gratitude might be rejected. Yet it is. If we fail to choose it, by default we choose ingratitude. Millions make this choice every day.

Why? Provision, whether supernatural or natural, becomes so commonplace that it is easily accepted for granted.  We believe the universe owes us a living. We do not want to be beholden. Losing sight of protection, favors, benefits and blessings renders a person spiritually and morally bankrupt.  It’d be hard to improve upon the words of our 16th President in 1863:

‘We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation ever has grown; but we have forgotten God! We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.'” – What Gets in the Way of Gratitude? – Robert Emmons

8 Ways to Express Your Gratitude

  1. Keep a gratitude journal.
  2. Write a gratitude letter to a past mentor or teacher.
  3. Count how many things you can find to be grateful for in each room of your home.
  4. Listen to a guided gratitude meditation [my suggestion if you don’t prefer guided meditation: spend some time in the Psalms].
  5. Start business meetings with a “what went well” one-sentence reflection.
  6. Savor receiving thanks.
  7. Take a daily photo of something you are grateful for and post to Instagram or Facebook, tagging it with #365project.
  8. Try a gratitude jar or tree.        – Tamara Lechner, The Neuroscience Behind Gratitude: How Does Cultivating Appreciation Affect Your Brain?

So…what are you grateful for at this moment?

How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain – Joshua Brown, Joel Wong

How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times – Robert Emmons

Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy – Nancy Leigh DeMoss

The Science of Gratitude – a White Paper – UC Berkeley

Photo Credit: Robert Emmons, Greater Good, Daily Good

Monday Morning Moment – I’m Going to Change the World…or At Least Try

Photo Credit: Inblix

[Adapted from the Archives – here and here]

My husband always brings me coffee. He did again this morning. When I asked what he had on his schedule, he replied, “Work…the usual stuff”.  Then he asked about my day ahead.

“I’m going to change the world.”

Now, that isn’t a usual Monday morning response. It actually surprised me. I really have absolutely nothing on my schedule. Nothing.

When he gave his take on his day, it reminded me of our Sunday night.

We both sometimes struggle with a bit of depression and foreboding on Sunday evenings…especially after a sweet weekend.

Kind of a shudder and shake preparing our heads for a new week.

Well…it’s Monday morning now…who knows what can happen, if we look for it. I am going to clear my head of all the sluggishness that’s set in from devouring too much political news…it’s a new day.

Making the bed every morning has been a habit of mine since childhood. Somehow in the middle of the chaos and clutter of life, that “made” bed stands in hopeful defiance.

Blog - Make Your Bed - habit formation (2)

Admiral William H. McRaven a highly decorated Navy Seal, retired in 2014 from a 37-year military career. He oversaw Operation Neptune Spear – the military operation that culminated in the death of Osama bin Laden. In the year of his retirement, he was commencement speaker at the graduation ceremony of University of Texas – Austin. Blog - Change the World - Make Your Bed - pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest

As he encouraged the young graduates, he told of 10 lessons in his SEAL basic training. Beginning with “Make Your Bed”, they follow in brief (you can watch the video of his speech or read more detailed highlights here).

10 Life Lessons to Change Your World

1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

2. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

3. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

4. If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

5. If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

6. If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.

7. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

8. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

9. If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

10. If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

Steve Nguyen, Workplace Psychology

Adm. McRaven closed the commencement speech with the following challenge:

“Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often . . . but if you take some risks, step up when the times are the toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up….if you do these things, the next generation, and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today, and what started here will indeed have changed the world for the better.”Navy Adm. William McRaven

 

You WILL change the world!

Besides making the bed, a habit of prayer and time in God’s Word also helps clear my head and set the course of my day. This morning, a resolve was stirred afresh to set myself on the course of a world-changing God. He loves us and will work good out of every situation for those who love Him and respond to His call on their lives (Romans 8:28).

A powerful piece by Jon Bloom a few years back continues to encourage and inspire. Below is just an excerpt:

“You will change the world, more than you know. And because of that, because your life will impact so many others, Jesus wants you to live prayerfully (Ephesians 6:18), walk carefully (Ephesians 5:15), and seek his kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). If you do, if you faithfully invest the “little” he has entrusted to you, no labor of yours in this life will be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58) and he will entrust you with more in the life to come (Matthew 25:21).”Jon Bloom, Desiring God

You Will Change the World – Wisdom from Jon Bloom – Deb Mills

So to you out there…and especially to you, Dave…the bed’s made. Praying for you and for me…as we prepare and brace ourselves to change the world. Who knows what God will do as we stand ready?!Blog - No Life wasted 11

[Postscript: Thank you, Dave, for your willingness to follow God where He leads you…and all the amazing people, memories, and God-lessons we have in our lives because of that willingness. Thank You, God, for every stamp in my passport, and for being there every step of the way…including this very day. Help me to take hold of it…I can change the world, because of You.]

 

Monday Morning Moment – the Art of Argument

We were younger than we thought. Fresh out of graduate or med schools. In our first big real-world work. Most Saturdays in those days, we met for breakfast at Horton’s (now a Chipotle) and lingered over coffee. Talking about life and how to solve the problems around us. We didn’t always agree, and sometimes we got loud and passionate…but never unkind. We loved each other after all. We also cared about the same things but often saw those very same things differently.

Each going our separate ways those Saturdays, we had learned from one another. Always coming away with a larger sense of what it takes to make a better world. We valued our debates, our arguments, as much as our happier takes on life. Civil and thoughtful – with space to disagree.

A few years later, we all relocated across the US, in next real-world jobs. I took a teaching post at Yale University. My first foray out of the South. There, I had the same experience as with our Saturday morning breakfast club. Lively debate on life, university regulations, student issues, course content, and the politics of the day. I was definitely an outlier on some of the topics, being one of the youngest on faculty and from a part of the country sometimes maligned for its thinking. Still, the grace and respectful interest given to me by my colleagues again gave room to grow…maybe for all of us as we wrestled together things that mattered. The experience of belonging also breathed consideration into our arguments. We shared commonalities. A tenure track respected no one over another.

Recently, a lawyer friend of mine, in Seattle, sent me the following article on this topic of argument or dissent:

The New Truth – When the Moral Imperative Trumps the Rational Evidence, There’s No Arguing – Jacob Siegel

What we are witnessing, in the rapidly transforming norms around race, sex, and gender, is not an argument at all but a revolution in moral sentiment. In all revolutions, the new thing struggling to be born makes use of the old system in order to overthrow it. At present, institutions like the university, the press, and the medical profession preserve the appearance of reason, empiricism, and argument while altering, through edict and coercion, the meaning of essential terms in the moral lexicon, like fairness, equality, friendship, and love. That the effort wins so much support speaks to the deep contradictions and corruption of American meritocratic institutions, and of the liberal individualist moral regime it seeks to replace.

Moral revolutions cannot tolerate ambiguity, but there is so much that I’m not sure of. How does one argue with this new form of truth? Not in the old way. Not by taking the bait.Jacob Siegel

Siegel writes about the lost art of argument. His is a long and scholarly piece very worth the read. In brief, he states a strong case of how American culture, in particular, has become intolerant of reasoned debate. Pick the issue, and folks line up on one side or the other. If you are not on my side, then you are dead wrong. More than just wrong, you are a racist, sexist, fascist, Communist. And so it goes…far from the days of civil disagreement.

Photo Credit: Prezi, Christopher Lasch, Stephanie Rugo

I am still hopeful.

In the midst of all the meanness, especially in this election year, with political debates upon us, I believe we can turn this around.

Surely, we see the danger of hateful, polarizing exchanges. Part of our dilemma is that we are less face-to-face than we used to be. Before email and social media. Before COVID.

It’s too easy to use social media to make a public case on an issue and then dare someone to expose her biases and disagree.

I’m so thankful to have friends and family who allow for arguments on issues of religion, politics, etc. but without attacking.

The key to the art of argument is our persistent care for the person across from us. We may not love them, may not even like them, but we refuse to belittle or grow contempt for them. We refuse.

We determine to show respect, no matter how hot the argument becomes. We learn how to deescalate because the person matters more than the problem.

Scott Sauls speaks often on this matter of argument. His Tweet below expresses it better than I can.

Twitter source: Scott Sauls

“Attack problems not people…especially problems that attack people.”

Although in the public arena we see too much ungracious confrontations, we can find exceptions. I’ve taken to watching Blogging Heads on YouTube. On split-screen, two people (often educators but others as well) tackle some of our most pressing societal issues. They have been immensely helpful to me. Equipping their listeners on how to problem-solve and see issues in ways we might not have before. Mentoring on how to have respectful, thoughtful discussions on topics they may or may not agree on…but they amicably agree to disagree.

Twitter source: Ian V. Rowe

The art of argument (debate) doesn’t have to be lost. We can choose to weigh in on matters of extreme importance without taking the other person to the mat. Stating our reasoning without condescension. Listening, learning, allowing that we could be missing some part of the issue. Whether or not we get the same treatment, we both lose if at least one doesn’t remember the person in front of us has greater value than winning the the argument.

In closing, you’ll find two clips from Denzel Washington‘s 2007 film The Great Debaters. The plot is based on the true story of the rising debate team of the historically black Wiley College. The time was the 1930’s during the era of Jim Crow. The place, Texas. Washington played the role of Melvin Tolson, the outspoken debate coach. These two clips are riveting examples of an argument and a debate…and how it might be done again.

Thoughts? Please. In the comments below.

The Art of Having a Productive Argument

The Lost Art of Argument – Stephanie Rugo

YouTube Video – The Art of Argument – Jordan Peterson

Social Control and Human Dignity – Ben Peterson

5 Friday Faves – Shrek Revisited, 200 Days, Humanity Over Politics, Civil Thought & Voices, Mushrooms Everywhere

Here we go! Friday Faves late edition.

1) Shrek Revisited – The Fairytale theme from the movie Shrek (by English composers Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell) is  sweetly suited to classical guitar. Especially arranged and performed by Beyond the Guitar‘s Nathan Mills. Enjoy.

2) 200 Days – It’s been 200 days of physical distancing and wearing masks in public. Over half a year. COVID-19 has been a global health threat for many months now. We have learned so much in how to prevent, mediate, and treat. It’s become a political issue which is unfortunate and unfair. It is a novel virus. We are all learning.

For me, the biggest thing, after not contracting the virus, is how to navigate life with physical distancing. I’ve found instead of my capacity for work and people growing, it has contracted. Fatigue is a daily issue to battle. This is so curious since we are in the physical lives of far fewer people…and much of the clutter in our work lives has been removed.

Still…we are challenged to stay in play in life and relationships. I really appreciated the counsel of the two articles below. Won’t elaborate here, but read what you need…and don’t give in to the sluggishness of this constrained life. It will get better or stay different – we want to effectively meet the challenge whatever it is.

The Nine Habits to Increase Your Energy – Scott Young

How to Build Closer Relationships – Advice from 7 TED Speakers on Creating Better Connections – Kara Catruzulla

Photo Credit: Spencer Seim, Facebook

3) Humanity Over Politics – “Don’t let politics take away your humanity. Don’t let the fact that you agree or disagree with someone on various issues, don’t let that stop you from having sympathy for them, compassion…In general, people need to stop trying to dunk on people, insult people, dunking on people when they are…sick, going through dark times. It’s just despicable behavior. This is not me virtue-signaling. This is just me trying to encourage you to be a decent human being. Humanity over politics always!”Zuby

I follow @ZubyMusic on Twitter. This young man is British with an international accent (sounds American to me, raised and schooled in Saudi Arabia). He is truly brilliant with a wide range of giftings – podcaster, rapper, health/fitness coach, author, and culture commentator. He seems to truly care about people…and even us Americans, which is so refreshing. I learn from him daily.

4) Civil Thoughts and Voices – Who are those in your lives? Please comment below and let us in on those we might want to learn from, as well. On the Christian front, writer/pastor Scott Sauls is one of those for me. His book A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us Against Them is a great resource.

In the last several weeks, you have heard me rave about economics professor and social scientist Glenn Loury. He is one of the thought leaders in our world today, and his voice has helped me stay calm in a world gone crazy. He is weekly on a YouTube Blogging Heads episode and also on other media platforms. This week, Loury speaks with Ian Rowe on education and society. There is not one dry point in this whole conversation.

Hope-giving. Whatever your biases or preconceived notions are, Do. Not. Miss. This. Especially if you love children.

Rowe is currently a fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, focusing on education and upward mobility, family formation, success sequence, adoption, and poverty studies. If you truly care about issues related to racism, poverty, opportunity, and family, you want to read everything he writes…and talk about it with whomever and wherever you have a voice.

[Rowe also talks about the role of not only individuals but mediating institutions who will add to the conversation and strengthen the solutions.]

The Power of the Two-Parent Home Is Not a Myth – Ian Rowe

1776 Unites – free US history curriculum, alternative to 1619 Project

Photo Credit: Facebook, Chris Bear & Wendy McCaig

The Politics of Spin and Culture War Fatigue – Scott Sauls

Six Tips for Speaking Up Against Bad Behavior – Catherine A. Sanderson

5) Mushrooms Everywhere – The natural world around us is full of wonder and surprises. I had the pleasure of a walk in the woods this week. Highlighted by a closer to the ground view by two small grandchildren. They spotted and we marveled at the incredible array and variety of mushrooms and fungi growing on the forest floor and downed logs.

We see mushrooms pop up in our yards overnight. How do they do it? Seemingly out of nowhere. Not tackling that here, but you can find several timelapse videos of mushroom growth on YouTube.

For today, I just wanted to post some (not all) of the mushrooms we discovered on that one walk. Phenomenal!

Time-lapse video of composting worms – ok, so this has nothing to do with the above topic, but… When my husband takes the grandchildren fishing, they fish with worms. Dug up from our compost pile. Except for the creepiness factor, it amazes how worms can turn garbage into compost, and over a very short amount of time.

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That’s it for this week. Hope you had a great weekend (given this is posted after the weekend instead of on Friday). Stay well out there.

Bonuses:

COVID-19 Emergency Measures and the Impending Authoritarian Pandemic – Stephen Thomson

Here’s How US Presidents Get Elected (It’s Not Be Winning the Most Votes) – the Electoral College Explained – John Letzing

Warren Buffett Says This 1 Simple Habit Separates Successful People From Everyone Else – Marcel Schwantes  – In case you don’t read the article, the habit is that successful people say “No to almost everything”. Schwantes also quotes Steve Jobs and Jim Collins on how we make our decisions in choosing what really matters to us.

“Every ‘yes’ you say means a ‘no’ to something else.” – my husband, Dave

Twitter source: Kenneth Williams

“There are times in the experience of almost every community, when even the humblest member thereof may properly presume to teach — when the wise and great ones, the appointed leaders of the people, exert their powers of mind to complicate, mystify, entangle and obscure the simple truth — when they exert the noblest gifts which heaven has vouchsafed to man to mislead the popular mind, and to corrupt the public heart, — then the humblest may stand forth and be excused for opposing even his weakness to the torrent of evil.” – Frederick Douglass, from Maria Popova’s article “Frederick Douglass on the Wisdom of the Minority and the Real Meaning of Solidarity

The following video is an intersection in Cairo, Egypt. I never could bring myself to drive when we lived there, but I loved watching how the drivers made their way through all the traffic. Fascinating!

Why the World Needs Heroes – Jenn Phillips

I posted this Howard University commencement speech once before – if you didn’t see it, don’t miss it. Chadwick Boseman.

Monday Morning Moment – On Maturity in Temptestuous Times – with Coleman Hughes and Ayishat Akanbi

Photo Credit: YouTube, Coleman Hughes

Who are you? With whom or with what groups do you affiliate? How do you identify yourself?

Important questions in any season.

Today, we sift what people say about their beliefs and ideas and assess value based on their groups and affiliations. We do.

For the last several months, we have had the opportunity thrust upon us (if we weren’t so engaged before) to think deeply about what we believe. Now the temptation exists, as we are very much communal beings, to go with groups…groups we have always trusted.

Groups (and group-think) are fluid. Our tendency is to think they are fixed, but they are not.

Of late, I’ve been trying to be diligent to seek out people who don’t look like me, who don’t necessarily think like me, with the goal of listening and learning. Face-to-face is best and most fruitful. However, with COVID and affiliations (associations) too homogeneous (unfortunately), I’ve often resorted to finding these thinkers on-line.

Writer philosopher Coleman Hughes and stylist culture commentator Ayishat Akanbi recently had an immensely helpful conversation. On maturity. On curiosity over defensiveness. You can watch/listen to this bit (a mini-clip) of their conversation here or the whole conversation here.

In fact, below you will find some of Coleman’s and Ayishat’s conversation. I wish there was a transcript for the whole podcast but this segment was so powerful, it’s right here:

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ColemanMaturity is being able to hear something undesirable about your in-group and view it objectively instead of defensively.

AyishatIt seems to be one of the foundational problems of everything. We cannot hear anything undesirable about a group that we belong to. We are only willing to accept the narrative…only willing to look at the part of the story that focuses [outwardly]. We’re not allowed to acknowledge that any problem could potentially start at home.

We just want to outsource blame constantly.

Conversations are very stagnant.

I prioritize curiosity above many things. If someone was to say something negative about me, before I get defensive, I’m just like, “Hmmm, interesting. I wonder if this is true.” I’m more likely to interrogate at first. If we’re able to look at something with more curiosity than defensiveness, we’re in a better position.

I just think if we’re if we recognize having undesirable aspects of our communities or groups…it doesn’t mean they’re bad; it doesn’t mean you’re a wrong person. It’s a little texture. It think we just see everything as good or bad.

ColemanJust like a person can have flaws and imperfections, a person of maturity can see their own flaws and always be curious about them. If your significant other says, “Hey, you have this thing you always do and it makes me feel bad.” Maturity in that moment is the ability to say, “Wait, are they right? Let me think about this.” Maybe they’re not, but maybe they are.

We all recognize that’s true of the individual case, but when it comes to groups, it seems people aren’t able to do that.

Conversations with Coleman

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I’d like to close with a bit of transparency. I am a follower of Jesus Christ, which, for me, includes trusting that God has preserved and protected every word of His message to us through the Holy Scriptures. In religious circles, I identify as evangelical, not deterred by our culture’s attack on evangelicals right now. Trying to be curious and not defensive about that. Growing up during the women’s rights movement (ERA), the shockingly late desegration of schools, and Roe v. Wade being made law. Same sex attraction became especially real to me when a cherished friend in college sought a romantic relationship with me. A deep personal loss when she ended that friendship because I turned out to be un-altering in my heterosexuality. Always captivated by politics, I was staunchly liberal and a Democrat…until I wasn’t. Today my politics are more conservative, even Republican, but driven by policy rather than personality. I am an older white woman with all that seems to communicate.

Daughter. Sister. Friend. Nurse. Wife. Mother. Gram. Writer. [Decided I couldn’t leave any of these out. More for me than you.]

How many sentences into the above paragraph did it take, if you don’t know me personally, to think either better of me…or worse? Believe me, I have been there…and, too often, done that.

We have an opportunity before us…to stop thinking we know people by the groups with whom we align…to stop judging people by only what we think we see without learning how we came to that way of thinking. Listen and learn. Outsourcing blame only keeps us divided from one another.

If we want our grandchildren to have a world to thrive in, we can teach them how to listen, learn, and then live according to the greatest good possible. I saw a billboard this weekend. It was a stark black background with the white letters emblazoned brightly: “Love One Another”. For me, it was immediately refreshing and comforting as this is something Jesus taught and lived without exception…even calling us to also love our enemies. On the billboard, the message was attributed to The Beatles band member George Harrison.

The message is true. If we bristle, it’s because our group alignment is showing. The message is still true.

[Postscript: the quote below really has nothing to do with the post above. I just love it because it is a personal struggle, and because I’m listening to Ayishat (the “t” is silent in her name) A. Akanbi.]

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Instagram