Category Archives: Parenting

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

Photo Credit: The Richmond Forum, Bryan Stevenson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just Mercy Quotes – Good Reads

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

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

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

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

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

Interfaith Day of Prayer – Prayer by Bryan Stevenson

Photo Credit: Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy, Pinterest

Monday Morning Moment – How Shame Affects Our Thinking and How We Can Break Free

Photo Credit: Pixabay, John Hain

Shame is not something I’ve actually thought much about. Now guilt…that is a whole other matter. I know guilt…intimately. Shame as an emotion can affect all of us but less for some than others. In the last few years, and especially in recent months, I’ve taken to studying shame…for my own sake and that of those who deeply feel it.

Shame differs from guilt. Eve Glicksman in Your Brain on Guilt and Shame describes them both as “self-conscious emotions linked to real or perceived moral failures. Their motivations and outcomes are different, though, and you can have one without the other. Guilt arises when your behavior conflicts with your conscience. Shame is triggered when we think we’ve damaged our reputationWith shame, the focus is on someone else discovering your misdeed.” Guilt is an emotional response to a bad behavior, separate from the person. Whereas shame is a much larger response transferring the bad behavior onto the self, making self a bad person.  Guilt deals with the behavior only, not the self, but shame, if found out, will do whatever it takes to protect self, to not be devalued by others.

Photo Credit: The Compass of Shame, D. L. Nathanson, IIRP

The experience of shame is to be avoided so the one with a bent toward shame will withdraw from people, attack (either self or the other person), or avoid through addictive behaviors.

Brené Brown, professor and researcher, has done ground-breaking work in the area of shame. Her TED Talk below, Listening to Shame, is riveting. She talks about how shame tries to taunt us with “You’re not good enough” and “Who do you think you are?”. Guilt says, “I did something bad”, but shame says, “I am bad”.

“The ability to hold something we’ve done or failed to do up against who we want to be is incredibly adaptive. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s adaptive.” – Brené Brown, Listening to Shame, TED Talk

When shame is our struggle, if we are willing to break out of the secret life, the silence that binds us, we can begin the healing. If we’re willing to be vulnerable with others, even if it’s a few safe others to begin with, we can create a new life. We can change.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” – Brené Brown, Listening to Shame, TED Talk

As I learn more about shame, it has dawned on me that my mom didn’t shame us growing up. I didn’t know that until recent years. It just didn’t happen. For that I am thankful, and the way she parented us is how I’ve parented our children.

Shaming stays with us…from childhood through adulthood, unless we take intentional steps to not let it define us.

“Shame is contagious if you take on the lethal projections of shame from a partner–especially one who is abusive. In this same way, shame is especially difficult, if not toxic, for children because it is an emotion that is concealed, especially by victims of aggression or abuse. The anticipation of being shamed by peers creates anxiety in a child if he or she is a victim of bullying…Shame can be experienced as such a negative, intense emotion of self-loathing that it can lead one to disown it, and, in the case of one who acts like a bully, give it away by evoking that emotion in others.” – Mary C. Lamia, Ph.D.

Shame: A Concealed, Contagious, and Dangerous Emotion – Mary C. Lamia

Before shaming (whether another adult or a child), pediatrician Claire McCarthy offers 5 questions that you should ask yourself:

  • Is this something they can change?
  • Is it important that they change it?
  • Is this a good place and time to say anything?
  • Do they want to change this behavior?
  • Is there a better way of changing this behavior?

In a moment of high emotion, these questions may be hard to consider, BUT those moments if not handled well can turn into memory and can even change the wiring for us of how we deal through life with “bad behavior” and what we think of ourselves.

Think Hard Before Shaming Children – Dr. Claire McCarthy

The Clearview Treatment Program staff post excellent helps on various topics in mental health. Their piece on 5 Ways Shame Can Shape Your Life is brilliant. Here are their 5 ways (go to article to read the added commentary):

  1. People who live with shame often avoid relationships, vulnerability, and community. 
  2. People who live with shame are prone to suppressing their emotions. 
  3. People who live with shame often feel worthless, depressed, and anxious.
  4. People who live with shame are less likely to take healthy risks. 
  5. People who live with shame are more likely to relapse back into problem behaviors. 

Then they list 5 ways out of shame. So helpful and empowering!

  1. Seek out relationships and commit to vulnerability with safe people.
  2. Move out of your head and into the open.
  3. Develop self-compassion.
  4. Take one small risk.
  5. Believe that healing is possible.

If you struggle with shame and need a mental health or counseling professional, do your homework and find one who truly knows how to help. You don’t have to live the way you’re living now…you don’t have to hide from others or avoid or withdraw or attack. You can be free…to be the person you want to be, giving and receiving empathy and having empathy for yourself.

Photo Credit: Pixabay, John Hain

A Psychotherapist Says There Are Four Types of Shame – Here’s What They Are and How They Affect Us – Lindsay Dodgson

The Soul of Shame – Curt Thompson – Goodreads Quotes

20 Quotes From Curt Thompson’s The Soul of Shame

Emotions! Making Sense of Your Feelings – Mary C. Lamia

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Today” – Billy Collins

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

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

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

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

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

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

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Norman Rockwell

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

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

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

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

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

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Bonuses:

The most extraordinary quote I’ve just discovered:

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

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

The Hope that Sustained Tim Keller Through 2020 – Matt McCullough

Key takeaways from Atomic Habits by James Clear – Genevieve Deaconos

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

5 Friday Faves – Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, Reading, Moving On or Staying In Relationship, Recycling, and Home for the Holidays

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! For some, you may understand Christmas as just a fun, family-oriented holiday. It is so much more than that for many of us. Christmas commemorates the birth of the Messiah – the only son of almighty God. Christmas is huge for those who have experienced God coming close to humanity. Coming close to us in a sinless life, laid down in love for us. If you don’t know Jesus, consider getting to know Him, rather than just making the assumption you do. It (He) might change your life. He did mine.

1) Christmas Eve to Christmas Day – It’s looking somewhat different this year, but the things we hold dearest can still be celebrated.

  • Grandchildren  – bringing joy and wonder into every experience. Super sweet to have their parents around as well.
  • Friends and neighbors who make life fun are not deterred by the need to physically distance.
  • Baking goodies and playing games – still happening. Our grands are big enough that this year we played a new game. “Bring Baby Jesus Home” – we gathered the Jesus figures from all the nativities (I have a collection), and our littles (with help from their parents) “raced” to return them to the proper nativity.

  • Candlelight Christmas Eve Service – Every year at Movement Church, we have this lovely service. The worship center is normally packed with families and friends gathered for Christmas. We sing carols and light the last Advent candle. Then Pastor Cliff brings a Christmas devotional. Finally, we light our candles, passing the light from person to person. So thankful that we still had this worshipful time this week…albeit not quite together. Thanks, you who made it happen.

2) Reading – My husband asked for books for Christmas. Somewhere along the way, he lost his collection of Chronicles of Narnia.

He’s already reading it this afternoon.

The British author of Chronicles, C. S. Lewis, had this to say about reading:Photo Credit: RelicsWorld

“We seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves…Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”C. S. Lewis

Words: “We Seek an Enlargement of Our Being” – C. S. Lewis

What are you reading these days? Please comment below.

3) Moving On or Staying In Relationship – Holidays can be especially hard when we find ourselves in tough places with family or in a marriage. One writer and marriage counselor who has been instrumental in our married life is Gary L. Thomas. The book we always recommend to folks struggling in marriage is his: Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?

Marriage and family rifts are the deepest heartache in life. The ripple effect is wide. Now, there are times, we find ourselves in this situations…not wanting it to be so. Thomas is very candid about these issues. Candid and kind.

He talks a lot about the life-altering decision of leaving a marriage. I was touched at how he described the losses that come at us blind when we divorce. All the history…gone. [Now maybe you hope it will be gone…I can understand that in abuse, for sure.] My mom and dad divorced when I wasn’t quite 6 years old. It was not amicable. In fact, I saw my dad once after that, and never again. I wrote letters to him for 20 years (at his last known address…never got a letter back so I figured he got them). At the birth of his first grandchild, when he didn’t respond even to that announcement, I stopped writing.

Anyway…I have dear friends separated from each other and family members deeply hurt with each other…so I listen, write, and pray…

Below, you’ll find some of what Dr. Thomas has said about marriage and the relationships attached to them.

“A good marriage isn’t something you find; it’s something you make.”
Gary L. Thomas, A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together?

“I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouse.”  – Gary Thomas
“Love is not an emotion; it’s a policy and a commitment that we choose to keep in the harshest of circumstances. It’s something that can be learned and that we can grow in. Biblical love is not based on the worthiness of the person being loved—none of us deserves Christ’s sacrifice—but on the worthiness of the One who calls us to love: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).” – Gary L. Thomas, The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not about Who You Marry, But Why?
“Contempt is conceived with expectations. Respect is conceived with expressions of gratitude. We can choose which one we will obsess over—expectations, or thanksgivings.”
Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?
“Just when we are most eager to make ourselves understood, we must strive to understand. Just when we seek to air our grievances, we must labor to comprehend an other’s hurt. Just when we want to point out the fallacies and abusive behavior of someone else, we must ruthlessly evaluate our own offensive attitudes and behaviors.”
Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?

 

4) Recycling – OK, here’s a question. Do you know anyone who works in a recycling plant? Now, I’m not talking about the very kind drivers of the big trucks that pick up our recycling every other week. I’m talking about someone who works, at any level, in the recycling industry. I haven’t. Yet, we have been recycling for a very long time, thinking we were helping the environment…doing what we could.

What if our recycling is ending up in landfills…if not our own but those in another country, China, for example?

The other side of our sacred holiday of Christmas is its full-out consumerism. We buy a lot of merchandise this time of year (less this year because of COVID). All kinds of stuff to give those we love. Besides the commercial packaging of said stuff, we also love to wrap or bag it in festive ways. It’s a heavy week for generating and processing recycling.

Now, like many of you, I love to reuse or repurpose things when possible. Especially, now, that I’m looking at the possibility that recycling may not be offsetting my use of materials. Not sure, but am becoming more suspicious.

So, more than ever, I am reusing whatever gift bags, bows, and boxes are left at my house after Christmas. This isn’t new around here. You can see in the image below a bag with a cut-out angel and a bag with a handsome young man‘s picture on it. We’ve had those bags since these two kids of ours were in high school. Now they are many years married and parents. It’s a small thing, but we’re rocking at the reusing aspect of recycling. How about you? I’m also still putting the recycling bin on the curb next time our neighborhood recycling truck comes around. I will keep believing…for now.

5) Home for the Holidays – Who is your “home for the holidays” person? Several in our family fit the bill, but this COVID year, the one in particular for us is our youngest son. Last night, he spent the night in his own bed at our house for the first time in over 9 months. He is a front-line worker and has his own place. Because of his situation and mine (being more at-risk), we have only visited more from a distance since mid-March. Some back-yard barbecues, and an occasional family dinner. He is so kind about wearing his mask except for eating. We miss him. This Christmas, we decided it would be really good to have him home. So…here’s our youngest, and our joy is full…he’s home. Hope you are able to connect with that person of yours…if not at home, then in as real a way as our modern lives allow.

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Be safe out there and enjoy the moments that make Christmas the best it’s meant to be.

Bonuses:

What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give him –
Give my heart.* – Christina Rossetti

The Remarkable Woman Behind “In the Bleak Midwinter” – Karen Swallow Prior

Who knew?! The Babylon Bee has a book out. Ever #TongueInCheek

Thankful for organizations who give us paths, all year but especially during the holidays, to give to those in need. Movement Food Drive:

The Christmas Star – the Great Conjunction – Facebook – Best image

Andrea Bocelli Sings ‘Silent Night’ in an Empty Cave, in Haunting Duet with His Own Echo

Worship Wednesday – The Hope of Christmas – Matthew West

Photo Credit: Harriet Long, Facebook

Out of the depths I call to you, Lord!
Lord, listen to my voice; let your ears be attentive to my cry for help.

I wait for the Lord; I wait and put my hope in his word.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning—
more than watchmen for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord. For there is faithful love with the Lord, and with him is redemption in abundance.Psalm 130:1-2, 5-7

Writer Ann Voskamp talks about Advent and the healing hope we have in Christ.

“I thought I lost hope when life tore a hole in my back pocket of my heart, and my creased and worn-out hope fell out when the bottom of things fell out — you know: when the door clicked close for the last time.  When that email landed and kicked hard right in the gut.  When the doctor shook his head slow and the room kinda spun, when too many mattering things felt impossibly wrecked, and it’s your life that can feel sorta totaled, and how do you keep going on hoping — when it’s the important parts of your life that are write offs?

But who knew that folded and creased Hope unfolds into wings?

Turns out: You can think you’ve lost hope, or you can try to shield yourself from it, abandon it, mock it, guard against it or try to trash it.

But hope is a rising thing and flies to you.

No matter where you are — in the unknown and unfamiliar — Hope is like a homing pigeon that knows how to find its way back home to you. Because Hope has an inner map and will always wing its way back to you.” – Ann Voskamp

Hard to Keep Hoping? The Secret to Finding a Way Forward – Ann Voskamp

Worship with me, considering the truth of singer songwriter Matthew West’s The Hope of Christmas.

Take me back to eight years old
The little church on a dead-end road
With a candle flicker in one hand and dad’s hand in the other
Take me back to Silent Night
My heart was full and the world was right
Cause right now the world looks nothing like those innocent Decembers
These days peace on earth is hard to find
And I need you to remind me one more time

You’re still the hope of Christmas
You’re still the light when the world looks dark
You’re still the hope of Christmas
And You’re still the hope of my heart

Watch the snowflakes falling down
Like a blanket on this town
For a moment we can hardly see the pain this year has brought us
May the sick find healing’s touch
May hatred’s fight be won with love
And may every heart make room for you the One who came to save us

You’re still the hope of Christmas
You’re still the light when the world looks dark
You’re still the hope of Christmas
And You’re still the hope of my heart

I bowed my head to pray tonight
Felt my little girl by my side
She slipped her tiny hand in mine
And we both talked to You
And it took me back to eight years old
My daddy’s hand and a story told
About Heaven’s love in a manger low
And a promise that’s still true

You’re still the hope of Christmas
You’re still the light when the world looks dark
You’re still the hope of Christmas
And You’re still the hope of my heart*

Put your hope in the Lord. For there is faithful love with the Lord, and with him is redemption in abundance.” – Psalm 130:7

*Lyrics to The Hope of Christmas – Songwriter: Matthew West

5 Friday Faves – A #COVID Walk with a Friend, Monopoly Money, Thanksgiving Memory Making, and Back to School (Please)

1) A #COVID Walk with a Friend – We planned a walk and then my friend thought of the conference she had attended days before, and decided it was safer for me, potentially, for us to walk together “remotely”. It was lovely.

We did our walks in our own neighborhoods while talking on the phone with each other.

Took selfies after the walk in our respective neighborhoods – not our best look but exhilarating the time outside and “with” each other

What have you done to stay in touch with friends/family during these days of COVID? Please comment below. I saw just this week how one extended family connects over zoom once a month, playing games they have adapted to a screen. Seems we can come up with lots of memorable ways to stay closer in touch. We await your ideas.

2) Christmas Commercials (Adverts) – Some of the best ads are the ones that pop up over Christmas. Greetings from stores, companies, and other organizations. Here are just a few (have a cup of tea/coffee sometime and do an internet search for these (both past and present). Lovely, some funny, some nostalgic – all commentate on culture as well, through the years.

So much Santa Claus (sigh…) but had to include this one also – longish but beautiful visuals and a determined dad:

Do you have favorite Christmas adverts? Please share in Comments.

3) Monopoly Money – It wasn’t so long ago that special grants of money for disaster response from the government measured in the millions. Those days are long gone. Now we talk trillions.

For some time now, I have at the top of my issues for the Office of President these three: Life/Abortion, Supreme Court, and national debt. Now, our debt seems completely off the radar. Whew…

Some of us were talking about this issue and the phrase “Monopoly Money” came up. That’s what it’s like…as money poured out, in response to the COVID-induced economic response, to almost everyone in the US, regardless of need. Where does that money even come from?

Our current President didn’t seem to have national debt on the top of his promises (many of which he kept), and certainly our President-elect isn’t concerned with debt by all the very expensive promises he is making. The whole idea of targeting the wealthy for tax increases is short-sighted. The wealthy aren’t stupid. They can move their operations where the tax base will be more in their favor. If the highest-eschelon wealth-owners (the supposed “1%” in the US) care about those in need, they are already assisting in their own ways.

End of rant. Note the links below. Fascinating.

Coronavirus Is Going to Be Expensive. Too Bad the Government Is Already in Massive Debt – Eric Boehm

How the Federal Reserve Literally Makes Money – William J. Luther

Be Informed: National Debt

4) Thanksgiving Memory Making – Masks on and physical distancing, it was a tender time.

Lewis Ginter GardenFest of Lights with as many of the grands as were available:

Then Thanksgiving Eve, we did our annual crazy family picture experience (thankful for friends who provided the behind the camera entertainment for the children). Here’s just one of the many pics taken. Our kiddos. The rest of the pics wait for Christmas.

On schedule the Christmas cactus begins to bloom. 

Thanksgiving morning, we had brunch with our kids. They did all the cooking. It was splendid – both the food and the time together. I will never take that for granted.

Then onto Delaware to spend the rest of the holiday with Dave’s mom and brother’s family. Sweet times on the Eastern Shore.

MomMom with her two boys.

The grandson who had to miss because of work came for a visit still.

Facetime with the big and little cousins:

#TurkeyLoveliness the day after Thanksgiving:

Home again – sunrise over the Eastern Shore and then Christmas lights that night back home in Richmond:

10 Ways to Connect Deeply at Thanksgiving – Ken Sande

5) Back to School (Please) – Both the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci agree that students need to be back in school. We all probably have very strong feelings about this. We don’t want our children to lose a school year with online learning (with the best efforts of their children). Nor do we want them infecting school staff or bringing the disease home. If we “follow the science”, it seems our concerns regarding COVID are unfounded. What do you think?

Save the Children – Kevin Roche

In-Person School During COVID-19 – Healthy Children

It’s Not Just ABCs – Preschool Parents Worry Their Kids Are Missing Out on Critical Social Skills During the Pandemic – Michele L. Stites & Susan Sonnenschein

Operating Schools During COVID-19: CDC’s Considerations

Photo Credit: The Micro Mama, Facebook

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Hope your weekend is relaxing and full of good health and sweet times. Thanks for stopping by here.

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Bonuses:

How to Get Smarter Every Day, According to Neuroscience – Jeff Haden

Feeding Nashville – feeding those in need and putting restaurant employees, whose jobs have been affected by COVID, back to work

Covid-19: Politicisation, “Corruption”, and Suppression of Science

God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

Prayers in Time of Infectious Disease

Prayer in Time of Plague

Prayers Amidst Coronavirus Crisis – The London Oratory

A Prayer in the Time of Plague – Rabbi Martin S. Cohen

Below is a Facebook thread from a friend of mine – she spoke with exquisite clarity on what it is for Christians in the US right now if we are not aligned politically with what is deemed the most popular opinion at the moment:

2020 US Presidential Election – tucking this in here at the bottom of Bonuses. No matter our political party, this election was the first one in my adult life when some of the states just stopped counting the votes election night. That was confusing, with no real rationale.

When to Expect Election Results in Every State – Fascinating graphics

Anyway, it’s been a strange ride for all of us. The certification of all the states’ votes is in process as is are the legal cases involving some of them. I do believe we will have a peaceful transition of power if President-Elect Biden continues to hold that position. It doesn’t hurt that our electoral process is being scrutinized. As a nation, we must all be able to trust our electoral process. It’s fundamental to our values in the US.

Reasons Why the 2020 Presidential Election Is Deeply Puzzling – Patrick Basham

Anomalies in Vote Counts and Their Effects on the 2020 Election

Fact Check: Vote Spikes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania Do Not Prove Election Fraud

5 Friday Faves – October Creepy, New Politically Charged Words, Dads, Lockdown, and Family Glue

1) October Creepy – This year, we seem to be in need of bigger and earlier seasonal celebrations. Our neighborhood could totally be a drive-through Halloween fête with houses and yards dressed up on all sorts of creepy ghouls and goblins. The kids must love it!

For musical creepiness, Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar) delivers with five spooky themes (from shows too scary for me).  Never having seen the shows, his interpretation of these themes is lovely and haunting (maybe that’s where the spooky comes in). Enjoy.

Still my favorite October offering of his is the theme from Stranger Things. All that sound from one guitar?! Crazy good! Here it is again:

2) New Politically Charged Words – These words may not be new to you, but they are to me. What words have you had to sort out in these strange times of redefining culture and society? Please comment below with words of your own that have forced their way into your vocabulary. For you non-native English speakers/readers, how about in your language? Any words you’d be willing to teach us?

Photo Credit: Schools Week

Disabuse – to undeceive

Mansplaining – a man talking down to a woman, explaining something he assumes she does not understand

Safetyism – a culture or worldview where safety is considered sacred and must be protected

“Dog whistle” – a coded message communicated through words or phrases commonly understood by a particular group of people, but not by others

Panderto provide gratification for others’ desires; to cater to or exploit the weaknesses of others

Schadenfreude – enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others

Illiberal – opposed to liberalism, not broad-minded

Populista member of a political party claiming to represent the common people

3) Dads – Do an online search of the importance of fathers and you’ll be reading all day. We are so grateful for our moms (see Friday Fave 5 below), but dads are the unsung heroes. My biological father was a ghost in my life. After my parents divorced when I was 5 years old, I saw him once after that. Once. Fortunately we later had a step-dad who became a dad to us.

Having dads actively involved in kids’ lives, whether they live with them or not, can make huge differences in their success in life. Both in how they see themselves and their place in the world. It matters.

These two videos are just a small evidence of impact. Sweet!

Dads make a difference. We all know it. Get up out of the recliner, Dad! We know you’re tired, and we understand it isn’t always easy to connect with your family. Go find that son, daughter, grand of yours…and be to them what no one else can be.

4) Lockdowns – Physical distancing will continue for many of us especially those most at risk for contracting COVID-19, but for the rest of the world, “lockdown is a terrible experiment”. So says Harvard epidemiologist Martin Kulldorff. We’re told to “follow the science” which seems reasonable, but the science is evolving. COVID-19 is a new disease. We are learning every day.

Photo Credit: Twitter, Martin Kulldorff [I took a screenshot in case his Twitter account got shut down or the Tweet deleted.]

Dr. Kulldorff and more and more others are encouraging “focused protection” – with the elderly and others at higher risk the focus. Then everyone  else should take precautions – wash hands, keep some distance, maybe wear masks. However, any proposal to lockdown a whole state or country will only cause its own harm. The unnamed prognosticator Ethical Skeptic says the same as he follows data of deaths not by COVID per se but related to COVID (in particular, lockdowns).

‘Lockdown Is a Terrible Experiment’ – An Interview with Dr. Martin Kulldorff – Fraser Myers

5) Family Glue – When the image below crossed my Facebook newsfeed, it immediately resonated. My mom was our family’s glue (my mom-in-law continues to be the glue on my husband’s side of the family). Photo Credit: Lessons Learned in Life, Cardinal Crossing, Facebook

When Mom died, we still rallied around our Dad.

When he died, things got a little shaky. Someone has to take over that role of family glue, or holiday celebrations shift and family gatherings, in general, become tenuous. I would have loved taking on the responsibility of holding our extended family together, but living far from them made that impossible. Still, we try. How thankful I am for siblings, nieces and nephews who make space in their schedules and nearer relationships to gather to celebrate the memories of great old ones gone before us and the family bond we carry. What a blessing!

Who is your family’s glue? How do you hold together over the years? You folks who still manage family reunions and fun traditions are my heroes. You who put up with all the idioscyncrasies and prickly nature of family hold a deep place in my heart.

I hope our children have family glue in their DNA. My Mom’s delight in us, her readiness to always forgive, her holding us together no matter what are in my DNA for sure. So thankful for her…my mom-in-law, and those in our extended families applying the glue.

Glue only works in contact with what needs gluing.

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Friday Faves on a Monday. The struggle is real sometimes. Like a friend says, life itself must always trump writing about life. Blessings on you, Dear Ones.

Bonuses:

YouTube Video – 200 Kids Sing A Cappella Style – You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban – Peter Hollens

Taking On Inequality in Education – Raj Chetty

Conversations with Coleman – Trump, COVID 19, and Cold War II with Niall Ferguson

Photo Credit: Twitter, Ethical Skeptic

 

Against Fear – Heather Mac Donald – [Don’t let the pro-Trump flavor of the article, any more than with pro-Biden bent, cause you to miss the reasoned content.]

Emily Dickinson’s Revolutionary and Reclusive Life, in a Lyrical Picture-Book from the Lacuna Between Fact and Myth

Hopefully when this Presidential election is over, these neighbors will still be friends.

The waning summer garden gives way to autumn bounty. Kale.

A Date Night idea – hand-delivered to us by a dear friend.

5 Friday Faves – Theme from Howl’s Moving Castle, Fathers, Best Bits of the Republican National Convention, Dealing with a Narcissistic Boss, and the Late Summer Garden

Hello, Weekend! Here are some of this week’s favorite finds. Enjoy!

1) Theme from Howl’s Moving Castle – When a theme for a movie goes beyond the scope of the film’s story, it’s intriguing and all the more beautiful. The Merry-Go-Round of Life” was composed by Joe Hisaishi as part of the score for the film Howl’s Moving Castle. Classical guitarist Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar) has winsomely arranged this piece for guitar.

I’m not a musician nor have I ever been a fan of instrumental (even classical music) until Nathan began playing. His music has given all who know (or have discovered) him. Even within his preferred genre (arranging covers of movie, TV, and video game themes), he has opened up musical worlds that I might never have discovered.

This piece exactly does that. This lovely theme from a Japanese animated film would have been lost to me except for Nathan’s music.

His podcast, in its own right, does the same thing – drawing our attention to pop and arts culture and what we can learn both for disciplines in life and musicianship, as well as the joy in the journey.

The Free Solo Mindset – Lessons Guitarists Can Learn From Elite Rock Climbers – Beyond the Guitar Podcast

2) Fathers – Fathers are a great benefit to children. We all celebrate our mothers and their role in nurturing us through our growing up years. Fathers, too, make a huge difference. For whatever reasons they are absent, hopefully we look to men in our extended family or friend group, or teachers, neighbors, and city leaders.

Today is the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech.  Photo Credit: Flickr, March on Washington, August 28, 1963

Dr. King was the father of four. He died too young (from an assassin’s bullet at the age of 39). His children were still very young, but they have the legacy of his public life and whatever private lessons he taught his children. We have all certainly learned from him. His speech on this day 57 years ago resonates today.

“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!” – Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963

This week I discovered two other fathers expressing excellent, somewhat counter-cultural counsel to the younger people in their lives and in our country.

One is a Tennessee resident and representative in his state legislature – John Deberry, Jr. A recent speech he made was highlighted by thought leader Coleman Hughes. You can watch it below.

YouTube Video – Rep. John DeBerry

His bold and straight talk had a cost for him, but he would not stand down from the imperative to speak for the sake of those he represented.

The last father I’d like to feature here is Dr. Glenn Loury. He is a Brown University professor in social studies and economics. His commentary on the YouTube channel Blogging Heads has really opened up my thinking on many varied topics. He talks on a recent podcast about the issue of race and agency (how we make decisions and take personal action). This part of his talk begins at 42 minutes.

His “father talk” emphasizes taking up our own battles, not depending on another group of people for our future (equality), push ourselves toward success, avoid victimhood, get an education and needed training, take care of our families.

“Take responsibility for your life. No one is coming to save you. It’s not anybody else’s job to raise your children…Take responsibility for your life. It’s not fair…Life is full of tragedy and atrocity and barbarity…it’s not fair, but it’s the way of the world…Equality of dignity, equality of standing and respect, equality of feeling secure in your position in society, equality of being able to command the respect of others…something you have to wrest with hard work, with your bare hands. You have to make yourself equal. No one can make you equal.” – Dr. Glenn Loury

We depend on our fathers to tell us the hard things…but the true things. Our fathers, like our mothers but different, can empower us to know our value and our possibilities.

African-American Family Structure

3) Best Bits of the Republican National Convention – Okay, so I watched both the Democratic National Convention (last week) and the Republican National Convention (this week). I wish, from the beginning, that I had jotted down the speakers that were especially gripping. Only recorded some of this week’s favorites. Most of them were not even on the published schedule. Sweet surprises. So forgive the candidate endorsement or laments if you can…just enjoy some of their stories. Both conventions showcased the lives of many Black Americans. In these days, it was a step toward healing.

Photo Credit: Flickr

  • Herschel Walker – retired NFL football player, from my home state of Georgia, 37 years of friendship with Donald Trump
  • Daniel Cameron – first African-American attorney general of the state of Kentucky
  • Senator Tim Scott – U.S. senator from South Carolina. His grandfather died in his 90s and Senator Scott said, “from cotton to Congress in one lifetime”.  That’s his story.
  • Rep. Vernon Jones – state representative in Georgia. Right-leaning Democrat
  • Andrew Pollock – father of Parkland High School shooting victim, Meadow. He is an activist for school safety. A School Safety Commission was appointed after this school shooting.
  • Maximo Alvarez – (CEO, Sunshine Gasoline Distributors). Immigrant from Cuba. He loves America. As he watches the rioting, he said, “I hear echoes of the former life that I never wanted to hear again”.
  • Jon Ponder – former felon and founder of the re-entry program “Hope for Prisoners”
  • Jack Brewer – former NFL football player, founder of Black Voices for Trump
  • Clarence Henderson – civil rights activist; president of the North Carolina chapter of the Frederick Douglass Foundation
  • Ja’Ron Smith – assistant to the President and advisor on domestic policy
  • Sean Reyes – attorney general, Utah
  • Ann Dorn – widow of Capt. David Dorn, retired police captain, killed in St. Louis riots
  • Carl and Marsha Mueller – parents of daughter Kayla, kidnapped and killed by ISIS in 2015
  • Alice Marie Johnson – first-time non-violent offender sentenced to life in prison plus 25 years. Received clemency after 22 years by President Trump

Again, these were from the Republican National Convention. Just a few voices on the side of one political party. It was odd that many of their brushes with the current President’s administration were unknown to me.

There were inspiring speakers at both conventions. Who were some of your favorites at DNC or RNC?

Takeaways From the Democratic National Convention – Caroline Linton, Kathryn Watson, Grace Segers

4) Handling a Narcissistic Boss – Volumes have been written on narcissism. One definition that fits here is: selfishness, involving a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and a need for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

Leadership consultant Lolly Daskal gives a 10-point list of actions to help us work effectively with narcissistic bosses. I’m just posting the points but her commentary on each is definitely worth your read.

  1. Understand the source.
  2. Respond, don’t react.
  3. Set clear boundaries.
  4. Don’t allow them to get under your skin.
  5. Don’t feed the beast.
  6. Don’t empower those who don’t deserve it.
  7. Fact check everything.
  8. Don’t argue. 
  9. Don’t be provoked.
  10. Stay focused on what’s important. 

Read the rest of Daskal’s article. Narcissistic people can be in positions of authority and influence. Knowing how to “get along” can mean the difference in impact, work gains, and quality of life. It’s worth the effort…if this is your situation.

5) Late Summer Garden – My husband’s garden is winding down for the summer…and it is still beautiful and fruitful. Here’s a look-see:[Three goldfinches feeding on seeds, I’m supposing, on this little petunia plant.]

Plants for Feeding Birds – Marie Iannotti

Hope you have a peace-filled weekend. Hope also you find grace for the losses of this week, with shootings, violence in the streets, and hurricanes. Trying times, but we are not alone in them.

Bonuses:

A dear friend, Barb Suiter, has published her first book – out this week – Whispers on the Journey – A Practical Guide using the ABCs in Prayer and Praise. Check it out.

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise…

“If” – Rudyard Kipling

These Small Acts Of Kindness Made The World A Better Place

How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle? – Amanda Capritto

[An image of moms and children gathered for a playdate. I miss those pre-COVID days – a good memory and one we’ll make again.]

Loneliness During Pandemic Can Lead to Memory Loss – Christina Ianzito

Photo Credit: Richmond Justice Initiative, Facebook

Pal Barger, the founder of Pal’s Sudden Service, had his 90th birthday this past week. Best birthday cake ever for this dear man.

Photo Credit: Helen Elizabeth Phillips, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – Keep Me in the Moment – Jeremy Camp

Photo Credit: Ramstein AF

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”Romans 12:1-5

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”Ephesians 2:10

“…and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death.”Philippians 3:9-10

The Scriptures give us a clear look at the large life God intends for us. He has set us apart from the world; He has prepared good works for us; He embeds us with His righteousness to faithfully endure whatever confronts us.

Then comes COVID.

Nothing in the character or purposes of God have altered. His children are still called to live in the present in His strength and to extend His love out to those around us.

[Writer Emma Grey Ellis has posted a fascinating article on the lethargy and depression that plagues us in the isolation of COVID. I can’t help but think there is also a spiritual component at work in this disease and in its prevention.]

This Sunday, our pastor Cliff Jordan of Movement Church finished teaching a series on God’s Kingdom Culture – focusing, this time, on the culture of displacement (listen here).

Displacement for us is that we’re not Home yet (Philippians 3:20). Cliff recalled his years playing high school basketball. It was a very high and privileged experience to be part of the Home team (playing in your own town and your own gym). When he was part of the Away team, it was a very different experience – no special treatment, and the team that most folks in the gym hoped would lose.

The church, here in this moment, is the Away team.

Basketball is a great picture of where we are as believers doing life, dealing with COVID.

When our children were in high school, the two oldest played basketball. At that time, our school was often the newcomer and underdog. What we lacked in experience and status, we made up for in enthusiasm, determination, and perseverance.[Seniors on the team of the 2007 boys’ basketball season of George Washington Academy, Casablanca, Morocco. Nathan “Beyond the Guitar” Mills is on the far right.]

We didn’t have a gym, so we were always the Away team.

As in life, especially in COVID life, we didn’t have to bring our “A” game. We had lots of opportunities to excuse ourselves from being all in. Between being “at-risk” or furloughed or parents all of a sudden juggling work and helping children school at home. The above-mentioned fatigue dampens our enthusiasm and stamina. Being truly “in the moment” as believers has become a challenge unlike any we’ve known previously.

It would be easy, again with the basketball analogy, to just wait out COVID and hope for better days, like the Away team might when the score starts mounting on the Home team’s board. Our enthusiasm wanes and our pace slows. We begin to give up before the game is over. And the bench!! What might have been “Put me in, Coach!” turns into thinking being #OfftheBench might not be a great idea. Our minds wander off the Word of God and onto anything else.

I love the tension of the pic below. The tension in those faces. Absorbed in the action on the court. Focused. Leaning forward. Ready at any moment to launch off the bench.Photo Credit: Needpix

Whether we feel benched by COVID or we’re very much in the game, the fact that we are the Away team doesn’t change anything about how God calls us to be engaged with Him and those around us.

Sure, we have to be creative at how to socially distance (for the sake of others and, at times, our own sakes)…but we don’t have to fall for being socially distanced from God’s glorious will for our lives.

Singer songwriter Jeremy Camp song “Keep Me in the Moment” could have been written for this season. The official video points to the beautiful, pulsating tension of lives lived well as God leads us through every situation. Redeeming the time.

Worship with me.
I’ve been thinking ’bout time and where does it go
How can I stop my life from passing me by, I don’t know
I’ve been thinking ’bout family and how it’s going so fast
Will I wake up one morning just wishing that I could go back?
I’ve been thinking ’bout lately, maybe
I can make a change and let you change me
So, with all of my heart this is my prayer
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Keep me in the moment
Oh, keep me in the moment
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (oh)
When I wake up in the morning
Lord, search my heart
Don’t let me stray
I just wanna stay where you are
All I got is one shot, one try
One go around in this beautiful life
Nothing is wasted when everything’s placed in your hands
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Lord keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
I’ve been thinking about heaven
And the promise you hold
So, it’s all eyes on you
Until the day you call me home
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
(I don’t wanna miss, I don’t wanna miss)
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after (oh)
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (yeah)
Keep me in the moment
Oh, keep me in the moment
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Oh, keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)*
By the way…that Away team analogy is only for a few years. Home is also our experience. Home is where we celebrate with our forever Victor…together.

8 Ways to Be Present – Tom Stuart

Why God Wants You to Live in the Moment – Drew Smith

5 Friday Faves – School Re-openings, Restraint, Tiny Harvests, Your Next Job, and Communication During Covid

Happy weekend, y’all! This week was another one of those steep learning curve weeks for me. So much to think about and then to figure out how to apply practically to life. Step by step. My faves of the week follow:

1) School Re-openings – Where we live, the final decisions have come down on this Fall’s school re-openings. Finally, we have the answer. What makes this a Friday Fave for me is that NOW we know what is before us – as parents and friends/family of you parents.

For those parents who need to keep working with small ones at home, it will be a continuing challenge. Our city school system and 2 out of the 3 county systems will have on-line instruction (at least for the first quarter of the school year). Photo Credit: Wallpaper Flare

The 3rd county has choice for the parents to pick either all in-school instruction or all on-line. Nice when parents have a choice. There will be health guidelines (masks, social distancing, etc.), but the risk is there for the in-school option should COVID cases start ramping up within the school population (teachers, staff, students, families).Photo Credit: Pixabay

This has been a hot topic since the start of COVID-19 this Spring. Which is better – in-school instruction or online learning? What is considered safer for the short-term may be detrimental in the long run. Brown University economist Emily Oster‘s article “Parents Can’t Wait Around Forever” supports the data that returning to school may not present a great risk. So many stands on this topic in the U.S…

As Central VA school districts opt for virtual learning, CDC releases guidelines in favor of reopening schools

CDC Sides with Trump, Says Students Need to Go Back to School – Tim Pearce

Texas Officials Offer Schools Option to Hold Online-only Classes Until November – Brooke Seipel

Millions of children forced into labor as COVID-19 creates global hunger crisis: World Vision – Anugrah Kumar

Private schools in our area are opening with in-school instruction. Daycare centers and preschools continue to provide support for little ones, but what do working parents do with their school-aged children? It is a conundrum for many.Photo Credit: Pikrepo

Homeschooling is becoming more the norm – whether it’s parental (or other adult) supervision of students with on-line instruction or the exit from public schools to all-out homeschooling. Fortunately, for parents new to homeschooling, resources abound. Almost to a dizzying level.

Photo Credit: Homeschool Hive, Facebook, Instagram @Lifeographer

What’s happening where you are?

I feel for the parents and children (especially those families most vulnerable – single-parent, poor, non-native-English speaking, etc.). On the flip-side, I can also understand the trepidation school systems trying to provide a safe space for learning on-campus. Getting students back in school as soon as can be well-managed seems best for long-term learning, social and mental (maybe even physical) health, and (unpopular opinion, but essential) for the sake of the economy.

What are your thoughts?

2) Restraint – My husband is an introvert; I am not. He commended my every day early-morning restraint in holding onto my thoughts until he had his first cup of coffee. I’m glad, after all these years, he still notices. Restraint is a good thing. It is defined as “the act of holding something back”.Photo Credit: Flickr, Raphael Love

Restraining ourselves is way different than being restrained or restraining others (in case, that word gives a negative connotation). Our culture these days seems not so into restraint. Social media as well as the streets of our cities are ablaze with the activity of “casting off restraint”.

Some actions and ideologies demand intervention on the part of those most affected and those standing with them. Still, restraint has its place in honoring one another. We are not so far down the path of mean-spirited self-expression and group-think that we can’t change the course of culture. That is my hope anyway.

My voice doesn’t always have to be heard. What we do with our thinking is exponentially more impacting than what we say. Especially if we are tempted to “speak” with bricks and lasers… [I get that it feels like a last-ditch effort in some cases.]

Practicing some measure of restraint gives space to hear others and to treat them with dignity if not yet understanding.

For many in our country, we will speak with our vote in the November elections. For every day, we can use restraint as a demonstration of true caring for those around us, provided the action energized by the restraint is well and rightfully aimed.

The Benefits of Restraint – What Are We Practicing? Greed or Restraint? – Alison Bonds Shapiro

Divine Restraint – Alex M. Knight

A Eulogy for a Friend, a Lament for Our Nation – David French

3) Tiny Harvests – This is the time of summer when we are gathering the harvest of tomatoes and peppers. It’s the time for many of our flowers to pass from previous glory into the magnificent “going to seed”. We have many little visitors in our garden these days. I especially love how the goldfinches harvest the seeds of the coneflowers.Photo Credit: Piqsels

They are joined by all kinds of other little feeders and harvesters. Have a look with me.

4) Your Next Job – In 2015, I read a Jon Acuff book, during a season of huge change. It had a huge impact on my thinking regarding career moves. The book was Do Over. It inspired me to actually do a blog series on the book; it was that good.

Dave and I read the book. On a mini-vacation that summer, we took Acuff’s book along and, together, we did his exercise on using index cards to help us look at our strengths and passions. In the pursuit of either a different career or recognizing our fit for our current one. It was very instructive and affirming. Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, table and indoor

In these days, we have friends who were furloughed because of the COVID-19 impact on the economy. You might find this exercise helpful. Jon Acuff has given us a 14-minute how-to YouTube video. As he guides the viewer through this exercise, he encourages us to think big through our strengths.  “This is the hero’s slow walk from the explosion moment. What’s something you’re good, dare I say amazing, at?” Consider doing this exercise whether you’re looking at a job change or you are just fine with your job. It’s a revealing and elevating experience.

5) Communication During Covid – Communication happens. Badly at times. However, we keep at it. Visits in the yard. Drive-bys. Social media. Email. Video calls. We want and need that touch with others.

We are either more consuming or more creating. Sending or receiving or, hopefully, a combination of the two.

I’m so thankful to those creating content. Podcasts and written media. We may not know these creators, but they resonate with us. Many give us something to consider, even to shake up our thinking.  Others just give us a touch into the lives of others. They draw us in and help us feel our own humanity more. We feel kindred.

Feeling kin is a precious commodity. Like in families, we don’t always agree but we belong with each other. Organizations and individuals who are innovating in this whole area of communication will help us stay engaged with each other.

Please share in Comments about communication innovators in your COVID experience – whether it’s a fairy godmother-type neighbor (we have one of those) or a team of folks who keep communication fresh and interesting – drawing a circle around everyone in the organization.

Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, is a classical guitarist who arranges covers of TV, film, and videogame themes. During COVID, he began a podcast. What?! It’s honestly been a lot of fun listening to him and cohost Jeremiah Dias, both musicians and friends since high school. They talk music, career, family, and pop culture. It has the feel of a comfortable hang-out or a family gathering listening to the young people talk. It draws the listeners close – to Nathan and Jeremiah – and, in a way, to each other.Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar Podcast

I also listen to an array of podcasts under the umbrella of Blogging Heads. In particular, I listen to The Glenn Show. Economist Glenn Loury describes his show as “Glenn Loury invites guests from the worlds of academia, journalism and public affairs to share insights on economic, political and social issues.” It sounds pretty heady, right? It can be but it is so engaging we can all learn from these guys. My favorite episodes are when he and linguistics professor John McWhorter dialog. They are not always in agreement but their respect for each other and their complete focus in the conversation teach us as much about communication as about their subject matter. So good!Photo Credit: YouTube, The Glenn Show

Confession: I consume communication more than I create. However, if anybody out there wants to create communication and wants some ideas, I have some. In the meantime, it’s drivebys, phone calls, and yard visits.

Hope you get some rest in this weekend. Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Mike Pineda, Facebook

Your Kids Aren’t Too Young to Talk About Race – Resource Roundup – Katrina Michie

You remember this day? That first check…and the amount you really brought home (after taxes).