Category Archives: Lessons Learned

Worship Wednesday – Way Maker – Mandisa

Photo Credit: Flickr

It is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose. – Philippians 2:13

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

 In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8:26-27

Just days into walking out the lesson on going a different way through anger, I’m experiencing the strength of God…in choosing His ways over mine. Days will come when my resolve will weaken and my flesh will rise up in wanting to react against some injustice or wrong needing righting. God still has a way through that…His ways are not ours, until we make it so through obedience and love. Love for Him and love for others. Where and how He leads me to make things right, for instance, He will give me the wisdom and grace to put myself in the equation. In situations larger, harder, or beyond my reach, they are not so with Him. I want to and aspire to remembering that…and find His way through it.

He is able.

Years ago, songwriter Don Moens gave us a shoulder-squaring little worship song by the title of God Will Make a Way (he also brought us Give Thanks but that’s for another day). When we look at Scripture, we see on every page the mighty hand of God. No wonder we sing about it. We are emboldened by the great promises of God working out His purposes…His ways…in our frail-hearted, shaking-knees situations.

Singer worshiper Mandisa knows God in the heartaches of life – when she prayed and prayed, and it didn’t go the way she wanted. Yet God was there, all the time…and her faith was galvanized like never before. She sings a  great little song on this theme. Way Maker.Photo Credit: Mandisa, Music Row

Worship with me:

You are here,
Moving in our midst
I worship You,
I worship You
You are here,
Working in this place
I worship You,
I worship You
You are
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
You are
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
You are here, touching every heart
I worship You,
I worship You
You are here,
Healing every life
I worship You,
I worship You, oh-oh
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
You are
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
That is who You are
(That is who You are)
That is who You are
(That is who You are)
That is who You are
(That is who You are)
Oh-oh-oh,
That is…*

Worship Wednesday – Love Notes – How Mom Encouraged Her Faraway Family

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

Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13

[Today is Mom’s birthday – 18 of them now passed since she died. This blog adapted from the Archives. Using #WorshipWednesday today to showcase how we can share the love of Jesus with those He places in our lives.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

Mom pictures for website 012

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

Memory-of-Mildred Byrd McAdams

Monday Morning Moment – Don’t Mess with my Facebook – a Cautionary Tale

Photo Credit: Pexels

I didn’t want to write this…but it had to be done so I could move on. Fortunately, waiting a day, some of the fire has died down.  Smoldering into reason.

Yesterday was a church gathering for us. At the start of the sermon, I had my journal open and my pen ready. Being a visual learner, it helps me to retain information if I “see” it by taking notes.

The pastor began with a long and pointed rant on social media – the time-sink it is and the fakery it showcases. The particular target was Facebook and Facebook users. I love our pastor-teacher guy, so it surprised me how mad I got listening to him showering putdowns on Facebook, Twitter and the like. Especially knowing Facebook is a key communication tool we use as a church.

What was causing all the anger inside of me? So silly especially related to social media…Facebook, of all things.

Later in the evening, I realized…the spent anger probably related to the fact that my Facebook usage could equate to an addiction. Not like pornography. Nor alcohol/drugs. Not even that of food or shopping. Facebook is something I have grown dependent on… accustomed to… comfortable with.

It is useful to me.

It is nothing like face-to-face communication or staying in touch by phone or mail with people I love. It’s nothing like getting in the car and driving across town (or country) to see the actual people I love, not just love seeing on Facebook.

Especially those I can’t easily get to…friends in Morocco, for instance. Facebook allows me to chat with them and see into their lives when reality prevents the same for me…although I have tried to get there…and will continue to do so.

I will share with my pastor the impact of this part of his sermon had on me… Not in anger but in understanding now that some time and reason have done their work…and most probably God.

For those of you, my Facebook friends, who have left Facebook because it’s less cool since us older ones are present, or it is all fakery and foolishness, or it’s an election year and the comments will cut like a knife…I understand and I will miss you.

Why don’t I leave?

  • Joining in 2007, Facebook gave me glimpses of the world that my college-aged children were entering – leaving home almost 4000 miles away. It helped make the distance not so achingly far.
  • It facilitated my finding some of the dearest college friends whom I’d lost track of. Now we see each other at least once a year in real time, but Facebook helps us catch snatches of each other’s lives in between.
  • Facebook picks the news it shows me, and I wish I had more of a say. Still that news of those friends helps me know when reaching out needs to happen – sooner than it might if I waited for a birthday or a passing memory or fleeting thought.
  • It doesn’t just display happy, healthy babies, engagements or weddings, or the new look of a friend having lost weight or on a new skin regime. It doesn’t just showcase where friends hang together on weekends and what fun they’re having… That’s cool and doesn’t bother me usually. Facebook especially helps when the news is hard and it’s broadcasted without hurting so much because it’s less personal to do it this way. We don’t have to call so many, because Facebook sends out the hard news past our immediate families and circle of friends and associates. The cancer diagnosis. The job opportunity that didn’t happen. The miscarriage. The breakup. The election lost. The death of a dear old one. All the harder things of life. Facebook gives us a place to send that out to the wind to carry it where we don’t have the strength to go.
  • Especially in an election year, Facebook gives us a platform to state our highest hopes and our darkest dreads regarding the possible outcomes. We can use the posts of our friends and families to gauge what we talk about…and how to…when we are actually face-to-face. Right? I have learned so much from this public venue that seems to feel safe to folks who post.

I could go on and on but will stop here. How about you? Any why’s or why not’s on Facebook, or social media, in general? Some of the dearest people in my life are minimal social media users. What’s your story? How do you stay in touch with people in your periphery…or it doesn’t matter?

Facebook has nothing on real flesh-and-blood encounters. It is better than nothing…or nearly nothing. I have 1,330 friends on Facebook right now. Some of them I see in real life, of course. Probably only see a tiny fraction of them in my Facebook newsfeed… but those (as a personal for instance) make my real life happier and my relational load lighter. They give hints about their lives – that they are there, engaged in life, and they see me sometimes (even on social media, it means a lot). They also get the same back from me hopefully…a “love”, a bit of encouragement, a private message reminding them of more love. This “almost reach” is a small but considerable thing in a polarized world and fast-paced life.

The cautionary tale is that Facebook can usurp our privacy, devour our precious time, market to us without our blessing, and choose what friends we see. Beware.

Also, if we wake at night, and instead of praying, pick up our phones and scroll away, we miss out on the most real person available to any of us. The One who is the most worthy of our following. If we pull up Facebook during the day, and never pull up in front of that friend’s house…or pull up her number in our phone directory…we have forgotten what Facebook is not. If we chat up our dearest causes or fight our political battles with social media posts and not with real skin in the game, then we miss out on the best of life…the rest of life. The #LoveYourNeighbor possibilities out there.

OK…I’m done.

Don’t mess with my Facebook, Pastor Friend. Putting my feet to the fire won’t change my social media usage (yet), but you caused me to think. Thanks.

Worship Wednesday – Spiritual Depression – It Is Well With My Soul – Kristene DiMarco, Wintley Phipps, & Guy Penrod

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

Why, my soul, are you so dejected?
Why are you in such turmoil?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him,
my Savior and my God.Psalm 42:5, 11

I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:38-39

We all have those pivotal moments in life…seconds that turn us in a completely different direction…and the memories of those moments fixed in minds easily retrievable when remembering matters.

One of those moments for me was one night, lying in bed. I was in my 20s and living a life of double-mindedness. In church on Sundays, but dabbling in all sorts of worldliness the rest of the week.

It was a season when I bought into the lie that whatever good would come to my life I had to make happen. So deceived in my thinking, I didn’t even realize how complicit I was with Satan in derailing my walk with the Jesus and deposing Him as Lord.

The deceit of living a lie finally wore me out, and the Spirit of God Himself woke me to the futility of it all…leaving me fearful and lost inside.

Lying in bed, I prayed. In that darkness, it was as if my prayers reached the ceiling of the room and then fell shattered all around me. A Scripture verse came to mind from memory, learned long ago – back in the days of memorizing from the King James Version:

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. – Psalm 66:18

A deep spiritual depression settled in me that would take some time to work its way out in repentance and restoration. Thankfully, the Lord always completes what He begins (Philippians 1:6).

Photo Credit: Quote Fancy

As I woke up to the darkening work of my own flesh and that of the Enemy, God began showing me where I had forgotten the great work of salvation He had done in my life. He reminded me of His love and His goodness. He opened my eyes to what I called a benign thing He called sin. Then He received me back to Himself as a mom receives her weary wayward child.

 Come and listen, all who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me. I cried out to him with my mouth, and praise was on my tongue. If I had been aware of malice [sin] in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. However, God has listened; he has paid attention to the sound of my prayer. Blessed be God! He has not turned away my prayer or turned his faithful love from me.Psalm 66:16-20

Our community group at Movement Church is beginning a study together on spiritual depression. One of our study aids will be the classic book Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and its Cure by physician pastor David Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

Do you ever struggle to get to sleep because of worrying about the “what if’s” of life? Does fear rise up as we listen to our own voices in our head and believe them true? Lloyd-Jones prescribes taking action to stop listening to ourselves and begin speaking the truth to ourselves. “Preaching [the Gospel] to ourselves”.

The Psalmist closed out his psalm over his troubled soul with, “put your hope in God”. Our hope has a sure place in the Lord. Our peace can be restored in Him. We “will still praise Him”.

Worship with me:

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
It is well with me

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see

And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name [repeat last line during 3rd run]
[x3]

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
[repeat 3x]

It is well it is well with my soul [x3]
ahhhhhhh (softly)

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You Lord
Through it all, through it all
It is well with me.
[x2] *

 *Lyrics to It Is Well by Bethel

YouTube Video – It Is Well – Bethel – Lyric Video

YouTube Video – It Is Well – Kristene DiMarco

Story Behind the Song It Is Well by Bethel

Martyn Lloyd Jones Trust – Sermon Series on Spiritual Depression (these sermons comprise his classical book Spiritual Depression)

Deb Mills Writer – Worship Wednesday – Then Came the Morning and It Is Well With My Soul – Because He Lives – Guy Penrod

Deb Mills Writer – Through It All – It Is Well With My Soul – with Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Music

Monday Morning Moment – the Culture of Contempt and How to Change It…or At Least Yourself Within It

Photo Credit: Paul Ekman Group

Today is Martin Luther King Day. It’s also my birthday, but that’s not today’s subject. In Richmond, Virginia, today a gun rights rally is scheduled because of new gun control laws slated to be passed in our state. Thousands are expected to attend. Some argue that having such a rally on Martin Luther King Day is morally wrong. The political divide on the issue of guns in our country is as wide as it’s ever been.

Later today, Dave and I will see the film Just Mercy, based on Bryan Stevenson‘s book of the same title.  The film tells the story of one of the cases attorney Stevenson fought and won for the release of an innocent man from death row. It speaks to the hatred and contempt found in culture, along racial lines, but also along the lines of class, authority, and privilege.

Our country…America…”one nation under God” a phrase still in our pledge (for now)…is woefully divided. With our presidential election looming later this year, we are sturdying ourselves to withstand the character assassinations of one political party for the other…Either trying to determine truth from falsehood and where we can stand. No matter what side politically we lean, we find it awkward and uncomfortable because of the behavior of those on our side and their contempt for the other.

“Contempt is the deadliest form of relationship cancer. So says John Gottman…[he] defines contempt as trying to speak from a higher level while attempting to push another down to a lower level. Contempt – closely related to disgust – is all about hierarchy and wielding elitist power to hatefully exclude another from the community.”Robert E. Hall

Is there any way forward in this culture of contempt? I believe there is. In fact, many are writing and speaking from their different platforms on how that might look…and how we might engage with one another.

Author and social scientist Arthur C. Brooks is one of the voices in this crucial conversation. His book Love Your Enemies speaks to a way we can counter contempt in our own character and culture. 

“We don’t have an anger problem in American politics. We have a contempt problem. . . . If you listen to how people talk to each other in political life today, you notice it is with pure contempt. When somebody around you treats you with contempt, you never quite forget it. So if we want to solve the problem of polarization today, we have to solve the contempt problem.” – Arthur Brooks, Love Your Enemies

I experience contempt – not personally as much as from the social media broadcasting again “people like me”. If people who would have contempt for people “like me” really knew how deeply I feel about some of today’s issues, the contempt register would get personal.

From reading, listening to others, and trying to understand how to even be a healthy, engaged part of our culture…these 5 actions items are what I subscribe to:

1) Determine to stay engaged with those “on the other side”. Now I understand how we come to the point of needing to block others’ opinions in our lives (social media or social distancing in real life). However, I don’t think that gets us anywhere positive. [This is not to say a person must stay in an abusive relationship. Exit for safety’s sake, but bear in mind, healing requires more than exiting.] Exiting relationships out of contempt means the opportunity to move forward is gone…with that person and future “like” persons. We are practicing an exit clause that can become habitual across wider life experience. Arthur Brooks has much to say on this. Simply, “Just because you disagree with something doesn’t mean it’s hate speech or the person saying it is a deviant.” 

2) Listen.Listening Is an Act of Love. Too often we listen to respond, right? What if we listened just to know the other person? Just to show love and to communicate, “You are being heard. You are seen. You have value.” StoryCorps is even launching a venture giving opportunity for people who have polarized views and relationships to sit face-to-face and explore their differences and what they are about. Check out One Small Step.

3) Love your enemies. Jesus spoke these words to those who would follow him. Evangelicals have gotten a bad rap in our country these days, and maybe some of it is deserved… but if they are true followers of Jesus, they are not your enemy. A bold statement, but true if Jesus’ teaching is paramount to their lives. As for those politically polarized from each other…the far right and the far left… what if we truly tried to love them, to show them respect, to not make sweeping judgments on who they are as people? What if…

4) Pray. A huge way to deal with contempt is to pray for the individual (or group) for whom you feel it. Not to pray that she/he/they fail, but to pray for wisdom, to pray for excellent counsel in their lives, to pray for understanding. Prayer, in the very act of doing it, can change our hearts toward other people. Talking, talking, talking about people for whom we battle contempt…with those who feel the same as we do just fuels our contempt. Unless we are committed to pray and have our understanding of them seasoned with the love of God. Our stand on issues aren’t the issue. It’s our opinion of other people, not the issues, that can change our culture.

5) Take action with hope and good faith. Lean in. Forgive…every single time. [Not easy, nor will it be for someone who questions my heart or take on things.] Work toward listening opportunities with those we may oppose or who oppose us. Find ways in our workplaces, churches/etc, communities to join with others, maybe not like us, to learn, grow, gain understanding, in hopes of making substantive change for our world.

“Push opportunity to the people who need it the most.”Arthur Brooks

Even as I write this, there’s this creeping sense that those reading might think “She has really lost it now”. The thing is, I have always believed that “together we can make things better”. Nothing original here. This cultural calamity of contempt has gotten so big that even people I might not align with agree something has to change…and I am with them.

Sick and Tired of the Culture of Contempt? Here Are 5 Ways You Can Subvert It – Arthur Brooks

Take One Small Step with StoryCorps

What Is Contempt? – Paul Ekman Group

Saving America From Our Culture of Contempt – Arthur Brooks Lecture, UVA – Miller Center (Video)

The Pursuit – A Better World For All Starting at the Margins – Arthur Brooks Documentary

YouTube – Arthur Brooks on the Eric Metaxas Show

To Change Our ‘Culture of Contempt’, Arthur Brooks Suggests All of Us  ‘Love Your Enemies – Helen Raleigh

How You Can Subvert Our Pervasive Culture of Contempt – Leroy Seat

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar Loveliness, Spoiling Our Children, Answered Prayer, the Gentling Nature of Christmas, and a Bunch of Great Reads

Happy New Year! With travel and a family illness, I have been more out-of-pocket than usual. It will show in my Friday Faves. Some of them are carry-overs from previous weeks but not to be missed. Hope your New Year is off to a grand start.

1) Classical Guitar Loveliness – Since it’s been a bit, this Friday Faves includes 3 videos by Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar. Enjoy!

  • The Witcher 3: The Slopes Of The Blessure – composed by Piotr Musial.  Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

  • Netflix “The Witcher”: Toss A Coin To Your Witcher – composed by Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli. Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

  • FRIENDS – “I’ll Be There For You” – composed by The Rembrandts. Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

2) Spoiling our Children – What does that even mean really? We all want the best for our children…at least we want to want it, for sure.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Wikimedia

As parents we have many layers of responsibilities plus we are faced with our own inadequacies and outright fatigue. How do we keep from disadvantaging our children by our parenting? Everyone has an opinion – some more educated and well-thought-out than others. Here are two:

The Silent Tragedy Affecting Today’s Children – Victoria Prooday – Prooday is an occupational therapist and educator on parenting all-round healthy children. This article sets up her premise that parents are the most instrumental in providing their children with the foundation for growing up resilient. Her bullet points are easily accomplished in most situations: technology-free meals, chore assignments, time outside, training children in emotions, and teaching them manners are just some of what she advises. Read and consider the other of Prooday’s points. Being invested and emotionally connected ourselves to our children is crucial.

Do You Agree With This Viral Post About the “Silent Tragedy” of Spoiled Children? – Jessica Suss – English teacher, writer Suss sounds a cautious rebuttal to Prooday’s article. She agreed with much of what she prescribed, but she objected to the tone of the “Silent Tragedy” piece. Suss argues that Prooday was talking to wealthier parents rather than those who might not have the means to carry out all her prescriptions. “Healthy food at every meal is a great goal, so long as you can afford it. But when more than 100 million people in America are food insecure, getting anything on the table is a better goal. Playing outside is also great, but if you live in the city or in an area that’s unsafe (as many lower-income families do), you’re not going to be able to complete the daily, hour-long hike Prooday says is necessary for a healthy child. And family game nights and dinners are all well and good, but when parents are working two jobs (or nontraditional hours), that might not be feasible.”

Two viewpoints – one prompting parents to be more intentional and the other giving a pass to parents – depending on the day and the situation, we need both.

10 Alternative Parenting Styles That Might Be Right For You – Samantha Steiner – Interesting Read; 10 parenting styles? Still, interesting.

3) Answered Prayer – I mentioned at the top about family illness. Our youngest granddaughter was very ill for about a week.

I can’t say enough of what it meant that so many prayed for her. We are so thankful for answered prayer and that she is back to her fun, lively self. When life takes us and those we love into the back of ambulances and down corridors of emergency departments of hospitals…we never know what will happen next. So thankful for those who wait with us, and encourage us, and serve us…all when they have their own situations that need attention. Thank God, thank you, and thank God for you.

4) The Gentling Nature of Christmas – It’s long since passed, both Western and Eastern Christmas. We still have our Christmas lights up…just because. It’s winter and feels darker than the rest of the year. Those lights warm the world where we are, so we have no rules as to exactly when we put away all the decorations.

Whether we celebrate Christmas or not, I think it’s true that there’s a gentling nature in this holiday. People are more thoughtful of others, more generous, more willing to give space to others. In general. Even in politics…well, sometimes.

I wanted to just include three short videos with Christmas themes that speak to the beautiful and connecting nature of Christmas. One is a scene from The Andy Griffith Show. The second is a performance of Saviour – The Story of God’s Passion For His People. [On the second video, 14 minutes in, you hear the singer Wintley Phipps. Any opportunity to hear him sing is magical.] The last video is the 2019 John Lewis Christmas advert…so darling.

5) A Bunch of Great Reads – It’s been over a month since I’ve posted my Friday Faves. Lots of stuff that has influenced and enlightened me. I didn’t want to miss sharing it all with you. Photo Credit: Needpix

So here goes. 10 of my favorites from the last few weeks – all very different – take your pick.

10 Simple Ways to Take Care of Yourself

We’re Treating Friendships Like Transactions and It’s Ruining Relationships – Ephrat Livni

What Happened to Richmond’s Thriving Black Community of Navy Hill?

10 Books to Give You Superpowers in 2020 – William Treseder

Emily Norton Opens Up About Battling Depression as a Caregiver – Alikay Wood

What Widowers Wonder at Night – Erich Bridges

Q & A with Sherry Stout – Building Capacity and Collaboration for Energy Resilience [Sherry Stout is a dear friend of ours. Fun to see her in print.]

No One Wants Your Used Clothes Anymore – Adam Minter

The Curse of the Honeycrisp Apple Deena Shanker & Lydia Mulvany

Who Killed the Knapp Family? Nicholas Kristof and

Bonuses:

The True Story Behind Your Thanksgiving Cornbread – Adina Steiman

Enneagram & Coffee Facebook Page

Photo Credit: Facebook, Country Girls Do It Better

Monday Morning Moment – Focus – This Won’t Take Long

Photo Credit: Picpedia

Click. Click. Click.

Notifications. Notifications. Notifications.

Meetings. Meetings. Meetings.

We live and work these days in a culture of distraction where focus is a rare commodity.

“The culture of distraction makes your ability to think deeply and creatively constantly threatened. Conceiving ideas and putting them into practice requires time for reflection, and for that you need a personal organization method like GTD: if you are able to create a space where you can think and reflect, you will be able to move forward with more things, with less energy and less time.”Francisco Sáez

Doing research this morning on focus, I came across the Tweet below:

All these devices can make our lives hackable, too. Our deep thinking time…our complex problem-solving capability…vulnerable.

What can we do to recover our focus? To be able to expand our recall and use our memory…our mind to its greatest capacity?

Entrepreneur and teacher/mentor William Treseder, co-founder of BMNT has written a book on this topic:

Reset: Building Purpose in the Age of Digital Distraction

Photo Credit: Amazon

While you’re waiting for the book to arrive, Treseder has also written a rapid read on focus where he outlines The Two Things Killing Your Ability to Focus . Those two killers are screen distractions (smart phones/tablets) and meetings.

He offers 5 easily executable ways out of our mental chaos and into focus. They are listed below but don’t miss his commentary on each here.

  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Organize tasks.
  • Clean up.
  • Shrink meetings.
  • Preserve buffers.

I am personally very easily distracted. To make these few adjustments is worth getting my focus back. Thoughts?

Oh…last thing: Treseder also wrote a thought-provoking piece on How to Develop a Mission Mentality. This takes the issue of focus to a much more “big picture” place. When we have set the “why” and “who” of our daily focus, we are compelled to stay at the task and bring others with us. That is mission mentality.

10 Tips to Stay Focused – Francisco Sáez 

Photo Credit: Paul Clear

Monday Morning Moment – the Positive Power of a Community of Women

First off, this is for you women out there. Men could also profit reading, because it speaks to a need they have as well. [At the bottom, Guys, is a link marked with an * that speaks to a situation worth assessing, along with this one.] Today, I am writing to women though because it’s women I know best and whose community I need most.

West Texas mom and blogger Amy Weatherly has written a great piece on the essential nature of having a tribe. I have to say that word has gone South for me. A tribe too often means “a clique, a squad, a pack” – exclusive, closed, self-promoting. Not in Amy Weatherly’s article, at all…as you will see. Just for my own sensibilities, the word tribe is translated community elsewhere in this blog.

Here’s Amy Weatherly’s piece and her defining quote on women in community:

Behind Every Successful Woman Is a Tribe. A Tribe of Women Who Could Choose to Compete, But Take the Higher Road of Collaboration Instead

Behind every successful woman is a tribe. A tribe of other women who support her and love her and push her to be her absolute best but stick by her even when she’s at her absolute worst. A tribe of other women who could choose to compete, but take the higher, better road of collaboration instead. A tribe of other women who don’t just fix her crown, but also bend down to pick it up and dust it off when it’s fallen off. A tribe of other women who refuse to get jealous. Who refuse to compare. Who refuse to belittle or go low. Who refuse to gossip, or leave out, or hurt just to watch her crumble under the pressure.

A tribe of women who tell the truth. When it’s hard. When it’s easy. When it’s uncomfortable. When a lie would be the simpler road to travel.

A tribe of women who pick her up and put her back on her feet when she’s gone off-course. A tribe of women who have the courage to encourage her. A tribe of women who have the strength to strengthen her.

A tribe of other women who have her back, and her front, and her side, and her soul, and her spirit, and her heart, and her best interest in mind. Always.

Behind every successful woman is a God who knows the plans He has had for her from the very beginning. A God who holds her in His own hand and cheers her on from Heaven. A God who loved her before she was even born and had dreams for her before she even took her first breath. She mattered to Him before the womb. She mattered to Him in the womb. And she sure matters to Him now. – Amy Weatherly

We Adore Messy Bun, No-makeup Mom’s Post After Friend Asks: ‘Who Even Are You Anymore?’ – Sonja Haller – USA Today

What Weatherly wrote so resonated. Across the geography of my life, communities of women have reached in and given me love, confidence, and safe places where dreams can turn into reality. I hope to have learned well enough from them to do likewise in other circles of influence.

Sometimes the communities are small – my mom and me, for one. However, there are always other women connected. I think of the women, friends of my mom’s, who taught and counseled me growing up (in church and in our neighborhood). Then in Mom’s last years, friends of hers (and mine) who leaned in to love us well when cancer became our collective enemy. Losing Mom was awful, but her friends stayed…and are staying still, for me. Praise God for that community.

After reading Weatherly’s article, I got to thinking: what is it that makes for such a community? Here are some characteristics:

  • They show up…
  • And they stay (you don’t have to worry about them walking away)
  • Challenge in positive ways (all in)
  • Empower (bringing their own skill sets to insure success)
  • Serve one another
  • No selfish ambition
  • Inclusive
  • Genuinely interested in what each cares about
  • Will give benefit of the doubt
  • Refuse to think/speak ill of the other
  • Will move Heaven and earth to make things happen
  • Celebrate each other’s successes
  • Grieve the losses and comfort those most affected
  • Speak the truth in love
  • Keep short accounts (ask forgiveness, forgive, and counsel to do both)
  • Speak blessing
  • See and know each other

This is not an exhaustive list. What would you add? [In Comments below.]

Are any of us always that way as a group? No. Of course not. Still, in genuine community, we experience a fertile soil to grow and flourish.

I wish I could include images of all the communities of women that have peopled and blessed my school, work, and home life through the years. It would be a beautiful sight.

As for the communities of women that break our hearts or frustrate our hopes or, in some way, feel we have done wrong to them? We learn in these situations as well…to keep seeking to grow, to understand and to love anyway.Photo Credit: Edwin Markham, Tony Mayo

*Monday Morning Moment – Inner Rings – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills

The Power of Women in Circle: Ideas for Women’s Groups

The Health Benefits of Female Friendships and Girlfriends [According to Science Your Girl Squad Can Help You Release More Oxytonin] – Laura Barcella

Why Women Need Their Tribe

Worship Wednesday – Hills and Valleys – I Am Not Alone – Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: Heartlight

I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber.
Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.

The Lord protects you; the Lord is a shelter right by your side.
The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night.

The Lord will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life.
The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever.Psalm 121

Hills and valleys. They are part of our lives.

A week ago, I sat silent in the car by this beautiful friend, her face blotched and shining with tears. It had been a low time for her, and, for the moment, she just needed to cry. We were together for her wedding day – the loveliest of high times. There have been other shared mountain-top experiences since…as well as valleys.

When we have those big positive experiences, the valleys are forgotten – that ache of loneliness or undoneness in the times of helplessness or disappointment. Still, we need people in both those experiences…More than that, we need God.

Several years ago, along with some friends, our family visited Mt. Sinai. Dave’s Mom and Dad also joined us, visiting from the US. It was an incredible time. We traveled up toward the summit on donkeys via a camel trail. The last 750 feet we climbed on foot. The view was spectacular. Just under 7500 ft. high, Mt. Sinai is a sentinel in Egypt’s eastern desert. Majestic, beautiful, changing in appearance with sun and shadow. Awe-inspiring.

Even more so, as we think this could be the place that Moses met with God, so many years ago. It is considered a holy mountain by Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Looking out over the desert below, we got lost in our thoughts, reflecting on history and God and the privilege just to be there. It was more a solitary experience, although surrounded by loved ones and strangers. One group of tourists started singing “How Great Thou Art” in a language I couldn’t understand. We joined in, in English. It was truly an obvious mountain-top experience.

Then, the climb down. The camel trail would be slower, so we decided to take the faster route – the Steps of Repentance. Stones placed as stairs from the summit to the valley floor (legend goes that one monk placed them all as an act of repentance). 3750 stone steps. Uneven, rough-cut, some deeper or narrower than others. All requiring care in descending.

[Click on this blog for pics of Mt. Sinai’s summit and the valley below as well as a look at the Steps of Repentance – 3750 steps down to the valley.]

Plodding our way to the valley, step by step, wasn’t taxing at first, but that didn’t last long. As hundreds of steps took their toll on our knees, we started feeling shaky and unsure of our footing. Hoping not to fall or injure ourselves. It helped that we were in a group, in case we needed each other.

On that walk down, I got to see a tenderness in my husband that fit perfectly the situation. He saw his mom was struggling and came alongside her to get safely down to the valley. His dad was fine enough, as was I, although shaking from the pounding down descent. Being careful not to fall. It turned out to be harder than we thought.

Valleys are like that, in general. Ofttimes, harder than we think. We need each other and most importantly we need God. To bring us through the journey that takes us low. To give us the grace to deal with what is in front of us.

Our pastor Cliff Jordan preached on prayer a few Sundays back. Prayer and the postures of prayer. When we are experiencing a mountain-top moment or a downward spiral to a spiritual valley, we pray. As God’s children – for different reasons and with different postures. Remembering that we are not alone. Never. Not ever.Photo Credit: PixabayPhoto Credit: 163atkw.aug

Singer/songwriter Tauren Wells‘ has given us a song about this very thing. Hills and Valleys.

“When you’re on the mountaintops of life, learn to bow low. and when you’re in the valleys of life, learn to stand tall….No matter where we’re at, we’re standing in God’s grace, and that no matter what we have, His grace is enough.” Tauren Wells

Worship with me.

I’ve walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak
And I’ve seen the brighter days
And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven
From my lowest place
And I have held Your blessings
God, You give and take away

No matter what I have, Your grace is enough
No matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone

I’ve watched my dreams get broken
In You I hope again
No matter what I know
I’m safe inside Your hands

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone

Father, You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all You will remain
Over it all
Father, You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all You will remain
Over it all
On the mountains I will bow my life, yeah
In the valley I will lift my eyes
Ohhh, ohhhh

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
No, I’m not alone
I know, I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills
And I am not alone
God of the hills
The God of the valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone*

*Lyrics – Hills and Valleys – Songwriter: Tauren Wells

YouTube Video – Hills and Valleys (Story Behind the Song)

Hills and Valleys – Behind the Song – Kevin Davis

Worship Wednesday – Remember – Lauren Daigle

Photo Credit: Heartlight, C. S. Lewis

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wondrous works he has done, his wonders, and the judgments he has pronounced.  Psalm 105:4-5

Therefore I will always remind you about these things, even though you know them and are established in the truth you now have. I think it is right, as long as I am in this bodily tent, to wake you up with a reminder, since I know that I will soon lay aside my tent, as our Lord Jesus Christ has indeed made clear to me. And I will also make every effort so that you are able to recall these things at any time after my departure. – 2 Peter 1:12-15

Some weeks are packed with distractions – both lovely and loathsome. This week we’ve had to face conflict and disease in the family.  It happens. It’s part of life. It usually resolves.

Then there is the political and civil (uncivil) realm. We had a state election this week, and it went very differently than I thought it would. The ramifications regarding issues deep in my heart are huge.

Thoughts whirling around in my head have been dizzying. Finally, in the darkness of the situations, a light came on…and brightened even the blackest of my fears and worries.Photo Credit: Heartlight, Dwight L. Moody

I remembered God.

In our community group this week, we talked a bit about Psalm 105 (the text at Movement Church this past Sunday). These verses popped out at me:

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wondrous works he has done, his wonders, and the judgments he has pronounced.  Psalm 105:4-5

Remember.

During group, I told everyone of the struggle I’d had. Forgetting that God is still about His purposes. Then His gentle reminder earlier in the day and again during group. My heart was so comforted that it seemed fitting to begin a discipline of writing down remembrances of what God has done throughout history (as He brings them to mind) and what He is doing in our lives and those around us. So here goes…

To top all this off, I’m a part of Community Bible Study in 1 and 2 Peter. We just finished 2 Peter 1. The Apostle Peter, in these two letters, was encouraging the New Testament church that had suffered much and longed for the return of Christ. God had already revealed Peter was not long for this world. In his deep sense of urgency, he wanted to remind these believers…and all of the rest of us reading his words through the ages…to hold on to the truth.

Remembering What Not to Forget

  • Remember the reality of your salvation.
  • Remember the riches of your salvation.
  • Remember your responsibility to add to your faith.
  • Remember to make calling and election sure.
  • Remember the revelation of God to you.
  • Remember “We have a more sure word.” – Community Bible Study

So I’m on my way journaling both what God is teaching in the Bible study above, but also the remembrances of His provision for our family through the years, including the nearness of Himself through every trial.

Singer/songwriter Lauren Daigle has written and performed a beautiful song to take us to worship in remembering God in all things. Its title? Remember.

Worship with me and remember…

In the darkest hour when I cannot breathe
Fear is on my chest, the weight of the world on me
Everything’s crashing down, everything I have known
When I wonder if I’m all alone

I remember, I remember
You have always been faithful to me
I remember, I remember
Even when my own eyes could not see
You were there, always there

I will lift my eyes even in the pain
Above all the lies, I know You can make a way
I’ve seen giants fall, I’ve seen mountains move
I’ve seen waters part because of You

I remember, I remember
You have always been faithful to me
I remember, I remember
Even when my own eyes could not see
You were there, always there

I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
Your goodness, goodness

I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
Your goodness, goodness

I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
Your goodness, goodness

I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
Your goodness, goodness

I remember, I remember
You have always been faithful to me
I remember, I remember
Even when my own eyes could not see
You were there, always there
With me*

*Lyrics to Remember – Songwriters: Jason Ingram, Lauren Daigle, Paul Mabury, Chris Tomlin, & Ed Cash

Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – What Are You Remembering About God Today – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Fight Through, Then Rest, & Remember – It’s Not Over Yet – For King & Country – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases – Remember? – Deb Mills