Category Archives: Finishing Strong

Monday Morning Moment – Life

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Life…it’s precious. It’s what we know. We depend on it. We think it lasts forever. Here. In our best health. Surrounded by our people.

The thing is, what we also come to know is life’s brevity. The Bible calls it “a vapor, a mist, a breath, a passing breeze.” Yet, life is also described as something beyond our finite understanding – beyond our wildest imaginings – in its possibilities, its purposes. It stretches across into eternity. Nothing is wasted. All of life is meant to be lived fully – the great good of it along with the sudden sorrows.

Life – Bible Study Tools [short article; worth the read]

America was rocked this weekend by the helicopter crash that killed athlete and philanthropist Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi, two of her basketball team friends, parents, coach, and the pilot. One very famous person but also eight others who all leave families and friends grieving their instant deaths. Life is precious.

Then here in Richmond, a man in his early 40s in a near neighborhood also died this weekend. He was crossing a busy street at night, on his way back home from a store, and was hit by a car. It was fatal. This man had, months ago, left his friends and work in another state and came here to care for his grandparents, in their 90s and frail in health. Like the nine people above, this man also died suddenly. Leaving behind those who will grieve him, too.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Robert Kuykendall

I contrast these two because in life and in death, we matter, whatever our circumstance. To each other and to God. Our lives matter…and when death interrupts…it affects us…even when it happens to strangers.

Today, a friend of ours is undergoing surgery for cancer. For several hours he will be in the operating room, surrounded by an excellent surgeon and staff specialized in his particular kind of surgery. Family and friends wait outside…praying. We are all praying. He is young and we are praying for him to do extraordinarily well.

As you read this, your own stories may come to mind. People who make life what it is for you. By faith, trusting in God for good outcomes. These are the kinds of stories and situations that give us pause and move us toward gratitude for this life.

Our wee grandchildren live near us. It is a joy to see them often. Their take on life is much simpler than ours as their adults. Their joys are simple, too – time with their people, a favorite toy, snacks they get to choose, a hug and kiss for comfort, a new discovery, any cause for laughter.

They don’t understand death…but neither do we, really.

I’m re-learning from these grandchildren to squeeze all the goodness to be had out of this life. Being older and understanding that death comes, I also get to look forward to what comes after… life forever with a God who is good and who is love, and with all those who went before us.

Choosing life…here and there.

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, Good Housekeeping

5 Friday Faves – Storytelling, Just Mercy, Productivity Hacks, Birthdays, and the Impact of Our Lifestyles on Our Brains

What a week! A gun rights rally on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Roe v. Wade anniversary commemorated by a March for Life and name change (Sanctity of Human Life Day). An impeachment trial. All of this matters. All of it. We have to stop the hatred, the contempt, the division and start listening to each other…and apply ourselves to real and lasting solutions to our nation’s struggles.

1) Storytelling – We all love a good story, right? In our throw-away culture, stories take up very little room and hold incredible information and insight for us to consider.

Thanks to the Richmond Forum, we were able to hear great stories through three story-telling platforms and their pioneering founders. Dave Isay of StoryCorps. Catherine Burns of The Moth. Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York. Just amazing to hear the stories…

Photo Credit: Richmond Forum

Here are some samples of the stories found on each platform:

StoryCorps – Danny & Annie

The Moth – Anthony Griffith – The best of times; the worst of times. [Be prepared – this story will break your heart.]

Humans of New York – Brandon Stanton’s platform is pictures/videos and interviews of random people on the streets of New York (and now other places in the world). Below is one:

2) Just Mercy – On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Dave and I went to see the film Just Mercy, from the book of the same title.

Photo Credit: IMDB; Barnes & Noble

The author of the book, attorney Bryan Stevenson, is the founder of Equal Justice Initiative. He has worked for over 30 years on behalf of wrongfully accused, minors with harsh sentences, and those incarcerated with disabilities/mental illness.

Don’t miss this film, this book, or this man. I feel so fortunate that we will be hearing him speak at The Richmond Forum next month.

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

3) Productivity Hacks – Redeeming the precious commodity of time and adding value are two things we all want to do at work and in life. There’s tons written on productivity including in my own blog.

Photo Credit: Andrea Lane, Redbooth

This week, Rockwood’s piece sparked my interest as did Andrea Lane’s on the same topic. See links below.

What’s Your Productivity Style? How 4 Personalities Can Get More Done – Kate Rockwood

How to Discover Your Personal Productivity Style – Andrea Lane

They talked about 4 personality styles bring different strengths to the work table, and how to optimize the strengths of these folks.

  1. The “Prioritizer” – analytical and competitive
  2. The “Planner” – detail-oriented and deadline-motivated
  3. The “Arranger” – facilitating and communicative
  4. The “Visualizer” – risk-taking and big-picture thinking

These cryptic descriptions may be all you need to find yourself identified, but read these authors’ hacks on how to best work your magic and help others on your team to do/be their best as well.

I am kind of a blend of an arranger and visualizer. Thankful for you prioritizers and planners in my work life that help us keep on task in bringing ideas and plans to execution.

Postscript: Business consultant Cameron Herold has written a book on how incompetent we are at running meetings – Meetings Suck: Turning One of the Most Loathed Elements of Business Into One of the Most Valuable. He coaches on how to successfully manage meetings. He also advises on how to maximize the effort and experience of each of the personalities in attendance – those different productivity types. [Note: read this piece on how he defines the personalities – somewhat differently from the authors above.]

Understanding Personality Types for Productivity – Slideshare – Tom Fox

4) Birthdays – It was my birthday week along with a lot of yours. There’s more and more of a push to make birthdays count for something. In my community, children have fewer parties with scores of friends and presents. The trend is toward experiences over presents which is also cool. For adults, often we are given the opportunity to donate to a cause dear to our birthday friends’ hearts. For me, the best celebration is just being with those I love – family and friends – and to stretch the birthday train as far as I can get away with. This year it was a birthday week… Next year with the turn of a big decade, I might take it to a month. Be prepared. [Thanks for the flowers and sweet cards from those too far to get together. You know how much I love words.] How are you with birthdays these days? Yay or not so much? Well, happy birthday, to you, too…out there, whenever it is.

5) The Impact of Our Lifestyles on our Brains – OK, so you just saw some of the birthday sweets we enjoyed… A sugar detox is always a good idea – for a month, a season, or a lifetime.

Below you will find two articles that were super compelling to me this week. One on the ill effect of unrestrained sugar intake – especially on our brain and mental health.

A neuroscientist explains the shocking impact too much sugar has on the brain

The second article describes 7 habits or lifestyles most damaging to the brain. Definitely something to consider before the longterm impact takes hold.

7 Habits/Lifestyles Most Damaging to the Brain

  • Inflammation – multiple factors cause inflammation – here’s a source for intervention – especially with diet.
  • Overfeeding
  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Toxic exposure – a list of brain toxins
  • Chronic stress
  • Physical stagnation – Exercise may be the single most important intervention on our brain and mental health.
  • Sleep loss

7 Modern Lifestyle Habits Doing the Most Damage to Your Brain

Thanks for reading. This, my Friday Faves, on a Monday. Some weeks are challenging to post on time. Have a great week!

Bonuses:

The Pain of Suicide – Clay Smith

A 2020 Guide to Rabbit Room Content

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

Worship Wednesday – He Will Hold Me Fast – Shane & Shane

Photo Credit: Pinimg

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. – Jude 24–25

I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. 2 Timothy 1:12

In a recent worship service, I heard a song for the first time. He Will Hold Me Fast. The lyrics were written in 1906 by the English hymn-writer Ada Ruth Habershon.

[She is most famous for her 1907 hymn Will the Circle Be Unbroken? – here arranged and performed by Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar].

As the worship team led us in singing the song, I was feverishly writing down the lyrics. So mesmerized by the truth and power of the words, I didn’t want to take the chance I couldn’t find it later online.

In a moment of distraction, I noticed a friend of mine sitting nearby doing exactly the same thing. Our lives are so very different that the question came to me: How are these words touching us both the same?

You see, compared to her, my life is lived in relative comfort and safety. Most of the time, she spends her days in a much more difficult kind of work and situation.

A first responder of sorts. Surrounded by so much need. So much want.

As we both scrambled to write down the lyrics, I was reminded how God doesn’t weigh out our need for Him to determine who gets more of Him. He is completely generous with His love, His care, His provision.

Other friends of ours are in the midst of a life-or-death battle. Their son has been diagnosed with that horrific brain cancer, glioblastoma. We are all praying for him for healing and for his family, grace.

His father wrote this on his Facebook page:

“…The one thing we can be certain of is that He gives us His loving presence, strength, and He promises never to leave us nor forsake us. When we follow our Lord, we are always living in the assurance of an eternity in God’s glorious presence!! When Joshua in the Old Testament was leading Israel into battles which would determine Israel’s future in the Land God promised to them, God promised Joshua in chapter 1:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Again, in chapter 1:9, God says “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
No, He does not zap us in order to punish, or chastise, or test us, but He does promise that whatever happens, if we are following Him, He will be with us in whatever we are going through. He will bring healing of mind, heart, will, or life. His healing sometimes is to deliver us from suffering and to take us home in eternity!. As Paul says in Philippians 4:12 “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” – Sam James, The Making of a Servant

Throughout Scripture, God calls us to remember…Him and how He moves in our circumstances. Our brother Sam is remembering by speaking the Gospel to his own heart and sharing it with all of us.

My friend and I both experienced God’s embrace in that old hymn – updated by songwriter Matthew Merker and performed by Christian duo Shane & Shane.

No matter what comes…He will hold us fast.

Worship with me:

When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast
I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path
For my love is often cold, He must hold me fast

Chorus
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast
For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast

Those He saves are His delight, Christ will hold me fast

Precious in His holy sight, He will hold me fast
He’ll not let my soul be lost, His Promises shall last
Bought by Him at such a cost, He will hold me fast

For my life He bled and died, Christ will hold me fast
Justice has been satisfied, He will hold me fast
Raised with Him to endless life, He will hold me fast
Till our faith is turned to sight, when He comes at last

He began a work in me (x2); He’ll complete a work in me (x2)

Song by Shane & Shane

*Lyrics to He Will Hold Me Fast – Songwriters: Ada Habershon & Matthew Merker

YouTube Video – He Will Hold Me Fast – Story Behind the Song – Matt Merker

Jude 24, 25 – The Doxology, All Glory to God! – Dr. John Sparks

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 – New Year’s Resolutions and Habit Formation…Resolved

Photo Credit: David Lose

[Adapted from the Archives]

What do we have? 1 more day in 2019 of reckless eating, not enough sleep, routines all turned topsy-turvy. Then…resolved. Right?

I take New Year’s resolutions very seriously. They have served me well through the years in shaking up troublesome habits as well as galvanizing better ones. New (or restored) habits that nurture the body AND the spirit.

Whether sugar detox or a decluttering project, New Year’s resolutions are not always exercises in futility.They can be excellent devices to help us get off to a strong start into the next year. Some of my family and friends treat resolutions with disdain…they never work; they never last. Oh, but not always!

They are really very energizing. Whether we meet our goals or not, there is great promise within the resolution for resetting our thinking. A keen sense of self, or self-awareness, aids in our understanding of habits and true habit change.

A couple of times in my life, I resolved to go off sugar. With a resolution like that, it meant abstaining from chocolate…which is a topic all its own.

Anyway, I was successful for over a year each of those times in excluding sugar from my diet. Never having really lost the weight from my first pregnancy, I decided to remove sugar from my diet for the pregnancy of our second-born. In those days, there was a chapter of Overeaters Anonymous in our town, and that group was a great help in my dealing with pretty much a sugar addiction.

The second time I “gave up” sugar was over 3 years ago, and I stayed the course of that habit change for over 1 1/2 years. Less accountability but even more resolve. Although I am back having dessert or sugary snacks sometimes, I am still operating with more self-awareness than ever before. Self-awareness, not self-condemnation. A very different experience.

Without knowing it, I was using a practice of habit change that Ken Sande writes about on his blog, Relational Wisdom 360. He first influenced my life years ago with his work on conflict resolution through his Peacemaker Ministries. He is a gentle guide in many of the issues that complicate our lives.

His article on Seven Principles of Habit Change came at a great time. Sande talks quite kindly about how we develop habits and what it takes to change them. His first principle of habit change gives us a look at the cycle of habits – the cue, the routine (or response), and the reward. Anyone who loves chocolate can understand this easily. For me, in eating sugar (or in overeating, in general), the cue could be a number of things – fatigue, anxiety, loneliness, the mere presence of yummy food. It never takes much to send me to the refrigerator or pantry. The routine: feed the cue, whatever it is…with high-carb oral gratification. The reward: a brief soul satisfaction and temporary relief from whatever was the cue.

In my two seasons of not eating added sugar, I actually followed Ken Sande’s principles below (without knowing the wisdom of it).

  1. Every habit has three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
  2. You can change an undesirable habit by keeping the cue and reward but learning a new routine.
  3. The best way to overcome the temptation to revert to old routines is to have a detailed action plan.
  4. Habit change builds momentum if you can change a single “keystone habit” and then continue to build on consecutive “small wins”.
  5. Will power is like a muscle: it can be strengthened and yet needs to be exerted strategically.
  6. Faith is an essential part of changing habits.
  7. Habit change is more likely to occur within a community (even if it’s just two people).Ken Sande

[If any readers want to talk further about habit change regarding sugar addiction, I would love the exchange, either through the comments or email.]

Self-awareness is a huge factor relating to habit change. I can see that more now having come through seasons of looking at my own habits.

“Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of oneself; it’s a stepping stone to reinventing oneself, learning to make wiser decisions, and helps you tune into your thoughts and feelings. So often we place blame on externalities because it’s the easiest excuse, when in fact we should be thinking about our thinking, reflecting, trying on different perspectives, and learning from our mistakes.”Paul Jun

It is possible to affect true habit change if we are willing to take a studied look at ourselves – our awareness and our engagement with making choices/decisions and within relationship. I used to think that self-awareness was morally charged, i.e., it drove us to becoming more self-centered. That doesn’t have to be the case. When we take time to really examine where our minds go, through the day, we can train our thinking toward what matters most to us – related to people, resources, and life purpose.

When we are willing to do that, New Year’s resolutions can become much more life-changing than just going off sugar for a few weeks. These same habit change principles can apply to anger issues, pornography, other addictions, and pretty much any habitual process that negatively affects your work, relationships or general peace of mind.

A couple of years back, our pastor Cliff challenged us at Movement Church to commit to some resolutions to the Lord…together [podcast of 12/31/2017 here].  I have kept the resolutions made that day in a visible place, to be reminded of the good change in life, and the struggle… I still have them in view…two years out. Still relevant to now. For 2020, on it again.

Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th century preacher and theologian, definitely understood the importance of praying through and writing out resolutions that would inform his daily life. Over the course of several months, he composed seventy resolutions for life. You can read them here. The five resolutions I made during church on a New Year’s Eve are weighty enough for me…can’t imagine 70! Edwards just gives an example of a man who, even as deeply devoted as he already was, did not want to miss God in a busy life of ministry. Nor did he want to miss the people God placed in his life as the focus of that ministry.

Resolutions help us to keep the main thing the main thing. Sure, we may struggle to keep our bodies and houses in order. Those are temporary situations. Where we hope most to be successful is in keeping our hearts tuned to what matters most. Going deep with God and others. I am resolved…

Photo Credit: Reformed Outfitters

New Year’s Day – Resolved – Deb Mills Writer

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Do You Want to Change Your Habits? – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

13 Questions to Increase Your Self-Awareness – The Mojo Company – Matt Monge

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

Why Self-Awareness Is the Secret Weapon for Habit Change – Paul Jun

RW Acrostics in Action – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Ten Questions for a New Year – Don Whitney – Desiring God

Need Help With Your New Year’s Resolutions? – David Lose

Understanding True Habit Change and Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions – Deb Mills Writer

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

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed to Be a Blessing – Andy Flannagan

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” – God to Abraham –  Genesis 12:2

We are so blessed. It is not a cliche. It is truth. Even those who don’t believe that God is will still use the expression of being blessed.

I wonder, “by whom?”.

Earlier this week I wrote about silence as punishment…withholding our words, ourselves, from others. Today we focus on the opposite – blessing others, through our words and actions. Reaching out, drawing in. Speaking life and love. Listening close. Blessing.

We are blessed to be a blessing. From the beginning of time, when God instructed His first man and woman. Especially to childless Abraham who would receive that promise in faith…blessed to be a blessing.

Writer Tina Boesch has written a beautiful book on blessing: Given: the Forgotten Meaning and Practice of Blessing. The first page of the book begins with a Scottish blessing:Life be in my speech, sense in what I say…the love Christ Jesus gave  filling me for every one.” Boesch writes about how, no matter the situation or the persons in front of us, we can bless them, because He has so utterly blessed us.

Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.Colossians 3:17

From a young British friend’s Facebook page sometime ago, I was introduced to songwriter Andy Flannagan and Reverend Kevin Lewis. They both love Jesus and sing and write about blessing…

They cheer us on to shake off the weight of self-interest and reach out to a broken world…that those desperate for love will find it in the same Savior we know…and show by our love – our words and deeds – that He loves them, also.