Category Archives: Disciplines

Worship Wednesday – Unstoppable – David Crowder

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one...praying at all times. – Ephesians 6:11-16, 18

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” …His truth shall be your shield and buckler…Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you…for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.”
Psalm 91:1-2, 4b, 9-11, 14-15

From the Creation story to present day, we are confronted by lies. Through the world’s influence, in our own fallen flesh, and from Satan and his emissaries. Maybe we don’t think much about it, because lies just become part of our worldview if we aren’t on guard. Weighing truth against what seems true or what might be true. Just yesterday, my son told me about his 8 y/o’s troubling thought that he didn’t really love God. What I know of the Holy Spirit, that thought did not come from Him. Satan is the father of lies and the accuser of believers. My son was able to comfort our grandson with the truth, both about God and how this precious child’s thoughts can wrongly condemn him. The talk about our enemy, the Devil, will come later.

Much is written about spiritual warfare, and too often, it is as if it’s us, rather me, against Satan. God is our victor. The battle is truly His, and Satan is no match for the Creator. The Scripture is full of encouragements for us to be strong and courageous, to stand against our enemies, and to trust the Lord. The battle does not depend on our winning, it is God’s to win. However, God calls us to plant our feet on the truth of who He is, who we are, and what He intends for our lives (John Mark Comer, Live No Lies).

In recent days, I’ve been digging into John Mark Comer‘s and Henri Nouwen‘s writings. “Beloved” is a small volume calling us to recognize our identity in Christ and to draw near to Him in prayer, away from what we think is the busyness of a significant life. Comer’s book’s Live No Lies is a substantial and serious read on recognizing and resisting the same temptations Jesus endured in the wilderness, at the beginning of His public ministry. Both authors refer to this experience as common to all of us.

Jesus had three temptations in the desert [Matthew 4:1-11]: to be relevant – turning stones into bread; to be popular – jumping from the tower and have angels catch Him; to have power to possess all the land. Jesus refused all that because He didn’t have to prove to anybody that He was loveable. He was already the beloved. That’s precisely what the Spirit revealed to Him after He was baptised in the Jordan. The voice came and said, ‘You are My beloved son, on You My favour rests’. That’s who you are; you are the beloved, so you don’t have to be busy proving it. You don’t have to run around. Immediately, that same Spirit who revealed to Him that He was the beloved sent Him into the desert to be tested….Solitude is listening to the voice who calls you the beloved. It is being alone with the One who says, ‘You are My beloved, I want to be with you’...Solitude is the place where we go in order to hear the truth about ourselves. Henri Nouwen, “Beloved”

Monday Morning Moment – Henri Nouwen on Leadership – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Heartlight

“The devil’s goal is to first isolate us, then implant in our minds deceitful ideas that play to our disordered desires, which we feel comfortable with because they are normalized by the status quo of our society. Specifically, he lies about who God is, who we are, and what the good life is, with an aim to undermine our trust in God’s love and wisdom. His intent is to get us to seize autonomy from God and redefine good and evil for ourselves, thereby leading to the ruin of our souls and society.” John Mark Comer, Live No Lies: Recognize and Resist the Three Enemies That Sabotage Your Peace

We are probably all familiar with Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness and Satan’s tempting Him. The Evil One has not changed his ways of beguiling since the beginning, when he similarly tempted Eve to distrust God. Ours is to follow and practice the way Jesus dealt with lies and with the accuser. With quiet prayer (in solitude), with seeking the truth (Scripture), with fasting. And in community. Satan attacks most when we are isolated from God and one another.

With the Spirit of God ruling in our hearts and lives, we need never fear. The battle is real, but God is present with us. We stand in His strength. Although our enemies are real and the world seems hostile to us, we have a greater Overcomer.

Singer/songwriter David Crowder tells this story in his rocking anthem Unstoppable. It puts in perspective that our God is invincible, and because we are in Him, we have the confidence and privilege of tasting His victory. Hallelujah!

Worship with me:

Devil’s playing fiddle
Demons coming like a missile
To my left, to my right
But I ain’t be dancing with ’em
I got angels watching over me
Fighting all my enemies
Wear ’em out, knock ’em down
‘Bout to taste that victory

Hey, hey
They can try to slow me
Thinking that they own me
They be thinking crazy
Welcome to the showdown
They about to find out

When I got You, I am unstoppable
When I got You, nothing’s impossible

No way I lose, I am unbeatable, powerful
Stronger than invincible
I feel bulletproof when I got You
When I got You

See these arrows in my quiver
Winner, winner, chicken dinner
If I’m bitten by the serpent
He’ll be sucking out the venom
I got someone watching over me
Fighting all my enemies
See that smile on my face
‘Bout to taste that victory

Hey, hey
They can try to slow me
Thinking that they own me
They be thinking crazy
Welcome to the showdown
They about to find out

When I got You, I am unstoppable
When I got You, nothing’s impossible

No way I lose, I am unbeatable, powerful
Stronger than invincible
I feel bulletproof when I got You
When I got You

When I got You
When I got You

That’s my dad, I’m His son
He’s gonna make that Devil run

That’s my dad, that’s my dad
That’s my dad, I’m His son
Watch him make that Devil run
That’s my dad, that’s my dad

That’s my dad, and I’m His son
He’s gonna make that Devil run
That’s my dad, that’s my dad
That’s my dad, I’m His son
He’s gonna make that Devil run
That’s my dad, yeah, that’s my dad

When I got You, I am unstoppable
When I got You
When I got You, nothing’s impossible
When I got You
No way I lose, I am unbeatable, powerful
No way I lose
Stronger than invincible
I feel bulletproof when I got You
When I got You

When I got You
When I got You

*Lyrics to Unstoppable

Worship Wednesday – When We Pray – Tauren Wells – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – “Be Strong and Courageous” – a Good Word for These Days – Deb Mills

Top 10 Quotes from Live No Lies by John Mark Comer – Joshua Branham

Book Review of “Live No Lies” by John Mark Comer – Fran Hill

Live No Lies Podcast with John Mark Comer

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Monday Morning Moment – The 6 Sacrifices of Leadership – in Memory of Clyde Meador

Photo Credit: GOBNM

10 years writing this blog. I started 10 years ago this very month. The reason, in particular, was because I felt my memory clouding some, and there were memories and counsel I wanted to make sure were left for my children. As writing does, the blog cut its course through many topics – God, life, marriage, parenting, beauty, friendship, work, meaning, purpose, and reflections of all sorts. Now 10 years out, my memory is still hanging in there, and for that I’m thankful. Also for the having of words to share with those I love.

Our friend Clyde Meador started a blog himself 3 years ago this month. He may have had similar hopes – to leave something for his children and for the sake of a greater work.

Leadership was a topic that I studied for years (posting in my Monday Morning Moment). I learned so much from great leaders in my life, as well as some leaders who could have used some mentoring by our friend Clyde. That may not have been kind, but good leaders matter – in our lives and in the futures of organizations.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Stephen White, 2017 [Clyde and his beloved wife, Elaine]

In the first year of Clyde’s blog, he wrote a series of posts entitled 6 Sacrifices of Leadership. The topics were:

  • Loss of Constant Firsthand Involvement
  • Too Much Negative Knowledge
  • Constant Criticism
  • Leaving
  • Sacrifice, Isolation, Ostracism
  • Impact on Family Ties Due to Travel and Workload

Take the time to study those posts to learn from Clyde. In a recent tribute to him, a friend and colleague, Charles Clark wrote a brief summary of Clyde’s six sacrifices, their dangers and rewards. You find them in the image below:

Photo Credit: Clyde Meador from Charles Clark’s Facebook page, May 2024

In April 2024, Clyde Meador, this wise, humble, and insightful leader friend of ours, died, at 70 years of age. Complications of a long battle with cancer. He leaves a big hole, for his family, but also for the many people who have known him and loved him through the years. However, he would say something along the lines of God doesn’t leave holes.

We all have stories with Clyde in them – his lessons on life and leading. His legacy is that he never wavered in his faith walk, his love for his family, or his determination to do excellence in the work God had given him. He and Elaine have been a picture of constancy in our lives. Leading and loving.

In July of 2023, life and cancer treatment got in the way of Clyde continuing his blog. What turned out to be his last blog is so appropriate and beautiful. “To Those Who Come After Us”. Here are the last paragraphs.

“I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.”  (Psalm 89:1, ESV)  “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done.”  (Psalm 78:4, ESV)  This commitment of faithful followers of the Lord must be our commitment, also.

“So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.”  (Psalm 71:18, ESV)  I am grateful that I have reached old age and gray hair, and pray that I will faithfully do all I can to communicate the truth of the Gospel to those who come after me.

Of all those things which we teach our children and those who come after them, nothing is more important, more urgent than the truth of the Gospel.  I have a less-than-perfect record of success in this endeavor, yet I seek to faithfully persist in sharing the Truth.  I challenge each of us to a major focus on sharing all we know about our Lord and Savior with the next generations! – Clyde Meador, To Those Who Come After Us

[Dave & Clyde, a few weeks before Clyde went to be with the Lord. So grateful. What a humble and wise mentor he was to so many.]

Worship Wednesday – For Christ-Followers – It’s Surrender – Not Self-Improvement

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”Matthew 16:24

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20

If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His footsteps. 1 Peter 2:20-21

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities and continue to grow in them, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever lacks these traits is nearsighted to the point of blindness, having forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, brothers, strive to make your calling and election sure. For if you practice these things you will never stumble.2 Peter 1:3-10

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.2 Corinthians 3:17-18

I’m an avid reader of non-fiction. Sometimes, oftentimes, that has included volumes of Christian self-help books. Self-improvement is very much the goal of New Year’s resolutions, and I am still in the thick of those made a few weeks back.

Then, last week, I read a chapter on improvement in Karen Swallow Prior‘s book, The Evangelical Imagination, and it has totally upended my whole understanding of improving my life – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Reading Prior’s book (and this chapter, at the moment) is a wake-up call on how we have taken on culture’s trappings, language, and ethics. Weaving them into our faith, as if they belonged. Such that we as Christians are merely improved humans, rather than the new creations God has made us.

Photo Credit: Highlight

The Evangelical Imagination: How Stories, Images & Metaphors Created a Culture in Crisis – Karen Swallow Prior

I realize my focus of late has been more self-improvement than sanctification. Why would we want to improve on the self, anyway, since Christ has told us to deny self? It’s not self that I want improved. It’s so much more than that. Sanctification is defined as being set apart. When we come to faith in Christ, we become His, set apart for Himself and for His service. Although we find in Scripture the command to work out our salvation, we must understand that we are not improving on what has already been done for us. Rather, we do what is needful to truly know Christ and to infuse every part of our being with His character. To what end? For His pleasure, for our good, and for the sake of those He places in our lives. For love’s sake.

This kind of work, discipline, habit formation is daily and full of God-shaped challenge. However, the goal is not to improve ourselves, but to become ever more His such that we manifest the very likeness of Christ in our relationships and circumstances. As believers, we aren’t just nice people…we are meant to be warriors on the ready for whatever confronts us or those around us, confident of His power at work in us.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

God calls us often to show up as peacemakers, too. To die to self, to refuse to think ill of others, to forgive (over and over at times), and to seek forgiveness when we’ve wronged someone.

Jesus prayed for us to be one with Him and with each other. To extend the fruit of the Spirit He means for the good of those around us. To confront our sin and to put down our idols. Self-improvement is by its nature self-focused…unless…

You Are Set Free from Self-Improvement – Lydia Brownback

Podcast: The False Messages Facing Women Today (Lydia Brownback)

Unless that working out we’re doing is to benefit others, even more than we are benefited. A self-abandonment. We have someone very close to us who has done a huge work in recent months to be as healthy as he can be. In all areas of his life. Some would call that a massive self-improvement effort, but I know him and I know his heart. He has taken a hard look at his life and made some decisions to stretch himself to love God and his family in deeper ways…rather than escaping into self-serving and escape when his daily work is done. Now could he fall into a lesser pursuit of self-improvement? Sure…we all can, but part of his effort is that sorting out of living the life of a new creation with access to the unfathomable grace, love, and power of God.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

I’m just at the start of figuring out this whole “dying to self and living to God” process. It’s so easy for me to choose comfort over sacrifice. To choose my preferences over His. How gracious the Lord is! He celebrates our small victories and does not condemn us when we falter. We are His, indwelt by His Spirit, with Christ Jesus interceding for us in the Heavenlies in this very moment.

This life is not a self-improvement journey for us as believers. It is a practicing the ways of Christ life. Immersing ourselves in His Word to know Him at a heart level, spending time with Him and others, believing Him to live His life through us, ruthlessly dealing with sin and deception in our lives, and then practicing (working out our salvation) His ways until they become our ways.

What joy! And freedom we discover in this Jesus life…a freedom and a hope that is only ours through Christ’s presence and power. Fleshing out His character in our frail lives, being made more and more like Him, as we work out our salvation, in truly knowing Him and being transformed into His likeness across our lifespan.

Let me close with the beautiful commentary below from

In the previous two verses (2 Peter 1:3-4), Peter summarized the enormous benefit we have received in knowing God through faith in Christ. We have been equipped to follow the example of Jesus’ glory and goodness. We’re not missing anything we need to lead the life He calls us to. More, through faith in Jesus, we have been granted the right to participate, right now, in God’s nature. We can partner with Christ in fulfilling God’s purpose on earth. We have been freed from the corruption of sin.

All of that sounds fantastic, but what does it mean for us today? Why does it seem that many Christians are so far away from participating in God’s nature, not living with Christ’s purpose, joy, and love? Why do some continue to live in the sin from whose corruption we’ve supposedly been freed?

This verse gives us a clue. God has given us all we need to live like Jesus, but now we must actually use those gifts. And that means work. Before we had received God’s gift of grace, we lacked both the ability and the desire to live in Jesus’ glory and goodness. Now that we have been empowered to do so, we must “make every effort” to add the following qualities [2 Peter 1:3-10] to, or “alongside,” our faith.

In other words, we must begin to live as if what we believe is really true.

By faith, we came to Christ. Now, with Christ’s power, we must work to add goodness to our faith, and to add knowledge to our goodness. The next two verses (vv. 6 & 7) will explore additional ideas about the chain of traits we as Christians should work to build into our lives.”

#2. Add to Your Faith Goodness – (2 Peter 1:5-11) – 2 Peter & Jude Bible Studies – Ralph F. Wilson

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Practicing the Way website- John Mark Comer

Growth Is Not the Goal: Why We Need Habits of Grace – David Mathis, Desiring God

How Christian Is Self-Improvement – Marshall Segal, Desiring God

Sanctification – Bible Study Tools

The Most Important Cultural Book of the Year (Maybe Even Decade) – Review: ‘The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self’ by Carl Trueman – Andrew T. Walker

Monday Morning Moment – Considering Others – the Wawa Experience

Small acts of kindness aren’t really so small. They add up and can alter your day. Take stopping into Wawa – “the ultimate convenience store for food, drink, fuel, and more”. [If you don’t have Wawa in your town, it’s wherever you stop for gas and coffee.] Now, Wawa seems to be a working person’s stop-on-the-go place. Fueling the car and grabbing a quick beverage (plus food maybe). Customers are on the move. They have places to go.

What happens there, in seconds, is noteworthy. When folks go to and from the store, they almost without exception, hold the door for the next customer. Literally, I sometimes just stand and watch, while filling my gas tank. [It would have been creepy for me to video this activity although I was tempted. It’s a constant where the one opening the door waits for the oncoming person exiting or entering.

So considerate. So courteous. Now, I’m sure there are folks who run in to grab coffee and are lost in their thoughts. They enter and exit without thinking. Not noticing the person in front or behind them. This happens…just doesn’t seem to happen here.

I love that about Wawa. Working people who have jobs to do but take the seconds to hold the door. A small act of kindness. Do we do that intuitively? Or did we learn it from someone – at home, in the classroom? It’s definitely a work culture phenomenon as well. Check out the #1 element of work culture that matters in the SloanReview article:

10 Things Your Corporate Culture Needs to Get Right – Donald Sull and Charles Sull

We lived overseas for many years and were amazed at the courtesy extended toward us and others. If I was at tea with local ladies and children entered from school, without prompting, they would go around the circle of women and greet each one of us. No matter how old they were. That was just one example of the almost ceremonial expression of hospitality wherever we found ourselves. Now, every culture has its imperfect treatment of people, but I was struck but the impact of courtesy and consideration expressed even from small children, even from teens.

Photo Credit: How to Know a Person, David Brooks, GoodReads

A verse in the Bible comes to mind related to this: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) In that moment, considering another more important than myself. A great exercise in life.

What does it take to teach, model, and reward/reenforce such qualities as consideration and courtesy such that they continue throughout life? I’d love to hear your take on this, in the Comments.

It was a sweet visit to Wawa for me. Consistent with every other visit. My favorite coffee (Hazelnut with vanilla creamer) even came free today and it’s not even Free Coffee Tuesday.

So…think about slowing down a bit and consider others just ahead of or behind you, and hold the door. If you read this far, you probably already make a habit of showing that level of care. Thank you.

Putting Others Before Yourself – 7 Great Tips – David Peach

The Power of Etiquette: How Practicing Good Manners Enhances Our Well-being

How to Teach Kids Good Manners: The True Meaning of Etiquette and Why It’s Important – Ashika Singh

The Importance of Courtesy: Lessons in Kindness and Respect – Naytik Sheth

Seven Activities for National Courtesy Month (September)

[Postscript: Below you’ll find another quote on being a friend or creating community. It goes beyond the scope of this Monday Morning Moment but is apropos to how we treat people, even in the moment, even strangers.]

Photo Credit: How to Know a Person, David Brooks, GoodReads

Monday Morning Moment – a Principled Life

Photo Credit: Boltgroup

Recently a conversation with a young friend drew me to the idea of “a principled life”. She recalled a comment a friend of hers made about this friend’s life, something along the lines of how remarkably principled her life was. As if that was an odd thing. Unusual. Commendable but on an altogether different plane.

We were both surprised at this. Doesn’t reaching adulthood come with the establishing of certain principles for living? Those attitudes and actions that define us as people.

In our family, we often have conversations around the dinner table about how we engage with people, especially those who are challenging, demanding, and even uncaring. It makes sense, at some level, to distance ourselves from such folks, put walls between us and them, and not be drawn into their neediness or manipulation.

The question for me, however, in such situations, is “what kind of person do I want to be?” Is another’s behavior going to change the way I want to show up in relationships? Is another’s character going to move me to change my own?

Thus the thinking about a principled life. What does that look like for each of us? What does that look like to our children and grandchildren?

Now, we derive our principles from varied sources. Some from our parents. Some from teachers or mentors. Some from classical literature, history, or sacred texts. Some of our principles (whether we consciously acknowledge it or not) may even come from movie quotes and characters. Below you will see some examples of principles.

Ex-heroin addict and neuroscientist Brian Pennie PhD writes and speaks regularly on this topic:

“Principles are fundamental truths that are universal in nature.”Brian Pennie

“Values are beliefs, attitudes and standards of behaviour about what’s important in life. They are also subjective and may change over time.” – Brian Pennie

“Unlike values which are subjective, principles are fundamental truths that are permanent, unchanging, and universal in nature.”Brian Pennie

[Values and principles can often be seen used interchangeably, as in the graphic below.]

Photo Credit: Slideshare, Sean Covey

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens – Sean Covey – PowerPoint Presentation – Slideshare

A principled life is one that demonstrates a foundation and follow-through of certain truths consistent with how a person thinks and behaves – living life with intention not in reaction.

Principles are action-oriented (see below as an example).

Photo Credit: Happiness Collective

Principles form a life compass. Brian Pennie writes:
“Through my own suffering and aimless behavior [during those days as a young drug addict], I developed a technique based on values and principles. I call it my life compass, and use it whenever I feel anxious, overwhelmed, or frustrated; or any negative state for that matter. In other words, I use it when I’m not aligned with my values.

The aim is to develop a set of principles that will guide your actions when life gets tough. Note that values direct you towards what’s important in life, while principles are actionable and always result in outcomes.

Below is a list of my own values, and several of the principles I’ve developed to keep me on the path.”

Photo Credit: Thrive Global, Brian Pennie

For me, a principled life aligns with the life of Jesus. Albeit imperfectly, given my human tendency to serve self. The Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Roman church about “the marks of a Christian life”:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:9-21

That is a principled life.

[What are your thoughts as to the guiding principles of your life? What are you modeling for your family, friends, colleagues – just by showing up? What do people count on you for? What are you intentionally teaching to your children/grandchildren? Would love to hear about these in the Comments section. Thanks for stopping by.]

How to Live by Life Principles That Matter

30 Life Principles – Dr. Charles F. Stanley

10 Principles of Life

Seven Basic Principles That Govern our Personal Lives and Relationships – Vatican in Exile

How to Find Meaning and Direction in Life – Brian Pennie

YouTube Video – My talk from Pendulum 2024: How to Find Your True North – A Guidance System for Life – Brian Pennie Ph.D.

Worship Wednesday – Seasons – Benjamin William Hastings

[Some of our raised beds, winterized, resting and waiting their replanting]

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”Genesis 8:22

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

[I’ve written about seasons many times. If you have time…catch them again here.]

It’s winter here. Although our garden is quiet now, the promise of Spring is still visible.

[Japanese Maple seeds]
[Daffodils coming up]

[My beloved irises pushing through. Mom’s favorite flowers, thus they are mine as well.]

Most all my life, I’ve had the pleasure of living in four-seasons places. Except for Egypt when all the seasons we knew were hot and then a little less hot. Still the beauty surrounded us there…different yet still a witness to our Creator God.

Seasons aren’t just studies in the growth cycles of plants, trees, and produce. They also mark periods in our lives. Some more fruitful than others. Some more filled with wonder and joy. Others remembered with some measure of regret and disappointment.

God is not surprised or taken aback by any of our seasons. He was there for all of it, and He loved us through every season.

A few weeks back, I heard the northern Irish singer/songwriter Benjamin William Hastings for the first time. He was one of the songwriters on “So Will I”. His song “Seasons” is a beautiful description of what it is like to be patient in our seasons, both with ourselves and with our God.

“You’re the God of seasons, I’m just in the winter
If all I know of harvest is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done workin’, God, I’m not done waiting.”

Whatever your present season, keep tilling the soil of your life (and that of your children), keep counting on God’s promises, keep trusting Him for the harvest. “Like a seed, believe that my (your) season will come.”

Worship with me.

Like the frost on a rose
Winter comes for us all
Oh, how nature acquaints us
With the nature of patience
So like a seed in the snow
I’ve been buried to grow
For Your promise is loyal
From seed to sequoia
I know

Though the winter is long, even richer
Is the harvest it brings
And though my waiting prolongs, even greater
Is Your promise for me, like a seed
I believe that my season will come

So like the low winter sun
So it is with Your love
As I gaze, I am blinded
In the light of Your brightnеss
So like a fire to the snow
I’m rеnewed in Your warmth
Oh, melt the ice of this wild soul
Till the barren is beautiful

And I know

Though the winter is long, even richer
Is the harvest it brings
And though my waiting prolongs, even greater
Is Your promise for me, like a seed
I believe that my season will come

I can see the promise, I can see the future
You’re the God of seasons, I’m just in the winter
If all I know of harvest is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done workin’, God, I’m not done waiting

Well, You can see my promise even in the winter
‘Cause You’re the God of greatness, even in a manger
For all I know of seasons is that You take Your time
You could have saved us in a second, instead, You sent a child

Though the winter is long, even richer
Is the harvest it brings
And though my waiting prolongs, even greater
Is Your promise for me, like a seed
I believe that my season will come
For one day, I’ll see my tree
‘Cause I believe there’s a season to come

Like a seed You were sown
For the sake of us all
And from Bethlehem’s soil
Grew Calvary’s sequoia, ooh-ooh-ooh

[Our tall maple tree and the waning winter moon]

*Lyrics to Seasons – Songwriters: Benjamin William Hastings, Ben Tan, & Chris Davenport

Worship Wednesday – Abandoned (in the Best Possible Way) – Benjamin William Hastings – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – Brandon Lake – MORE (Music Video) ft. Benjamin William Hastings, Leeland

Your Work Matters to God: Staying On Course Through Life’s Seasons – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – First Things First – with Consumed by Fire

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Then the man and his wife [Adam and Eve] heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the breeze of the day, and they hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord called out to the man, “Where are you?Genesis 3:8-9

One day in a place where Jesus had just finished praying, one of His disciples requested, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” So Jesus told them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come… – Luke 11:1-2

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence [boldness], so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16

What is it that keeps us from praying?

Is it shame or fear? Yet God calls for us to show ourselves to Him. He looks on us with deep compassion.

Is it not our practice? The disciples witnessed both Jesus’ pattern of prayer and His power to live a life pleasing to the Father. They didn’t ask what was His secret. They seemed to know it was his dependence on the Father through prayer.

Is it our sin that makes us too shy to talk to God? He is not surprised at our struggle. He knows our weaknesses and loves us still. We have a sinless mediator in Jesus and because of Him we have access to the Father.

Prayer can be hard for me for all the above reasons. Add to those the weight of so much need in the world, and I find myself too quickly distracted by the world’s chatter. Oh to stay in the quiet of His peace!

So I pray a bit then switch to over-thinking and worry, or drop out altogether to some other cheap substitute to prayer. Nevertheless, because of His long-suffering with His children, He draws us back to Himself, and I return often to that throne of grace. As a child running to my dad…the best dad we could ever hope to have. Father God.

Have you read Tyler Staton‘s Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools yet? It has been my guidebook (alongside the Bible) in recent months toward a deeper walk with the Lord.

Tyler Staton introduces his readers to writer teacher John Mark Comer. Comer is the founder of Practicing the Way. This is a website with the focus of offering a pathway to becoming like Jesus in community. All of the teaching and resources are free, and I’ve been grateful to God for how He is speaking to me in this space. My hope is to be part of a prayer community in our local church. Pray with me for this. Are you part of such a community?

Photo Credit: YouTube, John Mark Comer

Comer’s series on prayer is also available on YouTube. The first two messages are linked (the other two I will link when they come online).

YouTube Video: Prayer – Talking to God – John Mark Comer

YouTube Video: Prayer – Talking with God – John Mark Comer

Photo Credit: YouTube, John Mark Comer

YouTube Video: Prayer – Listening to God – John Mark Comer

YouTube Video: Prayer – Being with God – John Mark Comer

Photo Credit: YouTube, John Mark Comer

As often happens, while thinking about the whole practice of prayer in my life, I heard the song below on the car radio. It preached!

Worship with me to the deeply intimate song “First Things First” by the band of brothers Consumed by Fire.

All the things that I have held dear
The vanities that whispered in my ear
What would I do if they all disappeared
Riches and fame and all that they could buy
I’ve come to find they never satisfy
What would I gain if my soul’s the price

I don’t wanna love what the world loves
I don’t wanna chase what the world does
I only want you
I only want you

First thing’s first
I seek Your will
Not my own
Surrender all my wants to you
Keep the first thing first
To live Your truth
Walk Your ways
Set my eyes
Lord, I fix my face on you
All my desires reversed
To keep the first thing first

I give it all
My life an offering
My heart is yours
So have Your way in me
Your kingdom’s all I wanna seek

I don’t wanna love what the world loves
No, I don’t wanna chase what the world does
I only want you
I only want you

First thing’s first
I seek Your will
Not my own
Surrender all my wants to you
Keep the first thing first
To live Your truth
Walk Your ways
Set my eyes
Lord, I fix my face on you
All my desires reversed
To keep the first thing first
To keep the first thing first
All my desires reversed
To keep the first thing first, oh
To keep the first thing first, oh

First thing’s first
I seek Your will
Not my own
Surrender all my wants to you
Keep the first thing first
To live Your truth
Walk Your ways
Set my eyes
Lord, I fix my face on you
All my desires reversed
To keep the first thing first, oh
To keep the first thing first, oh
To keep the first thing first

All my desires reversed
To keep the first thing first*

Rejoice at all times. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

*Lyrics to First Things First – Songwriters: Jake Hess, Jordan David Ward, Caleb Paul Ward, Grant Timothy Bias

YouTube Video – Consumed by Fire – “First Things First” – (Acoustic + Story Behind)

Photo Credit: YouTube, J. C. Ryle, John Mark Comer

Let’s keep worshiping, y’all!

Monday Morning Moment – My Take on “Braving the Wilderness” with Brené Brown

Some books you happen upon by chance. Author and researcher Brené Brown‘s Braving the Wilderness: the Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone was just such a book. I pulled it off a used book shelf at my favorite thrift shop recently and have read it twice over the last couple of weeks. Having heard her speak many years ago, and, since then, quoting her often on this blog, she has been a definite influence in my thinking. Then our culture took us all on a mad roller coaster ride, and her voice became one I stopped attending.

Until this book, published in 2017, and just now read.

Brené Brown has much studied wisdom on who we are in relationship to others. I’d like to share some of my takeaways from this little treasure of a book. [Sidebar: Not in lockstep with all her conclusions, but some are so rich and needful, I want to offer them to those of you who might not read them yourselves.]

1) Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Brown talks about the crucial work of valuing who you are and what you bring to any community, family, or workplace.

“Even in the context of suffering—poverty, violence, human rights violations—not belonging in our families is still one of the most dangerous hurts. That’s because it has the power to break our heart, our spirit, and our sense of self-worth. It broke all three for me. And when those things break, there are only three outcomes, something I’ve borne witness to in my life and in my work: 1. You live in constant pain and seek relief by numbing it and/or inflicting it on others; 2. You deny your pain, and your denial ensures that you pass it on to those around you and down to your children; or 3. You find the courage to own the pain and develop a level of empathy and compassion for yourself and others that allows you to spot hurt in the world in a unique way. I certainly tried the first two. Only through sheer grace did I make my way to the third.”Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: the Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, p. 14

2) There are at least four elements of true belonging.

a. People are hard to hate close up. Move in.

b. Speak truth to bullsh*t. Be civil.

c. Hold hands. With strangers.

d. Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.

These are chapter headings in Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness. Each could stand alone as inspiring to us in embracing how we are meant to live life. To truly belong. In community that is honoring to those around us, ourselves, and our Creator.

In a capsule, each element (or practice) speaks to the choices we make in leaning in to those both like us and not at all like us. In fact, we can see how we are doing in “braving the wilderness” – dealing with the strange and isolating sides of life – as we examine our daily habits. Am I willing to be in proximity with those different from me, those who think, speak, or act in opposition to me? With those who clearly communicate that I don’t belong. We collude with such opinions if we pull ourselves away, believing we don’t belong. We silence ourselves. We don’t show up. [I’m choosing not to hate as a daily practice and not to be counted out. Full stop.]

We can be civil. If we find ourselves in conversations filled with belittling, loathing, sarcasm, one-up-manship, then it is a sign we have bought into someone’s bullsh*t. Maybe even our own unchecked attitudes or opinions. Do we need boundaries sometimes? Sure…but if we can practice civility (even love) toward someone acting in ways that exclude or diminish us, maybe we can find a place of belonging to meet. To live with that person instead of forever without them.

The courage to take hold of strangers’ hands can open a whole new world of belonging and meaning to us. Concerts, sporting events, volunteering to aid people in need. People who link arms over something larger than themselves. Our children need us to belong and bring them along. I’m not sure if it was 9/11 or COVID or what has moved us to gather in small, tight circles. We miss out on a larger life in this way. A life full of purpose.

Brown uses the acronym “braving” in how to maneuver through whatever wilderness we find ourselves. You can see it in the image below.

Photo Credit: Brene Brown, Lanre Dahunsi

3) Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart. I want to return to this element.

Brown closed her book “Braving the Wilderness” with challenge and encouragement. We can have strong backs as opposed to rigid backs. A strong back is one that is capable of carrying burdens, ours and others, without becoming rigid with unmet expectations or misunderstanding. We strengthen our backs with showing up and growing capacity for caring. The soft front comes not from looking for the negative of rejection, exclusion, or insecurity. It comes from honoring what we each bring and what we each need. A soft front encourages, empowers, and elevates. We refuse to diminish our own place at the table, nor do we push others away, because they are not like us. Something to think about. And that wild heart Brown talks about? It’s that heart we can have when we don’t believe lies or attitudes that make us feel small or overlooked or outside the circle.

“The mark of a wild heart is living out the paradox of love in our lives. It’s the ability to be tough and tender, excited and scared, brave and afraid—all in the same moment. It’s showing up in our vulnerability and our courage, being both fierce and kind.”Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: the Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, p. 155

The heart becomes wild, free if you will, because we believe what is truest and most beautiful about ourselves, about others, and especially about God. The world is still a wilderness, but we don’t have to be afraid.

So…those are my takeaways from this special little book, and its author’s wild heart!

Photo Credit: Anatomy Worksheets

Braving the Wilderness Companion Worksheet

Monday Morning Moment – Generational Trauma and an Early Morning Exercise Toward Flourishing

Photo Credit: Medical News Today

Early riser here. In fact, I rarely need an alarm.

In other seasons of life, the morning came with joy. For some time now, I have struggled with negative thoughts…not so much anxiety or depression as much as a certain sense of feeling undone.

Since reading Tyler Staton’s Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools, my morning routine has changed some. No more mindless scrolling through various social media on my phone. It is no longer within reach. Once up, I make my bed. That lifelong routine continues. However, while still in bed, just barely awake, I now do two things to clear my head and set my heart for the day.

1) I recite the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). This is actually the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples when they asked him to teach them how to pray. Whether you have a relationship with Jesus or not, if you believe in God, this prayer is one you can embrace. A friend, younger than me, said to a small group of women recently in a study on prayer, “We should memorize the Lord’s Prayer”. It struck me as odd because, in my generation, we learned the Lord’s Prayer in school. Led by our teacher, we recited it as a whole class every day along with the Pledge of Allegiance. Whatever our religion or lack thereof. Until 1962, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled school prayer (led by teachers) unconstitutional.

This prayer helps me to turn my thoughts to God and the creeping uneasiness changes more to hopefulness.

Photo Credit: Lutheran Homeschool

2) I recite Psalm 23. This psalm, often referred to by its first line “The Lord is my Shepherd”, was written by David, a shepherd himself before he became king. In meditating on this psalm, I’m reminded of God’s care of his sheep. No matter what happens, he keeps his eye on us. He provides for us, anticipating our every need, and welcomes us Home to be with Him at the end of our lives.

Photo Credit: ChristArt

These two passages are easy to memorize and even easier to make part of a morning routine They have done wonders for my waking to a new day.

So what does this have to do with generational trauma? I’ve written often about this previously (and strongly recommend reading these pieces if you haven’t already).

Monday Morning Moment – Generational Sin and Trauma – Don’t Trip Over What’s Behind You – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Sins of the Fathers – Neglect and Abandonment – It Stops Here. – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Abuse – Where Does It Begin and How Do We Respond? – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Jennifer Nurick

We have all experienced some sort of trauma through our families, across generations. Some (including in my own family) would rather not “go there”, and I understand. However, it is in recognizing our trauma and taking steps toward healing that helps us to avoid continuing the trauma in our children and grandchildren.

As adults, we want the same things our children need – to be safe (no “bracing for impact” in relationships), to be seen (truly known by those most significant in our lives), to be soothed (our emotions understood and acknowledged, without judgment, even when they are big and out of proportion), and secure (that no matter what, we are loved. Our persons are NOT leaving the room).

Whatever we may have experienced as children, we can alter our present. Whatever we did as young and overwhelmed parents, we can move, with love and insight, to a better situation with our kids. The past is just that…the past. We can be truly with each other, in the here and now…if we are brave and willing to be humble.” – Deb Mills

The major component of trauma in my own life was abandonment. I don’t know about my grandparents’ childhood, but from my grandparents’ adulthood through the present, my family has felt the sting of abandonment. It is generational and can not only affect us but our children as well. Abandonment is a very real source of trauma and can actually find its way back up the family tree, if we don’t do the work of rooting it out. [The longer stories are in my blogs above.]

What better way to start each day praying to and meditating on a Father who will NEVER abandon his children!

[Below you will find further resources on generational trauma and a helpful graphic on the power of showing up.]

Photo Credit: Dr. Dan Siegel & Dr. Tina Payne Bryson

Breaking the Chains of Generational Trauma: We Don’t Have to Pass Down Everything We Inherit – Elizabeth Dixon

Monday Morning Moment – Righting Ourselves After Betrayal – Deb Mills

How does trauma spill from one generation to the next? – Rachel Zimmerman

Generational Trauma: Breaking the Cycle of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Jakob’s Family: The Psychology of Generational Trauma

Monday Morning Moment – 5 P’s of Productivity – You’ll Be Surprised

Photo Credit: Chris Bailey – YouTube

Productivity – it seems so elusive. Maybe not for you. You’ve figured it out. If success in productivity flows out of thinking about it, I’ve thought about it more than you can imagine…so many blogs on it.

Some years ago, Chris Bailey, a young productivity guru, came on my radar. He wrote this super practical guide 100 Time, Energy, and Attention Hacks to Be More Productive. It is organized in such a way that the reader can choose what parts of their day/life they want to change. He continues to write and podcast. You can find various videos with his coaching highlighted.

He helped me get jump-started, but I’m far from that focused productivity that could seriously change up my life. Still, I chip away at it. Why? To what end? The P’s below inspire me to keep at it. How about you?

1) Possibilities – Earlier today, I was walking with a friend of mine who is diving into the natural arts – gardening, canning, grinding wheat for bread, etc. I admire her and yet am overwhelmed by the effort she puts into her craft. Then she retorted, “Well, I’m not pouring into Afghan refugees.” Thanks for that. We may all have different goals, but the possibilities abound when we recapture the time, attention, and energy we need to meet and even surpass those goals. What would you love to accomplish…if only?

Monday Morning Moment – Notes on Chris Bailey’s Life of Productivity – Deb Mills

CNLP 558: John Lee Dumas on How to Work Less and Make More Money, The #1 Way to Make an Impact Online Today, And How He Grew Entrepreneur On Fire to 140 Million Downloads – Carey Nieuwhof Podcast

2) Practices – A favorite old proverb of ours goes like this: “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.” (Proverbs 14:4). Canadian writer Tim Challies presents this proverb as a parable on productivity. That “much increase” can be enhanced by having the right tools (oxen, for instance). However, given the right tools, productivity can still be very messy. Hard to perfectly control, thus, cycling back, needing the best tools for the job. Sometimes those tools are people in our lives and workplace, and sometimes they are lists, schedules, apps, or right equipment.

It’s not working harder, and not even just working smarter, whatever that means. It’s the beautiful grind of habit formation. It’s the development of spiritual disciplines that become life-long practices. We are never too young to begin establishing such.

I make my bed every morning.

It’s a small thing but it lifts my heart. This is done and it’s beautiful.

Lately I have also begun going to bed with my phone out of reach. That means, on waking, it is still out of reach. My thoughts then are my own…not someone else’s I begin taking in, and 30 minutes later find myself still scrolling. Sheesh!

There are other practices I’m incorporating into my daily life…but for this moment, I leave you with the experts.

Photo Credit: Tim Challies, How to Get Things Done

Putting On the Brakes: A Review of John Mark Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry – Dawn Berkelaar

Series: How to Get Things Done – Tim Challies

Monday Morning Moment – Flipping COVID Lethargy into a Larger Life Productivity – Tim Challies – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: James Clear

3) Product – As you begin habit formation, such that you are able to redeem more time, more attention, and more energy, product then begins to be impacted. What is your product? Your goal? Are you beginning to see the weight loss, your writing becoming more thoughtful, your shelves filling with wholesome canned food, your personnel engaged, your work goals realized, your college degree on the horizon?

Photo Credit: Andrea Lane, Redbooth

4) Purpose – What is the purpose for your going after your goals? If the habits you are forming are in conflict with other goals in your life, then you may need to reexamine your purpose. The “why” of your efforts. Are top performance and lifetime achievement the same or is there enough difference that you need to reevaluate? Something to consider on a regular basis. What is your purpose for all this? [See the Carey Nieuwhof podcast with Jon Acuff below – gold!]

Episode 596: Jon Acuff on The Difference Between High Performers and High Achievers, How to Make a Goal and Guarantee a Goal, and the Problem of False Humility In the Church – Carey Nieuwhof Podcast

5) People – Chris Bailey did an experiment earlier this year. He made the observation that smartphones are actually robbing us of productivity among other things (mental health, sleep, intimacy, focus…I could go on).

He decided to “come off” his smartphone (iPhone to be specific) for one month. After switching to a flip-phone, it took Chris a week to adjust to the under-stimulation of his device. Then something happened that forced him to ditch the experiment altogether before the month was over.

[5 Lessons that Chris Bailey Learned from Ditching His Smartphone for a Month – condensed version of Chris Bailey’s blog on the topic]

A cherished family member got cancer and was doing treatment updates via group iMessaging. Chris became aware that he was missing some of the messages and, in fact, his wife had begun answering for both of them. He family and friends simply began messaging solely with her, leaving him out of the circle altogether.

Being connected with people, in the way they were all accustomed, was disrupted. Face-to-face was consummately better, but he would take phone connection over no connection.

“…while modern communication methods are shallow, at the end of the day, the smartphone is how I am able to communicate with those I love in the modern world. And I love them. So I will continue to go where they are, to these lamely shallow apps that are no richer than a shadow, especially when compared to the vivid, textured reality of deep, joyous time with another human being, in real life. Maybe over coffee, maybe over drinks, maybe at a beach somewhere. Honestly, wherever—I don’t really care. As long as it’s in person.

At this point, we’re stuck with smartphones, especially considering how intertwined they are with how we communicate. Technology will continue to advance as smartphone innovation continues to plateau, and eventually, something else will take the smartphone’s place.

I look forward to this day, and hope that whatever replaces the phone doesn’t come with its own tradeoffs for our mental health and overall well-being.

The key, though, while the smartphone is with us, is to find ways to limit its downsides while making how we communicate richer.Chris Bailey

The moral of this story: don’t leave your people in the dust in the pursuit of wild wonderful goals.

In becoming more productive, do we pour that gained time, attention, and energy back into the work, skillset, hobby, or recreation? Or do we pour it into people?

As I look again at habit formation and goal-setting with these 5 P’s in view, what my hope for center stage of life is “Love God…love people.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” – Jesus, Luke 10:27

This is what inspires me to do the work of becoming more productive.

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

50 Productivity Tips to Help You Finally Get Ahead – Infographic

Photo Credit: Productive and Free