Category Archives: America

Monday Morning Moment – Empowered People – Reckoning with a Victim Identity

Photo Credit: The Minds Journal

We hold the doors open for each other.

In recent days, I’ve marveled at common spaces we share in the world.

Out early in the morning, we pull into Wawa for coffee,  and gas if we need it (maybe where you are the gas station/convenience store has another name). On the way to our jobs or appointments. We wait on each other topping off our coffee per personal preferences. We share spaces. We check out together.

We hold the doors open for each other.

In the line at UPS, we wait. We are there to mail packages, return items, or maybe get a passport picture. We wait together. Young and old. Latino, Asian, Black, White. We wait and we hold the door open for each other.

Sitting or standing in the crowded reception area of the local free clinic, we wait to be seen. Again, a wide mix of people. All of whom, except for me, were not born in the US. [I was there with an Afghani refugee lady, helping her get medical services.] All of us there having successfully jumped through the hoops of obtaining that first appointment. We have this in common. We share this comradery.

We hold the doors open for each other.

In all these situations…and others…we are people with stories not necessarily known and yet with common threads. We have our stories. Both victim and victor stories. We do not have to choose to be defined by them…especially not the victim stories.

By definition, a victim is someone who has been injured, harmed, has suffered as a result of circumstances or what we consider to be disrespectful behavior from others. Linda and Charlie Bloom

The Victim Identity: Signs and How to Recover – Linda and Charlie Bloom [Quick read in 3 parts. Excellent resource.]

Maybe it’s different where you are in the world, but in our current socio-political system and culture, we are grappling with critical theory – the push to believe that all of humanity is either in the oppressor camp or the oppressed camp.

Deconstructing Critical Theory: Oppressed and Oppressor – Kevin Watson

Are there oppressors in the world? Absolutely. Are there those who are or have been oppressed? Unfortunately, also yes.

However, we, as peoples, are neither only oppressed or oppressor, in our fullest identities. We can rise up; not pointing fingers at each other, but in a larger understanding of one another. Not being subservient to either worldview.

Overcomers…

For those of us who have capacity and capability to help others, we help most effectively and comprehensively by influencing a pathway forward for those who have identified themselves as victims.

Or maybe the victim mindset was thrust upon some. A very wise person said to me just this morning, “If you want to ‘control’ people, convince them they are victims”.

Think about it…that is definitely oppressor behavior…and yet sometimes it is communicated by those in positions of power or influence who seem the most benevolent.

  Photo Credit: Courtney Wadley

As for doors? Most doors are closed; that’s their nature. That is their purpose. No added meaning. Sometimes, oppressors lock doors and control who goes through. Those who primarily think of themselves as victims may feel intimidated or persecuted at the prospect of prying open the door. If we look at doors as both giving access and protecting from evil (whatever that is), we use them accordingly. Most people, thankfully, hold the doors open for each other…and will continue to do so no matter how culture changes.

How we self-identify matters, in terms of a way forward. When we see ourselves as victims, our sense of agency or self-empowerment is diminished by our own mindset. Then there are the myriad of messages calling us to align ourselves with victimhood. These messages come from both well-meaning people and those who would seek to pigeon-hole us in ways we can be exploited.

All the scenarios mentioned at the start of this piece have stories attached to them. I don’t know those stories, but I do know many others. We all do. Telling and living our stories truly make for real legacy, for ourselves and our children.

Bad things have happened to us (some more than others). We can learn from each other if we are willing.

A victim mindset imprisons both the one who was harmed and the one who did the harming…as well as those in between who want to help but may not know how…yet. What a difference if we can empower rather than impoverish. Embrace CommunitiesWendy McCaig trains people to understand and operate with this worldview. Away from identifying victims and just doing “for” people as if they can’t possibly do for themselves. She lives and teaches to do “with” people, together discovering giftings and orchestrating opportunities to express those giftings (along the way, strengthening their families and communities).

In this way, we hold the doors open for each other.

Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig, Embrace Richmond, Embrace Communities

YouTube Video – TED Talk – How I Stopped Being a ‘Victim’ and Restarted My Life – Arman Abrahimzadeh

How to Know if Your Victimhood Has Become Your Identity – Rick Thomas

Monday Morning Moment – Building and Re-building Community – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Steps Forward in “We the People” Becoming True for All Americans – Deb Mills

Sunday Reflection – Am I My Brother’s Keeper? On Neglect – Part 1  and Part 2 – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Remember – Maverick City Music x UPPER ROOM

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Jeremy Taylor

From the mouths of children and infants You have ordained praise on account of Your adversaries, to silence the enemy and avenger. When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place – what is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him?Psalm 8:2-4

Let’s just start right here. It’s been difficult for me to write a Worship Wednesday this week because the news has been so distracting and demoralizing, even defeating at times.

How do we let that happen? Given the God we know who also knows us (1 Corinthians 8:3). Nothing in our world right now is a surprise to Him. Is He angry at how sin is abounding? Absolutely. A pure and measured anger. An anger that accompanies His perfect compassion for the suffering of His children.

Gentle and Lowly – the Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers – Dane Ortlund – highly recommend this for our comfort in knowing Jesus

In this season of distress, our own compassion is matched by our accompanying anger at the wrongs around us. Our attention is drawn to what’s seen and we forget the glorious unseen.

Author, pastor Tim Keller‘s tweet helped me clear my head.

Photo Credit: Twitter –  @timkellernyc

Oh Lord, help us remember You. You are near and You are wholly and perfectly feeling the pain this world is experiencing. Your plan is in motion…whether we see it or not. You are moving in our lives today. We do not need to fear. Our eyes are on You right now.

Maverick City + UPPER ROOM‘s song Remember applies well to these moments of upheaval and struggle. It reflects Jesus’ command to remember Him through the Lord’s Supper and takes it farther to a daily sacrifice of praise. What He did for us we could not do for ourselves or each other. The Lord Jesus is still our advocate and intercessor. Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: Timothy Keller, Quote Fancy, Get Wallpapers

Worship and remember with me.

We see You on the cross
And You’re beautiful, God
The blood speaks a better word, yeah

The bread, Your body
The wine, Your blood
Sweet communion
You set a table for us
The crucified Jesus
No greater love
Than the bread, Your body
Than the wine, Your blood

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember
Yes, we will, yes, we will
Yeah

The holes in Your hands
And the wounds in Your side
Thirty-nine lashes
Brought me back to life
And before resurrection
There was a grave
In hell, there was a battle
And my life was saved

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

Yes, we will, yes, we will (Hey)
Oh, we can see it now
And we can see how (Mmm, yeah)
Oh, Your blood made a way
Your blood made a way
Hey, hey

And this is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, would you look at Him?
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him

And oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, would you just look at Him? Look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, would you just look at Him?
Oh, our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, won’t you look at Him?
Oh, our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him (Look at Him)
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him (Look at Him), oh (Hey)

Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (Look at Him, look at Him)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (Look at Him, look at Him)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His eyes like fire)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His hair like wool)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His feet like brass)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (He’s beautiful)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His eyes like fire)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His hair like wool)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His feet like brass)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (He’s beautiful)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him, oh

Oh-oh, we will remember (Oh, hey)
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, hey, we will remember

And how could we forget?
After what we’ve experienced
Oh, it’s unforgettable (Woo)
It’s unforgettable
Oh, how we could forget? (Look at Him)
After what we experienced
Oh, up from the muck and the miry clay
He lifted me (He lifted me)
Up from the muck and the miry clay
He lifted me (He lifted me)
Oh, I remember, I won’t forget
How He took my life from the pit (Hey)
I remember, I won’t forget
How He took my life from the pit, oh
We remember, we won’t forget (Yeah, yeah)
How You took our lives from the pit
We remember, we won’t forget
Look at where we are now
Look at where we were back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our life from the pit (Hey)
Oh, we remember, we won’t forget
Look at where I am now
Look at where I was back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our life from the pit (Yeah)
We remember, we won’t forget
Look at where I am now
Look at where I was back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our lives (From the pit), hey
We remember, we won’t forget
(Look at where we are now)
Lift your voice, lift your voice

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior (Oh, just to know you)
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember*

We are far from unmoved by the news of the day – war, wildfires, abortion battles, soaring prices, drug deaths, and racial divides. Yet, in the midst of being the church in these situations, we turn our eyes to Jesus, fix them on Him…and remember.

*Lyrics to Remember by Maverick City x Upper Room

YouTube Video – Remember (Shortened Version) – Lyric Video

Photo Credit: Timothy Keller, Quote Fancy

Photo Credit: Heartlight, C. S. Lewis

Monday Morning Moment – the Rise and Fall of an Empire – Can We Resist the Decline, America?

Photo Credit: Ray Dalio, YouTube

How in the world are we doing as a nation?

As we watch what’s happening around the globe as well as looking inward at our country’s changing culture, how should we then live?

This week, a 43-minute video came to my attention which so fascinated me I shared it widely with friends and family…and now with you.

This YouTube video was created and narrated by Ray Dalio, founder of the hedge fund and investment firm Bridgewater Associates. It is entitled: Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order – Ray Dalio. He takes history from the last 500 years and tracks it in a mesmerizing animation depicting the rise and fall of world empires.

What are the factors that move nations to become world powers? What also are the causes of the decline of these powers?

Photo Credit: Ray Dalio, YouTube

His video is essentially a summary of his 2021 book Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order – Why Nations Succeed and Fail. Now if you click on the link to this book, and go to reviews, you will find not all the reviews are glowing. So take heed to the criticism.

Still, I loved this video because it was easy to understand for someone who isn’t much of a historian or, for sure, an economist. His explanation of what lies behind successes and failures of nations seems to line up well with what is happening in the U.S. for sure.

Photo Credit: Ray Dalio, YouTube

These screenshots from the video give you an idea of what you’ll find should you watch it. So good.

Dalio alludes to economic principles that we can apply to help our nation slow its decline as a world power and possibly even reserve it. He goes into these principles much more in his book, but the two he mentions in the video are quite simple:

  1. Don’t spend more than you make.
  2. Treat people well.

Ridiculously simple, but do we do them? We have had national debt since the start of the U.S. as a nation. However, in recent years our debt has wildly ballooned out of control. Also the whole “treating people well”? The last time we were able to pull together as a nation was probably the attacks of 9/11…over 20 years ago. The division in our country is so deep, it is hard to imagine our being able to come back together. It could happen…and I will keep hoping that’s the case.Photo Credit: Ray Dalio, YouTube

On the graphic above, we see the steady decline of the US and the sharp rise of China. Is this the future? Or are other factors also at play? I think there might be…one in particular, the God of this universe. However, He may choose not to save the US from its own self-induced decline. Only time will tell.

[Postscript: There is a word of wisdom here: don’t spend more than we earn and treat others well. Sound counsel all around.]

Economic Principles – Website linked to Dalio’s best-selling book Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order – Why Nations Succeed and Failincluding bonus content not in the book

U.S. National Debt by Year Kimberly Amadeo

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s Latest, Parenting Pearls, Aging Well, Words, and War

Quick take on favorites of mine over the last couple of weeks:

1) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest – Enjoy!

2) Parenting Pearls – So thankful for wisdom of others…especially in parenting and raising children to be mentally healthy and resilient. How other cultures parent is also intriguing. Below are some of both.

Mom blogger Becky Mansfield wrote a great piece on things we don’t want our kiddos to forget.  Please share in the Comments what you hope your children don’t forget.

What Really Matters: Things I Never Want Our Kids to Forget – Becky Mansfield

Photo Credit: Facebook, Becky Mansfield, Your Modern Family

First, You Decide that Kids Belong in School – Carrie McKean – a writer friend of mine in Texas; everyone won’t agree with her, but she writes well and with reason for us as parents during our time with COVID.

A Top Researcher Says It’s Time to Rethink Our Entire Approach to Preschool – Anya Kementz

It’s Easy to Judge Until It’s Your Kid; Let’s Try Compassion – MaryBeth Bock

The Secret of Arctic ‘Survival Parenting’

3) Aging Well – Start young. Start young to age well. If you have to catch up (like me), there is still time.

The Seven Habits That Lead to Happiness in Old Age – Arthur C. Brooks

Forgiving People Is Good for Your Health. Here’s How to Do It. – Rachel Feltman

Forgiving People Is Good for Your Health. Here’s How to Do It – Rachel Feltman

Photo Credit: John & Julie Gottman, Yes! Magazine

4) Words – As much as I love words this quote from Jesus’ teaching gives pause: “But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.”  – Matthew 12:36-37
Words matter. Words mean things. We should be generous with life-giving words and sparing with words that destroy.  Silence and restraint have their place.
What If– A poem by Malcolm Guite
What if every word we say
Never ends or fades away,
Gathers volume gathers weigh,
Drums and dins us with dismay
Surges on some dreadful day
When we cannot get away
Whelms us till we drown?
What if not a word is lost,
What if every word we cast
Cruel, cunning, cold, accurst,
Every word we cut and paste
Echoes to us from the past
Fares and finds us first and last
Haunts and hunts us down?
What if every murmuration,
Every otiose oration
Every oath and imprecation,
Insidious insinuation,
Every blogger’s aberration,
Every facebook fabrication
Every twittered titivation,
Unexamined asservation
Idiotic iteration,
Every facile explanation,
Drags us to the ground?
What if each polite evasion
Every word of defamation,
Insults made by implication,
Querulous prevarication,
Compromise in convocation,
Propaganda for the nation
False or flattering persuasion,
Blackmail and manipulation
Simulated desparation
Grows to such reverberation
That it shakes our own foundation,
Shakes and brings us down?
Better that some words be lost,
Better that they should not last,
Tongues of fire and violence.
O Word through whom the world is blessed,
Word in whom all words are graced,
Do not bring us to the test,
Give our clamant voices rest,
And the rest is silence.
Then, on a lighter note:  there’s this sweet game that is all the rage right now. Wordle created by Josh Wardle (launched in October 2021). I love it because it is not time-consuming. You get one word puzzle a day that is challenging but doable. So fun.

What to Read About Wordle While Everybody’s Still Talking About It – Alex Dalenberg

Twitter, Karen Swallow Prior (Click to read the full thread)

Wordle App (different game, different creator)

5) War – We have all read and watched about the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia. How to respond? Who to respond? I won’t pose an opinion here because we have so many, and they don’t help really. Praying is the most important thing we can do. Below are some links I found interesting this week (well, links that weren’t behind a paywall). Praying…

Photo Credit: Facebook

War in Ukraine: Essential Reading

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky: the Comedian President Who Is Rising to the Moment – Stephen Mulvey

Wendell Berry’s Advice for a Cataclysmic Age – Dorothy Wickenden [Lengthy biographical piece on Berry’s advice – also includes an audio file which you can listen to instead of reading the story.]

Here are a few quotes from the piece above:

“Think Little. Nearly every one of us, nearly every day of his life, is contributing directly to the ruin of this planet.” Berry went on to say that he was “ashamed and deeply distressed that American government should have become the chief cause of disillusionment with American principles.”

In a Jefferson Lecture in 2012, he quoted Stegner’s description of Americans as one of two basic types, “boomers” and “stickers.” Boomers are “those who pillage and run,” who “make a killing and end up on Easy Street.” Stickers are “those who settle, and love the life they have made and the place they have made it in.” They are “placed people,” in Berry’s term—forever attached to the look of the sky, the smell of native plants, and the vernacular of home.

He told the crowd that, as a member of the human race, he was “in the worst possible company: communists, fascists and totalitarians of all sorts, militarists and tyrants, exploiters, vandals, gluttons, ignoramuses, murderers.” But, he insisted, he was given hope by people “who through all the sad destructive centuries of our history have kept alive the vision of peace and kindness and generosity and humility and freedom.”

“A properly educated conservative, who has neither approved of abortion nor supported a tax or a regulation, can destroy a mountain or poison a river and sleep like a baby,” he writes. “A well-instructed liberal, who has behaved with the prescribed delicacy toward women and people of color, can consent to the plunder of the land and people of rural America and sleep like a conservative.”

“If two neighbors know that they may seriously disagree, but that either of them, given even a small change of circumstances, may desperately need the other, should they not keep between them a sort of pre-paid forgiveness? They ought to keep it ready to hand, like a fire extinguisher.”

“Jesus said, ‘Take no thought for the morrow,’ which I take to mean that if we do the right things today, we’ll have done all we really can for tomorrow. OK. So I hope to do the right things today.”

Wendell Berry – Americans Who Tell the Truth Website

___________________________________________________________________________

Any favorite finds you’d be willing to share? Post them in the Comments and thanks so much for stopping by.

Bonuses:

Setting a Valentine’s lunch for our grandchildren:

The Real-Life Diet of Kenny G, Who Learned to Cook to Set an Example for His Son – Mick Rouse

YouTube Video – Jesus’ Heart – Eric Gilmour and Dane Ortlund

Three Encouraging Quotes

Monday Morning Moment – Moral Suasion – the Pathway of Truly Changing Minds – in Remembrance of MLK Day

Photo Credit: Alpha Coders

Don’t be put off by an unusual phrase. Moral suasion.

Photo Credit: YouTube, What Does That Mean?

We find ourselves in a cultural climate of power dictating more than it should. “Should”…well…who am I to judge, but I’m still saying it. For sustained change to happen, we are meant to wrestle together in the arena of conversations within community. This is where real and lasting influence lies.

We can take hope in that.

The phrase “moral suasion” is new to me. I discovered it in a piece by George Yancey entitled Breaking Up Fights and Race Relations. He defines it as:

“Moral suasion is when we convince people to do what we see as a moral good because they see that moral good as good…Moral suasion is best done working with someone to do the right thing instead of forcing that person to do what we want because of our power. Research has shown that the best way to engage in moral suasion is through relationships. In those relationships, we can build rapport, find areas of agreement, and clearly understand the other person’s perspectives. If we want people to change at the intrinsic level and not simply conform to pressure, then we should use the techniques of moral suasion instead of just overpowering that person.” – George Yancey

Breaking up Fights and Race Relations

[Is there a difference between persuasion and suasion? In the simplest terms, they are considered the same, but I do sense a difference. Persuasion is more an action of influencing another party to come to your reasoning or way of thinking. Suasion, especially moral suasion, is more a consideration that two or more parties have a sense of rightness about an issue/subject but differ in their opinion. Moral suasion works through dialog to seek and hopefully find common ground – a way forward together to do a right thing.]

Yancey’s article appears just ahead of his latest book (March 2022) –  Beyond Racial Division: A Unifying Alternative to Colorblindness and Antiracism. The publisher offers a brief summary of Dr. Yancey’s book: “an alternative approach to racial relations where all parties contribute and are mutually accountable to one another for societal well-being. He provides empirical rationale for how collaborative conversations in a mutual accountability model can reduce racial division. History and societal complexity mean that different participants may have different kinds of responsibility, but all are involved in seeking the common good for all to thrive.”

“There are times when power is necessary. But the temptation to use power to consistently solve our racial problems brings with it power struggles and the need to build up our own ability to force conformity. Different groups have contrasting ideas about what we should do. The temptation is to try to force others to accept the solutions we want to promote. But this power-driven approach is short-sighted and will not produce intrinsic changes. Those changes will not happen until we engage in moral suasion consistently rather than seeking power to force compliance.

That effort would be time-consuming. It is easier to just use power. Easier but not lasting…We must sit down with those with whom we disagree and try to understand their perspectives. We must seek out answers that meet their felt needs and show them respect. I find that few in the racial conversation want to do this. Until we are willing to have those conversations, we will continue to foster greater racial polarization in our society.”

It’s easier to just use power…but not so effectual.

Are you as tired as I am of the power plays in motion around us? …Not just regarding race relations, but in so many other areas of human experiences together. Life together.

Laws are laid out. Mandates put forward. Rules and regulations abound.

I miss conversations on the stuff of life. The stuff that matters most. That’s why I’m often one of the ones who raises their hand, offers a space, takes a corner of the table if given opportunity. Not to just say my piece but to hear yours.

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote

Today is the day in 2022 when we commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy. Certainly Dr. King was a man who exercised the great power of influence…not elected to a public office but commanding in his pursuit of a passion he believed possible.

We know him most from his speeches and some from his sermons. I wonder what his conversations were like. My hope is they were of moral suasion. In the last couple of years, we have gone through a huge transformation as a nation…to what end? Some change has come (for better and for worse). More positive, enduring change will come if we choose to reason together…across the lines that seemingly divide us but do not have to forever.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Monday Morning Moment – a New Day – It’s Gonna Be OK – Deb Mills

20 Quotes About Faith From Martin Luther King, Jr. – Jennifer Graham

5 Friday Faves – One Small Step, A Father’s Good Gifts, Gossip, Blended Families, and Mission BBQ

Happy New Year! Whew! May 2022 be a reprieve from the struggle of 2020 and 2021. May we see the fruit of new wisdom and sound actions taken toward a healthier future and a closer community across our world. Thank You, God, for this new year and getting us through the last. Here are my favorite finds from this first week of 2022.

1) One Small Step – A couple of years ago, Dave and I had the privilege of listening to Dave Isay, the founder and president of Storycorps. He is a strong advocate of the power of telling our stories (to each other, face-to-face). [See his TED Talk on this here.] Given what we’ve been through the last couple of years (with our country divided over politics and trying to keep our balance with COVID), his One Small Step Initiative has been incredibly timely. Isay has a vision of bringing our country together (and maybe yours as well if you live elsewhere) through the experience of face-to-face dialog. We may have some sharp disagreements and consider ourselves enemies, but we can find common ground and common values…if we keep (or start) talking to each other. StoryCorps has made a platform where strangers can engage. Strangers who would not usually, given their differences, talk together. This One Small Step Initiative is actually being highlighted on this week’s CBS TV show 60 Minutes. Don’t miss it (or catch it later).

Photo Credit: RVA Library, Ben Himmelfarb 

P.S. Two phrases that speak to the above…and positive, healing communication, in general, are contingent communication and contact hypothesis. They are both worth taking note of and considering:

Contingent communication – Face-to-face conversation with a determination of deep listening, strong affirmation, and the mutual sense of “feeling felt”. Dr. Curt Thompson describes it as “communication, in which two individuals, through both their spoken dialogue and non-verbal cues, each affirm the other as they interact”.  (Anatomy of the Soul, p. 139)

Contact hypothesis“suggests that prejudice and conflict between groups can be reduced if members of the groups interact with each other”. In this article, Dr. Elizabeth Hopper goes on to say that “One especially promising possibility is that contact between groups might encourage more powerful majority group members to work as allies”. Instead of talking around each other, we come together. One conversation at a time.

2) A Father’s Good Gifts – This week I discovered an article by Jon Bloom entitled A Father’s Good Pleasure. Bloom talks about the joy we as parents have when we participate in generating joy in our children’s life.

One example of this for me is how my sweet step-dad continued to travel overseas to see us after Mom died. This was not a thing on his bucket list He came because he loved us and he came because he knew the joy it would bring to us.

“Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” – Jesus (Matthew 7:9–11)

“Give them [your children] good things — things they value as good and really want. And really, authentically enjoy doing it. It has God’s endorsement, since he too takes great pleasure in giving good gifts to his children…Become, through your joyful, affectionate generosity, an opportunity for your children to experience [and you with them…what C. S. Lewis calls] transposition  — to see and savor the higher, richer pleasure of God in the natural pleasure of their father giving good gifts to them.

Become a student of what gives them joy.”Jon Bloom

I love that Jon posted this piece the first week of January – when we are reeling with all the “stuff of Christmas”, including the credit card bills coming in this month. It is a joy to give our kids what they want when we can (and that is carved deeply in our western Christmas culture). It is also a joy to give our kids joy in deeper ways.

Our youngest son eats lunch with us on some Sundays. Often it is just him and us; his older siblings and families joining us occasionally. When Dave and I are most attuned to him, we just take the opportunity to affirm him and take joy in him. He feels that joy.

Have you Buried Your Gifts? – Jon Bloom

[Sidebar: The piece above talks about the gifts that we have and how our abilities and capabilities (the strength to operate out of our abilities) go hand in hand. Don’t want to bury my gifts because of a lack of gumption.]

Photo Credit: Nancy Tillman, Facebook

3) Gossip – What we may consider processing (with a friend or spouse) could be just plain old gossip. Pastor, writer Scott Sauls calls it in a recent tweet.

Photo Credit: Scott Sauls, Twitter

Such a wake-up call about gossip helps us think about the damaging impact of it on relationships. Gossip (which we too often call processing or ranting) makes us think we’re doing something about the dysfunctional relationship we have, when really we’re causing it further harm. What we’re doing is something called triangling. When we have a problem with one person but complain about that person to another. It is passive-aggressive and if we aren’t coached to go to the person missing from the conversation, then it just remains complaining. The relationship continues to be dysfunctional.

We aren’t to just bury a struggle, but we can deal with an offense with care and respect…even if it feels undeserved. This is the beginning of a healthy connection in the place of dishonoring and dismissing complaining.Photo Credit: Heartlight

A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us Against Them – Scott Sauls

Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen: How God Redeems Regret, Hurt, and Fear in the Making of Better Humans – Scott Sauls (Publish date June 2022)

4) Blended Families – Step-families, or blended families, can provide safe and loving refuges for children of divorce. As an adult child of divorce, I remember well the shame of being a child whose dad just seemed to forget his children over time. When Mom remarried a man also divorced (with children of his own), we experienced the positive (and negative) of being in a step-family.

Photo Credit: Pixabay, John Hain

As older adults, both children sets have issues of parental neglect mixed in with loving relationships. Every step-family is different, of course. Many are healthy. For those who struggle, there is always help and hope…if we reach for it.

[Just some of my large blended family…including some friends who are family…for which I’m so thankful.]

A podcast I would recommend for step-families who have had broken or painful relationships is therapist Ron Deal‘s Family Life Blended. The podcast (and other resources) is a help for any family but especially for blended families. The link below is an excellent example.

Ridding Your Soul of Shame – Family Life Blended Podcast – Ron Deal with Curt Thompson

Photo Credit: Pixabay, Ben Kerckx

5) Mission BBQ on a MissionMission BBQ is one of our favorite restaurants in Richmond. Their generous customer service (even in this era of COVID) and consistently delicious food are super special. http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/IMG_6824.jpg

We are members of their birthday club and receive a free barbecue sandwich when our special day rolls around each year. Besides that, we will get an email occasionally inviting us in for another free sandwich. Today we redeemed our “Merry Christmas” freebies.

The food is great, but it’s also an uplifting in-restaurant experience. Mission BBQ sets the bar high in honoring first responders and members (and families) of the military. In fact…they make all their customers feel honored. Sweet. And very unique.http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/IMG_6827.jpg

In fact, if you’re in the Richmond area (or have a Mission BarBQ in your area, and are thinking about heading over on Monday, they will be closed.  It’s their National Day of Service when they feed homeless veterans around the city.

The Restaurant Dishing Up Patriotism with a Side of BarBQ 

If you have one in your town, don’t miss it. If you don’t, can you suggest your own exceptional business (in Comments below)?

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Those are this week’s Faves. How about you? Please also use the Comments to share some of yours. Thanks for stopping by. You are a blessing.

Bonuses:

Endangered Attention: How to Guard a Precious Gift – Scott Hubbard

One big mistake people repeatedly make is focusing on proving themselves right, instead of focusing on achieving the best outcome. This is the wrong side of right. The Wrong Side of Right

Top 10 Surprising Lessons on the Genealogy of Jesus – Joshua Infantado

A Facebook post by a friend of mine in January 2020 – still speaks:

Photo Credit: John Williams, Facebook

“I make my bed every morning because it’s a gift that I get to open at the end of every day. A gift that not everyone has. So while I’m wrapping my bed in the morning and I’m unwrapping it at night I’m reminded of what a great blessing my bed really is in my life. When we stop viewing what we have as little, insignificant or not enough then we get to see what we do have as gifts we get to enjoy, great blessings in our lives and provision for our needs.”Theresa Nicely McCoy, Facebook

 

 

 

Monday Morning Moment – As Adults We Still Need to Feel Safe, Seen, Soothed, and Secure

Photo Credit: Nicole Michalou, Pexels

[Adapted from previous posts on parenting here and here.]

American Thanksgiving brings families and friends together for a big day of food, football, and (hopefully) fun. Social media this week will be crammed (at least in the US) with images of smiling people leaning in to pack the frame. What we don’t see is those sadly missing from the frivolity. Maybe it’s too far to travel. Or work claims too large a chunk of the day. Or another family’s turn this year. Or possibly, unfortunately, Thanksgiving is too complicated a day to spend all together.

By its very name, Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what we have – the food, good health, the other bounties of life, but most especially, our relationships. How thankful we are to be in the land of the living with those we love.

How do we communicate our love? How do we experience love from each other? Is it complete joy behind those smiles or is it also courage. Showing up even when it’s hard sometimes.

I’ve been learning more about this whole brain and relationship thing from two brilliant psychiatrists Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Curt Thompson.

Dr. Thompson has written a trilogy of powerful, ground-breaking books – Anatomy of the Soul, The Soul of Shame, and The Soul of Desire.  He describes these books as exploring “how neuroscience relates to the ways we experience relationships, deep emotions like shame and joy and especially our own stories — and how we can process our longings and desire for spiritual connection with God and each other to live more fully integrated, connected lives.”

Such good books!

Thompson refers often to Dr. Siegel’s “4 S’s of Attachment-Based Parenting“. Those S’s relate to what we communicate to our children even as infants but throughout life. We want them to know they are “safe and seen” and to experience being “soothed and secure”. This is especially poignant when we introduce the word “No” into the great adventure of their lives. No…and discipline as they get bigger.

Now…fast forward to adulthood. OK…maybe your childhood (or parenting) had some tough spots or (for parents) regret. We can’t go back…we can’t fix what got broken. We can still learn to love well today. Siegel’s 4 S’s, referenced in his book The Power of Showing Up, primarily relate to parenting. However, he and Thompson both talk about these 4 experiences being needed throughout our lives. Take a look at the briefest explanations of them below:

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

As adults, we want the same things – 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.

Something to think about during Thanksgiving week. Let’s don’t miss those people across the table or room from us. The ones we are missing…because for whatever reason, they are not there…let’s figure out how to show up in their lives, in meaningful, redeeming, and healing ways.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving Day with those you love…whether it’s your holiday or not. Thanks for showing up here.

The 4 S’s of Attachment-Based Parenting – Daniel J. Siegel – Podcast

The Power of Showing Up – Daniel J. Siegel, MD & Tina Payne Bryson, PhD

Mindful Parenting: 4 S’s of Secure Attachment – Esther Goldstein

The Neurobiology of Attachment to Nurturing and Abusive Caregivers – Regina M. Sullivan, PhD

5 Friday Faves – Work Songs, People Who Inquire, Fall’s Breathtaking Beauty, a Rightful Memorial, and a Christmas Tree

Here we go: this week’s Friday Faves. Thanks for reading.

1) Work Songs – On a walk in the neighborhood this week, I pulled open the door of the little free library near us and discovered a tiny book. Its title and cover art were intriguing. It was Matt Johnson‘s Work SongsI tucked it in my pocket and finished my walk, thinking about some of the work songs of my day: The Eagles’ Get Over It or Bachman & Turner’s Takin’ Care of Business or Sam Cooke’s Chain Gang or Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 or Rose Royce’s Car Wash. However, it is not a volume about work songs, per se, but more about the lack of them in our current culture. Johnson has written a book of true stories of notables through decades. People who may have been considered ordinary to begin with but who persevered in the work of their day. He (and they through these short essays) teach us lessons on the impact possible when both individuals and connected groups stay at it and refuse to be dissuaded from their task or their vision. 

Podcaster and leadership trainer Laurie Ruettimann had a fascinating conversation with author Matt Johnson on the topic of his book Work Songs. The title of her piece is “Modern Work Has No Song – How Stories Create Perseverance”.

“For as long as we’ve had language as a species, we’ve actually had music for the work we do,” he says. “We’ve actually, for a long time, had music that actually created meaning — not just unify the sort of actions in the job of the people, but it actually gave them a bigger context for the work they were doing. And what’s interesting is, if you look at the evolution of that, modern work absolutely has no song.”  – Matt Johnson

Work Songs – Matt Johnson – Buzzsprout Audiobook (narrated by Matt Johnson, in individual essay chunks)

This Is How a Book Can Change Your Life – Matt Johnson

2) People Who Inquire – Psychiatrist Curt Thompson preached a sermon in the Spring of this year on the topic “Generational Trauma, Shame & Redemption”. While on errands, I was listening and actually had to pull the car over to capture one quote in particular.

“One of the most important developmental experiences for us, not only as children but that continues for us as adults, is to have others inquire of us and teach us to be people who do the same…Who is inquiring of you?” – Curt Thompson, MD – Generational Trauma, Shame & Redemption

We are told as parents of adult children not to give unsolicited advice. Same actually with friends and coworkers. I get how wary our grown children might be to seek advice because then there is the perceived expectation they must follow it. What happens when young people (and older ones) inquire of others  about life and what their experiences have been? Instead of going straight for the advice offering, our inquiring and listening can be a springboard can encourage and embolden toward wise decision-making. It is a joy to see people inquire of others – wanting to know them in deeper ways as well as wanting to know how more deeply to follow God in life.

In his sermon, Thompson used a passage out of the book of the Prophet Jeremiah.

Thus says the Lord , “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.'”Jeremiah 6:16

In the text, Jeremiah is challenging the people of Israel to take four actions as they proceed in life, especially in situations when they aren’t sure of the direction or struggle with making a sound decision. He says to:

  • Stand – when we come to a fork in any road (relationally or situationally), we should stop. We don’t have to have a knee-jerk response. We are not bound to take a direction we always have in the past. We stop…we stand…and
  • Look (or examine) – we take a breath. We count the cost. We consider.
  • Ask (or inquire) – Inquiring in this passage is done as a people not just an individual. We inquire of each other. We inquire of the Lord. We seek counsel. We explore the thinking of the others. We consider.
  • Walk in the good way. – Then, and only then, do we continue on. We do so with confidence and hopefully with peace and a pure heart…that we have considered God’s definition of what way is good, and we have considered those on the paths with us…not making assumptions but inquiring what is their thinking on the paths before them.

Jeremiah tells the people, if they will “stand…look…ask/inquire …and then walk (in the good path…God’s path, not our own self-serving or impulsive path) – we will have “rest for (y)our souls“.

The sad part of this verse is the last phrase: “But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’.” What makes us break with each other and/or with God? What makes us determined to go our own way, no matter where it leads?

In our culture today, the inclination is toward self-sufficiency and self-determination. We don’t know each other as we might if we would but lean in and inquire of (get to know, truly know) each other. We might do this on a small scale with those very closest to us, but on a larger “people of God” scale, we are what? Disinterested?

What are your thoughts? Please comment below.

The Conversational Habits that Build Better Connections – David Robson

3) Fall’s Breathtaking Beauty – Just a few shots from our neighborhood and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden:

4) A Rightful Memorial – A dear friend of ours died recently and his family arranged a fitting celebration of life. This 91-years-young man was a delight to his family and friends. He took so much joy in the people in his life and the work he relished in his long career. With faltering health and mounting years, his family knew time was precious and did all they could to be very present in his life. I wish I could provide an image of his crinkly, smiling eyes. All I can say is that he took joy in life. His family and friends took joy in his.

Funerals these days aren’t always treated as the opportunity to salute these passing figures entering into eternity. It’s a pity. Our friend (who I don’t identify by name to protect privacy) would himself have been pleased and humbled by this one. Military honors (including an honor guard, presenting the flag, and the shooting of three volleys) were an appropriate part of his funeral, given his military service, followed by his long years as a deep sea tugboat captain. The reading of Scripture and singing of hymns and remembrances from friends were all a part. The pastor spoke of his life and our friend’s relationship to Christ. We prayed and wiped tears away and counted ourselves blessed to know this friend, gone too soon at 91. See you again, dear Brother.

 

5) A Christmas Tree – For many, an early start on Christmas is just wrong. Sorry, not sorry. We start listening to Christmas music in October. Starting to decorate by mid-November is not to laud this holiday above all others. Simply, it is hard to pack in all the joy and remembering that come with Christmas in just the confines of one month. Our main Christmas tree is still stored. It will be covered with white lights and ornaments celebrating the birth of Jesus. [It actually stays up right through February 14 – Valentine’s Day – changing out the nativities to hearts and snowy winter ornaments.]

The Christmas tree we do have up (see images below) is one of a vintage feel. Colored lights (LED but reminiscent of my childhood). Ornaments depicting eras gone-by, storybook characters, and symbols of the past that continue to lift our hearts.

My parents’ names on quilted ornaments

Is your tree up? There’s still plenty of time… The lights have been a sweet respite from the darkness coming so early these days.

AND…for those who would appreciate a nod to our American Thanksgiving – the Hot Turkey Bowl at Wawa’s is amazing!

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Wawa Hot Turkey Bowl

Until next time…thanks for stopping by.

Bonuses:

Nokia to Release New Version of Its 6310 ‘Brick Phone’ – Andrew Court – This is so exciting if you are really wanting to get less screen intrusion in your life and just use your phone as a phone. It does have a camera but less than what we’ve become used to. Watching for its arrival in the US after its introduction to the UK market.

[With permission, the Instagram post below made me smile all over. That sweet girl and the amazing breakfast displayed. I miss Moroccan cafe breakfasts!!!]

Your 9-Step Strategy to Maintain Your Weight During the Holidays – Darya Rose

11 Mental Tricks to Stop Overthinking Everything – Scott Mautz

Leaders, Talk About Power to Protect the Vulnerable – Chris Davis

How to Maintain a Healthy Brain to Reduce the Risk of Dementia – Kailas Roberts

Watching Children Learn How to Lie – Gail Heyman

Gandalf’s Best Lord of the Rings Line Explains the Trilogy’s Magic – Susana Polo

How Anxiety and Depression Can Take Years Off Your Life

Photo Credit: Facebook, Gods Armour

5 Friday Faves – Life Without Forgiveness, the Power of Words, the CALM Superpower, COVID Close to Home, and the 20th Anniversary of 9/11

Here we go!

1) Life Without Forgiveness – An article on  life without forgiveness by Dave Burchett got me thinking even more about forgiveness. I’m in a study on Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by Lysa Terkeurst. Writing about it, too.

Life without forgiveness sounds truly awful. We imprison ourselves to the past and drag it into our present day and future with treasured grudges. Grudges we feel we can’t afford to lay down. They become part of our identity and how people relate to us – either protecting, justifying, or, at times, “returning evil for evil”.

Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, William Arthur Ward

We have the power to release ourselves and all these entrapped with us…through forgiveness. We need God to help us, for sure. We however must make the decision to forgive. Pretending to do so while hatred gains strength in our hearts is a delusion. God help us.

Here’s a bit of what Dave Burchett says in his article (read the whole here):

“There is no way I have found to release grudges without the healing power of forgiveness. Author Will Davis wrote this powerful insight.

‘Once you decide to forgive, you initiate the healing process. Forgiveness gives your soul permission to move on to the higher and healthier ground of emotional recovery. Forgiveness is to your soul what antibiotics are to infection. It is the curative agent that will help to fully restore your soul. It doesn’t immediately remove the pain of offense but it does start you on the road to recovery.’

I really like that perspective. The decision to forgive initiates but does not complete our healing. You will, in time, heal. I am asking you to pray that you can begin the healing process of forgiveness knowing that only time and God’s mercy can fully heal. That will start you down that road to forgiveness and empowerment to let go of the grudges that are weighing you down. You won’t get there today or tomorrow. But you will never get there without taking the first step of faith.” – Dave Burchett

Photo Credit: Spark People

Burchett refers to the song “Without Forgiveness” by Jerry Salley. Here’s a sweet cover by Jason Davidson:

2) The Power of Words – Words mean things. In fact, they are more powerful than we can imagine. Author, speaker Jackie Hill Perry has referred to a poem which says “Words make worlds”. Now I haven’t been able to find that poem, BUT I have read Genesis 1-3 with the account of God speaking the world into existence.

Photo Credit: Lidia Yuknavitch, @Seek5, Pinterest

Perry spoke on the power of words at a women’s conference. She used the text of the Apostle James’ epistle. James 3. This passage focuses on the influence of the tongue. She elaborated on three points:

  • The tongue is accountable. [We are responsible for our use of words. When we have torn down instead of building up, we will experience consequences. It does not go unheeded.]
  • The tongue is powerful. [We must control our tongues…what we say. Self-control has a wide reach, especially starting with “restraining our speech”. Words can hurt, but they can also heal.]
  • The tongue is inconsistent. [We say one thing to one person and turn around and say another thing to someone else. We may bless God and then curse a neighbor, made in the image of God. Perry talks about the huge disconnect when we speak with reverence of God but with contempt or disdain toward another human being. Words can be a “restless evil”. Pay attention. Are others’ names and personhoods safe on our lips?]

Listen to this fascinating and charged talk by Jackie Hill Perry.

Words Create Worlds – The Language We Use Shapes the Culture We Lead – Eric Geiger

3) The CALM Superpower – Author, leadership trainer Carey Nieuwhof recently interviewed psychologist Jennifer Kolari on his podcast. She spoke on dealing with irrational people, and, in fact, any situation of conflict. I learned so much.

[I’ve written about the brain, decision-making, and dealing with crisis many times. Such fascinating issues!]

Dr. Kolari introduced her CALM technique of dealing with conflict (including helping children in conflict with you or others). In brief, “the CALM method is a way of deep listening using language, compassion and empathy literally as medicine. It will soothe and calm AND bring both participants in the conversation into brain-heart coherence.”

Here’s a brief outline of the framework:
C – CONNECT – connect before correcting; deeply listen; give the sense that you are “for them”.
A – AFFECT – match the affect of the person in front of you; don’t say how the other person SHOULD feel; show understanding.
L – LISTEN – deeply; take that affect above into what you’re hearing; wonder at it; choose your responses based on what is being said to you, including the emotion. Respond not react.
M – MIRROR – allow what’s going on with the person to “hit you right in the heart”. Be in the moment with them/him/her. We do this with babies intuitively. Communicate with your face and body even more than with words.

Listen to the podcast. Check out the resources below. We too often go to correction, with other adults and definitely with children, when they need connection first…and maybe only.

Connect With Your Kids Using the CALM Technique

YouTube Video – Jennifer Kolari – The CALM Technique and Child Brain Development – really fascinating and informative

YouTube Video – The CALM Technique for Babies and Toddlers

4) COVID Close to Home – I’m not saying much here, but COVID has hit very close to home this week. I have friends and family with COVID. Check your thoughts if you’re going straight to “oh…not vaccinated”. Not so in every situation. People who did everything “right” – vaccination, mitigation, all the preventions – can still get COVID. The graphic below is updated often and is super helpful.

Photo Credit: Wesleyan College

The most important points in this conversation are these:

  • COVID is real and we will have to deal with it for some time (not at a pandemic level forever but definitely as endemic).
  • Everyone has to make personal decisions on how to prevent and treat it. To not make a decision is to make a dangerous decision. I’m not saying what to do (enough people are telling us what to do), BUT I am saying to think through our risks and that of those around us, and make informed decisions.
  • Be prepared. You don’t want to start searching out what to do to lessen the impact of COVID when you are already sick.
  • Test early. Even if it might be something else. Testing early helps you and all those who may come in contact with you (if it turns out you test positive.

The pieces below are actually not in support of one methodology or another. In fact, they expose the hard decision-making needed in determining how to act with the threat of COVID. We can depend on (or react against) mandates from government, or we can make the best possible decision we can, given the information we receive.

By the way, my friends and family members are all on the mend… except for one. On a ventilator, with family called in. We are praying still. This is why we can’t be cavalier with our decisions.

Let’s Stop Pretending About the COVID-19 Vaccines – Buzz Hollander, MD

Impact of Masking – Twitter thread – Buzz Hollander MD

FDA Vaccine Regulators Argue Against COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters in New International Review – Andrew Joseph

5) 20th Anniversary of 9/11 – Part of why Friday Faves is coming out on Monday is because I’ve spent an enormous amount of time this week watching, reading, and listening to stories about 9/11. It’s the 20th anniversary of the bombings.

In the twenty years that have passed since 2001, our country has changed so much. We are divided in really unhealthy ways. On that day…for awhile, we came together. We may have had very conflicted views on what happened after (Iraqi War, immigration issues, and the long engagement in Afghanistan). Whatever our opinions are on these, the stories of that day are so worthy of our time and attention.

Photo Credit: Beth Wayland

One of the most beautiful pieces I read this past week was by writer Jennifer Senior for the Atlantic. It was really long, but she did justice to the loss and grief of just this one family. 27 y/o Bobby McIlvaine died that day at the bottom of the World Trade Center. Son, brother, friend, fiancé. His was just one of thousands of stories that day…it matters and it also reflects the many other stories that we don’t know.

The two videos below speak to the day after September 11, 2001 and to the day 20 years later. Take the time…

“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.” – Naomi Shihab Nye

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Bonuses:

Community – “Every arrow needs a bow: William Wilberforce” — the power of community. If Wilberforce was the arrow that pierced the heart of the slave trade, the Clapham Fellowship was the bow that propelled him. As Pollock writes, “Wilberforce proves that one man can change his times, but he cannot do it alone.” The Clapham fellowship lived by Wesley’s maxim: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” And this was no mere slogan: tensions developed in their relationship that would have splintered most associations, even Christian associations, had they not been so radically centered on Christ.” — “Every Arrow Needs a Bow,” by John Hart, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, July 1998 [This was a quote in my folder of quotes; I can’t find the source online today, but it rings even more true now.]

Photo Credit: Vala Afshar, Twitter

This Is What Happens to Your Brain When You Declutter Your Home – Kelsey Clark

“If we major in criticism, we become polemicists, rather than agents of redemption. Often polemicists excuse their loveless rough edges by the demands of truth. But they lose more than they realize. In fact, when love and the growth of positive truth are lost, truth is also lost. Biblical truth loses its scope, balance, depth, applicability, savor, and growing edge [in this disordered priority]. … Words that are not constructive, timely, and grace-giving are rotten and non-nutritive, whatever their formal likeness to Christian content (Eph 4:29). To lose charity, tenderheartedness, sympathy, and generosity is always to simultaneously pervert the redemptive nature of biblical revelation. Narrowed “truth” may bristle enough to defend one city wall, but it is not good enough to conquer the world.” – David Powlison’s “Cure of Souls” (2007)
Recipe for a Quick and Easy Cherry Cobbler – my husband’s favorite
Photo Credit: Lena Vo, Facebook

 

8 Ways to Build a Strong Foundation for Your Kids – Frank Sonnenberg

Remembering 9/11 – 20 years Later – and the Day Before – a Story about God and a Girl

Genessa (l) and April, Cairo, Egypt

[From the Archives – “Remember 9/11 – and the Day Before – a Story of God and a Girl”]

Today marks the eve of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in the US. We all have our stories of where we were when we heard that terrible news. I heard the news as an elevator door opened in a hospital emergency room in Cairo, Egypt. The surgeon watching for us to deliver the patient, walked into the elevator. His face strained (me thinking it related to the patient with me). Then he said, “I am so, so sorry.” I thought he was referring to the precious one on the stretcher beside me, so small and injured from a terrible bus accident the day before. It turns out he was talking about the news that had traveled instantly from the States about the 9/11 bombings. I’d like to go back to the day before. For us, it would help to go there, before I can ever process the grief of this day that we all share.

It was like any other Monday, that bright, warm September 10th in Cairo, Egypt…until the phone call. Janna was on the other end of the call, telling me that Genessa and April had been in a bus accident on the Sinai. April had called her and relayed their location, at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh. These were girls in our Middle Eastern Studies Program, and they were finishing their time with us, taking a vacation together. They would re-trace some of their experiences in Bedouin villages across the Sinai and then enjoy a few days on the Red Sea. They were to return that Monday of 9/10, traveling in on one of the over-night buses across the desert.

Details will have to wait for another time, but with this information, my husband, Dave, left immediately with Janna and a local Egyptian friend who was also one of our language coaches. He took these two women because of their relationship with each other and with all of us. He also understood that there were two injured friends hours away in a hospital who would need women to minister to their needs. I would be praying and on the phone the rest of the day with families, other friends, US Embassy people, and our other young people in the program. I can’t begin to describe the emotional nature of that day…not knowing, hoping, praying.

When Dave and our friends arrived at the hospital, he was directed to April. She had painful, serious injuries, but none life-threatening, praise God. Then he was escorted into the critical care area to see Genessa. To his horror, it wasn’t Genessa. It was another young woman, unconscious – an Italian tourist, who rode in the same ambulance with April. April, lucid and still able to communicate, had tried to comfort her on that long dark ride to the hospital. Personal belongings were all scrambled at the wreck site, and the authorities made the mistakened decision that because April was speaking to her, she was Genessa.

Then Dave went on the search for our dear one…somewhere else in the Sinai. He back-tracked toward the site of the accident, checking other hospitals where other injured were taken. At this point, he was also talking to US Embassy staff, as he drove through the desert. Just shortly before he arrived at the hospital where he would find Genessa, the staff person told him they confirmed her identification from a credit card she had in her pocket…in the morgue of that small village hospital.

Dave, our Egyptian friend, and Janna, that friend who received the first phone call, stood beside this precious girl’s body, to make the formal identification…to know for sure that this was Genessa. And it was…and yet not. She, the luminous, laughing, loving girl we knew, was gone. It was more than any of us who loved her could take in on that Monday evening in Cairo, Egypt…the day before 9/11.

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Genessa-with-team1.jpg

As they left the hospital to return to April, two more friends joined them from Cairo to help. For any of you who have been completely spent in every way by such a day, you can understand what it was for them to look up and see Matt and Richard getting out of a car. God, in His great goodness, alerted them, stirred their hearts to drive all those hours…and then to arrive…just when they were most needed. So many arrangements had to be made…and most importantly, at that moment, to get April back safely and quickly to Cairo for surgery.

She came into Cairo on a plane near the middle of the day of 9/11. By the time we got her from the airport in an ambulance to the specialty hospital to get the further care she needed, a series of horrific events had begun taking place in the US. We would hear of them from this caring Egyptian surgeon…who had no idea how numb we were from losing Genessa and how concerned we were that April got what she needed as soon as possible. We were already so drenched by grief, this unfathomable news about the bombings washed over us without understanding the scope of it…the pain of it…for all the rest of America.

Later in that day, with April receiving the best care possible, and me watching by her side, I could take in some of the loss coming at us on the small t.v. mounted in the hospital room. Egyptians were telling us how so, so sorry they were for us (as Americans). If they only knew, they were our mourners for our loss of Genessa, too. In the din of world-changing news, and a country brought together in grief…we grieved, too, a continent away…for the losses of 9/11 and the day before.

That was 20 years ago…April healed from her injuries (only she and God know what all that took on the inside), the other young people in our program have gone on to careers and families across the US and around the world. We have also gone on…back to the US and to other work.

Two things have not changed…a beautiful girl, who fell asleep by the window of a bus in the Sinai night and woke up in Heaven… and the God who welcomed her Home. There is so much, much, more to this story, but I have to close with this. As her family back in the US were pulling the pieces of their lives back together, and going through Genessa’s things, they found a little cassette player on her bed…there left by her, two years before, as she left for Cairo. In it was a cassette where she’d made a tape of her singing one of her favorite songs, I Long for the Day, by singer/songwriter Dennis Jernigan. Toward the end of the song you can hear Genessa’s tears in her voice, singing to the Lord. We would sometimes have the opportunity of being in the room when Genessa led worship in those days. She couldn’t hold the tears back. So in a space just God and her.

If we look at Genessa’s life through the lens of some American dream, then we would think how tragic to die so young, so full of promise. Look through the lens of how much she loved God, and knowing Him was what mattered most to her…and all who knew her knew His love through her.

This God…and this girl.  Genessa

 I Long for the Day by Dennis Jernigan

I long for the day when the Lord comes and takes me away!

Whether by death or if You come for me on a horse so white

And anyway You come will be alright with me

I long to just hear You said, “Now is the time. Won’t you come away?”

And I’ll take Your hand, surrendering completely to You that day!

And no, I can’t contain the joy that day will bring!

Chorus:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment I’ll be celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

O Lord, while I wait, I will cling to each word that You say.

So speak to my heart; Your voice is life to me, be it night or day.

And anything You say will be alright with me.

You see my heart’s greatest need

You and me, walking intimately.

You’re my only love, and I am waiting patiently for Your call.

When You call me to Your side eternally.

(Chorus Repeat)

Lord, I celebrate You!

Forever with You! No crying there.

Forever with You! No burden; no more worldly cares.

My heart is anticipating eternally with you celebrating You!

Forever with You I long to be;

Forever worshipping, knowing You intimately!

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

I’ll spend forever just celebrating You.

I’ll see all my loved ones gone before

I’ll get to be with them, laugh with them, hold them once more

There’ll be no more separating! [No separating]

Together we will be celebrating You!

Together we’ll worship You and sing.

Forever praising Lord Jesus, our Savior and King.

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

Enter your rest, and start celebrating, too.

Forever Lord, I’ll be celebrating You.

Chorus Repeat:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment of celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

Dennis Jernigan, from the album I Belong to Jesus (Volume 2)