Category Archives: America

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar Sweetness, Words Matter, Leading Teams, Long-lost Relatives, and Shared Sacrifice

Happy Weekend!

I don’t know about you, but this pandemic has me way more distracted than I want to be. It’s a good thing to be informed and to abide by the recommended safe practices. The struggle for me is the bent toward being glued to the news updates. Becoming a content expert on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a private citizen will not make a difference in the larger…global…sense of this problem.

For the moment, let’s be champions of safe practices and in tune to our communities, especially the most at-risk, vulnerable. We can still reach out, in creative ways, still maintaining social distancing for now.

How thankful we all are for the medical/nursing professionals, first responders, scientists, and policy-makers out there helping us get through this! Also the lab workers, waste management folks, truckers, grocery and other food providers, farmers, etc. etc.

Two weeks…let’s pray these two weeks can make a difference (in all our countries) in the morbidity/mortality of this strange and sobering disease.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus – A Guide to Christian Leaders – Andy Crouch [the author will update as our situation in the US changes]

1) Classical Guitar Sweetness –This week Nathan Mills arranged and performed the exquisite Pure Imagination. This is one of the lovely songs composed by  Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley for the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Listen to Nathan’s sweetly nostalgic arrangement here.

Photo Credit: YouTube

2) Words matter. – Our nation has been divided along political and ideological lines for some time now. With the growing and deadly problem of the Coronavirus in our country, we are being compelled to come together to turn around the devastation of this disease. In just over five weeks, we in the US have gone from a handful of cases to over 25,000. The political race for the next US Presidency has gone almost quiet, as everyone with any power does what they can for the sake of all Americans.

For our politicians to be willing to cooperate across the aisle and to speak the truth to each other and all of us, it sends a huge message of hope. Maybe we can come together as a nation again one day.

I wrote earlier this week about what we could learn from Mr. Rogers. The quote below is his…and serves us well today. If forgiveness didn’t take root in your young lives, it isn’t too late.

“Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love. Like all of life’s important coping skills, the ability to forgive and the capacity to let go of resentments most likely take root very early in our lives.”Fred Rogers

45 Quotes From Mr. Rogers That We All Need Today – Geoffrey James

3) Leading Teams – Patrick Lencioni in the business world and Carey Nieuwhof in the church world are two of my favorite thought leaders. Below you will find two recent posts by them. Lencioni talks about the ideal team player in a new TEDx talk. I read his book of the same name and was enthralled by his talk on the three attributes of that team member – humble, hungry and smart. He also points out what you have to deal with when a teammate doesn’t have all three. The TEDx talk is a fast and fascinating rendering of his book.

Then Carey Nieuwhof takes on our current situation of teams working remotely. With so many of us practicing social distancing (a new phrase thanks to the Coronavirus), leading a “digital team” can be complicated. Nieuwhof gives wise counsel in his quick read below. Personalizing the experience of working from home is key.

My Top 7 Rules For Leading A Digital Team

4) Long-lost Relatives – Have you ever gone looking for relatives you’ve lost touch with? I’ve certainly done that with friends, and thanks to Facebook, long-ago relationships were happily rekindled.

In recent days, with the threat of this virus, and our hearts enlarging toward others, an opportunity presented itself to find cousins long-lost. Because of my parents’ divorce, my biological father’s family was a complete unknown. My mom and her siblings grew up with an alcoholic father). As happens with adult children of alcoholics, the shared pain was not something that held them together. One cousin who I haven’t seen in at least 30 years reached out to me, and we had a long and lovely phone conversations.

He filled in so many gaps on his family, and I was grateful. We also talked about my family, of course. His genuine interest and care touched my heart. Now I’m inspired to widen the search. To be honest, some of the conversations ahead may be painful…losses unshared, evolved misunderstandings…who knows what I will encounter. The risk is worth the reward of knowing these people… overdue as it is.

5) Shared Sacrifice – This is a new expression for me. I thought it was a concept borne out of our fight as a nation against the Coronavirus. However, it’s been used before – this idea of all of us cinching up our belts for one another’s sakes. President Obama talked about “shared sacrifice” and now President Trump calls us to it. Sociologist Jerome Karabel posted this week a beautiful piece on how the US steps up during times of war:

“America’s history demonstrates that, in times of war, we can rise above our ardent individualism and suspicion of the government and come together to defend the public good. So if we can…come to perceive today’s crisis as a war, we will rise to the occasion as we have done in the past. 

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, a spirit of shared sacrifice was everywhere visible: in the thousands of men and women who volunteered for duty, in the public’s acceptance of rationing, in labor’s no-strike pledge, in the purchase of war bonds by Americans of every economic level, and in the eighteen million “victory gardens” which produced one-third of the nation’s vegetables. During World War II, business converted to wartime production with astonishing speed, producing 300,000 military planes, 86,000 tanks, and 71,000 ships…[Today] the nation is at war with a deadly and stealthy foe. Like World War II, the current situation demands personal sacrifice and social solidarity. But unlike in World War II, we cannot wait years to win the war; this is a war that must be won in weeks, or at most, months. Every day of delay has the potential to cost thousands of lives. And if we do not act with decisiveness now, the toll may go well beyond the 405,399 Americans who died in World War II.” – Jerome Karabel

As government advances billions, if not trillions, of dollars into our economy, we in the private sector, businesses and private citizens, can share the burden of a nation under attack…and we will.

Photo Credit: Chili’s, Facebook

Walmart Announces Special Cash Bonus and Early Payment of Q1 Bonuses Totaling Nearly $550 Million for Hourly Associates

Kevin Love Kicks Off Support Drive for Arena Workers with $100k Pledge – Dave McMenamin – Just one of many stories of professional athletes showing appreciation for the many whose work serves their fans during a time when games have been cancelled/postponed.

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That’s five of my favorites for the week. How about you? The Comment section below is waiting for your words on life in this season of the Coronavirus.

Stay well.

Bonuses:

ImagePhoto Credit: Twitter, Lifeway

I’ve Been Working From Home for Eight Days. The Netflix-and-quarantine Life is Not That Chill. – Geoffrey A. Fowler

30 Edifying Things to Watch When Stuck at Home – Brett McCracken

Remember Typing Class: The Class That Actually Mattered in the Long Run – Dana Daly – I am still an fast and accurate typist, thanks to Coach Dan Smith, back in high school. How about you?

Paris Museums Put 100,000 Images Online for Unrestricted Public Use – Jason Kottke

Why I Hate That Howard Thurman Quote

How Giving up Refined Sugar Changed My Brain – Michael Grothaus

YouTube Video – Maurizio Marchini Serenades City of FLorence From His Balcony During the Italian Quarantine Lockdown

YouTube Video – Heartwarming Moments Quarantined Italians Sing Together From Balconies – check out other videos of Italians quarantined, singing to one another from their balconies.

Monday Morning Moment – What Can Mr. Rogers Teach Us About Life in This Coronavirus Crisis?

Photo Credit:  Flickr; NPR

Coronavirus COVID-19 seems to have taken center stage in the world today, and rightfully so. It is a terrible illness that kills some of our most vulnerable – especially the elderly and those with underlying disease. Our government (like many in the world) is appealing for us to do all we can to reduce the spread of this deadly virus. Handwashing, not touching our faces, social distancing, and testing if symptomatic. We have been asked to avoid gathering in groups larger than 10. Schools, universities, gyms, various government agencies, and some businesses are closed to safeguard the larger population.

I find myself, because of age and health history, to be in that “at-risk” population, so life has become much less peopled and much more quiet.

At home this weekend, Dave and I finally watched the 2019 film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”. It focuses on the life and work of children’s television personality Mr. (Fred) Rogers (played by Tom Hanks). In the biographical film, we watch unfold a relationship between Mr. Rogers and the journalist Tom Junod (played by Matthew Rhys). The writer met Mr. Rogers on an assignment to interview him for the 1998 Esquire article “Can You Say…Hero?”.

YouTube Video – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – Official Trailer

The film begins slow and quiet, much like this new normal for me (my husband is still working like a crazy man, so not so much for him). I was about to release Dave from watching it with me, and then the story totally captured our attention.

At the end of the movie (which I highly recommend), Mr. Rogers’ sweet personality and deep wisdom seem to find an anchor in what we’re dealing with at present. Here are my thoughts and some of what he had to say, as if in response (although Mr. Rogers died in 2003 at the age of 74).

1) To avoid contracting and/or spreading the Coronavirus, some of us must settle on a quieter lifestyle for awhile.

“How many times have you noticed that it’s the little quiet moments in the midst of life that seem to give the rest extra-special meaning?”Fred Rogers

Even days into this social distancing thing, I’m finding that the quiet is helping me reflect on and think through issues and ideas that I’d left unattended in previous more busy days. For some of you, with children home from cancelled school and carrying more responsibility than less, this quiet may still elude. Do what you can to chase after it. It may be one of the most crucial outcomes of this trial.

2) In this unique crisis, we are making intentional decisions to protect the most vulnerable…even facing our own hardships while about it.

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”Fred Rogers

Mr. Rogers communicated in the film, his TV show, and in the songs he composed that “Each one of us is precious.” It is so moving…so transforming…to actually be a part of a nation’s resolve to protect our more elderly and those at risk because of underlying health issues. This protecting of the most vulnerable will have enormous cost for some…for many in our country (and the world). It is a humanizing step for us.

Although close contact is being discouraged in public places for now, we still want to reach out to each other in healthy and creative ways.

3) As we isolate to avoid the spread of this virus, we still can show care for each other…just in different ways.

“All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors–in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”Fred Rogers

“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”Fred Rogers

In Mr. Rogers’ life, one way he showed care for those in his life was to pray for them by name, every day. He spent long early morning hours in prayer for one after another, sometimes even strangers who had asked him to pray. His faith wasn’t something he paraded on his TV program, but he lived it deeply and openly in his relationships. It is something we can do while socially distancing.

Also we are watching government agencies and private corporations cooperate in the fight of Coronavirus. We are seeing a different level of civility between political parties, a heightened cooperation. We all have something dreadfully in common right now in the fight against this virus. Good questions are being raised and better answers given.

4) We can have hope for what comes out of all this.

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”Fred Rogers

“There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.”Fred Rogers

Our church is helping with a feeding program for our city schools during the shutdown. This is the beginning of a relationship that we didn’t have before. What we are learning, as a country, from this virus, and how to combat it, will help us with future viral assaults. I see hope more than despair, even in countries hardest hit.

45 Quotes From Mr. Rogers That We All Need Today – Geoffrey James

5) Those in our helping professions, along with the scientists, and the many change agents in the wide and diverse management of this health crisis are our heroes right now.

“Look for the helpers.”Fred Rogers

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

How grateful we are for those who don’t have a quieter life right now. Those who are showing up every day for work, at great risk to their own health. The first responders, the doctors and nurses, the scientists, and our government representatives – working long hours. For us all. It is a joy to look for the helpers…and to be among them as opportunity arises, which it will.

Mister Rogers Said to ‘Look for the Helpers.’ Here’s How to Help Amid Coronavirus Panic. – Joshua Bote

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Thank you, Mr. Rogers, Dear Man. Thank you, Tom Hanks, for reminding us of his wisdom, love, and sparkle.

‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’: 5 of the Film’s Stars and Their Real-Life Inspirations – Umber Bhatti

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – 2018 Documentary on the life and thinking of Fred Rogers

15 Reasons Mr. Rogers Was Best Neighbor Ever – Mangesh Hattikudur

8 Things to Know About Mister Rogers From the Story That Inspired the Tom Hanks Movie – Scottie Andrew

Tom Hanks Plays Mister Rogers: Sharing Joy Is ‘The Natural State of Things’ – Scott Simon

Photo Credit: Instagram, Kristen Annie Bell; Ryan Alexander Boyles, Secondary Artifacts

Worship Wednesday – Control Girls, Miriam, and God – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Stuart Townend

[Excerpts from the Archives]

Now hear the word of the Lord, you women.
Pay attention to the words from his mouth. Teach your daughters a lament and one another a dirge, for Death has climbed through our windows; it has entered our fortresses, cutting off children from the streets, young men from the squares.

This is what the Lord says:

“The wise person should not boast in his wisdom; the strong should not boast in his strength; the wealthy should not boast in his wealth.
But the one who boasts should boast in this:
that he understands and knows me—
that I am the Lord, showing faithful love,
justice, and righteousness on the earth,
for I delight in these things.
This is the Lord’s declaration.” Jeremiah 9:20-21, 23-24

At first, reading this passage in Jeremiah, it could so resonate with our current situation with the Coronavirus and how some are responding to it. There’s a lot of boasting and blaming going on in our media of how we are doing with containing the virus. Then, back to the Scripture passage, the prophet Jeremiah turns the focus away from “us” and on to God.

The image above is a snapshot of part of a group of women in my life, studying the Word together. Writer Shannon Popkin has given us a first book entitled Control Girl – Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control From Seven Women in the Bible. It’s such a great book on what controlling does to us and our families…what a burden it actually is. All the stories are taken from the lives of Old Testament (from Eve to Moses’ sister Miriam. So much wisdom here.Photo Credit: Shannon Popkin

We just finished the chapter on Miriam, Moses’ sister. Miriam appears first in Scripture as the older sister of infant Moses, under threat of death by Pharoah. She was instrumental in saving his life. Years later, God used Moses in His work for the release of the Israelites from Egypt, and Miriam was right there with him, leading the women in praise to God. Moses, Miriam, and their brother Aaron, and Miriam were together in overseeing the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings.

For Miriam, her trouble began when she took her eyes off God and focused on her own importance. She burned with ambition and jealousy toward her brother, Moses. She and Aaron then spoke against Moses, both privately and publicly. The motivation appeared to be jockeying for more power for themselves. This triangling, this slander, moved God to anger. He knows our hearts and He measures his judgment accordingly. Miriam’s pain of judgment (leprosy) galvanized her two brothers to pray for their sister, and she was healed. Repentance and restoration followed. God’s love abounds.

When we are tempted to look on our own intelligence, strength, or wealth as superior (Jeremiah 9:23), we take on an arrogance that separates us from each other…and especially from God. What is our boast?

Let Him Who Boasts Boast in the Lord – John Piper

English songwriter Stuart Townend wrote the hymn How Deep the Father’s Love For Us. It was published in 1995, the year we moved to Cairo, Egypt. New to us, this hymn became a standard in our family from those early days of adjusting to a new life in another country.

New to a very different culture with little ability to communicate in the local language, we found it hard to boast in pretty much anything. This hymn was a strong and loving reminder that our boast is in Christ…In Christ Alone (another great Townend hymn).

Because of what Christ did for me…for us…on the cross, I am no longer separated from God by the penalty of my rebellion against Him. The debt I built up through life is paid in one great act of God through Christ – His perfect, sinless life substituted, in death, for my own sin-filled mess…for our own. There is nothing left to pay…nothing. Christ paid in full, on the cross, for all our sins.

There is a wonderful, omnipotent God who deserves our highest praise, and how we feel about it is in many ways irrelevant!  I want to encourage the expression of joy, passion and adoration, but I want those things to be the by-product of focusing on God – I don’t want them to become the subject matter. I’m trying to write songs that refer to us as little as possible, and to Him as much as possible!”Stuart Townend

Our focus in this life is not even on what we believe…It is not just that we “believe”… What Townend describes in this hymn, reflective of the truth of Scripture, isn’t just what we believe…it is what happened and was witnessed by others – the deep love of God displayed in the self-emptying life and death of His Son. Hallelujah!

In the study of Control Girl, the special women I’m privileged to know are grappling with how tempted, like Miriam, we are to take on ourselves “what’s best” for us, our families, our futures. Praise God, His love for us is not swayed by our struggle, our humanness, our sin…He ever draws us back to Himself. That alone is our boast. He alone is our boast.

Worship with me.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.*

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.1 John 3:1

…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 2:20b

*Lyrics – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Stuart Townend

Worship Wednesday – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Stuart Townend – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Lyrics (with Scripture portions that support them)

Women of the Bible – Lesson 1 – Miriam – Vickie Kraft

The Depth of Christ’s Love: Its Cost – John Piper

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Stuart Townend

Hymn Reflection: How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Adam Faughn

YouTube Video – Allison Durham Speer – I Will Glory in the Cross

5 Friday Faves – Coronavirus Panic, Hans Zimmer’s “Time”, Unless U, Community, and Signs of Spring

It’s Friday! Hope your workweek is ending well and the weekend looms lovely ahead of you. Here are this week’s favorite finds.

1) Coronavirus Panic – I’m not an alarmist. Alarm and panic is wreaking havoc in the US (and maybe around the world) related to the spread and morbidity of the Coronavirus (Covid-19). We all want to contain it and hope not to get it, or worse to spread it to others. Is there reason to be alarmed at present?

OK…so we can’t predict the future. Shaming those around us who are feeling panicky helps no one. Maybe some of us aren’t vigilant enough and may need the advice of those cautious to a fault. We learn from each other.

Five Reasons You Don’t Need to Panic About the COVID-19 Coronavirus – Ross Pomeroy

Pandemic Panic? These Five Tips Can Help You Regain Your Calm – Allison Aubrey

Pandemic? Don’t Panic – Dr. Cathaleen Madsen

While working at home this morning (in a very low-risk setting compared to some of you), I caught a bit of an interview with Dr. Drew Pinsky. It was so helpful. Listed below are his 7 action items. Simple and easy to put into action.

  • Don’t do unnecessary travel.
  • Use your Clorox Wipes wherever you go.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Get the flu shot.

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Social Distancing Not Yet Needed Nationwide to Fight Coronavirus – Today Show

What to Do If You’re Boarding a Plane in the Age of Coronavirus – Harriet Baskas

2) Hans Zimmer’s Time – This is a big week for Nathan MillsBeyond the Guitar. He has launched an Arranger’s Academy for guitarists to have the skill-set to take music they already love to arrange for guitar. [His launch with its reduced membership rate is only for a few more hours. Check it out. Later in the year, he will again take new members at what will be the usual cost].

In the midst of the launch, Nathan also arranged, performed and posted composer Hans Zimmer‘s beautiful theme “Time” from the film Inception. Enjoy.

Nathan Mills Live – Concert March 29 2020

3) Unless U – What can one person do? Here’s a story. Lindy Cleveland is the little sister to two treasured old brothers – one of whom has Down’s Syndrome. It was hard for Jordan as his brother and sister went off to college. He missed them and he wished for some of the experiences they were having. This touched Lindy’s heart so deeply, she had to act. Then others began to show up…

She was able to spark a grassroots movement of fellow educators, family members, and passionate donors and volunteers to create a continuing education campus experience for students with learning difficulties (special abilities). She named it Unless U.

“Unless you [Unless U] get involved, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”Lindy Cleveland

Here’s the story of Unless U:

TEDx Talk – Unless Someone Like You Cares – Lindy Cleveland

4) Community – We are grateful for community, whatever the experience of it. With community, we have a sense of belonging, of being seen/heard, of caring and being cared about. Thanks to Trevin’s Seven, I discovered this thought-provoking article below.

What is Community? An Illustration – Seth Kaplan

Dr. Kaplan‘s definition of community involves: “commitment to a certain social order—and, crucially, a place…We must also be available to help others—mentoring youth, donating money, volunteering for work. To earn acceptance and respect, we model good behaviour… Community formation cannot be easily explained or laid out in a plan of action. At times, it is more mystery than mechanics, subject to a wide range of factors that are beyond the control of any one actor. In general, groups begin as a product of strong, overlapping, interpersonal relationships… Keystone actors and institutions emerge as central supporting hubs, working to break down barriers and integrate disparate parts;…foster(ing) relationships and partnerships that together create a systemic effect well beyond the individuals directly involved. All these activities build trust where it may not have existed.”

This week, a devastating tornado cut a killer swath through middle Tennessee. It happened so fast that little could be done to get to safety for those in the path of this storm. At least 24 are dead and many more injured. One neighborhood in Cookeville, Tennessee, suffered great loss. 8 persons killed. All on one street. Devastating.Photo Credit: Baptist Press, First Baptist Mt. Juliet Facebook page

Within minutes, first responders arrived to help survivors injured or in shock from the deadly disaster. Then, so true to the Volunteer State of Tennessee, people kept showing up. Neighbors, student groups, local volunteers and folks coming from several states over. Then, of course, state and federal agencies, and government leaders.

If there wasn’t community before, this town, this neighborhood is forever changed. In the aftermath of this horrific storm, community showed itself strong…and true.

[There are various ways to give support to these survivors. Here and here are some.

5) Signs of Spring – We’ve had a relatively mild winter in the US, and with that an early Spring. Closing today’s Friday Faves with these signs of Spring.

Bonuses:

Corelle Recommends Using Their Pre-2005 Dishes as “Decorative Pieces” Due to Concerns for High Levels of Lead – Brittany Hambleton

Death on Demand Comes to Germany – Wesley J. Smith

Abortion and Eugenics – Justice Clarence Thomas

Hallmark Channel Censors Pro-Life Movie “Unplanned” From Its Annual Awards Show

12 Survival Skills Your Great-Grandparents Knew (That Most of Us Have Forgotten) – Sarah Schafer

5 Friday Faves – Mental Errors in Decision-making, Country Forever, Peggy Noonan, Love Letters, and Boomers

Another week; another weekend. Flew by. Here are my Friday Faves on a Sunday. Go.

1) Mental Errors and Decision-making – I really like the writer/speaker James Clear. He is the author of the best-seller Atomic Habits. He writes authoritatively about habits and decision-making, both topics that I find fascinating and life- and work-enriching. He also cares about the problem of malaria and its impact on the most vulnerable. [He donates a percentage of his book sales, etc. to the Against Malaria Foundation.] How is it that we haven’t come up with a cure for malaria?!Photo Credit: James Clear

This week, I discovered his article 5 Common Mental Errors That Sway Your Decision Making. Errors in our thinking can negatively affect our decision making, and we won’t necessarily see it happening. Clear’s 5 are listed below but click on the link for his fascinating and informative commentary on each:

  1. Survivor Bias – we point to those who are successful and forget that there are many more who tried doing the same thing without success.
  2. Loss Aversion – we err on the side of conservative when we hold onto what we already have rather than risking the gain of something even better.
  3. The Availability Heuristic – James Clear’s definition: We overvalue and overestimate the impact of things that we can remember and we undervalue and underestimate the prevalence of the events we hear nothing about. [Global violence/global peace. Examples in your life?]
  4. Anchoring – The tendency of “anchoring” your mind on the first information you obtain, and then jumping on the next bits of information as improved from the first (ex. regular price and then sale price).
  5. Confirmation Bias – We are more included to look for information that supports our beliefs rather than consider what goes against our beliefs.

Read Clear’s book, subscribe to his weekly newsletter, and follow James Clear on Twitter. He will help you become an excellent decision-maker.

The Decision Making Guide: How to Make Smart Decisions and Avoid Making Bad Ones – James Clear

YouTube Video – Atomic Habits: How to Get 1% Better Every Day – James Clear

2) Country Forever – If you don’t like country music, this might not be your thing. Still the production of this medley of country songs made me smile. Just to think back on all these great songs. Marking the seasons of life sweetened by this music. Click on the link and you’ll see what I’m talking about. So glad to have these memories.

3) Peggy Noonan – I’m so thankful we were invited by friends to share in a subscription to The Richmond Forum. This past week, we sat enthralled listening to the latest speaker, writer Peggy Noonan. Her take on the last six presidents of the United States and what they could have learned from their predecessors was brilliant. Insightful, and both funny and sobering. I took notes in the dark as she spoke.

Peggy Noonan was speech writer to President Reagan, and she continues to use her words to help our nation understand where we are and how we might think on our situation. She is courageous, fair, hopeful. I’m still processing her talk on our Presidents, but she was one of this week’s Faves for me. Below are some of my favorite quotes of hers from other places and times:

We must try again to be alive to what the people of our country really long for in our national life: forgiveness and grace, maturity and wisdom.

You don’t have to be old in America to say of a world you lived in: That world is gone.

You don’t tell people who disagree with you they’d be better off somewhere else. And you don’t reduce them to stereotypes; you address them as fully formed people worthy of respect. You try to persuade them.

I love eulogies. They are the most moving kind of speech because they attempt to pluck meaning from the fog, and on short order, when the emotions are still ragged and raw and susceptible to leaps.

Presidents have a right to certain prerogatives, including the expectation of a certain deference. He’s the president; this is history. But we seem to have come a long way since Ronald Reagan was regularly barked at by Sam Donaldson, almost literally, and the president shrugged it off.

Democracy involves that old-fashioned thing called working it out.

I ought to pray as much as God’s on my mind, because then I’d pray a lot. All I can tell you is God is real, and so that infuses everything.

[All the above Peggy Noonan quotes are taken from Brainy Quote, except the first was on The Richmond Forum page.]

4) Love Letters – Dave and I discovered we were in love at the first part of summer in 1983. We parted company for that summer as I returned to Georgia and he stayed in Connecticut. He wrote me every day…every single day…until I returned again. I’m pretty sure it ruined him for letter writing from then on.

An early and powerful influence in my life was the writing of Jim Elliot. The quote below had a strong impact in my 20-something life.Photo Credit: Brainy Quote, Jim Elliot

Years ago, I read a collection of his journal published by his wife:

Shadow of the Almighty: the Life and Testament of Jim Elliot – Elisabeth Elliot

Now their one daughter, Valerie Elliot Shepard, just 10 months old when her father was killed, has published a collection of love letters.

Devotedly, the Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot

The love letters between Jim and Elisabeth Elliot.

I’ve just started reading the book, and it is one of the most intimate experiences I’ve had in reading. Elisabeth Elliot, through the years, also became a distant mentor to me. Her writing and teaching. I would never meet her or hear her speak in person, but it didn’t matter. She, like her late husband, Jim, taught me much about fiercely and resolutely loving God with all one’s heart.

The letters span their friendship, lengthy courtship, and engagement. They wrestled with their love for each other, because both loved God first…supremely. They finally found a way to walk together with God, and their letters are so beautiful, so full of love for Him and for each other.

[Video preview]

5) Boomers – I still watch the TV show This Is Us. It is so emotional and full of flash-backs and flash-forwards that Dave stopped watching it with me. Season 4/Episode 15 “Clouds” was the one I watched this week. In the episode, the expression “OK Boomer” was used by son, Kevin, when he watched his mom, Rebecca, at a record store, reminisce over the Joni Mitchell song “Our House” (actually written by Graham Nash). Mom Rebekah said, “I miss the crackle on the record right before the music starts.”

I knew exactly what she was talking about…that sound. “OK Boomer!” Anyway, that scene (not on YouTube or I would share it) did take me back…to my own younger Boomer days when singer/songwriters Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young made up some of the  soundtracks of our lives.

Photo Credit: Neil Young News

Graham Nash “Our House” – Lydia Hutchinson

OK Boomers, any memories of your own you’d be willing to share in Comments below?

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That’s it for this week. Hope you are well and able to have a bit more rest before the weekend closes down. Monday awaits.

Bonuses:

‘When I have to search a student’s cell phone, I’m sick to my stomach at what I find. It gets worse every year.’: Assistant principal’s plea for parents to monitor cell phone use, ‘The internet is the most dangerous place behind closed doors’

Just How Contagious is COVID-19? This Chart Puts It in Perspective – Matthew R. Francis

Death Index: Top 59 Ways Americans Die – some surprises and some not.

Monday Morning Moment – Cultural Contradictions – Why We Can’t All Just Get Along*

Photo Credit: Deb Mills, Mission BBQ

Right through college, I wondered, with hope, at the question:

“Why can’t we all just get along?”

With enough will, effort, and care, we should all be able to find some common ground…where we can agree more than we disagree.

That was decades ago, and the world has changed so much. We still remember how it once was (we all do, no matter our generation), and we examine our world today with those lenses…and are mortified.

I am still hopeful…but not in the somewhat childish idea that it is possible to agree if we care enough. However, I do believe we can understand each other, if we care enough. And be gracious.

It is not necessary, and no way helpful, to blame, and boil over in anger at what we consider the stupidity or short sidedness of “the other side”…whatever that is. It just alienates and isolates and dims the possibility of working toward real solutions to problems.

Monday Morning Moment – Life and Politics – What If We Refused to Get Angry? – Deb Mills

I don’t want to be angry anymore. I want to treat people with grace, and respect, and genuine interest. Including people who don’t agree with me…and I’m not alone.

Defuse America’s Explosive Politics – Politicians in Both Parties Need to Clean Up Their Own Side of the Street – Peggy Noonan

America is divided along so many lines. Those lines are blurred by cultural contradictions. What does that mean? When we say we believe one thing but our actions communicate something very different. Or vice versa.

Examples?

  • We celebrate Thanksgiving Day in America, expressing gratitude for all we have, and then make a mad rush to the stores hours later to buy more.
  • Our elected officials say they care about the poor and yet the economically disadvantaged continue to be so, but our politicians get richer and richer.
  • We talk about health care for all, but in its current state it’s too costly for those who can already afford to pay for some measure of insurance. We do nothing about health care reform but want health care for all.
  • Americans have a high regard for life, and yet the most vulnerable – those who can’t defend themselves – the unborn – are, at times, considered disposable.
  • We see the painful racial divides in our country, and yet the walls continue to go up (built by the major political parties in their own unique ways, along with educators and celebrity influencers).
  • We feel a sense of ownership/stewardship over the earth, but again, we mainly just point fingers in blame, rather than coming to a policy table to wrestle through the problems and solutions.
  • We are proud of being a nation of immigrants, and yet for decades our government has been unable to exact reform in our sluggish immigration system – except either to temporarily protect or bar illegal immigrants or to wall off our borders. Our immigrant numbers dwindle and we blame…rather than work across our differences.

[Even in writing these examples, I find myself blaming. Forgive me. As an evangelical and political conservative, I have my own hopes for solving the contradictions listed above…but it would be thrilling to have the opportunity to observe or participate in problem-solving that “reaches across the aisle.”].

As another example, it’s a grievous thing when we Christians rabidly go after each other – on social media mostly – over our choices of political platforms or candidates. If we follow the teachings and life of Christ, we are always to forgive, no matter what, and to love even our enemies. How would our social media posts look during an election year if we, just us Christians, practiced our faith in this way?

How would our conversations go if we would keep listening and asking questions across our cultural contradictions? And determined not to judge each other in those contradictions?

What got me thinking about this is the increase of fairly surly posts popping up as the Presidential primaries are upon us…We agree on so many things…but some of the “loudest” things currently being broadcasted divide us and get personal. Righteous indignation doesn’t stay righteous when it moves from issues to individuals.

Then Trevin Wax‘s blog got my attention – The Maddening Contradictions of Our Current Moment . He engaged with the British journalist Douglas Murray on his book The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity . Two brilliant men who agree and disagree and yet give us much to consider in this contentious culture of ours. Take time to read that post…I learned so much.

Another place that helps me, as a passionate but somewhat passive observer, is Twitter. I follow some who are very much like me, somewhat like me, and nothing at all like me. They teach exquisite lessons on our post-Christian culture…where we do not have to interact in a post-Christ way. We can still be civil, caring and clear.

This is its own form of cross-cultural communication – learning how to winsomely engage people given all our cultural contradictions. We find ourselves in an intellectual and spiritual quagmire, but we can learn to recognize distinctions and learn how to keep talking and to stay engaged with each other.

[Don’t miss these writers below – whether you agree with all they say…their clarity is refreshing. Let’s learn from them.]

Must Pro-Life Mean Pro-Trump? – Karen Swallow Prior

The Science of Being ‘Nice’: How Politeness Is Different From Compassion – Kun Zhao and Luke Smillie

Four Lies on the Left That Make It Tough to Change Culture – David French

Managing Cultural and Emotional ‘Contradictions” at Work – Michael Moffa

*Can’t We All Just Get Along? – Warren Berger

Monday Morning Moment – Life & Politics – What If We Refused to Get Angry?

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

A friend of mine reached out to me this week with this dilemma. A Christian herself, she finds herself in the middle of a stand-off between pro-choice non-Christian colleagues and pro-life Christian friends. Each side angry at the other, without even knowing each other, just on principle alone.

I’ve been puzzling over her situation all week, and then yesterday, thanks to a pastor friend, an answer came. In fact, it is the most definitive answer to so many conflictive situations in our lives. Is it easy, no? Simple, yes.

The answer…or the path to the answer…is to refuse to get angry. Refuse to think ill of another. Refuse.

I’m not talking about stuffing our anger somewhere inside, keeping it pressurized until it explodes sometime later. Refusing to get angry is actually a step toward defusing it. Anger demands action. We take the energy of the anger and do something altogether different with it.

Jesus of Nazareth once delivered a short sermon known as the Sermon on the Mount. No matter our current faith, if we applied his teaching to life and politics, we could change the world for good. In the crowd that day, many religious leaders saw him as a threat, and would seek to destroy him in the months to come. However, that day…the wisdom and authority of Jesus’ words hit home to those in hearing, and they “were amazed”.

Here’s what Jesus said about anger:

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” – Matthew 5:21-22

See the contrast…we would never even think of murder as the solution but we allow ourselves to stir up anger like it’s nothing… especially if “deserved”. Jesus sees it differently.

When someone cuts us off in traffic, puts you down at work, or sets in motion legislation against a cause dear to us, we get angry. What is our response?

Anger too often goes to a place which escalates the situation rather than altering it in a positive way.

If we take to responding to anger, with a quietened heart, this is far from passivism. This is about as intentional and reasoned an action possible for us to take. Refusing to act in anger…refusing to think ill or speak ill of another.

Our strong opinions about politics today (especially, this being an election year) drive us to put relational wedges between ourselves and those with whom we disagree. What if we responded differently to those with whom anger becomes the first emotion?

We would listen, with our finger on the pulse of their hearts. We would seek to understand. Our disagreements become a launch pad for positive action. Anger would cease being a call to retaliatory or retributive action. It would become a flag, a button, a cue to respond in love and forgiveness.

Not as satisfying as “righteous indignation”, right? Not as definitive as my definition of justice…my, my, my.

What if there is another path to justice or rightness? We have another example from the life of Jesus…well, maybe examples, but here is one that peels away any sense of my right to express anger.

Jesus’ enemies would prevail against his life. It wasn’t really about the Jewish religious leaders or the Roman political authorities. Jesus gave his life for us. He was always in control, and his purposes were fulfilled, not thwarted, on the cross.

At any time, Jesus could have turned the situation around that day. When he was beaten, ridiculed, and falsely accused, he could have walked away. When he was attached to the cross, he could have taken himself down (Matthew 27:40-41). When he saw the sorrow on Mary’s face or his friend John’s torment, he could have acted in anger against those causing so much pain.

He did not. How he responded was an altogether different way:

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”Luke 23:34

When we find ourselves getting angry or having reason for anger, we can take another path through it. Instead of hardening our hearts toward those who cut us off or block our goals, we can take the anger a different way. We are not obliged to cultivate hatred and contempt…for reckless drivers (I first put “bad” but changed it), power brokers at work, or politicians or political parties.

What if anger sparked in us an intentionality to love and forgive.  What if, instead of railing in Facebook posts or blogs or office conversations, we work toward solutions about the things we care most about?…the things that suffer when we do nothing but express anger about them. What if we prayed more for our President, for instance…for Congress…for our governors and State legislatures. What if we thought deeply about solutions and then wrote them to those decision-makers? Rather than just talking to friend (or enemy) about how we disagree with them…or to those with whom we agree and agree to hate the other side.

What if (for my friend above) we took our anger at abortion (or protecting choice on the other side of the conversation), and we worked to make access to birth control and health care truly available for those most vulnerable?

What would the world look like if we refused to act on anger in hateful, punishing ways? What if we remembered we are all frail humanity? No matter how we come across to others or how powerful or powerless we are, we can alter the course of anger… in ways that heal instead of hurt.

There is another verse in the Bible where the Apostle Paul says, “Be angry but do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26). We, as Christians, sometimes justify our anger by calling it righteous, when our actions say otherwise. When we act out of anger, we can’t reflect the One who lived a life without sin…unless we act in love, tempering our anger into something that elevates rather than diminishes.

Thanks, Cliff, for that sermon, and thanks, Sherry, for reaching out to me…and making me think about this.

Movement Church – Sermon on the Mount Series – on Anger

The Twist in the Sermon on the Mount That You Probably Missed – Mark L. Ward, Jr.

Sunday Short – God’s Day, Groundhog Day, and Superbowl Sunday

February 2, 2020

This is a big day around here!

02-02-2020

First, it’s another God’s Day. Church gathering this morning. Pastor Cliff preached on the “salt” and “light” passages from Matthew 5:13-16. Great start of today. You can catch the service/sermon on Movement Church Facebook page.

Then, being it’s also Groundhog Day, we got the news that an early Spring is expected. Yay!

Photo Credit: Needpix

The Fascinating and Bizarre Stories of Groundhog Days in Virginia – Nicole Kappatos

As for groundhogs, my husband doesn’t care for them. When we lived in East Tennessee, groundhogs wreaked havoc on his garden every year. He was relentless in trying to stave them off, but I think the groundhogs won more than not.

Still one of his absolute favorite movies is the Bill Murray classic (1993) Groundhog Day. The story revolves around Bill Murray’s character, a TV weather guy, who had to keep repeating Groundhog Day. The upside was his being able to get to know the beautiful news producer better and better, until she fell in love with him.

‘Groundhog Day’ Movie Taught Me These Ten Incredible Life Lessons – Paul Batura – great list of life lessons!

Watch the movie sometime…but probably no time today.

…because it’s Super Bowl Sunday!!!

Many of you know more about football than I do. So…I will defer.

Besides the great championship game, Super Bowl commercials are phenomenal. Since today’s game is on Groundhog Dog, it’s not surprising that one of the commercials is a reprieve of that old great movie with dear Bill Murray. Enjoy!

Have a great rest of your day…and if you’re not a football fan, catch this old movie if you can.

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s Mad World, Kobe and Multiple Losses, Great Acting/Great Scripts, Coronavirus Panic, and Troubling Ideals

1) Nathan’s Mad World – You know that experience when you are transfixed – so moved, without even knowing the extent of it, that your heart slows, your body quietens, your thoughts settle on the moment. That was my experience listening to Nathan‘s (Beyond the Guitar) arrangement of the Tears for Fears song Mad World (the Gary Jules version for the film Donnie Darko). Here you go:

2) Kobe and Multiple Losses – I wrote earlier this week about the precious nature of life and its brevity. The sudden and tragic loss of philanthropist and basketball great Kobe Bryant, daughter, and friends inspired that. We have watched all the news this week of the huge impact Kobe has had on so many people, young and old. Then to see the articles on the others lost in the accident – daughter, friends and colleagues. All gone too quickly for the many who loved them, separate from Kobe. Grieving their own and grieving Kobe, too. It’s been a week of reflection for sure.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Teenage Girls and Beloved Coaches Were Among the 9 Victims of the Helicopter Crash that Killed Kobe Bryant

God Didn’t Need Kobe and Gigi in Heaven – Holly Erickson

3) The Coronavirus Panic– As health agencies around the world keep surveillance of victims, and airlines make decisions to stop service to and from China, our knowledge and concern builds regarding the Coronavirus health crisis. How bad is it? This one article below was so helpful to me on the risks as well as the rapid response in gene typing, diagnosis and global response to this new outbreak. Definitely worth the read:

The Wuhan coronavirus seems to have a low fatality rate, and most patients make full recoveries. Experts reveal why it’s causing panic anyway. – Holly Secon

The greatest at-risk population has to be the Chinese nationals and others quarantined in-country – and the risk may be less about the virus and more about access to food and services should the quarantine continue.

Photo Credit: AFP Factcheck

4) Great Acting/Great Scripts – OK, so I’m partial to TV shows and films majoring on the law and courtroom drama. Much of my knowledge of US laws has come through a TV or film rendition of them (could be a problem) . For a brief two seasons – 20 episodes – the TV show For the People (2018 TV series) was my favorite classroom for learning about the law. – Why was it cancelled? I have no idea. There was one sub-plot with a sexual relationship as the focus, but other than that, the show was pretty much clean viewing. The show followed various legal cases, with the team of prosecutors and the team of public defenders sparring over whether the accused was guilty and whether they deserved the verdict coming. The writers dealt with many of our culture’s hot legal topics: mandatory sentences, race, juvenile detention, drugs, mental illness, law enforcement, the role of the internet/gaming/social media in the law.

Every single episode left me thinking and researching and thinking some more about the legal dilemmas posed in these stories and how they affect our neighbors…and us. Below are videos of just a few of the unforgettable monologues/dialogues from this show:

5) Troubling Ideals – This Fave title comes from an article written by research fellow Erika Bachiochi. Her piece is The Troubling Ideals at the Heart of Abortion Rights. She writes about some of the history (from 1870) of women’s fight for equal rights, equal citizenship with men, and her sovereign rights over her own body. The problem – the troubling ideal – is when that battle infringes on the rights of another. Whatever your leaning, this article is crucial reading. Here’s a bit:

Victoria Woodhull, a leading suffragist and radical, and the first woman to run for president of the United States, nominated by the Equal Rights Party in 1872. With her peers in the 19th-century women’s movement, she asserted, among a host of other rights, the right to be free of the common-law sexual prerogative that husbands then enjoyed over their wives. Understanding the asymmetrical consequences of sexual intercourse for women, Woodhull anticipated a time “when woman rises from sexual slavery to sexual freedom into the ownership and control of her sexual organs, and man is obliged to respect this freedom.”

But owning and controlling one’s body did not extend, for Woodhull and other advocates of “voluntary motherhood,” to doing what one willed with the body of another. Rather, these women sought sovereignty over their own bodies in part because they could claim no legitimate authority to engage, in Woodhull’s words, in “antenatal murder of undesired children.” An outspoken advocate of constitutional equality for women, Woodhull also championed the rights of children—rights that “begin while yet they remain the fetus.” In 1870, she wrote:

Many women who would be shocked at the very thought of killing their children after birth, deliberately destroy them previously. If there is any difference in the actual crime we should be glad to have those who practice the latter, point it out. The truth of the matter is that it is just as much a murder to destroy life in its embryonic condition, as it is to destroy it after the fully developed form is attained, for it is the self-same life that is taken.

from the piece by Erika Bachiochi

Is there recourse for us who fight for women to have place in society equal to men as well as protecting the rights of the marginalized – those who can’t fight for themselves?

Another clip from the above mentioned TV show gives a window to the experience of being on a jury. Judge Byrne reflected on the exhilarating encounter he had with 11 other jurors in this weighty and leveling experience of working together, across values, opinions, and biases.

We fight and ridicule each other on issues that seem so critical but don’t look to the root of those issues…the problems that if we tackled them with each other, the surface issues might also be addressed…but with more sustainable, more compassionate solutions.

What are some of these issues we disagree bitterly on? What is the root problem? I’m going to propose possibles, but please help me here. Comment below. Proposing the possible root problem still doesn’t fix it or the surface ones. Still, couldn’t we try to work on them together?

Choice vs. abortion – root issue: sanctity of life (of both the woman and the child – with access to contraception; access to health care/support; access to concrete and timely services in a crisis pregnancy)

61 Million Babies Have Died in Abortions, a Death Toll That’s the Population of Italy

In a future blog, I’d like to add health care, the opioid epidemic, race, and immigration…but for now, just the huge issue of choice and abortion. I know it is a deep heart issue…trying to determine what would make a difference if we did revisit this issue as a panel of peers.

I am so very thankful for friends and acquaintances who stay in my life although our political and ideological views are very different. I learn so much from them, and appreciate them so very much. That kind of love – love across differences – is the kind of love that our nation and world need. The kind of love that could put policies in place for all of us to thrive in this place.

Bonuses:

What Is Attention Management and How It Can Help You – Maura Thomas

Director of Powerful New Clarence Thomas Documentary Opens Up: ‘He Just Got Tired of Having His Story Distorted’ – Emily Jashinsky

Monday Morning Moment – Life

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Flickr, Robert Kuykendall

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing life…here and there.

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, Good Housekeeping