Category Archives: America

Monday Morning Moment – The Tyranny of Sensitiveness – C. S. Lewis

Photo Credit: QuickMeme

Years ago, my best friend and I went on a cross-country sight-seeing trip. Our plan was to camp out a couple of nights and then stay in a hotel for the third, and continue in that rhythm for the two weeks we were on our adventure. It didn’t always go well. I loved camping; she preferred the hotel. Our food preferences were more different than we realized. We did, fortunately, agree on the “not to be missed” aspects of our journey across America.

Along with all the great memories made, we had some humdinger disagreements through the course of our time away and returned home even better friends as an outcome. However, it didn’t come easily for either of us.

It turns out I could majorly stomp on her feelings without even knowing that was happening. We have both matured greatly since then so this can encourage you…it has for me in the times in recent years when I find myself in similar situations.

First, you must know I never intended to plow through her preferences to race toward my own. She was my dearest friend. It gave me joy to see her happy. Still…somewhere I crossed a line. In our responses to one another, as friends, family, colleagues, (even strangers on social media) we can discover things both about ourselves and about the other.

Emotions are different from feelings. I’m not going into the physiological pathways or mental habit formation of all this, but the quote below by Debbie Hampton is very helpful:

“Feelings and emotions are two sides of the same coin and highly interconnected but are two very different things…Emotions originally helped our species survive by producing quick reactions to threat, reward, and everything in between in their environments. Emotional reactions are coded in our genes. Emotions precede feelings, are physical, and instinctual. Feelings are sparked by emotions and colored by the thoughts, memories, and images that have become subconsciously linked with that particular emotion for you. But it works the other way around too. For example, just thinking about something threatening can trigger an emotional fear response. While individual emotions are temporary, the feelings they evoke may persist and grow over a lifetime…In the gaps between emotion, feeling, and acting, we all have the power to change and direct our lives for the better. “Debbie Hampton

In the milliseconds between any stimulus and our response to it, we can choose how we will respond emotionally. However, because we have set a course “over a lifetime” of responding certain ways, emotional patterns (feelings) are formed and put into practice. We can change these, if we find them detrimental to our physical, emotional, and relational lives.

That happened between my friend and me. In close proximity, for two weeks, our daily experience very dependent on the other, we found we could irritate each other. The statements “That hurt my feelings” or “You hurt my feelings” became her lament…this from an accomplished teacher and successful manager of a classroom of tiny children. Somehow, on this trip, I had the capacity, regularly, of stealing her joy.

For me…inconceivable. I loved her and had no desire to hurt her, ever. Still, it happened.

[By the way, this expression of sensitiveness using the word “feelings” may be more encountered in women, but men have some similar experience – you know you do – but call it different things. “Offended”, maybe? “Annoyed”? Is that where sarcasm or cynicism is birthed?]

Back to the story: In some way, my behavior set off for my friend emotions that were tagged by past feelings of being discounted, not considered, not favored. It wasn’t pretty…for either of us.

Fast forward, decades later.

We live in a culture of lofty sensitiveness. The measure for political correctness in our speech continues to get moved upward. We are a nation so easily offended that we can’t even discern what is truly intentionally offensive from what is just true.

Have you ever been in a season with a friend or colleague that feels emotionally murky? You don’t really know what’s going on, but you sense something is. Then…you step on the landmine – and you say something or do something or your face shows something – that explodes all kinds of feelings in the other person, from what seems a life-time of storing up.

This is what has now been popularized as weaponizing feelings or emotions. The outcome? Guilt, shame, wounding, and (for some) returning fire.

It will make me sad if this post “hurts feelings”, especially of those friends of mine who read my stuff. The thing is, just like my friend and me, we can go deeper in our relationships when we refuse to let feelings define our friendships. When we refuse to think ill of others we grow a spiritual maturity and neuroplasticity that impacts our emotional responses and our relational resilience.

What got me thinking about all this, this week was actually a Lenten reading from British scholar C. S. LewisPreparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis.

He talks about the danger of weaponizing sensitiveness long before it became the cultural phenomenon it is today:

“‘Did you fight fair?’ Or did we not quite unknowingly falsify the whole issue? Did we pretend to be angry about one thing when we knew, or could have known, that our anger had a different and much less presentable cause? Did we pretend to be ‘hurt’ in our sensitive and tender feelings…when envy, ungratified vanity, or thwarted self-will was our real trouble? Such tactics often succeed. The other parties give in. They give in not because they don’t know what is really wrong with us but because they have long known it only too well, and that sleeping dog can be roused, that skeleton brought out of its cupboard, only at the cost of imperilling their whole relationship with us. It needs surgery which they know we will never face. And so we win; by cheating. But the unfairness is very deeply felt. Indeed what is commonly called ‘sensitiveness’ is the most powerful engine of domestic tyranny sometimes a lifelong tyranny. How we should deal with it in others I am not sure; but we should be merciless to its first appearances in ourselves.C. S. Lewis

After being an atheist, Lewis did not come to faith in Christ until his mid-thirties. His intense study of the Bible, relationship with God, and deep, gut-honest conversations with a circle of intimate friends moved him to such understanding of people and life…and our responses to both. Any thoughts on this? Please comment below.Photo Credit: Flickr

Preparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis

What Is the Difference Between Feelings and Emotions? – Debbie Hampton

The “Weaponizing” of Emotions Wade Trimmer

The A-Z Guide to Feelings and Emotions – Sebastian Gendry

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life – Deb Mills

Inner Circles – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills

Invisible Wounds of the Sensitive, Empathic and Emotionally Intense Child – Imi Lo – this is a sobering, emotionally charged article. I resonated with it in preparing for the blog above and include it because it might be helpful for some to read. Just a warning that it is hard to read because it honestly did not give much place for hope. [If I missed it, please illuminate me in the Comments below.] Maybe the hope comes in recognizing what we as parents might be doing that’s hurtful to an emotionally intense child and correct course.

5 Friday Faves – International Women’s Day, “Sunflower” on Classical Guitar, Recycling in Peril, Understanding Whiteness, and Great Teachers

Welcome to your Friday and my favorite finds of this week:

1) International Women’s Day – When there is an international day of celebration, it’s worth a pause. Especially International Women’s Day. I had an amazing mom – who grew up poor during the Great Depression and then raised four kids pretty much on her own. She lived during an era where work situations did not favor women at all but she bore up under it with dignity and grace. Just glad to have a job. I love her so much. She was and is my hero.

My mom-in-law, Julia, is that same kind of strong, faithful, loving woman.

There are so many other women in my life who deserve celebrating, although none of them look for such a thing. They just live and love fully, doing what they can for others…I am better for knowing them.

So on this International Women’s Day, I salute you older ones and younger ones…you women out there, mothers, daughters, sisters and friends.

On International Women’s Day, Rise Like a Deborah – Cassia Glass

2) “Sunflower” on Classical Guitar – Rappers Post Malone and Swae Lee perform this amazing song “Sunflower” on the movie Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse. Written by Post Malone, the song is just plain fun. Nathan Mills arranged it for classical guitar and brings all the happy over from the original. Check out the Beyond the Guitar version below:

3) Recycling in Peril – We generate an enormous amount of solid waste in this country. So much packaging, so many disposables. I remember as a child when we carried garbage to a burn-dump. Recycling as a solution to some of the solid waste burden was very new. This week I read a sobering article on how our current recycling solutions won’t be able to keep up. Please take the time to read Alana Semuels‘ piece Is This the End of Recycling?

We recycle as much as we can in our household. I am guilty at times of still using plastic grocery bags when I forget to bring my own – even though those bags are banned in some countries. As they should be. When we lived in Egypt and had the occasion of snorkeling in the beautiful Red Sea, we could not imagine the problem of garbage sullying those waters. It happened.Photo Credit: UN Environment

In Semuels’ article she talked about the familiar adage: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Except that she added a fourth imperative: Refuse. Consider how we can use less…refuse to buy products with over-packaging; stay away from disposables or single-use items if possible. It’s something to think about.

We are All Accumulating Mountains of Things – Alana Semuels

YouTube Video – America’s Dopamine-Fueled Shopping Addiction

San Francisco’s Race to Zero Waste Has One Last Major Hurdle – Anne Poirot

A Brief History of Solid Waste Management in the US, 1950-2000 – Part 5a – H. Lanier Hickman Jr.

4) Understanding Whiteness – OK, so I’m white. It’s not something I have thought much about in the past. Even in filling out questionnaires or applications that ask for race, I check “Caucasian or white” because it is what I am…but the implications of being white haven’t really driven much thought for me…until lately. Now, when we lived in North Africa, it was my first experience of being a minority. Even in the most awkward situations, when I was the only “white person” in the room, it wasn’t “white” that I felt so much as being “American”. The privilege came from that identity.

Writer, thought leader Jackie Hill Perry tweeted the following this week and it really got me thinking. In fact, if you click on her tweet, it will take you to a long thread of opinions about the issue of “whiteness” with a diverse crowd of folks giving their take on it.

To be honest, I was a tench offended by the tweet at first. Because I don’t see myself as “being shaped by being [white]. However, it is important to me not to be ignorant about things that shape culture and especially the stuff that divides people. So…I’m thinking about it now.

Writer Kesiena Boom posted an article last year on 100 Ways White People Can Make Life Less Frustrating for People of Color. Again, at first, I was put off by it momentarily, and then decided to read those 100 ways. It was illuminating. Not as instructional as I had hoped but illuminating.

“Remember: Being an ally is a verb, not a noun. You can’t just magically be an ally to people of color because you say you’re one, it’s something that you must continually work on.” – Kesiena Boom

I do want to be an ally of others…including persons of color. Very definitely. So Jackie Hill Perry and Kesiena Boom have both given me a window to see through this week.

Also Darrell B. Harrison, a politically conservative reformed theologian who is also a black man, gives much food for thought as well…from a different stance…

I don’t want my whiteness to be a barrier…nor do I want to be blind to any privilege it gives me. There is just so much bias in our culture today, it’s difficult to know how to maneuver. Any thoughts?

100 Ways White People Can Make Life Less Frustrating for People of Color – Kesiena Boom

The Glorious Love of God as Our GPS – Trevin Wax

5) Great Teachers – If you’re like me, you remember all your teachers through elementary and high school. If there are gaps in our memory, there’s probably a good reason. I’ve had some teachers that were just to be endured, but for the most part, they were good teachers. Some were even great.

A friend of ours, Jeff Maxey, has been named the  2019 Teacher of the Year in South Carolina.

Now, we have another friend Jamie Sherwood who is also among those being considered for Teacher of the Year in our county. This week he is the #HeartofHenrico.

So proud to know these and other great teachers who are not only content experts but also genuinely care for their students and their futures.

That was my favorite finds for the week. Any you would be willing to share with us in Comments below? Have a great weekend. Thanks for stopping by.

Bonuses:

The Long Goodbye – Think about having a launch party March 22:

Premiere THE LONG GOODBYE with your Friends! — Limited Time Offer

Photo Credit: Hallels

Daylight Savings Time Is Actually a Good Thing – Dan Nosowitz

Photo Credit: The Colorful Cottage, Facebook

Alex Trebek Announces He Has Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer – Alex Trebek, host of TV show Jeopardy, is determined to beat the statistics on this disease. If anyone can, I believe it can be this much-loved celebrity.

 

5 Friday Faves – How to Train Your Dragon, Expressions of Kindness, Civility, the “Uneducated Base”, and Wonder

It’s the weekend! Friday Faves on a Saturday because I was slowed down a bit by an end-of-the-week stomach bug. 3 days in this quiet space…

and now I’m back at the computer briefly. So this will be quick.

1) How to Train Your Dragon – One of the most beautiful soundtracks I’ve heard is composer John Powell‘s score for the animated film How to Train Your Dragon. Nathan Mills has taken the This is Berk theme and arranged it for classical guitar…almost wrote Celtic guitar. Just have a lovely listen:

Beyond the Guitar YouTube Channel – Subscribe so you don’t miss his music as it’s posted.

2) Expressions of Kindness – It’s hard to believe it’s been just a bit over two weeks since Dave’s father died. His passing is still so fresh, and especially, for Dave’s mom. I’m so grateful for the many expressions of kindness she has received…and we have received as well. It is a marvel that people still send cards these days. Thank you.

3) Civility – This week I came across a TED Talk by writer Steven Petrow entitled 3 Ways to Practice Civility. In his talk, he defines civility as “living by a moral code, striving to be a good citizen…citizens willing to give of themselves for the good of the city, for the good of the commonwealth, for the larger good.”

Petrow gives his three ways to practice civility or civil discourse as follows:

  1. Deescalate language. “I’ve stopped using trigger words in print. By trigger words, I mean ‘homophobe,’ ‘racist’, ‘xenophobe’, ‘sexist’. All of those words. They set people off. They’re incendiary and they do not allow us to find common ground. They do not allow us to find a common heart.”
  2. Challenge policies; challenge positions; but never make it personal.
  3. Don’t mistake decorum for civility. One can demonstrate recognized etiquette in a situation and yet still be incivil (shades of Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess).

Behavioral economist Julia Dhar has given a brilliant talk on civil discourse in both the workplace and in family/friend situations. She used her world-class debate background in applying the principles of debate to conversation where strong disagreement exists.

Here are my notes from her talk:

  • Debaters don’t choose sides. Discipline yourself to think through how you would argue the other side.
  • Find common ground.
  • Focus on ideas not identities.
  • Open yourself up to the possibility that you might be wrong – the humility of uncertainty.
  • Engage with the best, clearest, least personal version of the idea.

In her talk, Dhar emphasized how incivility doesn’t make us more persuasive. In her summary, she drove home three points:

  • Stop talking and start listening.
  • Stop dismissing and start persuading.
  • Stop shutting down and start opening our minds.

In the article below, Dhar’s prescription for real conversation is powerful. Face-to-face is so much more effective than all the messy communication we find in social media as well as the talking head approach of our politicians and news commentators.

6 Tactics to Turn Heated Dinner Discussions into Real Conversations – Lenora Houseworth-Weston

TED Talk – 3 Ways to Practice Civility – Steven Petrow

“Evil communication corrupts good manners. I hope to live to hear that good communication corrects bad manners.”
Benjamin Banneker

The Rules of Christian Decorum and Civility – John Baptist de La Salle (1703) – just for fun

4) the “Uneducated Base” – Bouncing this idea off my husband, he asked, “And what makes this a fave?” I was reading a Facebook post by a friend of mine (actually shared from a friend of hers). His post was focused on the argument for late term abortion. He gave all his perceived positive reasons (clearly positive, in his opinion) for late term abortion to be protected. Then he closed his post by putting all of us who oppose or struggle with the direction of such legislation in one political party’s “uneducated base”.

I’ve been thinking about this all day….and this health care dilemma for several weeks now that it is a legislative and cultural hot topic.

Photo Credit: Vimeo

We all have deep-held values and beliefs about freedoms, rights, quality of life, and the role of government in the community. In situations where we agree (in America, let’s say), then hopefully our representative government will agree also, aligning with our values. When we disagree we have a partisan government where our various elected officials speak on our behalf. Sometimes it is along party lines and sometimes it is not.

In thinking back on my #3 of civility, it is challenging to even have these discussions in such a manner where both sides of a disagreement can learn from each other and make better decisions. We wrangle and blame and putdown our adversaries. We escalate the argument with name-calling and demeaning language.

Conversations – even fake ones on social media – where we resort to such mean-spirited tactics – feel so middle school. These issues are too crucial to keep any side silent. Yet, it becomes the ones with the most stinging speech rather than the soundest arguments who win the day.

I won’t give up, but, for some reason, that one hurt more than a bit.

Any thoughts on any of this? In the Comments, please…and in the spirit of closing the divide.

5) Wonder – On a lighter note, I want to just finish with the wonder of life. This little one marveling at a stained glass window.

This man, my best friend, who had a full day of Saturday chores, still making sure I had food and fluids on a day of feeling puny.

The beauty of Spring popping up everywhere. What a wonder!

Here’s to a restful weekend – full of wonder – and filled with people you love.

Bonuses:

Operational Transparency – Ryan W. Buell – brilliant!

The Long Goodbye – The Kara Tippetts Story – produced by Jay & Sofia J. Lyons – finally it’s coming out on March 22. Pre-order now.

Parents’ letters to teacher about their kids then and now – one teacher’s experience:Photo Credit: Amie Diprima Brown, Facebook

Mass Mutual’s The Unsung – the Rained Out Wedding

5 Friday Faves – Kingdom Hearts, Truth, Artist Karen Burnette Garner, On Reading Well, and Best Movie Scenes

What a week! So much stirred up around here…on what it means, at the deepest level, to be American…with issues both private and public. Not a lot of grace being demonstrated…but below you will find some of the beauty and thought that remind us of how privileged we are to live in America. It is far from perfect, but it is home. For now. At a spiritual level, this, our homeland (at its best and at its worst) is not our home forever. So, for now, I am so grateful to be an American and still hopeful, looking to the future…hopeful in God, for sure.

5 favorite finds of this week:

  1. Kingdom Hearts – Just this week, the role-playing, action video game Kingdom Hearts III was launched worldwide. Its breathtaking score was composed by Yoko Shimomura. This game has been around since 2002 so its music has been with its fans for a long time. Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has arranged the “Dearly Beloved” theme from the game. I can tell you, it has “all the feels”, as described by the many who have commented on the YouTube video. Without any tug of nostalgia, not having played the game, it is beautiful. Listen here.Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

By the way, as supporters of Nathan’s music via Patreon, we get to watch him live stream bits of his process in arranging these songs. Now, many of you know that I am his mom…but put that aside, and let me marvel at the extraordinary music he has introduced us through the years. One day he may compose more himself as well, but his covers of songs, many unknown to me (themes from movies, TV shows, and video games) lift the heart…so welcome these days.

YouTube Video – Kingdom Hearts – Dearly Beloved – Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

2) Truth – The last two weeks in America, we have had a barrage of news related to state legislatures updating their abortion bills. The division over this issue has deepened across our country. It gives pause for us to determine what is political rhetoric and what is truth. What is factual and what is simply posed as fact, with questionable or mixed-motive intent? [See my bit on unmasking evil from last week.]

As we wade through all the social media and op-ed pieces on cultural issues (whatever they are), and think through what the truth is, often our thinking moderates to a larger and more peaceful place. I’m not saying to a place of inaction or dullness but a place where truth can set us free.  [Whatever your religion or spiritual inclination, take a moment to think about this from a different place.]

On the issue of abortion, we are bombarded by the thoughts and unfettered verbiage of legislators, celebrities, newscasters. As if their opinions would be our own if we were enlightened enough. I began searching for the stories of those most impacted by abortion.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Michael Catt, Twitter

These are just two of the many I found. Also searching for stories by women who had abortions, I realized that these might be harder to find because of the private nature of this issue. The one below came through Facebook. Her story speaks volumes of how difficult and poignant the decision to abort is. Politicians (and religious leaders) should take note.

Post Credit: Shawna Downs, Facebook

A high elected official in our state has been very vocal in support of reproductive rights for women (particularly related to abortion). He speaks with authority on this subject. This week something was exposed from his past (not related to abortion but to another hot and hateful issue). His voice was tempered if not silenced, at least for this news cycle. Because of facts coming to light, he has been humbled in a very different, very unforgiving modern culture. Facts that may not necessarily represent who he is today will most probably alter the course of his career. Something to think about… Facts can lead to discovering the truth (the whole meaning of a thing), and they can also color the truth. We must search truth out.

The Difference Between Facts and Truth – Matt Moody PhD

You Will Know the Truth, and the Truth Will Set You Free – John Piper

What Does It Mean that “the Truth Will Set You Free” (John 8:32)?

When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense – Frederica Mathews-Green

3) Karen Burnette Garner – Artist – I have this friend who paints. Well, she is also a poet and a jewelry maker. Just as I am compelled to write, Karen is compelled to create. It has been a joy for me, over these many years, to watch her grow and mature in her craft.

In the beginning, she painted seascapes. Boats at anchor in tiny New England harbors. Her flower-strewn backyard. The fish popping up out of the water of her pond at home. Karen takes inspiration from whatever is before her. We see a world through her eyes that charms us. We are drawn in.

I didn’t discover Karen’s art this week, obviously, but I wanted to give her a shout-out and send-off. She is closing down her Georgia studio and making plans to relocate to Pennsylvania in the Spring.

This acclaimed local artist of Georgia who I thought would never leave her beloved Southern home is moving!

I can’t wait to see how the cornfields, sunsets behind the hills, and snowy winters of Pennsylvania will inspire her. We will see the fruit of that inspiration before too long.

Karen Burnette Garner – Fine Art

Karen Burnette Garner – Fine Art (Facebook page)

4) On Reading WellKaren Swallow Prior, a professor of English at Liberty University, came to my awareness during the #MeToo, and #ChurchToo, movement. She has a brilliant, reasoned voice in the issues we are grappling with in America right now. An unlikely champion really but one I’m thankful to know. We agree on most things, and I can count on her to help me think well on the others.Photo Credit: AnnaClaire Schmeidel, Karen Swallow Prior website

Her latest book On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books is my current read. In this easy-to-engage text, she tackles twelve virtues and writes about them in the context of great novels where they are found. Like diligence in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Hope in The Road by Cormac McCarthy. [Unlike Pilgrim’s Progress which I’ve read a couple of times; The Road was new to me. Not being familiar with the text as of yet did not hamper me from seeing the theme of hope in a post-apocalyptic novel, thanks to Dr. Prior’s thoughtful interpretation.

10 more virtues await, and I’m excited about seeing them, both in the novels reviewed, as well as through Prior’s commentary. I was nervous about the book at first, thinking it the stuff that only English majors could wrap their minds around. It’s a book that invites us to what we can learn about life in the great books withstanding the test of time and history. I’m reading the chapter on justice, next, as seen in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, with Karen Swallow Prior as a trusted guide.Photo Credit: Nate Claiborne

5) Best Movie Scenes – We all have our favorite movies. Even within some lesser movies there are scenes that become part of our treasured lexicon of movie lines.

Family Lexicon – Words that Grow Up With Us – Deb Mills Writer

Or our emotions are so caught up in the scene – whether it is the dialog, the action, the music, whatever – it becomes unforgettable.  Reading the following article got me nostalgic.Not for the horror movies – never for them – but for the others.

The 25 Most Influential Movies Scenes of the Past 25 Years – Richard Lawson and K. Austin Collins

What are some of your favorite movie scenes? Please share them in the Comments below. For me, just a few follow in the links.

YouTube Video – Sully scene “Can we get serious now?” Tom Hanks scene part l – [Watch Parts 3-5 also.] One of my all-time favorite movies and real life stories.

YouTube Video – Pride & Prejudice – Elizabeth’s Pride – still get chills watching them fight in that cold rain. Such great lines!

YouTube Video – Crimson Tide – Mutiny Scene – apart from the F-word, this scene was edge-of-the-seat gripping. Whew!

YouTube Video – Coach Carter – Not the Storybook Ending – love coach speeches in film.

YouTube Video – The Other Woman – Closing scene with Britt Nicole’s song The Sun Is Rising – love that song.

YouTube Video – The Replacements – I Will Survive – the dance scene!

YouTube Video – The Judge – Best Scene – love these two actors!

YouTube Video – The Chariots of Fire – He Who Honors God – everything about it…and this story.

These are just a few…so many more.

I’ve taken enough of your time. Have a sweet weekend. Carve out time to spend with those who love and those who love you. Thank you for reading this and trying to understand my ramblings. It means more than I can say.

Bonuses:

As Recipe Cards Disappear, Families Scramble to Preserve Cherished Memories – Ellen Byron

 

Photo Credit: Frugal Fun For Boys & Girls, Facebook

5 (No 4) Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, Parenting Hacks, Unmasking Evil, and the First Signs of Spring

Friday Faves – let’s get after it!

1) Beyond the Guitar – Pretty much every week, you’ll find something in my Faves that showcases the music of Nathan Mills, or Beyond the Guitar. His most recent classical guitar arrangement of a beloved song is John Denver‘s Take Me Home, Country Roads. So lovely!

Besides his own beautiful arrangements, Nathan is also posting guitar arranging content at Beyond the Guitar. Folks can enjoy arranging favorite songs like he does. Let the music abound!

You know I’m proud of this guy’s music but also the work he is putting in on top of that to teach others how to do what he does. His 4 Tips to Accomplish Your Guitar Goals is 12 minutes of great counsel for any of us (whether we play guitar or not). Check it out! Subscribe – enjoy the freebies and sign up for some serious helps from this guy.

2) Parenting Hacks – Parenting didn’t come naturally to me…however I had great help. Having a wise and loving mom and mother-in-law, strong mentors as friends, lots of good reading, and praying often – got us through those early years. Below I’ve listed some helpful hacks on various aspects of parenting found just this week.

Boundaries, Routines, and Early Bedtimes – 13 Habits That Raise Well-Adjusted Kids – Lauren Tamm

Create a Morning Checklist for Your Older Kid, Then Get Out of Their Way Meghan Moravcik Walbert

Photo Credit: Facebook

Photo Credit: Facebook, Decluttering School

We Cannot Continue to Overlook ‘High-Functioning’ Depression – Amanda Leventhal

Little Z’s Sleep – Becca Campbell (Sleep Consultant)

3) Unmasking Evil – We are stuck in the muck and mire of societal outrage…in this case, either pro-life or pro-abortion/choice.

Words mean things, but we allow the politically correct vocabulary of others deceive and silence us. This week, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, New York state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, signed into law the Reproductive Health Act. Our social media platforms are full of chatter on this issue this week with deep lines of divide.

When you hear the phrase reproductive health act, you would think it related to a government’s recommendations and support of women’s health – contraceptive availability, access to medical care, early prenatal care, prevention and/or early treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, etc. etc. etc.

Nope…it is all about abortion. The biggest point of which being that women can abort right up to the point of live birth of the baby…should the mother’s health be at risk. Photo Credit: PicServer

Which seems more reasonable, an emergency c-section or the lengthy process of cervical dilation to remove the baby (already made dead at that point)?…and then treat the woman. I’m not a doctor, but… I am a woman…and was once the fetus of a woman who, given her very difficult life situation, might have chosen abortion if it was as easy as made possible by this Reproductive Health Act.

She didn’t thankfully.

In a piece by Jessica Mouser, Governor Cuomo was quoted in his praise of the bill: “With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body.”

In my teen years, our parents had very strong counsel about how to control my body when it came to preventing sexual intercourse and pregnancy. Both me and my brothers.

I hope this doesn’t sound too harsh…or naive. I don’t just care about the baby, but also the woman carrying the baby and the man who participated in its conception. We often hear and read from those who are condescendingly pro-choice that we “pro-lifers” aren’t really pro-life unless we show we care for all who are challenged by life (poor, disabled, elderly…and the women who conceived).

This logic trick is an attempt to silence us…as if we aren’t allowed to protest the killing of babies unless we simultaneously protest the wrongs perpetrated on all vulnerable or marginalized people.

Relentlessly Call Abortion What It Really Is – Jon Bloom

“New York has an abortion rate of 23.1 per 1,000 women, twice the national average of 11.8 per 1,000 women. 25 to 27 percent of pregnancies in New York State end in abortion. In New York City, 78 percent of abortions are on African American babies. More black babies being killed through abortion than being born in the city. Cuomo’s new abortion law will likely increase those numbers.” – Live Action

Photo Credit: Pxhere

[I welcome dialog on this complex topic. Women close to me have had abortions…and regretted them. One friend, in particular, would only conceive once in her life and was persuaded by her boyfriend to abort that child. The pain of that loss has never left her. Abortion is an assault not just on the child but on the woman. Every fiber in my once-feminist worldview has been re-awakened, with the evil of abortion unmasked as the attack on women it clearly is.]

Photo Credit: Facebook

What You Need to Know About New York’s New Late-Term Abortion Act – Jessica Mouser

Petition: Outrage: Gov. Cuomo Celebrates Abortion-Til-Birth By Lighting the World Trade Center Pink

Governor of New York Nixes Almost All Protections for Pre-Born Babies

Abortion Expansion in New York – Emily Belz – [read: codifying Roe v. Wade]

I’ll stop here…words mean things. Now more than ever in recent years, we must examine change in our culture, with critical thinking… and not allow ourselves to be swept blindly along by partisan and biased speak. God forbid, when the masks come off, we are caught unaware…and somehow complicit because we did not speak or act.

Photo Credit: Global Digital Citizen Foundation

Doctors Induce 25 Percent of Dutch Deaths – Wesley J. Smith

…I’ll stop at 4 this week.

4) The First Signs of Spring – This week the daytime temperatures have bounced from the teens to the 60s. Although winter will be with us another 3 months, we already see the signs of the coming Spring. Any signs of Spring where you are? Please comment below.

I hope your weekend is refreshing. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

Bonuses:

News Reporter Mark Holmberg on Retiring:

“I retired as early as possible to escape.
To escape the once-honored institution of journalism that has become a caricature of itself, rife with agenda-based reporting and alternate facts as national news outlets pander to their readers’ and viewers’ (and their reporters’) political and social issue views, which are now held with religious-like fervor.
And to escape the intolerance and hatred from the masses fired at anyone they disagree with.
Increasingly rare are the souls willing to listen and consider other opinions; to realize someone may be wrong but not be a despicable person; to appreciate good things being done by people with opposing agendas.
I remember well how horrible the anti-Obama crew was during his eight years.
But they were rank amateurs compared with the viciousness, intolerance and conclusion bungee-jumping of the never-Trumpers.
In my escape I have largely stepped back from social media in general and political comments in particular to avoid the bitterness, but I would like to say this to those who have lost their minds:
Stop allowing yourself to be pushed off the Emotional Cliff of Outrage over things that may not even be accurate, fair or in perspective. Enjoy your day and the people in it.
Stop hating and seething. Look around. We’re not marching into the Fourth Reich. The tides will continue to turn.
And please, check your chest and find your heart again.”Mark Holmberg

Instant Pot Elderberry Syrup – Family. Life. Organized – Bekkah Mills

6 Surprises Every Premarital Counselor Should Cover – Dave Harvey

Photo Credit: Sharon Wink, Facebook

The People You Have in Your Corner Matter – Lolly Daskal

No Sweethearts This Valentine’s Day as Candy Company Closes – Micah Walker

Photo Credit: Delish

The Food That Helps Battle Depression – Elizabeth Bernstein

Monday Morning Moment – Martin Luther King Jr. Day – Where Are We Now?

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Recently, flying back to Richmond, the inflight entertainment included the Spike Lee film BlacKkKlansman. The film is based on the Ron Stallworth book written about his experience (in 1979) as an undercover policeman investigating a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. John David Washington and Adam Driver are the lead actors in the film. The movie trailer was funny and won the film a place on my “gotta see” list.

It was definitely entertaining, but more serious than funny. As well as deeply thought-provoking. Spike Lee highlighted Civil War images, lynchings and other Jim Crow era horrors, Civil Rights era leaders, as well as real-life footage from the more recent Charlottesville riots.

To think that Ku Klux Klan membership (along with other racist groups) could be on the rise again gives pause. Full. Stop. Pause.

This social disease…racism…is not the fault of one man, one government administration, one political party. Minister and social activitist, Martin Luther King, Jr. called racism a moral issue, a sin problem, an evil of our society. None of us are immune to it or the hatred that both births racism and is borne out of it.Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery, Alpha Stock Images

He was murdered for his non-violent stand for people and against racism…or was he murdered simply because he was a black man?

Fast forward 50+ years, and we are still struggling with the real societal ill of racism. Fortunately, we also have voices like Martin Luther King, Jr.’s stirring us to act in truth and in love. One of those voices in my life is that of a young local minister, Rayshawn Graves.

Some time ago, Rayshawn preached out of Ephesians 2:11-16 on the reconciling of Jewish and Gentile believers. He also preached on Galatians 2:11-16 on how racism can creep into even the most devout believers if we aren’t careful. My takeaways from his sermon follow:

  • Racism is a sin which will always be present. It separates and isolates us from God and each other.
  • Jesus died for that sin as for all other sins.
  • Through Him, we can have the guilt of that sin removed. We can all be free to live in unity with God and each other.
  • Our identity in Christ is above every other identity we may have.
  • We don’t have to live out guilt (as whites) or the hurt of racism (as blacks). We belong to Christ and we are called to live that out – loving God, loving others, making every effort to keep and preserve the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2-3).
  • We are called to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) – within the church and with marginalized peoples especially. Unless we come close to each other, and have heart conversations, how will we know what those burdens are?
  • Because our identity is in Christ, and we love Him and want to be like Him, we make a habit of being proactive in pursuing reconciliation.

You can listen to Rayshawn’s sermon in entirety here. So helpful.

Martin Luther King, Jr. preached to the church on racism but he also spoke to the world.

I take hope in Dr. King’s words…and in those of today’s influencers like Rayshawn.

In closing, excerpted below are just a few of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s observations on what was happening in his day. He wrote these to a group of white pastors who had expressed concern about his actions.  He wrote from the Birmingham jail where he was imprisoned for nonviolent demonstrations against segregation.

[Bold emphases are mine. Read his letter in its entirety here.]

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.
“Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate…the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice…
I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist in love? — “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice? — “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ? — “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist? — “Here I stand; I can do no other so help me God.” Was not John Bunyan an extremist? — “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a mockery of my conscience.” Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist? — “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.”  Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist? — “We hold these truths to be self – evident, that all men are created equal.” So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love?

“For those who are telling me to keep my mouth shut, I can’t do that. I’m against segregation at lunch counters, and I’m not going to segregate my moral concerns. And we must know on some positions, cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” Vanity asks the question, “Is it popular?” But conscience asks the question, “Is it right?” And there are times when you must take a stand that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but you must do it because it is right.Martin Luther King, Jr.

King’s Letter

Photo Credit: Slate, Patheos

Monday Morning Moment – On Being White in a #BlackLivesMatter America – in Remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr. – Deb Mills Writer

Don’t Just Blame the Cops: Who Is responsible for America’s Killing Fields? – John W. Whitehead – Huffington Post

Racial Reconciliation and National Covenant – Gerald McDermott

YouTube Video – If Someone Doesn’t Understand Privilege, Watch This

YouTube Video – A Biblical Response on Race – Sermon by Tony Evans

Providence Is No Excuse: Exposing a Reformed White Supremacist – Daniel Kleven

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice

Photo Credit: The National Lynching Memorial

5 Friday Faves – Adulting, Employee Newsletters, Sears, Mission BBQ, and the Rest of the World

Happy New Year!! Still practicing writing 2019. Here are my five favorite finds of this week.

1) Adulting – Adulting is a funny little word, but finding the cartoon below got me thinking on what those small happy things are in adulthood. In her article on adulting, Kay Steinmetz‘s quotes linguist Ben Zimmer: “Adulting tends to be used by those ‘who find themselves doing adult things for the first time and feeling like an adult’…It is very much attached to people coming of age, where they’re thrust into having to take things more seriously. [Every generation] comes to grip with aging in their own way.”

I would love to hear what makes being an adult a joyful thing for you. For me, it includes grandchildren, being out of debt, friendships that have endured time and distance, being taken seriously…and sometimes not-so-seriously (but it doesn’t matter as much). Adulting…what does that mean for you? Comment, please.

Photo Credit: Just Eat Real Food Facebook page, Hedger Humor

2) Employee Newsletters – Sounds so old school, right? Does your company even have an employee newsletter anymore? When a company has to downsize to maintain their bottom line, often communications, especially internal communication outlets, suffer. The employee newsletter is often sacrificed. Too bad, because this is a great diagnostic of the core values of a company. The ones I like best are those that are filled with employee stories, accomplishments, and dilemmas shared and solved with other colleagues. Employee newsletters can be living documents that connect people and give the reader a sense of the health of the organization. The images below are of two such newsletters. Photo Credit: Campaign Monitor

We don’t need the generic, one-page wellness coaching that we see on the inside of the bathroom stall door. We need lively, engaging stories written by those we rub shoulders with at work. These kind of newsletters give us opportunities to celebrate personal and professional benchmarks…they make our companies human.

Bananatag Internal Communications offers a webinar on How to Write Employee Newsletters. Fascinating and encouraging.

Photo Credit: HuaMConry

3) Mission BBQ – Already a previous Friday Fave, Mission BBQ is one of our favorite restaurants. Their generous customer service and quality food are unique. 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. Sweet. 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)?

 

 

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/IMG_6824.jpghttp://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/IMG_6827.jpg

4) Sears– Here’s to  Sears! When I was growing up, Sears was that dependable department store and mail-order business that our parents trusted. They had everything. Clothing, toys, appliances, tires, and tools. You could count on Sears for quality products and solid customer service. Photo Credit: CNN

The Sears Christmas catalog, the Wish Book, was the most delightful experience for us kids. We would pour over the pages of toys, writing down our wish lists for Christmas.Photo Credit: Pinterest

We don’t buy from Sears very often anymore. Walmart, Target, and Amazon all dominate our day-to-day shopping world. Today, I needed a particular service of Sears and drove there to find that it was closing!!

It made me sad.

“Sears was the Amazon of its day.” In years past, Sears gave wide access to merchandise, especially for those more marginalized consumers in our country – farming families and African-Americans in the era of Jim Crow. When the giant Sears shut down its mail-order business, within a couple of years, Amazon took off. The decision-makers for Sears did not take into account the influence the internet would have on consumers. Amazon is hopefully taking note of its own greatest competitor right now, China’s Alibaba. Staying ahead of the market. Forsaking the hubris that can bring down a retail giant.

What Amazon Can Learn from Sears – Yes, Sears! – Lisa Lacy [may require a subscription if you read from a mobile device. I had free access from my computer.]

Amazon vs. Alibaba – Who Is Winning? – Chris Dunne – includes fascinating infographic comparing the two (hopefully you will be free to read the whole article without subscribing).

Thanks Sears…for all those shopping years.

5) The Rest of the World – In the US, we seem absorbed by our own news…what our government is doing, which celebrity is making headlines again, what sports team will make it to the championship. Sometimes you have to search intentionally for what’s happening in the rest of the world. I try to find other news sources that don’t slosh too much bias on their reporting…it’s challenging. Worth the search.Photo Credit: Facts & Trends

Any suggestions you have on good sources for news on the rest of the world? Please share.

Rest of World News – The Times of India

The World in 2019 – Daniel Franklin – The Economist

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Have a restful weekend. Some weeks can be really long and full. Make some space for yourself and for what might come if you look up.

Bonuses

The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts.A. Solzhenitsyn

Real Productivity – Getting the Right Things Done – Hugh Whelchel – Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics

A funny take on New Year’s Resolutions by Comedian Dustin Nickerson:

Who’s In the Office? The American Workday in One Graph – Quoctrung Bui

No Star Wars movie this Christmas…we have to wait until the end of 2019:

5 Friday Faves – Red Dead Redemption 2, National Day of Mourning, More Christmas Adverts, Holiday Musical Evenings, and Family Gatherings

Here we go! My 5 favorite finds of this week:

1) Red Dead Redemption 2 – A Western-themed video game, Red Dead Redemption 2, debuted this Fall. The score written by Woody Jackson has a classic feel to it – reminiscent of old western films some of us grew up with. Beyond the Guitar, Nathan Mills‘ classical guitar arrangement of the video game themes does justice to the romance of the Old West featured in the score. Have a listen:

2) National Day of Mourning – For one day, the ugly partisanship in our country fell silent in the shadow of a gracious leader’s life. The 41st US president, George H. W. Bush, died this week. On Wednesday, December 5, 2018, a national day of mourning was called for us to remember him. A two-time vice-president under Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush would only serve one term as President himself. How he will be remembered in history, only time will tell. I remember him as gracious, always gracious. The eulogy for him by his son, 43rd US President George W. Bush, was beautiful and gave the reflection we all needed of a “kinder gentler” man and time in America. May it be so again…Thank you, President Bush.

YouTube Video – Alan Simpson  Eulogy for Preside George H. W. Bush

Bret Baier – George H. W. Bush – a Letter to Live By

3) More Christmas Adverts – I couldn’t resist pointing to a few more Christmas adverts. So sweet and fun. Take time to watch. They will lift your day if you’re having a hard one.

This Hallmark Crown keepsake ornament commercial made me cry:

4) Holiday Musical Evenings – There is nothing like little children, in angel or shepherd garb, singing Christmas songs. We are all proud of them, whether they belong to us or not.Photo Credit: Weldbham, South City Theater

This week marked an annual musical tradition for our family – the VCU Holiday Gala. This evening of rich sacred and secular Christmas songs performed by most all of the current musical groups at VCU is a feast for the ears…and eyes. The students and faculty fancy up nicely. http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Blog-VCU-Holiday-Gala-John-Patykula-2.jpg

I would love to share video of the VCU Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, under the direction of Dr. Terry Austin – best performance ever. Since that’s not possible, you just have to come. For the moment enjoy the versions by the United States Marine Corps Orchestra and André Rieu ‘s Johann Strauss Orchestra. Mark it on your calendar, if you’re local, for next year!

Also if you’re local…there’s still time for more. Here’s one not to miss:

Annual Advent Lessons and Carols – Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

Any of your favorites? Please give a shout-out in the Comments.

5) Family Gatherings – My growing-up family had its times – good and not so good. We have always had strong beliefs, and sometimes even stronger opinions…and we were not shy about them. As the years have gone by, we have gentled the opinions for the sake of relationship. We have lost some precious family members, too, which has made us more conscious of the fragile nature of life and the gracious gift of family. We’re none perfect but we belong together. That’s why we block out time on the calendar, buy the plane tickets, and soak up family in all its craziness. The young adults we’re so proud of, the sweet new babies, the siblings and spouses.

We don’t always get to see everyone (so we will buy more plane tickets)…nor do we get to see all the friends…but the hope of “next time” is something we build on.

Along with the family time is the Christmas festiveness alongside. My sister-in-law goes all out for us, and we welcome her welcome.

How about you? Home for the holidays?

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That’s my five (plus the quick bonuses below). Any of your own you want to share? My hope for you this month is you savor the good in your life and let go of what are lesser things. We can’t get it all done. So…no matter. We can be gentle with ourselves…and each other.

Bonuses:

Henrico Christmas Mother – my favorite local community outreach:

The Birth of Jesus in the New Testament – One Event, Four Narratives – Dr. Corne J. Bekker

Eating Cheese and Butter Every Day Linked to Living Longer – Kashmira Gander

This Holiday Season, $16 Billion Will Be Wasted on Unwanted Gifts – It’s Time for a New Approach – Joshua Becker

Raising Children Near Their Grandparents Is One of the Most Valuable Gifts You Could Ever Give Them – [We didn’t raise our children near their grandparents; so thankful for siblings & siblings-in-law who did. What a blessing for both grandparents and the kids/grandkids.]Photo Credit: Elisabeth Elliot, Facebook

How to Declutter Your Home to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Jimmy Stewart’s Beautiful Short Film on the Nativity (a comment on the YouTube video: “From IMDB: James Stewart approached the scene where Mr. Kreuger talks to the infant Jesus very seriously. Before filming this scene, he told the producer Michael McLean, “I’ve got only one of these in me. Everyone who doesn’t need to be here, get them out. Tell them I want this to go well. I can do other takes, but this will be the right one. There will only be one.” After the scene was finished, McLean asked the cameraman, “Did you get it?” “I hope so,” was the reply, “because I was crying.””)

 

Worship Wednesday – Jesus, Thank You – Sovereign Grace Music, Pat Sczebel

Photo Credit: The Apologetics Group, Eric Holmberg

Thank You, Jesus, for the creche, the cross, and the crown.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it…The Word became flesh and dwelt among us [creche]. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! [cross] the Son of God; the King of Israel! [crown]John 1:1-5, 14, 29, 49

A middle school in Virginia won’t subject its students, staff, or families this year with any holiday songs having the name Jesus in them. Some students reportedly were uncomfortable singing the songs in a school program, so instead of giving them the freedom not to sing those particular songs, the songs themselves are banned. The school officials felt it appropriate given the increasingly diverse nature of the student body. So what if most religions of the world recognize Jesus in some capacity or another?! I don’t understand removing such a world-impactful historical figure from a school curriculum or extra-curriculum.

The movement of our culture and its sensibilities toward the secular is obvious in so many arenas. Whatever one ends up believing at the end of their lives, to miss the person of Jesus altogether is a terrible thing, a brutal consequence of living in a post-Christian world.

Today, I wanted to highlight a simple song with a glorious message. As I write, it’s Christmas time and images of a Christ child in a manger are everywhere (even in a town where a middle school won’t allow such a thing as part of its programming).

A child in a manger…such an extraordinary birth. One part of the triune God, separated for a time into humanity. Thinking about that in front of the fire this morning, it hit me again what that birth must have meant to God the Father…and for all of Creation.

Jesus was born to give us a closer look at the God of the universe – the beauty of a sinless life, the mystery of justice perfectly balanced by mercy, the love that never turns from His own.

In celebrating the birth of Christ, we have the creche, the cross, and the crown [to which the Scripture above points]. The creche demonstrating a God-life made small so we could even begin to fathom a God who loves us His frail ones. The cross displaying a God-love that withholds nothing – “the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” – that we may have everything – forgiveness and life forever with Him. Lastly of the three, the crown signifies the risen King, who is seated triumphantly by the Father, interceding for us, until the day we all enter His Kingdom.

Thank You, Jesus is a song by Pat Sczebel, of Sovereign Grace Music. Its focus is Jesus and what He did for us on the cross. Still, the first time I heard it was a couple of weeks ago as part of a worship service in a small downtown church in Tennessee. It was the beginning of Christmas time, and the merging of the creche and the cross touched our hearts so deeply.

Worship with me:

VERSE 1
The mystery of the cross I cannot comprehend
The agonies of Calvary
You the perfect Holy One, crushed Your Son
Who drank the bitter cup reserved for me

CHORUS
Your blood has washed away my sin
Jesus, thank You
The Father’s wrath completely satisfied
Jesus, thank You
Once Your enemy, now seated at Your table
Jesus, thank You

VERSE 2
By Your perfect sacrifice I’ve been brought near
Your enemy You’ve made Your friend
Pouring out the riches of Your glorious grace
Your mercy and Your kindness know no end

BRIDGE
Lover of my soul

I want to live for You*

This Christmas time, don’t let our culture silence our rejoicing. Jesus did not come just for Christians (as some would like to argue)…He came to the whole world to point to a loving and holy God. Jesus, thank You.Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

*Lyrics to Jesus, Thank You – Songwriter: Pat Sczebel

Who Is Jesus, According to Other Religions? – J. Warner Wallace

Creche, Cross, and Crown – Eric Holmberg

Cradle, Cross, Crown – Liz Giertz

5 Friday Faves – December Song, Christmas Adverts, Food Insecurity, God’s Purposes, and Giving

This week and the month of November has come to a chilly close. December brings in the the season of Advent and the countdown to Christmas. I will do everything possible to slow down time, to savor the month ahead, and to remember, as Thanksgiving already prompted us, all the reasons we have to be grateful. Here are this week’s favorite finds (also revisiting some old precious ones):

1) December Song – This time in 2016, singer Peter Hollens introduced an original Christmas song. It is now one of my favorite songs of the season. How he introduced it was quite creative. He orchestrated a contest for people to do covers for the song and he had the entrants juried by a small hand-picked group of judges. Nathan (Beyond the Guitar) submitted an arrangement, and in the hundreds of contestants, he came in 16th in the hundreds of contestants. Here is the beautiful December Song and Nathan’s arrangement as well.

2) Christmas Adverts – Remember the Hallmark Christmas commercials of years past? Like this one. I am a sucker for sappy Christmas adverts. Tear up like clockwork. Many of the very best commercials come from Europe and other parts of the world. Here are some faves from this year and years past:

[The one below was produced with a pittance of $65 cost. Brilliant.]

3) Food Insecurity – This is the social dilemma of not having adequate access to fresh, healthy food. When marked by geography, the phrase food deserts is also used.Photo Credit: Mary Lide Parker

A simple Facebook post by a friend generated a thought-provoking, rich conversation on this topic.

Photo Credit: Alee Swanner, Facebook

I share the links from that conversation below.

The Root of the Problem – an Interview with Lindsey Haynes-Maslow – Mary Lide Parker

The Role of Local Food Availability in Explaining Obesity Risk Among Young School-aged Children – Helen Lee

School and Residential Neighborhood Food Environment and Diet Among California Youth – Ruopeng An & Roland Sturm

Studies Question the Pairing of Food Deserts and Obesity – Gina Kolata

Should the Concept of a Food Desert By Deserted? – Layla Eplett

Always being aware of those who may need food is important. This time of the year, we are more likely to give to food banks, church food pantries, and other outreach ministries. This is just a beginning place…but it is a beginning. The family below introduced “canstruction” to us, and we do it every Christmas because of them.Photo Credit: Brenda McEwan, Facebook

4) God’s PurposesWisdom Hunters writer Shana Schutte has posted a fascinating list of 12 ideas on the purposes of God. Please take the time to read them. Comment below which ones were the most meaningful to you at this time. Mine were #1, #11, and #12. [For those of you who rarely click on my links – you know who you are – this one is not to miss.]

Photo Credit: Shana Schutte

Look Up, Child – [Speaking to Culture’s Preference to Youthful Leadership – Samuel D. James

To Survive Our High-Speed Society, Cultivate ‘Temporal Bandwidth’ – Alan Jacobs

5) Giving- On a trip to Walmart this week, I heard the Salvation Army bell ringing for the first time this year. Looking for the ringer, I saw the kettle but not the person. Finally saw him. He was an older black man standing away from the kettle, beyond the shadows of the building, to be able to soak up the warmer rays of the afternoon sun. He was very thin, “breath and britches” my mom-in-law would say. Ringing that bell for the sake of others less fortunate. Sure inspired me to give.

This is the season. I love the video below because we are not always open to give of ourselves…sometimes we need a nudge. Thankful for the nudges and the nudgers.

10 Overlooked People You Should Give Gifts to This Christmas

Baptist Global Response – Gift Catalog

That’s it for this week. Have a lovely weekend – this month fills quickly with all sorts of activities and adventures. Choose wisely and leave space for the unexpected. Maybe even a Christmas miracle.

Bonuses

Eight Blue Zone Lessons for Slowing Down – [Disclaimer: One of the 8 is “Do Happy Hour” – I don’t drink (lots of alcoholism among people I love and have loved – figure I’m vulnerable). So for those like me, I’m thinking any sort of afternoon break in the day – teatime, Happy Hour sans alcohol – would also work.]

FAQA – Frequently Asked Questions by Atheists – Six Day Science

Snowman Memories – This pic reminds me of a wonderful Christmas memory when our kids were small and we lived in Tennessee. Our Delaware family would arrive sometime over Christmas Day. Uncle Mark and Aunt Stacie didn’t make it until the evening because of a Christmas snow that blew in and complicated their travel. Almost immediately after they arrived, they took the kids outside and built a huge snowman out of the fresh and sticky snow. The kids named him “Oatmeal”. By morning, with the temperatures rising, he was quickly diminished but that sweet memory remains.Photo Credit: Beth Taylor, Facebook

…and the seed catalogs arrive: