Category Archives: America

5 Friday Faves – Spider-Man on Classical Guitar, American Idol Laine Hardy, Le Tour de France, Moving Day, and the Mid-Summer Garden

1) Spider-Man on Classical Guitar – The latest Spider-Man (Far From Home) debuted in the theaters this week. With it, we have the treat of a Beyond the Guitar arrangement of the film theme.  Composed by the incredible Michael Giacchino, Far From Home Suite Home is this huge orchestral piece that makes just the right backdrop for Marvel’s latest Spider-Man installation. Nathan Mills clearly loves this theme (as he does Marvel film music, in general). His arrangement again does it justice…on that single beautiful classical guitar:

2) American Idol Laine Hardy – I’ve written about our Independence Day celebrations other times (here, here, & here). One accidental tradition of ours is the PBS Capitol 4th TV celebration of the 4th of July (staged in front of the US Capitol building). It’s accidental because, as much as we love to watch fireworks displays, the crowds and traffic keep us home most years…so we watch them on TV. [We get some live fireworks in the neighborhood, but we see most of the magic on TV]. The fireworks in Washington, DC, never disappoint. Nor does Laine Hardy, the 2019 American Idol, who sang for the PBS special. Photo Credit: Countable

Here he is:

3) Le Tour de France – This magnificent bicycling race set annually in the beautiful mountains and countryside of Europe is a not-to-miss  for us. Even with all the doping issues of the past (present?), it’s an amazing bicycling event – 3 weeks long. Beginning in Belgium this year and ending always in Paris, France. My husband, Dave, is a biker. He knows all those NFL stats that guys seem to know, and he has that same capacity, through the years, for Tour de France facts. Every summer we watch. Not yet in Europe…but maybe one day.Photo Credit: Pixabay

How Do Cyclists Physically Survive the Tour de France? We asked a Physiologist and Former Pro Rider – Louis Bien

4) Moving Day – Packing up all your stuff and moving across the world, or even across town, is fairly stressful. You never know how much stuff you have until you actually try to put it all in boxes. Wrestling sofas and mattresses into a rental truck requires a lot of muscle and some engineering skill. This week some friends are moving and we are helping. Every time (at least in the last 5 years or so), after showing up for another friend’s move, Dave says: “That’s the last time.. I’m getting too old for this.” Moving is stressful and the cost of professional movers would add to that stress. Fortunately, friends and family still show up. They take a Saturday morning and determine to fit all the stuff into that rental truck and the cars of the movers. Every time, because they love those people moving. Every time, it always works out. Right? (Or do you have a story where it didn’t?)

5) Midsummer Garden – Our weather has languished for days in the 90s. Hard to just be outside for very long. However, the garden draws us out. The flowers are at their peak or just a bit beyond. Birds, bees, and butterflies tend the blooms almost as much as we do (to be accurate, it’s all Dave). It’s a beautiful time of the year…as it may be where you are as well.

So that’s this week’s favorites for me. Veered away from the more serious issues of late. Those can wait for another day. Blessings on your weekend…and you, in particular.

Bonuses:

Statue in Amsterdan, entitled Addiction:Photo Credit: Bored Panda

5LQ Episode 351: On Reading Well With Karen Swallow Prior

Caring for a loved one is hard work — 6 ways you can fight burnout

Downton Abbey – the Exhibition – Coming Soon to the Biltmore, Asheville, NC

America the Beautiful // Love and Longing – Andrew Arndt

Republicans Don’t Understand Democrats – and Democrats Don’t Understand Republicans – Yascha Mounk

Photo Credit: The Journey Center for Healing Arts, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – Independence Day Reflection – You Say I Am Free – Lauren Daigle’s How Can It Be

Photo Credit: My God and My Dog

This week we Americans celebrate our Independence Day.

Food, fireworks, and freedom. That’s what it’s all about. Family, too, and/or friends gathered. It’s a big day around here.Photo Credit: PixabayPhoto Credit: NeedPix, Martinique Le Prêcheur

Today I’m reflecting on freedom.

American Independence Day (4th of July) commemorates our declaration of freedom (July 4, 1776) from the rule of Britain. We declared our own freedom.

On July 4, we celebrate the freedom we continue to have as Americans because of the many wars fought to hold onto freedom.

How much more transforming when the Lord Himself declares us free!

On Sunday, we were in Dave’s family’s home church – Grace Church in Seaford, Delaware. Their pastor is teaching a sermon series on Avoiding Colossal Mistakes. This Sunday’s sermon centered on the cross of Christ (podcast here).

During the worship service before the sermon, this lyric really penetrated my heart:

“You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free.”

When you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14

As we celebrate our Independence Day, we have a far greater celebration in the cross of Christ. Apart from receiving His death for our sin, His righteousness for our own unrighteousness, we would be dead in our sins today. Still in bondage, enslaved.

We, in the US, have a dark history of slavery. No matter how deeply we are grieved by it, the stain of that great sin is forever a part of our nation’s fabric. Try as we may, we cannot wash that stain out.

Those who lived as slaves in this country, like those who are enslaved today through human trafficking, did not bring their bondage on themselves. It was/is a wrong done to them.

Many anti-trafficking organizations have a key strategy:

Reach, Rescue, & Restore

This is exactly what Jesus has done for us. In our sinful state, He reached out to us. He rescued us through the cross, and He restored us to Himself.

As we think about the freedom we have in Christ and the freedom we have as Americans, I pray we don’t forget our own bondage, or that of others – spiritual bondage, and for some…the physical bondage of being trafficked, forced into slavery even today.

We must reach. We must rescue. We must restore.

Worship with me, as we celebrate freedom, to the Lauren Daigle song “How Can It Be“:

I am guilty
Ashamed of what I’ve done, what I’ve become
These hands are dirty
I dare not lift them up to the Holy one

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be

I’ve been hiding
Afraid I’ve let You down, inside I doubt
That You could love me
But in Your eyes there’s only grace now

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be

Though I fall, You can make me new
From this death I will rise with You
Oh the grace reaching out for me
How can it be
How can it be

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be*

He himself [Jesus Christ] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude. Colossians 2:6-7

*Lyrics & the Story Behind the Song “How Can It Be” performed by Lauren Daigle – Songwriters: Paul Mabury, Jason Ingram and Jeff Johnson

The Victory of the Cross – Chuck Smith Sermon Notes – Blue Letter Bible

Colossians 2:14-15 – Commentary – Precept Austin

Monday Morning Moment – the Perils of Social Media – That Post Might Not Have Been Meant For You

Photo Credit: Needpix, Geralt, Pixabay

Some years ago, I got tapped for the communications strategist role for a work team that was near and dear to my heart. It was a joy for me to wave the banner for our work – to raise awareness, inform and educate via the various social media outlets. Part of the job was following the social media accounts of folks also engaged in similar work, learning from and engaging with them.

It was where my love-hate relationship with social media began. Sifting through hundreds of posts and scrolling through silly to discover the substantive – time-consuming for sure. Mind-numbing at times. It’s why friends and colleagues curtail their Twitter and Facebook habits. For me, it’s been more gain than loss in learning from those I follow.

In particular, from those I follow that I wouldn’t know otherwise.

Social media allows us a window into the lives of people we are only barely acquainted with.

Also, we have this odd access to people who are celebrities in their fields of expertise – be they actors, scientists, politicians, educators, artists, or thought leaders of some sort or other.

We must be wary of making social media more personal than it actually is. Social media by definition presumes that it is actually social – between amicable and obliging people. Community is also presumed. Communication, too.

We must be cautious about entering into dialog, even with just a like button…because, in fact, that tweet or Facebook status could have been meant for a rather different audience.

That post frankly might not have been meant for you.

On the flip side, the social silence that follows one of your own posts might also not have been personal either. It is what it is.

Recently, I began following author John Pavlovitz on Twitter. He popped up as author of an article and, intrigued, I shared it:Photo Credit: ChurchPlant

Then it turns out he is an wildly active tweeter, and my Twitter page has grown full of his take on both our country’s political and religious failings. I try not to engage, but today, it felt personal so I did…my mistake.

Photo Credit: Twitter, John Pavlovitz

If you’re Southern Baptist, or a white, middle class, heterosexual (definitely male) evangelical…this tweet might have been “meant” for you. I realized later in the day, it wasn’t meant for me. I replied, and got smacked down by another follower of Mr. Pavlovitz. Probably deserved since I actually thought I could enter the conversation…but it wasn’t about me.

You see…it wasn’t actually an open conversation.

That’s an important distinction in successfully maneuvering social media. Not all conversations are open to everyone. I would love to be in some of the dialogs going on in various cyber-locations. The problem is although it feels like we’re invited, it isn’t the case.

I’m slowly learning that.

However, remaining silent is not the answer either. Conversations are needed with places at the table for as diverse a community of people as possible.

It happens occasionally on social media and I’m thankful for what I learn in the gracious company of people who don’t necessarily agree with me, or I with them…but who consider a differing view and who practice reasoned dialog with others.

[Update: I did decide to “unfollow” the gentleman above. Increasing my understanding of how others think can come from others.]

What are your thoughts on this?

A quote by actor Denzel Washington bears repeating here (posted in last week’s Friday Faves). Washington won the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement award last week. His acceptance speech was the stuff of community and caring and healing…across the lines that too often divide us:

[In his acceptance speech,] he shared a brief 30-year-old video of his father-in-law talking to the camera and preaching a message of love. “God intends for us to love all mankind and by being in a loving mood, caring for one another, that’s our purpose for life,” his father-in-law said in the clip. “We should care for one another and we should help one another.”

Washington closed by reflecting on and reinforcing this message, saying, “In this Twitter, tweet, mean, mean world that we’ve created for our children, the least we can do is consider what we’ve done and think about the young people, the future, and individually, collectively, we can try and do the best we can. I blame no one; I look in the mirror. On the other side of it, what an opportunity we have because tomorrow’s the first day of the rest of our lives, so what an opportunity we have to practice what he preached.”Maureen Lee Lenker, Entertainment Weekly

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

In closing, I thought about extending an apology to Mr. Pavlovitz… but again realized (still learning) he wasn’t writing to me. I was not meant to come to the table set for those who would respond in affirmative to his tweet or in embattled reaction to it.

Mr. Pavlovitz, you help me grow in my understanding about how others experience politics and the church. I want to understand. It helps to realize your posts aren’t meant for me therefore I will not take them personally in the future. [Of course, you won’t be reading this…but just throwing it out there]. Blessings.

5 Friday Faves – ‘Toy Story’ Nostalgia on Classical Guitar, Best Marriage Advice, Reparations, Letter-writing, and Papa’s Garden

Friday Faves on a Sunday. Not too late to find a favorite for yourself.

1) ‘Toy Story’ Nostalgia on Classical Guitar – Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar) has just posted his latest arrangement. “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”. Written by composer singer Randy Newman, it is the musical theme for the Toy Story movies. Nathan’s arrangement is so fun – a little funk, a little blues. Hard to keep still when listening. Check it out below:

2) Best Marriage Advice – Many of us have benefited from good marriage advice through the years and seasons.Photo Credit: Lessons Learned in Life

My favorite marriage advice actually comes out of Bible verses not usually considered for this purpose:

“You have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent [return] and do [repeat] the first works.” – Revelation 2:4b-5a

If you’re in a season when your marriage just feels flat, like you’re a couple of roommates, like the love you have seems faded…then:

  • Remember what it was like in the beginning. What were you like? [Focus there NOT on what your spouse was like.]
  • Repent or return/turn around.
  • Repeat what you did/were like in the beginning.

I was a lot funnier than I am now. More positioned for him to protect me (which was what he is wired to do and it’s lovely). More spontaneously affectionate. More generous with praise and encouragement. When I remember, return and repeat (in action and attitude), something sweet happens. Worth giving it a try…

Lastly, a piece of advice was given to our son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law. It came from an older couple who had been in the audience of one of his concerts. They came up to meet him. When they discovered he was soon to be married, this was their advice:

“Make love often. Always pull from the same end of the rope.”Photo Credit: Twitter, Gold Medal Mind, Joe Afremow

3) Reparations – This week on Juneteenth, reparations was a heated topic in Congress. It is defined as “the idea that some form of compensatory payment needs to be made to the descendants of Africans trafficked to and enslaved in the Americas as part of the Atlantic slave trade.”

The terrible history and aftermath of slavery hangs over our country like a shroud. How do we move forward? I am so thankful for those who are helping us to make strides in racial reconciliation…and, at its most basic element, truly truly caring for one another.

Writer/musician Coleman Hughes spoke against reparations during the hearing on the proposed bill #HR40. His testimony follows:

I don’t know the answer for those descendants of slaves in America…or for the rest of us with such a wrongful legacy. It is a painful issue…needing much wisdom and sound reason.

Should the U.S. Give Cash Payments to the Descendants of Slaves to Atone for Slavery? Here’s What Experts Are Arguing – Emily Hoeven

Everyone Wants to Talk About Reparations But For How Long – Adam Harris

The Impossibility of Reparations – David Frum

Only Black GOP Senator Tim Scott Calls Reparations a ‘Non-Starter’ – Alexander Bolton

Actor Denzel Washington won the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement award. His acceptance speech has nothing to do with reparations but a lot to do with healing a nation:

[Denzel Washington, in his acceptance speech,] shared a 30-year-old video of his father-in-law talking to the camera and preaching a message of love. “God intends for us to love all mankind and by being in a loving mood, caring for one another, that’s our purpose for life,” his father-in-law said in the clip. “We should care for one another and we should help one another.”

Washington closed by reflecting on and reinforcing this message, saying, “In this Twitter, tweet, mean, mean world that we’ve created for our children, the least we can do is consider what we’ve done and think about the young people, the future, and individually, collectively, we can try and do the best we can. I blame no one; I look in the mirror. On the other side of it, what an opportunity we have because tomorrow’s the first day of the rest of our lives, so what an opportunity we have to practice what he preached.”Maureen Lee Lenker, Entertainment Weekly

4) Letter-writing – I used to be a prolific letter-writer. Not so any more, but it was fun for me to receive a letter in the mail this week from one of my very best life-long friends. She and her husband have been emptying her mom-in-law’s house, preparing it for sale. Her mom who I’ve know all my life is/was a very sentimental woman. She must have kept many of the letters I’d sent her over the years. Some of those found their way back home to me. It was fun to re-read them. Have you ever been a letter-writer? Letters to ones we love must certainly be treasures…and I have always loved Mrs. Hazel.

5) Papa’s Garden – Total feast for the senses. How is it that we can smell tomatoes grow (corn, too)? I’ll look that up but for now, just wanted to share pictures from this early summer garden. Growing through the work of my gardener husband.

Even the compost pile has its own stuff growing!

That’s it for me this week. I would love for you to share your favorite finds or your thoughts from anything above. It is a joy to hear from you. Thanks for reading.

Bonuses:

World Refugee Day

How Much Coffee Is Safe to Consume? Research Says Up to 25 Cups Per Day

11 things you need to know in tech today

Donald Trump Donates Salary to Department of Transportation – USA Today, Jessica Estepa

ABC’s of Life: 26 ways to live our lives more deeply…Photo Credit: Facebook, The Art of Learning

 

Photo Credit: Facebook, Pet Assist

5 Friday Faves – DreamWorks on Classical Guitar, Your Future Self, Wisdom of Great Leaders, Father’s Day, and Southern Baptists

5 favorite finds this week – here goes:

1) DreamWorks on Classical GuitarNathan Mills (Beyond The Guitar) latest classical guitar video is a medley of movie themes by DreamWorks Animation. So beautiful.

All are arranged and performed by classical guitarist Nathan Mills (Beyond The Guitar). Enjoy!

2) Your Future Self – Productivity guru Darius Foroux writes about how we become our future selves. It’s not magic, nor is it rocket science. Our future selves are born out of what we are about today. Photo Credit: Flickr, Mitch Huang

“All I have to do now is look at my actions. I ask myself, “So you want to be independent, huh? What does that take?”

  • Are you creating things that people need?
  • Are you improving your skills?
  • Are adding value to other people’s lives?
  • Are you saving at least 10% of your income?
  • Are you investing your money?
  • Are you exercising enough?
  • Are you reading enough books?
  • Are you investing in yourself?

I can go on for a while. But you get the point. I’m questioning my habits here. It’s not about what you want — it’s about what you do.

And not in the future. Today.”Darius Foroux

Foroux hands his readers a mirror and asks these pointed questions and others – regarding habits. Our junk food diet, our propensity for complaining, our couch-potato screen habits, our spending beyond what we make. Pretty much in-your-face. However, he also provides free helps to get us off the couch or office chair and on to the kinds of habits that move us to that future self we hope to be. His free ebook How to Get From Procrastinate Hero to Procrastinate Zero is valuable, worth hopping onto his email list for me.

Couch Potatoes vs. Creators – Oliver Burkeman

Don’t Fall Prey to Couch Potato Syndrome – Susan Mahoney

3) Wisdom of Great Leaders – Mark Crowley, leadership sage himself, posted a piece recently entitled 10 of the World’s Great Sages Share Their Most Important Leadership Advice. He’s taken these quotes from his own interviews with these leaders on his insightful Lead From the Heart podcast. Below are four of my favorite quotes from Crowley’s article. Check out the interviews in full – great stuff!
“When a human being feels as though they are being cared for and nurtured, their physiology works at its best…Leaders who affect the hearts in people get the best results, and your companies will become far more successful once you embrace this.” – Dr. James Doty

A ‘multiplier’ leader is someone who uses their own intelligence, capabilities, and talents in a way that amplifies the talents and intelligence of others. They’re leaders who we’re best around.”Liz Wiseman

“There’s a pathological disconnect between the attributes that seduce us when hiring managers and those that are actually needed to be an effective leader. We can see the effects of hyper-masculine leadership; what we need today are managers who are more self-effacing, empathetic and altruistic – other-focused people who are good coaches and mentors.”Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

“It’s not the big decisions that differentiate high-performing CEOs, it’s the volume and speed of their decisions. It’s about the speed rather than the precision on the hundreds of decisions they need to make.”Kim Powell

The Oscar Wilde satirical quote below is NOT among Crowley’s #LeadFromtheHeart counsel above. It does speak to the problem of our leaders being knowers and non-learners. Learners are the best kind of knowers. Excellent leaders never stop learning.

Image result for wisdom of great leadersPhoto Credit: Flickr, Smita Nair Jain

4) Father’s Day – Celebrating Father’s Day this weekend!

We all have fathers – whether very present or long-time absent. Some of you may be fathers. Some of you may have wanted to be fathers but are not able to be…for whatever reasons. This day of commemoration usually means a good meal and some sort of gifting or pampering for you dads. For all of you, with or without children, you can be influencers…and we need you. My biological father was absent long before my parents divorced. Thankfully I have had a rich heritage of good fathers through the rest of my life – my step-dad, brothers, uncles, husband, father-in-law, son/son-in-law, and loving, empowering male friends and colleagues. Most of these good fathers in my life were spiritual fathers…but fathers nonetheless.

The Father I Never Knew on Father’s Day – Deb Mills Writer

Fathering – Celebrating Men Who Did It Well; Forgiving Men Who Didn’t – Deb Mills Writer

Traveling Man – Somewhere Between Here, There, & Home – Deb Mills Writer

Budweiser’s Father’s Day Ad Is Bringing People to Tears  – Lyn Mettler

Blog - Father's Day - B. C. comic
Photo Credit: B. C. Comics

5) Southern Baptists – My family didn’t start out in church or Christian. Mom was a believer but through a difficult marriage and trying to feed and clothe four children, she left church before I was born. After her divorce, neighbors invited us to church and it was a huge discovery for us…people who loved us even though we came with a lot of baggage as a family…and a God who loved us just as we were. It was a small Southern Baptist church in Georgia, and I’ve been Southern Baptist ever since.

In June every year church representatives of this large denomination meet somewhere in the US to worship together, reflect on the past year and plan for the future, and invariably, deal with some issue that could divide them.

After the fun of catching up with old friends and colleagues from years past, two of the highlights of this convention for me were:

  • the Scripture translation project (we could buy verses of the New Testament for $5 each – for a New Testament to be translated for a people group who don’t have it in their language). By the end of the convention, it was funded!

  • and the ministry panels.

Baptist Global Response panel on mercy ministries was one:

This year two of the dividing issues were the continuing need for racial reconciliation and responding with care to those victimized by clergy in the Southern Baptist Convention. We aren’t where we need to be eventually, but we made progress, thankfully.Image result for SBC panel on racial reconciliationPhoto Credit: Religion News

On racial reconciliation, I loved hearing Dhati Lewis, Missie Branch, and George Yancey.

“Before we can diversify our churches or organizations, we must diversify our dinner tables.”Dhati Lewis

Diversity at the Dinner Table – Trillia Newbell

“When someone says, ‘I don’t see race’, what I hear is ‘You don’t see me.’” George Yancey

Notes from the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention – George Yancey

Southern Baptists Give Greater Attention to Diversity But Acknowledge More Needed – Adelle M. Banks

The piece below is where I am after listening to the panel above:

Slowly and surely I began to realize that my problem was not that I was a person of privilege. Jesus was the most privileged being to ever walk this earth. My problem was what I did with my privilege. Would I use it (consciously or unconsciously) for my own gain, or could I let go of my grasp and use it to serve others. Jesus showed me how, “Who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing”.

How Jesus lived and died would serve as an example for me, and would ultimately allow me to live and die like him. He has taken my shame so that I no longer have to respond defensively about my privilege. I can embrace it, now no longer for myself, but for those for whom Christ died and rose again. Not in a white savior way, He’s the Messiah, I am not. But in an incarnational, self-emptying, for-the-sake-of-others way.

The gospel for the privileged is that Christ took our state of mis-being so that we can live for others. Hallelujah. – Missioeric

Becoming a Church That Cares Well for the Abused – Video Course – Brad Hambrick

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s it. How about you? Share your favorite finds in Comments below. Have a blessed weekend.

Bonuses:

Raising Girls Who Are “Includers” Instead of “Mean Girls” – Lisa McCrohan

How to Help a Depressed Friend Through Their Illness and Recovery – Natalie Morris

Dear Church, Let’s Talk About Mental Health

How Complaining Physically Rewires Your Brain to Be Anxious and Depressed

Enneagrams and Enneagram Cupcakes (YouTube Videos on various types)

A Woman of Influence

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote

Worship Wednesday – In the Public Arena – O Church, Arise – Keith & Kristyn Getty

Photo Credit: Velvet Ashes, Amy Young

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. –  Ephesians 6:12-13

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD shines over you.  For look, darkness will cover the earth, and total darkness the peoples; but the LORD will shine over you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to your shining brightness. Isaiah 60:1-3

Earlier this week, the American church had a brief tremor in its universe. At the request of our country’s president, a pastor of a mega-church, in the Washington, DC area, prayed for and over him onstage during one of the Sunday services. There followed both support and outcry at this which on each side was a shock to the other. God’s call for us to pray for those in authority [1 Timothy 2:1-5] clashed with bringing politics to the podium.

As the church, we are in turmoil over the issues on which we disagree. Our country’s culture’s seeming fondness for agitation and offense has colored our unity as believers. We can heatedly disagree over the most trivial things…at least in light of eternity. Worship style. Who we are willing to partner with theologically. What else?

Then you take this struggle out of the church and into the public arena. We too often think that the rules of engagement should be Christian even though the culture is secular. The fight ought to be fair, right? The argument begs to be civil, true? Not what we find. [Or worse if we don’t find it because we don’t own our part in creating it.]

That’s why we pull back from conversation with those who oppose us and just stick with “our own”. It’s not what Jesus commanded his children.

In another time and yet similar culture, Jesus told his disciples he was “sending [them] out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).

We bicker with each other over things that matter less but shy away from the conversations that matter much more. There is a way still.

Professor, writer Alan Jacobs has written a piece for such a time as this: What a Clash Between Conservatives Reveals . Please read it in full. Although it is not an easy read; it’s challenging and thought- (and action-) provoking.

“‘Respect for the dignity of the other person created in the image of God requires that we not silence or exclude him but try to persuade him.’ Even when people are wrong, “’we must put up with them or tolerate them or, much better, respect and love them’ —not because that is a politically effective strategy, which it may or may not be, but because we are so instructed by God.

This respect and love require a commitment to conversation, and “conversation requires civility”—even when people do not reciprocate that civility. After all, it is Jesus himself who tells us that when we are struck on one cheek, we should turn the other toward our attacker. Civility should not be our religion, but ‘there are religiously imperative reasons for being civil that do not entail turning civility into a religion.’

Charity, and the civility and decency that accompany charity…are what we are commanded to do. And charity begins at home.”Alan Jacobs

In our desire to be more like Jesus in the culture He has placed us in, we must grapple with engaging it as He would…as He did.

As for those who don’t agree with us or we with them? They matter. I might have a place at pastor and politically liberal John Pavlovitz‘s table…but probably not a real voice (I’m way too conservative). Still, he helps me make sense of a different view of the church and our larger community. His quote sizzles with meaning and conviction:Photo Credit: ChurchPlant

[Sidebar: Our country’s polarized stalemate on immigration policy is so maddening. Even I have ideas on how to move forward with this process in ways that both serve our country and the world. Pavlovitz’s piece Why Do You Think They Cross the Border? gives a view worth reading no matter our stance on this divisive issue. No solutions to the complex problems but a view from a different side of the issue). I could have done without the stone-throwing…but it is what it is in our country, even among thought-leaders.]

Worship with me. With the help of this great anthem O Church, Arise. In the midst of all the confusion of our day, God Almighty has set His church…for His eternal purposes.

O church, arise and put your armor on;
Hear the call of Christ our captain;
For now the weak can say that they are strong
In the strength that God has given.
With shield of faith and belt of truth
We’ll stand against the devil’s lies;
An army bold whose battle cry is “Love!”
Reaching out to those in darkness.

Our call to war, to love the captive soul,
But to rage against the captor;
And with the sword that makes the wounded whole
We will fight with faith and valor.
When faced with trials on ev’ry side,
We know the outcome is secure,
And Christ will have the prize for which He died—
An inheritance of nations.

Come, see the cross where love and mercy meet,
As the Son of God is stricken;
Then see His foes lie crushed beneath His feet,
For the Conqueror has risen!
And as the stone is rolled away,
And Christ emerges from the grave,
This vict’ry march continues till the day
Ev’ry eye and heart shall see Him.

So Spirit, come, put strength in ev’ry stride,
Give grace for ev’ry hurdle,
That we may run with faith to win the prize
Of a servant good and faithful.
As saints of old still line the way,
Retelling triumphs of His grace,
We hear their calls and hunger for the day
When, with Christ, we stand in glory.*

*Lyrics to O Church Arise – Songwriters: Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

7 Stops on the Cross-Cultural Clash Continuum (The Grove: Culture Clash) – Amy Young

True Worship Displays, Not Distracts – Christopher Asmus

5 Friday Faves – Other Mothers, Avengers Endgame on Guitar, Slowing Down Time, the Why of Public Outcry, and the Overcomer Movie

It’s the weekend again! Mother’s Day here in the US. Hope you all have cause to celebrate or to remember a wonderful mother…your own or someone else’s. Here are my favorite finds of the week:

1) Other Mothers – Shout-out to those other mothers. You’ve heard the expression guys at times use: “Brothers from another mother”. I’d like to focus a moment on those other mothers. Our mom was that “other mother” for some. She was a treasure – loving, sacrificing, praying for us, grieving our pain with us, and taking joy in us…and those many others God dropped into her life and she simply loved.

Mother’s Day – On Mothering and Grandmothering – a Life of Love, Launching, and Lifting to God – Deb Mills

Mother’s Day – Not the #BestMomEver Nor the Worst – Didn’t Mother Alone, and Then They Were Grown – Deb Mills

The Season of Small Ones – Mothering, God, and Gandalf – Deb Mills

The other mothers I want to celebrate today are the mothers-in-law in our lives. My mom is gone…but my mom-in-law, Julia, is still with us and I am so grateful. She, from a distance away, partnered with my mom in teaching me about loving well my husband and children…

With two children married, I am blessed with two co-moms-in-law. This was an unexpected joy – to be able to know and call as friends these two women. They are faithful in loving my children (and our grands) and I hope they see me as that. We count on each other…and celebrate every milestone. Prayer warriors together for our kiddos.

How about you? Are there other mothers in your lives who inspire or spur you on (whether they have kids themselves or not)? Share in the Comments if you choose.

Preparing Your Heart For Mother’s Day – Jan Harrison

Sweet Video Shows a Normal Day From both Mom’s and Kid’s Perspectives – Caroline Bologna

2) Avengers Endgame on Guitar – You knew, if you know us, that this would happen. The huge film Avengers Endgame has come and most everybody who’s a Marvel fan has already seen it. Nathan Mills has again arranged and performed a powerful piece, covering the theme from this film. These big film themes are usually performed by full orchestras. Nathan’s arrangement to a single guitar is phenomenal. Watch it here.

3) Slowing Down Time – Psychology professor Steve Taylor has written a thought-provoking piece on slowing down time: Time Goes By Faster As You Get Older But There’s a Way to Slow It Down.Photo Credit: Slowing Down Time, Very Smart Girls

Quoting Dr. Taylor: “In my book Making Time, I suggest a number of basic “laws” of psychological time, as experienced by most people. One of these is that time seems to speed up as we get older. Another is that time seems to slow down when we’re exposed to new environments and experiences.

These two laws are caused by the same underlying factor: the relationship between our experience of time and the amount of information (including perceptions, sensations, and thoughts) our minds process. The more information our minds take in, the slower time seems to pass.

He makes two suggestions for us who experience time as fairly flying and want to slow it down some at least experientially:

  1. Upping our mental processing with travel, new challenges, getting to know new people, developing new skills (including hobbies). New information requires the brain to process it which seems to stretch out time for us. [Sidebar: I would like to pose that even if it’s the same people, same job, same places – we can go deeper or approach differently and shake up the familiar.]
  2. Perhaps most effectively, we can slow down time by making a conscious effort to be more “mindful” of our experiences. Mindfulness means giving our whole attention to an experience—to what we are seeing, feeling, tasting, smelling, or hearing—rather than to our thoughts.” Dr. Taylor talks further about what it means to be “in the moment”.

This was fascinating and so doable in terms of slowing down and squeezing all the good out of our lives…and helping others do the same.

4)  The Why of Public Outcry – Two words: Social media. It is way more edgy than it used to be a few years back. More hateful. More in your face. Leadership coach Carey Nieuwhof, formerly a lawyer and currently a pastor, has written about it, challenging us about why we are more angry, and how we use social media as our vehicle for voicing anger and stirring it up in others.

Why Do We Hate Each Other So Much? (5 Reasons Anger Is the New Epidemic)

Photo Credit: Flickr

We may not see ourselves as anger-driven, and some of us aren’t so much. For the issues we are passionate about, we have other avenues to make our voices known. However, using social media is a little too easy and a lot more telling of the anger…even hatred that stirs inside.

Nieuwhof’s 5 reasons of the epidemic of anger in our culture today:

  1. You’re naturally more aggressive online than you are in person.
  2. Hate generates more clicks than love.
  3. Any attention can feel better than no attention.
  4. You know enough to make your world feel dark.
  5. Anger can get you heard, even when you have nothing to say.

Read his article. Lots of great commentary and helps on anger/hatred. Nieuwhof closes with this:

“Here are four questions to ask next time you post, write, blog, podcast, or shoot that email or text.

What’s my real motive? Am I trying to help, hurt, or just get noticed?

Are people better off, or worse off, for having read what I posted? 

Am I calling out the worst in people, or attempting to bring out the best?

If the person I’m writing to was in the room looking me in the eye, would I say the same thing in the same way? 

What do you do with the junk you feel—the loneliness, the anger, the outrage? Here’s the best thing I know how to do: Process privately. Help publicly.” – Carey Nieuwhof

5) Overcomer Movie – I LOVE the Kendrick Brothers. They are filmmakers. All their films have a Christian foundation, with themes large enough to resonate with anyone out there who wants their lives to count for something. With each film, they have matured their craft such that their films today can compete with any mainstream film. Their film Overcomer is coming out August 2019. Can’t wait.

Happy Weekend and Happy Mother’s Day, Y’all. Blessings.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Facebook, Joshua Harbin

Richard Sibbes (1577–1635); Pinterest

45+ comics about double standards in our society and you’re probably guilty of them

Feds Release 168,000 Illegal Immigrant Family Members Into Communities – Stephen Dinan – a read different from others lately.

Photo Credit: United Health, Twitter

Photo Credit: Debbie Hampton, Twitter

Why Your Brain Loves to Laugh – Debbie Hampton

5 Friday Faves – Game of Thrones on Guitar, Right Frame of Mind, Legacy Beyond Career, Privilege, and a Stack of Books

It’s Monday. A smoldering week-long cold zapped my usual strength. This was topped off happily by a healing family weekend at the beach…and Friday turned into Monday. You will find these favorites of the week worth the wait. They sure brightened my week.

1) Game of Thrones on Guitar – Full disclosure: I have never watched Game of Thrones. The glimpses I’ve seen on YouTube are stunning but the Medieval violence (both weaponized and sexual) are halting for me. The music, however, is gorgeous…which I can enjoy without watching the popular series. On the eve of the start of Season 8 (and the final season reportedly), Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has released his arrangement of the Game of Thrones theme (“Light of the Seven”). Watch and enjoy here.

YouTube Video – Game of ThronesLight of the Seven Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

2) Right Frame of Mind– Author Frank Sonnenberg writes to encourage people that how we think frames our relationships and our work. When we struggle with negative thought patterns, they ooze out through facial expressions, tone of voice, focus, quality of work, and health of relationships. Even when we feel justified, we are the ones hurt by negative thinking. Turn it around. His graphic below is a good place to start.Photo Credit: Frank Sonnenberg Online

Soul Food: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life – Frank Sonnenberg

3) Legacy Beyond Career – Basketball. This week marked the final game of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Between college and professional basketball, there’s a lot to watch on TV…including great commercials.

[Sidebar: I have to insert here that although I played basketball in high school and watched the Atlanta Hawks while living there), I don’t watch basketball so much anymore. Dave and I did walk over, on a snowy evening in New Haven, to see a Yale/Cornell game, way back when. It was our first date.]

During the final game of the NCAA tournament, we watched University of Virginia finally defeat another great team (from Texas Tech). It was exciting!

One commercial that evening really touched me. It was actually a beer commercial but that message was subtle. The real star of the commercial was Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade who just retired this past week from professional basketball. He’s a great ballplayer but his legacy goes far beyond his basketball career: Take a look:

Tearjerker Alert: NBA Legend Dwyane Wade Is Honored for His Off-the-Court Activism

4) Privilege – Again, maybe because it is the height of basketball season, I came across an insightful essay on white privilege by professional basketball player Kyle Korver.

NBA Star Kyle Korver Has Written a Powerful Essay About White Privilege

Privileged – Kyle Korver

Photo Credit: The Players’ Tribune

Racism and the NBA – The Players’ Tribune [Watch the video]

Growing up, I had determined to be color-blind myself, but it was naive and hurtful, on my part. To be honest, white privilege is a phenomenon I’m just coming to terms with… Kyle Korver’s essay, from the standpoint of a white person looking at privilege from a close and intimate vantage point, is a good place to start.

5) A Stack of Books – Kindergarten registration was this week around here. It dawned on me that in one year, my wee oldest granddaughter will be the age to register. Yipes!

She loves to “read” already, having the daily experience of books read to her by mommy, daddy, and whoever else will open one with her.

Thought leader Russell Moore is someone I follow who reads voraciously. When he posted his latest stack of books, it revealed a book I’m reading right now as well: Justin Whitmel Earley’s The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction.Photo Credit: Russell Moore, Twitter

After seeing his stack, I pulled together (from various parts of our house) the books I’m currently reading.

How about you? I would love for you to post (in the Comments below) a picture of your current stack of books.

___________________________________________________________________________

I would say something about having a great weekend, but now it’s Monday. Let’s get to it! Blessings always and thanks for reading.

Bonuses:

[One of our azalea bushes and the first butterfly of Spring]

How to Downsize Your Home (Free Checklist)

What Is a Kind Husband? Five Characteristics of True Kindness – Douglas Wilson

Photo Credit: Brené Brown, Facebook

List of All Suicide Helplines Worldwide

Monday Morning Moment – Ian Bremmer – on Global Politics and Replacing Rage with Hope

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

How do American politics affect our ability and capacity to be a force for good on the world stage?  What elements align to make any of global nations consequential or inconsequential? What natural or geopolitical events will lead to migrations of people to who knows where? What are the top political risks facing our country and our world today?

Political scientist and thought leader Ian Bremmer was just an unknown name on our Richmond Forum subscription for this year’s season. Then we heard him speak. Wow! My ignorance was what was showing.

Ian Bremmer is a brilliant, funny, courageous, optimistic analyst of all things global. He has conversations with world political and economic leaders and their staff, and I’m sure he asks excellent questions. His analysis is intriguing because he clearly knows what he’s talking about and he kindly brought it down to a fifth grader’s understanding.Photo Credit: Richmond Forum

Ian Bremmer Engages with Geopolitics, Honesty, and Humor at The Richmond Forum – Thomas Breeden

The best part of the whole evening was his unflappable honesty. He clearly had his biases regarding world leaders, including our own country’s leaders. Yet, he takes the larger and longer view. I so appreciated that. It’s part of why he’s not “crazy”, as he encouraged us not to be as well when we read and watch the news each day.

Bremmer told the audience his goal for the evening was to make us all “10% less crazy.” What makes us crazy regarding our country’s politics? He summed it up memorably:

A lot of us feel like our system is rigged. A lot of us feel like our representatives are not representing us. A lot of us feel like the American dream no longer applies to us. And they feel like when the political leaders or the CEOs or the bankers or the journalists or the public intellectuals—God forbid—are talking to us, that they’re lying.”Ian Bremmer

If we daily wonder if we’re being lied to by our politicians and not truly represented by our elected officials, then we do become a little crazy…distrusting our government and divided and polarized in our thinking, depending on our particular brand of politics.

Adding to this, Bremmer gives four other factors that fuel the divide:

  • Immigration – So much talk and very little done on either side of the aisle to improve the system – with the hope of making it fair for all who would like a chance to immigrate as well as humane and just for those foregoing lawful entry to the country.
  • Economic Inequality – This continues to increase, and it heightens the political divide between peoples as well. It adds to the “us vs. them” scenario.
  • Wars – When we seem always on the brink of a war (either threatened by a nuclear power or compelled to enter because of an oppressed ally, we struggle again with trusting our leadership, especially as our spouses and children lay their lives on the line for these wars. For what purpose?
  • Social Media – The rage of the average citizen who feels unheard or discounted by his government is stoked through the comments of others on social media. Where are the conversations being had by reasonable people with a stake in the outcome?

Ian Bremmer addressed these stressors and then he calmly proceeded with a survey of global and national threats and trends. I won’t go into them here but you can follow his generous, insightful commentary on all the latest news via his website, broadcasts, books, and Twitter/Facebook feeds. He will educate you and encourage how to engage rather than isolate.

[Forgive me for staying general on this, regarding geo-political risks.]

Bremmer gave two excellent challenges to us. The first is to find a person who we disagree with politically but who we respect (I have a short list of those valuable friends and family members). Then engage in conversation, with the goal to listen, learn, and better understand. Our default is to be enraged but not engage…we just read their social media posts and don’t comment, or worse, do…when we could actually create face-to-face dialogue. Neither of us may change but we have the opportunity to grow closer in coming to viable solutions to the problems we face.

His second challenge was to encourage our young people to study abroad…even in high school, even just for a semester. To put themselves in the minority. To learn from others who have similar problems as well as quite different ones. To learn how to draw down conflict and create understanding. To learn how to problem-solve with less monetary resources. These young people of ours will be the ones who will have to figure out how to flourish in the world we are leaving them.

Ian Bremmer talks reality but with hope and a healthy sense of humor. We would do well to follow his example in this…whether we agree with him on all points or not.

From a secular point of view, he came as close to answering my life-long question “Why can’t we all get along?” Bremmer’s talk also reminded me of Dr. Seuss’ book Oh, the Places You’ll Go. In the midst of a forum on global politics, economic upheaval, war and poverty, he posed the possibility of hope…if we show up and engage with one another.

YouTube Video – Ian Bremmer on the Failure of Globalism – some of the content we enjoyed at the Richmond Forum.

YouTube Video – Ian Bremmer – How the US Should Use Its Superpower Status

Global Warming: Severe Consequences for Africa – Dan Shepard [Ian Bremmer got me to consider global warming more seriously when he talked about how the peoples of equatorial Africa will one day have to leave their countries and immigrate north.]

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.