Category Archives: America

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:

Thanksgiving Memories – All Good Gifts

2006 -- Nov -- Thanksgiving table

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17

[Adapted from the Archives]

For most of 20 years, we lived in North Africa where a Thanksgiving holiday was a foreign concept. “Eid el Shukr” (“Feast of Thanks” in Arabic) was understood but not a day set aside. We, along with other expat Americans, brought Thanksgiving with us and invited our local friends into the experience. On the surface, American Thanksgiving has pretty much three constant components – food, family, and football.

Back in the States, the old traditions are changing and yet stay sweetly familiar. My Mom, who always laid out an incredible Southern-style feast on the kitchen counter at home in Georgia, is no longer with us. As with some of you, I’m sure, I miss her still every day and how she lavished love on us through these family times together. Our children are grown now and establishing their own traditions with more families and friends added into the mix. Each year, we find ourselves re-working our own traditions as well.

Thanksgiving is again, for us, all about food, family, and football…but there’s also another element…faith… I am grateful every day for the kindnesses of God and those he’s placed in our lives. Celebrating Thanksgiving allows us to put an exclamation point on being grateful. It’s not just about a table full of food, although food is clearly a focal point. Thanksgiving, even as a national holiday and not a religious one, focuses our sight beyond ourselves. There is an object in Thanksgiving beyond ourselves.

Over 30 years ago, a funky little Broadway musical was turned into a film – Godspell. It was an adaptation of the life of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew. At that time, I was in the season of life that young people pass through of searching out what exactly I believed. It wasn’t going well at that time. Praise God, He did not forget me during those days when I had all but forgotten Him. Watching the film Godspell was one of the occasions God used to wake me up. There’s a wonder and delight in the young followers of Jesus in the musical. It reminded me of what I had once with God…and what could be again.

All the songs in the musical Godspell are lovely. Composer and Lyricist, Stephen Schwartz, beautifully captured some of Jesus’ teaching and the depth of love and rightness between Him, His followers, and creation, in general. All Good Gifts, adapted from an old hymn, is one such song and is a pure and proper doxology of praise for Thanksgiving.

Worship with me.  [Here’s the YouTube video from Godspell to give you the melody.]

All Good Gifts*
We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land..
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand..
He sends us snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain…
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain…

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love…

We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seedtime and the harvest, our life our health our food,
No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts
But that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts!

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love..

I really wanna thank you Lord!
All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love..

2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 010Food – Family Favorites in Mom’s Kitchen2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 012 a (2)

Football – on T.V. or out on the street with cousins and friends2010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 204

Family – Time together…savoring every minute2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 015

Happy Thanksgiving…

Oh…just in case Thanksgiving is a struggle…and it isn’t all happy family fun…I pray you take courage and rein in your heart to remember that God sees and loves you. We can be a Thanksgiving blessing to each other…if you’ve read this far…you are a blessing to me. Wish you were at our table…maybe one day you will be. You are definitely welcome at God’s table.

YouTube Video – Take Courage – Kristene DiMarco

*Lyrics and Story Behind the Song – All Good Gifts (Godspell)

YouTube Video – All Good Gifts (Godspell 1990)

YouTube Video Clip – All Good Gifts (Godspell original cast 1973)

Wikipedia article on original hymn/lyric – We Plough the Fields and Scatter (1862)

5 Friday Faves – A Life that Matters, Factory Tours, Early Morning Habits, Elections, and Making Place

Happy Friday, y’all. How was your week? Mine was a bit different – not bad, or anything like that…but different. More introspective (if you can imagine)…quieter… If yours was more hectic and chaotic, I hope you can take a breath this weekend, re-orient your mind and heart, and refresh with those you love.

Here are five faves for this week:

1) A Life that Matters – Author and thought leader Andy Crouch is one of my go-to guys on how to have impact on a broken world. I read his stuff and then try to see this world through a lens he offers. Photo Credit: Christianity Today

He was guest on a podcast recently that again stirred my heart toward the possibility of making this a flourishing world. A world where everyone has the opportunity to be successful. Jessica Honegger is the podcaster and she is also the founder and CEO of Noonday Collections – a fashion accessory company that partners with artisans all over the world giving them opportunities to flourish through their own work.Photo Credit: Medium, Erika Ashley

On the podcast (so worth your time), Jessica talks about how cushioned we are by the bubble wrap we pull tightly around our lives. In ripping off the bubble wrap, we can discover something of a life that matters. Andy Crouch talks about a life of pilgrimage as a way to rid ourselves of the bubble wrap:

“I try to just constantly be planning to be in places that are going to be difficult for me, that I’m not going to have a lot of competence, I’m not necessarily going to have a lot to offer, but I have a lot to learn, and I trust that…I mean, for me as a Christian, that God is there in those places, in some way is willing to meet me in those places in a way that…I suppose God is willing to meet me every day, but that I’ll never find out about unless I take those journeys. So, that’s just a habit of my life now.”

[Pilgrimage is a good place to start, and I’ve begun ever so gingerly to make that a habit. Just yesterday I discovered an Islamic Center just 2 miles from my house…just scratching the surface of knowing my part of town.]

As these two talked through the podcast, they continued to focus on lives that matter…that make a difference. Issues like bias toward action, overcoming paralyzing fear, seeing that we are all creatives (made in the image of God), and that competitiveness is a diminisher of others.

“What do I most want? It’s to know that my life mattered, it’s to know that I participated in creating something very good, that I was ultimately who I was created to be. That is the reward, and nothing else. There’s nothing else on offer, actually, than God saying, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ at the end of our lives.” – Andy Crouch

“If I Could Inspire Any Movement, It Would Be a Going Scared Movement” with Jessica Honegger – Yitzi Weiner

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

Imperfect Courage: Live a Life of Purpose by Leaving Comfort and Going Scared – Jessica Honegger

Worship Wednesday – Up and to the Right with Andy Crouch – Deb Mills

2) Factory Tours– Don’t you wonder how things are made? When I would take trips home to see my folks, we would pass by a food company ( Suzanna’s Kitchen) where the fragrance outside matched their slogan: “the cooking that takes you home”. I always wondered how you could make large quantities of food well – to be packaged and sold in grocery stores and served in restaurants.

That would make a great factory tour.

This week I had a blast from the past when a friend posted the picture below of another local favorite: Edwards Baking Company.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Marc Merlin

When I was in college, we would pass by this factory, knowing how great the pies were, and wonder what it was like inside.

Something I want to do is take my grandchildren on a few factory tours while there are still people managing most of the manufacturing. Artificial intelligence is a great thing, worthy of a look-see as well, but I’d like the grands to see actual people making all things good for us…

Fun of Factory Visit Is Off the Pie Chart – John Kessler

29 Free Factory Tours Worth Checking Out – Erin Huffstetler

3) Early Mornings – Habits of early morning are intriguing and encouraging to me (helps to be a morning person, for sure). I’ve written before about  Ben Slater’s very doable routine (from his piece 5 Simple Daily Habits That Lead to Ultimate Success). Mind you, his daily habits aren’t all early morning but they are set on a foundation of starting early. They are:

  1. Wake up early.
  2. Exercise regularly.
  3. Focus, don’t multitask.
  4. Learn from mistakes.
  5. Make personal investments.

A friend of mine, as she and her husband discover new rhythms with an empty nest, has leaned into early morning rituals. Life-giving and mind-setting habits that help to order her thinking and actions through the day. Her habits are encouraging me in my own.Photo Credit: Kathryn Visneski

In thinking about this, I came across a piece by Carey Nieuwhof which gives perspective. The habits themselves can bring on bragging rights and, with time, turn into just talk and less walk. It’s good to remember not to beat up on ourselves when we don’t start the day thusly, but take each day as a gift to begin again. Wisdom:

“In an age where most people seem to be accelerating their talk more than they’re accelerating their walk, one of the best things you can do to increase your integrity is to humble your talk and accelerate your walk.
If you simply make your talk match your walk, the gap between who you are and who you want to be becomes smaller almost instantly.”Carey Nieuwhof

[I’ve written a lot about habits – see below – mostly because of preaching to myself. :)]

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

Monday Morning Moment – Make Your Bed Every Morning and Be Ready to Change the World – DebMillsWriter

Monday Morning Moment – Screen Time – Give It a Rest – DebMillsWriter

Monday Morning Moment – Understanding True Habit Change and Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions – DebMillsWriter

4) Elections – We are days away from the US mid-term elections. I will be so glad when it’s done and settled and the American people have spoken. We are divided on issues, for sure. The politics of US elections aren’t anything to be proud of. Munch of the money that goes into campaigns could so be used in better ways. Too bad I didn’t save the many sleek political postcards we’ve received over the last weeks. They would have made a great pile, worthy of a fire on a cold Fall night. We are almost to election day, and the people will have their say.

I don’t usually point to political articles or interviews, out of respect to you and a desire to remain peaceable. We all have strong opinions most probably and they are better served with face-to-face dialogue. However…here goes. This week a podcast (like above) popped up on my social media feed, involving two people I didn’t know. Classical liberal Dave Rubin and libertarian Andrew Klavan.

Whatever your views, this interview meant a lot to me because it came from two persons who didn’t agree on everything but who were wholly committed to civility, dialog, and learning from each other.

My politics have shifted wildly as I’ve gotten older. I resonated with Andrew Klavan who commented: “I’m a conservative because I’m a liberal.” Pretty much sums it up for me today…awkward and uncomfortable as it is…

YouTube Video – Andrew Klavan and Dave Rubin: Left vs Right, Trump, and the Dishonest Media (Full Interview)

The A to Z of the Mid-terms – Sandra Rodriguez Chillida and Roland Hughes

5) Making Place – This is a new term for me. “Making space” is something that has been part of my chosen lifestyle for years – “making space at the table”, ” being inclusive”, “giving way”. Making place however is something much deeper.

Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community. Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value. – Project for Public Spaces

Photo Credit: Project for Public Spaces

Our city, Richmond, Virginia, has much for us to see in terms of murals, green spaces, and neighborhoods. I’m not sure how much of the placemaking has been done by those most impacted by it. It surprised me to find out that the many murals painted on the peeling walls of city building were done by outside artists. They are an art display of sorts around the city, but they don’t really seem to make place for those of us who live here.

What if we ourselves took ownership in “making place” in our neighborhoods? What would we want to add to make our own home places more welcoming, more of who we are and what we want for our children?

Photo Credit: Place/Making

Photo Credit: Urban Bio

What Is Placemaking?

There you go…would love your comments…but mostly, would love you to just pull away and be with those you love, making place together.

Bonuses:

Stranger Things Meets Classical Guitar – Beyond the Guitar – Fits this week:

Daily blogging – not there yet. Oh, I’ve written over 600 blogs but not one every day. This Seth Godin article gives me hope:

The first 1,000 are the most difficult

5 Friday Faves – Nicest Place in America, Combating Anxiety, Accountability Partners, Christmas Shopping, and Heart-thrilling Music

A rainy Friday here. Fall has definitely come to our part of the world. The folks who seem to know tell us we won’t be seeing a lot of color, with leaves just turning brown before they fall…oh well. I will capture what I can and share with you.

Here are my Friday Faves:

1) Nicest Place in America – On one of the morning TV shows this week, the winner of a national contest was announced. It was Reader’s Digest Nicest Place in America. Now, if we were asked what we considered “the nicest place in America”, there would probably be a myriad of answers. This year’s winner of the contest was Yassin’s Falafel House in Knoxville, Tennessee.Photo Credit: Square

Tennessee Falafel Shop Named Readers Digest Nicest Place – Good Morning America

Yassin is a Syrian refugee who loves people and loves America. He also has both the gift of Syrian hospitality and Syrian food sense. Next time, I’m in Knoxville, I will be eating there for sure.Photo Credit: Yassin’s Falafel House

This year Richmond, Virginia had its first Egyptian Food Festival. I would love to see a falafel restaurant in Richmond. So…if we don’t have Syrians like Yassin in Richmond, maybe we have some Egyptians with the same knack for good business. I sure hope so.

[What would you say is the nicest place in America? Comment below.]

2) Combating Anxiety – It’s such a crippling experience…anxiety. I’ve written about it before – here and here. Counsel helps – from professionals and as well as those who have figured how to pull themselves out of crippling anxiety. Here is a piece I found helpful.

Eleven scriptures to combat anxiety

What have you found to be helpful when anxiety creeps in?

3) Accountability Partners – Accountability can be uncomfortable…too much push. However when you find yourself in accountability partnerships where everyone wants the same thing and are all figuring it out together…that’s the best.

I recently met two women who without their knowing have become strong influences in my life…accountability partners in a way because they inspire me to move out of my comfort zone on to meaningful action.

Shelby Brown with Mission From the Heart and Wendy McCaig with Embrace Richmond, author of From the Sanctuary to the Streets, are those two women. I am thankful for their lives and their example.

Two friends have also become accountability partners. Together, we did a 6-week course on justice. Arise – a Study on God’s Heart for Justice. Now we’re done, but not really. In a month, we will gather again to see how it is going in applying our new knowledge and greater awareness to some real life situations. Accountability in its most fundamental application is the “ability” to “account” for…filling in the blank for whatever is at stake. I’m grateful for the partnership we have because it takes the passion already present and turns up the heat to move passion to action.

What God does in guiding us to opportunities to “do justice” is something I strongly anticipate…for myself and all of us.

5 Steps to an Effective Accountability  Partnership, and 2 Things to Never Do – Marissa Levin

4) Christmas Shopping – It’s still weeks away from Christmas, but some of you are already out there checking off your lists. You are my heroes. As I’ve gotten older and with the changes in our culture, Christmas shopping has become tricky. We all want to give those we love something special for Christmas, but it isn’t easy. Now with our more minimalist younger generation, challenges abound. Fortunately, we are getting help through online lists (like the ones below). Many families want experiences for their children more than toys. We have gone the route of a small toy and then money toward college. These lists help guide conversations and then buying. What would you add?Photo Credit: Lena @WhatMommyDoes

50 Non-Toy Gifts For Every Age – Becky Mansfield

5) Heart-thrilling Music– Our whole family are music enthusiasts. With a son who is a professional classical guitarist, we are beyond blessed with rich beautiful music on a regular basis. I love choral music as well, and although I’ve tried to get Nathan to sing on some of his pieces, it hasn’t happened…yet.

Below you will find two very different choral artists who have given us heart-thrilling performances.

Pink (with her tiny daughter) and Ken Medema.

Enjoy!

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Have a sweet weekend. Be gentle to those around you…and to yourself. Good memories are to be made…right in front of you.

Bonuses:

Pastor John Piper’s Favorite Bible VersePhoto Credit: ScriptureMe

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? A Memoir – Roz Chast (a hilarious and poignant book with incredible illustrations on the subject of aging)

Love Chast’s illustration below – one of many from her book (my kids all the time tell me, “Mom, don’t run!”)

30-Day Declutter Challenge – Becky Mansfield

Photo Credit: Facebook, The Light FM

Artist: Jan Priddy

5 Friday Faves – Emotional Pixar Themes, Relationships, Care for the Most Vulnerable, the Question, and Reason

TV is on in the background. Watching our government come apart at the seams. Or so it seems. Here are my lightning-speed Friday Faves;

1) Emotional Pixar ThemesBeyond the Guitar posted his arrangement this week of some of the heartbreaking Pixar movie themes. Masterful music – you just don’t expect to feel sad in a children’s animated film. Still the sweetest memories of these nights at the movies. Did you see them all?

2) Relationships – I discovered a few unique articles this week on the precious, life-giving quality of relationships. One of those articles even deals with relationship-shattering divorce (I have dear friends and family who have experienced the hard of divorce. This article is for those who have had divorce thrust on them or they are considering divorce as their only recourse…at least worth the read…).

Photo Credit: AFMC

So here they are:

You Won’t Make it Alone: Five Reasons You Need Good Friends – Drew Hunter

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

To a Spouse Considering Divorce – John Piper

If you have a resource you have found affirming regarding relationships, please share in Comments.

3) Caring for the Most Vulnerable – What does it take to care for our most vulnerable neighbors? There are so many books out there with warnings about charitable giving, or help that hurts. Giving is a good thing but it’s not a complete thing. Raleigh Sadler wrote a paper that speaks to this so well: Jesus’ Invitation to Care for Our Most Vulnerable Neighbors. He addresses five ideas regarding these we long to help but don’t know how. These ideas are: Identify, Empower, Protect, Include, and Collaborate. [His article is a quick read…let him answer your questions.] Along these very lines, Embrace Richmond does training on Assets-Based Community Development. Wendy McCaig, the trainer and executive director of Embrace Richmond, guides those in the audience in learning how to do community listening.Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig

Those we want to care for are the ones we need to get to know, look them in the eye, and give ear…then we might be able to come alongside them, and together we help make their lives better.

Look for this sort of effort in your own community.

4) The Question – Nope, it’s not “Will you marry me?”

This week marked TV’s Fall Season premiers. Lots of great story-lines and ensemble casts. My favorites are law, medical, and police shows. New Amsterdam is a new program that highlights the patient care in a huge medical center with all the drama of politics and corruption affecting the patients. A new medical director, Dr. Goodwin, comes on the scene, in the first episode, and turns the status quo upside down, for the sake of those most vulnerable. Over and over, he asked the question:

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

He drew in discouraged physicians, harried nurses, and desperate patients and families with this question.

I love the question…it works magic in the workplace, in families, everywhere.

‘New Amsterdam’ Premiere Recap: How Can Dr. Goodwin Help? – Emily Longeretta

5) Reason –The Supreme Court of the United States has a vacancy. The US President nominates a candidate. The next step is for the Senate Judiciary Committee to do the heavy and serious work of examining the fitness of the candidate before releasing their name to the Senate for a vote. This is a weeks-long process.

Finally the candidate sits before the Committee to answer their questions. The Judiciary Committee is made up of 11 senators – men and women. Documents and witnesses are presented. It can be a grueling process for everyone.

Our current situation is the accusation of sexual assault by a woman who once knew the nominee. This week, she gave testimony, and the nominee gave his response. She said…he said.

Everyone in the US who cares knows the facts of this proceeding in great detail…our political bias impacts what we believe is true…whether we admit it or not. [Great article below.]

Blasey Ford-Kavanaugh Testimony Tells a tale of Two Internets – Emma Grey Ellis

Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, establishing and verifying facts, applying logic, and changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information. It is considered to be a distinguishing ability possessed by humans.

Using reason, or reasoning, can also be described more plainly as providing good, or the best, reasons. For example, when evaluating a moral decision, “morality is, at the very least, the effort to guide one’s conduct by reason—that is, doing what there are the best reasons for doing—while giving equal [and impartial] weight to the interests of all those affected by what one does.Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Watching the proceedings of this confirmation hearing was like nothing I have ever seen before. The vitriole. The partisan divide. The reckless treatment of people. The lying (there must be lying somewhere).

Whoever watched these proceedings would take one side or the other. There is no room for fence-sitting on these issues. How do we reason out what is happening here? How do we reason together when it seems people refuse to hear and try to understand the other side?

Where I would see reason, another person might see something very different…and on the flip side, I also saw something else…so damaging to the individuals interviewed this week…and to our country. God help us.

Ten Reasons to Love Thinking – Dawn Field

All that said…It’s Not Over Yet.

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That’s the five for this week. How about you? Please share. Have a relaxing weekend…spent with people you love. Blessings!

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Karen Burnette Garner [my life-long friend Karen]

She Shaped Me: Ten Exemplars of Faith – Kelli B. Trujillo

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Monday Morning Moment – Men Who Finish Well – a Timely and Timeless Message by Johnny Hunt

Photo Credit: MCC

One of our neighbors is a published historian who has another manuscript ready to go. If it were me, those pages would have been mailed to the publisher months ago. Not this author. The chapter footnotes must be accurate, so weeks upon weeks have been spent on the tedious task of checking and re-verifying their accuracy.

Finishing anything well takes great effort and persistence. Especially a life well-lived to the finish.

Johnny Hunt is a pastor and author. He has been the lead pastor and teacher of First Baptist Church of Woodstock for over 30 years. Just this past week, the execution of a succession plan unfolded as Dr. Hunt begins the process of passing his baton to the next pastor.

Photo Credit: Truett McConnell University

Leadership writer Brian Dodd captured Johnny Hunt’s message on finishing well and shared those points on his blog this week.

Pastor Johnny Hunt’s 10 Characteristics of Pastors and Men Who Finish Well – Brian Dodd

His points are as followed. Read Dodd’s blog for the rest of his notes on Dr. Hunt’s excellent talk. The observations that follow the points below are my emphases. Also every point can apply to us as women as well.

Men Who Finish Well

  1. Want to finish well. – Desire and the focus of our desire are the foundation of finishing well.
  2. Ooze with humility. – This is not about talking humble or having an humble expressiveness. This is genuine humility – a person who inserts his life into the humble; willing to do humble things; a person with a clear understanding of who he is and what he is capable of (both holy and horrible).
  3. Know they could be steps away from a fall. – One bad choice can follow us all through our lives, or catch up with us. We shouldn’t be discouraged by that, but we should be aware, from a young age, that consequences of our actions come…sooner or later. Best to avoid or correct as early as possible.
  4. Are intentional, putting up guardrails in their lives. – Guardrails are barriers we put up for ourselves that keep us from the edge of an activity or mindset that could cause damage down the road. We have all said, thought, or acted on “That’s not so bad.” or “Everybody’s doing it.” What we once considered unacceptable may be considered acceptable today but tomorrow it could be a high crime. We must intentionally determine where the edge is and take a step back by putting guardrails in place. Not for fear of consequences but out of care…and aiming to finish well.
  5. Plan to finish well. – Guardrails are part of this. Do you have a plan in place? What does it look like?
  6. Firmly committed to their families. – This makes a huge difference. Huge influence on our decision-making.
  7. Have some kind of mentor in their lives. – Another guardrail actually, but also vital to honest accountability. Lone rangers who may often find themselves at the top of organizations and culture influencers are highly vulnerable to falling from their own isolation.
  8. Live in the Word of God and on their knees. – Johnny Hunt is finishing strong because he doesn’t separate sacred and secular. He understands the importance of having a guide to live life in a fickle, changeable world system. A sign of his own humility is his dependence on being daily in God’s Word and daily praying.
  9. Committed to integrity. – Finishing well requires us to be consistent and dependable in our actions and decision-making. Dabbling in less-than-honest transactions with people will eventually find us out.
  10. Evangelize regularly. – This may seem an odd characteristic of finishing well if you are reading as a person not given to faith or especially faith in God through Jesus. In Johnny Hunt’s long faith walk, he has taken the claims of Christ very seriously and has seen the work of God’s grace in his life and others. He knows the glorious good that comes out of that relationship with God and would not withhold the knowledge of that from anyone.
  11. Ambitious only in honoring Jesus. – Dr. Hunt could have stayed in his pastor position for another 10-15 years or more. This mega-church pastor role can be a real head-trip if these men don’t take precautions to guard their hearts against that level of pride. For the sake of his church’s future and doing his best to listen to God’s leading, Dr. Hunt chose to step down…for very good and Godly reasons.

[I counted 11 so we got a bonus help from Dr. Hunt and Brian Dodd.]

When our children left home for college, one by one, we had many talks together. Trying to prepare them for what could lie ahead. All through their lives, we had taught them to treat others with care. To also see the wrong in taking advantage of someone or some situation for ill, no matter the reason. Some of that teaching came out of our own histories, Dave and me, and from making our own mistakes as young people. Doing all we could to ensure these precious ones would avoid the pitfalls of life that can take you down.Photo Credit: Michael Staires

Avoid situations where you are alone with the opposite sex, especially late at night. Don’t accept open beverage containers. Be cautious in group events where there is drinking and no supervision. Abstain from recreational drugs or beverages. Make choices regarding dress and demeanor as to not compromise another person. Keep your hands to yourself. Be responsible in choosing whom you spend time with.

[Nothing original here. The nature of these teen talks became more serious as our kids were preparing to be out on their own. No one looking over their shoulder. Their choices could have life-long implications.]

This year, I listened to a good friend process sending her oldest son off to college. He is one of the sweetest young men I know – a good heart, respectful, and genuinely friendly to all he meets. This mom (and the dad) wanted to make sure that he understood that college today is not just about his choices but how others perceive his behavior. It’s not just being careful to do right by others but also to behave in such a manner that no one could take offense…now or twenty years from now. Especially in any perceived sexual offense. Other? What are your thoughts?

This is where we seem to be today in America.

Finishing well, especially as men, might be more complicated today but it is still within the grasp of those who determine from the beginning to aim far and run their lives with steadfast resolve.

Finish Well – Michael Staires

Guardrails – Andy Stanley

Why You Need Guardrails in Your Life – Robin Steele

Four Essentials to Finishing Well – Jerry Bridges – Desiring God

7 Characteristics to Help You Finish Well – Ken Boa

Real Momentum

Monday Morning Moment – Truth Matters

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

“What is truth?”

Centuries ago, a Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, asked this question of an innocent man, brought before him by accusers. Religious leaders who wanted to destroy him. Men who would have their way no matter what it meant for this man…even death.

Pilate was complicit in the death of Jesus Christ because he found no evidence against him, yet, to satisfy the loud voices crying out against him, he washed his hands of the matter and sent him out to be crucified.

Truth matters.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

This morning I read a local news account which has disturbed me all day.

The article surprised me because I actually knew the particulars of the story very well. The reporter described a recent event and then added a completely unrelated previous event. The first was morally neutral, but the second event was scandalous. The innuendo was clear. The article fairly sizzled with the possibility…probability that the two events…the two persons (very different from each other) were linked. Thus casting a shadow on the innocent one with the clear guilt of the other. Just a shadow. Just a possibility of wrong.

Just innuendo and nuance.

Did this reporter lie? She did not, in so many words. Did she shade the truth? Yes.

“The Greek word for ‘truth’ is aletheia, which literally means to ‘un-hide’ or ‘hiding nothing.’ It conveys the thought that truth is always there, always open and available for all to see, with nothing being hidden or obscured. The Hebrew word for ‘truth’ is emeth, which means ‘firmness,’ ‘constancy’ and ‘duration.’ Such a definition implies an everlasting substance and something that can be relied upon.

From a philosophical perspective, there are three simple ways to define truth:

   1. Truth is that which corresponds to reality.
   2. Truth is that which matches its object.
   3. Truth is simply telling it like it is.” – Got Questions

Telling the truth is a huge core value in our family. Growing up, our children knew that lying would bring a most undesirable consequence. We would rather know they were telling the truth, even when it exposed something that would grieve us as their parents.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

We live in a culture today that seems to thrive on a semblance of “my truth” or “truth as I know it”. What that means is “If I can convince you I am right then we will all be better off…well, especially me.” There seems almost a fever for exposing lies. The irony is the lengths people will go to to expose falsehood in others – political opponents, for instance. Even lying to do so. Making lying a necessary “evil” or a “moral high road” to bring down the greater villain or threat.

I know personally how easy it is to be deceived and to deceive oneself. In my 20s, I had my Sunday life and my “rest of the week” life. Politically, I was fairly soft on the issues, bowing to those in my life who were more articulate or who had done their homework… more than me. Spiritually, I wanted the world too much to be faithful to the God whom I owed everything. I wanted to be liked, admired, accepted…the tinsel of a life pleasing to others blinded me for awhile. I was deceived.

“Once you take to the habit of deception, every new lie comes that much easier. Though to me it wasn’t so much lies as a matter of judicious editing. We all inevitably present a version of ourselves that is a collection of half-truths and exclusions. The way I saw it, the truth was too complicated, whereas the well-chosen lie would put everyone’s mind at ease.”  Caroline Kettlewell, Skin GameGoodReads

I can actually tell you the moment that the scales fell off my eyes (another time). At that moment, I remembered that truth was the hinge that swings open the door to life as it’s meant to be lived. Or maybe truth is the door.

For sure, seeking the truth and speaking the truth are huge. In our home, with our kids growing up, even just watching a movie, we would point out the messages that had lies as the foundation. [That might have driven our kids nuts, when I think about it now.] We would do the same about the latest social commentary and, as they went off to college, we talked about what they would encounter in terms of worldviews different from their own.

In my younger years, I loved how journalists rabidly exposed lies, protecting us from evil politicians or uncivil servants. These days, the vigilance of reporters and partisan politicians regarding “what is truth” seems too self-serving and mean to be righteous.

“The fact is, the truth matters – especially when you’re on the receiving end of a lie.”Ravi Zacharias

If I have been harsh in this writing, please forgive me. That article of earlier in the day is still ringing and stinging in my ear. Truth is not meant to be a hammer and everything else a nail. Even the One crucified gave us the example of Truth lived out in love (Ephesians 4:15).

So…for our children. Thank you, for not being too hard on us while we taught you, out of our own mistakes and short-sightedness. Thank you, for still being willing to have truth conversations with us. Thank you, for continuing to seek the truth, even in the midst of a culture of innuendo, nuance, half-truths (definitely a misnomer), and sizzling stories that beg to be believed.

Also, thank you, you influencers out there, who also love the truth and guard it with your life and that influence.

Exposing lies is important, but if the desire in going after the truth is really motivated by the desire to destroy someone in your way…or to elevate your own agenda…no matter how noble…it can’t be worth what is lost along the way. It must not be.

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8

Got Questions – What Is Truth? – an excellent read on the truth…and The Truth

Monday Morning Moment – the Essence and Ethics of Spin in Our Work, Our Politics, and Our Community – Deb Mills