Category Archives: Books

Monday Morning Moment – Confessional Communities – What Are They? You’ll Wish You Were In One If You Aren’t Already

Photo Credit: Group Therapy Central

[As I was preparing my own take on confessional communities, I came across Aimee Byrd‘s piece on the same, as part of her analysis of Curt Thompson‘s latest book The Soul of Desire. Byrd’s blog is a quick read and very helpful.]

Confessional communities – probably sounds like some sort of monastery life. Or a group with all kinds of touchy-feely exercises framed by unintelligible psycho-babble, right? Oh no! So much more and so much better!

I’ve been awakened to the presence and possibilities of confessional communities since recently reading of the Thompson trilogy below.

What rung intuitively right for me throughout my adult life has actually been tested and found true in something called Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB). No time to go deeply into this now, but, in short, our brains are wired for connection, and that is connection inside the brain/mind itself as well as with others (and God).

Confessional communities are used by Dr. Curt Thompson and others as ways to help clients get in touch with shame, trauma, fear, anxiety, etc. in the company of others struggling with some of the same. Shame, for instance, drives us to isolate from God and others. It compounds interest over time, if left to itself in our own minds, and muffles our desires and longings, as it condemns and flattens us.

“We need to create confessional communities where people are confessing the truth about their life – some of which includes confessing sin or doing things that show my brokenness. Some of it is just things that have happened to me, or things that I feel; things that I sense; things that I dream; things that I long for; things that I’m conflicted about. But I’m trying to tell the whole truth about my life – but not so that anybody can just hear it and then move on.…In confession, what I’m really looking for – in your eyes, in your body language, in your voice – is for you to be able to say, “You’re right, Curt; you were wrong to do that. You’re forgiven. I’m not leaving.” I need to know you can bear the weight of what I know to be really wrong [with me], and that you will still stay. If it’s minimized, it will continue to linger with me…Shame always requires outside help for healing. My shame needs you. If it’s a small thing, I might need only one conversation with you. But, if it’s much bigger than a very, very small thing, I’m going to need multiple conversations with multiple people, because shame will come through multiple different doors into my head when I’m left by myself…”Curt Thompson

Photo Credit: Curt Thompson, Twitter

“…in order for me to be liberated from the shame I carry, …I need to hear that my behavior was really as bad as I think, if not worse, while simultaneously sensing that the person I am confessing to is not leaving. Shame has the effect of coaxing us into pretending that sin is not as bad as it seems; for if it really is that bad, and I have to face it, it would be too much and I fear I would be overwhelmed. When someone seeks forgiveness for the wrong they have committed, we who have been wounded must be able to acknowledge the reality of the pain inflicted if forgiveness is to be real, and if the offender’s shame is to be effectively healed.” – Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame

Confessional communities are spelled out in Thompson’s writing, teaching (found on YouTube), and podcasts (his own and as guest on many others). The common factors include:

  • small group meetings over weeks or months.
  • willingness to tell our stories as truly as we can.
  • intentional leaning in to the stories of other group members such that “being known” is part of the outcome for all.
  • commitment to stay with each other; to “not leave the room”.
  • imagine beauty together – learning to explore and create beauty, to see what is good, true, and beautiful in each other’s personhoods.Photo Credit: Curt Thompson, Twitter

I have a friend who for several months was part of what I would now call a confessional community. She called it “Vegas”. Remember the adage “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”? It was a Bible study/house church. A group of people who committed to care for each other with masks off (not the COVID kind, but the masks we don in shame or fear). A group of people who would stay in the hard and love no matter what.

My Mom modeled this for our family. She died way too soon. My prayer is that our (birth) family will model it for each other, and my children will learn from their Dad and me how to love like this…To have the joy of being fully known and deeply loved. No matter what.

Trauma, Healing, and Side Effects with Dr. Curt Thompson – Jamie Ivey’s Podcast, The Happy Hour

Shining Light on Shame – Curt Thompson, Angulus Wilson, Steve Beers, and Morgan C. Feddes

Curt Thompson – 51 Podcast Episodes

5 Friday Faves – Shame Revisited, Classical Guitar & Squid Game, Cartoons & Classical Music, Left Brain/Right Brain, and Beach Food

Friday Faves! Go!

1) Shame Revisited – [Posted here previously] Author Andy Crouch has written an essay on how our culture has changed. For most of our history as a country, we have been a guilt-based culture. By that, I mean we measured ourselves and others as being “right or wrong” in our thinking, choosing to do right or wrong.

This is how we raised our children. We determined not to measure our children up against (compared with) other people, but to raise them up with a standard of right living and making right choices (for us, it was based on the Bible…on the teachings and life of Jesus). “Right” was not legalistic or moralistic; “right” was loving, kind, serving, non-judgmental.

Only in recent years has our culture been moving toward more of a shame-based view on life. Here the difference is how our character and behavior reflects on a larger community (“how others see us”). This is somewhat different from the traditional shame-honor culture. In that culture, honoring your family, country, religion was all-important. If your behavior did not comply with those values, you were shamed, even ostracized.Photo Credit: The Rise of Shame in America, Honor Shame

Today’s American culture has definitely moved away from a guilt orientation. We hear it all the time in statements like “Well, that may be OK for you.” “You have the right to believe that way.” “Don’t try to put that guilt on me.” However, our culture is not moving toward the traditional shame society, but more a shame-fame culture. Fame over honor. Social media has driven this in recent years. We want to be “seen” a certain way. In fact, a young colleague of ours once said, “It’s my job to make you look good.” I was shocked at that. One, “looking good” was not even on my radar. Either I was “good” (competent, responsible, dependable, etc) or I wasn’t. It demonstrated the culture shift and generational disconnect.

Shaming continues to happen in our culture. Children can be shamed for not behaving in ways that make their parents “look good”. Public shaming of people who don’t agree with each other can be as brutal as real ostracism. And so it goes.

I miss the guilt culture. Where, whatever your religion or political ideology, you could tell the good guys from the bad guys. Or maybe we were naive, but I hope not. Today, it seems all about how we portray ourselves…how we are received by those that matter to us.

Sigh…any thoughts? Please.

[Don’t forget to return and read Andy’s essay and David Brooks’ review of Crouch’s essay and this whole social phenomenon.]

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Postscript: I’m just today beginning to dig into Curt Thompson‘s book The Soul of Shame. So excited really to glean from his wisdom on the subject.

The Return of Shame – Andy Crouch

The Shame Culture – David Brooks

The Rise of Shame in America – HonorShame

When Shame Shapes Our Stories: Five Tips for Rewiring Negative Neural Pathways – Tricia McCary Rhodes

2) Classical Guitar & Squid Game – So whether you’re a fan of Korean cinema or creepy TV shows (insert Netflix’s popular Squid Game), you’re going to love the latest arrangement by Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar. It’s a medley of Squid Game themes, including the classic melody “Fly Me to the Moon”. So gorgeous.

3) Classical Music in Cartoons – Recently I was reading (again in Curt Thompson book – this time the recently published The Soul of Desire. He encouraged an intentional pursuit of beauty (a right brain renewing). He mentioned Dvorak’s 9th Symphony. I’m not a big fan of classical music, although every single time I attend a symphony performance, it slays me. So…I searched out thia particular piece on YouTube and clicked on this performance of the second movement of the symphony. Profoundly beautiful. Then…oddly familiar.

The first time I ever heard this symphony was on Saturday morning cartoons. In those days (late ’50s, early ’60s), cartoons had classical music as their soundtracks! In fact, this practice goes all the way back to the cartoons of the 1930s. Ingenious.

Cartoons and Classical Music – Bring Bach the Good Stuff – Nuriyah Johar

Classical Music in Cartoons

I’m learning later in life how the beauty of music, tucked in the background, can actually enrich what the eye sees on the many screens of our childhood and now that of our children’s children.

15 Pieces of Classical Music That Showed up in Looney Tunes – Mark Mancini [Some of the links are broken in the article but the information is preserved.]

YouTube Video – 10 Classical Music Pieces in Cartoons

YouTube Video – Most Iconic Classical Music Masterpieces Everyone Knows in One Single Video

4) Rain Brain/Left Brain I’ve written on the brain several times (as a learning layperson).

Again, thanks to Curt Thompson‘s recently published book The Soul of Desire, I’ve been learning about these two very different but inter-connected hemispheres in our brain. Thompson talks about how God made our brain for connection, but with trauma and shame, the two hemispheres become less integrated. Neural pathways are hijacked. [Talking very simply here because that’s about the level of my understanding.]

He delineates the two in many ways, but one that really spoke to me was how the right brain (the seat of our emotions and the space where we create and appreciate beauty) is very much focused on “here and with”. Being in the moment and preferably with others we care about. The left brain (our center for reasoning, analysis, and logic) favors more a “separate from” state. Standing back, evaluating, referring to the past and imagining the future.

Photo Credit: Janice Tarleton

Trauma and shame steal the easy flow of having fear and anxiety that is checked by rational reasoning. We can become stuck. Isolated from the healthy thinking we were made to have…and from each other. Thompson gives some excellent helps in his book on how to strengthen pathways between each side of the brain. Much of this is in community. Also upping our intentional appreciation of what is beautiful around us. Left brain activity is rewarded in our culture, to the detriment of right brain activity. We need both…and the beauty and community that comes with such integration.

Want to Sync the 2 Hemispheres of Your Brain? Neuroscience Says to Do This Daily (It Only Takes 4 Minutes) – Melanie Curtin

I Met Jesus in My Right Brain – Janice Tarleton

Photo Credit: Custom Writing

5) Beach Food– A long weekend in Virginia Beach this past week was lovely. Much-needed. Rain and a gusty wind kept us from as much walking as we would have liked, but it did not deter us from eating from favorite restaurants. Every year, we change that list up a bit. 19th Street Italian Bistro has been our #1 go-to restaurant every year and it is not budging from that position of honor.

Two new favorites for the year are (in the #2 spot for beach favorites) C. P. Shucker’s Cafe & Raw Bar

and (#3) Ray Ray’s at the Mayflower.

[Chef Ray is Filipino and adds all sorts of yummy island touches to the menu.]

And dessert? Always Dairy Queen Butterfinger Blizzard.

You don’t want to miss these if Virginia Beach is your destination.

How about you? What is your favorite beach food restaurant? Tell us in the Comments.

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That’s it for this week. Hope you’re able to get some time with those you love in the days ahead. Never take time together for granted. Life is such a gift. Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Worship Wednesday – Giving and Receiving Blessing – We Need It Now – Elevation Worship

[The tapestry above hangs beside our door…one of God’s many blessings upon His peoples.]

This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind, who makes the flesh his strength and turns his heart from the LORD. He will be like a shrub in the desert; he will not see when prosperity comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives, but blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. He is like a tree planted by the waters that sends out its roots toward the stream. It does not fear when the heat comes, and its leaves are always green. It does not worry in a year of drought, nor does it cease to produce fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8

 Beware of division. Having just finished reading Francis Chan‘s book Until Unity, I am way aware of how divided we are as church, family, people. We curse too easily and withhold blessing too often.

In the book of Jeremiah, the Lord speaks about this very thing. In these days of COVID, political and economic upheaval, and media’s feeding on any and every weakness and falling of the church, we take sides. We trust (or distrust, depending on our preferences) governments and authorities. We lean on our own reasoning and make that our strength. Too often, we turn our heart from God and His Word.

We are addicted to our own opinions, our own sense of rightness or rights or entitlement, our own form of judgment and retribution.

This…from the self-proclaimed “people of God”.

God, forgive us. Clear our minds. Help us to see as You see. Help us to bless and not curse. Soften the soil of our hearts toward those around us – for Your purposes. We know extending our roots deep into Your Word, surrendering ourselves to the Lordship of Christ, and obeying the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives – are the source fruitful lives.

As Your image-bearers, Father, help us to be a blessing to those around us…to speak blessing over them. Loving others as You love us …and them. We receive such generous blessing from You, Lord. Remind us we are blessed to be a blessing.

I will never forget our children’s high school graduations, all in Morocco. As part of our son Nathan’s graduation, parents are selected to give the invocation. Because of the makeup of the Senior Class, it would usually be a Muslim parent and Christian parent. In Nathan’s graduation, the Christian parent stood and lifted his hand over the class and spoke blessing to them from Scripture. I can’t remember the exact blessing, but it was powerful to us in the audience, watching this man speaking and showing blessing over our young people.

So reminiscent of Jesus’ blessing in His Sermon on the Mount:Photo Credit: Heartlight

In March 2020, at the start of the COVID pandemic, Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes helped write and then performed a song entitled The Blessing. The lyrics are straight out of Scripture and a true blessing from the Lord. It became the worship standard for our experience of God in a year full of crisis. Covered in many languages. Still such a blessing. So much beauty!

YouTube Video – The Bay Area Blessing – Churches Sing ‘The Blessing’ over the San Francisco Bay Area

We continue in a time when people seem so willing to devour one another…to curse and slander those different from or in opposition to them. This song, born out of Scripture, reminds us of God’s intent for His children…to be a blessing, out of the overflow of His own blessing in our lives, and not a cursing. He will judge the wrong and wrongs of this world. We look for whatever/whomever we can bless…and we extend blessing. Just as that parent extended his hand of blessing…we extend ourselves to those around us…in Jesus’ name. Photo Credit: Bible Verses 2 U

Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, Bear with one another and forgive any complaint you may have against someone else. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which is the bond of perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, for to this you were called as members of one body. And be thankful.Colossians 3:12-15

I thank God for this reminder of blessing. In fact, just this week, I have blasted this song at home and in my car multiple times. What a blessing we have in Him. A blessing He means for us to extend without reserve. It’s His blessing…not meant to keep only for ourselves.

Worship with me.

The Lord bless you [Numbers 6:24-26]
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

May His favor be upon you [Deuteronomy 7:9]
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you [Deuteronomy 31:8]
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

*Lyrics to The Blessing – Songwriter(s): Christopher Joel Brown, Cody Carnes, Kari Brooke Jobe, Steven Furtick

Photo Credit: The Common Rule, Twitter

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed to Be a Blessing – Andy Flannigan – Deb Mills

When Our Greatest Fears Come True – The Story Behind “The Blessing” by Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes, and Elevation Worship – Jen Roland

Monday Morning Moment – Parenting “Knots” and Untangling Them

Photo Credit: Pexels, Hipkicks

Do you remember who taught you how to tie your shoes? Or ride a bike? Or drive a car? We all have persons attached to those lessons and memories as well.

A teacher friend of mine recently posted (on Facebook) Joseph Stroud‘s poem “Knots”. I don’t remember ever reading it…but it stirred vague memories and sharp emotions.

OK…that’s a weighty situation. Most of us as children and teens feel proud and accomplished with each skill mastered in life…and our parents the same for us (and themselves as our parents). Mastery is a blessing that goes in an array of directions.

As parents we don’t get it right all the time, for sure. Rarely do we have the opportunity to go back and do it over again. Shame is a dark process we don’t want stirred up in us nor do we want to plant it in the hearts and minds of our children.

We learn and we grow and, sometimes, we ask forgiveness.

Our youngest son was born prematurely. He had a brain bleed in his first week of life that left him with physical challenges. He has overcome so many in his life that we forget sometimes what an incredible person he truly is. How much he has faced and risen above.

He will probably never forget trying to learn to ride a bike. I know I won’t forget it. As we pushed, cajoled, and sometimes scolded his faulty attempts…little did we know that he physically was never going to be able to ride a bike. And so what?! OK…we finally got it.

I just hope he doesn’t have too many memories like that in Joseph Stroud’s poem. To this day, without any memories I can call to mind, having someone standing over me watching me work is anxiety-provoking. Wonder why.

“…That memory stays with you long after you have grown into an adult who keeps trying to find his way in the world — to be strong and brave and independent and competent — without tripping over his shoe laces, without entangling himself in doubts about his father’s love.”                          – V. Galligan, Knots

In the heat of parenting, when our own “reputation” is on the line, or so we think, we don’t always see these precious children…beautiful and brilliant…and vastly more valuable than anything we think we could possibly shape meerly into our own image.

In recent weeks, I’ve been reading the works of psychiatrists Curt Thompson and Dan Siegel and  wrote about it as well…repeating a bit below:

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

[I highly recommend the above books, and not just for parents.]

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

“Seen, safe, soothed, secure”

Hard lessons in life don’t have to be laced with fear or shaming. We may have not experienced all the 4 s’s as children, or definitely not all the time, but we can aim to make that happen in our own children (and grandchildren). That they may know they are safe with us (no need to “brace for impact”), that they are truly seen (all the big emotions and struggles), that they can count on being soothed, and that they are secure in the love they have from us.

The 4 S’s of a Healthy Relationship – Kirsten Belzer

I am learning so much about parenting as a grandmother. With small children, the first time around, I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Photo Credit: R. D. Laing

Today parenting helps abound – in all sorts of media. In fact, it is hard to sort it all out while moms and dads are in the hot lab of real-time parenting.  Almost too much information; too much guidance.

Better a fire hose than needing to lean on “a mother’s intuition” which is what I was told would get me through figuring out how to parent my tiny firstborn.

What are some of your best helps? Please post in Comments below.Photo Credit: Pexels, Keira Burton

Photo Credit: The Motivation Hotel

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

Podcasts

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, Senses and Memories, Parenting Well, Fishing Perks, and Attention Alcohol

Late again. That kind of week. Here’s the rapid but not to miss runthrough.

1) Beyond the Guitar – If you love Star Wars, you will love Nathan‘s interpretation of John WilliamsAcross the Stars. Actually…whether you love Star Wars or not, this is achingly beautiful.

Then there is his piece later this week, posting his arrangement of the theme of Genshin Impact video game. This was actually sponsored by the game creators. I am sure they are pleased. Another really gorgeous treatment.

2) Senses and Memories – One of the appealing features of Nathan’s music is the nostalgia attached to much of it. It takes us back. To a scene from a movie, a TV show we shared with family, a video game of one’s childhood. Sound is powerfully attached to memory. We have all had those experiences or have read/watched the positive impact of beloved music on critically ill patients, or those suffering with brain injury or Alzheimer’s. Memory is stirred.

Where we live right now, we can hear the sound of planes, trains, and interstate traffic. The sound is just in the background but it is oftentimes powerful. Looking up at a commercial jet going over takes me back to being new in Cairo, Egypt, walking toward a taxi stand. I wondered at the destination of the flight and in my stress as a newbie to to language and culture, that sound (and sight) comforted me somehow.

The sound of a train takes me all the way back to Sfax, Tunisia, when we lived by a train track. The train whistles marked time for us through the day.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Farther still, the sound of a train took me back to childhood, as we waited for it to pass, and looking between the cars to my friend Evelyn’s house. Her family was only there briefly, but I loved her. She was from a different era. Wore hand-me-down dresses to middle school every day. Old everything. Poor. Stretched by poverty, but she was elegant and full of dignity. Their large, spooky old house peeked between the passing train cars, and I wondered at their lives inside that house. They were gone too soon…but the memory of her remains…with the sound of trains.

We know when Fall is here, because all of a sudden, it is all things pumpkin spice. Flavored coffee, pies, and decor – all pumpkiny.Photo Credit: Pexels – Valeriia Miller

What the Nose Knows – Colleen Walsh

Brain’s Link Between Sounds, Smells and Memory Revealed – Rachael Rettner

Music and Memory – Why the Music We Love as Teens Stays with Us for Life – Catherine Loveday

Comment below what are some of your favorite sensory memories.

3) Parenting Well – Our grandchildren (six years old and younger) have big emotions. Then they act on those big emotions. Whining, crying, hitting, screaming. This is not who these precious children are, but they are trying to communicate what is going on deep inside. How we respond to them – as parents and other significant (to them) adults – is huge!

Emotions relate to desire. This topic hit me hard when I saw the poem below on a friend’s Facebook page.

Our responses to our children (in normal developmental situations as well as in distressed situations) communicate far more than we think. We have recurring opportunities to connect with our children in ways that help them grow into emotionally healthy and relationally mature adults.

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

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

[I highly recommend the above books, and not just for parents.]

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

I’ll be writing about this more in the days ahead. For now, check out the “refrigerator sheet” below with Siegel’s 4 S’s, referencing his book The Power of Showing Up.

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

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

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

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

4) Fishing Perks – My sweet husband is a fisherman. He is a “catch-and-release” guy, fishing the rivers and lakes of Virginia. This joy started for him as a boy fishing with his dad. Then it grew during our years in Tennessee. Finally now, after years of living in North African cities, just on the edge of the Sahara. There are so many perks to this avocation. Some of which really came to mind on a recent adventure. [I realize this is a “duh” for many, but for me, it was a great revelation.]

  • The Buildup – The day of fishing is preceded by all the planning and preparation. Weather checks, getting the equipment ready, fueling the boat, provisioning for the day. It makes for a happy evening of anticipation…and to bed early.
  • The Thrill of the Hunt – or Thrill of the Catch – You hope not to get skunked, but the marking and revisiting sites where fish were caught once before, the thrill of the pull on the line, and finally the fish pulled into the boat. Fun stuff!

  • Solitude – the single chair on this old dock says it all. The quiet of being on the water in the woods. So refreshing. So invigorating.

  • Beauty – Everywhere you look. Water, trees, wildlife. Sun and cloud playing on the water. Changing colors as the hours pass.

  • Company [I’m glad Dave has fishing buddies who share the experience with him. I fish rarely but always gain from the time with him, in nature.]

5) Attention Alcohol –  Author attorneyJustin Whitmel Earley pointed to an article by journalist Derek Thompson‘s article on social media and its use like that of alcohol.

Photo Credit: Rachel Claire, Pexels

Earley gives these reasons below for considering limiting or taking sabbath fasts from social media:

THREE REASONS SOCIAL MEDIA IS LIKE ALCOHOL:

  • It is Addictive. This means you are not as in control as you think you are. Remember, there are 1,000 people on the other side of this screen paid inordinate amounts of money to get you to keep scrolling.
  • It Changes Your Mental Health. This means it is not neutral. Your interactions with yourself, your family, and your friends are changed because of what you do with social media. You must recognize that to use it appropriately.
  • Someone Needs to Teach You How to Use It. This is one of the hardest things about our cultural moment. Because this technology is so new, none of us had parents to teach us how to use it, set boundaries, and practice moderation. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start to learn now, teach our kids, and help our friends. 

Social Media and Alcohol – Justin Whitmel Earley

Social Media Is Attention Alcohol – Derek Thompson

That’s the 5 for this week. How about you? Please enrich my life and that of other readers with your favorite finds. Comment below. Thanks always for stopping by.

Bonuses:

Quote of the Week: “Beauty is…that which draws our attention with wonder and welcome and that ultimately leads us to worship – not worship of the object itself but worship of God in gratitude, humility, and joy.”Curt Thompson, The Soul of Desire

The “10 Things” Rule Keeps My House Uncluttered, Even with a Family of Six – Alexandra Frost – We actually had the 20 Things rule in our family once the kids were big enough to count to 10. It helped!

YouTube Video – Dr. Curt Thompson – Shame: The Details of Devouring

YouTube Video: Curt Thompson: Vulnerability Reframed: Healing Shame & Promoting Human Flourishing

Photo Credit: Ian Kremer, Twitter

How the Brain Stays Young Even as We Age – Katherine Ellen Foley

My Boyfriend Is Spiritually Lethargic. Should I Marry Him? – John Piper

87-year-old Man Rewrites News Headlines for 2020 and Inspires Us All

Biscuit Lover – Sean Dietrich

100 Skills Every Man Should Know – The Art of Manliness [Some are also excellent skills for us women as well. Not so ambitious about most of them, but glad I know men and women who do.]

Beauty is the extravagance that makes us human

Worship Wednesday – Shame Faced – O Come to the Altar – Elevation Worship

Photo Credit: Heartlight

We have renounced secret and shameful things, not acting deceitfully or distorting the word of God, but commending ourselves before God to everyone’s conscience by an open display of the truth. – 2 Corinthians 4:2

Instead of shame, My people will have a double portion, and instead of humiliation, they will rejoice in their share; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.
 – Isaiah 61:7

For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame.Romans 10:11

No wait. Don’t scroll by.

No shaming here. In fact, we may have stuffed our shame so deep inside ourselves, we are pretty sure it is ever someone else’s problem and not our own.

Wait though. We can know the beauty and freedom in life that comes from wrestling with shame…until it has no power over us. We may think it has no power over us when we tamp it down so effectively that others don’t see it…but we know it’s there.

Shame faced can be defused…and freedom follows. Beauty and fullness of life and relationships as well. Worth the vulnerability.

Until recently I didn’t think much about shame. I was more a guilt-driven person (rather than shame-driven), or so I thought. Guilt is more about doing bad, rather than “being bad” (which defines shame). However, now I see how we hide our shame and hope no one sees.

Canadian pastor Darryl Dash wrote this incredible piece on shame (linked below), taking us right from the beginning. You remember how Adam and Eve were described originally as being “naked but unashamed”? Can you imagine the beauty and freedom in that?

The Beginning of Shame (Genesis 2:24-3:10, 21) – Darryl Dash

Once sin entered, their eyes were opened…to what is now their reality. Naked and ashamed. Fearful. Wanting to hide. They were never meant to experience this darkness…this isolation from God or one another.

Dash reveals the impact of sin:

  • Shame is a result of sin — either ours, or someone else’s.
  • Shame isolates us. It makes us think that if others knew the truth about us, that they couldn’t possibly love us. It keeps us from being known and loved.
  • Shame damages us. Ultimately it can kill us.

Dash also writes about how our strategies to deal with shame only cause us to hide or avoid or attack (ourselves or others) – see graphic below from another source.

Photo Credit: The Compass of Shame, D. L. Nathanson, IIRP

Lastly, Dash reminds us of God’s glorious response to our shame – He pursues us and He clothes us.

Christian psychiatrist Dr. Curt Thompson has written an important, hugely insightful book on shame. The Soul of Shame. The quotes that follow are from this book and help put the pieces of our shame together in ways we can then open ourselves up to healing. Giving those pieces to God.

“When we experience shame, we tend to turn away from others because the prospect of being seen or known by another carries the anticipation of shame being intensified or reactivated. However, the very act of turning away, while temporarily protecting and relieving us from our feeling (and the gaze of the ‘other’), ironically simultaneously reinforces the very shame we are attempting to avoid…Indeed this dance between hiding and feeling shame itself becomes a tightening of the noose.  We feel shame, and then feel shame for feeling shame. It begets itself.”

“The defining relational motif for humankind is not that we need to work as hard as we can, or at least harder than we are. It is not to do our best or to guarantee that our children will have a better life than we had. It is not about being right or the acquisition of power. Each of those (and other versions like them) play into the hand of shame’s anxiety. No – rather, we were created for joy. Not a weak and watery concept of joy that merely dilutes our sadness and pain. Rather it is the hard deck on which all of life finds its legs, a byproduct of deeply connected relationships in which each member is constantly known.

“To relationally confront our shame requires that we risk feeling it on the way to its healing. This is no easy task. This is the common undercurrent of virtually all of our relational brokenness. We sense, image, feel and think all sorts of things that we never say, because we’re far too frightened to be that honest, that vulnerable. But honest vulnerability is the key to both healing shame -and its inevitably anticipated hellish outcome of abandonment -and preventing it from taking further root in our relationships and culture.

“Shame positions itself in such a way so as to keep borders tightly closed and vulnerability at a minimum.”

“In reality, vulnerability is not something we choose or that is true in a given moment, while the rest of time it is not. Rather, it is something we are. That is why we wear clothes, live in houses and have speed limits. So much of what we do in life is designed, among other things, to protect us from the fact that we are vulnerable at all times. To be human is to be vulnerable… Vulnerability is not a question of if but rather to what degree….in seeing the place of vulnerability in the pages of the Bible we cannot but help be amazed at its place and purpose. It begins in the beginning, where we are introduced to a vulnerable God. Vulnerable in the sense that he is open to wounding. Open to pain. Open to rejection. Open to death.

We deeply long for connection, to be seen and known for who we are without rejection. But we are terrified of the vulnerability that is required for that very contact...God does not leave. The loving relationship shared between Father, Son and Spirit is the ground on which all other models of life and creativity rest. In this relationship of constant self-giving, vulnerable and joyful love, shame has no oxygen to breathe.

 We have in Jesus one who was willing to put his naked vulnerability on full display, opening himself to all that we in evil’s employ could throw at him. He was the first to trust us with himself, revealing himself, risking abandonment in the process.” – Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame

We all have shame and can keep ourselves tightly hidden in the comfort of this small group or that…or we can follow Jesus in His naked vulnerability. Recognizing (again) that we all have shame and we all need God and each other. What comes after is the life He means for us to have…not the smaller, hidden life we think is the only one possible. Oh, Dear One…it is meant to be so much more.

Worship with me. [Lyrics in the link]

Are you hurting and broken within
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin
Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well
Jesus is calling

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there’s no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Oh what a Savior
Isn’t He wonderful
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen
Bow down before Him
For He is Lord of all
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen

Oh what a Savior
Isn’t He wonderful
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen
Bow down before Him
For He is Lord of all
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Bear your cross as you wait for the crown
Tell the world of the treasure you’ve found*

[I love the whole of this song in dealing with shame. We hide our shame because we don’t want to confront the pain – either of our own sin or that of another. Following Jesus, receiving all He has for us, includes a cross. However, we never have to carry the cross – whatever it is – alone. He is with us all the way.]

*Lyrics to O Come to the Altar – Elevation Worship – Songwriters: Steven Furtick, Christopher Joel Brown, Mack Donald Iii Brock, Wade Joye

Breaking the Power of Shame – Jon Bloom, Desiring God

What Does It Mean to Be Approved of God? – Ed Elliott

20 Quotes from Curt Thompson’s The Soul of Shame

Monday Morning Moment – How Shame Affects Our Thinking and How We Can Break Free – Deb Mills

Shame is More Common Than You Think with Dr. Curt Thompson – Jennie Allen podcast

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

Here we go!

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

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

Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, William Arthur Ward

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Spark People

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

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

Photo Credit: Lidia Yuknavitch, @Seek5, Pinterest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect With Your Kids Using the CALM Technique

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

YouTube Video – The CALM Technique for Babies and Toddlers

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

Photo Credit: Wesleyan College

The most important points in this conversation are these:

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

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

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

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

Impact of Masking – Twitter thread – Buzz Hollander MD

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Beth Wayland

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

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

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

___________________________________________________________________________

Bonuses:

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

Photo Credit: Vala Afshar, Twitter

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

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

 

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

Monday Morning Moment – Isolation and Community

Photo Credit: Jackie Hill Perry, Art of It

After one-and-a-half years in COVID, we all have grappled with a need for social distancing and isolation. What happens then when the diligent pursuit of physical safety causes a loss of community?

None of us want to get COVID or its latest variant. However, we also desperately need community. It is on each of us to make creative and persistent decisions toward going after community. Especially the most vulnerable of us, or we will suffer more than the health impact of COVID [see links below].

The dilemma with isolation is somehow it has brought a social lethargy with it. We are becoming more solitary and our community has shrunk to the lowest and tightest we can manage.

Not necessarily out of fear of COVID, but out of a growing incapacity for community. Real community. “Iron sharpening iron” relationships.

I know I am not alone in the need for such community. We have probably all thought of how altered our relationships have become over the last several months. Not the closest maybe, but especially those that spurred us toward a higher accountability, responsibility or integrity. Those relationships where we are helped to make better decisions or extend kindnesses (especially toward those outside our inner circles).

[Whether introvert or extrovert, we can easily sink down into a solitary life of less. And less is not always more. This less can breed a sort of self-serving life where we gauge our relationships by our own gains and extend ourselves by our own comfort levels. Been there, done that. Ugh! ]

COVID or not, we still need other people, and they need us. Whether on a work project better served with team problem-solving or a family crisis that could use “all hands on deck”. Death and divorce are still happening, but life celebrations are also still with us – all calling for the touch of our community.

In the Wiki fandom Mary Shelley article, we read a fascinating take on the impact or lack of community on the characters of Shelley‘s novel Frankenstein.

In the novel, Victor Frankenstein is a brilliant scientist. He is overwhelmed by a series of losses and the grief, as well as his increasingly unhinged genius, drive him into isolation. He decides to make a human-like creature who would be like a son to him.

It did not turn out well. The creature, because of the rejection and isolation he himself felt, was determined to be a monster.

Both Victor and the creature Frankenstein, throughout the story, are plagued with isolation and a terrible lack of caring community.Photo Credit: Pixabay

The theme of isolation in Frankenstein raises many questions about the role of community and its importance. Many characters in the novel find themselves in isolated positions, and a few suffer grave consequences because of it. Characters suffer from both physical and emotional isolation, although, as in the case of the monster, the isolation is not always self-inflicted. Victor Frankenstein, on the other hand, chooses to isolate himself from his family, his peers, and even the monster he created.

In Frankenstein, horrible things happen when a character is isolated from the others. When Victor’s knowledge and ambition are unchecked by his peers, a monster is created…the destructive power lies not in the monster or his creator, but in solitude. Shelley uses this theme and its manifestation in her characters to pose questions about community, knowledge, and its role in society. Is unbridled knowledge always dangerous, or is there a middle ground? Should one abandon his or her pursuits if they are driving him or her away from a community? 

Shelley makes it clear that there are two different types of isolation: self-inflicted and societal. We see self-inflicted isolation manifested in Victor; he detaches from his world and the people he loves and as a result, everyone suffers tremendously. Rejection from society is demonstrated in the monster’s life. Again and again, he is turned away from love and companionship, which what he has longed for since he was first brought to life.” – Wiki-Fandom Analysis of Frankenstein – Mary Shelley, an Academic Wiki

Of course, this is a novel, but incredibly insightful as a tale of human nature. We need community…we are made for community.

Somehow we must rally during this protracted social experience of COVID. What is your mindset on this and what are your intentional actions toward community and away from isolation? The kind of isolation that eventually diminishes us and our relationships. Please comment below.

In closing, I do want to affirm an Isolation in Community. We may have to deal with social distancing for sometime still. Especially those most vulnerable to severe illness from COVID. For some isolation can’t be avoided, but there is an isolation in community. Where we take steps toward and lean in to deeper community. Even if it isn’t always in person. This takes a different sort of effort, but we know it is possible. Fortunately. For me, it’s actually using the phone for conversations (including Facetime). It’s not stepping out of responsibilities (work or community service) because of a need for social distancing, but figuring out alternate ways to serve, or get a job done. I have also experienced the fruit of it, thanks to your efforts. Our mail is less junk mail and more actual real connections through cards/letters. Thanks for that. Again, please comment below what your experience has been here.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Isolation – Good Therapy

Isolation and Community – Helen Thorne – Biblical Counseling UK

Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions – CDC

Creative Communities Are Addressing Social Isolation – Maryjoan Ladden

Sunday Blessing – a Son’s Birthday and a Charge, a Quote, a Poem, and a Prayer

Adapted from the Archives.

This son of ours is 32 today. We won’t be seeing him but we will be celebrating him. Today and every day of his life.

Here’s to you, Nathan.

Happy birthday, Son. Over the years, you have single-handedly taken me to my knees more often than you realize – praying to be the parent God would have me be for you; praying for you to come to faith at an early age; appealing to God for all the moves (overseas and stateside) to not be too hard for you; asking for comfort when situations were sometimes hard anyway, and thanking Him for all He’s done for you – the friendships, the opportunities, and His relationship with you from forever.

So many memories. IMG_0034 (2)

“Let’s go kill buffalo!” was your call at your Native American-themed third birthday party. Following your sister around for play ideas. Grandparent visits. Family vacations at the Chesapeake Bay. Move to Africa. Carpool buddies. Gameboy. Drawing cartoons.IMG_8751Computer games. Getaways to the Red Sea. Dreamcast. Becoming a Christ-follower. Baptism back home in Tennessee. IMG_8749

Roadtrips to the Sahara Desert. Soccer. Cousins. Airports. Naps whenever and wherever. Basketball.

2007 - June -- Nathan scoresGrumpy when hungry – feed the boy. High School Rock Band. Great friendships. Game Nights. Sleep-Overs. PlayStation. Laughter. Working out. Classical Guitar. 2006 -- Dec -- Nathan, Jeremiah, Jared

Virginia Commonwealth University. Honors College. Aletheia Praise Band. Guitar Professor Patykula.

Sharing a house with your brother, sister, and then friend Duy.Blog - Parenting 4

Met and married beautiful Bekkah. Nathan & Bekkah collection

Grad school at East Carolina. Then back to Virginia, teaching guitar, playing beautiful music, and making a home…grown. Nathan & Bekkah - New House

With being grown, comes adult friendships, some nurtured since childhood, some within the family, others without. Siblings. Cousins. With being grown, comes new work challenges, fulfilling life aspirations, and deepening your faith in God. With being grown, comes new family designations – becoming uncle to your nieces and nephew. 

Then that crazy day the summer of 2016 that you wildly trended on social media through a posting of one of your krue.tv live streams. [Krue doesn’t exist anymore but it was a springboard for your social media presence as a classical guitarist.]

Best of all…the day Titus was born…and you became a dad.Nathan, Bekkah, & Titus July 2016IMG_8050Photo Credit: Helen Phillips, Bekkah MillsNathan & Titus lookalikesTakes after his daddy – Titus (l) & Nathan (r)

And then sweet Emma.

Nathan, you are settled for now in the U.S. after so many stamps in your passport. Settled in our hearts forever. You make us laugh, and you make us think. Your grown-up heart is so worth the childhood/teen year battles. And your music…what a gift to us. Whether you’re on electric, acoustic, or classical guitar. Your music goes right to the heart. Thank you for honing the gift God gave you. – that heart of yours first, and that music flowing out of it.Nathan and guitar on stepsPhoto Credit: Duy Nguyen

As you settle into your early 30s, I leave you with a charge from God’s word to Joshua, Oswald Sanders’ quote to leaders, a poem often quoted by our friend Tom Elliff, and a prayer credited to General Douglas MacArthur.

Happy birthday, Son. I’ll love you forever.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”Joshua 1:9

“When a person is really marked out for leadership, God will see that that person receives the necessary disciplines for effective service.” – J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man.
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall praise –
Watch His method, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects;
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which only God understands
While his tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends, but never breaks,
When his good He undertakes. . . .
How He uses whom He chooses
And with every purpose fuses him,
By every art induces him
To try his splendor out –
God knows what He’s about.
– Anon. – often quoted by Tom Elliff

Build me a son - Douglas MacArthurPhoto Credit: Pinterest

IMG_8616Nathan & his Dad

Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar

Nathan Mills – Patreon

J. Oswald Sanders’ Spiritual Leadership

Part of Joni Eareckson Tada’s Testimony – Poem Drill a Man

Book Favorite I’ll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch – Before Helicopter Parenting Became a Cultural Issue

Monday Morning Moment – Indistractable…What?!

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Being distractable is one of my character flaws…I guess. For awhile, I had decided it was a super-power. In that, I could jump from activity to activity or person to person, and still somehow be fully present…at least for the moment. Sigh… Interruptions or a busy schedule were not problems for me. In fact, they made for a fun and energizing day. Or so I thought.

There was a time in my life, before marriage, that my closest friends even did an intervention on me. Seriously. Maybe it was because I over-scheduled life like a crazy person (meaning that I actually believed people wouldn’t be put off by my having three different activities, with three different groups of people, in one evening).

So now I’m older and wiser. Chuckle, chuckle. I have the time but not the energy for over-packing my schedule. Nor do I have the mental capacity for deep focus in the face of all the “pings, dings, and rings” of life.

Enter tech-savvy, habits guy Nir Eyal. I caught a 25-minute podcast with him speaking on how to become indistractable. It was illuminating.

In Eyal’s book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, he removes technology as the distractor in our lives and points to the emotional states that actually drive us. Those uncomfortable emotions (boredom, loneliness, uncertainty) that we hope to silence by simply exiting whatever we’re doing at the moment and take up a different, potentially mind-numbing activity. Like scrolling through social media.

Distractability may make us feel better for the moment, but it doesn’t help us become the persons we want to be. It is a soother but not a life-sorter. It is a behavior, and what needs changing is less the behavior than what’s behind it – identifying the triggers that move us to be distractable and applying new habits to help us stay focused. . We want to be people others can trust to do what we say we will do…to have genuine integrity. How we grow in this area is the point of his book.

Being indistractable means striving to do what you say you will do. Indistractable people are as honest with themselves as they are with others. If you care about your work, your family, and your physical and mental well-being, you must learn how to become indistractable.” – Nir Eyal

Photo Credit: Pixabay

“LOOK FOR THE DISCOMFORT THAT PRECEDES THE DISTRACTION, FOCUSING IN ON THE INTERNAL TRIGGER”.Nir Eyal
Eyal talks about time management as being pain management. When we understand the discomfort which triggers us to try to escape, we can then build in a tripwire to short-circuit the distraction.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
“Ten-minute rule.” If I find myself wanting to check my phone as a pacification device when I can’t think of anything better to do, I tell myself it’s fine to give in, but not right now. I have to wait just ten minutes.” – Nir Eyal
Two of the many tools Eyal encourages are 1) effort pacts and 2) identity pacts. With the effort pact, he uses an app (the Forest app, for one) to help him keep commitments to himself. He also prescribes having coworkers, friends, or family members come alongside and help you press into a project or task until you’re finished. Accountability helps.
“Effort pacts make us less likely to abandon the task at hand. Whether we make them with friends and colleagues, or via tools like Forest, SelfControl, Focusmate, or kSafe, effort pacts are a simple yet highly effective way to keep us from getting distracted.”Nir Eyal

Eyal’s identity pact is an intentional reflecting on the person you want to be, and then using that identity as its own motivator. For me to say, “I’m a writer” requires a certain measure of discipline, with habits in place to help me actually write. If we begin using the language of identity, an accountability is applied that helps us be the person we say we’re becoming. “I am not as distractable as I once was”. “I am not side-lined by negative emotions anymore.” “My values include majoring on family, so I focus on my work at work, in order to be all there at home”.

“Only by setting aside specific time in our schedules for traction (the actions that draw us toward what we want in life) can we turn our backs on distraction. Without planning ahead, it’s impossible to tell the difference between traction and distraction.” – Nir Eyal

Lastly, I’ll mention Eyal’s use of time-boxing over a to-do list. He doesn’t deny that a to-do list is helpful, but it has its own fails built in. We default to finishing what’s easy or urgent, and, in fact, rarely are as productive as we might think we should be with a to-do list. Also, there is always this guilting about what we didn’t complete.

He actually fills a time-box calendar with what he wants to accomplish in a day. He includes things we might not consider in a to-do list like prayer, fitness, reflection, time with family, etc.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

When we have a time allotment (not just how much time something should take but when we will work on it), we are more apt to focus on just that. Eyal does encourage multi-tasking, but only if it is done using “different sensory channels”. By this, he means bundling activities that can actually be done together without diminishing either. An example is watching TV (or listening to a podcast) while on a treadmill. We have a neighbor who reads while walking. That has always impressed me, but it can be done.

Fitness coach David Rosales does a great service (to those of us who haven’t yet tackled all of Eyal’s prescriptions) by giving his own takeaways from Indistractable (including a few I mentioned above):

  1. Don’t rely on willpower – put systems in place to help you succeed.
  2. Timeboxing – rather than a to-do list, block out time on your calendar for specific tasks.
  3. Do Not Disturb as Default –put in place practices that keep you from being distracted by your phone.
  4. Batch everything – batch actions (and distractions) to avoid having your flow disrupted. [From email to Instagram]
  5. Ulysses pact – set up an app or timer or work out an arrangement with someone to help you be accountable.
  6. Take a growth mindset – bit by bit, you are learning how not to be foiled by distractions. It is a process.
  7. Identify pacts – start identifying yourself in ways that communicate you are not distractable. Make the decision of what kind of person you are determined to be, and decision fatigue is removed. You learn to just say “no”.

What do you think about all this? Maybe you are a person of focus. Please, if you are, comment below on how you make that happen.

Nir Eyal Website

Nir Eyal: Mastering Indistraction

Nir Eyal on Taking Control of Technology to Become “Indistractable”    [25-minute video]

Working Parents? Here’s How to Raise Indistractable Kids with Nir Eyal – Nir Eyal and Vanessa Van Edwards – excellent resource

Read James Williams’ excellent review and critique of Nir Eyal’s book Indistractable.

How to Do Timeboxing Right – David Sherwin

How Timeboxing Works and Why It Will Make You More Productive – Marc Zao-Sanders

The Tail End – Wait But Why – Tim Urban

Quotes from Nir Eyal’s Indistractable

PDF Summary – Indistractable – Nir Eyal