Category Archives: Books

Worship Wednesday – Spiritual Depression – It Is Well With My Soul – Kristene DiMarco, Wintley Phipps, & Guy Penrod

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

Why, my soul, are you so dejected?
Why are you in such turmoil?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him,
my Savior and my God.Psalm 42:5, 11

I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:38-39

We all have those pivotal moments in life…seconds that turn us in a completely different direction…and the memories of those moments fixed in minds easily retrievable when remembering matters.

One of those moments for me was one night, lying in bed. I was in my 20s and living a life of double-mindedness. In church on Sundays, but dabbling in all sorts of worldliness the rest of the week.

It was a season when I bought into the lie that whatever good would come to my life I had to make happen. So deceived in my thinking, I didn’t even realize how complicit I was with Satan in derailing my walk with the Jesus and deposing Him as Lord.

The deceit of living a lie finally wore me out, and the Spirit of God Himself woke me to the futility of it all…leaving me fearful and lost inside.

Lying in bed, I prayed. In that darkness, it was as if my prayers reached the ceiling of the room and then fell shattered all around me. A Scripture verse came to mind from memory, learned long ago – back in the days of memorizing from the King James Version:

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. – Psalm 66:18

A deep spiritual depression settled in me that would take some time to work its way out in repentance and restoration. Thankfully, the Lord always completes what He begins (Philippians 1:6).

Photo Credit: Quote Fancy

As I woke up to the darkening work of my own flesh and that of the Enemy, God began showing me where I had forgotten the great work of salvation He had done in my life. He reminded me of His love and His goodness. He opened my eyes to what I called a benign thing He called sin. Then He received me back to Himself as a mom receives her weary wayward child.

 Come and listen, all who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me. I cried out to him with my mouth, and praise was on my tongue. If I had been aware of malice [sin] in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. However, God has listened; he has paid attention to the sound of my prayer. Blessed be God! He has not turned away my prayer or turned his faithful love from me.Psalm 66:16-20

Our community group at Movement Church is beginning a study together on spiritual depression. One of our study aids will be the classic book Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and its Cure by physician pastor David Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

Do you ever struggle to get to sleep because of worrying about the “what if’s” of life? Does fear rise up as we listen to our own voices in our head and believe them true? Lloyd-Jones prescribes taking action to stop listening to ourselves and begin speaking the truth to ourselves. “Preaching [the Gospel] to ourselves”.

The Psalmist closed out his psalm over his troubled soul with, “put your hope in God”. Our hope has a sure place in the Lord. Our peace can be restored in Him. We “will still praise Him”.

Worship with me:

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
It is well with me

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see

And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name [repeat last line during 3rd run]
[x3]

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
[repeat 3x]

It is well it is well with my soul [x3]
ahhhhhhh (softly)

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You Lord
Through it all, through it all
It is well with me.
[x2] *

 *Lyrics to It Is Well by Bethel

YouTube Video – It Is Well – Bethel – Lyric Video

YouTube Video – It Is Well – Kristene DiMarco

Story Behind the Song It Is Well by Bethel

Martyn Lloyd Jones Trust – Sermon Series on Spiritual Depression (these sermons comprise his classical book Spiritual Depression)

Deb Mills Writer – Worship Wednesday – Then Came the Morning and It Is Well With My Soul – Because He Lives – Guy Penrod

Deb Mills Writer – Through It All – It Is Well With My Soul – with Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Music

Monday Morning Moment – the Culture of Contempt and How to Change It…or At Least Yourself Within It

Photo Credit: Paul Ekman Group

Today is Martin Luther King Day. It’s also my birthday, but that’s not today’s subject. In Richmond, Virginia, today a gun rights rally is scheduled because of new gun control laws slated to be passed in our state. Thousands are expected to attend. Some argue that having such a rally on Martin Luther King Day is morally wrong. The political divide on the issue of guns in our country is as wide as it’s ever been.

Later today, Dave and I will see the film Just Mercy, based on Bryan Stevenson‘s book of the same title.  The film tells the story of one of the cases attorney Stevenson fought and won for the release of an innocent man from death row. It speaks to the hatred and contempt found in culture, along racial lines, but also along the lines of class, authority, and privilege.

Our country…America…”one nation under God” a phrase still in our pledge (for now)…is woefully divided. With our presidential election looming later this year, we are sturdying ourselves to withstand the character assassinations of one political party for the other…Either trying to determine truth from falsehood and where we can stand. No matter what side politically we lean, we find it awkward and uncomfortable because of the behavior of those on our side and their contempt for the other.

“Contempt is the deadliest form of relationship cancer. So says John Gottman…[he] defines contempt as trying to speak from a higher level while attempting to push another down to a lower level. Contempt – closely related to disgust – is all about hierarchy and wielding elitist power to hatefully exclude another from the community.”Robert E. Hall

Is there any way forward in this culture of contempt? I believe there is. In fact, many are writing and speaking from their different platforms on how that might look…and how we might engage with one another.

Author and social scientist Arthur C. Brooks is one of the voices in this crucial conversation. His book Love Your Enemies speaks to a way we can counter contempt in our own character and culture. 

“We don’t have an anger problem in American politics. We have a contempt problem. . . . If you listen to how people talk to each other in political life today, you notice it is with pure contempt. When somebody around you treats you with contempt, you never quite forget it. So if we want to solve the problem of polarization today, we have to solve the contempt problem.” – Arthur Brooks, Love Your Enemies

I experience contempt – not personally as much as from the social media broadcasting again “people like me”. If people who would have contempt for people “like me” really knew how deeply I feel about some of today’s issues, the contempt register would get personal.

From reading, listening to others, and trying to understand how to even be a healthy, engaged part of our culture…these 5 actions items are what I subscribe to:

1) Determine to stay engaged with those “on the other side”. Now I understand how we come to the point of needing to block others’ opinions in our lives (social media or social distancing in real life). However, I don’t think that gets us anywhere positive. [This is not to say a person must stay in an abusive relationship. Exit for safety’s sake, but bear in mind, healing requires more than exiting.] Exiting relationships out of contempt means the opportunity to move forward is gone…with that person and future “like” persons. We are practicing an exit clause that can become habitual across wider life experience. Arthur Brooks has much to say on this. Simply, “Just because you disagree with something doesn’t mean it’s hate speech or the person saying it is a deviant.” 

2) Listen.Listening Is an Act of Love. Too often we listen to respond, right? What if we listened just to know the other person? Just to show love and to communicate, “You are being heard. You are seen. You have value.” StoryCorps is even launching a venture giving opportunity for people who have polarized views and relationships to sit face-to-face and explore their differences and what they are about. Check out One Small Step.

3) Love your enemies. Jesus spoke these words to those who would follow him. Evangelicals have gotten a bad rap in our country these days, and maybe some of it is deserved… but if they are true followers of Jesus, they are not your enemy. A bold statement, but true if Jesus’ teaching is paramount to their lives. As for those politically polarized from each other…the far right and the far left… what if we truly tried to love them, to show them respect, to not make sweeping judgments on who they are as people? What if…

4) Pray. A huge way to deal with contempt is to pray for the individual (or group) for whom you feel it. Not to pray that she/he/they fail, but to pray for wisdom, to pray for excellent counsel in their lives, to pray for understanding. Prayer, in the very act of doing it, can change our hearts toward other people. Talking, talking, talking about people for whom we battle contempt…with those who feel the same as we do just fuels our contempt. Unless we are committed to pray and have our understanding of them seasoned with the love of God. Our stand on issues aren’t the issue. It’s our opinion of other people, not the issues, that can change our culture.

5) Take action with hope and good faith. Lean in. Forgive…every single time. [Not easy, nor will it be for someone who questions my heart or take on things.] Work toward listening opportunities with those we may oppose or who oppose us. Find ways in our workplaces, churches/etc, communities to join with others, maybe not like us, to learn, grow, gain understanding, in hopes of making substantive change for our world.

“Push opportunity to the people who need it the most.”Arthur Brooks

Even as I write this, there’s this creeping sense that those reading might think “She has really lost it now”. The thing is, I have always believed that “together we can make things better”. Nothing original here. This cultural calamity of contempt has gotten so big that even people I might not align with agree something has to change…and I am with them.

Sick and Tired of the Culture of Contempt? Here Are 5 Ways You Can Subvert It – Arthur Brooks

Take One Small Step with StoryCorps

What Is Contempt? – Paul Ekman Group

Saving America From Our Culture of Contempt – Arthur Brooks Lecture, UVA – Miller Center (Video)

The Pursuit – A Better World For All Starting at the Margins – Arthur Brooks Documentary

YouTube – Arthur Brooks on the Eric Metaxas Show

To Change Our ‘Culture of Contempt’, Arthur Brooks Suggests All of Us  ‘Love Your Enemies – Helen Raleigh

How You Can Subvert Our Pervasive Culture of Contempt – Leroy Seat

Monday Morning Moment – Focus – This Won’t Take Long

Photo Credit: Picpedia

Click. Click. Click.

Notifications. Notifications. Notifications.

Meetings. Meetings. Meetings.

We live and work these days in a culture of distraction where focus is a rare commodity.

“The culture of distraction makes your ability to think deeply and creatively constantly threatened. Conceiving ideas and putting them into practice requires time for reflection, and for that you need a personal organization method like GTD: if you are able to create a space where you can think and reflect, you will be able to move forward with more things, with less energy and less time.”Francisco Sáez

Doing research this morning on focus, I came across the Tweet below:

All these devices can make our lives hackable, too. Our deep thinking time…our complex problem-solving capability…vulnerable.

What can we do to recover our focus? To be able to expand our recall and use our memory…our mind to its greatest capacity?

Entrepreneur and teacher/mentor William Treseder, co-founder of BMNT has written a book on this topic:

Reset: Building Purpose in the Age of Digital Distraction

Photo Credit: Amazon

While you’re waiting for the book to arrive, Treseder has also written a rapid read on focus where he outlines The Two Things Killing Your Ability to Focus . Those two killers are screen distractions (smart phones/tablets) and meetings.

He offers 5 easily executable ways out of our mental chaos and into focus. They are listed below but don’t miss his commentary on each here.

  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Organize tasks.
  • Clean up.
  • Shrink meetings.
  • Preserve buffers.

I am personally very easily distracted. To make these few adjustments is worth getting my focus back. Thoughts?

Oh…last thing: Treseder also wrote a thought-provoking piece on How to Develop a Mission Mentality. This takes the issue of focus to a much more “big picture” place. When we have set the “why” and “who” of our daily focus, we are compelled to stay at the task and bring others with us. That is mission mentality.

10 Tips to Stay Focused – Francisco Sáez 

Photo Credit: Paul Clear

5 Friday Faves – Moment of Lament, Anxiety and Depression, John’s Crazy Socks, Relapse/Recovery, and Alex Trebek

Welcome to the weekend! Here in a flash are my week’s faves:

1) Moment of Lament – This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first landing of ships carrying African peoples, destined for slavery or servanthood, to American soil. [See link for some of the controversy around this anniversary.] A Moment of Lament organized by For Richmond is scheduled for several churches in our city to mark this anniversary, and to thank God for those who endured this terrible offense and have profoundly contributed to our country’s identity and character.

Photo Credit: For Richmond, Facebook

2) Anxiety and Depression – Two connected and chronic human struggles in society today are anxiety and depression. None of us is immune to these, and we all have loved ones who are especially caught in the battle against either anxiety or depression or both.

A favorite author of mine, Frank Sonnenberg, has written on 30 distressing habits we can develop over time that lead us to anxiety and depression.  Some of these include keeping bad company, prizing possessions over relationships, holding onto anger, bowing to others’ agendas for your life, and entitlement. Just to name a few. Check out his list, see if you’ve fallen into some of these, but don’t let his list guilt you (another one of his 30). Understanding how we can fall into these habits can help us climb out of some of our struggles.

Journalist Johann Hari has written on addiction, anxiety and depression. [Hari, earlier in his career, came under attack for his ethics and journalistic practices. What he said in the TED Talk below is so spot on, it warrants our consideration.]

Hari has long struggled himself with anxiety and depression. In preparation for writing his book on the subject, he took a literal journey of discovery. Traveling across the world to interview a myriad of specialists on the subject of anxiety/depression. The TED Talk is worth your 20 minutes. In short, he talked about how sometimes medication is necessary for the chemical imbalance some of us have making us vulnerable to anxiety/depression. Many more of us, however, don’t have a chemical imbalance. Our struggles with anxiety and depression relate more to “unmet needs”. The needs for meaning, purpose, community, connectedness. He talks about how we have allowed false values (recognition on social media, fame or celebrity, individual effort) to replace larger values of actually being present in our world, touching lives as only we’re able to do, connecting with life (and I will add God, here).

14:22 minutes into the TED Talk, he offers an exercise that can make a difference in the quality of our lives. An exercise that’s meant to be done in community.

Johann Hari – Quotes – Goodreads

Depression and Diet – WebMD

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp, #WorldKindnessDay, and Facebook

3) John’s Crazy Socks – Socks for Christmas, right? Always a good idea. John Lee Cronin and Mark X. Cronin are the co-founders of John’s Crazy Socks. Mark is the dad and John is the son. The whole concept of these socks is so special that you need to see the story:

Whether you buy socks at Walmart or pay the extra for John’s Crazy Socks is not the issue. What counts is that some folks have made this a very successful business, and it is much deserved! Thanks, Mark and John. You’ve definitely made us happy just knowing you a bit.

4) Relapse/Recovery – For any of us who have friends or family in recovery from drug addiction, we know the dread of relapse. One of my best friends is a recovered alcoholic. She has spent most of her life sober…to the point, in fact, that she feels God has cured her of alcoholism. However, does she ever drink? Absolutely not.

She just doesn’t go there.

Someone else in our lives has relapsed. After several years drug-free. I will protect their privacy, but the relapse has been devastating. For us, and I’m sure for them.

It happens. Not always, but sometimes. However, it still doesn’t define the person. That person, after recovery, has a job, and a family, and hopes and dreams. When a relapse occurs all those things are threatened.Photo Credit: PxHere

With the opioid epidemic, incarceration is not the answer. Drug rehab residential programs are less costly and more effective, but also are not without risks. After years of drug-free recovery, a person who relapses is more vulnerable for overdose and death because of lowered tolerance for the drugs.

Relapse also leaves the family vulnerable…emotionally and socioeconomically.

For those of us who love these wrestling with the work of recovery and the risk of relapse…we learn what we can and we rally around them and their families in healthy and truly helpful ways.

Heroin Addiction Recovery Program – Redeption, Recovery in a Chesterfield Jail – John Adam

What Happens If I Relapse? – Addiction Center

Guide to Cocaine Rehab

Slip vs. Relapse – What’s the Difference?

REAL LIFE Opens Women’s Home for Recovering Addicts Released From Jail – Jeremy M. Lazarus

5) Alex Trebek – A quiz show on TV that millions of Americans watch every day is Jeopardy. We wait to call Dave’s mom until after Jeopardy is off. Alex Trebek, the show-host, is as much a household name is any celebrity in our pop culture. He makes the show even more interesting and sometimes funny and treats his guest contestants with honor.

We were all saddened to hear of his cancer diagnosis earlier this year. Pancreatic cancer. Thankful to hear he was determined to fight it, and he has! Alex Trebek instills confidence and if anyone can successfully stave off pancreatic cancer, he can. He announced recently, during this beloved show, that he was going back on chemotherapy, we were stunned. Even one of the contestants forfeited his opportunity to win more prize money to show support for Alex.

Here’s the video of what happened…including Alex’s emotional response – #WeLoveYouAlex – Praying for you.

Bonuses:

We heard Bob Costas speak recently at Richmond Forum – a real national treasure.

A Prayer to Remember – God Fights For You Today – Debbie McDaniel

Faking It – Could I Go From being an Introvert to an Extrovert in One Week? – Sirin Kale

A Christmas Classic and a Couple of Musical Collaborations:

Photo Credit: Facebook, The Fabulous Fifties

Learning About Someone

Jon McCray’s very fair take on John Crist’s current situation:

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed to Be a Blessing – Andy Flannagan

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” – God to Abraham –  Genesis 12:2

We are so blessed. It is not a cliche. It is truth. Even those who don’t believe that God is will still use the expression of being blessed.

I wonder, “by whom?”.

Earlier this week I wrote about silence as punishment…withholding our words, ourselves, from others. Today we focus on the opposite – blessing others, through our words and actions. Reaching out, drawing in. Speaking life and love. Listening close. Blessing.

We are blessed to be a blessing. From the beginning of time, when God instructed His first man and woman. Especially to childless Abraham who would receive that promise in faith…blessed to be a blessing.

Writer Tina Boesch has written a beautiful book on blessing: Given: the Forgotten Meaning and Practice of Blessing. The first page of the book begins with a Scottish blessing:Life be in my speech, sense in what I say…the love Christ Jesus gave  filling me for every one.” Boesch writes about how, no matter the situation or the persons in front of us, we can bless them, because He has so utterly blessed us.

Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.Colossians 3:17

From a young British friend’s Facebook page sometime ago, I was introduced to songwriter Andy Flannagan and Reverend Kevin Lewis. They both love Jesus and sing and write about blessing…

They cheer us on to shake off the weight of self-interest and reach out to a broken world…that those desperate for love will find it in the same Savior we know…and show by our love – our words and deeds – that He loves them, also.

Monday Morning Moment – the Not So Subtle Punishment of Silence

Photo Credit: Socrates, Status Mind

The silent treatment. Seems so juvenile, in a way, and yet it is used as a punishment in relationships, both personal and professional. We may be the ones doing it without even thinking that’s what it is. Here we go.

In the earliest years of our marriage, Dave and I would sometimes have a fight about something. At times, the conflict didn’t end well for me, anyway. Then, without really a goal to be vindictive or mean, I would just have nothing to say to him…for as many as three days. Oh, we would cover the normal conversation of life – schedules, kids, etc., but from my side, all matters of the heart were wrapped in silence. Punishing him with that silence. I don’t think he always noticed, but inside my own heart and head, it was brutal.

Fortunately for us both, I grew out of that. Now after a disagreement, it may take me a few minutes to shake off my frustration…but not days. Silent treatment in our marriage is over.

In a recent blog by Jan Riley (a dear friend of mine), she talked about the use of silence to “break a person down”. She writes below:

In his book Ostracism: The Power of Silence, psychologist Kipling Williams writes: “William James [father of American psychology] suggested that to be ‘cut dead’ and to go ‘unnoticed’ by others would be worse than the ‘most fiendish punishment.’ The silent treatment may well be the most frequently used method of cutting people dead.”

In his piece Ostracism, Dr. Williams introduced the topic with a further quote by Dr. James: “If no one turned round when we entered, answered when we spoke, or minded what we did, but if every person we met “cut us dead,” and acted as if we were non-existing things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would ere long well up in us, from which the cruelest bodily tortures would be a relief; for these would make us feel that, however bad might be our plight, we had not sunk to such a depth as to be unworthy of attention at all.( James 1890/1950, pp. 293–94)

Ostracism – Kipling D. Williams – pdf

Psychologist Karen Young talks about silent treatment as

Photo Credit: Jaeda DeWalt

Silence is a very disorienting experience because you usually can’t discern what it means.  It can put you off balance.

Anyone who has ever experienced ostracism knows what it feels like and how debilitating it can be, even for a mature thinker.

Silent treatment can be intentional and manipulative, however it can also become a habit of “communication” – neglectful communication. Excluding someone from a conversation (at work or other association), not making eye contact, not speaking in casual encounters, not answering emails/texts, leaving a group member off a group email, not acknowledging someone’s input…and so it goes.

[Of course, all the above can happen innocently for the overloaded person, without intention. The dilemma is when we, over time, just let it keep happening because we can’t figure out how to fix it..or just aren’t inclined…to fix it.]

The curious thing about silent treatment, if you confront the person you sense is doing it, that person can always deny it…whereupon you feel like you’ve read the situation wrongly, you overreacted, etc. It is like a double punch.

So what does one do in regards to silent treatment? What are the counter-measures? I would love for you to share yours in the Comments because I am still sorting out what can affect change.

In a personal relationship, in a non-conflictive moment, you may talk together about what silence conveys. It may be that neither of you have an understanding of what’s going on with the other…because of the silence. Face-to-face communication most always helps with understanding each other better.

In a work situation, or other organizational affiliation that demands working together, systems can be put in place that facilitates engagement… team meetings, weekly email updates, some sort of regular internal communication process. Like with bullying prevention, a core value that speaks to the essential of regular, empowering communication can have impact.

A work or family culture that just accepts silence as a way of coping with stress or frustration can affect everyone in that culture. Identify the issues and do what you can to move them toward health.

One-on-one, there still may be little we can do to counter or improve a situation with such a someone – one who has made silence a pattern to control their encounters with others. We can definitely mark the experience, and check the pain. Then if there seems no way to improve the relationship, the best thing we can do is put our own boundaries around the experience…but not necessarily the person.

Photo Credit: Pikord, Michael Davis Lowery

[The above graphic was a chuckle, not a true work-around.]

We don’t want to respond to passive-aggressive behavior with the same sort of behavior. We may, however, have to acknowledge that for some people, it’s a deeply ingrained habit that could even have become unconscious.

When our daughter was 3 years old, she went through a season of not speaking to people. She would bury her face in my leg, or just turn her face/body away from the person. Then I tried to “excuse” her behavior with “she’s become shy lately.” The same friend above, Jan, who was also a parenting mentor for me, said outright: “That’s not being shy; that’s being rude.” Some of you may be put off by that, but I appreciated her being straight with me. From that day on, this mama worked with that 3-year-old on what ignoring and not speaking communicated and on how to be courteous and respectful. Now the lovely woman she has become is working on the same lessons with her little one.

Whatever your take is on this, hopefully you won’t default to perpetrating the silent treatment as your own pattern of controlling situations. Don’t do it yourself. Don’t be that person.

It helps me to realize that friends, family, and coworkers who use silent treatment didn’t get there overnight. There could have been an event, an altercation, a painful experience of their own that set them up for emotionally withdrawing and using silence as coping or as punishment. For some, like in our early years of marriage, silent treatment may be very situational. For others, it is borne out of habit – a habit of feeling no compulsion toward connecting with people they don’t value or whom they feel don’t value them. It is what it is.

In this day of social media and over-sharing, to put yourself out there and then be met with silence is a strange and sometimes painful experience. Fortunately, even that does not define us. Right? Right.

The Surprising Truth About the Silent Treatment – Karen Young

When We Use Silence As Punishment

The Silent Treatment: a Deadly Killer of Friendships – Noelle Rhodes

Monday Morning Moment – Micro-actions and Micro-behaviors – a Conspiracy of Small

Photo Credit: Edmund Burke, Pinterest

Micro-actions aren’t not the myriad of tasks that appear on our daily to-do lists. I’m defining micro-actions as all those brief, intentional acts we do that help us “get to goal”, “avoid mission drift”, or communicate value to those around us. Micro-actions can show up on in our daily habits (like my making the bed every morning, or Dave daily bringing me coffee). More often than not, they are  spontaneous – fitting the situation or need of the moment.Photo Credit: Slideshare, Mathew Sweezey

Micro-actions can include acknowledging the creativity/good sense of a teammate, writing thank you notes, taking a parking place farther from the building, making the difficult phone call (regarding a death or serious illness), stopping by the desks of coworkers just to say hi, sharing the praise for a project well-done, ordering a pizza for a young family.

Small, positive actions…that could have gone undone and unnoticed if undone…but the impact!! The impact can be substantial for a teammate, family member, or neighbor.

Take these wise words from Small Kindnesses by Danusha Laméris:

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass. We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.” – Danusha Laméris

What micro-actions do you incorporate in your day, regularly or occasionally? Please comment below. Also we would love to hear your stories of a “micro-action” someone did with you in mind.

Micro-behaviors go deeper than micro-actions. They are defined as  tiny, often unconscious gestures, facial expressions, postures, words and tone of voice which can influence how included (or not included) the people around us feel.  Micro-behaviors become habitual and unconscious. They expose how we think and reveal our current worldview…our preferences, our prejudices, our bias. Our micro-behaviors send messages to others without us even being aware. A look (or look away), a tone of voice, a move toward inclusion or exclusion.

When our micro-behaviors (or those we observe in others) are positive, they are a not-so-subliminal uplifting experience – communicating affirmation, belonging, care. It’s when they are negative that we need to check them (when we become aware) and decide is that really what we want to communicate. Is that really who we have become toward certain segments of people?

Our American culture has shifted away from civility and community and more toward sarcasm and tribalism. [See Alan Weiss‘ piece on Tribalism vs. Community] These changes show up in our micro-behaviors.

Author, educator Karen Swallow Prior, in her book Booked, writes about satire in a way that reflects our culture’s bent toward sarcasm:

“[Jonathan] Swift helped turn my contempt for the foolishness I saw in others into compassion. While contempt leads to the case of isolation, compassion leads to a freedom found only in community…It was so easy to see [foolishness] in others, much harder to recognize it in myself. “Satire is a sort of glass,” Swift said, “wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.” Did I love satire only because in it I saw everyone else but me? Was I as blind to my own faults as Swift showed others to be? It seemed so.” – Karen Swallow Prior

Photo Credit: Facebook, William Curtis

Micro-actions and micro-behaviors…something to consider on a Monday. How can I take a few minutes here and there through the day to encourage or empower a colleague…or stranger, even? What am I communicating when keeping eye contact during a conversation and showing genuine interest in the other person? On the converse, what does my face fixed on my phone or computer screen, or my head down, shooting through the lobby toward my office, say to those we might have greeted but didn’t…discounting them by our behavior?

Thoughts?

How Can You Spot Really Good Leaders? They Practice These Simple 2-Minute Habits DailyMarcel Schwantes

Be a Pal, My Dudes – Erika Hall

#MicroActions on Twitter

#Microbehaviors on Twitter

Hack the Culture with Micro Changes – Marcella Bremer

Micro-actions, Fragmentation, and Influence – Peter Roy – Asian Efficiency Team

What Are Micro-behaviours and How Do They Impact Inclusive Cultures? The Little Things That Make a Big Difference – Caroline Arnold

Micro-Behaviours – What They Are and How They Impact Inclusion – Jan Hills

How Micro-Actions Can Help You Conquer Your Goals – Megan Nye

The Top 6 Micro-Actions for Entrepreneurs

5 Friday Faves – Pink Panther on Guitar, Avoiding Dehumanization, the Power of Words and Names, After School Restraint Collapse, and Using a Timer for Work

Welcome to your weekend…unless it’s not. Here are my favorite finds for this week. A couple are longer than others. Pick and choose. Hope it’s helpful.

1) Pink Panther on Guitar – In 1963, The Pink Panther comedy film debuted starring David Niven and Peter Sellers. So popular, it launched a cartoon series, followed by several sequels and a 2-film reboot in the 2000s starring Steve Martin.

YouTube Video – 15 Life Lessons from Peter Sellers – Classical Pink Panther Moments and More

The jazzy theme for Pink Panther was written by American composer Henry Mancini.

Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, has masterfully arranged and performed the theme. It brings back waves of nostalgia from those films/cartoons. All through my younger years, the Mancini theme was part of high school band performances and jazz dance concerts.

This piece is something altogether different and yet delightfully familiar, at the same time. Enjoy.

Here you go:

2) Avoiding Dehumanization – For some time, the verbal bashing of people in the news and on our own social media has been unsettling for me. Character defamation, name calling, shaming, and blame-shifting are escalating and inflaming.

When we find someone’s speech or behavior inhumane or dehumanizing, how does it help the situation if we call them out by behaving similarly? Does that not put us in a similar camp with the one we consider offensive?

Author, researcher Brené Brown speaks to this much more articulately than I:

“Here’s what I believe:
1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called b**ch, wh**e, or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, or Theresa May.
3. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables” then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said “Democrats aren’t even human.”
3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing p*ssy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman.
4. When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, “Is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?”
5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photoshopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photoshopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed.

There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization—the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.”  Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

How to Handle Political Bullying on Facebook – Sherri Gordon

We need to call ourselves to the same standard we expect in others… I sure don’t mean this to sound preachy. Many times, in various situations, I’ve wanted to call out someone’s words as being hurtful or disingenuous or their behavior as deceitful or self-serving. We want to do something!! Words are the cheapest action we can take. Does it change anything to verbally criticize someone on social media? I don’t think so.

Psychologist and author Dr. Henry Cloud, in his excellent book Necessary Endings, counsels us how to deal with three different types of people – the wise, the foolish, and the evil.

  • Wise people – Dr. Cloud points out that wise people can take feedback and use it in a helpful way. In dealing with wise people, talk to them (not about them).  Put the truth out there in non-judgmental ways. Because they can handle feedback and will most probably use it to make changes, the way to deal with people in this category is to keep talking. Bring your concerns to the table and thoughtful and respectful ways. Communicate your own willingness to work for change, by actually working for change. No blaming, nor rationalizing behavior (yours or theirs)…staying in “good faith” relationships can actually invigorate the process of changes.
  • Foolish people – “The fool tries to adjust the truth so he does not have to adjust to it.” Again, talking about the person rather than with her doesn’t change anything, and, in fact, can inflame the situation if done publicly and she hears of it.Dr. Cloud advises, when dealing with the foolish:  stop talking. Nagging will not improve a situation with a foolish person. Rather, set limits and, if possible, create some sort of consequence for the problem you wish you could talk to her about. Limits gave you some space and protection. That consequence alone may drive the person to look at their behavior and change it… At least, it takes the responsibility for change off of you and on to her.
  • Evil people – If the person you want to castigate on social media (or whom you want to believe news reports on her behavior) has shown herself to be evil, then don’t expect change. It can happen, but not by your behavior reflecting hers. As Dr. Cloud talks about putting limits up for yourself with foolish people, you put limits on the evil person when at all possible. He quotes the Warren Zevon song, “Lawyers, Guns and Money“. Maybe somewhat facetiously but also seriously, Cloud is warning to use what resources you have (within the law) to put distance between the evil person and you (and those you love). Antagonizing them in the news/on social media helps no one…and it dehumanizes everyone in its wake. [Guns have become a difficult and divisive subject. Guns is used here in the context of wars against evil or protecting oneself or one’s family against evil.]

Necessary Endings – Summary by Rex Williams for Actionable Books

3) The Power of Words and Names – Just as name-calling (see above) only dehumanizes us, we can use words and names as agents for giving life and honor. They can actually elevate a person, people, or situation. They can move people toward their best selves.

Words mean things.

Author, educator Karen Swallow Prior has written a fascinating book on how her voracious reading of books from childhood onward strongly and positively impacted her. To become the person she is today. The book is entitled Booked – as it should be.

Dr. Prior makes note of the power of words and names in her Booked chapter on E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. In the story, a spider, Charlotte, gives her pig friend Wilbur a different understanding of who he is by the descriptors of him that she wove into her web. Powerful.

Charlotte’s Web is a metaphor for the power words have to shape us into who others see us as well as how we see ourselves.” – KS Prior

“Names are powerful words…All words are names, for all words signify something. The power of naming is a subset of the power of all language. God spoke the universe into existence and, in giving us the gift of language, He gave us a lesser, but still magnificent, creative power in the ability to name: the power to communicate, to make order out of chaos, to tell stories, and to shape our own lives and the lives of others.” –  KS Prior

I love the power of words and parallel power in names. When we lived in North Africa, names and their meanings told us about who belonged to who and what they valued in the giving of names.

How we use words and how we choose names are part of what we give to the world…and to those we love.

4) After School Restraint Collapse – When our children would come in from school grumpy and disrespectful, I would feed them. Then we always had a bit of a break before any homework or other expectation was foisted on them. Little did I know that these are prescribed interventions for something called After School Restraint Collapse.

At the first of the school year, children (and young people) are adapting to new teachers, new routines and rhythms, new expectations. They are trying to cope with all the new and keep their names “on green” or off the teacher’s watch list. By the end of the school day, they are emotionally and physically done, so to speak. Thus, the disagreeable behavior on transferring from school to home. It’s like they need to blow off steam, or get out all the pent-up energy, trying to stay well-behaved all day.

Photo Credit: Need Pix

Besides nourishment and a bit of a break, all the authors recommend that personal touch with their parents. Connecting through the day (notes in a lunch box or a book) helps. Having a no-expectations quiet affirming moment (in whatever way the child prefers receiving it) is also encouraged.

Screens only as a last resort.

After-School Restraint Collapse Is a Real Thing – Here’s How to Deal With It – Colleen Seto

After-School Restraint Collapse is Real – Here’s How to Help Your Child – Heather Marcoux

7 Ways to Help Your Child Handle “After School Restraint Collapse” – Andrea Loewen Nair

5) Using a Timer for Work – When it comes to writing, I could sit at my desk for hours on end. Sometimes, in fact, I do. However, other responsibilities clamber for attention. Using the alarm clock function has become a daily habit for me not to get lost in what is right in front of me. Just recently using a timer as well has become a great discipline. For larger tasks, I may set the timer for 30-45 minutes. For smaller tasks, and just to stay on track, I set 10 minute intervals. Before starting back up, a stretch break or checking on a teammate or a quick food or drink refreshment are all welcome.Photo Credit: MaxPixel

Sometimes, the timer works as a stop point, to move on to a meeting or another work function.  Time fairly flies anyway, so a timer has given me a sense of both urgency and intentionality. It has also helped me be aware of when I’m wasting time or it’s being wasted by someone else (of course, that bears some gentleness in dealing with either situation). Photo Credit: Facebook, Jason Morehead

A timer has helped not just with writing and other work day responsibilities but also with cleaning house. It has added a sense of reward seeing how much can be done in short spurts of time.

Clean House Fast and Efficiently Using a Timer – Ashley

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Thanks for reading. I hope you were able to pick and choose. A lot of words this week. Blessings on the rest of your weekend!

Bonuses:

The Why Behind the Picture – Dani Fairbairn

Rory Feek – This Life I Live – Documentary

Why Slack Employees Don’t Get Distracted by Slack – Damon Brown

12 Idols We Might Wrongly Follow – Chuck Lawless

Many Beautiful Things – a Documentary on the Life of Lilias Trotter, starring Michelle Dockery

Change the World RVA

Photo Credit: Facebook, Jeanne Barney

Monday Morning Moment – The Eye of Monet – 5 Books to Extend Your Summer into Fall

Today is the first day of Fall here. After walking this morning, I sat in our garden to cool off. The brilliant summer flowers are on the wane  after days of hot and dry weather. Many have gone to seed, now harvested by the birds (especially the goldfinch). The blooms remaining peek out, through those that peaked earlier and have since finished their season…The garden in early Fall is still a wonder…gloriously fading.

French Impressionist painter Claude Monet (1840-1926) is my favorite artist. Maybe because he made years of study of two of my favorite flowers – the iris and the water lily. He had an eye for such beauty.Photo Credit: Commons WikimediaPhoto Credit: Commons Wikimedia

“Monet has long been regarded, as Cezanne remarked of him, ‘merely an eye, but what an eye’, translating onto canvas the images before him… Monet’s eye was a painter’s eye, an eye with a creative mind behind it, interpreting apparent reality and putting into the context of the thoughts in the painter’s mind, thus creating a new vision for the spectator.”Edmund Swinglehurst

My favorite quote on reading these days is from author and patron of the arts John Ruskin:

“The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion, all in one.”
He could be describing Monet as well.  His paintings of what he saw around him in the natural world bring a beautiful nostalgia with them (similar to that of favorite books and music). Monet painted in a non-pretentious way, not intending to artificially move the emotions. He painted like one who saw the beauty of nature, and, with his own emotions aroused, painted what he saw. That eye of his…
Over the years, I have collected five books on Monet. Each is quite unique. I’d like to give a quick shout-out to each one.
1) Monet or the Triumph of Impressionism by Daniel Wildenstein – This beautiful biography of Monet’s life and rise of Impressionism. It’s a large book (coffee table size)…full of his artwork with exquisite detail of how Monet came to paint the scene and what was going on during the period in which it was painted. Beautiful book.

Monet

Photo Credit: Amazon

2) The Life and Works of Monet by Edmund Swinglehurst – This thin book (only 78 pages and much of it Monet’s artwork) is a quick study of Monet’s life. It’s a very easy read and yet still detailed enough to capture something of the Master Monet’s life, preferences, and influences.Photo Credit: Amazon

3) Monet’s Table – The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet by Claire Joyes – For the foodies among us, this book weaves together biography, art, and cooking. Monet's Table

Photo Credit: Amazon

Although Parisian, Monet lived for over 40 years in a cottage in the village Giverny. With Alice, his second wife, and 8 children. Monet’s Table. The “journal” aspect of the book is less about Monet’s diary entries and more about how he and Alice incorporated their love for good food into the lifestyle they enjoyed of late (by the Giverny years, Monet had become quite successful as an artist). His recipes (written for the American cook – so ounces instead of grams) include fresh and dried herbs from his garden, butter and full cream, and the flavors of France. For any of you who favor French cooking, you will love the recipes. I loved the stories Claire Joyes gives us and the pictures of his kitchen, the foods featured in the book, and the cottage and gardens (from which we have the iris and water lily paintings).  An interesting detail about Monet: he was an often moody and very private man. Although he loved having company in his home, it was always for an early lunch or tea. He retired to bed early to allow for early morning painting.Photo Credit: Apartment Therapy

4) Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork & Lena Anderson – This book is for young readers. Short chapters. Lots of Monet’s paintings. Also whimsical illustrations of Linnea and her trip to Paris, the Marmottan-Monet museum (where many of Monet’s paintings are exhibited), and finally to the Giverny cottage. Linnea in Monet's Garden

Photo Credit: Amazon

A wonderful introduction to Monet for children in early school years. Biographical details pepper the story and a helpful timeline of Monet’s life closes out the book.

[Written in 1985, it may seem a bit strange in today’s world that a young girl would be off traveling with an older neighbor gentleman, Mr. Bloom. Times have changed.]

5) A Picnic with Monet by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober – this is a small boardbook for tiny people. A poem talking through some of Monet’s paintings as if taking off for a picnic makes for easy reading. The paintings are easy to sort out for a preschooler. Sweet book.Photo Credit: Amazon

So…these are my books on Monet. One last detail covered in his biographies as well: Monet developed bilateral cataracts in his 60s. He refused corrective surgery for some time. Finally, he got to the place where he was willing to take the risk, so bothered by the impact of the cataracts on his vision and painting. Enough of a success, he actually returned to some of his painting to touch them up. He also did not finish his Grandes Décorations’ of Waterlilies, on display in Paris’ Musée de l’Orangerie, until after his vision had been restored. Called the Father of Impressionism, the changes in his painting over the years may have been less about a progression of his art and more the reality of cataracts and vision impairment.

The Effect of Cataracts and Cataract Surgery on Claude Monet – Anna Gruener

Who is your favorite artist? How do you share him/her with your visitors or family members? I have a print of one of Monet’s waterlilies paintings over my writing table.

Dave and I went to Paris for our 25th wedding anniversary. It was a trip of a lifetime for us – especially because we set it aside to pursue the feast to the senses that is Paris. On my list was to see Monet’s paintings.

The Best Places to See Monet’s Art in Paris – Lena Blos

We saw some of his paintings, but regrettably a few of my favorites were away on exhibition. Oh well…may have to make it back to Paris one day…and do a day-trip to Giverny.

[Irises from our garden…water lily at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden here in Richmond.]

Monday Morning Moment – The Great Good of Doing a Favor and Some Rules for Asking a Favor

Photo Credit: All Hands

We all need a favor from time to time. Every occasion Dave helps a friend move, he says, “That’s the last time”. Then there’s the next time.

There’s great good in doing a favor because it expresses care… sometimes great care. Of course, favors can be done for selfish reasons. Business writer and professor Adam Grant has written a book on three styles of behavior that speak to this. These styles are givers, takers, and matchers. There are those of us who do favors for the joy of helping others (givers), those who more often ask for favors (takers), and finally those who will do a favor for someone who’s done one for her already (matchers).

“Every time we interact with another person at work, we have a choice to make: do we try to claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return?”Adam Grant

I recently attended a conference. It was a poignant experience because the organizer of the conference is moving toward a secession plan for her role. This is a brilliant, generous, like-no-other professional I’m just grateful to know.

The conference ended and I was helping with the final tying up of loose ends. She and I passed in the hallway, and I took the opportunity to tell her how much she had influenced my life’s work. Then I laid out a proposition:

“If I can do anything at all for you, just ask. it would be an honor.”

“Well…there is something.”

Then she asked me for a favor that was totally out of my expertise and comfort zone. A favor that I knew would take hours, even days, to complete. A favor that I was sure someone else should be doing – fearful to be a disappointment to her.

Still…I had made the proposal and she accepted.

Without going into too many details, let me just say I have been up to my eyeballs in Excel spreadsheets. They are no longer outside my expertise…thanks to online tutorials…and all this experience I have now.

So the short of it is that by tomorrow, I will be finished with my favor. Next time I’m feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude for her, it may stop short of offering such an open-ended favor. I’ll find a different way to express how much she means to me. Flowers, maybe.

My husband told me several times that I needed to renegotiate that favor. He knew it wasn’t a strength of mine to do what she asked.

I just couldn’t take my offer back. She is the kind of person who should have favors done for her every day…she’s just that person.

In preparing to write about doing favors, I did come across two fascinating articles on this topic.

Asking for a Favor: The Three Keys – Jodi Glickman

In brief, the three keys for asking a favor are:

  1. Set the Stage: “I have a favor to ask you”.
  2. Give a Reason.
  3. Provide an Escape Clause.

[Read the whole piece. It’s a fast read and insightful for those who ask for favors – I don’t so much, but it was good stuff to know.]

The Five Golden Rules of Favor Asking – Tynan

Tynan offers these golden rules when asking him for a favor:

  1. Your benefit must greatly outweigh my inconvenience.
  2. You should make it as easy as possible for me to do the favor.
  3. Ask immediately. Don’t small talk.
  4. Do everything you can first.
  5.  Reciprocate.

[This piece also is an excellent larger read.]

These rules are all super nice and would be much appreciated if someone asks us for a favor. I find though that if someone asks for a favor, they often are pretty desperate for help and may not have asked with the finesse Tynan would like observed. Unless they are Adam Grant’s takers.

This favor, this Excel spreadsheet favor, was not solicited, except from my prompting. I gave this amazing woman the gift of asking for whatever I could do for her. Genie-like. She took me at my word.

Now that the time has been carved out, and a new skill has been honed, I’m thankful it worked out.

Doing favors for people isn’t a regular activity of mine, but it is something to aspire to. It is a great good.

We have had so many favors done for us. Two of the many that come to mind are a lawn mowed during a time we struggled caring for a our hospitalized little girl (thanks always J.R.) and the company offered to Dave in a surgery waiting room (thanks, Harriet).

It might be a helpful activity to write down all the favors done for us, or for others that we know about. Such a beautiful thing a kindness with nothing expected in return.

If you have some data demanding an Excel spreadsheet…and you need some help…maybe just wait a few days, ok? Same with moving.

[Any stories of doing or asking for a favor? Please tell us in the Comments below.]