How do we get everything done in our day? We can’t. Well, consider that maybe we aren’t supposed to…then we choose a path…driven by external forces (the tyranny of the urgent, the job as defined by the manager, the should’s and ought-to’s)…or internal. What are our internal forces? What kind of life do we hope to live, and the product we hope to leave as foundational for those we care most about?
A favorite old proverb of ours goes like this: “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.” (Proverbs 14:4). Canadian writer Tim Challies presents this proverb as a parable on productivity. That “much increase” can be enhanced by having the right tools (oxen, for instance). However, given the right tools, productivity can still be very messy. Hard to perfectly control, thus, cycling back, needing the best tools for the job. Sometimes those tools are people in our lives and workplace, and sometimes they are lists, schedules, apps, or right equipment – even a vacuum cleaner (my highly organized, hard working daughter-in-law had a new vacuum on the top of her Christmas list this year).
Several years ago, Challies wrote an incredibly practical blog series on How to Get Things Done. He has become a master at “learning how to simplify life and how to maximize productivity”. Now in the era of COVID, his counsel on productivity is even more timely as we slog through this pandemic.
[Now for those of you who are essential workers and you lay down exhausted every night, it may seem this isn’t for you. However, with the restrictions of life with COVID, you probably struggle with redeeming time with family and deciding how to maximize your time off the job. Tim Challies has wisdom for you as well. Thanks, also for how you serve us all, out there every day.]
Too often, we measure the purpose of our lives by “how much” we can get done. What if we flipped that? What if we first sort out what the mission (or purpose) of our lives is? …Given our gifts, our education, our experiences, our opportunities, the people in our circle of influence, and the season in which we live at the moment. COVID informs that as well…informs but doesn’t define.
We do the work of sorting out our purpose, and then we order our days with that as foundation. We can’t do everything, therefore, we set our days on “doing more good…better”. Does that mean my house is always clean or my inbox is always manageable? No…but it is a shift away from shame/guilt and toward intentionality and joyful making of new habits. Sometimes we will have to say no, but the “yes’s” that are then ours to speak can be so freeing.
For me, this kind of restructuring my routines and thinking toward productivity require some prayer and reflection. Then, old-fashioned worksheets help. Challies also suggests other more techy tools, but I prefer starting with pen and paper.
Challies writes: “To be productive, you need a system. You need to build it, use it, perfect it, and rely on it. Your system needs to gain your confidence so that you can trust it to remember what needs to be remembered, to alert you to what is urgent, to direct you to what is important, and to divert you away from what is distracting…When you ought to be working on your computer, you are only ever one or two clicks away from checking out your friends on Facebook or welcoming a few minutes of mindless entertainment on YouTube. Text messages provide a welcome distraction from deep thinking, and binge watching the latest series on Netflix can set you back a week. You are surrounded by temptations to laziness and may succumb far more often than you think.”
COVID has not affected my health, for which I’m very thankful. However, the physical distancing has reeked havoc with daily life, work, routines of a few months ago, and even relationships. We have to work harder…smarter to keep high engagement in life and with our people. Tim Challies’ blog series, productivity tools, and book are a great starting place…for that good night’s sleep. Sweetly exhausted from “doing more good…better”.
Happy Weekend! Staying on the positive in my finds this week.
1) Beyond the Guitar Doing What He Does –Classical guitarist Nathan Mills, on the platform Beyond the Guitar, arranges and performs themes from movies, TV shows, and video games. The last couple of weeks he has showcased two arrangements of his that display his genre at its best.
Nathan teaches privately and via his Arrangers Academy (membership opens twice a year). His music (videos, sheet music, and MP3s) are why we are patrons. Well, and because we love the guy playing the guitar. Beautiful, nostalgic themes. Heart-soothing on every level and on any day.
2) From Cynicism to Delight – With that noise of social media and biased news media, we struggle to know what to believe about what’s going on around us. The tendency is to gradually go cynical, thinking ill of others, moving toward mistrust. Our thinking becomes negative, and we become suspicious of motives, questioning authority, and even disbelieving people trying to do right by others.
Negativity can become a habit…a negative habit.
This is no way to live. Cynicism dulls our thinking and darkens our heart.
How do we upend cynicism? Writer Jennie Allen talks on a podcast about how we can move away from cynicism and toward delight. Now, that is a surprising and almost old-fashioned idea. Delight is defined as “a high degree of gratification or pleasure; joy; giving keen enjoyment”.
What do you take delight in? It requires a measure of savoring, pausing to take note, considering a different possibility. We rush around in life, or at least in our thoughts – flipping channels, scrolling endlessly, moving from class to class or meeting to meeting with little notice to what’s going on around us (or in our own heads). What if? What if? We stopped, or slowed down, our minds and just took note.
Allen talks about the importance of what we put into our minds. Do we even think about it? 20 minutes on social media (depending on those we friend/follow) could begin a stubborn funk in our thinking. What about the people in our lives? She doesn’t encourage cutting people off, but guarding our conversations against the negative – gossiping, complaining, criticizing, thinking ill.
In the space we intentionally gain from the guarding above, we can begin practicing delight. At how well things are going instead of how badly, for instance. How beautiful the weather is, thoughtful your neighbor, generous your colleague, wise your mom or dad…This isn’t putting our heads in the sand; it is just considering life from a different angle…just as true/real as the negative, cynical take.
Allen encourages taking note of art as a fast track to delight. Whether it is music, or poetry, or painting. The world is full of beauty. We forget that sometimes in our “screened-in” lives. Many of us live in a place of four seasons. There’s always something to marvel at in nature. For many years, we lived in a part of the world with only two seasons. In each was still a myriad of beautiful discoveries. I have always enjoyed watching people, taking in all that’s there for the observer, without intruding. Then, of course, there is the wonder of God. How he continues to infuse our lives with good and possibility.
“The opposite of being cynical is being life-giving, and some might call you naive for it, but for the most part, people just need that in their lives. Most people will want to go to coffee with you because they need someone to speak life into them and actually believe it.” – Jennie Allen
4) A Great Life and a COVID Death – As we continue to physically distance during this pandemic, we are beginning to know people who have died from COVID-19. The nearest one to us died just before Christmas. Reverend David Pickard. He was just 76. One of the pastors Mom wanted to preach her funeral. He did. The pastor who officiated at Dave’s and my wedding close to 40 years ago.
Pastor David has always held a special place in my heart. So full of joy. A smile and presence that would shake the chill off any roomful of people. He genuinely loved God and people. Generous and good, this man.
He always made time. That meant so much to us as first our mom became ill with cancer, and then years later, our dad with Alzheimer’s. Pastor David was no longer in their church, but he continued in their lives.
We have been in separate countries (for awhile) and states now for many years. When we heard he was in the hospital with COVID, we prayed hard like everyone else who loved him. It wasn’t meant to be. His time here was done, but not without leaving a wide wake of love and Gospel truth to everyone he had a bit of time with. He is so missed.Pastor Dave and his sweetheart for life, Mrs. Dottie.
5) Life’s Comforting Rhythms – Here’s to all the rhythms of our lives that we count on and continue to bless us. Christmas cards, even in 2020 (although most of them arrived in 2021 through a weary postal service).
Christmas cactuses blooming right on schedule (how do they do it?).
Kale planted in the Fall still yummy in January.
Daffodils and irises pushing up through the soil with the promise of blooms in the Spring of this new year.
Sharing hot soup on a cold day with old friends (the lunch location altered somewhat by COVID)
And birthday greetings [this one from a lifelong friend who hung with me through our many losses and gains, and my lapses in communication] and a memoir by someone we have also shared through the years – through radio and concerts. #Garrison[Karen, hope you don’t mind. Your note says it all. Especially getting through all the latest hards.]
That’s it for this Friday Faves. Please comment yourself on the rhythms that comfort you and the things that bring you delight. Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.
Twitter is just like a public street. You’ll encounter all kinds of people. Some are evil and nasty—many actually dangerous—and some are wonderful souls who are sent by God to bless you. Others still are people he wants to bless through your friendship and prayers. Be mindful. pic.twitter.com/Z8rToFE1IX
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! For some, you may understand Christmas as just a fun, family-oriented holiday. It is so much more than that for many of us. Christmas commemorates the birth of the Messiah – the only son of almighty God. Christmas is huge for those who have experienced God coming close to humanity. Coming close to us in a sinless life, laid down in love for us. If you don’t know Jesus, consider getting to know Him, rather than just making the assumption you do. It (He) might change your life. He did mine.
1) Christmas Eve to Christmas Day – It’s looking somewhat different this year, but the things we hold dearest can still be celebrated.
Grandchildren – bringing joy and wonder into every experience. Super sweet to have their parents around as well.
Friends and neighbors who make life fun are not deterred by the need to physically distance.
Baking goodies and playing games – still happening. Our grands are big enough that this year we played a new game. “Bring Baby Jesus Home” – we gathered the Jesus figures from all the nativities (I have a collection), and our littles (with help from their parents) “raced” to return them to the proper nativity.
Candlelight Christmas Eve Service – Every year at Movement Church, we have this lovely service. The worship center is normally packed with families and friends gathered for Christmas. We sing carols and light the last Advent candle. Then Pastor Cliff brings a Christmas devotional. Finally, we light our candles, passing the light from person to person. So thankful that we still had this worshipful time this week…albeit not quite together. Thanks, you who made it happen.
2) Reading – My husband asked for books for Christmas. Somewhere along the way, he lost his collection of Chronicles of Narnia.
“We seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves…Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.” – C. S. Lewis
Marriage and family rifts are the deepest heartache in life. The ripple effect is wide. Now, there are times, we find ourselves in this situations…not wanting it to be so. Thomas is very candid about these issues. Candid and kind.
He talks a lot about the life-altering decision of leaving a marriage. I was touched at how he described the losses that come at us blind when we divorce. All the history…gone. [Now maybe you hope it will be gone…I can understand that in abuse, for sure.] My mom and dad divorced when I wasn’t quite 6 years old. It was not amicable. In fact, I saw my dad once after that, and never again. I wrote letters to him for 20 years (at his last known address…never got a letter back so I figured he got them). At the birth of his first grandchild, when he didn’t respond even to that announcement, I stopped writing.
Anyway…I have dear friends separated from each other and family members deeply hurt with each other…so I listen, write, and pray…
“I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouse.” – Gary Thomas
“Love is not an emotion; it’s a policy and a commitment that we choose to keep in the harshest of circumstances. It’s something that can be learned and that we can grow in. Biblical love is not based on the worthiness of the person being loved—none of us deserves Christ’s sacrifice—but on the worthiness of the One who calls us to love: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).” – Gary L. Thomas, The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not about Who You Marry, But Why?
4) Recycling – OK, here’s a question. Do you know anyone who works in a recycling plant? Now, I’m not talking about the very kind drivers of the big trucks that pick up our recycling every other week. I’m talking about someone who works, at any level, in the recycling industry. I haven’t. Yet, we have been recycling for a very long time, thinking we were helping the environment…doing what we could.
The other side of our sacred holiday of Christmas is its full-out consumerism. We buy a lot of merchandise this time of year (less this year because of COVID). All kinds of stuff to give those we love. Besides the commercial packaging of said stuff, we also love to wrap or bag it in festive ways. It’s a heavy week for generating and processing recycling.
Now, like many of you, I love to reuse or repurpose things when possible. Especially, now, that I’m looking at the possibility that recycling may not be offsetting my use of materials. Not sure, but am becoming more suspicious.
So, more than ever, I am reusing whatever gift bags, bows, and boxes are left at my house after Christmas. This isn’t new around here. You can see in the image below a bag with a cut-out angel and a bag with a handsome young man‘s picture on it. We’ve had those bags since these two kids of ours were in high school. Now they are many years married and parents. It’s a small thing, but we’re rocking at the reusing aspect of recycling. How about you? I’m also still putting the recycling bin on the curb next time our neighborhood recycling truck comes around. I will keep believing…for now.
5) Home for the Holidays – Who is your “home for the holidays” person? Several in our family fit the bill, but this COVID year, the one in particular for us is our youngest son. Last night, he spent the night in his own bed at our house for the first time in over 9 months. He is a front-line worker and has his own place. Because of his situation and mine (being more at-risk), we have only visited more from a distance since mid-March. Some back-yard barbecues, and an occasional family dinner. He is so kind about wearing his mask except for eating. We miss him. This Christmas, we decided it would be really good to have him home. So…here’s our youngest, and our joy is full…he’s home. Hope you are able to connect with that person of yours…if not at home, then in as real a way as our modern lives allow.
1) Twitter Gold – Social media definitely has its pluses and minuses. Twitter has taken a lot of hits lately, and deservedly, for its censorship of persons and content. It can be very negative and even mean-spirited. I’ve had the pleasure of following and learning from men and women whom I’d never have the opportunity to meet. They have taught me much about the varied positions of partisan politics, racial unrest, faith and work. Below are just a couple of the kind of tweets that have encouraged me and made me think. Who do you follow on Twitter (or other platforms) that have made a difference in your thinking.
2) Refusing to Not Care – The American Thanksgiving is this next week and many of us are looking forward to being together with family. At the same time, the CDC and many of our elected officials have advised not to travel and not to gather. What do we do?
Of course we care about those we love and even those we pass on the street or on those quick trips into stores or businesses.
We can refuse to not care. I know that is awkward wording, but it is what’s before us. We will take precautions, but to leave our elderly loved ones isolated still is not right and the lockdowns themselves can do harm as well.
I don’t like the language of “not caring.” I do think many people are weary because: – uncertain timelines (a week, then a month, then a year) – unnatural patterns (humans are made to gather) – unfair restrictions (favoring one kind of gathering and restricting another) https://t.co/JAJn476jXk
We don’t want to be reckless with those we love. We also see the double standard in some of our nation’s recommendations as crowds gather for various self-interests, and yet the private citizen is urged to stay apart.
As our COVID winter continues, we will be wise to search the conflicting and ever-evolving science on prevention and mediation.
We will continue to physically distance, wear masks around others, but we will also cautiously spend time with our family over the holidays. We will not stop caring.
In fact, anything that Dr. Thompson has written (or spoken to via podcast or YouTube video) you will find enormously. He is a Christian psychiatrist who teaches and counsels on shame, belonging, and interpersonal neurobiology. What a blessing to have this kind of access to a psychiatrist’s helps in such an isolating, disorienting time as COVID has given us.Photo Credit: Curt Thompson Associates
His teaching on COVID fatigue and how to successfully deal with it is excellent. Also he teaches about the differences in our right and left brain function and how we can develop our ability to process information in a much healthier way (neuroplasticity). Fascinating stuff.
Did you know that when we feel danger, our tendency is to isolate (sounds like what we’re doing now with physical distancing)? Yet, our brains need human connection. Video calls help but they are exhausting because we are taking in all the faces 1) without the many other physical cues we’re used to and 2) without always making a real personal connection with anyone.
Thompson also talks about how our left brain is more focused on the past and the future. In fact, we are actually rewarded when we think more out of our right brain (analytical, rational, problem-solving, etc). Our right brain, however, focuses on the present…the moment. Picking up all the little details, and the beauty of our surroundings, including the faces of those all around us (differently than on video calls). Our right brain helps us create. These days we consume much more than we create. We might want to try to turn that around.
4) Christmas Comes Early – OK, so first we will have American Thanksgiving which I have lovingly written about here.
Thanksgiving won’t be missed, even with COVID restrictions, but it feels like Christmas needed to come early this year.
When our children were little, we put on a family Christmas play. Now our children have children, and thanks to a friend who can envision and execute the sweetest Christmas costumes, we’re getting another generation ready for this year’s family fun.
Then we put up the Christmas trees and lay out the nativities. Every ornament has its own memory attached. The nativities do as well – coming from around the world or crafted by a daughter.
The very best part of Christmas, after celebrating the birth of the Messiah, is communicated on this ornament: Gather together. Can’t wait!
5) A Message to President Trump –
Dear President Trump,
I’ve never written you before, although your staff has received emails from me about the issues I cared most about in your four years of office.
Until the lawsuits have run their course, it is not completely settled, but it appears, if all things stay the same, that Vice-President Biden will be taking your place in the White House. I’m sure you will do the right thing for our country, as you have tried over these four years in office.Photo Credit: Wikipedia, Shealah Craighead
President Trump, I want to thank you for all you have done to benefit our country. We don’t hear much about it in the news, but you were determined to keep as many of your promises as you could (given the checks and balances of our country’s government). Your accomplishments (at least many of them) are listed here, here, here, and here.
I have prayed for you these four years (as we must for all our presidents). There have been times when your words and actions have brought calamity on you and on us…it may have cost you your second term. However, your willingness to call out people for their own behavior has actually been refreshing.
You’ve been called a liar by the media…and yet, what if we find you have actually been telling more the truth?…albeit in an unpopular way…
You have seemed to really care about the regular guy. Your policies and presence weren’t just about the elites of our society. So many people seemed to feel seen and valued by your administration. You could see that in the rallies…and in the surprising (to the media) voter turnout.
I loved your State of the Union addresses. Whoever your speech writer was really helped you demonstrate your most human side. All presidents brag on themselves during these addresses, but you also pointed out person after person who deserved the spotlight on them for a moment. You were generous to share that with them and with all of us watching. It made me sad that many of our elected officials treated you with such contempt by boycotting your addresses, and even tearing up your speech.
Having lived in countries with far less freedom than we enjoy, it has shocked me the disrespect and disregard our media has shown you over these four years. That would have never happened where we lived. How you were able to keep your focus and keep at the important work of your office, with daily ridicule and push-back, is mind-boggling.
I’m ashamed of how you were maligned…not guilty myself, but ashamed as part of a nation. Why people didn’t try to figure out how to work with you is astonishing to me. We have all had bosses we didn’t prefer, but we do what we can to get along and get the job done.
It is also appalling how the First Lady was not revered as she should have been. Her courage and tenacity are a credit to her.
Anyway, I’ll repeat this in a real letter to you, but I just wanted to say as simply as possible, thank you. We, as a nation, have much to be grateful for in this Thanksgiving season…even in the very hard economic times of COVID. Thank you for trying to help people keep their jobs and hold their families together.
I’m also appreciative of the people, the ones I respect, who either love you or hate you. I’ve learned from them both. How strange that decent people can have such opposing views. I wonder what you think.
You have been more silent in these days since the election than in all the rest of your time in office. We pray for your health and the resolution of our current tangle. We pray God has become more real to you in these years like none other in your life. We pray these next weeks also will be some of the most productive and profitable for these United States, as is possible for a sitting President. I know you will try.
God bless America, and God bless you, Mr. President.
Have you noticed the increased expressions of gratitude on your social media? At least in the US, we are gearing up for Thanksgiving. Some of us take this occasion as an opportunity to daily and publicly express our gratitude. Based on what we know from research, this could make November one of our happiest and least stressful months of the year.
Below you’ll find quotes from some of these authors, reporting on both clinical research and anecdotal data that support how the practice of gratitude can actually alter our habits of thinking and our sense of well-being. It’s all good for us and those around us.
“Our brain is always on alert to threat and is more predisposed to look at the negative side of life [stress response]. There are many things that happen to us everyday that are positive but we don’t notice them because we are always looking for the next threat to us. Now these actions are below our level of awareness. It takes some concerted effort to get our brain to move to the positive side of life. And that is where paying attention and expressing gratitude plays a role in establishing that positive mindset. When we start to place attention on the positive events in our life our brain responds by producing the neurotransmitter dopamine…We do feel better when dopamine is flowing but that also makes are brain wanting more – so it becomes the motivating neurotransmitter also…In addition, the brain loves confirmation bias: it looks for things that prove what it already believes to be true. Dopamine then strengthens that action. So if you start seeing things in your life that you are grateful for, your brain will start looking for more things to be grateful for.” – Patricia Faust, How Gratitude Affects the Brain
Once in awhile, they think about death and loss. – As we think of past losses and future losses (say of those we love), we remember and reflect on the good we’ve known in those situations or relationships. Of future losses, we then take action to savor and bless those persons while we have them near.
They take time to smell the roses. – Whether our current situation feels difficult or just mundane, we look for the beauty.
They take the good things as gifts, not birthrights. – We see entitlement for the life-diminishing thing it is.
They’re grateful to people, not just things. – We can be thankful for great food, for blue skies, for warm clothing, but we go beyond that to the one(s) who provided the good we have.
They mention the pancakes. Being grateful for the specific little things disciplines us to enlarge our gratitude for the greater things in our lives. Those things that can cause stress if we don’t remember the value and significance in them.
They thank outside the box. Even in adversity or hard times, we can find things for which to be grateful. Gratefulness doesn’t minimize the difficulty; it actually strengthens us to endure.
“Given its magnetic appeal, it is a wonder that gratitude might be rejected. Yet it is. If we fail to choose it, by default we choose ingratitude. Millions make this choice every day.
Why? Provision, whether supernatural or natural, becomes so commonplace that it is easily accepted for granted. We believe the universe owes us a living. We do not want to be beholden. Losing sight of protection, favors, benefits and blessings renders a person spiritually and morally bankrupt. It’d be hard to improve upon the words of our 16th President in 1863:
‘We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation ever has grown; but we have forgotten God! We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.'” – What Gets in the Way of Gratitude? – Robert Emmons
Happy End of the Week! October has flown by, right? This weekend there is so much going on. Halloween or Reformation Day whichever way you’re inclined to celebrate. November 1 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Daylight Savings Time ends so we have an extra hour of sleep to prepare for Sunday (do small children actually ever sleep longer?). Then in the US also, the countdown to our Election continues – praying for peace.
1) Amazing Grace on Guitar – Nathan Mills (of Beyond the Guitar) surprised us this week with his arrangement of the great old hymn Amazing Grace. This hymn was written over 240 years ago by John Newton, a slave ship turned minister after he himself was captured and captivated by the amazing saving grace of Christ.
What Nathan does with this old standard (often rendered on bagpipes) will really touch your heart. He takes a melody often used to comfort the bereaved at funerals, and gradually moves it up-tempo to a march of triumph. Just beautiful!
2) Visual and Auditory Feasts – Sometimes our senses are just wowed from multiple simultaneous sources. Our memories of holiday meals, for instance, attach visual, auditory, and olfactory experiences with them. Concert performances (either in-person or online) van be an assault on our senses or a beautiful feast. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing/hearing For King & Country in concert. Their use of various instruments (especially their drums) is winsome and effective, and their light shows are spot on.
A few years ago, they introduced their own version of Little Drummer Boy. To be honest, until their version, I wasn’t a big fan of that little song. Now…if you haven’t heard it, prepare yourself for a feast!
Another video of the song from the 2019 CMA Country Christmas (I’m thinking their light show team also did the lighting for this one):
“Can you recall being comforted as a child after a time of emotional distress?”
They continue to coach about comfort or the lack of it.
“We are looking for a time when you were significantly upset and a parent offered consolation and relief…Sometimes people who haven’t experienced real, soul-level comfort have trouble understanding what exactly it is.”
“Related to the comfort question is this: How was conflict handled in your family? If distressful feelings were soothed or problems were resolved when you were a child, you experienced comfort and relief.”
The Yerkovich’s offer three elements as essential parts of comfort:
“Comfort is not possible unless an emotional connection was made.”
[If you have no childhood memories of being comforted or you missed an emotional connection with your parents growing up,] “We’re not trying to turn you against your parents or give you a target at which you can shoot arrows of blame. Most of our parents did the best they could and were simply working with the tools they had.”
These quotes from the “How We Love” book launched the reader into a journey of discovery on how our experiences with being comforted have impact on how we comfort those we love. An excellent resource for married couples but also a help for extended family, friendships, and even coworker relationships.
I’m just digging in but really anticipating learning and growing.
4) Pumpkins – ‘Tis the season. Our church throws a pumpkin patch event every Fall for the enjoyment of our community and in support of a local ministry to homeless. This Fall, with COVID and all, we almost didn’t….but we rallied. Just a few pics celebrating the beauty and variety of pumpkins.
5) Gone Fishing – My husband loves fishing…being outside and on the water, hanging out with a friend or family member, improving his catch. It’s a joy for him. For me? It’s a once-a-year outing. I do however love nature…and time with him, of course. This Fall morning last week started with a thick fog that paled the color of everything but broke with the shimmering sun pushing through.
I did catch a fish (score!) and he caught many more…it was a beautiful day and I wanted to share it with you.
[OK, full disclosure: the sunset pic was taken by our son, Nathan, who took my place in the boat in the afternoon. He and his sweet son. It was a good day both in and out of the boat.]
Enjoy your weekend. Thanks for stopping by. By the next Friday Faves, we’ll know how the US elections went. Praying!
Quote for Today:
“We are participating in the orderly transfer of administrative authority by the direction of the people. And this is the simple magic which makes a commonplace routine a near miracle to many of the worlds inhabitants: the continuing fact that the people, by democratic process, can delegate this power, yet retain custody of it.
Perhaps you and I have lived with this miracle too long to be properly appreciative. Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.” – Ronald Reagan, Inaugural Address as Governor of California, 1967
Yard Visits – During COVID, drive-bys and yard visits have been so life-giving. We have been so blessed by planned and impromptu visits with friends. This week, our friend, Thiago, dropped by. He is an entrepreneur/film producer in California now…so such a visit is rare. And a complete joy.
1) October Creepy – This year, we seem to be in need of bigger and earlier seasonal celebrations. Our neighborhood could totally be a drive-through Halloween fête with houses and yards dressed up on all sorts of creepy ghouls and goblins. The kids must love it!
For musical creepiness, Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar) delivers with five spooky themes (from shows too scary for me). Never having seen the shows, his interpretation of these themes is lovely and haunting (maybe that’s where the spooky comes in). Enjoy.
2) New Politically Charged Words – These words may not be new to you, but they are to me. What words have you had to sort out in these strange times of redefining culture and society? Please comment below with words of your own that have forced their way into your vocabulary. For you non-native English speakers/readers, how about in your language? Any words you’d be willing to teach us?
Illiberal – opposed to liberalism, not broad-minded
Populist – a member of a political party claiming to represent the common people
3) Dads – Do an online search of the importance of fathers and you’ll be reading all day. We are so grateful for our moms (see Friday Fave 5 below), but dads are the unsung heroes. My biological father was a ghost in my life. After my parents divorced when I was 5 years old, I saw him once after that. Once. Fortunately we later had a step-dad who became a dad to us.
Having dads actively involved in kids’ lives, whether they live with them or not, can make huge differences in their success in life. Both in how they see themselves and their place in the world. It matters.
These two videos are just a small evidence of impact. Sweet!
Dads make a difference. We all know it. Get up out of the recliner, Dad! We know you’re tired, and we understand it isn’t always easy to connect with your family. Go find that son, daughter, grand of yours…and be to them what no one else can be.
4) Lockdowns – Physical distancing will continue for many of us especially those most at risk for contracting COVID-19, but for the rest of the world, “lockdown is a terrible experiment”. So says Harvard epidemiologist Martin Kulldorff. We’re told to “follow the science” which seems reasonable, but the science is evolving. COVID-19 is a new disease. We are learning every day.
Photo Credit: Twitter, Martin Kulldorff [I took a screenshot in case his Twitter account got shut down or the Tweet deleted.]
Dr. Kulldorff and more and more others are encouraging “focused protection” – with the elderly and others at higher risk the focus. Then everyone else should take precautions – wash hands, keep some distance, maybe wear masks. However, any proposal to lockdown a whole state or country will only cause its own harm. The unnamed prognosticator Ethical Skeptic says the same as he follows data of deaths not by COVID per se but related to COVID (in particular, lockdowns).
5) Family Glue – When the image below crossed my Facebook newsfeed, it immediately resonated. My mom was our family’s glue (my mom-in-law continues to be the glue on my husband’s side of the family). Photo Credit: Lessons Learned in Life, Cardinal Crossing, Facebook
When Mom died, we still rallied around our Dad.
When he died, things got a little shaky. Someone has to take over that role of family glue, or holiday celebrations shift and family gatherings, in general, become tenuous. I would have loved taking on the responsibility of holding our extended family together, but living far from them made that impossible. Still, we try. How thankful I am for siblings, nieces and nephews who make space in their schedules and nearer relationships to gather to celebrate the memories of great old ones gone before us and the family bond we carry. What a blessing!
Who is your family’s glue? How do you hold together over the years? You folks who still manage family reunions and fun traditions are my heroes. You who put up with all the idioscyncrasies and prickly nature of family hold a deep place in my heart.
I hope our children have family glue in their DNA. My Mom’s delight in us, her readiness to always forgive, her holding us together no matter what are in my DNA for sure. So thankful for her…my mom-in-law, and those in our extended families applying the glue.
Glue only works in contact with what needs gluing.
2) 200 Days – It’s been 200 days of physical distancing and wearing masks in public. Over half a year. COVID-19 has been a global health threat for many months now. We have learned so much in how to prevent, mediate, and treat. It’s become a political issue which is unfortunate and unfair. It is a novel virus. We are all learning.
For me, the biggest thing, after not contracting the virus, is how to navigate life with physical distancing. I’ve found instead of my capacity for work and people growing, it has contracted. Fatigue is a daily issue to battle. This is so curious since we are in the physical lives of far fewer people…and much of the clutter in our work lives has been removed.
Still…we are challenged to stay in play in life and relationships. I really appreciated the counsel of the two articles below. Won’t elaborate here, but read what you need…and don’t give in to the sluggishness of this constrained life. It will get better or stay different – we want to effectively meet the challenge whatever it is.
3) Humanity Over Politics – “Don’t let politics take away your humanity. Don’t let the fact that you agree or disagree with someone on various issues, don’t let that stop you from having sympathy for them, compassion…In general, people need to stop trying to dunk on people, insult people, dunking on people when they are…sick, going through dark times. It’s just despicable behavior. This is not me virtue-signaling. This is just me trying to encourage you to be a decent human being. Humanity over politics always!” – Zuby
Don't let politics turn you into what you despise. You don't change hearts and minds by kicking people at their lowest point. Even if you disagree with them.
I follow @ZubyMusic on Twitter. This young man is British with an international accent (sounds American to me, raised and schooled in Saudi Arabia). He is truly brilliant with a wide range of giftings – podcaster, rapper, health/fitness coach, author, and culture commentator. He seems to truly care about people…and even us Americans, which is so refreshing. I learn from him daily.
In the last several weeks, you have heard me rave about economics professor and social scientist Glenn Loury. He is one of the thought leaders in our world today, and his voice has helped me stay calm in a world gone crazy. He is weekly on a YouTube Blogging Heads episode and also on other media platforms. This week, Loury speaks with Ian Rowe on education and society. There is not one dry point in this whole conversation.
Hope-giving. Whatever your biases or preconceived notions are, Do. Not. Miss. This. Especially if you love children.
Rowe is currently a fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, focusing on education and upward mobility, family formation, success sequence, adoption, and poverty studies. If you truly care about issues related to racism, poverty, opportunity, and family, you want to read everything he writes…and talk about it with whomever and wherever you have a voice.
[Rowe also talks about the role of not only individuals but mediating institutions who will add to the conversation and strengthen the solutions.]
5) Mushrooms Everywhere – The natural world around us is full of wonder and surprises. I had the pleasure of a walk in the woods this week. Highlighted by a closer to the ground view by two small grandchildren. They spotted and we marveled at the incredible array and variety of mushrooms and fungi growing on the forest floor and downed logs.
We see mushrooms pop up in our yards overnight. How do they do it? Seemingly out of nowhere. Not tackling that here, but you can find several timelapse videos of mushroom growth on YouTube.
For today, I just wanted to post some (not all) of the mushrooms we discovered on that one walk. Phenomenal!
Time-lapse video of composting worms – ok, so this has nothing to do with the above topic, but… When my husband takes the grandchildren fishing, they fish with worms. Dug up from our compost pile. Except for the creepiness factor, it amazes how worms can turn garbage into compost, and over a very short amount of time.
“Every ‘yes’ you say means a ‘no’ to something else.” – my husband, Dave
Forgive me but I didn’t realise Thursday was #NationalPoetryDay. If I’d have remembered I’d have posted this famous moment from ‘Parkinson’ in 1973… when Ken and Maggie Smith read John Betjeman’s ‘Death in Leamington’ in front of the great man himself. Truly memorable. Click⬇️ pic.twitter.com/pqpHdg82UL
“There are times in the experience of almost every community, when even the humblest member thereof may properly presume to teach — when the wise and great ones, the appointed leaders of the people, exert their powers of mind to complicate, mystify, entangle and obscure the simple truth — when they exert the noblest gifts which heaven has vouchsafed to man to mislead the popular mind, and to corrupt the public heart, — then the humblest may stand forth and be excused for opposing even his weakness to the torrent of evil.” – Frederick Douglass, from Maria Popova’s article “Frederick Douglass on the Wisdom of the Minority and the Real Meaning of Solidarity
The following video is an intersection in Cairo, Egypt. I never could bring myself to drive when we lived there, but I loved watching how the drivers made their way through all the traffic. Fascinating!
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” – Jesus – John 14:15
We tear down arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:5
This is love: that we walk according to his commands. This is the command as you have heard it from the beginning: that you walk in love. – 2 John 1:6
With four grandchildren, five years old and under, learning obedience is a part of their every day life. It’s a blessing to an older mom to watch adult children guide their little ones toward the wisdom of obeying and acting on what is right.
Jesus, in his great goodness and mercy, lived and taught obedience. So often we are drawn to act out of our emotions or in reaction to the actions of another (or a whole tribe of others). God calls us to a more even and measured walk in life. He calls us to choose obedience in Him. He calls us to trust Him with the outcomes of our obedience.
Writer and theologian Eugene H. Peterson may be best known for his rendering of the Bible in contemporary English. It is entitled The Message. It made the Scriptures understandable and beloved by many. Those many includes Irish singer/songwriter Bono (the friendship between him and Peterson – and their faith – has been highlighted in the documentary The Psalms.
I have not read the book yet and, in fact, did not know about it until recently. Last week, a notice popped up on my Twitter feed about a set of articles by writer Barnabas Piper. He posted 52 of his favorite quotes from Peterson’s classic book.
Out of Piper’s 52 quotes, I have pulled 14, listed below. Dear Dr. Peterson died in 2018. What a blessing he has been and continues to be to the Church, individual Christ-followers, and the Kingdom of God.
On truth – “The moment the word God is uttered, the world’s towering falsehood is exposed—we see the truth. The truth about me is that God made and loves me. The truth about those sitting beside me is that God made and loves them, and each one is therefore my neighbor. The truth about the world is that God rules and provides for it. The truth about what is wrong with the world is that I and the neighbor sitting beside me have sinned to refusing to let God be for us, over us, and in us. The truth about what is at the center of our lives and of our history is that Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross for our sins and raised from the tomb for our salvation and that we can participate in new life as we believe in him, accept his mercy, respond to his love, attend to his commands.”
On repentance – “Repentance is not an emotion. It is not feeling sorry for your sins. It is a decision . . . Repentance is a realization that what God wants from you and what you want from God are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things, thinking the same old thoughts. Repentance is a decision to follow Jesus Christ and become his pilgrim in the path of peace.”
On faith – “Faith is not a precarious affair of chance escape from satanic assaults. It is the solid, massive, secure experience of God, who keeps evil from getting inside us, who guards our life, who guards us when we leave and when we return, who guards us now, who guards us always.”
On the Gospel – “The reason many of us do not ardently believe in the gospel is that we have never given it a rigorous testing, thrown our hard questions at it, faced it with our most prickly doubts.”
On the content of our lives – “We speak our words of praise in a world that is hellish; we sing our songs of victory in a world where things get messy; we live our joy among people who neither understand nor encourage us. But the content of our lives is God, not humanity.”
On discipleship – “Discipleship is a decision to live by what I know about God, not what I feel about him or myself or my neighbors.”
On sowing the seeds of the Gospel – “The hard work of sowing seed in what looks like perfectly empty earth has, as every farmer knows, a time of harvest. All suffering, all pain, all emptiness, all disappointment is seed: sow it in God and he will, finally, bring a crop of joy from it.”
On the rightness of work – “Our work goes wrong when we lose touch with the God who works ‘his salvation in the midst of the earth.’ It goes wrong both when we work anxiously and when we don’t work at all, when we become frantic and compulsive in our work (Babel) and when we become indolent and lethargic in our work (Thessalonica). The foundational truth is that work is good. If God does it, it must be all right. Work has dignity: there can be nothing degrading about work if God works. Work has purpose: there can be nothing futile about work if God works.”
On the fear of the Lord – “To guard against all such blasphemous chumminess with the Almighty, the Bible talks of the fear of the Lord—not to scare us but to bring us to awesome attention before the overwhelming grandeur of God, to shut up our whining and chattering and stop our running and fidgeting so that we can really see him as he is and listen to him as he speaks his merciful, life-changing words of forgiveness.”
On hope – “Hoping does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. It means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions. It is not compelled to work away at keeping up appearances with a bogus spirituality. It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulation, of scurrying and worrying.”
On temptation and trials – “When an ancient temptation or trial becomes a feature in the culture, a way of life that is expected and encouraged, Christians have a stumbling block put before them that is hard to recognize for what it is, for it has been made into a monument, gilded with bronze and bathed in decorative lights.”
On the past and the future – “If we define the nature of our lives by the mistake of the moment or the defeat of the hour or the boredom of the day, we will define it wrongly. We need roots in the past to give obedience ballast and breadth; we need a vision of the future to give obedience direction and goal. And they must be connected. There must be an organic unity between them.”
On the God who sees and knows – “Everything we learn about God through Scripture and in Christ tells us that he knows what it is like to change a diaper for the thirteenth time in the day, to see a report over which we have worked so long and carefully gather dust on somebody’s desk for weeks and weeks, to find our teaching treated with scorn and indifference by children and youth, to discover that the integrity and excellence of our work has been overlooked and the shoddy duplicity of another’s rewarded with a promotion.”
On the connection of our bodies and hearts – “You can lift up your hands regardless of how you feel; It is a simple motor movement. You may not be able to command your heart, but you can command your arms. Lift your arms in blessing; just maybe your heart will get the message and be lifted up also in praise. We are psychosomatic beings; body and spirit are intricately interrelated. Go through the motion of blessing God and your spirit will pick up the cue and follow along.”
Today we worship with the words from our older brother who long followed the Lord, in obedience.
[Postscript: Usually our Worship Wednesday time together includes a song to enjoy together. With so many beautiful words posted above, basking in them before the Lord is today’s worship. For our “worship in song” lovers, below you will see linked three songs – the first from my childhood in revival services with long calls to the altar, the second from my youth inspired by Keith Green, and the third a more contemporary standard from Chris Tomlin. Do you have a favorite song on obedience? Please post in Comments.]
Processing thoughts on the difficult subject of offending and being offended, a song drifts into my hearing. Dave is riding his bike (on a trainer) to a playlist that matches his ride (slow/fast/slow). This particular song pounding into my head is rock band The Eagles‘ Get Over It. [Dave will also pull that song up on the occasion he recognizes he’s having a pity party.]
I’ve had some great friends in my life who have spoken reason to me in times when something said or done to me (or to someone I cared about) offended. “Get over it!” It was actually a helpful “slap” into reality for me. Reminds me of that old commercial, “Thanks! I needed that.”
The motivation for this piece is walking alongside people I love who have been deeply offended and don’t see a way to get past it. Offenses are hard, especially if they seem intentional.
We still have a choice. We can choose not to be offended…whether it felt the seeming offense was directed toward us or we are tempted to take up offensefor another.
Author Desirée M. Mondesir writes a “slap to the face” piece on our culture’s move to looking for and taking up offense. It’s especially fascinating to me because she refers to a student revolt at Yale University. Having taught there years ago, I can see this gradual evolution from reason to riot. It’s a stunning change in society and we are none immune to it.
Mondesir refers to this cultural shift as being a sign of end times.
“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.Thenmany false prophets will rise up anddeceive many.And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will growcold.But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” – Jesus – Matthew 24:10-13
Sure sounds like today’s culture, in the US anyway.
Writer and counselor John Bevere has written a fascinating book on offense entitled The Bait of Satan: Living Free From the Deadly Trap of Offense. The title put me off at first but in reading it, the whole issue of offense was highlighted as something that turns us inward and keeps us from healthy relationships with one another and with God. When you think about it, Eve, in the first pages of the Torah/Old Testament [Genesis 3:2-7], was the first of humankind to act in offense. In her conversation with the Serpent tempter, she reacted to the Serpent’s suggestion, questioning the instruction of God. To me, it demonstrates her taking offense that she would be drawn into Satan’s ruse. Even acting in rebellion, presuming God didn’t mean good toward her. She decided for herself to eat from the tree (the one tree God had forbidden), and the consequences of her choosing continue to today.
What could Eve have done differently? She could have trusted God’s heart toward her. If she fell into doubt (through Satan’s cunning argument), she could have sought out the Creator first before she acted on a lie.
When Eve acted in this way, and took the bait, we can see how we, too, can be drawn in – becoming disoriented by someone’s words or deeds, and forgetting what is really the truth of the matter. Our emotions fly away with us, and we bind ourselves in the chains of offense.
As for personal situations, people who offend do not always mean to offend. [I don’t say this lightly. Of course, there are those who do. I also am not talking about abuse here. That is a whole other topic, but the principles still apply.] No one knows truly what’s inside us that gives us struggle, not even ourselves. Like the Mcgill quote states, it’s only in our response that we discover the which that is still unresolved. Reacting in self-defense or in counter-attack mode brings more hurt. “Hurt people hurt people.” With practice, I can determine not to carry hurt away from a conversation or interaction.
In situations between two people, we can choose not to be offended, but how do we deal with the offense?
The offender communicates disrespect. A social violation occurs. Two people are involved and the resolution of that interaction requires input from both of them. When the one offended determines to engage in good faith, trying to seek understanding and rebuild trust, s/he may actually discover the intent of the offending person. A misunderstanding or an action following a perceived threat on the part of the offender may be the issue rather than an intent to hurt.
On the side of the one offended, this is not a social situation. It is deeply personal. Only the one offended knows the extent of the offending words/actions. For this reason, the offended person can refuse to think ill of the offender…and not take offense. Then take steps toward reconciliation or, if that’s not possible, make a personal decision not to be hurt by that person. This is not easy…especially at first in training one’s responses.
“The answer is a little paradoxical: We should strive not to offend or disrespect others. At the same time, we should also strive to not feel offended, or disrespected, for long. In other words, we should strive to be kind socially, and to feel free psychologically.”
Forgiveness opens the door wide to reconciliation. Forgiveness can defuse the hurt. Boundaries may come into play, but if the boundaries are built out of fear, dread, anger, or hatred, we are still not free from offense.