Advent means “coming”. We celebrate the coming of Christ, as Messiah, a helpless baby born of a virgin mother. God in arms. Miracle and mystery. Advent also commemorates the coming again of Christ in the last days. We look with hope to the day He will come again for His people, as Redeemer King.
Advent is a time of preparing our hearts for His coming – we light candles to remind us how Jesus’ birth brought light into a dark world. Celebrating Advent happens over the four Sundays before Christmas. The candles we light represent Christ’s gifts to us: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. A fifth candle is lit on Christmas Eve celebrating Jesus, the One who came for us.
What the practice of Advent does is to keep Christ central in all the busyness of Christmas.
Those Sunday advent worship gatherings lead us then to continue in the Word through each week, focused, in particular, on the wonder of God coming so near to us…humbling Himself to enter this human space as an infant…to awaken us to who He was and is and grasp what only He could fully bring to us.
In celebrating the joy and peace we have in Advent, anticipating Christ’s coming, we look to the blessing Paul wrote to the Roman church which, at the time, was enduring terrible suffering.
May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace, in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in HOPE. – Romans 15:13
Let’s rest in Christ’s beautiful word to us. Focusing on all the other stuff of Christmas can be exhausting…and sometimes unsatisfying. Keeping Christ as center is where we experience his hope, peace, joy and love.
This Christ who drew near to us in a humble creche and held nothing back from us, even in His death on a cross. Oh the love, the joy, the hope and peace, we have in Him. Hallelujah!
[Below are images of the Women’s Christmas Event, celebrating Advent, at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia. We were surrounded by beauty and loving hospitality in this experience.]
Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness, send Your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day. We who are anxious about many things look forward to Your coming among us. We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of Your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence. We are your people walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To You we say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Amen. – Henri J. M. Nouwen
So much sorrow and grief in the world…if you clicked on this blog at all, with such a sober title, then you are facing what is true for you, and for all of us.
Take a moment more and let’s sit together over this. Or if you have 2-3 friends or family members you deeply trust, gather them for a talk that will begin the healing of both a current grief or a distant sorrow. Losses, whatever they are, endure in our minds and bodies. If we leave them unshared, we still attend to them, either by the work of keeping them buried or by numbing them with the aid of our idols or addictions.
“When I stopped trying to block my sadness and let it move me instead, it led me to a bridge with people on the other side.” … I learned that sadness does not sink a person; it is the energy a person spends trying to avoid sadness that does that.” – Barbara Brown Taylor
When you think about a sorrow, grief, or loss in your own life (current or past), what comes to mind? Something always comes. We are all experiencing a global sorrow in the war brewing in the Middle East. Here in my town, a young widow and an older one are daily finding their way forward through grief. For you, maybe it is a past loss of great import…or even one you think is only important to you. If it’s important to you, it matters to those who care about you. We self-edit and compare our sorrows, but they stay strong and real in our own life experience.
What can we do to heal the ache of these sadnesses? To refuse to isolate ourselves and our losses from community? To experience hope again?
Adam Young describes the four conditions needed to allow us to work with sorrow and grief:
We own that our sorrows and griefs matter and should be taken seriously.
We need to gradually move from a posture of contempt toward our sorrow and grief to a posture of compassion and kindness and welcome.
We need to find a few people who can be the village for us… allowing us to risk sharing our sorrow and grief with other people.
We need to move our bodies in a way that allows for the integration and release of our sorrow and grief.– Adam Young
We can be very hard on ourselves regarding our sorrow and grief, because somehow we think we should get over it or not care so much or ___________________________ (fill in the blank). Even when we push our grief into the deep interior of our minds, or we try to forget through our “drugs” of choice, it is present. Closer to the surface than we imagine.
In the above podcasts, Adam Young quotes psychotherapist Francis Weller extensively, which is a huge help for those of us who have yet to read Weller’s book The Wild Edge of Sorrow. Weller emphasizes the impact of grief over time, on our minds and bodies and relationships. He encourages community as the place, or people with whom, to release our sorrow.
I’ve been reading The Deepest Place by Dr. Curt Thompson (the fourth book he has written and the fourth book of his I have devoured!). Thompson talks about the common nature of suffering in all our lives. Once we embrace that fact, then we can be more open and honest with “villages” of people who are there for us…and we for them. This has been so healing for me as I’ve opened up about my own sadness regarding the rupture of my extended family and the pain we have all suffered from it.
A group of us just today were hearing an update from a friend who has endured through a chronic illness for which her doctors have found no solution…yet. She is tired and struggling. Reading Thompson’s chapter on perseverance reminded me of her ordeal. Her faith in God and her determination to keep open and close to her community have given us all hope that the future will be brighter for her…and we will be there with her for it.
Then the man and his wife [Adam and Eve] heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the breeze of the day, and they hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord called out to the man, “Where are you?“ – Genesis 3:8-9
One day in a place where Jesus had just finished praying, one of His disciples requested, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” So Jesus told them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come… – Luke 11:1-2
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence [boldness], so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. – Hebrews 4:15-16
What is it that keeps us from praying?
Is it shame or fear? Yet God calls for us to show ourselves to Him. He looks on us with deep compassion.
Is it not our practice? The disciples witnessed both Jesus’ pattern of prayer and His power to live a life pleasing to the Father. They didn’t ask what was His secret. They seemed to know it was his dependence on the Father through prayer.
Is it our sin that makes us too shy to talk to God? He is not surprised at our struggle. He knows our weaknesses and loves us still. We have a sinless mediator in Jesus and because of Him we have access to the Father.
Prayer can be hard for me for all the above reasons. Add to those the weight of so much need in the world, and I find myself too quickly distracted by the world’s chatter. Oh to stay in the quiet of His peace!
So I pray a bit then switch to over-thinking and worry, or drop out altogether to some other cheap substitute to prayer. Nevertheless, because of His long-suffering with His children, He draws us back to Himself, and I return often to that throne of grace. As a child running to my dad…the best dad we could ever hope to have. Father God.
Tyler Staton introduces his readers to writer teacher John Mark Comer. Comer is the founder of Practicing the Way. This is a website with the focus of offering a pathway to becoming like Jesus in community. All of the teaching and resources are free, and I’ve been grateful to God for how He is speaking to me in this space. My hope is to be part of a prayer community in our local church. Pray with me for this. Are you part of such a community?
Comer’s series on prayer is also available on YouTube. The first two messages are linked (the other two I will link when they come online).
All the things that I have held dear The vanities that whispered in my ear What would I do if they all disappeared Riches and fame and all that they could buy I’ve come to find they never satisfy What would I gain if my soul’s the price
I don’t wanna love what the world loves I don’t wanna chase what the world does I only want you I only want you
First thing’s first I seek Your will Not my own Surrender all my wants to you Keep the first thing first To live Your truth Walk Your ways Set my eyes Lord, I fix my face on you All my desires reversed To keep the first thing first
I give it all My life an offering My heart is yours So have Your way in me Your kingdom’s all I wanna seek
I don’t wanna love what the world loves No, I don’t wanna chase what the world does I only want you I only want you
First thing’s first I seek Your will Not my own Surrender all my wants to you Keep the first thing first To live Your truth Walk Your ways Set my eyes Lord, I fix my face on you All my desires reversed To keep the first thing first To keep the first thing first All my desires reversed To keep the first thing first, oh To keep the first thing first, oh
First thing’s first I seek Your will Not my own Surrender all my wants to you Keep the first thing first To live Your truth Walk Your ways Set my eyes Lord, I fix my face on you All my desires reversed To keep the first thing first, oh To keep the first thing first, oh To keep the first thing first
All my desires reversed To keep the first thing first*
Rejoice at all times. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Until this book, published in 2017, and just now read.
Brené Brown has much studied wisdom on who we are in relationship to others. I’d like to share some of my takeaways from this little treasure of a book. [Sidebar: Not in lockstep with all her conclusions, but some are so rich and needful, I want to offer them to those of you who might not read them yourselves.]
1) Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Brown talks about the crucial work of valuing who you are and what you bring to any community, family, or workplace.
“Even in the context of suffering—poverty, violence, human rights violations—not belonging in our families is still one of the most dangerous hurts. That’s because it has the power to break our heart, our spirit, and our sense of self-worth. It broke all three for me. And when those things break, there are only three outcomes, something I’ve borne witness to in my life and in my work: 1. You live in constant pain and seek relief by numbing it and/or inflicting it on others; 2. You deny your pain, and your denial ensures that you pass it on to those around you and down to your children; or 3. You find the courage to own the pain and develop a level of empathy and compassion for yourself and others that allows you to spot hurt in the world in a unique way. I certainly tried the first two. Only through sheer grace did I make my way to the third.” – Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: the Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, p. 14
2) There are at least four elements of true belonging.
a. People are hard to hate close up. Move in.
b. Speak truth to bullsh*t. Be civil.
c. Hold hands. With strangers.
d. Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.
These are chapter headings in Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness. Each could stand alone as inspiring to us in embracing how we are meant to live life. To truly belong. In community that is honoring to those around us, ourselves, and our Creator.
In a capsule, each element (or practice) speaks to the choices we make in leaning in to those both like us and not at all like us. In fact, we can see how we are doing in “braving the wilderness” – dealing with the strange and isolating sides of life – as we examine our daily habits. Am I willing to be in proximity with those different from me, those who think, speak, or act in opposition to me? With those who clearly communicate that I don’t belong. We collude with such opinions if we pull ourselves away, believing we don’t belong. We silence ourselves. We don’t show up. [I’m choosing not to hate as a daily practice and not to be counted out. Full stop.]
We can be civil. If we find ourselves in conversations filled with belittling, loathing, sarcasm, one-up-manship, then it is a sign we have bought into someone’s bullsh*t. Maybe even our own unchecked attitudes or opinions. Do we need boundaries sometimes? Sure…but if we can practice civility (even love) toward someone acting in ways that exclude or diminish us, maybe we can find a place of belonging to meet. To live with that person instead of forever without them.
The courage to take hold of strangers’ hands can open a whole new world of belonging and meaning to us. Concerts, sporting events, volunteering to aid people in need. People who link arms over something larger than themselves. Our children need us to belong and bring them along. I’m not sure if it was 9/11 or COVID or what has moved us to gather in small, tight circles. We miss out on a larger life in this way. A life full of purpose.
Brown uses the acronym “braving” in how to maneuver through whatever wilderness we find ourselves. You can see it in the image below.
3) Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart. I want to return to this element.
Brown closed her book “Braving the Wilderness” with challenge and encouragement. We can have strong backs as opposed to rigid backs. A strong back is one that is capable of carrying burdens, ours and others, without becoming rigid with unmet expectations or misunderstanding. We strengthen our backs with showing up and growing capacity for caring. The soft front comes not from looking for the negative of rejection, exclusion, or insecurity. It comes from honoring what we each bring and what we each need. A soft front encourages, empowers, and elevates. We refuse to diminish our own place at the table, nor do we push others away, because they are not like us. Something to think about. And that wild heart Brown talks about? It’s that heart we can have when we don’t believe lies or attitudes that make us feel small or overlooked or outside the circle.
The heart becomes wild, free if you will, because we believe what is truest and most beautiful about ourselves, about others, and especially about God. The world is still a wilderness, but we don’t have to be afraid.
So…those are my takeaways from this special little book, and its author’s wild heart!
Many say of me, “God will not deliver him.” Selah But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head. – Psalm 3:2-3
Blessed be the LORD, for He has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart rejoices, and I give thanks to Him with my song. – Psalm 28:6-7
Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. – 1 Peter 5:7-9
Last night, in the car leaving his taekwondo lesson, our 7 y/o grandson wanted to talk about the most recent conflict between Israel and Palestine. I was shocked that he knew about it given such an adult situation. Maybe he heard his parents talk. Maybe they were praying as a family for the conflict…now war.
He had amazingly mature thoughts and questions about it. You can imagine that it led to a discussion that went all the way back to Adam and Eve and all the way forward to Heaven and Hell. He wondered if America would ever have war and what that would look like. We talked about both the sadness of the situation for Israel and Palestine, and we talked about what our response as Christ-followers must be.
I grew up in the 60s and 70s. During the Vietnam War era. I also grew up with a mom who taught us not to hate. It was never acceptable. If we loved Jesus then we did not have the privilege or luxury or burden (however you see it) of hating another individual or group of people. It went against everything we understood of Jesus, including His very own teaching to love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
During the Vietnam war, the culture was mixed (as it is today) with opinions on what was right and what was wrong. In high school, I wrote letters of encouragement to soldiers (brothers, friends, and sometimes strangers who became penpals). Writing to boys only a few years older than me…gone to war.
In college, I, like so many others, participated in protests of a too-long and too-costly war. Protests and prayer vigils.
Address God. (Focus your prayer on the One who hears and answers.)
Pour out your heart. (Bring Him your complaints and concerns.)
Request help. (Ask God for what you need.)
Express trust. (Affirm your faith in His character and His Word.)
Praise Him. (Worship Him because He is worthy.)
“Confessing trust in God is the hinge that turns our grieving into grace, tears into trust, and worries into worship.”– Jennifer Rothschild
If you’re like me, you’ve lost confidence in much of what we see in the news. Or at least, we sift through several accounts of events to determine what might be true.
This I know: something catastrophic is happening in the Middle East right now which will most probably have a wide ripple effect into coming generations. There is much to lament here. God’s face is the only one to which we can look with complete trust and confidence.
Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation. Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. – Psalm 85:7-9
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from wrath through Him! For if, when we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! – Romans 5:7-10
The love of God is something I know and yet something I cannot comprehend.
From my childhood, He has held me close. In fact, because of Christ, somehow I am carved into “the palm of His hand” (Isaiah 49:15-16). Although these words were written by the prophet Isaiah, centuries before Jesus was born, they remind me of the Cross and the sacrifice of love displayed there.
God’s love is not the smarmy, hands-off, “do whatever we want” kind of love. He fights for us. He is always with us. He sees us at our worst, and yet with the eyes of a perfectly loving Father. Ever drawing us away from what will destroy us and into tender fellowship with Him. Rescued. Redeemed. Restored.
This blog has been a platform for me through the years to share the stuff I’ve learned in life, mostly for my children but you are welcome on the journey.
One thing I’ve known and tested over decades of decision-making and executing, for good and for not-so-good: God loves his children. When we choose to wisely – following Him – and when we choose poorly…serving self or seeking the approval of others. God loves us. He is long-suffering with us, helping us up off the floor and out of the ditch. He is our anchor and our shield. He is the source of everything good in our lives.
When I first heard singer/songwriter Andrew Ripp‘s “For the Love of God”, I was enthralled. It could be the soundtrack of my life. Whatever his story is, it resonates…and beautifully communicates…the love of God.
I saw mercy Mercy seated where the judge should be Was guilty Guilty and getting out of jail free How could it be I didn’t get the life I deserved And the only thing that He wanted was my heart in return Every time I think about every time I thought was the end I’m caught up wonder again
Where would I be Where would I be If it wasn’t for the love of God This song of victory is Now mine to sing Hallelujah for the love of God Has set me free
(Hallelujah Hallelujah for the love of God Hallelujah Hallelujah for the love of God)
I was thirsty But like a desert turning to a field of green Started breathing When heaven’s favor took ahold of me How could it be I’m living with an infinite worth Cuz the one I thought I chose had really chosen me first Every time I think about every time I thought was the end I’m caught up wonder again
Where would I be Where would I be If it wasn’t for the love of God This song of victory is Now mine to sing Hallelujah for the love of God Has set me free
(Hallelujah Hallelujah for the love of God Hallelujah Hallelujah for the love of God)
If it wasn’t for my failures and mistakes I would never know the depths of this grace Now my heart is beating for heaven’s sake And for the love of God And for the love of God If it wasn’t for my failures and mistakes I would never know the depths of this grace Now my heart is beating for heaven’s sake And for the love of God
Where would I be Where would I be If it wasn’t for the love of God This song of victory is Now mine to sing Hallelujah for the love of God Has set me free
(Hallelujah Hallelujah for the love of God Hallelujah Hallelujah for the love of God Hallelujah Hallelujah for the love of God Hallelujah Hallelujah for the love of God Hallelujah Hallelujah for the love of God Hallelujah Hallelujah for the love of God)*
Early riser here. In fact, I rarely need an alarm.
In other seasons of life, the morning came with joy. For some time now, I have struggled with negative thoughts…not so much anxiety or depression as much as a certain sense of feeling undone.
Since reading Tyler Staton’s Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools, my morning routine has changed some. No more mindless scrolling through various social media on my phone. It is no longer within reach. Once up, I make my bed. That lifelong routine continues. However, while still in bed, just barely awake, I now do two things to clear my head and set my heart for the day.
1)I recite the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). This is actually the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples when they asked him to teach them how to pray. Whether you have a relationship with Jesus or not, if you believe in God, this prayer is one you can embrace. A friend, younger than me, said to a small group of women recently in a study on prayer, “We should memorize the Lord’s Prayer”. It struck me as odd because, in my generation, we learned the Lord’s Prayer in school. Led by our teacher, we recited it as a whole class every day along with the Pledge of Allegiance. Whatever our religion or lack thereof. Until 1962, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled school prayer (led by teachers) unconstitutional.
This prayer helps me to turn my thoughts to God and the creeping uneasiness changes more to hopefulness.
2) I recite Psalm 23. This psalm, often referred to by its first line “The Lord is my Shepherd”, was written by David, a shepherd himself before he became king. In meditating on this psalm, I’m reminded of God’s care of his sheep. No matter what happens, he keeps his eye on us. He provides for us, anticipating our every need, and welcomes us Home to be with Him at the end of our lives.
These two passages are easy to memorize and even easier to make part of a morning routine They have done wonders for my waking to a new day.
So what does this have to do with generational trauma? I’ve written often about this previously (and strongly recommend reading these pieces if you haven’t already).
We have all experienced some sort of trauma through our families, across generations. Some (including in my own family) would rather not “go there”, and I understand. However, it is in recognizing our trauma and taking steps toward healing that helps us to avoid continuing the trauma in our children and grandchildren.
“As adults, we want the same things our children need – to be safe (no “bracing for impact” in relationships), to be seen (truly known by those most significant in our lives), to be soothed (our emotions understood and acknowledged, without judgment, even when they are big and out of proportion), and secure (that no matter what, we are loved. Our persons are NOT leaving the room).
Whatever we may have experienced as children, we can alter our present. Whatever we did as young and overwhelmed parents, we can move, with love and insight, to a better situation with our kids. The past is just that…the past. We can be truly with each other, in the here and now…if we are brave and willing to be humble.” – Deb Mills
The major component of trauma in my own life was abandonment. I don’t know about my grandparents’ childhood, but from my grandparents’ adulthood through the present, my family has felt the sting of abandonment. It is generational and can not only affect us but our children as well. Abandonment is a very real source of trauma and can actually find its way back up the family tree, if we don’t do the work of rooting it out. [The longer stories are in my blogs above.]
What better way to start each day praying to and meditating on a Father who will NEVER abandon his children!
[Below you will find further resources on generational trauma and a helpful graphic on the power of showing up.]
Productivity – it seems so elusive. Maybe not for you. You’ve figured it out. If success in productivity flows out of thinking about it, I’ve thought about it more than you can imagine…so many blogs on it.
He helped me get jump-started, but I’m far from that focused productivity that could seriously change up my life. Still, I chip away at it. Why? To what end? The P’s below inspire me to keep at it. How about you?
1) Possibilities – Earlier today, I was walking with a friend of mine who is diving into the natural arts – gardening, canning, grinding wheat for bread, etc. I admire her and yet am overwhelmed by the effort she puts into her craft. Then she retorted, “Well, I’m not pouring into Afghan refugees.” Thanks for that. We may all have different goals, but the possibilities abound when we recapture the time, attention, and energy we need to meet and even surpass those goals. What would you love to accomplish…if only?
2) Practices – 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.
It’s not working harder, and not even just working smarter, whatever that means. It’s the beautiful grind of habit formation. It’s the development of spiritual disciplines that become life-long practices. We are never too young to begin establishing such.
I make my bed every morning.
It’s a small thing but it lifts my heart. This is done and it’s beautiful.
Lately I have also begun going to bed with my phone out of reach. That means, on waking, it is still out of reach. My thoughts then are my own…not someone else’s I begin taking in, and 30 minutes later find myself still scrolling. Sheesh!
There are other practices I’m incorporating into my daily life…but for this moment, I leave you with the experts.
3) Product – As you begin habit formation, such that you are able to redeem more time, more attention, and more energy, product then begins to be impacted. What is your product? Your goal? Are you beginning to see the weight loss, your writing becoming more thoughtful, your shelves filling with wholesome canned food, your personnel engaged, your work goals realized, your college degree on the horizon?
4) Purpose – What is the purpose for your going after your goals? If the habits you are forming are in conflict with other goals in your life, then you may need to reexamine your purpose. The “why” of your efforts. Are top performance and lifetime achievement the same or is there enough difference that you need to reevaluate? Something to consider on a regular basis. What is your purpose for all this? [See the Carey Nieuwhof podcast with Jon Acuff below – gold!]
5) People – Chris Bailey did an experiment earlier this year. He made the observation that smartphones are actually robbing us of productivity among other things (mental health, sleep, intimacy, focus…I could go on).
He decided to “come off” his smartphone (iPhone to be specific) for one month. After switching to a flip-phone, it took Chris a week to adjust to the under-stimulation of his device. Then something happened that forced him to ditch the experiment altogether before the month was over.
A cherished family member got cancer and was doing treatment updates via group iMessaging. Chris became aware that he was missing some of the messages and, in fact, his wife had begun answering for both of them. He family and friends simply began messaging solely with her, leaving him out of the circle altogether.
Being connected with people, in the way they were all accustomed, was disrupted. Face-to-face was consummately better, but he would take phone connection over no connection.
“…while modern communication methods are shallow, at the end of the day, the smartphone is how I am able to communicate with those I love in the modern world. And I love them. So I will continue to go where they are, to these lamely shallow apps that are no richer than a shadow, especially when compared to the vivid, textured reality of deep, joyous time with another human being, in real life. Maybe over coffee, maybe over drinks, maybe at a beach somewhere. Honestly, wherever—I don’t really care. As long as it’s in person.
At this point, we’re stuck with smartphones, especially considering how intertwined they are with how we communicate. Technology will continue to advance as smartphone innovation continues to plateau, and eventually, something else will take the smartphone’s place.
I look forward to this day, and hope that whatever replaces the phone doesn’t come with its own tradeoffs for our mental health and overall well-being.
The key, though, while the smartphone is with us, is to find ways to limit its downsides while making how we communicate richer. – Chris Bailey
The moral of this story: don’t leave your people in the dust in the pursuit of wild wonderful goals.
In becoming more productive, do we pour that gained time, attention, and energy back into the work, skillset, hobby, or recreation? Or do we pour it into people?
As I look again at habit formation and goal-setting with these 5 P’s in view, what my hope for center stage of life is “Love God…love people.“
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” – Jesus, Luke 10:27
This is what inspires me to do the work of becoming more productive.
Sidebar: One exchange between Robert Oppenheimer and Niels Bohr has stood out and intrigued the audience. It was an encounter between two of the most brilliant minds the world has ever known. But one of the most puzzling aspects of their meeting is Bohr’s cryptic comment to Oppenheimer. What exactly did Bohr mean by:
“Algebra is more than just reading. You have to hear the music.”
“Can you hear the music?”
Niels Bohr’s words, in essence, capture the very spirit of scientific inquiry. His comparison of algebra to music wasn’t merely a poetic expression but a profound insight into the nature of mathematics and, by extension, the nature of scientific discovery. Bohr was trying to convey that, much like how music is not just about reading notes but about feeling and understanding the melody, algebra, too, is not just about reading equations but about comprehending the underlying patterns and principles. – Pooja Mishra
2) Solitude – [Adapted from an earlier blog of mine] – During my angsty teenage years, I would sometimes slip away from my house full of brothers and sit by the lake nearby. It was there that I wrestled with the “what if’s” of life, along with the “what was’s”. Alone, but not truly. Within my thoughts, quietened in those moments, was also the presence of God. In that solitude, anxieties would get reigned in and perspective returned. The walk home was always so much better than the walk down.
Writer, philosopher Zat Rana caught my eye with his article The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught You. Turns out his view of that most important untaught skill is solitude. That ability to just enjoy being alone. Sitting or walking alone. Lost in your own thoughts. Except for a self-portrait for a photography class, you won’t see many signs in my life that solitude comes easy.
Life is peopled. As an extrovert and helper by nature, I have long thrived in the company of others. However, getting older, alone time has become more my experience than in previous years. Is that its own springboard to flourishing?
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal
According to Pascal, we fear the silence of existence, we dread boredom and instead choose aimless distraction, and we can’t help but run from the problems of our emotions into the false comforts of the mind.
The issue at the root, essentially, is that we never learn the art of solitude. – Zat Rana
My husband, the consummate introvert thinker, often sits by himself at dawn and dusk to recharge. For him, solitude is something that has come naturally. He has been a model for me in practicing solitude.
Rana also talks about how technology has connected us in a myriad of ways but the connectedness is more virtual than real. – “We now live in a world where we’re connected to everything except ourselves.”
“Our aversion to solitude is really an aversion to boredom…we dread the nothingness of nothing. We can’t imagine just being rather than doing. And therefore, we look for entertainment, we seek company, and if those fail, we chase even higher highs. We ignore the fact that never facing this nothingness is the same as never facing ourselves. And never facing ourselves is why we feel lonely and anxious in spite of being so intimately connected to everything else around us.” – Zat Rana
In the articles below, Wilson is interviewed about the inspiration for this song. My main takeaway was how she was comforted by a friend, after her father’s death. He told her, “The conversation continues.” I so experience that. After the death of my mom, in particular, but also many others, including my older brother with whom I had a prickly relationship but one that sweetened before he died and continues to do so…in ways this song communicates.
I watched the film above while on a flight. Crying doesn’t come easy for me, and the tears flowed.
Watch the movie and enjoy the song and think about the richness of our relationships both in the present and in the between times (from past to forever).
4)Two Phenomenal Reads – Phenomenal? Well, I’m counting on it. These are my next two reads. Just got them both and honestly may have to read them together. The authors are two of my absolute favorites: Karen Swallow Prior and Curt Thompson MD.
To get started – while I was waiting for launch day on both of these books, I’ve been listening to podcasts and reading reviews. Until your books come, you can also have a read or listen below.
“I hope readers are better able to participate in the necessary, ongoing process of distinguishing the principles of the Christian faith that are eternal and unchanging from the cultural stories, metaphors, and images that embody these principles in varying degrees of fidelity. Don’t misunderstand me: this entanglement with cultural narratives and ideas isn’t unique to evangelicals, nor is being creatures of culture necessarily a bad thing. In fact, living within the cultures of this world is God’s plan. It is part of being human. I think, however, that because evangelicalism from its beginnings in the western world has been so tied to political power, it has been easier for us to overlook the entanglement that is inherent to being part of any human culture. Yet, our task is no different from Christians within any Christian movement, sect, time, place, or culture.” – Karen Swallow Prior, an interview with Andrea L. Turpin
5) International Food Festivals – Ethnic foods are a favorite in our family…maybe every family. I’m talking from Afghan boulani (flatbread) to Southern biscuits and gravy.
It’s a joy to be invited to the home of friends who bring their gracious hospitality and yummy food to our part of the world. Just recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down to lunch with an Afghan family.
Our town has a host of ethnic restaurants with a few exceptions. Armenian and Egyptian are two types of food for which I’ve not found a restaurant locally. Once a year, we have the treat of international food festivals featuring these cuisines. So good!!
Next weekend, it’s the Fourth Annual Egyptian Festival. How about you? Any foodies out there? Comment below what some of your international favorites are and if you cook them at home or have the joy of a local restaurant or festival.
I know I’m not the only one. The experience of feeling alone (or invisible) in a crowded room. OK, for introverts this may be a welcome experience. I say, however, that maybe we have different experiences of social anxiety – introverts and extroverts.
It happens to me in the church lobby of all places after the Sunday morning service. If I didn’t walk out into the lobby with someone, it is like I could walk straight through without being seen. Skirting around various little circles – backs to me. Sometimes, I engage with a set of eyes, not wanting to break in or interfere with a conversation, but too often, it’s eyes forward with the exit door in view.
You might be thinking “How weird”. I agree with you. My aim on Sunday gatherings is to watch for loners, new people, those outside of the small group conversations. Dr. Curt Thompson puts it this way: when we come into the world, we are looking for someone looking for us. We have that need for attachment throughout our lives. I want to be that person looking for the someone looking for someone looking for them (was that understandable?).
However…there are days, not just on Sundays but at work and definitely in any large group setting, that my default is awkwardness which is even odd for me. This has not always been my modus operandi. It seems to have crept up on me later in life…but I fight against it!
Just a few days ago, I read a piece and heard a song that have both encouraged and fortified me.
Have you ever read something or heard a piece of music that went right to your core? This:
Singer/songwriter Savannah Locke authored the article and co-wrote the song. She talks about how we can feel orphaned in life for various reasons. Those orphaned especially need to know they have a place – a real belonging somewhere (Psalm 68:4-8). We can take comfort in close friends and family, but the confidence of knowing we always have a place, Locke writes, comes from experiencing the love and care of God.
Abiding in God slowly heals the part of me that is convinced I am on the outside; slowly thaws the part of me that has iced over in hyper-vigilance. – Savannah Locke
It’s been decades since my college years, but there is one book I kept from those days. Through all the moves and all the pain of downsizing our book collections, Paul Tournier‘s A Place for You has remained.
Tournier writes “What we are looking for is not someone who will cut through our dilemmas for us, but someone who will try to understand them. Not someone who will impose his will upon us, but someone who will help us to use our own will. Someone who, instead of dictating to us what we must do, will listen to us with respect. Not someone who will reduce everything to an academic argument, but someone who will understand our personal motives, our feelings, and even our weakness and our mistakes. Someone who will give us confidence in ourselves because he has unshakeable confidence in us…The ideal support, then, is a presence, a vigilant, unshakeable, indefectible presence, but one that is discreet, gentle, silent, and respectful…All [people] are looking, in fact, for God’s support. It is an absolute support that men and women are looking for, a support without limit – and it obviously can come only from God.”
This is the place we need…this place that bolsters us in times of stress, fear, betrayal. This place, this Person, where our own struggle can point us to those with similar struggles and we can make room for them as well…see them as we are seen.
As I was sharing all the above with a friend, she pointed to a similar point of connection from a podcast she watched. Lysa Terkeurst was speaking about her own social anxiety, entering a room full of people alone. During a quiet moment after such an experience, she sensed a word from God in the following:
“You were walking in that room desperate for acceptance and approval. Instead of walking into that room bringing My acceptance, bringing My love into that room, bringing My peace into that room. Every single person in there is desperate for that same kind of acceptance, approval, and love. I don’t want you walking into any more of those rooms begging others for scraps of all that. Live from the place that I have accepted you; I love you. You are a conduit of My peace, My acceptance, and My love to other people. You walk into that room bringing that with you and the atmosphere will change for you…Doing that practice of walking into rooms eager to give that [peace, acceptance, love] to other people (will) change something in you. Live from a place of love, acceptance, not desperate for it from other people.” – Lysa TerKeurst, YouTube podcast with Louie Giglio, Minute 33:30+
Such a great word for me, too.
So…if you see me in a crowd of people, not engaging, and you also are trying to make a quick get-away, I’m looking for you. You have a place. We can all hold space for each other, especially when we trust in the One who is doing the same for us, and making a place for us…forever.