Category Archives: Books

Monday Morning Moment – Prairie Doc Rick Holm – A Life Well-lived

Photo Credit: Prairie Doc, Facebook

Today an old friend has been on my mind…Rick Holm. He died yesterday, March 22, 2020, of pancreatic cancer. He died at a very young 71.

[Yesterday was also the 5th anniversary of the death of Kara Tippetts…also so young when she died…also a life well-lived. Never met her yet she had a huge impact on me, writing about her here.]

The news of Rick’s death hit me hard. With our whole world dealing with the impact of the Coronavirus, we know we may be facing our own contracting of the illness or, worse, the death of people we know and love. That was the overlay of this news for me.

It’s been almost 40 years since Rick and I shared the same space. That’s Rick with the pipe and red suspenders in the image below.

I was the cancer nurse specialist at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Rick was a resident in the internal medicine program of Emory Medical School. Then he went on faculty at the same med school. We saw each other almost every day, not only because of working in close proximity, but because we were also across-the-hall neighbors of an old apartment building on the bus line between Emory and Grady. He gave me the great gift of his friendship.

Rick called South Dakota home. He introduced us to a culture new to us in Atlanta, resorting to his quasi-Swedish accent to tweak a conversation that went too serious. He had such a gift for putting people at east. I think it was because he genuinely cared for people. He found them truly interesting and celebrated them. His smile was as warm and generous as his heart.

As “hall-mates”, we would often join forces on parties and suppers together with friends. Those were sweet days of growing in our professions and sorting out all kinds of world dilemmas. The image above was taken after one of our many Saturday mornings spent at breakfast at Horton’s 5 and Dime near Emory University. We would linger, over coffee and the newspaper, doctors and nurses, and talk about work, politics, and relationships. We had great times together.

Once we were both working together on an obesity task force as so many of our patients at Grady were at risk for obesity-related diseases. We were a group of young doctors, nurses, nutritionists and researchers. Rick was our muse – keeping us both on task and, at the same time, entertained. I think we all gained weight, working over pizza and pasta.

After so many years at Emory/Grady, Rick was one of the grand eligible bachelors. Then he met Joanie…and it was all over.Photo Credit: Facebook, May 2019

It was 1981 when Rick and Joanie left Atlanta for South Dakota. Rick felt moved to finally enter practice outside of academia, and he wanted to give back to the state that gave him his start in life and medicine. I would leave Atlanta a few months later for a teaching job in Connecticut. It didn’t seem we would ever see each other again, and sadly, we didn’t.

As Facebook does sometimes, a post about Prairie Doc popped up “randomly” on my home page. There was that familiar smiling face of Dr. Rick Holm. Prairie Doc® Media is a project of the Healing Words Foundation which endeavors to enhance health and diminish suffering by communicating useful information, based on honest science, provided in a respectful and compassionate manner. The Foundation engages a variety of media outlets to provide science-based medical information to the greater South Dakota region.” This mission statement or vision sounded just like its founder.

I messaged Prairie Doc to reach out to Rick, and in a few days, he answered back. Below is an excerpt on his life – “Joanie, South Dakota, happy, pancreatic cancer, chance of a cure and wonderful kids”.

There is tons more to say about this ordinary extraordinary man Rick Holm, but I’m going to leave it now..with his website (for his TV and radio offerings, his blog, and his book).

Photo Credit: Facebook, Prairie Doc, December 2019

His book is like having Rick across the table from you…with a cup of coffee and, seemingly, all the time in the world.

You will be missed, Rick. Thanks for leaving so much behind for us in the wake of your journey.

Life’s Final Season: A Guide for Aging and Dying with Grace – Richard Powell Holm

TEDx Brookings – The Danger of Fearing Death – Richard Holm – 12 minutes of video of Rick telling his stories and teaching us how to live well.

Video Tribute of Dr. Rick Holm – Prairie Doc Facebook Page

Obituary – Dr. Richard Powell Holm

Monday Morning Moment – a Tender Take on Controlling Women

Photo Credit: PickPik

We’re not talking controlling men today or men controlling women, in particular. Today, we are looking at our own leanings toward being controlling women. Ever charting the course toward our own “happy endings” or that of our children.

None of us ever start out taking control because we see it as the best course. We often stumble on controlling. We could even be oblivious to the possibility that we are. If we are awakened to that reality, we can justify it. Figuring we love too much, or we’re loved not enough, or there appears no other recourse but to control our situation.

I married later in life and had the blessing of three children. Being a wife and mom (especially the mom part) did not come naturally to me, even though I myself had an amazing mom. Maybe it was coming into parenthood as a 30-something. It was an intense experience, and I was often riddled with guilt about getting it wrong. The kids all turned out well, I think, but the journey there was broken up by stumbles and starts.

Adult children are a wonderful thing. They take care of themselves (or someone else does, for the most part, right?). They make you proud and sometimes bring you grandchildren. I find myself wanting to draw them in…reel them back home to family dinners or beach vacations or long talks on “life aspirations”.*  Is it because I am needy? Or just miss the people who grew up from tiny tots to independent grownups, in what feels like an unguarded instant.

*[It is NOT controlling when parents and children want these sorts of things but logistics are hard to work out, and you take on that work for a mutually desired end. It IS controlling, when we pressure, manipulate, or guilt our families into something they would rather not do.]

Photo Credit: Piqsels (check out all the moms/children images)

Just this week, I saw this video on adjusting to our children growing up. It is a piece by Australian writer Mia Freedman. It is a gushing, tear-jerking essay, but it sums up how we might, as mums, grasp for control…without meaning to. Sigh…

Here it is (4 minutes. Go ahead and watch it):

“Babies and toddlers and boys…will grow up and grow away and break up with their mothers. Slowly. But surely. Because they need to. And if they do – when they do – it means we got it right. We parented them right. Whether you have sons or daughters, our role as parents is ultimately to make ourselves redundant and while I don’t know what it’s like to be the parent of an adult woman, I know what it’s like to stumble as my son became a man. There are so many bat crazy things about being a parent and one that definitely wasn’t in the brochure is the way you don’t actually parent one person, you parent many, many different people who are all your child.

There’s the newborn, the baby, the toddler, the pre-schooler, the primary aged kid, the pre-teen, the adolescent, the full-blown teen, the young adult and then the adult. They all answer to the same name. They all call you Mum. And you never ever notice the inflection point where one of those people turns into the next.

You never get to properly say goodbye to all the little people who grow up because you don’t notice the growing, the changing. Except when Facebook sends you those bloody memory reminders that invariably make me cry because it’s like showing me the face of someone I can never see again. Not in that way. Not at that age.” – Mia Freedman

She went on to say, in the piece above, how handy and interesting grown children are and how proud we will be of them. How blessed she is to have had those children, acknowledging how not all women have children or don’t get to see them grown. She marveled that she actually “grew one of my best friends in the world, one of the best men I know, in my own body.”

Writer Shannon Popkin has given us a first book entitled Control Girl – Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control From Seven Women in the Bible. It’s such a great book on what controlling does to us and our families…what a burden it actually is. All the stories are taken from the lives of Old Testament (from Eve to Moses’ sister Miriam. So much wisdom here.Photo Credit: Shannon Popkin

In each story, we revisit familiar stories of wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters…and what control issues they struggled with. This week, I read the chapter on Rachel’s life…Rachel, the wife of Jacob and the mother of Joseph. Jacob’s family would be the foundation for the nation of Israel. If Rachel knew a “happy ending” was coming, she might not have anguished so about her ability to have children. After a season of barrenness, she had Joseph, the man who would save Israel from years of famine. Right after his birth, she longed out loud for more children. She would die in childbirth, delivering her second son, Benjamin. I wonder if the joy of having her firstborn was diminished in the longing for another.

We struggle in our relationships, longing for something more. Something not yet now. Something reminiscent of what we once had. We take the reins of our relationships into our own hands and try to steer them toward the happy ending of our own choosing.

It’s a lot of work. Exhausting for us and those in the harness of our own desires.

“God wired us to long for meaningful, lasting family relationships. It’s why we care so deeply and tug so insistently on the people we love. But when our tug becomes a yank, and our request becomes a demand, rather than drawing everyone in, we drive them away.” Shannon Popkin

What do we do with controlling in our own lives or that we experience from other women? I have a few ideas (borne out of my own experience, God’s Word, the wise counsel of other women, including the author Shannon Popkin):

  • Refuse to think ill of that controlling woman. The control may very well be borne out of a heart of love…just taken too far. If you’re the controlling woman, then give yourself grace, as you pull in and examine your own heart and motives.
  • Stop self-referencing – thinking it’s about you. If you are beginning to see that controlling can rip relationships apart, then lay down your own agenda. Walk in your spouse’s/adult children’s shoes a bit. We may think that what we want is what’s best for everyone, and it could be, on the surface…but it won’t matter if the “making it happen” drives a wedge between us all.
  • Don’t get caught in the web of comparing your own marriage or family with someone else’s. There are always going to be other spouses and parents who are more gifted, cooler, maybe even more loving, and more capable. That’s a good thing, when we stop comparing. We want the best for our children. We can be thankful they have all sorts of great people in their lives. Let it go. Maybe we can serve them in ways that speak to how they feel loved…without our own agenda coming into play…or wondering if it’s good enough. Nope, not going there. Nope, not doing it.
  • Release the fear of what could happen if our adult children make their own path to a happy ending. This is a place for prayer and for trusting that they are in good hands, as are we. We raised them. It’s done. Celebrate that, loving them with wide open, unselfish hearts…praying for them, releasing them (and our fears) to God.
  • Tuck our story into the larger one. Shannon Popkin talks about how we author our lives like a “chunky board book”. We (and our spouses/children) are the characters. We, the wives/moms, could even be the heroine. The book has bright and engaging illustrations, and it ends just right, with all the “happy” possible in those sturdy pages. What if we trusted our lives, and that of our family’s, into the hands of a greater Author. One who is writing a story across the ages…and ours is tucked into it. When I’m in my right mind, and not trying to configure a scenario where my family is all mine, then I can see the glory of that greater story. And live the life God has given me today.

Letting the lesser story go…today. This could be what I give up for Lent…the whole control thing. Maybe it will stick. I sure hope so.

YouTube Video – Otherhood – Official Trailer  (Netflix, Rated R – haven’t seen the movie. The trailer points to a film which speaks to this topic from a secular point of view – Rated R)

YouTube Video – War Room – Official Trailer – Rated PG – I have seen this film and loved it.

5 Friday Faves – Mental Errors in Decision-making, Country Forever, Peggy Noonan, Love Letters, and Boomers

Another week; another weekend. Flew by. Here are my Friday Faves on a Sunday. Go.

1) Mental Errors and Decision-making – I really like the writer/speaker James Clear. He is the author of the best-seller Atomic Habits. He writes authoritatively about habits and decision-making, both topics that I find fascinating and life- and work-enriching. He also cares about the problem of malaria and its impact on the most vulnerable. [He donates a percentage of his book sales, etc. to the Against Malaria Foundation.] How is it that we haven’t come up with a cure for malaria?!Photo Credit: James Clear

This week, I discovered his article 5 Common Mental Errors That Sway Your Decision Making. Errors in our thinking can negatively affect our decision making, and we won’t necessarily see it happening. Clear’s 5 are listed below but click on the link for his fascinating and informative commentary on each:

  1. Survivor Bias – we point to those who are successful and forget that there are many more who tried doing the same thing without success.
  2. Loss Aversion – we err on the side of conservative when we hold onto what we already have rather than risking the gain of something even better.
  3. The Availability Heuristic – James Clear’s definition: We overvalue and overestimate the impact of things that we can remember and we undervalue and underestimate the prevalence of the events we hear nothing about. [Global violence/global peace. Examples in your life?]
  4. Anchoring – The tendency of “anchoring” your mind on the first information you obtain, and then jumping on the next bits of information as improved from the first (ex. regular price and then sale price).
  5. Confirmation Bias – We are more included to look for information that supports our beliefs rather than consider what goes against our beliefs.

Read Clear’s book, subscribe to his weekly newsletter, and follow James Clear on Twitter. He will help you become an excellent decision-maker.

The Decision Making Guide: How to Make Smart Decisions and Avoid Making Bad Ones – James Clear

YouTube Video – Atomic Habits: How to Get 1% Better Every Day – James Clear

2) Country Forever – If you don’t like country music, this might not be your thing. Still the production of this medley of country songs made me smile. Just to think back on all these great songs. Marking the seasons of life sweetened by this music. Click on the link and you’ll see what I’m talking about. So glad to have these memories.

3) Peggy Noonan – I’m so thankful we were invited by friends to share in a subscription to The Richmond Forum. This past week, we sat enthralled listening to the latest speaker, writer Peggy Noonan. Her take on the last six presidents of the United States and what they could have learned from their predecessors was brilliant. Insightful, and both funny and sobering. I took notes in the dark as she spoke.

Peggy Noonan was speech writer to President Reagan, and she continues to use her words to help our nation understand where we are and how we might think on our situation. She is courageous, fair, hopeful. I’m still processing her talk on our Presidents, but she was one of this week’s Faves for me. Below are some of my favorite quotes of hers from other places and times:

We must try again to be alive to what the people of our country really long for in our national life: forgiveness and grace, maturity and wisdom.

You don’t have to be old in America to say of a world you lived in: That world is gone.

You don’t tell people who disagree with you they’d be better off somewhere else. And you don’t reduce them to stereotypes; you address them as fully formed people worthy of respect. You try to persuade them.

I love eulogies. They are the most moving kind of speech because they attempt to pluck meaning from the fog, and on short order, when the emotions are still ragged and raw and susceptible to leaps.

Presidents have a right to certain prerogatives, including the expectation of a certain deference. He’s the president; this is history. But we seem to have come a long way since Ronald Reagan was regularly barked at by Sam Donaldson, almost literally, and the president shrugged it off.

Democracy involves that old-fashioned thing called working it out.

I ought to pray as much as God’s on my mind, because then I’d pray a lot. All I can tell you is God is real, and so that infuses everything.

[All the above Peggy Noonan quotes are taken from Brainy Quote, except the first was on The Richmond Forum page.]

4) Love Letters – Dave and I discovered we were in love at the first part of summer in 1983. We parted company for that summer as I returned to Georgia and he stayed in Connecticut. He wrote me every day…every single day…until I returned again. I’m pretty sure it ruined him for letter writing from then on.

An early and powerful influence in my life was the writing of Jim Elliot. The quote below had a strong impact in my 20-something life.Photo Credit: Brainy Quote, Jim Elliot

Years ago, I read a collection of his journal published by his wife:

Shadow of the Almighty: the Life and Testament of Jim Elliot – Elisabeth Elliot

Now their one daughter, Valerie Elliot Shepard, just 10 months old when her father was killed, has published a collection of love letters.

Devotedly, the Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot

The love letters between Jim and Elisabeth Elliot.

I’ve just started reading the book, and it is one of the most intimate experiences I’ve had in reading. Elisabeth Elliot, through the years, also became a distant mentor to me. Her writing and teaching. I would never meet her or hear her speak in person, but it didn’t matter. She, like her late husband, Jim, taught me much about fiercely and resolutely loving God with all one’s heart.

The letters span their friendship, lengthy courtship, and engagement. They wrestled with their love for each other, because both loved God first…supremely. They finally found a way to walk together with God, and their letters are so beautiful, so full of love for Him and for each other.

[Video preview]

5) Boomers – I still watch the TV show This Is Us. It is so emotional and full of flash-backs and flash-forwards that Dave stopped watching it with me. Season 4/Episode 15 “Clouds” was the one I watched this week. In the episode, the expression “OK Boomer” was used by son, Kevin, when he watched his mom, Rebecca, at a record store, reminisce over the Joni Mitchell song “Our House” (actually written by Graham Nash). Mom Rebekah said, “I miss the crackle on the record right before the music starts.”

I knew exactly what she was talking about…that sound. “OK Boomer!” Anyway, that scene (not on YouTube or I would share it) did take me back…to my own younger Boomer days when singer/songwriters Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young made up some of the  soundtracks of our lives.

Photo Credit: Neil Young News

Graham Nash “Our House” – Lydia Hutchinson

OK Boomers, any memories of your own you’d be willing to share in Comments below?

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s it for this week. Hope you are well and able to have a bit more rest before the weekend closes down. Monday awaits.

Bonuses:

‘When I have to search a student’s cell phone, I’m sick to my stomach at what I find. It gets worse every year.’: Assistant principal’s plea for parents to monitor cell phone use, ‘The internet is the most dangerous place behind closed doors’

Just How Contagious is COVID-19? This Chart Puts It in Perspective – Matthew R. Francis

Death Index: Top 59 Ways Americans Die – some surprises and some not.

Monday Morning Moment – Cultural Contradictions – Why We Can’t All Just Get Along*

Photo Credit: Deb Mills, Mission BBQ

Right through college, I wondered, with hope, at the question:

“Why can’t we all just get along?”

With enough will, effort, and care, we should all be able to find some common ground…where we can agree more than we disagree.

That was decades ago, and the world has changed so much. We still remember how it once was (we all do, no matter our generation), and we examine our world today with those lenses…and are mortified.

I am still hopeful…but not in the somewhat childish idea that it is possible to agree if we care enough. However, I do believe we can understand each other, if we care enough. And be gracious.

It is not necessary, and no way helpful, to blame, and boil over in anger at what we consider the stupidity or short sidedness of “the other side”…whatever that is. It just alienates and isolates and dims the possibility of working toward real solutions to problems.

Monday Morning Moment – Life and Politics – What If We Refused to Get Angry? – Deb Mills

I don’t want to be angry anymore. I want to treat people with grace, and respect, and genuine interest. Including people who don’t agree with me…and I’m not alone.

Defuse America’s Explosive Politics – Politicians in Both Parties Need to Clean Up Their Own Side of the Street – Peggy Noonan

America is divided along so many lines. Those lines are blurred by cultural contradictions. What does that mean? When we say we believe one thing but our actions communicate something very different. Or vice versa.

Examples?

  • We celebrate Thanksgiving Day in America, expressing gratitude for all we have, and then make a mad rush to the stores hours later to buy more.
  • Our elected officials say they care about the poor and yet the economically disadvantaged continue to be so, but our politicians get richer and richer.
  • We talk about health care for all, but in its current state it’s too costly for those who can already afford to pay for some measure of insurance. We do nothing about health care reform but want health care for all.
  • Americans have a high regard for life, and yet the most vulnerable – those who can’t defend themselves – the unborn – are, at times, considered disposable.
  • We see the painful racial divides in our country, and yet the walls continue to go up (built by the major political parties in their own unique ways, along with educators and celebrity influencers).
  • We feel a sense of ownership/stewardship over the earth, but again, we mainly just point fingers in blame, rather than coming to a policy table to wrestle through the problems and solutions.
  • We are proud of being a nation of immigrants, and yet for decades our government has been unable to exact reform in our sluggish immigration system – except either to temporarily protect or bar illegal immigrants or to wall off our borders. Our immigrant numbers dwindle and we blame…rather than work across our differences.

[Even in writing these examples, I find myself blaming. Forgive me. As an evangelical and political conservative, I have my own hopes for solving the contradictions listed above…but it would be thrilling to have the opportunity to observe or participate in problem-solving that “reaches across the aisle.”].

As another example, it’s a grievous thing when we Christians rabidly go after each other – on social media mostly – over our choices of political platforms or candidates. If we follow the teachings and life of Christ, we are always to forgive, no matter what, and to love even our enemies. How would our social media posts look during an election year if we, just us Christians, practiced our faith in this way?

How would our conversations go if we would keep listening and asking questions across our cultural contradictions? And determined not to judge each other in those contradictions?

What got me thinking about this is the increase of fairly surly posts popping up as the Presidential primaries are upon us…We agree on so many things…but some of the “loudest” things currently being broadcasted divide us and get personal. Righteous indignation doesn’t stay righteous when it moves from issues to individuals.

Then Trevin Wax‘s blog got my attention – The Maddening Contradictions of Our Current Moment . He engaged with the British journalist Douglas Murray on his book The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity . Two brilliant men who agree and disagree and yet give us much to consider in this contentious culture of ours. Take time to read that post…I learned so much.

Another place that helps me, as a passionate but somewhat passive observer, is Twitter. I follow some who are very much like me, somewhat like me, and nothing at all like me. They teach exquisite lessons on our post-Christian culture…where we do not have to interact in a post-Christ way. We can still be civil, caring and clear.

This is its own form of cross-cultural communication – learning how to winsomely engage people given all our cultural contradictions. We find ourselves in an intellectual and spiritual quagmire, but we can learn to recognize distinctions and learn how to keep talking and to stay engaged with each other.

[Don’t miss these writers below – whether you agree with all they say…their clarity is refreshing. Let’s learn from them.]

Must Pro-Life Mean Pro-Trump? – Karen Swallow Prior

The Science of Being ‘Nice’: How Politeness Is Different From Compassion – Kun Zhao and Luke Smillie

Four Lies on the Left That Make It Tough to Change Culture – David French

Managing Cultural and Emotional ‘Contradictions” at Work – Michael Moffa

*Can’t We All Just Get Along? – Warren Berger

5 Friday Faves – Storytelling, Just Mercy, Productivity Hacks, Birthdays, and the Impact of Our Lifestyles on Our Brains

What a week! A gun rights rally on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Roe v. Wade anniversary commemorated by a March for Life and name change (Sanctity of Human Life Day). An impeachment trial. All of this matters. All of it. We have to stop the hatred, the contempt, the division and start listening to each other…and apply ourselves to real and lasting solutions to our nation’s struggles.

1) Storytelling – We all love a good story, right? In our throw-away culture, stories take up very little room and hold incredible information and insight for us to consider.

Thanks to the Richmond Forum, we were able to hear great stories through three story-telling platforms and their pioneering founders. Dave Isay of StoryCorps. Catherine Burns of The Moth. Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York. Just amazing to hear the stories…

Photo Credit: Richmond Forum

Here are some samples of the stories found on each platform:

StoryCorps – Danny & Annie

The Moth – Anthony Griffith – The best of times; the worst of times. [Be prepared – this story will break your heart.]

Humans of New York – Brandon Stanton’s platform is pictures/videos and interviews of random people on the streets of New York (and now other places in the world). Below is one:

2) Just Mercy – On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Dave and I went to see the film Just Mercy, from the book of the same title.

Photo Credit: IMDB; Barnes & Noble

The author of the book, attorney Bryan Stevenson, is the founder of Equal Justice Initiative. He has worked for over 30 years on behalf of wrongfully accused, minors with harsh sentences, and those incarcerated with disabilities/mental illness.

Don’t miss this film, this book, or this man. I feel so fortunate that we will be hearing him speak at The Richmond Forum next month.

TED Talk – “We Need to Talk About Injustice” – Bryan Stevenson

3) Productivity Hacks – Redeeming the precious commodity of time and adding value are two things we all want to do at work and in life. There’s tons written on productivity including in my own blog.

Photo Credit: Andrea Lane, Redbooth

This week, Rockwood’s piece sparked my interest as did Andrea Lane’s on the same topic. See links below.

What’s Your Productivity Style? How 4 Personalities Can Get More Done – Kate Rockwood

How to Discover Your Personal Productivity Style – Andrea Lane

They talked about 4 personality styles bring different strengths to the work table, and how to optimize the strengths of these folks.

  1. The “Prioritizer” – analytical and competitive
  2. The “Planner” – detail-oriented and deadline-motivated
  3. The “Arranger” – facilitating and communicative
  4. The “Visualizer” – risk-taking and big-picture thinking

These cryptic descriptions may be all you need to find yourself identified, but read these authors’ hacks on how to best work your magic and help others on your team to do/be their best as well.

I am kind of a blend of an arranger and visualizer. Thankful for you prioritizers and planners in my work life that help us keep on task in bringing ideas and plans to execution.

Postscript: Business consultant Cameron Herold has written a book on how incompetent we are at running meetings – Meetings Suck: Turning One of the Most Loathed Elements of Business Into One of the Most Valuable. He coaches on how to successfully manage meetings. He also advises on how to maximize the effort and experience of each of the personalities in attendance – those different productivity types. [Note: read this piece on how he defines the personalities – somewhat differently from the authors above.]

Understanding Personality Types for Productivity – Slideshare – Tom Fox

4) Birthdays – It was my birthday week along with a lot of yours. There’s more and more of a push to make birthdays count for something. In my community, children have fewer parties with scores of friends and presents. The trend is toward experiences over presents which is also cool. For adults, often we are given the opportunity to donate to a cause dear to our birthday friends’ hearts. For me, the best celebration is just being with those I love – family and friends – and to stretch the birthday train as far as I can get away with. This year it was a birthday week… Next year with the turn of a big decade, I might take it to a month. Be prepared. [Thanks for the flowers and sweet cards from those too far to get together. You know how much I love words.] How are you with birthdays these days? Yay or not so much? Well, happy birthday, to you, too…out there, whenever it is.

5) The Impact of Our Lifestyles on our Brains – OK, so you just saw some of the birthday sweets we enjoyed… A sugar detox is always a good idea – for a month, a season, or a lifetime.

Below you will find two articles that were super compelling to me this week. One on the ill effect of unrestrained sugar intake – especially on our brain and mental health.

A neuroscientist explains the shocking impact too much sugar has on the brain

The second article describes 7 habits or lifestyles most damaging to the brain. Definitely something to consider before the longterm impact takes hold.

7 Habits/Lifestyles Most Damaging to the Brain

  • Inflammation – multiple factors cause inflammation – here’s a source for intervention – especially with diet.
  • Overfeeding
  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Toxic exposure – a list of brain toxins
  • Chronic stress
  • Physical stagnation – Exercise may be the single most important intervention on our brain and mental health.
  • Sleep loss

7 Modern Lifestyle Habits Doing the Most Damage to Your Brain

Thanks for reading. This, my Friday Faves, on a Monday. Some weeks are challenging to post on time. Have a great week!

Bonuses:

The Pain of Suicide – Clay Smith

A 2020 Guide to Rabbit Room Content

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

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Quote Fancy

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

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

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

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

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

Worship with me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 *Lyrics to It Is Well by Bethel

YouTube Video – It Is Well – Bethel – Lyric Video

YouTube Video – It Is Well – Kristene DiMarco

Story Behind the Song It Is Well by Bethel

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Paul Ekman Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take One Small Step with StoryCorps

What Is Contempt? – Paul Ekman Group

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

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

YouTube – Arthur Brooks on the Eric Metaxas Show

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Picpedia

Click. Click. Click.

Notifications. Notifications. Notifications.

Meetings. Meetings. Meetings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reset: Building Purpose in the Age of Digital Distraction

Photo Credit: Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

10 Tips to Stay Focused – Francisco Sáez 

Photo Credit: James Clear

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

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

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

Photo Credit: For Richmond, Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

Johann Hari – Quotes – Goodreads

Depression and Diet – WebMD

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp, #WorldKindnessDay, and Facebook

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

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

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

She just doesn’t go there.

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

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

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

Relapse also leaves the family vulnerable…emotionally and socioeconomically.

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

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

What Happens If I Relapse? – Addiction Center

Guide to Cocaine Rehab

Slip vs. Relapse – What’s the Difference?

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

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

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

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

Bonuses:

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

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

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

A Christmas Classic and a Couple of Musical Collaborations:

Photo Credit: Facebook, The Fabulous Fifties

Learning About Someone

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

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

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

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

I wonder, “by whom?”.

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

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

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

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

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

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