Category Archives: Monday Morning Moment

Monday Morning Moment – Attuned Listening to the Stories Wanting to Be Told

Photo Credit: Tina Miroshnichenko, Pexels

We want to be good listeners, right? To hear what is truly being communicated. To stay with the person’s story. With its meaning to that person. Maybe even, as we listen deeply, to actually elevate that person’s comfort and capability to tell their story more truly… moving toward possible revelation, and, where needed, healing.

Over the last several months, I’ve been deep into studying about the brain/mind and how we process experience, memory, emotions, and trauma. “Deep” as defined, not by graduate study but, by reading and learning from seriously brilliant and practical therapists – the main one being Dr. Curt Thompson (you can find the blogs I’ve written on his content here).

Thompson recently spoke with Adam Young on Young’s podcast – The Place We Find Ourselves. It is Episode 115, entitled Why It’s So Important to Tell Your Story to an Attuned Listener.

When we are able to tell some part of our story, without fear of judgement, within a community and context of genuine care, transformation can result. How do we make this happen? By truly, deeply listening. Attuned. Without agenda.

Being attuned to a person sending us a message [telling us their story] means that we offer the other person our total attention and listen to them on a deeper level. We seek to understand rather than just making our own point, and this helps to reduce noise in the communication channel between us.

Attuning or ‘tuning in’ means refining your attention to the source of the information — just like you would do to a radio signal…Give them your complete attention and be open to what they are sending you in order to fully receive it.

Deep listening is a way of hearing in which we are fully present with what is happening at that moment without trying to control it or manipulate it. When we reduce our own internal psychological noise and allow the other person to communicate what they need to, we can receive the message as it is, without colouring it in with additional noise and without creating a judgement of it — thereby distorting it — before we fully understand it. We need to hear precisely what is being said to us so we know how to respond appropriately.Zahara Chetty

How Do You Listen? Improve Your Ability to Engage in Deep Listening Through Attunement – Zahara Chetty

Attuned Listening – Sonya Thomas – Lightning-fast read – succinct Do’s & Don’ts

Too often of late, we give ourselves permission to tune out. To be almost present with each other. To multi-task until no task is done well…including listening.Photo Credit: Charlotte May, Pexels

Attuned listening is a discipline…it is ours with practice, care, and intentionality. A few helps follow:

  • Silence or, better still, stash electronic devices.
  • Block off time.
  • Be fully present. When distractions press in, shake them off and refocus.
  • Demonstrate in every way possible your commitment to that person and their story (eye contact, posture, tone of voice).
  • Strive to be truly curious about the other person. Ask questions.
  • Seek to understand.
  • Do what you can to give the one speaking the experience of being seen, soothed, safe, and secure.
  • Determine not to “leave the room”.

What else would you add to the list above for a listener to be gifted with the story you long to tell? That story of childhood (or adult) trauma, regret, disappointment, loss…or that story of joy, gratitude, love, or beauty.

Attune to another…and listen. Both your lives will be enriched.

Attuned Listening – Kimberley Lewis – for parents of small children

Right Brain to Right Brain Therapy – Linda Graham

Monday Morning Moment – In or Out – Your Choice, but You DO Choose

Photo Credit: Corinne Dobbas

A friend of mine lamented this morning that someone in her family unfriended her on Facebook. Painful. I get it. Been there.

We make choices every day to lean in or pull out. Some of these choices have little consequence. Others break hearts or turn them into concrete. Taking ourselves out of others’ lives has consequence.

Father’s Day is coming and it has become a complicated holiday for me. I had a distant birth father and a great step-dad – both gone. My husband is a good father. My son and son-in-law as well. What complicates it is when things with fathers aren’t so good. This Father’s Day marks two years of a painful extended family rift. The pain of that has wide circles reverberating throughout. Everyone hurts for those hurt the most. Do we just ignore it or take sides? That would be choosing the “out” option. Or do we choose to stay in – refusing to leave the room (or either room since there are two now), praying for wholeness and healing, and fiercely fighting for our family?

I choose the latter for as long as I’m allowed to do so.

To be honest, whether it is family/friend conflict, or political, social or theological division – we choose where we stand. We choose to set up camp in a tight zone of comfort with those like us, or we choose to battle for those in harm’s way…including ourselves.

Maybe it’s always been this way, but today, for sure, we must be on watch of being deceived by popular opinion. It is not unifying. A choice is required. To think we don’t have to choose is its own delusion.

We’re either in…or we’re out.

“We all, like Frodo, carry a Quest, a Task: our daily duties. They come to us, not from us. We are free only to accept or refuse our task- and, implicitly, our Taskmaster. None of us is a free creator or designer of his own life. “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself” (Romans 14:7). Either God, or fate, or meaningless chance has laid upon each of us a Task, a Quest, which we would not have chosen for ourselves. We are all Hobbits who love our Shire, or security, our creature comforts, whether these are pipeweed, mushrooms, five meals a day, and local gossip, or Starbucks coffees, recreational sex, and politics. But something, some authority not named in The Lord of the Rings (but named in the Silmarillion), has decreed that a Quest should interrupt this delightful Epicurean garden and send us on an odyssey. We are plucked out of our Hobbit holes and plunked down onto a Road.Peter Creeft
Now, we can scramble back into the “shire” of our own choosing. Life is so much grander than that. Being an avid book person and homebody myself, I can easily snuggle down into a self-made and self-soothing burrow. This is my daily battle of thinking I am “in the world but not of the world”.
When we are physically (emotionally) absent in real life, we are choosing “out”, not “in”. That real life includes work, family, neighborhood, and some semblance of the world…which means choosing to be in with some we would NOT have chosen to be in with. Am I wrong here? Please talk to me in the Comments below.
“Reading a book about something can be an obstacle to doing it because it gives you the impression that you are doing what you are only thinking about doing. It is tempting to remain in the comfortable theater of our imagination instead of the real world, to fall in love with the idea of becoming a saint and loving God and neighbor instead of doing the actual work, because the idea makes no demands on you. It is like a book on a shelf. But, as Dostoyevsky says, ‘love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams’ (The Brothers Karamazov).”Peter Creeft
This choosing “in” even when it’s uncomfortable may actually be the road chosen for us. The choosing “out” dulls us to what could actually happen with {God and] us in the formula.
“This [the choosing out] is where our culture has evolved and I say reject it!”Angela
As these thoughts were cooking in my head, I came across the YouTube video below by Catholic priest Father Mike. It relates to a question he received on whether Judas Iscariot was in Heaven or Hell. Judas was the one who betrayed Jesus to the authorities who had him crucified. Later Judas would hang himself. Beyond that topic, Father Mike talked about our choices and how they affect both life and after-life.
“In light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.”St. Teresa of Avila
Photo Credit: Heartlight
We make choices all day long. Choosing how we spend our time, whose lives we lean into, and what we teach our children (by attitude and action) – all those choices have an “in or out” component. The quote above speaks to these choices. If we live for this world, our default is to hold tightly to our choices. However, if we live for the next, we can open our hands, and lean in. This life, no matter how hard, compared with Heaven, is like “one night in a bad hotel”. At its worst!
Perspective.
It’s our choice. In or out.

Monday Morning Moment – 10 Lies of Contemporary Culture – Dr. Peter Kreeft

Photo Credit: Catholic Speakers

Who remembers commencement speeches? I’ve remembered a few over the years. Just a few. Still at the time, in all the emotion of a graduation day, whether we remember or not, maybe those words implant deeply in the brains of both the graduate and the audience… whether they recall them or not.

I hope Dr. Peter Kreeft‘s speech has that effect.

He gave the commencement speech in May this year at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. At 85 years old, he was funny and bold and unflinching as he punched holes into much of what our post-Christian culture holds as sacred. From all I gleaned online and the students’ warm and welcoming responses, he is much loved and his thoughtful handling of uncomfortable topics was surprising. His brief speech (just under 20 minutes) was clear and pointed.

He covered what he considered The 10 Lies of Contemporary Culture. I wish I could have found a transcript but could not so took verbatim notes myself. Take the time to watch or, if you aren’t convinced, scan my notes below…and then watch.

Here are his “10 lies” in brief:

  1. You can be whatever you want to be.
  2. The most important person in the whole wide world is you.
  3. The world needs you. You can save the world.
  4. You need education in creative thinking. [the ability to create “a new reality, a new world. You are the creator of truth.”]
  5. You also need education in critical thinking. [“not the search for any positive truth but a negative skepticism towards anything that claims to be truth except that truth which you yourself have created.”]
  6. The superiority of spiritual passivism. [“All peace is good including peace with the world, the flesh, and the devil….We must be tolerant of everything except intolerance…If all peace is good, then all war is bad.”]
  7. Peace and justice. If you want peace, then seek justice. [“Demand justice and nothing more. If you can’t deny the very existence of your enemies then at least don’t forgive them.”]
  8. Exaltation of openness, welcoming, and tolerance as the supreme good.
  9. All you need is love, sweet love. [“If all you need is love then you don’t need truth.”]
  10. The exaltation of freedom as an end rather than a means.

Well, he is a professor of philosophy after all. So much to think about in these 10 points.

He closed with the following:

“Love cannot stop warring against hate. Light cannot stop warring against darkness…No matter how smoky, stinky, and slimy the darkness is, it cannot endure the light. However successful the darkness may be for however long a time and however it may increase and however many more times we continue to lose every battle in the culture war: yet the light is imperishable. All lies die. Truth alone remains.

Just go forth and preach the truth, the good news, by both word and deed, and then let the chips fall where they may. And please remember Mother Teresa’s words: ‘God did not put you in this world to be successful; He put you in this world to be faithful.’Dr. Peter Kreeft

Photo Credit: The Catholic Rose, Pinterest

Dr. Kreeft is a prolific writer and fascinating speaker. Some of his quotes are linked below. I’m not Catholic nor was he originally. Maybe it’s one of the reasons he is so passionate about the truth and doing what he can to bring his Catholic and Protestant brothers toward unity. As for those who do not follow the teachings of Christ, he still has a word of wisdom…delivered with humor, honesty, and humility.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Peter Kreeft Website

Peter Kreeft Quotes

Peter Kreeft Quotes – GoodReads

Monday Morning Moment – Real Friendship – on Friends Who Wound, Fierce Friends, Friends who Turn Around, and Friends Who Stay

When you think of a real friend, who comes most immediately to mind? That old friend you’ve known your whole life? That new friend who came close quickly during a life crisis? That like friend who shares many of the same growing pains you’re having in life right now? Real friends. What an incredible gift they are! As we look for a few minutes at friendships, a bit of self-examination might prove profitable.

On the way to the airport last week, returning home, I grabbed a quick supper with one of my dearest long-time friends. As we caught up on the latest turns in our lives, she shared something I didn’t expect. Well…to be honest, it is a subject that occasionally comes up. I, at some point or the other, drop the ball on communication. It is a failing of mine through the years. Quick to repent, but the turning and trying to do better don’t last. Sigh… And it’s not because that friend (or any other) is not worthy of constancy. She certainly is.

These relational struggles and misfires make the gift of real friendship even more precious. We are not always great friends to one another…but being great at friendship…being real…is worth the effort. You, Dear One, who actually reads my blog, are worth the effort.

Photo Credit: Amazing Things, Facebook

I’ve written about friendship several times. Below are some of the pieces I’ve shared previously…and a new bit. Maybe you’d benefit from a review…I sure have.

Friends Who Wound – OK, this isn’t for everyone. When my friend shared what she did above, it felt yucky. Wounding. However it was a wound that potentially brings healing. I don’t want something inside my own heart to grow, without my awareness, into something that hurts others. Greg Morse recently wrote a piece for Desiring God on finding a friend to wound you.

We see on social media, and say ourselves sometimes, that it’s right to just get rid of people who have a negative impact on us, to walk away from punishers or diminishers, and hang with people who only affirm us.

The article above talks about friends who love us enough to say the hard thing…and stay. I appreciate people who love me in this way and take the risk to point out the huge potholes in my path or who reach into my life and help hoist me out of a ditch of my own poor choices. Here’s a quote from Morse’s article (he’s speaking to Christ-followers):

“The world cares nothing for our eternal good. Ungodly friends cheer us on toward destruction. They bequeath the kiss of flattery — the Dementor’s kiss. They coddle our egos, telling us what we want to hear, not what we need to hear. Even the most genuine and moral among them sets sail away from God. Thus we need a crew of Christian companions — a body — to keep us from shipwreck. Finishing the race is not an individual endeavor, and eternity is at stake.

Praise God then for the faithful wounds of true friends who protect us from ultimate injury. They tell us plainly, “You’re flirting with destruction!” …Friends who ask us hard questions, who crush the whispering lizard on our shoulder, who are for our eternal soul above our momentary feelings — these are true friends.”   – Greg Morse

There is a delicate balance here…and relationship matters. We’ve too often been put off balance by words unfitly spoken. What is your experience of friends who wound in a good way? For me, the best experiences I’ve had with this have turned into crossroads in life…isolated incidents where a friend helped me step back from a habit, a person, a life choice that could have destroyed me…and step toward a better way. Very thankful for the courage and love of such friends. – Deb Mills, from the archive

blog-best-friends-woundsPhoto Credit: Dgreetings

Fierce Friends – How grateful I am for friends who don’t give up on me. You have friends like these, too – those who love us enough to tell us the truth without ripping our hearts out. Friends who will keep loving us no matter the distance or ideologies that could separate us but don’t. These are fierce friends…friends who “stick closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

I’m reminded of an occasion when a room full of women gathered to discuss a hard thing going on in our current city. These women deeply love each other but have some very different stances on issues that mattered to all of us. The tension was palpable but the love more so. Our culture today seems peopled with friends when convenient, fair weather friends, and friends with benefits. Friends who politic together, work together, play sports together, or drink together. Take away the activity, and the friendship fades. What a wonder are these fierce friends who stay with us through the worst…those we know have our backs and we have theirs.Photo Credit: Quotesta

Real Spiritual friendship is eagerly helping one another know, serve, love, and resemble God in deeper and deeper ways.”
Timothy Keller

When connections are real, they simply never die…If you’ve deeply resonated with another person or place, the connection remains despite any distance, time, situation, lack of presence, or circumstance… Real connections live on forever.” Victoria Erickson

True friends aren’t the ones who make your problems disappear. They are the ones who won’t disappear when you’re facing problems.” —Author Unknown

“If you fishin’ for a friend you just gon’ catch and release, then I ain’t got no desire to be your friend…but if you is lookin’ for a real friend, then I’ll be one. Forever.”Ron Hall, Same Kind of Different as Me

Who are some of your fierce friends? Please share in Comments if you want to give a salute to some of them. – Deb Mills from the Archive

Real Friends – Beyond Cliques and Closed Communities – Because friendships seem fragile and temporary, when we find ourselves in a group with staying power, we hold on tight. Now some of my dearest friends are actually family…I guess that would constitute somewhat of a closed community. They aren’t going anywhere…not to say it couldn’t happen, but so far, so good.[The husband, the daughter]

As my friend lamented above about my own “leaving the room”, I was deeply convicted by Curt Thompson’s work in confessional communities. He talks often and at-length about the healing nature of groups who listen hard, speak truth, and commit to care over time – choosing over and over NOT to leave the room. These are therapy groups, but I think they are the substance of what may develop into cliques outside of mental health situations. A good thing that can turn too inward. Now, none of us would say we’re in a clique, but do we sometimes find ourselves so committed to a few that those friends just beyond our tight circles begin to miss us?…and we didn’t know it was happening…in fact, didn’t mean for it to happen.

“Is it possible to have the benefits of close relationships without becoming a clique with our close friends? It is. And the process is very simple (although like many simple things, it isn’t easy). There is one basic movement that can transform a closed clique into an open and welcoming community:

Turn around.

That’s it. Instead of facing in, focusing only on the good things inside the group, we can face out, focusing on sharing whatever good we have with others. We can unlock the circle, and let it grow.

I’ve seen this in action in our church—a community of people who are facing out together. I was freely welcomed into that circle by those who were there before me, and I’ve experienced the joy of joining them in welcoming others. I’ve seen how a welcoming circle of friends is deepened, not diluted, by including others…friendships do not grow the deepest when we face in and focus only on the deepness of our friendships—they deepen most when we face out, together, in a shared mission of giving for the good of others beyond us. –  Seth Lewis, How to Turn a Clique Inside Out

Photo Credit: Emily P. Freeman, Quote Fancy

Friends Who Stay – Finally, I offer this book on friendship:

Photo Credit: Sarah, Sally, and Joy Clarkson – Girls’ Club – Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World

In the book above, Sally’s daughter Sarah writes a chapter entitled Saturday Mornings: The Girls’ Club Prototype. In this chapter, she describes “five progressive actions…central to the powerful cultivation of friendship”. They are:

  • Invite – Reach out and bring in a new someone to an adventure and your life.
  • Plan – Work out the logistics of an event, a meetup, an outing. Make it a welcome ritual or routine.
  • Provide – Show love, Sarah says, by preparing the table, so to speak. Whether it is the physical space itself (your home, for instance) or your own “mind and heart” to wholly receive the new friend.
  • Stay – This is huge! Whether distance or circumstance separate you, be a continual presence in the life of a friend. Be there. Show up. This takes effort and intentionality, and it’s not easy. It requires both forgiveness and faithfulness…no matter what.
  • Pray – When we remember that every single person we meet is an image-bearer of God, we are reminded of the value there. Even those “mean girls” in our lives didn’t get mean in a vacuum. “Hurt people hurt people”. They have God’s imprint like every other imperfect person… When we recognize our own frailty and that of others, we are drawn to pray. For our own hearts to love like Jesus. For eyes to see how God sees people…and to reach out in love…as only He has made us to do so.

_______________________________________________________________________

Forgive the length of this piece…hopefully you were able to skim over parts and dig into others. I want to be a real friend to those God has placed in my life. Not a thin-veneer, “say all the things” but not truly by there for that person, shallow kind of friend. In closing, I had wanted to share a bunch of images of friends through the years…but decided not to. We have been wildly blessed with great people in our lives… people who have been real friends to us and others over a lifetime. You know who you are. Thankful for all the real friends in my life…striving to be one.

[P.S. We can be real friends and not always behave so. Life circumstances, personality, strengths/weaknesses, losses, pressures, as well as joyful distractions can all affect our leaning into and staying deep into a friendship. When we come up short, we can face it and hopefully restore, and be restored in, real friendship. Grace upon grace.]

Photo Credit: Incourage.me

What Makes For a Lifelong Friendship? – A Snapshot of Such a One – Deb Mills

15 Signs that Prove Your Friendship Is the Real Deal

I Believe in Guilt-Free Friendship – Lisa-Jo Baker

Befriend – Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear – Scott Sauls

Monday Morning Moment – Empowered People – Reckoning with a Victim Identity

Photo Credit: The Minds Journal

We hold the doors open for each other.

In recent days, I’ve marveled at common spaces we share in the world.

Out early in the morning, we pull into Wawa for coffee,  and gas if we need it (maybe where you are the gas station/convenience store has another name). On the way to our jobs or appointments. We wait on each other topping off our coffee per personal preferences. We share spaces. We check out together.

We hold the doors open for each other.

In the line at UPS, we wait. We are there to mail packages, return items, or maybe get a passport picture. We wait together. Young and old. Latino, Asian, Black, White. We wait and we hold the door open for each other.

Sitting or standing in the crowded reception area of the local free clinic, we wait to be seen. Again, a wide mix of people. All of whom, except for me, were not born in the US. [I was there with an Afghani refugee lady, helping her get medical services.] All of us there having successfully jumped through the hoops of obtaining that first appointment. We have this in common. We share this comradery.

We hold the doors open for each other.

In all these situations…and others…we are people with stories not necessarily known and yet with common threads. We have our stories. Both victim and victor stories. We do not have to choose to be defined by them…especially not the victim stories.

By definition, a victim is someone who has been injured, harmed, has suffered as a result of circumstances or what we consider to be disrespectful behavior from others. Linda and Charlie Bloom

The Victim Identity: Signs and How to Recover – Linda and Charlie Bloom [Quick read in 3 parts. Excellent resource.]

Maybe it’s different where you are in the world, but in our current socio-political system and culture, we are grappling with critical theory – the push to believe that all of humanity is either in the oppressor camp or the oppressed camp.

Deconstructing Critical Theory: Oppressed and Oppressor – Kevin Watson

Are there oppressors in the world? Absolutely. Are there those who are or have been oppressed? Unfortunately, also yes.

However, we, as peoples, are neither only oppressed or oppressor, in our fullest identities. We can rise up; not pointing fingers at each other, but in a larger understanding of one another. Not being subservient to either worldview.

Overcomers…

For those of us who have capacity and capability to help others, we help most effectively and comprehensively by influencing a pathway forward for those who have identified themselves as victims.

Or maybe the victim mindset was thrust upon some. A very wise person said to me just this morning, “If you want to ‘control’ people, convince them they are victims”.

Think about it…that is definitely oppressor behavior…and yet sometimes it is communicated by those in positions of power or influence who seem the most benevolent.

  Photo Credit: Courtney Wadley

As for doors? Most doors are closed; that’s their nature. That is their purpose. No added meaning. Sometimes, oppressors lock doors and control who goes through. Those who primarily think of themselves as victims may feel intimidated or persecuted at the prospect of prying open the door. If we look at doors as both giving access and protecting from evil (whatever that is), we use them accordingly. Most people, thankfully, hold the doors open for each other…and will continue to do so no matter how culture changes.

How we self-identify matters, in terms of a way forward. When we see ourselves as victims, our sense of agency or self-empowerment is diminished by our own mindset. Then there are the myriad of messages calling us to align ourselves with victimhood. These messages come from both well-meaning people and those who would seek to pigeon-hole us in ways we can be exploited.

All the scenarios mentioned at the start of this piece have stories attached to them. I don’t know those stories, but I do know many others. We all do. Telling and living our stories truly make for real legacy, for ourselves and our children.

Bad things have happened to us (some more than others). We can learn from each other if we are willing.

A victim mindset imprisons both the one who was harmed and the one who did the harming…as well as those in between who want to help but may not know how…yet. What a difference if we can empower rather than impoverish. Embrace CommunitiesWendy McCaig trains people to understand and operate with this worldview. Away from identifying victims and just doing “for” people as if they can’t possibly do for themselves. She lives and teaches to do “with” people, together discovering giftings and orchestrating opportunities to express those giftings (along the way, strengthening their families and communities).

In this way, we hold the doors open for each other.

Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig, Embrace Richmond, Embrace Communities

YouTube Video – TED Talk – How I Stopped Being a ‘Victim’ and Restarted My Life – Arman Abrahimzadeh

How to Know if Your Victimhood Has Become Your Identity – Rick Thomas

Monday Morning Moment – Building and Re-building Community – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Steps Forward in “We the People” Becoming True for All Americans – Deb Mills

Sunday Reflection – Am I My Brother’s Keeper? On Neglect – Part 1  and Part 2 – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Who Needs Sharpening?

We lose our edge sometimes.

Once a month I volunteer to teach in the children’s program at church. Second through fifth graders. They happily burn through a lot of activities in a short amount of time, for sure. When I opened the supply cabinet to retrieve colored pencils for them, the image above is what I discovered. Now, to be sure, we still had enough colored pencils, but it struck me with the thought of how life itself renders us in need of sharpening.

We lose our edge sometimes with the press and pressures of daily responsibilities and relationships. We get dull, and we don’t even see it in ourselves. What a blessing to have people in our lives who not only know and love us enough to speak truth to us, but who also lean in and help us out of the ditches or ruts in our lives…before we decide just to stay camped there.

Counselor, writer Barry Pearman posted a practical and easy read: Sharpening: A Spiritual Habit for Better Mental Health. He tackles this topic of sharpening and offers a 5-point solution:

  1. Recognize our need for help. This may come from another’s assessment or our own awareness of a growing fatigue and disengagement.
  2. Lean in to sharpening with someone you trust. Once our quality of life or relationships gives notice that we have gotten ourselves into a rut, ditch, or dull place, we may be able to turn it around without help. However, having a partner in “sharpening” our lives speeds and enhances the whole process.
  3. Beware of how the past shapes our responses (and dulls our edge – these can be past inclinations, besetting sins, defaults – the ruts and ditches we’re prone to fall into). Pearman asks what is our true north and where are we on that thinking compass.
  4. Develop habits of sharpening. What practices each day can be a refresh for us? [This is what Stephen Covey prescribed in his classic book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The article by The 10-minute Leader gives quick helps for habit formation in this area of sharpening.
  5. Keep accountable within community. Seek out a small group of like-minded and like-focused individuals who practice iron sharpening iron with each other. “Sharpening the saw”, as Covey calls it, will make sparks fly. We need people who are committed to each other in such a way they just don’t leave the room.

If you got a bit tired reading these 5 points, you may need sharpening. Not to improve productivity necessarily (that’s not what we’re talking about here), but to improve your well-being. Your joy in life. Your relationships. No judging here, by the way. We all need sharpening as part of life. We can’t always see it ourselves…but once recognized, we can act on restoring beauty and balance in our lives.

Photo Credit: FranklinCovey, Stephen Covey, Kim Kerrigan

Would you consider it? Talk to someone you trust. As for the problem of pencils above? I actually think some of them were still usable. For the others? I ordered a best-of-the-best electric pencil sharpener…we’ll see how long it lasts. [Comment below if you want to recommend one…for the next time our sharpener dies. Fortunately for us, when we need sharpening…no purchase is necessary.

10 Ways to Sharpen the Spiritual Saw – Jean Wise

The 7 Habits: Sharpening the Saw – Brett & Kate McKay

Jesus and Holy Week – Monday, Day 2 – Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Cleanses the Temple

Photo Credit: Fig Tree by Bob Orchard

[Adapted from the Archives]

On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!”Mark 11:12-14

When Jesus woke on Monday morning, after that glorious Sunday entering Jerusalem…I wonder what he thought. Did he know that, in just four days, he would be crucified? Whew…

Back to Monday:

During that week in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples spent the nights with friends in Bethany, two miles outside of the city. Each morning, they would walk into Jerusalem. On that Monday morning, just four days prior to his crucifixion, Jesus became hungry on the walk in. Seeing a leafy fig tree, he looked for fruit. With fig trees, where there are leaves, there should be figs. Since green figs are edible, and it wasn’t yet harvest season, there should still be some fruit on the tree.

When he found no figs, Jesus cursed the tree. This seems out of character for Jesus, until his action is put in the context of his culture and community. Throughout his public ministry, especially as he became more known and revered, the Jewish religious leaders held him in contempt. Jesus’ teaching of our dependence on God’s righteousness and not our own flew in the face of the Pharisaical teaching of the day – that of strict adherence to Jewish law as the only hope of finding favor with God. For Jesus, the leafy barren fig tree must have been a picture of religious Jews of that day, all flash and finery but no fruit of faith.

“Christ’s single miracle of Destruction, the withering of the fig-tree, has proved troublesome to some people, but I think its significance is plain enough. The miracle is an acted parable, a symbol of God’s sentence on all that is ‘fruitless’ and specially, no doubt, on the official Judaism of that age. That is its moral significance.”C. S. Lewis

Jesus was left still physically hungry. He remained spiritually hungry  as well – for this people of the Book to receive the good news that the Messiah had come.

Finally, arriving back in Jerusalem, Jesus was deeply troubled by what he found inside the Temple. The crowds of Passover pilgrims did not disturb him, but temple grounds turned marketplace did. In this sanctified place, meant only for worship, there were money-changers and sellers of animals for sacrifice, right in the Court of the Gentiles – in the only place where non-Jewish God-believers could worship.

Photo Credit:Expulsion of the Moneychangers from the Temple” by Luca Giordano

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”Matthew 21:12-13

Often in film depictions of Jesus cleansing the temple, he appears a crazed individual, flailing about, throwing tables and flinging pigeons into the air. I can’t even imagine him that way. We can’t know how it happened except that in Jesus’ anger, he did not sin. He would not sin. I know the Jesus Film is just another director’s film rendering, but in this scene, Jesus showed considerable restraint. Disturbed at the buying and selling that actually kept believing Gentiles from worshiping, he moved to correct the situation. He was unafraid of the temple officials, burning with zeal for his Father to be truly worshiped in that place.

Zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.Psalm 69:9

Later in the week, he himself would be the one for sale –  sold for 30 pieces of silver, betrayed by one of his own disciples, to satisfy the wrath of the religious leaders. That story is for another day.

This Holy Monday, we are drawn again to this Messiah who teaches us that the way we live our lives matters but not more than the way we relate to God. He makes space for us…room for all of us to receive Him. He is holy, and in His righteousness, we stand…on solid ground.

Holy Week – Day 2: Monday Jesus Clears the Temple

YouTube Video with Lyrics of In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

Reasoning Why Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree

Monday of Holy Week

The Righteous Anger of Jesus

Cleansing the Court of the Gentiles

Jesus Film Media – website & app to watch videos

Monday Morning Moment – Celebrating Those Who are the Real Deal in Our Lives

Photo Credit: Revival Centres

The real deal is defined as “A person or thing who is genuinely superior or impressive in some regard and is therefore worthy of appreciation or respect. A genuine and high-quality example of something. “

A blogger named Sarah Christine recently posted a captivating piece on determining whether something (or, in particular, someone) is or is NOT the real deal.

Something Real – Sarah Christine – Cultiv8ing Character

Why does this matter? We live in a culture that has become more and more cynical…and, superficial. Character seems no longer part of what it takes to win an election, or score a promotion, or get “to the top” of whatever the field is. If everyone lies, we just hope they don’t lie to us. Fake news and pseudo-science have prompted us to be passive in our examination of world events. Do we suspect the real deal just doesn’t exist anymore? Sooner or later, a rock will be turned over, and, even in the best of us, icky, creepy things will be exposed.

Take heart. The real deal still exists, and, in fact, maybe it’s us.

Sarah Christine points out “a three-step process…helpful for assessing whether something is the capital R-Real deal or not in [her] life, and I gotta say, it’s done a good job of rooting out the counterfeits…”

  1. Ask – “when it comes to figuring out whether something is the real deal or a counterfeit, asking people with more experience/expertise who have ‘been there done that,’ so to speak, can be remarkably helpful in discerning whether or not to pursue, sign onto, or invest in something.” Still…this isn’t 100% foolproof: “while the reviews and opinions of others can give you some helpful direction when it comes to discerning something real from a counterfeit, you can’t always just take people’s word for it. Some things require or at least invite more up-close and personal investigation.”
  2. Seek – “A really good way of assessing whether something is real or not is what happens when it gets tested. Because as much of an asset as our own eyes/experiences can be, the human mind has a tremendous capacity for self-deceit. We are… not always the most objective. Thus…when it comes to figuring out whether something is the Real Deal and not a counterfeit does not rely on the opinions/experiences of anyone else or even what we perceive ourselves. It comes down to testing the thing itself.”
  3. Knock – When you’re face-to-face with someone and a strong opinion has been voiced, you can assess whether that person truly believes it at his/her core or if it’s just something believed as true because of cultural influence. Sarah Christine advises: “All I’d have to do was ask,‘Why do you think that?’ And see, asking someone “why?” they said what they said, is the equivalent of a gentle poke if you ask me. It’s a soft knock. A nudge. A loving tap. But if something is the Real Deal–i.e. ironclad–you can more than give it a tentative push-back. You can full on hit it with a baseball bat. Because here’s the thing: Real Deals can take a beating. A solid argument can withstand even the most hostile inquisition. Someone who really loves you won’t cut out even when you act like a total– If you’re struggling to see whether or not something is the Real Deal, and you’ve asked and sought and still aren’t sure whether it is or not, my suggestion is you give it a good, solid hit and see what happens. Because Real things–True things–can take a beating and come back swinging.” – Sarah Christine

Thanks, Sarah Christine. I loved this so much. One challenge about this is how passive we’ve become in this post-COVID, anti-other (almost said anti-Christian, but it’s really anti-other). We struggle with a lethargy of a sort, a dullness in our critical thinking. Do we have it in us to go after the real deal?  Or BE the real deal?

It’s. Just. Too. Hard.

We’ve got to WAKE UP! Look around. Start asking questions and testing out where we align and with whom. Not to become more tribal but to truly find what we believe is worth fighting for…living for. And then going after it. Going after them. Determining not to miss the Real Deals out there – the people who we can learn from and the causes that matter.

I don’t know Jackie Hill Perry personally, but she is the real deal. Karen Swallow Prior is another one. We don’t agree on everything, but they have done the work to know what they believe and they aren’t wavering…and hopefully never will. My mom was (all the years I had her with me) and my mom-in-law continues to be the real deal…with no celebrity but quiet resolve to live a faithful life.

Photo Credit: Quotes in Sight

These are but a few of the many real deals I’ve had the privilege of knowing in my short life.

The most influential? Jesus, the Christ, the Creator, the Savior.

In a conversation last night with a much younger friend, we puzzled over how people can ever walk away from Jesus once they know him. The church, maybe. The Christian life, possible. But Jesus? The only answer is that people who walk away never truly knew him. As for those whose religions or non-religions take no consideration of him, I would invite you to consider digging in and knowing Him. Ask. Seek. Knock.

He’s the real deal.

A never ending test for you will be loving someone that’s failed you. The easy thing is to retreat. To put up a guard. To cuss em out and carry on with your day. Yet God says “love them anyway”. As hard as it is, love is the only way you will truly look like Jesus. Jackie Hill Perry

Monday Morning Moment – Blind Adventurer Erik Weihenmayer Talks the Struggle of Life and the Advantage of Adversity

Photo Credit: Facebook, The Richmond Forum

There was something about his eyes. Knowing already that adventurer Erik Weihenmayer is blind, I still couldn’t get over his eyes – there is searching and wonder in his whole face…which could describe the life he has carved out for himself.

Photo Credit: Facebook, The Richmond Forum

Erik became blind in his early teen’s. Yet even then, he refused to let go of whatever it was he could do, even blind. He wrestled on his high school team and welcomed the sport of rock climbing. He discovered his hands and feet could become his eyes on rock walls…and later ice cliffs.

Dave and I had the great good of hearing Erik speak this weekend at The Richmond Forum. We were fully prepared to spend the evening listening to him regale on his incredible adventurer’s life. What it has been like to be blind and yet to accomplish such feats as climb to the summit of Mt. Everest or kayak the river rapids through the Grand Canyon.

He did not disappoint on that, but deeper still was how he reflected on struggle in life, on the advantage of adversity, on the critical nature of having mentors, and the beauty of a ropes team (those holding the ropes for each other, no one just holding for him/herself alone).Photo Credit: Flickr, Didrik Johnck

Here are just some of my takeaways from his insight into life (for all of us not just those aspiring to climb tall mountains):

  • On what’s possible: He has found a way to see what’s possible while others see what’s only in the way. “What’s within you is stronger than what’s in the way.”
  • On struggle: He focused on the struggle in life and how to build mental maps to “navigate forward”. In wrestling with the struggle, in the hours of preparation and practice, you discover what barriers are more easily overcome and what still remain to be conquered. [Learn more about his organization No Barriers here.]
  • On quitters, campers, & climbers: He talked about three types of people in the world: quitters, campers, and climbers. [This is also covered in his book with Paul StoltzAdversity Advantage.] Erik believes we all start out as climbers but how we deal with the barriers in life separate us out over time. Quitters essentially just give up on the ascent (whatever that means for them). Campers work hard toward a certain level. Then they make the decision that it’s enough and put up their tent right there. Climbers are the few who keep learning, and growing, and pressing forward…committed not just to the summit but to fulfilling their life purpose. Climbers are those who can say, “I gave it my all”. He challenged the audience to ask themselves who they are and who they want to be.
  • On choosing our response: Growing up, Erik dealt with his fear of being left behind or put in a corner (because he was blind). He quoted Victor Frankl about how we deal with what we’re given in life: Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
  • On reach: There is a reach common to all of us. What we do with it determines our outcomes. We are tempted to stop reaching when we fear failure or falling short.
  • On adversity: When we keep climbing, keep reaching, adversity follows. Rather than fall to hopelessness, we must attack the adversities – the small ones and on to the most complex ones.
  • On teams: “Ropes teams” are invaluable. No one gets to the summit alone. Erik extolled the essential ingredient of trust in a good team. Do you trust your team? Are you linked together behind one vision? Everyone doing what each needs to do for the sake of the team? In climbing, if one hiker starts falling, the climbers on each end do what is necessary to stop them one from falling, for his sake, for theirs and for the whole team, Such a good word for any of us.
  • On fear: Try to do something a little courageous. Small acts of courage lead to big ones. He struggles with fear. What he’s learned in life is that over time, as you prepare yourself for whatever is ahead, fear moves to the periphery, and you have room for awareness, focus, gratitude.
  • On parenting: His counsel to parents was brilliant. “Help your kids develop executive leadership skills. Go explore but be responsible…Don’t let love become a prison…Get kids out there doing something bigger than them. Get them socialized to real life…There are consequences to mouthing off to an older brother”.

I could have listened for hours still. Capture for yourself what Erik has learned about struggle, adversity, and the importance of purpose and people in our lives. You can find some YouTube videos, but his books, documentaries, and podcast give you a deeper dive.

I’ll close with two last quotes from him, and one by writer Ryan Holiday.

“There’s a very blurry line between the things we can’t do and the things we can.” – Erik Weihenmayer
“Adversity alone has the unique power to inspire exceptional clarity, purge any vestiges of lethargy, refocus your priorities, hone your character, and unleash your most potent forces.” – Erik Weihenmayer, The Adversity Advantage: Turning Everyday Struggles into Everyday Greatness

“It’s not just: How can I think this is not so bad? No, it is how to will yourself to see that this must be good—an opportunity to gain a new foothold, move forward, or go in a better direction. Not “be positive” but learn to be ceaselessly creative and opportunistic. Not: This is not so bad. But: I can make this good. Because it can be done. In fact, it has and is being done. Every day.” – Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is the Way

Monday Morning Moment – Starve a Cold, Feed a Cold? – Which Is It?

Carey Nieuwhof’s latest leadership podcast on civil conversations was brilliant. His guest, Francesca Gino, author and Harvard Business School professor, offered up great counsel on how wanting control stifles our conversations and how best to open the door to positive change in workplace relationships.

“…the great resignation probably has taken a toll on your team. And the data is telling us that 50% of people either have or will be leaving their job for another job in the next 12 months. So they’re looking for workplaces where they can be engaged and grow every day. So if you think you’re through this, you’re probably not. And you’ve also
got new hires, right? So how do you keep them? Well, Harvard Business Review, speaking of Harvard, says that 70% of the reason people leave a job is because of their relationship with their manager. So that puts a lot of the spotlight on the one-on-one meetings you have with your direct reports. Leadr believes that the one-on-one meeting is the most powerful leadership development tool a manager has.”Carey Nieuwhof, Leadership Podcast, Episode 483

This conversation was to be the focus of this week’s Monday Morning Moment, but alas…

I caught a cold.

We all know the symptoms – feeling cold or hot, achy, stuffy nose, sore throat, cloudy in our thinking. Writing went out the window this morning. All I wanted was to stay in my pajamas and socks, and sleep on the sofa under my favorite fleece throw. Sleep, watch TV, read. Nothing more.

Some people don’t feel like eating when they’re sick. My thinking is our bodies tell us what we need. I needed to eat…so I ate all day.

Do you know the adage about how best to treat a cold? Which is it? Starve a cold or feed a cold? Starve a fever, feed a fever?

“Starving is never the correct answer” says WebMD.

For almost a 1 1/2 years, I have started my day with a cup of coffee and spoonful of natural, crunchy peanut butter. Today was no different. Then, except for the cookie, popcorn, and Peeps, I felt hungry for and ate foods that are actually considered quite therapeutic for people fighting cold viruses. The foods in the picture above (staged afterwards for the blog) were my get-better-as-quick-as-possible choices.

Starve a Cold, Feed a Fever? Learn the Facts – WebMD

So…my day was low productivity…no writing until now (I’m feeling stronger instead of worse this evening, so that feels like a good sign).

Will revisit Cary Nieuwhof’s podcast another day. You should give it a listen, or, if you prefer, read the transcript.

Thanks for keeping me company for these minutes…at a safe distance. 

[Postscript: Take Francesca Gino’s Rebel Test – fascinating!]