Category Archives: Monday Morning Moment

Monday Morning Moment – Chef José Andrés Feeds the World – Inspiring Us to Do Likewise

Photo Credit: Screenshot from The Richmond Forum; Chef José Andrés, speaking to us from Honduras, where he and his team were feeding people after the Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

The first offering of the Richmond Forum‘s 2020-21 season was this past weekend. Because of COVID, it was virtual. Dave and I would miss our traditional pizza before the show, and talks with our friends at the Altria Theater, but comfy at home was not a bad option either.

We didn’t know this evening’s speaker, José Andrés, but with all who come to the stage of the Richmond Forum, we knew we would come away with a larger sense of the world and our part in it.

Photo Credit: José Andrés, World Central Kitchen, Bahamas, 2019

Chef José Andrés is an extraordinary person who challenges us to move that descriptor into the ordinary column. Here’s a brief intro to this amazing man – just a bit of his extensive bio from his website: “José Andrés is an internationally-recognized culinary innovator, New York Times bestselling author, educator, television personality, humanitarian, and chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup. A pioneer of Spanish tapas in the United States, he is also known for his groundbreaking avant-garde cuisine and his award-winning group of more than 30 restaurants located throughout the country and beyond, ranging in a variety of culinary experiences from a food truck to his multi-location vegetable-focused fast casual Beefsteak, to world-class tasting menus…As a naturalized citizen originally from Spain, Andrés has been a tireless advocate for immigration reform. In 2010, Andrés formed World Central Kitchen, a non-profit that provides smart solutions to end hunger and poverty by using the power of food to empower communities and strengthen economies. Notably, his team served over 3.6 million meals to the people of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.”

Photo Credit: José Andrés, World Central Kitchen – 2019 in Review

This celebrity chef who owns restaurants all over the US, writes cookbooks, and entertains us with his TV appearances.

However, you look at his face and see his heart. He says, “I am a cook. I feed the few, but I love to feed the many”.

He grew up in Spain with parents who were nurses. At times, one parent heading to work, would bring their four sons to the emergency room to exchange with the parent leaving work.   His parents also loved to cook for the family and for friends and neighbors. He tells the story of his father making a huge pan of paella. When his mother asked his father what if too many people come and there is not enough food. “We just add some more rice”.

Andrés credits his father with an early love and understanding of cooking. His father would tell him “Learn your fire. Control your fire. Master your fire. Then you will be able to cook anything you want.” He took that cooking lesson and applied it to his life.

As a young man, he dreamed of coming to America, of being a part of “We the People”. When he finally was able to immigrate to the US, he wasted no time in beginning work in a restaurant. He continued growing and learning…and before long, teaching others himself. Not just about cooking itself but what food brings to all of life.

“Respect people. Teach them to work. Give them a plate of food.”

He feels very strongly about giving back (especially to his beloved America) as well as giving to all who are suffering. “There’s nothing more nurturing than a plate of hot food.”

After responding to the Haiti earthquake in 2010, his vision to “feed the many” came to fruition with the World Central Kitchen. Andres took his ability to cook and his experience in leading and mentoring staff in his restaurants and applied it in the worst of situations. Through this non-profit, he and his teams would be “boots on the ground” after earthquakes,wildfires, wars, flooding, hurricanes, and other disasters. They came and found a kitchen and bought local food. They listened and learned. They mobilized others to help, and thousands upon thousands were fed.

[We sat mesmerized at this man and his stories of real life. This immigrant. This cook. With a heart as big as the world. He could have just enjoyed the great successes of his American dream realized, but this is not who he is.

We spent our evening with him (thanks to Richmond Forum). Hearing stories of how a few fed many…in Honduras, in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, and years ago in Haiti. These were just some of the many stories of the work of this chef and World Central Kitchen.

As questions came in from the Richmond Forum audience, he taught us, just as if we were standing in his kitchen, or his classroom. As if there was already a relationship there. As, for sure, he cared for us, somehow.

Nothing he said was the stuff of unapproachable genius. He put his hand to a cascade of difficult situations and made a difference. It gives hope to any of us willing to try. He changes recipes to fit the circumstances and peoples they served. He looks for new ways to make things happen. He uses food not as a charity but as a healing connection in a community – sustenance and support, pulling people together to heal and restore their lives and livelihoods.

His goal: to do good in the world.

“I have work to do. I’m here to be an improver of the world. Not by talking but by doing. There will always be a job to do.”

Andres has even worked with the US Congress on the Feed Act and the Restaurants Act that have come out of our battle with COVID-19. Food insecurity and restaurant closures should not be happening when the former can be helped by the latter – subsidizing restaurants to feed people in need. Who knows what will come out of all this, but that can-do creativity and great generosity of heart are at the heard of what makes America great.

Get to know José Andrés. It will not be one-sided.

He closed the evening with this: “Maybe I’ve added an ingredient or two to your life. I look forward to one or two from yours one day.”

Youtube Video –  José Andrés on 60 Minutes in 2017; Feeding Puerto Rico

YouTube Video – José Andrés on Giving Back to America

YouTube Video – When Disaster Strikes, Jose Andres Brings Hot Food and Hope – PBS

The 10 Best Lines From Jose Andres’ GWU Commencement Speech

Monday Morning Moment – Gratitude and the Brain – All Good Gains

Photo Credit: Twitter

Have you noticed the increased expressions of gratitude on your social media? At least in the US, we are gearing up for Thanksgiving. Some of us take this occasion as an opportunity to daily and publicly express our gratitude. Based on what we know from research, this could make November one of our happiest and least stressful months of the year.

Below you’ll find quotes from some of these authors, reporting on both clinical research and anecdotal data that support how the practice of gratitude can actually alter our habits of thinking and our sense of well-being. It’s all good for us and those around us.

“Our brain is always on alert to threat and is more predisposed to look at the negative side of life [stress response]. There are many things that happen to us everyday that are positive but we don’t notice them because we are always looking for the next threat to us. Now these actions are below our level of awareness. It takes some concerted effort to get our brain to move to the positive side of life. And that is where paying attention and expressing gratitude plays a role in establishing that positive mindset. When we start to place attention on the positive events in our life our brain responds by producing the neurotransmitter dopamine…We do feel better when dopamine is flowing but that also makes are brain wanting more – so it becomes the motivating neurotransmitter also…In addition, the brain loves confirmation bias: it looks for things that prove what it already believes to be true. Dopamine then strengthens that action. So if you start seeing things in your life that you are grateful for, your brain will start looking for more things to be grateful for.”Patricia Faust, How Gratitude Affects the Brain

Six Habits of Highly Grateful People – Jeremy Adam Smith

  1. Once in awhile, they think about death and loss. – As we think of past losses and future losses (say of those we love), we remember and reflect on the good we’ve known in those situations or relationships. Of future losses, we then take action to savor and bless those persons while we have them near.
  2. They take time to smell the roses. – Whether our current situation feels difficult or just mundane, we look for the beauty.
  3. They take the good things as gifts, not birthrights. – We see entitlement for the life-diminishing thing it is.
  4. They’re grateful to people, not just things. – We can be thankful for great food, for blue skies, for warm clothing, but we go beyond that to the one(s) who provided the good we have.
  5. They mention the pancakes. Being grateful for the specific little things disciplines us to enlarge our gratitude for the greater things in our lives. Those things that can cause stress if we don’t remember the value and significance in them.
  6. They thank outside the box. Even in adversity or hard times, we can find things for which to be grateful. Gratefulness doesn’t minimize the difficulty; it actually strengthens us to endure.

What Gets in the Way of Gratitude? – Robert Emmons

“Given its magnetic appeal, it is a wonder that gratitude might be rejected. Yet it is. If we fail to choose it, by default we choose ingratitude. Millions make this choice every day.

Why? Provision, whether supernatural or natural, becomes so commonplace that it is easily accepted for granted.  We believe the universe owes us a living. We do not want to be beholden. Losing sight of protection, favors, benefits and blessings renders a person spiritually and morally bankrupt.  It’d be hard to improve upon the words of our 16th President in 1863:

‘We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation ever has grown; but we have forgotten God! We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.'” – What Gets in the Way of Gratitude? – Robert Emmons

8 Ways to Express Your Gratitude

  1. Keep a gratitude journal.
  2. Write a gratitude letter to a past mentor or teacher.
  3. Count how many things you can find to be grateful for in each room of your home.
  4. Listen to a guided gratitude meditation [my suggestion if you don’t prefer guided meditation: spend some time in the Psalms].
  5. Start business meetings with a “what went well” one-sentence reflection.
  6. Savor receiving thanks.
  7. Take a daily photo of something you are grateful for and post to Instagram or Facebook, tagging it with #365project.
  8. Try a gratitude jar or tree.        – Tamara Lechner, The Neuroscience Behind Gratitude: How Does Cultivating Appreciation Affect Your Brain?

So…what are you grateful for at this moment?

How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain – Joshua Brown, Joel Wong

How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times – Robert Emmons

Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy – Nancy Leigh DeMoss

The Science of Gratitude – a White Paper – UC Berkeley

Photo Credit: Robert Emmons, Greater Good, Daily Good

Monday Morning Moment – a Non-partisan Prayer for America on the Eve of the Election

Photo Credit: Savio Sebastian, Flickr

[6 minute read…and prayer]

Oh God,

We come to You because “where else would we go?”. You alone, Lord, hold all things together (Colossians 1:17). How thankful we are that nothing can separate us from Your love. (Romans 8:38-39)

Father, You call us to love You, not because You need our love, but because You know if we do harm to ourselves in loving anyone or anything more than You. With loving You as our primary call, You also urge us to love others as we love ourselves. Help us to daily become more like Jesus, that when we love others, they will experience His gracious love through us. Even our enemies.

God, You remind us how we work out that love in our lives – by “doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with You” (Micah 6:8).

Forgive us, Lord, when our identity as partisan citizens takes priority over Your Kingdom rule and reign. You remind us that You have created “thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities”. You have given us the blessing of being Americans. Forgive us when we elevate that blessing over Your place in our lives. You are God – You “exalt and You bring down”, “remove kings and establish them“, “appoint authorities”. Thank You, God, that no matter the outcome of this election, we can be confident that You are ever at work in the world.

How do we vote, Lord? Guide us to vote not just our sensibilities but out of conscience drenched by your Holy Spirit. Some preachers and writers counsel with us that neither candidate may deserve the vote of a true follower of Yours. Then there are Godly responses that followed of how we must live “in this world but not of this world” (John 17:9-19) – not drawing away from voting. There are so many opinions, so many platforms…both outside Your church and inside.

Teach us how to be as fully a part of our culture as possible, but without sin. How does that work with voting in a post-Christian country? Lord, our hearts burn with desire for You to be glorified in this place. We need Your clarity.

Will voting our conscience drive away or draw others to You?

Please help us, Lord. Are we to be silent in the arena of politics?

Guide us, Lord. We need Your wisdom. We also surrender ourselves to Your will in this…just please lead us. Whichever side we align with politically has its unique secular agenda. With no interest in Godly outcomes. Give us discernment, God, as we make our decisions and act on them.

We need Your humility. Help us Democrats to fight for the unborn; help us Republicans to intervene for children at our country’s borders.* Help us see Your love for the whole world, and move us to act, not just on election day, but every day thereafter.

You call us to demonstrate Your love to the most vulnerable in our society – the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, the poor. Help us, Father, move from intention, from words only, to be the hands and feet of God…following the life-giving (and life-giving-away) example of Jesus.

How ever the election ends, whatever the outcome, Father help us, each of us, to “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). Also, we pray for the grace to continue to obey You by praying for those in authority over us, whoever that might be.

Thank You, Father, for the amazing grace You give us to quieten our hearts and still our resolve.

Thank You for Jesus, whom You’ve given all authority. He has given us a great work in this world, from which we do not want to be distracted. Praise Your name that You are always with us…even in these moments ahead of the election. It is a small thing for You. Help us keep that perspective.

Lord, many of us came to faith in a supportive environment where we had freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembling together. Forgive us when we fall to fear of losing these currently protected rights. Should we experience persecution, Lord, we know from Your Word and the testimony of Your saints, that You continue with us always. Thank You, Father.

We keep our eyes on You. Whether we line up to vote tomorrow…or decide we won’t be voting this year. You are God. You are good. Your purposes are not thwarted. Every morning, Your mercies are new to us…just what we need for each day. Thank You, Father, that You love Your children and You remind us, throughout the Holy Scriptures, to be strong, to not be afraid, and to not lose heart.

We will ever keep our eyes on You, to finish Your work, in each of our lives, in this country, and in this world. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Oh, and Lord, could I pray for one thing more? Please, Father, please rid our world of COVID-19. We pray in the name and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not just divided by politics; we are divided by this terrible virus. Free us from the bondage and hardship that has come out of this disease and its mitigation. Lord, You have told us to come boldly in prayer to Your throne. This is a time of great need for us, all around the world. We ask for Your mercy. Thank You, Lord. Again, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

*YouTube Video – Politics: How Would Jesus Vote? – Scott Sauls – He also encourages us in how we vote. Best sermon I’ve heard on this topic in this election season.

Positive Living: No Matter What You Do – God’s Plans Cannot Be Aborted! – Margaret Hodge – Great passages of Scripture included

What Christians Should Do If Their Candidate Loses the 2020 Election – Andy Stanley

A Facebook post from a friend – short and worthwhile read

Monday Morning Moment – I’m Going to Change the World…or At Least Try

Photo Credit: Inblix

[Adapted from the Archives – here and here]

My husband always brings me coffee. He did again this morning. When I asked what he had on his schedule, he replied, “Work…the usual stuff”.  Then he asked about my day ahead.

“I’m going to change the world.”

Now, that isn’t a usual Monday morning response. It actually surprised me. I really have absolutely nothing on my schedule. Nothing.

When he gave his take on his day, it reminded me of our Sunday night.

We both sometimes struggle with a bit of depression and foreboding on Sunday evenings…especially after a sweet weekend.

Kind of a shudder and shake preparing our heads for a new week.

Well…it’s Monday morning now…who knows what can happen, if we look for it. I am going to clear my head of all the sluggishness that’s set in from devouring too much political news…it’s a new day.

Making the bed every morning has been a habit of mine since childhood. Somehow in the middle of the chaos and clutter of life, that “made” bed stands in hopeful defiance.

Blog - Make Your Bed - habit formation (2)

Admiral William H. McRaven a highly decorated Navy Seal, retired in 2014 from a 37-year military career. He oversaw Operation Neptune Spear – the military operation that culminated in the death of Osama bin Laden. In the year of his retirement, he was commencement speaker at the graduation ceremony of University of Texas – Austin. Blog - Change the World - Make Your Bed - pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest

As he encouraged the young graduates, he told of 10 lessons in his SEAL basic training. Beginning with “Make Your Bed”, they follow in brief (you can watch the video of his speech or read more detailed highlights here).

10 Life Lessons to Change Your World

1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

2. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

3. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

4. If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

5. If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

6. If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.

7. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

8. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

9. If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

10. If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

Steve Nguyen, Workplace Psychology

Adm. McRaven closed the commencement speech with the following challenge:

“Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often . . . but if you take some risks, step up when the times are the toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up….if you do these things, the next generation, and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today, and what started here will indeed have changed the world for the better.”Navy Adm. William McRaven

 

You WILL change the world!

Besides making the bed, a habit of prayer and time in God’s Word also helps clear my head and set the course of my day. This morning, a resolve was stirred afresh to set myself on the course of a world-changing God. He loves us and will work good out of every situation for those who love Him and respond to His call on their lives (Romans 8:28).

A powerful piece by Jon Bloom a few years back continues to encourage and inspire. Below is just an excerpt:

“You will change the world, more than you know. And because of that, because your life will impact so many others, Jesus wants you to live prayerfully (Ephesians 6:18), walk carefully (Ephesians 5:15), and seek his kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). If you do, if you faithfully invest the “little” he has entrusted to you, no labor of yours in this life will be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58) and he will entrust you with more in the life to come (Matthew 25:21).”Jon Bloom, Desiring God

You Will Change the World – Wisdom from Jon Bloom – Deb Mills

So to you out there…and especially to you, Dave…the bed’s made. Praying for you and for me…as we prepare and brace ourselves to change the world. Who knows what God will do as we stand ready?!Blog - No Life wasted 11

[Postscript: Thank you, Dave, for your willingness to follow God where He leads you…and all the amazing people, memories, and God-lessons we have in our lives because of that willingness. Thank You, God, for every stamp in my passport, and for being there every step of the way…including this very day. Help me to take hold of it…I can change the world, because of You.]

 

Monday Morning Moment – Lies – and What Makes Us Think We Can Sort Them Out?

Photo Credit: Ask Ideas, Facebook, Enchanting Minds

Freedom of speech is a precious right that deserves our protection.

We are free in this country to speak. We can choose to treat truth as a lie or lies as truth. Without penalty in some cases. Even the Supreme Court has protected the right to lie in one instance (maybe others). The justices’ in-court conversation is fascinating and telling of the sanctity of free speech in our country.

As a nation, our values have included the adage “with rights come responsibilities”. Unfortunately, in the political arena, we may need to ask the question: has lying become an accepted “means to an end”?

For this first (maybe final) term of the Trump presidency, he has been accused of lying on a daily basis, by the Democrats and the main-stream media, among others. Now we are in the last days of a presidential election. Vice-President Biden, the Democratic candidate for President, is also under fire for lying. Even his own Vice-President candidate, Senator Harris, not many months ago, accused him of the same.

Let’s just say, for a moment, that telling the truth is not an American value in 2020. It seems it still is, if we base that assessment on the varied and verbose outcries, on each side of the political aisle. However, how is it that we, the American people, believe our particular candidate is always telling the truth and the other is not?

Here’s what I think? Take it for what it’s worth to you. I don’t think any of us can know who is lying and who is telling the truth.

We live in a political era of spliced sound-bytes, seamless film editing, brilliant speech writing, and high-dollar coaches and advisors. Our party and policy preferences are gathered from our social media posts and internet searches. What we want to hear and see is well-researched and incorporated into political campaigns. Then we have the tech giants and news media fueling what we believe about our preferred candidates…or the other catastrophic choices. This is where we are…in the political arena.

Many of us are disappointed in the amount of pandering politicians do. But that pandering is more a symptom of our high unadjusted expectations and abstract consumerism than it is of flaws of political characters. You can’t compete for the presidency these days without pandering, including meta-pandering — pandering about pandering, saying “You’re good honest folk. You don’t want pandering. You only want straight talk and that’s all you’ll ever get from me.” – Jeremy E. Sherman

The quote above speaks to the jaded nature of politics. “Pandering” is essentially saying what we think others want to hear to get what we want out of the transaction – a political win, in this case. Sad.

The win is what matters. Lie if you have to, to end up on top. Lying, and not getting caught in the lie, is even better. So what if you get caught? Then you lean on your allies to whitewash the lie or create doubt, especially, when possible, by casting doubt on the veracity of the one who exposed the lie. Round and round and round we go.

There’s so much more I’d like to say on this topic, but will stop here. In the US, a huge election is days away, and we are weighing our candidates by what we believe about them. Who has our best interests at heart? Some say they are voting for the “lesser of two evils”. Some are very relieved at their option. Still others believe the whole future of this country is at stake.

What is true here, and what are the lies? What makes us think we can sort them out?

Here’s how? We look past our party affiliation. We start the clock wondering:  how is it that this friend, colleague, family member, educator, legislator, celebrity, thought leader, media talking head…thinks differently from me? Be willing to ask the question, “Could it be possible that I’m the one who believes the lies? Could it be I have drunk the proverbial KoolAid?”

The sleek advertising notwithstanding, lies abound right now. Freedom of speech protects a certain level of lying. The end justifies the means…or so it seems. What we hope is that when the smoke clears on this election, and a winner is finally declared, that we as a people haven’t sold our souls to the Devil…the Father of lies.

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. – 2 Timothy 4:3

Here is the positive, the hope. We can be those who don’t need our ears tickled. We can, no matter the outcome of this election, choose to look for truth (not in the use of the word as in “my truth” or “your truth”) and stand there…together. When we dig down through all the political pandering and propaganda, we can hopefully find bedrock… if not in today’s popular culture…then elsewhere.

Peace.

Monday Morning Moment – the Art of Argument

We were younger than we thought. Fresh out of graduate or med schools. In our first big real-world work. Most Saturdays in those days, we met for breakfast at Horton’s (now a Chipotle) and lingered over coffee. Talking about life and how to solve the problems around us. We didn’t always agree, and sometimes we got loud and passionate…but never unkind. We loved each other after all. We also cared about the same things but often saw those very same things differently.

Each going our separate ways those Saturdays, we had learned from one another. Always coming away with a larger sense of what it takes to make a better world. We valued our debates, our arguments, as much as our happier takes on life. Civil and thoughtful – with space to disagree.

A few years later, we all relocated across the US, in next real-world jobs. I took a teaching post at Yale University. My first foray out of the South. There, I had the same experience as with our Saturday morning breakfast club. Lively debate on life, university regulations, student issues, course content, and the politics of the day. I was definitely an outlier on some of the topics, being one of the youngest on faculty and from a part of the country sometimes maligned for its thinking. Still, the grace and respectful interest given to me by my colleagues again gave room to grow…maybe for all of us as we wrestled together things that mattered. The experience of belonging also breathed consideration into our arguments. We shared commonalities. A tenure track respected no one over another.

Recently, a lawyer friend of mine, in Seattle, sent me the following article on this topic of argument or dissent:

The New Truth – When the Moral Imperative Trumps the Rational Evidence, There’s No Arguing – Jacob Siegel

What we are witnessing, in the rapidly transforming norms around race, sex, and gender, is not an argument at all but a revolution in moral sentiment. In all revolutions, the new thing struggling to be born makes use of the old system in order to overthrow it. At present, institutions like the university, the press, and the medical profession preserve the appearance of reason, empiricism, and argument while altering, through edict and coercion, the meaning of essential terms in the moral lexicon, like fairness, equality, friendship, and love. That the effort wins so much support speaks to the deep contradictions and corruption of American meritocratic institutions, and of the liberal individualist moral regime it seeks to replace.

Moral revolutions cannot tolerate ambiguity, but there is so much that I’m not sure of. How does one argue with this new form of truth? Not in the old way. Not by taking the bait.Jacob Siegel

Siegel writes about the lost art of argument. His is a long and scholarly piece very worth the read. In brief, he states a strong case of how American culture, in particular, has become intolerant of reasoned debate. Pick the issue, and folks line up on one side or the other. If you are not on my side, then you are dead wrong. More than just wrong, you are a racist, sexist, fascist, Communist. And so it goes…far from the days of civil disagreement.

Photo Credit: Prezi, Christopher Lasch, Stephanie Rugo

I am still hopeful.

In the midst of all the meanness, especially in this election year, with political debates upon us, I believe we can turn this around.

Surely, we see the danger of hateful, polarizing exchanges. Part of our dilemma is that we are less face-to-face than we used to be. Before email and social media. Before COVID.

It’s too easy to use social media to make a public case on an issue and then dare someone to expose her biases and disagree.

I’m so thankful to have friends and family who allow for arguments on issues of religion, politics, etc. but without attacking.

The key to the art of argument is our persistent care for the person across from us. We may not love them, may not even like them, but we refuse to belittle or grow contempt for them. We refuse.

We determine to show respect, no matter how hot the argument becomes. We learn how to deescalate because the person matters more than the problem.

Scott Sauls speaks often on this matter of argument. His Tweet below expresses it better than I can.

Twitter source: Scott Sauls

“Attack problems not people…especially problems that attack people.”

Although in the public arena we see too much ungracious confrontations, we can find exceptions. I’ve taken to watching Blogging Heads on YouTube. On split-screen, two people (often educators but others as well) tackle some of our most pressing societal issues. They have been immensely helpful to me. Equipping their listeners on how to problem-solve and see issues in ways we might not have before. Mentoring on how to have respectful, thoughtful discussions on topics they may or may not agree on…but they amicably agree to disagree.

Twitter source: Ian V. Rowe

The art of argument (debate) doesn’t have to be lost. We can choose to weigh in on matters of extreme importance without taking the other person to the mat. Stating our reasoning without condescension. Listening, learning, allowing that we could be missing some part of the issue. Whether or not we get the same treatment, we both lose if at least one doesn’t remember the person in front of us has greater value than winning the the argument.

In closing, you’ll find two clips from Denzel Washington‘s 2007 film The Great Debaters. The plot is based on the true story of the rising debate team of the historically black Wiley College. The time was the 1930’s during the era of Jim Crow. The place, Texas. Washington played the role of Melvin Tolson, the outspoken debate coach. These two clips are riveting examples of an argument and a debate…and how it might be done again.

Thoughts? Please. In the comments below.

The Art of Having a Productive Argument

The Lost Art of Argument – Stephanie Rugo

YouTube Video – The Art of Argument – Jordan Peterson

Social Control and Human Dignity – Ben Peterson

Monday Morning Moment – Sensitiveness – This Might Not Be About You

Photo Credit: QuickMeme

Adapted from the Archives

The word “victim” is one I rarely use because the word itself further victimizes the person. Sometimes we may intend to wound with our words, but often we just state/post a thought, viewpoint, or opinion having no idea what a strong and public reaction we may receive in the aftermath.

Just yesterday, I was in a Twitter conversation where what I said exploded a barrage of words (from passersby not the person with whom I was engaged). My person (we follow each other but don’t know each other) had been victimized by an awful situation and I was trying to comfort and reason with him over it. Then the attacks came (not from him but from others). The words “Karen”, “gaslighting”, “oppressor”, and a “cishet” Christian (not in a good way) were used to describe me (I had to look up the linked words).

We stick to our own in life, in a way to enjoy a certain measure of understanding and acceptance. If we stay surface enough, we hopefully don’t offend, don’t disturb the sensitiveness of another.

Decide to go deeper or venture out among those different from us (be it politically, or gender identity, or race/ethnicity), in our current culture, it can get messy.

I want deep and wide relationships with people, but at times, I will mess up or be misunderstood. Our social media walls can get full of the most always graffiti, well-deserved, others might say.

Real face-to-face conversation and not fleeing the scene can both help…at least the relationship. The passer-bys? Not so much. I want to scream sometimes, “This might not be about you.”

Photo Credit: Flickr

I digress…

Years ago, my best friend and I went on a cross-country sight-seeing trip. Our plan was to camp out a couple of nights and then stay in a hotel for the third, and continue in that rhythm for the two weeks we were on our adventure. It didn’t always go well. I loved camping; she preferred the hotel. Our food preferences were more different than we realized. We did, fortunately, agree on the “not to be missed” aspects of our journey across America.

Along with all the great memories made, we had some humdinger disagreements through the course of our time away and returned home even better friends as an outcome. However, it didn’t come easily for either of us.

It turns out I could majorly stomp on her feelings without even knowing that was happening.

First, you must know I never intended to plow through her preferences to race toward my own. She was my dearest friend. It gave me joy to see her happy. Still…somewhere I crossed a line.

We have both matured greatly since then so this can encourage you…it has encouraged me in more recent times when I find myself in similar situations.

In our responses to one another, as friends, family, colleagues, (even strangers on social media) we can discover things both about ourselves and about the other.

Emotions are different from feelings. I’m not going into the physiological pathways or mental habit formation of all this, but the quote below by Debbie Hampton is very helpful:

Feelings and emotions are two sides of the same coin and highly interconnected but are two very different things…Emotions originally helped our species survive by producing quick reactions to threat, reward, and everything in between in their environments. Emotional reactions are coded in our genes. Emotions precede feelings, are physical, and instinctual. Feelings are sparked by emotions and colored by the thoughts, memories, and images that have become subconsciously linked with that particular emotion for you. But it works the other way around too. For example, just thinking about something threatening can trigger an emotional fear response. While individual emotions are temporary, the feelings they evoke may persist and grow over a lifetime…In the gaps between emotion, feeling, and acting, we all have the power to change and direct our lives for the better. “Debbie Hampton

In the milliseconds between any stimulus and our response to it, we can choose how we will respond emotionally. However, because we have set a course “over a lifetime” of responding certain ways, emotional patterns (feelings) are formed and put into practice. We can change these, if we find them detrimental to our physical, emotional, and relational lives.

That happened between my friend and me. In close proximity, for two weeks, our daily experience being very dependent on the other, we found we could each be irritating. The statements “That hurt my feelings” or “You hurt my feelings” became her lament…this from an accomplished teacher and successful manager of a classroom of tiny people.

For me…inconceivable. I loved her and had no desire to hurt her, ever. Still, it happened.

[By the way, this expression of sensitiveness using the word “feelings” may be more encountered in women, but men have some similar experience – you know you do – but call it different things. “Offended”, maybe? “Annoyed”? Is that where sarcasm or cynicism is birthed?]

Back to the story: In some way, my behavior set off for my friend emotions that were tagged by past feelings of being discounted, not considered, not favored. It wasn’t pretty…for either of us.

Fast forward, decades later.

We live in a culture of lofty sensitiveness. The measure for political correctness in our speech continues to get moved upward. We are a nation so easily offended that we can’t even discern what is truly intentionally offensive from what is just true.

Have you ever been in a season with a friend or colleague that feels emotionally murky? You don’t really know what’s going on, but you sense something is. Then…you step on the landmine – and you say something or do something or your face shows something – that explodes all kinds of feelings in the other person, from what seems a life-time of storing up.

This is what has now been popularized as weaponizing feelings or emotions. The outcome? Guilt, shame, wounding, and (for some) returning fire.

It will make me sad if this post “hurts feelings”, especially of those dear to me who read the blog. The thing is, just like my friend and me, we can go deeper in our relationships when we refuse to let feelings define our friendships. When we refuse to think ill of others we grow a spiritual maturity and neuroplasticity that impacts our emotional responses and our relational resilience.

What got me thinking about all this, this week was actually a reading from British scholar C. S. Lewis

He talks about the danger of weaponizing sensitiveness long before it became the cultural phenomenon it is today:

“‘Did you fight fair?’ Or did we not quite unknowingly falsify the whole issue? Did we pretend to be angry about one thing when we knew, or could have known, that our anger had a different and much less presentable cause? Did we pretend to be ‘hurt’ in our sensitive and tender feelings…when envy, ungratified vanity, or thwarted self-will was our real trouble? Such tactics often succeed. The other parties give in. They give in not because they don’t know what is really wrong with us but because they have long known it only too well, and that sleeping dog can be roused, that skeleton brought out of its cupboard, only at the cost of imperilling their whole relationship with us. It needs surgery which they know we will never face. And so we win; by cheating. But the unfairness is very deeply felt. Indeed what is commonly called ‘sensitiveness’ is the most powerful engine of domestic tyranny sometimes a lifelong tyranny. How we should deal with it in others I am not sure; but we should be merciless to its first appearances in ourselves.Preparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis.

After being an atheist, Lewis did not come to faith in Christ until his mid-thirties. His intense study of the Bible, relationship with God, and deep, gut-honest conversations with a circle of intimate friends moved him to such understanding of people and life…and our responses to both.

Any thoughts on this? Please comment below.

Preparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis

What Is the Difference Between Feelings and Emotions? – Debbie Hampton

The “Weaponizing” of EmotionsWade Trimmer

The A-Z Guide to Feelings and Emotions – Sebastian Gendry

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life – Deb Mills

Inner Circles – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills

Invisible Wounds of the Sensitive, Empathic and Emotionally Intense Child – Imi Lo – this is a sobering, emotionally charged article. I resonated with it in preparing for the blog above and include it because it might be helpful for some to read. Just a warning that it is hard to read because it honestly did not give much place for hope. [If I missed it, please illuminate me in the Comments below.] Maybe the hope comes in recognizing what we as parents might be doing that’s hurtful to an emotionally intense child and correct course.

Monday Morning Moment – Building Our Own Personal Surge Capacity in the Longer Stretch of COVID-19

Photo Credit: Long Running Living

Let’s talk about capacity! I’m still working on my Monday blog on a Tuesday. One of the fall-outs of COVID.

What started, in our country, as a sprint in March is turning into more a long-distance run. 6 months now. 184 days thus far of physical distancing (for this medically at-risk person).

Remember how we first thought it might be just 2 weeks of quarantining to eradicate the threat? OK, I was super-naive.

We’re becoming weary of certain words and phrases. Pandemic. Unprecedented. Uncharted. New normal. We’re all in this together. Even social distancing. [I was thankful when that phrase went out of vogue and “physical distancing” replaced it. “Social distancing” put a wrongful prescription on its hearers. We need to physical distance, yes, but never social distance. We have learned.]

Remember when surge capacity became a worrisome phrase in our daily news cycle. Will our hospitals have enough ICU beds and ventilators to properly care for the rising numbers of persons with grave cases of COVID? That was the fear. We heard the daily troubling reports from New York state officials. Those reports were heard, and hundreds of ventilators were sent, as well as the provision of field hospitals, even the arrival of a huge hospital ship.  Peak hospitalizations with COVID have passed for now. Surge capacity tested and proven ample.

Why does this matter?

Each of us has our own surge capacity (related to stress, trauma, loss). During COVID, we are all having it tested. Some more than others. I think of parents trying to juggle work, child care, and monitoring schooling. Teachers preparing in-class lessons and teaching remotely as well in the various hybrid programs. Essential workers. First responders. Hospital personnel.

Here is a general definition of capacity-building. It is where we are.

Capacity-building is defined as the “process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations and communities need to survive, adapt, and thrive in a fast-changing world.” An essential ingredient in capacity-building is transformation that is generated and sustained over time from within; transformation of this kind goes beyond performing tasks to changing mindsets and attitudes. – United Nations Academic Impact

Remember when we first started experiencing COVID (at least in the news)? We had big plans for the physical distancing and working remotely and the time we would recoup in that experience. We would take a college course, learn a new language, renovate the house, or declutter our lives.

Then we were surprised at the sluggishness that we encountered. The dullness. The quiet that gradually turned into isolation.

We mentally prepared for a sprint, but the rules changed. We had to change how we ran to set our minds and bodies for a longer run.

Science journalist Tara Haelle recently posted an excellent piece on human surge capacity. “We need to recognize that we’re grieving multiple losses while managing the ongoing impact of trauma and uncertainty. The malaise so many of us feel, a sort of disinterested boredom, is common in research on burnout, Masten says. But other emotions accompany it: disappointment, anger, grief, sadness, exhaustion, stress, fear, anxiety — and no one can function at full capacity with all that going on.”

[Her article is one of a collection of three articles at Medium.com on capacity, power surge, zoom fatigue, and workplace diversity and inclusion.]

Haelle writes in detail on our surge capacity and how we can endure and actually build capacity for this season of prolonged uncertainty. Her main points follow (read her piece for greater detail).

  • Accept that life is different right now
  • Expect less from yourself
  • Recognize the different aspects of grief
  • Experiment with “both-and” thinking
  • Look for activities, new and old, that continue to fulfill you
  • Focus on maintaining and strengthening important relationships
  • Begin slowly building your resilience bank account

We don’t want to fall victim to what seemed like it would be a sprint but has turned into a marathon. Organizational psychologist and professor Adam Grant tweeted wisdom about the problem of becoming sluggish or judging that in others. [I do disagree that we’re all socially awkward now…just pointing to his Tweet.]

Photo Credit: Twitter, Adam M. Grant

Moving into the 7th month of COVID experience, we are making decisions on how to better maneuver. Still committed to safe practices but re-engaging in life with people we love…people whose influence and very presence we have missed in these physically distanced days.

Life is precious. There is a balance in what is real and how we can build capacity to meet that reality. Otherwise life becomes something less. We know what’s working and what’s not. If not, we can counsel with each other. I say we go for it…stretching ourselves out for the long distance run, bringing all those we can along with us.

Forgive the “motivational speechiness” – it’s what happens when I think too long on something and yet lack the answers. Recognition, desire and hope all together birth action…so let’s get after it!

Please post in Comments what is working in your life to build capacity. See you on the road.

[Postscript: The image below is one sort of those “both-and” situations Haelle prescribes. We as parents teach our children had to be resourceful and responsible in hard times, and we also teach them how they might make the world a kinder place for us all.]Photo Credit: The Purposeful Parenting Movement, Facebook

I’m Listening – Talk Has the Power to Save Lives – Radio Show

Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Dave’s Wisdom

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[Adapted from the Archives]

Picture this scenario.

At first, you really liked working with this person. Then, bit by bit, he/she began wearing on you. He is always messing with his phone. Her solution to today’s problem is too labor-intensive. His email responses have become terse. She is late for your meeting. You think, maybe I was wrong about him. He is not the person I thought he was. Maybe, she’s the wrong person on the bus…at least on my bus.

When a relationship begins to deteriorate at work (or home), you are wise to take steps to turn this around as quickly as possible. You could be in a work situation that has been difficult from the outset. It is still possible for you to make inroads in turning that relationship toward a more healthy or positive one. If not altogether, at least from your side. Consider an adage that has had a long and useful run in our family and work.

Your opinion of someone approximates their opinion of you.Dave Mills

There are exceptions, but I have found this to be wise counsel (from my husband, no less) in both personal and professional relationships. When what was a warm, congenial relationship takes a turn toward the negative, you can actually work, from your side, to restore the relationship. Even to take it to a deeper level. It can get more uncomfortable at first, because you have to start with your own thoughts toward that person. How have those thoughts changed?

We send signals to each other – whether we speak or not.

Mom raised us hoping we would be positive, peaceful people – often using the saying from Walt Disney’s film Bambi:

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

Good counsel except for the reality of those conversations that still go on in our heads and color our attitudes, our tone of voice, our preferences, and our decisions.

Let’s say I have an amicable relationship with a colleague, and then something happens. I may not even be aware of it – a misunderstanding, a misconstrued action, an insensitivity unaware. Then a chill develops, or a clear outright dislike. I have a window of opportunity to clear that up. Otherwise, if I don’t act, then a process can begin where I turn around and decide that person is also a jerk and has woefully misjudged me…and off we go.

Remember: This can go both ways. You may have had a few off days with a colleague, and find yourself just not thinking so well of him, then stop it! It’s possible you can keep them from picking up that signal and prevent the relationship from getting more toxic as they decide you’re not so great either.

If I refuse to think ill of another person and discipline myself to be respectful, deferent in my demeanor, and tireless in pursuing understanding, I could restore that relationship. If it doesn’t improve right away, my attitude and actions work for my own benefit and can definitely help rebuild trust with my team members. One day…that relationship may also turn. It’s worth the effort.

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave

Job coach and writer Jon Acuff talks about the four ways we invest in our careers – through skills, character, hustle, and relationships. In an interview with LifeReimagined.com, he had this to say about difficult, or neglected, work relationships:

“Even if you have skills, character and hustle, without relationships, it’s the career version of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Why?”

“If you don’t have relationships, you eventually don’t have people in your life who can tell you the truth about the decisions you’re making. You don’t have people who can tell you no or question you honestly. What I’ve learned is that leaders who can’t be questioned end up doing questionable things.”LifeReimagined.com interview with Jon Acuff

He identifies three types of people in our lives (work or otherwise, really): friends, foes, and advocates. Jon writes in Do Over:

“The best thing to give a foe is distance. We should ignore most foes. The problem of course is that we won’t. If your definition of foe is too loose and is essentially “anyone who kind of bothers me ever,” your job is going to be miserable. If you see people as your adversaries, it’s almost impossible to have a good working relationship with them. The first thing is to understand whether these foes are clueless or calculated. A clueless foe is that person whose behavior encourages you to fail. They are not malicious. They are not trying to make you lose, but with the power of their influence you are. “Bad habits are almost always a social disease – if those around us model and encourage them, we’ll almost always fall prey. Turn ‘accomplices’ into ‘friends’ and you can be two-thirds more likely to succeed.”Jon Acuff, Do Over

I think what Jon says is true. Because of my own worldview and value system (and married to Dave all these years), I don’t think we can just acknowledge there are foes out there and distance ourselves from them. Sometimes, that is virtually impossible to do and still be effective at work. Because what can happen, if we don’t act to keep our own thinking clear, is that we take on some of that “foe-dom” ourselves. Maybe you aren’t going to be bosom buddies with this person, but your own work and other relationships can suffer if you develop bad habits around this person. Better to work on the relationship.

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 6 (2)Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 6

“For no matter what we achieve, if we don’t spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect, we cannot possibly have a great life. But if we spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect – people we really enjoy being on the bus with and who will never disappoint us – then we will almost certainly have a great life, no matter where the bus goes. The people we interviewed from the good-to-great companies clearly loved what they did, largely because they loved who they did it with. – Jim Collins, Good to Great

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 3

For as he thinks within himself, so he is. Proverbs 23:7

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Philippians 4:8

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 2

 Do Over by Jon Acuff

Fourteen Indispensable Leadership Quotes from Jim Collins – Thom Rainer

How to Deal With Difficult Co-workers – Read, keeping in mind that some days you might be the one perceived as difficult.

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 4Photos: Just a few of the men in Dave’s life who required no special work on his part to love and respect…and there are many more. Grateful.

Monday Morning Moment – Chadwick Boseman’s Legacy and Ours

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Shock waves shot around our country and the world at the news of actor and Black Panther superhero Chadwick Boseman‘s death Friday. He was/is a bigger-than-life figure in our culture. [Boseman still “is”. I struggle in using the word “was”.] As we all know now, he had late-stage colon cancer since 2016. That we didn’t know isn’t a surprise given Boseman’s private nature and also the incredible production of 10 of his films from 2016 until now (one of them Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom still to be released). As he fought his battle with cancer at the same time, what grace, focus, and courage he displayed through all the making of those films!

Chadwick Boseman, ‘Black Panther’ Star, Dies at 43

Boseman died on Jackie Robinson Day – August 28, 2020 – at the age of 43.

This weekend, violence raged on in our cities as we grieve not only the senseless deaths and woundings of recent weeks…but now the loss of Chadwick Boseman. I spent my free time this weekend studying his life through his films, interviews, and the words of others who knew him well.

‘Black Panther’ Director Ryan Coogler Pens Emotional, Beautiful Tribute to Chadwick Boseman – Ryan Parker, Borys Kit

Boseman was very commited to raising the opportunity and quality of life for fellow black people. I couldn’t find where he supported the riots that our country is enduring right now, but what I did find was illustrative of his character. He used his work to reflect the dignity of humankind. He showed his own respect for others not only in the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther but in all his films. Several of which were biopics – two of my favorites being Marshall (on the life of Justice Thurgood Marshall) and “42” (on the life of baseball player Jackie Robinson). Both movies are timeless in their handling of justice for blacks in America.Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

After seeing the incredible film Black Panther some time ago, I was reminded of the relatively small part Boseman also played in Draft Day. Two very different films, but both where he played one who took his platform to champion others. This seemed to be true of Boseman’s public and private life.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

After a weekend of trying to get hold of the life and character of this man from Anderson, South Carolina…this man who became a Christ follower as a boy and served in his church’s choir and youth group…I couldn’t get to sleep last night.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

What Boseman accomplished in his relatively short life as a public figure will last as long as we watch the movies.

What can a regular non-celebrity do in our world gone mad? What really can this older white woman in the suburbs of a small city? What can you do?

Last night, in the dark trying not to wake my husband, I grabbed my phone and wrote the following list. It came quickly. Hopefully it is understandable.

  • Listen hard with ears, mind and heart open.
  • Seek to understand.
  • Ask the question: “What are we hearing?”
  • Ask the question: “What are we not hearing?”
  • Ask the next layer of question without judging: “What sounds true? What sounds like deception motivated by something else? How can we know?
  • What is the source of what we are hearing? [Sidebar: Where we get our news is often where we get our attitudes. If we take in news at all, we need a mix of views or we won’t critically be able to sift for what is true…or hopefully true.]
  • Then…
  • Speak up on behalf of one another.
  • Stand up against evil and for the truth.
  • Act up? NO. Act in love.
  • Mobilize our resources, relationships, and influence to actually make a true, lasting difference for those most vulnerable in our country.
  • Who has the courage to say “Enough” to what is hurting more than healing, to what is destroying more than building up, to what is not really for change for those who most need the change?

Boseman once said: “The only difference between a hero and the villain is that the villain chooses to use that power in a way that is selfish and hurts other people.”

Therapist Kalee Vandergrift-Blackwell wrote a beautiful piece (below) on “a brown, immigrant, refugee, colonized Jesus”.

Did You Know Jesus Is Brown? – Kalee Vandergrift

He died at the hands of the political and religious leaders of the day, but…He did not die a victim. He gave his life in all its beauty, courage, and truth – for our sakes…and He gave his life for the political and religious leaders of the day.

I can’t even imagine Jesus burning and looting, hurting people and neighborhoods. Even when He called out the wrong motives of religious leaders and turned over the tables of opportunists, everything He did, He did in love. He calls us, His followers, to do the same.

Jesus calls us to love our neighbors…and even to love our enemies. Not a soft celebrity life, oh no. We aren’t allowed to just take sides…we are to full-bore, wide open love people – to recognize, respect, and validate in all we do the worth, dignity, and God-breathed humanity of all.

This is our legacy…this is what I want to have the courage and the depth of love to leave when my life is over.

Not complacency. Not comfort. Not smugness. Not arrogance. Not blaming another party or one president over another (if there’s blame it extends much farther…). Not violence. Not isolation.

So…that is the burn I got this weekend after taking in and grieving over the loss of Chadwick Boseman.

One last quote from Boseman that is especially poignant and inspiring right now is this: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything You gave me.”

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Chadwick Boseman – AZ Quotes

10 Inspiring Quotes From Chadwick Boseman That Could Change Your Life – A. R. Shaw

YouTube Video – Chadwick Boseman Tribute – Marvel