Category Archives: Bookmarked Summer

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar Medleys, Life Online, Late Summer, the Older Generation, and Friendship

Friday Faves…here we go!

1) Beyond the Guitar Medleys – Music themes can fill us with such emotion – deep nostalgia about a shared experience, a memorable adventure, or a sweet story. Really great soundtracks often have several themes that draw us in and take us back. Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar,  has arranged and performed some lovely medleys from such music scores. Here are some of them (5 faves for Friday) and the rest are at the bottom of today’s blog:

2) Life Online – Obviously, if you’re reading this, then you’re online. The thing is, our lives have been greatly enhanced by the benefits of technology. We do, from time to time, need to revisit our habits which might include time spent online and for what purposes.

So much has been written already about the downside of screen-time and the prevalence of smartphone addiction. The distractions, mental laziness, shallow thinking, almost communication.

My husband got his first smartphone for work around 2005 or after. The rest of our family slowly moved in that direction.

I personally spend way too much time online. Sometimes for positive outcomes, sometime just because it has become knee-jerk…a time-filler. It’s what I do now unfortunately. When I used to carry a book around in my purse.

It could be addiction, and that’s got to change.

Photo Credit: Science Info

“The same chemicals are released in your brain when you get a text message as when you drink an alcoholic beverage, smoke a cigarette or gamble. What in essence is happening is we’re allowing children from 6 to 10 years of age access to our liquor cabinet when we give them a smartphone. They’re constantly texting so they’re continually getting high.”John Gatica

Our Brains on Smartphones

John Gatica is an educator, and his observations regarding children and neuroscience are sobering. Now not all texts are happy for adults, but the addiction phenomenon still holds true.

Our phones give the illusion of presence…and good. We are doing “good” with a text to a friend or family member – a text taking the place of a full-on “showing up”. Social media have grown a forest over our sleepy selves where we become lazy and reactive (mildly or harshly depending on the subject matter).
Now I’ll take a text over no contact. What the concern here is more what is happening to us when our online life is more real to us than our actual face-to-face, with skin-on, encounters with people… What’s going on in our brains long-term? Something to think about.
For more than a few seconds.

The Effects of Smartphones on Your Brain – Kendra Cherry

Is Social Media Making us Stupid? – Alex Kantrowitz

3) Late Summer – My sweet husband’s garden is all a tangle now. The vegetables are finishing up, and the flowers, though still beautiful, are winding down. As the feel of Fall teases us in the early mornings, I wanted to capture, once again, for your enjoyment and my own, some of this not-to-be-undone late summer garden of ours. Please post some of your own beauties below.

4) Older Generation – Just want to give a quick shout-out to the older generation – our parents and others who have graced our lives with wisdom, beauty, humor and Godly values.

When our children gather around our table, I realize we are fast becoming the older generation. We have one precious mom left this side of Heaven and hopefully she will be with us for many years more. I am thankful for her – and all I’ve learned from her over the years… Hopefully our own adult children and the grands will take every opportunity to lean in to her wisdom and love. We are a bit of an “old soul” family and I’m thankful for each one in this family.

“But I know people who as children had their grandparents’ memories in their memories, so that in a sense, as young people
they had old minds.  They had a kind of seasoning.”  Wendell Berry, 1973 [Source undetermined]

So here’s just a bit of gratitude for the older generations…those who give us a glimpse into the future which can seem too dark at times, and yet with faith in a good God and a love that holds us together, we take hope. Thankful for three sweet parents who have gone on ahead…and for MomMom still very much with us, encouraging us always.

Do you have the pleasure and great good of the company of “olders”?

YouTube Video – Mother – (Love Bigger Than the Ocean Is What You’ve Given to Me)

5) Friendship – Friendships have always come easy for me and I’m thankful. A few years back, I read Scott Sauls‘ book Befriend. It was both affirming and convicting as the realization that friendship, like marriage, takes nurturing…more than maybe I was giving. Then 2020 happened and the Coronavirus wreaked havoc on relationships, isolating us from one another.

Fast forward to 2022, and I find myself very much needing Jennie Allen‘s latest book Find Your People. Oddly, her online study (shades of COVID Zoom calls) drew me to the book. Finishing the study this coming week, I now want to take her counsel in finding my people.

Allen talks about how we can quite accidentally just stop investing in relationships. Our post-COVID culture has pushed us into even more independence and self-reliance than we had before. We isolate without even thinking about it and our days move quietly on.

Maybe that isn’t your experience…so hang in there with me.

Allen reflects back on how life through the ages flourishes within community. More a village experience than whatever it is we have today. People know each other and they are invested in each other. She lists out the realities necessary for healthy community:

  • Proximity
  • Transparency
  • Accountability (real connection)
  • Shared Mission
  • Consistency

It’s out of this realm that true friendship grows. Spending time together. Being our real selves. Allowing others to speak into our lives. Teaming together for a greater good. Showing up again and again.

These are the basic elements of community…and friendship.

If you are experiencing the loneliness of untended friendships, Allen’s book will help. If you just can’t put another book in your queue right now, at least consider what’s going on in your friendships. I’m not talking about acquaintanceships either. Deep, beautiful, lasting friendships.

Let’s get back out there and find our people.Photo Credit: Find Your People, Jennie Allen

[The liturgy below doesn’t really focus on friendship, but it speaks to hospitality which also took a hit with COVID. A beautiful prayer.]Photo Credit: Tiffany Holden, Facebook, Rabbit Room Chinwag

___________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot. Hope you have a weekend full of your people…with quiet in between.

Bonuses:

Even Tolkien Felt Like a Failure – Scott Sauls

An incredibly helpful Twitter thread on marriage:

[Trip to Cracker Barrel]

3 Simple Habits that Can Protect Your Brain From Cognitive Decline – Tara Swart

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes, C. S. Lewis

Photo Credit: Facebook, Rabbit Room Chinwag

*The rest of Beyond the Guitar’s medleys (so far):

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar Nostalgia, Parents & Adult Children, Welcome to Holland, Food Fit for Memory-Making, and Boundaries that Define Us

This week’s Friday Faves – GO!

1) Beyond the Guitar Nostalgia – How about all the feels from musical themes of favorite old movies? That’s what happens for us when Nathan arranges and performs themes from films we love.

While he takes a brief hiatus from his usual YouTube channel to focus on other work, only we Patreon subscribers get to hear the latest (subscribe). He is creating some new instructional content which makes me want to learn classical guitar. In this bit of time in the interim, I decided to highlight some of his arrangements already appreciated by 500k-plus YouTube subscribers. Enjoy. Oh, and comment below a favorite song of yours that he arranges/performs.

YouTube Video – The Last of the Mohicans: Promentory – Classical Guitar Cover

YouTube Video – How to Train Your Dragon – Romantic Flight (Classical Guitar Cover)

YouTube Video – Pure Imagination (Willy Wonka) – Classical Guitar Cover

YouTube Video – The Lion King Main Theme (“This Land”) on Guitar

YouTube Video – Amazing Grace Meets Classical Guitar (Epic Version) – this one Nathan did as a request from his mom and dad. So beautiful. Thanks again, Nae.

2) Parents & Adult Children – If we have grandchildren, then we have adult children. Loving them both in ways they understand is a crucial part of our life journey. This week I came across 3 excellent and empowering articles by author, counselor Dennis Rainey. If you want to parent adult children well, these articles have wise and applicable counsel for you. You adult children might enjoy them as well. The articles are linked below along with a couple of others that are also treasures.  https://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/2012-December-family-snapshot-014.jpg

Sometimes, we can be hard on our adult children. Too many demands or expectations.  I’m sure I’m not alone with bringing my own vision into the present of what our family would look like, all grown-up with little ones. To be honest, they can also be hard on us (without even realizing it). However, what’s more important? The people in these relationships! Full-stop. Our kids have their own sharp learning curves of life without pressure from mom and dad to bend in our direction. It’s enough to see them when we can and cheer them on in their own new life configurations. If they make choices we would not make…it doesn’t change the love. Remember they also deal with the choices we make.

Read the articles. You’ll be glad you did.

“Life is a pilgrimage of learning, a voyage of discovery, in which our mistaken views are corrected, our distorted notions adjusted, our shallow opinions deepened and some of our vast ignorances diminished.”John Stott

3) Welcome to Holland – This goes out to you who are parents, siblings, extended family or friends of children/adults with special needs or medical complexities. A friend introduced me this week to   “Welcome to Holland”, a beautiful essay by Emily Perl Kingsley. My friend has a medically complex child, and so did I.

“Did” only because he is grown now. When he was little, he had major struggles and still has some of the aftermath of those struggles and always will.

When Dan came home to us through adoption, we knew he would have his challenges, but you’re never prepared for the twists and turns of that through childhood and into adulthood. With all the trips to doctors and therapists, meetings with teachers, and one-on-one times with him as the topic, there was still his joy that kept us marveling at this wonder.

He was an incredibly exuberant kid and seemed far less bothered by his struggles than we were.

A friend, years ago, asked us, regarding Dan, “What’s it like to have a ticker tape parade thrown for you, every time he sees you?”

It was something very special.

So…welcome to Holland.

Welcome To Holland

by Emily Perl Kingsley

Copyright©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. 

All rights reserved. 

Reprinted by permission of the author.

 

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel.  It’s like this……

 

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy.  You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans.  The Coliseum.  The Michelangelo David.  The gondolas in Venice.  You may learn some handy phrases in Italian.  It’s all very exciting.

 

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives.  You pack your bags and off you go.  Several hours later, the plane lands. The flight attendant comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

 

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy!  I’m supposed to be in Italy.  All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

 

But there’s been a change in the flight plan.  They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

 

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease.  It’s just a different place.

 

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language.  And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

 

It’s just a different place.  It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy.  But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips.  Holland even has Rembrandts.

Pin on WindmillsPhoto Credit: Pinterest

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there.  And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”  

 

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

 

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

__________________________________________________________________________

Love you, Dan.

4) Food Fit for Memory-Making – Writing for the last two weeks has been on the back burner. We’ve been traveling, seeing friends, and enjoying great food as part of those experiences. Now that we’re back home, eating to live more than living to eat will have to be restored to the daily.

However, can I just celebrate great food for a moment. The images below take us back, just the last two weeks, to food shared with friends in beautiful spaces. An anniversary was celebrated and Dave got his Butterfinger Blizzard – a twice-a-year indulgence which never disappoints.

My mom’s cooking has settled deep in my memories since she’s been in Heaven for 20 years now. Nothing like her biscuits and gravy, Thanksgiving dinners, and vegetable soup and cornbread. Sweet memories of her and the food she prepared. Memories imprinted by food shared together.

The memories we’ve made recently, accompanied by food, will suffice for now. Bon appétit .

Shyndigz – a local desserterie. Their fresh fruit cake has always been my favorite UNTIL they’ve recently introduced a Tres Leches cake. Once a month it will tempt me for sure…so amazingly good!

5) Boundaries that Define Us – All my adult life, I have struggled with (and been known by) being fuzzy-boundaried. Easy-going, fairly amicable, not very demanding. Then recently, on more than one occasion, friends have asked me about my preferences and desires in life. What do you like to do? What do you want to accomplish these days? How do you fill your day? What are your goals? Hopes? Dreams?

I stuttered…trying to answer. It seems much of my life has been spent bending toward helping, serving, pleasing others…That is NOT a bad thing, but to not be able to come up with answers to the above questions really got me puzzling about my own self-awareness.

Henry Cloud Quote: "That is why success and fruitfulness depend as much ...Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, Dr. Henry Cloud

Presently I’m reading a book that may very well help me get to those answers. It is Dr. Henry Cloud‘s Changes That Heal. His chapter on Boundaries has me stopped in my tracks.

“Boundaries, in a broad sense, are lines or things that mark a limit, or border. In a psychological sense, boundaries are the realization of our own person apart from others. This sense of separateness forms the basis of personal identity. It says what we are and what we are not, what we will choose and what we will not choose, what we will endure and what we will not, what we feel and what we will not feel, what we like and what we do not like, and what we want and what we do not want. Boundaries, in short, define us.”

Being a fuzzy-boundaried sort, I’m not really sure about some of these things, but now I’m on a mission of determining who I am and who I’m not. This may seem a strange venture for someone as old as I am. Hear me out.

Dr. Cloud talks about the various boundaries that make up our identity: physical appearance/body; attitudes; feelings; behavior; thoughts; abilities; desires; choices; limits; and, lastly, negative assertions (who/what we are NOT).

If we don’t know these things about ourselves, then we are bound to bump into, step over, or be drawn into the boundaries of others.

Here’s an example of this: I AM a reconciler, and I AM NOT a grudge-holder. So when my extended family is struggling with a family rift, it’s somewhat confusing for me, and really hard personally. How boundaries come to play in this is that I can’t make this rift go away…my own limits, attitudes, feelings, and desires (among other things) keep me from crossing others’ boundaries…This leaves me feeling hopeless, and sometimes helpless. My alternatives (and they are good ones) are to love my family, encourage those also reeling from this, and praying for all of us.

I can NOT fix it. If my fuzzy-boundaried self insisted on somehow making things better, it would leave me worse for the wear…and the rift still unchanged. We all have boundaries at play in our relationships.

In fact, some boundaries we set up voluntarily by our attitudes and thoughts. When we feel harmed by someone, we impose boundaries to prevent getting hurt again. Are these actual or imagined? It seems the pain continues in the trauma of unforgiveness. I just don’t know. One thing I do know is that this sort of boundary is something I AM NOT willing to do…especially with family. Where does that leave us who disagree on this?

So…forgive all verbal processing on this. Just trying to figure some of this out, and I’m only beginning. Unless you know yourself well, Dr. Cloud’s lesson on boundaries might be an excellent one to consider. One very beautiful extra thought on this: although we are made in God’s image, this is one place we differ from Him. He is infinite, and we are finite. As we get to know ourselves better, we can appreciate Him all the more and depend on Him even more readily for what we need both inside and outside our boundaries.

[This same Dr. Cloud also wrote Necessary Endings and Boundaries.]

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s all for this week. Any comments or thoughts you have, please share below. Blessings on you and thanks for stopping by.

Bonuses:

Road to Wholeness Podcast – Redeeming Heartache

How Do You Move Through Past Trauma? – Interview with Jerry Sittser – Podcast – Adam Young Counseling

Photo Credit: Laugh It’s Free Facebook page

Books on my Summer Reading List

Your Home Affects Your Longevity – Here’s How the Longest-Living People Outfit Their Spaces – Erica Sloan

5 Friday Faves – Christmas in July with Beyond the Guitar; No Advice or Not Without Relationship; Summer Fun, Food, & Film; a Working Kitchen, and Parenting Trials & Travails

It’s Friday. Faves of the week lined up. Add yours in Comments below.

1) Christmas in July with Beyond the Guitar – OK, so Christmas in July is actually a thing. I’m actually a big fan…especially when the Hallmark Channel has its Countdown to Christmas movies through the month of July. Sentimentality and plot predictability not withstanding, you can’t beat the gorgeous winter scenes (or summer for you in the Southern Hemisphere) and all the Christmas-themes food and decor. So fun.

That’s why, I’m offering up these Christmas classical guitar creations of Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar. Merry Christmas in July!

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, Tyler Scheerschmidt, John Shutika

While Nathan takes a brief hiatus from his usual YouTube channel to focus on his other work, only we Patreon subscribers get new content (subscribe). In this bit of time, I decided to highlight some of his arrangements already appreciated by his 500k-plus subscribers. These four linked below are for your Christmas in July enjoyment.

YouTube – 3 Christmas Movie Classics on Guitar – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube – A Star Wars Christmas – Classical Guitar Mashup – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (w/ a surprise guest) – Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube – December Song (Peter Hollens) – Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

2) No Advice or Not Without Relationship? My husband and I are currently in a summer soulcare experience. It’s been fascinating and super helpful. One of the guidelines in the small group times is No Advice. I was surprised at how quiet I became in the sessions. Asking good questions that will allow others to make their way to their own solutions is a skill that may be just stirring for me. Sure hope so.

New Mom Advice Quotes. QuotesGram
Photo Credit: Quotesgram

When

Why are we so bent on giving advice? Can it be for the thrill of having power or influence? I don’t think that is my goal, but it could be part of my unconscious motivation. Also, it is not a conscious goal for me to advise so we can move on from the painful moment…I don’t think giving advice is born out of my own discomfort.

I frankly love advice personally (good counsel, mentoring, coaching). Maybe, though, it has always been in relationship with people who clearly love me and want the best for me.

That’s definitely the best foundation for any of us to advise others. We need to truly care bout them.

As for those who really don’t want advice from anyone else?…that’s a risky way to live, for sure.

Photo Credit: Heartlight
Photo Credit: Heartlight
The answer for sure, unless someone is stepping out in front of a proverbial bus (or a real one), don’t lead with advice. Ask questions. Go deeper. Give the seeking one an opportunity to understand their own situation better. Take it to God. He gives the absolute best advice.
Photo Credit: Heartlight
3) Summer Fun, Food & Film – Road trips. A day of fishing. Botanical Garden in full bloom. Summer fruits and vegetables. BLT sandwiches at their best. Ladies’ Teas. Fish fries. Top Gun Maverick.
Any road trip has to have Wawa coffee attached to it:
A day of fishing with three sweet generations:
Visits in the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden:
Summer fruits & vegetables:  
The summer BLT sandwich with a perfect tomato from the garden:
A tomato grown and enjoyed by this guy:
A ladies’ tea:
Fish Fries:
Top Gun Maverick – the best movie I’ve seen in a very long time!
4) A Working Kitchen – Just this week, I heard the term “working kitchen” and was intrigued. My sweet little kitchen has probably not had an update (except the floor) since it was built in the 60s. It is small but quite functional. Still it is not like the kitchen I had years ago in East Tennessee that supported a growing family, lots of company, and the huge vegetable garden of my green-thumbed husband. We used to can and freeze so much until I wasn’t very gleeful with the buckets of produce he’d bring in late in summer. And maybe I’m just not feeling it, work-wise right now. Still the idea of a working kitchen – with all the food prep, in-season fruits and vegetables, baked bread cooling on the stove, and something always simmering in the slow cooker – sounds so lovely. How about you? Would you say yours is a working kitchen?
[Our youngest son’s cooking club in a working kitchen of ours in Morocco.]
5) Parenting Trials and Travails – Those of us with children  want to be good parents, right? Now it’s possible the parenting gene isn’t dominant in some of us (therefore we need advice/counsel – see above). Good parenting is hugely important to help children know they are seen, soothed, safe, and secure…and to open the future for them to be good parents as well.
Photo Credit: Heartlight
We struggle sometimes with the culture where we parent. Western culture isn’t easy on parents these days. So many opinions. So many approaches. So much judgment… We are better served by searching maybe a mentor or two, or a book or two…and possibly changing those as our kids grow.
Sigh…
“Make the ordinary come alive” is something we can all do for our children. I have struggled with the guilt (or shame) of not being that “good parent”…or good enough parent. Fortunately, most days, I can turn toward that negative thought and face it down.
Our kids are grown, but we have the blessing of grandkids. What I might have missed in parenting well our kiddos may well be possible with the grandparenting of these littles. Making the ordinary come alive with them…and encouraging and praying for their parents. God knew what He was doing when He placed these precious one in their hands (as He knew the same placing our kids in our hands). Whew…
__________________________________________________________________________
That’s the 5 for this week. Please share in Comments below any favorite finds or favorite re-visits. We’d love to learn from you. Thanks for stopping by. It means the world!
Bonuses:
“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”
– C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”

Classical Art Memes That Are Too Accurate

Heaven In Ordinary

Because high heaven made itself so low

That I might glimpse it through a stable door,

Or hear it bless me through a hammer blow,

And call me through the voices of the poor,

Unbidden now, its hidden light breaks through

Amidst the clutter of the every day,

Illuminating things I thought I knew,

Whose dark glass brightens, even as I pray.

Then this world’s walls no longer stay my eyes,

A veil is lifted likewise from my heart,

The moment holds me in its strange surprise,

The gates of paradise are drawn apart,

I see his tree, with blossom on its bough,

And nothing can be ordinary now. – Malcolm Guite

Worship Wednesday – Stand Firm – for We Are “Almost Home” – Matt Papa, Matt Boswell, & MercyMe

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.1 Corinthians 15:58

Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm then…Ephesians 6:13-14a

My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber.Psalm 121:2-3

Stand firm. So what if the ground seems to tremble underneath our feet?

We have the great witness of the earth shaking (Matthew 27:50-51) on the dark day when Jesus died, for us, on that lonely cross. The earth shook again three days later (Matthew 28:2) – as the stone rolled away from the entrance to the tomb revealed it empty – a dead teacher now a risen Savior.

Clearly, there is a shaking going on right now, all around us. We can’t explain it away…nor can we be sure the meaning of it theologically. The mind and intention of God are beyond our human understanding. However, we know for sure that He is good and His love surpasses anything we can understand this side of Heaven.

Therefore, we stand firm. With hope, extending comfort, and showing His love as opportunity arises (which is a fairly constant experience). As His people, God means for us to ever come alongside.Photo Credit: Heartlight, George Swinnock

In Curt Thompson‘s book The Soul of Desire, the chapter “Trauma and Shame” reveals a word of wisdom for this time we find ourselves:

“Everywhere we turn the world appears to be enduring pathos without end…We know this not just because others “out there” are encountering pain or foisting it upon us: we carry it in the center of our own souls, and it courses through our own bodies…Perhaps this is why the Old Testament prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel are so full of words of warning and judgment while offering, by sheer number, far fewer words of comfort and hope.”

Thompson goes on to explore how our thinking strays from the beauty God intended for us to create in this world and fixes onto analyzing, judging, and processing what’s going on around us. Rather than being attuned “to the present moment and being open to creating with God whatever may be in front of me”, we struggle with “the anxiety of the future or the regret of the past”.

As we ruminate on the losses of the past and a dread of the future, Thompson reminds us: God is literally in the middle of all places and events, not least those that are the most appalling, debilitating, and anguishing; he is never away from us but always willing and working (Philippians 2:13) to use even our most painful experiences to create beauty in the context of vulnerable community, the likes of which we are otherwise unable to imagine.”

In the last page of the above chapter, we are called to remember that we are an Easter people. For our sinful sakes, God provided a substitution for us – a Savior – to shake up eternity for us – in this life and the next.

What are we to do? We are to stand firm. To stay at the plow. To keep our eyes fixed on Him. To flourish in community. To hold fast to hope. To comfort in word and deed. To rest in the Lord…always.

“In this scene set in shadows
Like the night is here to stay,
There is evil cast around us
but, it’s Love that wrote the play.
…In this darkness Love can show the way.”David Wilcox

For the truth of the matter is we are almost home. The struggle won’t last forever. In fact, the battle belongs to the Lord. Period. Full stop.

Worship with me (Matt Papa‘s and Matt Boswell‘s Almost Home).

…and with another – MercyMe‘s Almost Home.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

MercyMe Share the Heartwarming Story Behind the Little Astronaut in Their ‘Almost Home’ Video – Deborah Evans Price

YouTube Video – On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand – Michael W. Smith

YouTube Video – Firm Foundation (He Won’t) [feat. Chandler Moore & Cody Carnes/Maverick City Music/TRIBL

YouTube Video – A Mighty Fortress Is Our God – Matt Boswell

Photo Credit: Fitting Farewell, Pinterest, Henry Van Dyke

Monday Morning Moment – Parenting – Teaching & Modeling Essential Life Lessons

[Adapted from the Archive]

I married late in life, and the children came even later. Parenting wasn’t an instinctual process for me. Fortunately, mentors came along at pivotal times, as did parents whom, unfortunately, I did not want to be like. Between the two, I found my way.

Feeding, clothing, and protecting children are all crucial…but what do we teach them? What are the essential lessons of life?

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Two old songs come to mind when I think of the sober nature of teaching our children what they must learn for life. The old folk/rock group Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young wrote and performed Teach Your Children. Graham Nash wrote the lyrics out of his painful relationship with an absent, sometimes imprisoned, father. Nash’s message is that we have to teach our children to make a better life…if not better world.

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught is the other deeply emotional song out of the musical South Pacific. This song points to racial prejudice and cultural bias, and how hatred must be taught to children when they are young. Mandy Patinkin‘s version of this song communicates its meaning powerfully.

Although hatred or bias can be taught, even from an early age, such dreadful things can also be caught over time in culture. Things like entitlement, dishonesty, greed, and irresponsibility. We as parents (teachers and employers also) have a huge role in guiding children and young people to mature into caring and responsible adults…even in a culture that may cut across the grain of our own values.

I’d like to explore what we must teach our children. Intentionally, with purpose and meaning. Watching for those teachable moments and seasons. Some things are more “caught than taught”, as the saying goes. Kids will catch some values living in close proximity to us and others. That makes the case, as well, for how we choose to live and what companions we seek for ourselves and our children.

More Is Caught Than Taught – Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni

When our children were young, we taught them a set of rules which we honored in our home. The 21 Rules of This House by Gregg and Joshua Harris. These rules were, in ways, simplistic but also comprehensive enough to help us create a safe, orderly, and loving home, where children AND parents had the same expectations. Photo Credit: Choosing HomeSchool Curriculum

Our children are grown now, out on their own. Two of them are already in the season of small ones and are establishing their own essentials for teaching their children.

This is a reminder to our adult children of their family values, growing up…I hope it’s also a help to you.

Below are 12 essential lessons of life. Some of them we inherited gladly from Christ-follower parents. As adults, we chose them for our own family. They are not comprehensive. I would love to hear what you think should have been there as well, (post in the Comments section below). Thanks.

[Also I want to revisit these relational commandments with my husband and adult children to see what they think now AND to consider, if I were parenting again, what would be different.]

1) Love God – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” – Jesus – Matthew 22:37-38 If you are reading this and don’t share a faith in one God, then this won’t have meaning for you. Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandments of the law (in that day, they were burdened by the weight of over 600 laws. His answer? Love God with everything in your being. Clearly it’s good for us to do and something parents can model and teach from the time children are tiny.

2) Love others – You shall love your neighbor as yourself.– Jesus – Matthew 22:39  Jesus didn’t stop at the greatest commandment. He added this one as just second to the most important. Love others. Not just your buddies. Not just those like you…but whomever neighbor is…the stranger, the alien, the “less preferred”, the every man. Jesus was clear in his instruction in “as yourself”. How ever it is that we would serve ourselves, we give of ourselves to those around us. Wow! Great wisdom to teach our children.

3) Be obedient (honoring) – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” – Ephesians 6:1-3 What a struggle it is for us to teach our children to obey! What developmental milestones when they get it! Not after we count to 3, or 10…or whatever other enticement to obey comes to mind. Immediate obedience – in attitude and action.

Raising our children in huge cities made it crucial for them to obey the instant they heard us speak to them, especially over the noise of the city. One thing we did was a bird call (a whistle sounding “bob, bobwhite”. When they heard that sound, they looked up and started heading in our direction immediately. I still marvel when even today, that still gets their big grown-up attention.

More on obedience can be found here.

Photo Credit: Flickr

4) Be grateful. – Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18  God’s Word is filled with examples and encouragements toward being grateful (here are just a few). Jesus’ life was a testament of thankfulness to God the Father, and He taught us to pray with thanksgiving. Our kids grew up with The Thankful Song (from the Veggie Tales Madame Blueberry video) – “A grateful heart is a happy heart; that’s why we say thanks everyday.”

The Power of Gratitude – 21 Verses of Thanks to God – Debbie McDaniel

Avoid Raising an Entitled Child – 5 Strategies That Really Work – Amy McCready

5) Speak the truth. – Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. – Proverbs 12:22 The worst offense in our home was lying. Jesus spoke of Satan as being the father of lies (John 8:44). Telling the truth is something we model and something, I hope, our children value highly in their adult lives. No spin, no deception…straight-up truth. Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

6) Work with diligence and excellence. – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.Colossians 3:23   In grasping this lesson, children learn perseverance, patience, and an understanding of the value of work. Our youngest struggled with academics and he would say, about homework, “I just want to get it done!” As he matured, he moved his lament to more of a charge of “get it done and done right”. Watching him grow in that continues to make us so proud of him.

12 Ways to Glorify God at Work – Jose Etter

7) Seek joy. – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persistent in prayer. – (Romans 12:12) Grumbling, discontent, and whining are such a part of human nature. When we count our situation joy, whatever it is, everyone wins. Other verses here.

8) Seek peace. – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:9) Sometimes we crave peace, and we’ll do anything to get it. Our children don’t need to learn how to be peace-keepers but to be peace-makers. It’s not about giving way to the one causing trouble, for instance. It’s developing relational skills to bring peace to a situation, resolving the conflict. More verses here on peace.

9) Be forgiving. – Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.Colossians 3:13 Holding grudges and distancing ourselves from others in unforgiveness is no way to live. Forgiving because we are forgiven carries with it a deep loving perspective. Helping our children understand how to forgive, especially little ones who have been gravely hurt by others, is huge. More on forgiveness.

10) See beauty; create beauty. – He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 My children tease me sometimes because they say I think everyone out there is handsome/pretty. God has given me eyes to see, maybe as He sees. He creates beauty and He means for us to see and appreciate it…and create beautiful things ourselves.Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Our children are all musicians (one professionally) or writers . They create beauty as we all can…in some way or another.

Nathan Mills -Beyond The Guitar

Top 10 Bible Verses about Art with Commentary

Saying Beautifully as a Way of Seeing Beauty – John Piper

11) Be kind. – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – (Ephesians 4:32) Again, years ago, when our kids were very young, they participated in a Vacation Bible School and learned a little song on kindness. “K-I-N-D, Love Is Kind”. I couldn’t find it anywhere for today’s blog, but the message stuck in all our heads. One of the simplest ways to show love is to be kind – to be generous and caring in our consideration of others. The Scripture points often to kindness in loving each other.

Be Kind to One Another – John Piper

12) Serve others. – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.Hebrews 13:16 This lesson of serving others is one I actually struggled to teach well. I fell into the excuse (like many in America do) that they had so much homework, so many assignments to complete, that they should just have fun when they had the time. Serving could have totally been a “fun” way of life. I hope our children do better than we did with teaching serving. More on serving here.Photo Credit: Niagara

In closing, I’ve left off many things. Critical thinking is one. Physical purity another. In fact, do you remember that little song, “Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.” Our kids knew that in English and Arabic.

Still probably the greatest lesson across the years of childhood (which goes along with the two greatest commandments Jesus taught) is the one Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, taught us.

Let (your) heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.

We want to teach our children to do right, for for the sake of others and for themselves, and to stand up for what is right.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6

[Sidebar: Right now I am studying Dr. Henry Cloud‘s Changes that Heal. He prescribes for his clients to write out the ten relational commandments of their families. As I mentioned above, I hope to revisit this again soon.]

Let Your Heart Be Broken – Jeremiah 8, 9 – Rick Ezell

Bible Verses on Injustice

5 Friday Faves – The Exquisite Beauty of Classical Guitar, Refugees and the English Language, Laughing Out Loud, Foodie Friends, and the Treasure of Old Photos

Friday Faves! Here we go.

1) The Exquisite Beauty of Classical Guitar – We need beauty in our lives. We are made to create beauty, in fact…we are meant to refresh and to rejoice in beauty. To discover our own hearts when arrested by it. To appreciate the beauty in others as we pause to see it…even in those so different from us. Beauty surrounds us. Here’s one significant example – the classical guitar creations of Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar.

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

While Nathan takes a brief hiatus from his usual YouTube channel to focus on his other work, only we Patreon subscribers get new content (subscribe). In this bit of time, I decided to highlight some of his arrangements already appreciated by his 500k-plus subscribers. These 5 (5 for Friday Faves) are just a sample of the beauty we can bring into our lives from the realm of classical guitar. Enjoy!

YouTube – Toy Story – You’ve Got a Friend in Me (Classical Guitar Cover) – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube – Final Fantasy X: To Zanarkand (Classical Guitar Cover) – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube – The Last of Us (Classical Guitar Cover) – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube – Princess Leia’s Theme – Classical Guitar Tribute – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube – Braveheart Meets Classical Guitar – Beyond the Guitar

More to come. Any favorites of your own from his channel? Comment below.

2) Refugees and the English Language – [Obviously this relates to refugees whose host countries have English as the primary language, but this could relate to any country’s first language.]

For many years, we lived overseas. We had jobs already in English but worked hard to learn the local language. We knew we would need it to flourish in the home culture there, including being “good neighbors”. Language learning takes persistence but the rewards are incalculable.

Our church is a providing local resettlement support to an Afghan refugee family. The children came with some English language ability which helped them enormously in school and cultural understanding. In our relationship with them, we have met other Afghan refugees. Some with English and others with none. One family, in particular, has really captured my heart this week.

In this family of mom, dad, and four kids, they know Dari, Farsi, and Turkish. None know English yet. [That’s all the details I will offer.]

[Fortunately there are some similarities to English in the Turkish alphabet.]

Photo Credit: Turkishaholic

How do families like this get jobs in our country? Pay bills? Shop in American stores? Learn in school? Meet their English- and other-speaking neighbors?

They get English as fast as they can.

Although teaching ESL was something I did for years, it was always with people who had some English. I didn’t have to start at the complete beginning. Thankfully English language helps abound online.  So…we learn and we teach (or help learn maybe is a better way to describe this process).

Lost in Limbo: Thousands of Afghan Migrants in Turkey – Still Awaiting Help from the West, Including Canada – Now Face Deportation – Adnan R. Khan

Just yesterday, shopping with the Afghan family we are helping resettle, a small unsettling thing happened. In the shoe department, I caught the face of a lady who was trying to get around us with her cart. Her face was stern, and she was clearly impatient with us. I apologized to which she said nothing. It is possible she was having a really hard day. Or something darker related to foreigners could have been going on. I hope not…in fact, hopefully, her day got better all the way around.

For us as native English-speakers, we can be enormous help to refugees with little cost of time or money…as we welcome them with our language. Appreciating the courage and fortitude they must exert every day to even live here, far from home and all that was happily familiar there.

I will always remember, with gratitude, all the people who knew so little English, but used it to connect with us when we lived overseas. “Welcome in Egypt”. We felt the welcome.

I’m learning a little Dari, but more importantly, I’m hoping to communicate in English in ways that empower and encourage.

Something we can all do for these so far from home in a strange, new one.

Thinking in Foreign LanguagePhoto Credit: Vikash Gupta

10 Best Language Learning Methods and Techniques – Vikash Gupta

3) Laughing Out Loud – Laughter is a balm to our minds and bodies. It is just plain good medicine. I had several experiences just this week that were so funny they made me laugh out loud. In fact, a couple of times, in the car with grandkids, I had to just pull over, laughing to capture the moment in a note so as not to forget it.

We were on an errand in a neighborhood they didn’t know. It’s one of the oldest residential areas in our city – tall, 3-story houses of a different era. Our grandson commented that it looked haunted. When I told them that, yes, some of the houses were old and tired, but many had been renovated and they were all beautiful. Then he said, “There are bad guys on my side of the road throwing doughnuts at the car.” Then he asked his sister what she saw on her side of the car. Without hesitation she said, “There are baby bunnies jumping on my side and they are throwing baby kittens at my window…and they’re soooooo sweet.”

Then on the car ride home, the little one always wants a treat to eat on the way. She said, “Gram, I want gummies.” Continuing to reinforce asking instead of telling in such matters, I said, “I don’t respond to that sort of request.” When she then asked, I told her she had had enough sweets. Then she asked, “What can I have then?” I replied, “You can have peace of mind”. Whereupon she immediately responded: “OK, then can I have a piece of yours?”

These may not seem as funny without their voices, but they made me laugh so much.

An unexpected “home for lunch” visit from Papa was another cause for laughter.

Any laughter out loud happening your way these days? Hope so. Books and movies can help with that if grandchildren aren’t around. Also some friends, like our dear Heba, have that great gift of just making us laugh at every occasion. Hope you have some of those as well.

Online search for books that make you laugh out loud

11 Books that Will Make Your Kid Laugh Out Loud – Lindsay E. Mack [Includes a separate link with even more funny books for kids and adults alike]

Facebook page – The Rabbit Room Chinwag – subscriber suggestions for all ages

 

5) The Treasure of Old Photos –In this age of minimalism, I have had to confront the bins of pictures and photo albums from a lifetime before the digital era. Including those given to my parents that are now back with me. Photography has always been my hobby as far back as the late Kodak Brownie camera days. [In fact, my first summer job beyond high school babysitting was at a Kodak film processing lab. It was so fascinating being a part of that work of turning film into treasured keepsakes.

I have gotten rid of most of the pictures only interesting to me. Including hundreds of film negatives and contact/proof sheets from my black-and-white days.

The sheet above had been stuck in a different storage bin so it avoided the purge for now. I took pictures of some of the images. They are not great quality but the emotion is still all there. Enjoy!

My beautiful Mom

Mom and Dad

My brother Dwane

Stephanie & her mom

Stephanie & Chad

…and capture the past even in this minimalist age. It is precious and it is still with us.

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s it for this week. Hope your weekend is full of joy with your people present with you. Blessings!

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.

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, Keep Climbing, the Spirituality of Food, Foul Weather Friends, and Rhiannon Giddens

Friday Faves…GO!

1) Beyond the Guitar – It’s difficult to fully describe the joy this guy’s music brings to me. He posts videos on YouTube a couple of times a month (have you subscribed?). Sometimes it’s a recent film theme, this time Pixar’s Luca with music by Dan Romer. Other times he reaches back to beloved songs from years past: Joseph Kosma‘s romantic jazz standard Autumn Leaves. Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar. Besides arranging and performing all the beautiful songs on his YouTube channel, he is always at work developing content to help other musicians play music they love. There’s so much noise in the world, but in this small space, there is sheer beauty. So enjoy.

2) Keep Climbing – Rock climber Erik Weihenmayer (who is also blind) is someone I look for online these days. He is an encourager and overcomer, passionate about life and using adversity to his advantage. In fact, he wrote a book about it. [I wrote about some of his story here.]

This Spring he spoke at the commencement service of his son’s alma mater, The University of Vermont. Below you will find a highlight reel and the full speech in the link following. He talks about life in a deeply empowering way…His challenge for these young people was to “Keep climbing!” – worth a listen.

Erik Weihenmayer – 2022 UVM Commencement Speech – Start at 2:09:40 of video

3) The Spirituality of Food – A documentary on the spirituality of food just came to my awareness this week. Its title is Taste and See. Now I haven’t watched it yet, but the trailer was even satisfying. The title beckons to the Psalmist’s words, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Food and drink are such blessings. Enjoying them with people we love is one of the great joys of life. Food scarcity/insecurity is lately a frequent news topic as the world faces shortages in a coming “slow-moving disaster”. For some, it is already here.

So…to talk about the spiritual nature of growing, preparing, and sharing food seems frivolous on the surface. Yet, it is the very common and natural experience of eating that draws us together as a world of people. Compassion is rekindled. Resoluteness in our actions to make food accessible to all flourishes.

Celebrating food and its source is a good. Being grateful in our plenty can move us to extend our table to those less fortunate than we are. Anyway, I’m not sure about the theology or life science at the core of the documentary “Taste and See”…but I’m intrigued.

Life From Death: an Interview with Director Andrew Brumme – Drew Miller

I will watch it…and I will read the book that inspired it: Robert Farrar Capon‘s The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection. Below are a couple of excerpts from the book that speak the gift of food.

“O Lord, refresh our sensibilities. Give us this day our daily taste. Restore to us soups that spoons will not sink in, and sauces which are never the same twice. Raise up among us stews with more gravy than we have bread to blot it with, and casseroles that put starch and substance in our limp modernity. Take away our fear of fat and make us glad of the oil which ran upon Aaron’s beard. Give us pasta with a hundred fillings, and rice in a thousand variations. Above all, give us grace to live as true men – to fast till we come to a refreshed sense of what we have and then to dine gratefully on all that comes to hand. Drive far from us, O Most Bountiful, all creatures of air and darkness; cast out the demons that possess us; deliver us from the fear of calories and the bondage of nutrition; and set us free once more in our own land, where we shall serve Thee as Thou hast blessed us – with the dew of heaven, the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Amen.”
Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection
“To be sure, food keeps us alive, but that is only its smallest and most temporary work. Its eternal purpose is to furnish our sensibilities against the day when we shall sit down at the heavenly banquet and see how gracious the Lord is. Nourishment is necessary only for a while; what we shall need forever is taste.”
Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection
Robert Farrar Capon – Books, Quotes, Excerpts – Justin Holcomb [One of my favorite quotes of Capon’s is this one – totally not related to food – “We are in a war between dullness and astonishment. The most critical issue facing Christians is not abortion, pornography, the disintegration of the family, moral absolutes, MTV, drugs, racism, sexuality, or school prayer. The critical issue today is dullness. We have lost our astonishment. The Good News is no longer good news, it is okay news. Christianity is no longer life changing, it is life enhancing. Jesus doesn’t change people into wild-eyed radicals anymore; He changes them into ‘nice people’.” –Robert Farrar Capon, The Astonished Heart]

4) Foul Weather Friends – Talking to a friend earlier today, she had this to say, “I’d not sure if I’m fun. More of a foul weather friend, than fair weather”. She was noting that she seems not thought of for the fun, rousing, weekend get-togethers…but is remembered when times get hard. Her observation was less a lament and more of a statement of fact…and one about which she had peace.

It gave me pause. What delight if we could be all-weather friends, enjoying the company of others in all the extremes and as well as middling times of life. Maybe, however, we must pace ourselves. Maybe some of us are more bent toward being there in foul weather.

Just this week, I wrote about different sorts of friends. This sort of friend wasn’t on the list. In doing an online search for “foul weather friends”, most of what was written described someone not at all like the friend I know above. They were either friends who only reached out to you when they were going through hard times. Or these “friends” were those who seemed to thrive on the drama of hard times in your life, having the “need” to be needed. Or, worse, they took some bizarre pleasure in coming alongside someone having a hard time. I’m reminded of Job’s so-called friends.

When I think of the friend above, she is a complete grace in a friend’s life. Beth Merrill Neel wrote a sweet piece on foul-weather friends and here is a bit of what she said:

I’ve known people who are foul-weather friends. I won’t hear from them for months or years, but if there’s a crisis, they are there with a phone call or email or casserole. And somehow they know just what to do – how to be present without being pushy, just when to express the gallows humor, to bring the big box of kleenex and not the little travel-size pack.

If it were one of those forced-choice quizzes, would I rather be a fair-weather friend or a foul-weather one?

Truth be told, a foul-weather one. Friendship takes time and energy and if I’m going to spend some of that time or energy, I’d rather spend it with someone in a bind rather than sitting back and sipping mojitos on some exotic beach with a friend who just won the lottery.

But if I were standing in front of the pearly gates and St. Peter were checking my account, would I be found faithful in my friendship? Would he say, “There is joy abundant and you missed out on that”? Or would he say, “You showed up when it was hard and the dawn was far off”?

I’ve realized the gift of so many kinds of friendship lately, and I’ll take what I get, which is folks who show up in the rain, and folks who show up in the sunshine, and folks who bring umbrellas, and folks who bring casseroles.

May I do the same. – Beth Merrill Neel

What’s Your Listening Style? – Rebecca D. Minehard, Benjamin B. Symon, & Laura K. Rock

[In foul weather, reaching out to friends is hard, but isolation is worse. Hopefully your foul weather friends will figure it out and come after you, but if they miss signals, just reach out. They WILL want to show up. So…I want to leave these last two resources right here.]

YouTube – Comedians Tackling Depression & Anxiety Makes Us Feel Seen – Laughing Matters – Documentary [Beware: there is language in parts of this that may/will be offensive.]

Me, Myself, & Lies – The Spiritual Dangers of Isolation – Marshall Segal

5) Rhiannon Giddens – Thanks to The Richmond Forum, we had the opportunity, this past week, to hear musician Rhiannon Giddens speak and perform. She was phenomenal.

Photo Credit: YouTube

As she talked, my husband commented on what an overcomer she was. Even as she talked about slavery, she didn’t talk about slaves but rather called them “enslaved people”. Everything in her talk –  about music and music origins, the banjo, and the history of “American” music – was honoring. She gives opportunity to learn and understand and embrace possibilities, without the need to blame or shame people. When you listen to her music, you will see that overcoming worldview. Her song “At the Purchaser’s Option” is so powerful.

Photo Credit: YouTube

If you don’t know her or her work, get to know her, beginning with the links below. She is truly a brilliant and beautiful person.

TED Talk – Songs That Bring History to Life – Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens – 2022-2023 Perspectives Artist

YouTube Video – Rhiannon Giddens on African American Contributions to Music – Amanpour and Company

 Singer Rhiannon Giddens Taps America’s Deep Musical Roots – PBS Newshour

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