Category Archives: Purpose

Monday Morning Moment – Searching Out the Truth in All the Voices

Photo Credit: Dunk, Flickr

I was talking to a friend recently about longing to be in dialogue where I can actually sort out what is true in all the public outcry.

She said, “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” It went right to my heart. I would find out later that this quote is credited to social activist Maggie Kuhn.

My shaky voice has kept me from writing, and even speaking on some of the issues we are facing today. Yet, the voices all around us are getting louder and louder.

We are in a season (I’m determined it is a season and not a new normal) where voices on the streets, messages on signs, even on facial masks are persuasive and divisive.

I’m committed to listening and searching out the truth of what people are saying…but.

Here’s the but:

As long as I’m still free to choose, I can’t support an organization or movement that seems to stir up hatred as part of its strategy. That might not be the intent, but…hatred bubbles up. Hatred for those seen as enemy, as culprit, as guilty with no presumption of innocence.

In the last month, my understanding of our society has grown enormously. Too many times, I’ve had to acknowledge: “I didn’t know.”

Watching the documentary 13th was riveting. This feature-length film exposes how after the passing of the 13th amendment on the abolishing of slavery, and then, decade after decade, the governmental and cultural undermining that decision right through to today. [If you aren’t inclined to watch “13th”, then take 10 minutes and watch Ryan DavisThis Is America.]

I have started realizing that the truth is although I wasn’t consciously racist, somehow culturally and spiritually, I have enjoyed privilege and have been indifferent to many in our country who are hurting.

This broke my heart. Even after years of working in a large public hospital in Atlanta, years working in community development, and years of what could be called Christian service. I lacked the compassion and critical thinking that, ironically, should have been clear and obvious in a life of following Jesus.

So where does that leave me…us? Have you struggled with the cultural messages you are hearing…about yourself, in particular, if you’re white? Have you wholeheartedly agreed with the messages? That we are at fault for all the terrible suffering we are seeing now (if we didn’t see it before), and we have to make it right? I don’t have an answer here…only more questions.

Systemic Racism Explained – Ryan Davis

I am so ready for an advancement of good in our country.

Dialogue. Civil discourse. Reasoning together. Searching for solutions…sustainable, dignifying solutions.

Here’s where I am right now. Listening to friends. Asking questions. Watching news reports and reading commentary. Looking for people who are speaking on the problems in our country, without power or profit agendas. People who seem to care, truly care, for the hurting, but who refuse to go the way of hatred.

An example of what helped to clear confusion for me was discovering the operating strategy of cultural Marxism.

“A collectivist application of Marxist class warfare along a far broader spectrum of identities, such as race, gender, and sexuality, as opposed to solely along class lines; intersectionality.
First, Marxism only spoke to the oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, but now men oppress women, whites oppress blacks, heterosexuals oppress homosexuals, the able-bodied oppress the disabled, & cisgendered folk oppress trans folk; WHO you are is irrelevant, all that matters now is WHAT you are, which groups you are a member of, your personhood reduced to your arbitrary characteristics, to that of an object; this is Cultural Marxism. –  Urban Dictionary

That is what I’m seeing in the loud and angry voices in the public arena right now. Class warfare. One group against another group. This is not the disruption that will enlarge any of us as Americans. We are all objectified by this kind of identification/definition. No justice in this. Only destruction and disunity.

The video below by theologian educator Dr. Voddie Baucham was enormously helpful for me to understand cultural Marxism. [I will warn you: he takes issue with the politics of a very popular US president.] His teaching actually gave me hope. Truth sets us free.

Be encouraged.

We can be a part of a redemptive work. Even with shaky voices and shaky knees. Our only recourse is NOT what the loudest voices call for…but we do need to listen to those who genuinely represent the hurting. And, most urgently, the hurting themselves.

Before closing, here are some of the voices that have encouraged and emboldened me in recent days. They are not all alike in their message, but they speak reason, love, and hope.

Rayshawn Graves. Bryan Stevenson. Scott Sauls. Anthony Bradley. Rolland Slade. Glenn Loury. Bevelyn Beatty. Senator Tim Scott. Darrell B. Harrison. Virgil Walker. Karen Swallow Prior. David Lyle. Jackie Hill Perry. Coleman Hughes. Jared Burwell. Tim Keller. Shelby Steele. Michael Catt. Keith Smith. John McWhorter. Voddie Baucham. Just to name a few.

I’d love to close with a few of the lyrics of Andrew Peterson‘s A White Man’s Lament for God’s Beloved:

“…the mercies of the Lord
Will be the chords to every song…
…it begins as I repent
And bow my head as I lament this broken world
‘Cause every victim, every villain
Was a precious little boy or little girl
This is me and this is you
This is the truth, if you believe it or not
You have always been beloved
They have always been beloved

George, Breonna, Ahmaud
All beloved of God

5 Ways Christians Are Getting Swept Into a Secular Worldview in This Cultural Moment – Natasha Crain

Sunday Blessing – The Lord Bless You & Keep You – He Is the Waymaker

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”  – Numbers 6:24-26

This wall art (in English and Arabic) hangs beside the door we use most often, receiving and sending out friends and neighbors. It reminds us of the goodness and faithfulness of God and how He means for us to also be His blessing on others.

In this season of listening and learning from God and many voices crying out over our nation in its time of crisis, I got a notification which moved me to post this. It was a Jesus March in the Bronx, New York. It was an event organized by At the Well Ministries, founded by Bevelyn Beatty and Edmee Chavannes. As we listen and learn, we are not going to agree on all points. It matters that we hear the heart.

These two women are Christ followers. They are publicly and sacrificially pro-life. They are all about saving the lives of black babies and loving on the women (and men) who find themselves in the rock-and-hard-place of seeking abortion.

This is not what today’s march was about. Today they marched for the police in the Bronx. They marched to raise the name of Jesus over their city and over those in law enforcement there and all around our country.

Watch minutes 25:35 – 35:25 for their prayer for the Bronx police and others…and their praise of a way-making God. [At the very end of that segment you will see Bevelyn and Edmee – beautiful sisters.]

If you would like to sing in prayer and praise, below is a lyrics video of these two beautiful songs – The Blessing and Way Maker:

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

[Chorus]
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

[Verse]
The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

[Chorus]
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

[Bridge 1]

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

[Bridge 2]
May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

[Bridge 3]
In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going

In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

[Refrain]
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

[Chorus]
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

[Bridge 1]
May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

[Bridge 2]
May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

[Bridge 3]
In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

[Refrain]
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

[Refrain]
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

[Bridge 1]
May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

[Bridge 2]
May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

[Bridge 3]
In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

[Refrain]
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

Whatever our politics, whatever our opinions…they don’t matter today. What matters is that we reflect the glory of God in our lives – to extravagantly love those who are hurting all around us. In particular, right now, our black neighbors and our law enforcement officers. May we see God work to bring healing. His purposes are not thwarted.

5 Friday Faves – Growing Up with Pixar, Pursuing Unity, Bringing Hope, Agility in Today’s Realities, and Making Music Happen

Happy Weekend! With so many of us either working remotely or with otherwise altered work situations, some rhythms are shifted. One for me is writing. I miss it. Please bear with me…and stay with me…as I carve out time and temperament to write something worth the read. You give me courage.

1) Growing Up with Pixar – Classical guitarist Nathan Mills (of Beyond the Guitar) knows exactly how to take any film song he chooses and draw out every bit of emotion possible. Related to Pixar, he did that previously with medleys of both the happy theme songs and the sad ones. This week, Nathan arranged and performed the heart-wrenching Randy Newman song “When She Loved Me”. You will recognize this song from the film Toy Story 2. It’s the poignant story of Emily and her cowgirl toy Jessie. At first, little girl Emily adores her toy and Jessie feels so loved, through their tireless play. Then…Emily grows up. Jessie ends up in a cardboard box donated to a charity. Many of our children have grown up with Pixar and have had lessons on life reinforced – love, loyalty, friendship, and determination – through these films. Nathan’s sweet rendition of this song will take you back.

Also check out his latest podcast on The Truth About Going Viral.

2) Pursuing Unity – We live in a world torn by division. Whatever our political ideology or religious fervor, we don’t have to just sit by and watch it burn. I am reminded of one who prayed for unity for us. One who died the next day in a world divided.

“May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.”Jesus, John 17:21-23

I want to align myself with those who choose unity…those who keep reasoning together, and refuse to hate, and who are determined to forgive and to find answers and to love no matter what.

Photo Credit: Wallpaper Flare

A veteran officer of the United States Marine Corps and a teaching pastor, Grant Castleberry, wrote exquisitely about pursuing unity. Here’s a bit of his article:

“The New Testament emphasis, over and over again, is that true Christian unity is only built on a right understanding of the gospel. No matter our national allegiance, economic background, political party, or ethnicity, the gospel unites believers in one faith, one ‘body’ (1 Cor 12:12, 17)…The family of God outstrips all our other allegiances and affiliations. This includes our allegiance to a political party or ethnicity. Identity, and therefore unity, in the New Testament is almost always linked to the fact that we have been united to Christ in faith through the gospel…we should be defined by a spirit of love and forgiveness…In our divided culture, unity in the Church will be only nurtured and maintained, using the methods and principles that Jesus and the Apostles have outlined for us in the New Testament…These bodies of believers, from diverse backgrounds and idealogies, will serve as beacons of unity in a divided world.”Grant Castleberry

3) Bringing Hope – What kinds of things have brought you hope in these days? I have experienced and observed so many acts of kindness – simple ones and costly ones. People being creative and hopeful themselves and lavishing it generously on others.

Actor writer John Krasinski is one of those persons. He created this little YouTube channel with the focus on Some Good News (in the face of all the bad). Only eight episodes in total but he celebrated so much in those eight weeks – health care and other essential workers, our beloved sports teams, and the big Spring events that have been disrupted (graduations, proms, weddings, etc) secondary to COVID-19.

John Krasinski Fights Back Tears During Emotional Some Good News Finale – Emily Belfiore

Column: What I’m Glad to Say Goodbye to John Krasinski’s ‘Some Good News’ – Mary McNamara

I guess John Krasinski has some projects coming up because he ended his broadcasts after the eighth episode. Or maybe with the opening up of our countries, we will be making even more good news. Like visits with beloved grandparents after three months of “social distancing”. Now that’s some good news!!!Photo Credit: Facebook, Eryn Cobb

Finally, the most hope-bringing message: “Jesus loves me/you; this I know!”

4) Agility in Today’s Realities – We often think of agility in terms of sports – that ability to change directions quickly, but it’s that and so much more. What does agility mean in life and work?Photo Credit: Gunther Verheyen, Scrum

We hear a lot these days about a “new normal” after we come out of the COVID-19 crisis. Maybe we are better off thinking not new but real – what is real now and how could it change or be changed?

Wisdom is taking what we are learning about this virus and maximize prevention and sound treatment while, at the same time, figure out how to still do life…work…all that matters to us.

Try things. Experiment. Think in teams. Acknowledge the fails. Try something different. Strengthen the successes. Broaden them.

I’m talking very simplistically here, but we have a lot of smart and innovative people out there. Let’s figure out how to be agile in our decision-making.Photo Credit: Facebook, TobyMac

5 Disruptive Leadership Trends that will Rule 2020 – Carey Nieuwhof

The Original 2020 Is History. 7 New Disruptive Church Trends Every Church Leader Should Watch – Carey Nieuwhof [insight beyond churches as well]

5) Making Music Happen – I had an opportunity years ago to direct a Christmas program in a tiny church in New Haven, Ct. It was a magical experience – for me for sure. Then years later, I had another opportunity to produce a fine arts program in a school in Casablanca, Morocco. Again, to bring singers and musicians together to make something beautiful was an incredible experience. Below are two videos of music that we might not have had except for COVID-19.

Also the following are now-famous songs from the film musical The Greatest Showman. They are “in the making” versions and bring us close to what it’s like for the singers to create something musical and joyful for us all. In the middle you’ll find another “virtual ensemble” bringing to life one of those great songs during the social distancing of today.

Bonuses:

Blue Bloods’ Reagan Family Dinner:

MercyMe’s Hurry Up  and Wait

Core Values List: 115 Values That I Filtered on Practicality – Darius Foroux

30 Days in the Shire – Adapted for Use in the Midst of Coronatide – Tea with Tolkien

“And people stayed at home
And read books
And listened
And they rested
And did exercises
And made art and played
And learned new ways of being
And stopped and listened
More deeply
Someone meditated, someone prayed
Someone met their shadow
And people began to think differently
And people healed.
And in the absence of people who
Lived in ignorant ways
Dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
The earth also began to heal
And when the danger ended and
People found themselves
They grieved for the dead
And made new choices
And dreamed of new visions
And created new ways of living
And completely healed the earth
Just as they were healed.”

The above poem was published on March 16, 2020, by writer Catherine O’Meara (aka Kitty O’Meara)

Photo Credit: Facebook, Elaine M. Lechanski

Photo Credit: Facebook; Wonders of Nature, Robert E. Saddler

Monday Morning Moment – Resilience – Socially Distanced but Emotionally Engaged

Photo Credit: Resilience, Seoraksan National Park, South Korea, Chris Campbell, Flickr

Let’s talk about resilience – that ability to weather hardship over time; to endure and stand strong; to bounce back to a new normal. A new normal not thrust on us but one we help create.

“Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress – such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.” – The Road to Resilience

When strong winds come (whether illness, financial setbacks, or social distancing prescribed to avoid COVID-19), we can bend or break.Photo Credit: Wallpaper Flare

There is a more middle place as well, when the bending leaves us bent rather than just stretched. We are in a season where we might feel bent. In a “fog” of sorts, disoriented by our circumstances, ill-equipped for what we currently face. The lethargy, fatigue, and emotional/mental dullness are confusing when we actually have more opportunity than ever before to create and innovate.

This is where resilience comes in. After weeks of “staying at home”, getting work done in different ways than before, we are teetering on whether to remain cautious or throw caution to the wind.

Tapping into that mental energy for decisive action can move us toward resilience.  What do we want as a long-term outcome of this season?

Author James Clear writes about habit formation. He says it takes 2 months or so for a new habit to become automatic. He also cautions against focusing on the amount of time it takes more than the work it takes. “Do the work”. From Day 1 until whatever day our lives will “return” to normal.

Have you thought about what you hope to gain from this time we’re in “together”? We can’t control everything, of course. We will continue to have days where it seemed we weren’t able to accomplish much more than keeping our kids safe and fed. Underneath the sluggishness of this season of “staying well” or “staying in” for the sake of others…there is a rock-solid foundation of future possibility.

Let’s go after resilience. Let this be something we and our children look back on as a gain from 2020. Photo Credit: George Mason University

I’d love to hear your thoughts, your struggles, and how you are tackling the framing of that new normal. How are you staying mentally and emotionally engaged in spite of social distancing?

I’d like to close with some wisdom from Patrick Lencioni:

Hope Despite Coronavirus Fatigue – Trillia Newbell – my inspiration for today’s post

The Road to Resilience – Excellent resource (pdf)

Enhancing Resilience – Beth Payne (quick & helpful read)

The 6 Domains of Resilience – Jurie Rossouw (deeper dive, another excellent resource)

7 Successful Battle Strategies to Beat COVID-19 – Euvin Naidoo – for both work and personal life

You Can’t Think Yourself Out of Feeling Bad – Brianna Wiest

The Twisted Trees of Slope Point, New Zealand

5 Friday Faves – Some Good News, Final Fantasy VII on Guitar, Sound Thinking, Coronavirus Survival Tips, and Busting with Bonuses

https://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Blog-Friday-Faves-006-2.jpg

Hey Everybody! Hope you’re faring well through these days of Coronavirus and social distancing. Many of you may be still going out to work, and we are grateful for all your essential services keeping us supported in our different living situations.

I didn’t post Friday Faves last week. So we have Friday Faves from two weeks today. Hope you’re finding joy in this odd journey of ours right now. We may be physically distanced, but we are together in this (that’s almost become cliche except for it’s still true).

1) Some Good News – We can find it, or create it if need be. Some good news. Actor John Krasinski has done just that. He is scripting and posting a weekly YouTube video entitled appropriately Some Good News. His first post focused on the 15th anniversary of the American TV show The Office. Below you will find Episodes 2 and 3.

Please share in the Comments your own brush with good news this week and any good news you made happen for others. Let’s safely crush this physical distancing experience!

YouTube Video – SGN Prom with John Krasinski and Friends

2) Final Fantasy VII on Guitar – If the lilting music of the Final Fantasy videogame franchise has special meaning to you, then Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar gets it. The chief composer of the Final Fantasy themes is Nobuo Uematsu. Nathan’s latest arrangement from the franchise is Aerith’s Theme from Final Fantasy VIIHere it is:

YouTube Video – Final Fantasy XV: Valse di Fantastica – Classical Guitar Cover

YouTube Video – Final Fantasy XV: Main Title Theme (Somnus) – Classical Guitar Cover

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

3) Sound Thinking – One of my go-to Bible verses in scary situations is 2 Timothy 1:7 where the Apostle Paul states: For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” Some translations use sound mind or self-control for the phrase “sound judgment”.

Either way, there is such a thing as sound thinking, and it is worth determining whether we are pursuing and exercising that level of reason…or not. Otherwise, we will continue to keep passing each other in conversations, even good friends, shaking our heads when we disagree with ideologies. Preferring to discount, blame or revile, rather than understand each other’s take on something that matters to both of us. Especially in today’s super-charged political conversations and in our government’s decision-making.

Photo Credit: Trainer Collective

In my wondering on sound thinking, I found a very helpful book chapter by author Martin H. Levinson. The 2006 book (its revised edition just released) is Sensible Thinking in Turbulent Times and the chapter was General Semantics: Sound Thinking for Every Day Life.

In this chapter, Levinson offers Ten Blocks to Sound Thinking – with General Semantics “Correctives”. The blocks follow; read the succinct and incredible helpful correctives in this rapid read chapter. I would love an opportunity to sit around a circle with friends and associates of mine who think vastly differently than I do on a range of topics and sort out how we might come more to the center using these helps.

10 Blocks to Sound Thinking (Martin H. Levinson)

  • Allness Attitudes [communicating as if we know all there is to know about a subject]
  • “Knee-jerk Reactions
  • Either-or Thinking
  • Rigid Evaluations
  • Projection Problems [stating opinions as if they were facts]
  • “Useless” and Poorly Structured Questions
  • Elementalism [assuming there is only one cause of something]
  • Jumping to Wrong Conclusions
  • Relying on Common Sense [taking assumptions for granted]
  • Labeling and Category Errors

So much to consider. I will close this with a quote, measured and sound, from a friend of mine, Helen Phillips, on the topic of our country’s mediation of the Coronavirus pandemic:

“We’ll never know whether these drastic measures have spared us from a fate we cannot fathom with thousand or tens of thousands more people sick and dying, or not. If the stats tempt you to feel indignant, and a false sense of ‘perhaps the whole thing was a big fat overreaction’, how do you claim to know which is which? Who can be certain what’s ‘real’ and what’s successful mitigation through extreme precaution as intended. Everyone is speculating, everyone is claiming someone else is wrong, everyone has an opinion and a conspiracy theory from the cheap seats with no ‘skin in the game’.

At the end of the day, who among us bends under the burden of tremendous responsibility? Who among us truly believes they have solutions for the world’s problems? Who among us rarely sleeps, evaluating the deluge of evolving data? Who among us thinks they know what’s best for an organization, a state or a nation?

Perhaps instead of feeding the dragon of obsession and negativity, maybe we should do a little more soul searching, heart checking, gratitude evaluating, neighbor loving and realize the roots of our faith are growing deeper.”

What  a 16th Century Mystic Can Teach Us About Making Good Decisions – Annmarie Cano

4) Coronavirus Tips for Survival – Have we exhausted this subject yet? I can’t imagine we have. Fortunately, I have a good friend who is also a cancer nursing specialist. She helped me devise a survivorship plan after my bout with cancer. She is also the source of much of my plan for staying healthy and hopefully surviving COVID-19 should I contract it. First a little musical respite with DJ Brinson and Emily Gardenire:

I have listed several sources below with a wide range of viewpoints on keeping COVID-19 at bay or surviving it should you get hospitalized. The tips are just based on what I’ve read and what conclusions I’ve made. Not scientific, not tested, etc., etc., etc.

  • Pray, trusting God isn’t finished with me yet…or if my time is done on earth, then trusting Him for grace for me and for my family.
  • Be aware of what surfaces I’m touching (especially outside of my home environment) and wash my hands often and thoroughly. Hand sanitize regularly.
  • Keep my hands off my face.
  • Social distance. Stay 6 feet apart from those not in my “stay at home” environment. Only gather in very small groups with others abiding by same rules (family, close friends, colleagues when necessary).
  • Although social distancing, be creative and purposeful – serve others and stay in contact. Pray for those around you and far from you.
  • During social distancing, make time to complete or update an advance medical directive.
  • Vitamin C.
  • Learn to sleep on my abdomen and sides (this may be necessary if I end up hospitalized).
  • If hospitalized, up to being put on a ventilator, I want it all (oxygen, of course; hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin (if available); testing and treatment for cytokine storm syndrome; red blood cell and plasma infusions; whatever else is the latest and greatest.
  • Have whatever contact is possible with my family.
  • Ventilator…not at all sure about this one.

Here’s a Playbook for Stopping Deadly Cytokine Storm Syndrome

Being Prepared in the Time of COVID-19 – Three Things You Can Do Now – The Conversation Project

Why Some COVID-19 Patients Crash: The Body’s Immune System Might Be to Blame – Geoff Bromfiel

Covid-19 Had Us All Fooled, But Now We Might Have Finally Found Its Secret – LibertyMavinStock

YouTube Video: Empowering Talk: Protecting Families During COVID-19 Pandemic – Dr. David Price – New York City

Nightmares, Flashbacks, Uncertainty: A 29-year-old Recovers After Coronavirus Brought Him Near Death – Marissa J. Lang

Coronavirus Survival Tips from a Doomsday Prepper

Deaths Delayed – Carl R. Trueman

John Piper on the Coronavirus and Christ – Podcast & Transcript – Collin Hansen

Do you have any tips for us about staying well? Please comment below.

Photo Credit: The Jeff Katz Show, Facebook

5) Busting with Bonuses – I couldn’t decide on a fifth favorite so will leave you with these bonuses as the fifth. The Spring here is spectacular and I’m especially grateful having been “staying at home” for over a month now. Hope you’re doing well. Thanks for reading and keeping company with me.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor

Don’t Waste Your Ruined Plans – Gaye Clark

You Can Thrive in the New Normal – Here’s How – Matt Monge

Fight Songs (The question was asked by a friend, “What is your fight song?” – this week I had two. They follow below.)

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp

The book titles below (left to right, first row and then second) tell a story. #CoronavirusPhoto Credit: Casual Christian Comedy 2, Facebook

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

Photo Credit: Paul Ekman Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take One Small Step with StoryCorps

What Is Contempt? – Paul Ekman Group

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

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

YouTube – Arthur Brooks on the Eric Metaxas Show

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Picpedia

Click. Click. Click.

Notifications. Notifications. Notifications.

Meetings. Meetings. Meetings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reset: Building Purpose in the Age of Digital Distraction

Photo Credit: Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

10 Tips to Stay Focused – Francisco Sáez 

Photo Credit: James Clear

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

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

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

Photo Credit: For Richmond, Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

Johann Hari – Quotes – Goodreads

Depression and Diet – WebMD

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp, #WorldKindnessDay, and Facebook

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

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

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

She just doesn’t go there.

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

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

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

Relapse also leaves the family vulnerable…emotionally and socioeconomically.

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

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

What Happens If I Relapse? – Addiction Center

Guide to Cocaine Rehab

Slip vs. Relapse – What’s the Difference?

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

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

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

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

Bonuses:

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

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

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

A Christmas Classic and a Couple of Musical Collaborations:

Photo Credit: Facebook, The Fabulous Fifties

Learning About Someone

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

Worship Wednesday – Remember – Lauren Daigle

Photo Credit: Heartlight, C. S. Lewis

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wondrous works he has done, his wonders, and the judgments he has pronounced.  Psalm 105:4-5

Therefore I will always remind you about these things, even though you know them and are established in the truth you now have. I think it is right, as long as I am in this bodily tent, to wake you up with a reminder, since I know that I will soon lay aside my tent, as our Lord Jesus Christ has indeed made clear to me. And I will also make every effort so that you are able to recall these things at any time after my departure. – 2 Peter 1:12-15

Some weeks are packed with distractions – both lovely and loathsome. This week we’ve had to face conflict and disease in the family.  It happens. It’s part of life. It usually resolves.

Then there is the political and civil (uncivil) realm. We had a state election this week, and it went very differently than I thought it would. The ramifications regarding issues deep in my heart are huge.

Thoughts whirling around in my head have been dizzying. Finally, in the darkness of the situations, a light came on…and brightened even the blackest of my fears and worries.Photo Credit: Heartlight, Dwight L. Moody

I remembered God.

In our community group this week, we talked a bit about Psalm 105 (the text at Movement Church this past Sunday). These verses popped out at me:

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wondrous works he has done, his wonders, and the judgments he has pronounced.  Psalm 105:4-5

Remember.

During group, I told everyone of the struggle I’d had. Forgetting that God is still about His purposes. Then His gentle reminder earlier in the day and again during group. My heart was so comforted that it seemed fitting to begin a discipline of writing down remembrances of what God has done throughout history (as He brings them to mind) and what He is doing in our lives and those around us. So here goes…

To top all this off, I’m a part of Community Bible Study in 1 and 2 Peter. We just finished 2 Peter 1. The Apostle Peter, in these two letters, was encouraging the New Testament church that had suffered much and longed for the return of Christ. God had already revealed Peter was not long for this world. In his deep sense of urgency, he wanted to remind these believers…and all of the rest of us reading his words through the ages…to hold on to the truth.

Remembering What Not to Forget

  • Remember the reality of your salvation.
  • Remember the riches of your salvation.
  • Remember your responsibility to add to your faith.
  • Remember to make calling and election sure.
  • Remember the revelation of God to you.
  • Remember “We have a more sure word.” – Community Bible Study

So I’m on my way journaling both what God is teaching in the Bible study above, but also the remembrances of His provision for our family through the years, including the nearness of Himself through every trial.

Singer/songwriter Lauren Daigle has written and performed a beautiful song to take us to worship in remembering God in all things. Its title? Remember.

Worship with me and remember…

In the darkest hour when I cannot breathe
Fear is on my chest, the weight of the world on me
Everything’s crashing down, everything I have known
When I wonder if I’m all alone

I remember, I remember
You have always been faithful to me
I remember, I remember
Even when my own eyes could not see
You were there, always there

I will lift my eyes even in the pain
Above all the lies, I know You can make a way
I’ve seen giants fall, I’ve seen mountains move
I’ve seen waters part because of You

I remember, I remember
You have always been faithful to me
I remember, I remember
Even when my own eyes could not see
You were there, always there

I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
Your goodness, goodness

I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
Your goodness, goodness

I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
Your goodness, goodness

I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
Your goodness, goodness

I remember, I remember
You have always been faithful to me
I remember, I remember
Even when my own eyes could not see
You were there, always there
With me*

*Lyrics to Remember – Songwriters: Jason Ingram, Lauren Daigle, Paul Mabury, Chris Tomlin, & Ed Cash

Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – What Are You Remembering About God Today – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Fight Through, Then Rest, & Remember – It’s Not Over Yet – For King & Country – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases – Remember? – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Spirit Pour Out – Andy and Rachel Graham

And when he [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, he wept over it.Luke 19:41

Jesus continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. – Matthew 9:35-36

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. Psalm 127:1

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce…But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. – Jeremiah 29:4-5, 7

The shining city we call home is Richmond, Virginia. It is a beautiful, gleaming mix of old and new.  A river runs east-west through it, and interstate highways divide it north-south. The divide goes much deeper than the highways cut through neighborhoods decades ago, but these transportation portals speak to that divide.

After the Civil War (during which Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States of America), the African-American community began to thrive here. In fact, Jackson Ward, a Richmond neighborhood still today, was once known as “Black Wall Street” and “the Harlem of the South”. Beautiful homes, large churches, successful businesses, and popular entertainment venues were all part of this thriving neighborhood.

Then “progress” happened. City and state officials determined the design of what is now our vast interstate system. This all-white group of officials made the decision of what would best serve the city and beyond. The highways would be laid down right through Jackson Ward. 1000 homes were lost through the city’s powers of eminent domain.

Roads to Nowhere: How Infrastructure Built Built on American Inequality – Johnny Miller

Recently I saw a TV show, All Rise, that featured an anquished young man, wrongly accused of a felony. While awaiting the jury’s verdict, his public defender sat with him. She asked about why he was studying urban planning. This was the powerful scene that speaks to what happened in our city and others:

“Every shining city is built on something pretty dark.”

The above statement from the scene isn’t always true (especially when I think of Heaven), BUT. God, in His Word, demonstrated both understanding of and love for cities.

The peoples of cities. Peoples like us, and others not like us but loved. Exquisitely, generously loved by God. We are meant to love as He loves. We are blessed to be a blessing to all peoples.

Not just transactional charity…where we give of our goods but not ourselves. Jesus did feed the thousands (transactional) but He also gave all of Himself to all people (transformational). He left that example for us…that transformational model of loving people.

Seek Your City’s Good – John Piper

This past Sunday, our worship team at Movement Church, led us in a song new to me. Spirit Pour Out. It was written by Andy and Rachel Graham out of a worship experience with Urban Doxology, a ministry based in Richmond. Members of Urban Doxology live, work, worship, and serve in the racially diverse (and divided) neighborhoods of Richmond. They bring a message and vision for reconciliation – with God and each other. See the Ted Talk about Urban Doxology here. The YouTube video below shows footage of our city, Richmond, Virginia. It is a call to prayer for cities – for ours and for all cities.

Worship with me.

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

Come restore generations of desolation
Bind up the poor and broken heart
Plant and sow, till and grow what time has ravaged
Break down the walls of race and war

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

God we seek the peace and welfare of our city
Prosper redeem her as your own
That all would see your glory here in greater measure
Through us your church your kingdom come

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

You are the God who builds
You are the one who saves
You are the God who prospers
Evil has no claim
You are the God builds
You are the one who saves
You are the God who prospers
Fervently we pray*

Peter says that Christians are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11) and Paul says “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). In fact, we will do most good for this world by keeping a steadfast freedom from its beguiling attractions. We will serve our city best by getting our values from “the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). We will do our city most good by calling as many of its citizens as we can to be citizens of “the Jerusalem above” (Galatians 4:26).

So, let’s live — let’s do so much good (1 Peter 2:12) — that the natives will want to meet our King. – John Piper

*Lyrics to Spirit Pour Out – Songwriters: Andy & Rachel Graham

YouTube Video – Spirit Pour Out – Urban Doxology