Confessional communities – probably sounds like some sort of monastery life. Or a group with all kinds of touchy-feely exercises framed by unintelligible psycho-babble, right? Oh no! So much more and so much better!
I’ve been awakened to the presence and possibilities of confessional communities since recently reading of the Thompson trilogy below.
What rung intuitively right for me throughout my adult life has actually been tested and found true in something called Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB). No time to go deeply into this now, but, in short, our brains are wired for connection, and that is connection inside the brain/mind itself as well as with others (and God).
Confessional communities are used by Dr. Curt Thompson and others as ways to help clients get in touch with shame, trauma, fear, anxiety, etc. in the company of others struggling with some of the same. Shame, for instance, drives us to isolate from God and others. It compounds interest over time, if left to itself in our own minds, and muffles our desires and longings, as it condemns and flattens us.
“We need to create confessional communities where people are confessing the truth about their life – some of which includes confessing sin or doing things that show my brokenness. Some of it is just things that have happened to me, or things that I feel; things that I sense; things that I dream; things that I long for; things that I’m conflicted about. But I’m trying to tell the whole truth about my life – but not so that anybody can just hear it and then move on.…In confession, what I’m really looking for – in your eyes, in your body language, in your voice – is for you to be able to say, “You’re right, Curt; you were wrong to do that. You’re forgiven. I’m not leaving.” I need to know you can bear the weight of what I know to be really wrong [with me], and that you will still stay. If it’s minimized, it will continue to linger with me…Shame always requires outside help for healing. My shame needs you. If it’s a small thing, I might need only one conversation with you. But, if it’s much bigger than a very, very small thing, I’m going to need multiple conversations with multiple people, because shame will come through multiple different doors into my head when I’m left by myself…” – Curt Thompson
“…in order for me to be liberated from the shame I carry, …I need to hear that my behavior was really as bad as I think, if not worse, while simultaneously sensing that the person I am confessing to is not leaving. Shame has the effect of coaxing us into pretending that sin is not as bad as it seems; for if it really is that bad, and I have to face it, it would be too much and I fear I would be overwhelmed. When someone seeks forgiveness for the wrong they have committed, we who have been wounded must be able to acknowledge the reality of the pain inflicted if forgiveness is to be real, and if the offender’s shame is to be effectively healed.” – Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame
Confessional communities are spelled out in Thompson’s writing, teaching (found on YouTube), and podcasts (his own and as guest on many others). The common factors include:
small group meetings over weeks or months.
willingness to tell our stories as truly as we can.
intentional leaning in to the stories of other group members such that “being known” is part of the outcome for all.
commitment to stay with each other; to “not leave the room”.
imagine beauty together – learning to explore and create beauty, to see what is good, true, and beautiful in each other’s personhoods.Photo Credit: Curt Thompson, Twitter
I have a friend who for several months was part of what I would now call a confessional community. She called it “Vegas”. Remember the adage “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”? It was a Bible study/house church. A group of people who committed to care for each other with masks off (not the COVID kind, but the masks we don in shame or fear). A group of people who would stay in the hard and love no matter what.
My Mom modeled this for our family. She died way too soon. My prayer is that our (birth) family will model it for each other, and my children will learn from their Dad and me how to love like this…To have the joy of being fully known and deeply loved. No matter what.
Life without forgiveness sounds truly awful. We imprison ourselves to the past and drag it into our present day and future with treasured grudges. Grudges we feel we can’t afford to lay down. They become part of our identity and how people relate to us – either protecting, justifying, or, at times, “returning evil for evil”.
We have the power to release ourselves and all these entrapped with us…through forgiveness. We need God to help us, for sure. We however must make the decision to forgive. Pretending to do so while hatred gains strength in our hearts is a delusion. God help us.
Here’s a bit of what Dave Burchett says in his article (read the whole here):
“There is no way I have found to release grudges without the healing power of forgiveness. Author Will Davis wrote this powerful insight.
‘Once you decide to forgive, you initiate the healing process. Forgiveness gives your soul permission to move on to the higher and healthier ground of emotional recovery. Forgiveness is to your soul what antibiotics are to infection. It is the curative agent that will help to fully restore your soul. It doesn’t immediately remove the pain of offense but it does start you on the road to recovery.’
I really like that perspective. The decision to forgive initiates but does not complete our healing. You will, in time, heal. I am asking you to pray that you can begin the healing process of forgiveness knowing that only time and God’s mercy can fully heal. That will start you down that road to forgiveness and empowerment to let go of the grudges that are weighing you down. You won’t get there today or tomorrow. But you will never get there without taking the first step of faith.” – Dave Burchett
2) The Power of Words – Words mean things. In fact, they are more powerful than we can imagine. Author, speaker Jackie Hill Perry has referred to a poem which says “Words make worlds”. Now I haven’t been able to find that poem, BUT I have read Genesis 1-3 with the account of God speaking the world into existence.
Perry spoke on the power of words at a women’s conference. She used the text of the Apostle James’ epistle. James 3. This passage focuses on the influence of the tongue. She elaborated on three points:
The tongue is accountable. [We are responsible for our use of words. When we have torn down instead of building up, we will experience consequences. It does not go unheeded.]
The tongue is powerful. [We must control our tongues…what we say. Self-control has a wide reach, especially starting with “restraining our speech”. Words can hurt, but they can also heal.]
The tongue is inconsistent. [We say one thing to one person and turn around and say another thing to someone else. We may bless God and then curse a neighbor, made in the image of God. Perry talks about the huge disconnect when we speak with reverence of God but with contempt or disdain toward another human being. Words can be a “restless evil”. Pay attention. Are others’ names and personhoods safe on our lips?]
Listen to this fascinating and charged talk by Jackie Hill Perry.
3) The CALM Superpower – Author, leadership trainer Carey Nieuwhof recently interviewed psychologist Jennifer Kolari on his podcast. She spoke on dealing with irrational people, and, in fact, any situation of conflict. I learned so much.
[I’ve written about the brain, decision-making, and dealing with crisis many times. Such fascinating issues!]
Dr. Kolari introduced her CALM technique of dealing with conflict (including helping children in conflict with you or others). In brief, “the CALM method is a way of deep listening using language, compassion and empathy literally as medicine. It will soothe and calm AND bring both participants in the conversation into brain-heart coherence.”
Here’s a brief outline of the framework:
C – CONNECT – connect before correcting; deeply listen; give the sense that you are “for them”.
A – AFFECT – match the affect of the person in front of you; don’t say how the other person SHOULD feel; show understanding.
L – LISTEN – deeply; take that affect above into what you’re hearing; wonder at it; choose your responses based on what is being said to you, including the emotion. Respond not react.
M – MIRROR – allow what’s going on with the person to “hit you right in the heart”. Be in the moment with them/him/her. We do this with babies intuitively. Communicate with your face and body even more than with words.
Listen to the podcast. Check out the resources below. We too often go to correction, with other adults and definitely with children, when they need connection first…and maybe only.
4) COVID Close to Home – I’m not saying much here, but COVID has hit very close to home this week. I have friends and family with COVID. Check your thoughts if you’re going straight to “oh…not vaccinated”. Not so in every situation. People who did everything “right” – vaccination, mitigation, all the preventions – can still get COVID. The graphic below is updated often and is super helpful.
The most important points in this conversation are these:
COVID is real and we will have to deal with it for some time (not at a pandemic level forever but definitely as endemic).
Everyone has to make personal decisions on how to prevent and treat it. To not make a decision is to make a dangerous decision. I’m not saying what to do (enough people are telling us what to do), BUT I am saying to think through our risks and that of those around us, and make informed decisions.
Be prepared. You don’t want to start searching out what to do to lessen the impact of COVID when you are already sick.
Test early. Even if it might be something else. Testing early helps you and all those who may come in contact with you (if it turns out you test positive.
The pieces below are actually not in support of one methodology or another. In fact, they expose the hard decision-making needed in determining how to act with the threat of COVID. We can depend on (or react against) mandates from government, or we can make the best possible decision we can, given the information we receive.
By the way, my friends and family members are all on the mend… except for one. On a ventilator, with family called in. We are praying still. This is why we can’t be cavalier with our decisions.
5) 20th Anniversary of 9/11 – Part of why Friday Faves is coming out on Monday is because I’ve spent an enormous amount of time this week watching, reading, and listening to stories about 9/11. It’s the 20th anniversary of the bombings.
In the twenty years that have passed since 2001, our country has changed so much. We are divided in really unhealthy ways. On that day…for awhile, we came together. We may have had very conflicted views on what happened after (Iraqi War, immigration issues, and the long engagement in Afghanistan). Whatever our opinions are on these, the stories of that day are so worthy of our time and attention.
One of the most beautiful pieces I read this past week was by writer Jennifer Senior for the Atlantic. It was really long, but she did justice to the loss and grief of just this one family. 27 y/o Bobby McIlvaine died that day at the bottom of the World Trade Center. Son, brother, friend, fiancé. His was just one of thousands of stories that day…it matters and it also reflects the many other stories that we don’t know.
The two videos below speak to the day after September 11, 2001 and to the day 20 years later. Take the time…
“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth. Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say It is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend.” – Naomi Shihab Nye
Community – “Every arrow needs a bow: William Wilberforce” — the power of community. If Wilberforce was the arrow that pierced the heart of the slave trade, the Clapham Fellowship was the bow that propelled him. As Pollock writes, “Wilberforce proves that one man can change his times, but he cannot do it alone.” The Clapham fellowship lived by Wesley’s maxim: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” And this was no mere slogan: tensions developed in their relationship that would have splintered most associations, even Christian associations, had they not been so radically centered on Christ.” — “Every Arrow Needs a Bow,” by John Hart, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, July 1998 [This was a quote in my folder of quotes; I can’t find the source online today, but it rings even more true now.]
“If we major in criticism, we become polemicists, rather than agents of redemption. Often polemicists excuse their loveless rough edges by the demands of truth. But they lose more than they realize. In fact, when love and the growth of positive truth are lost, truth is also lost. Biblical truth loses its scope, balance, depth, applicability, savor, and growing edge [in this disordered priority]. … Words that are not constructive, timely, and grace-giving are rotten and non-nutritive, whatever their formal likeness to Christian content (Eph 4:29). To lose charity, tenderheartedness, sympathy, and generosity is always to simultaneously pervert the redemptive nature of biblical revelation. Narrowed “truth” may bristle enough to defend one city wall, but it is not good enough to conquer the world.” – David Powlison’s “Cure of Souls” (2007)
After one-and-a-half years in COVID, we all have grappled with a need for social distancing and isolation. What happens then when the diligent pursuit of physical safety causes a loss of community?
None of us want to get COVID or its latest variant. However, we also desperately need community. It is on each of us to make creative and persistent decisions toward going after community. Especially the most vulnerable of us, or we will suffer more than the health impact of COVID [see links below].
The dilemma with isolation is somehow it has brought a social lethargy with it. We are becoming more solitary and our community has shrunk to the lowest and tightest we can manage.
Not necessarily out of fear of COVID, but out of a growing incapacity for community. Real community. “Iron sharpening iron” relationships.
I know I am not alone in the need for such community. We have probably all thought of how altered our relationships have become over the last several months. Not the closest maybe, but especially those that spurred us toward a higher accountability, responsibility or integrity. Those relationships where we are helped to make better decisions or extend kindnesses (especially toward those outside our inner circles).
[Whether introvert or extrovert, we can easily sink down into a solitary life of less. And less is not always more. This less can breed a sort of self-serving life where we gauge our relationships by our own gains and extend ourselves by our own comfort levels. Been there, done that. Ugh! ]
COVID or not, we still need other people, and they need us. Whether on a work project better served with team problem-solving or a family crisis that could use “all hands on deck”. Death and divorce are still happening, but life celebrations are also still with us – all calling for the touch of our community.
In the novel, Victor Frankenstein is a brilliant scientist. He is overwhelmed by a series of losses and the grief, as well as his increasingly unhinged genius, drive him into isolation. He decides to make a human-like creature who would be like a son to him.
It did not turn out well. The creature, because of the rejection and isolation he himself felt, was determined to be a monster.
Both Victor and the creature Frankenstein, throughout the story, are plagued with isolation and a terrible lack of caring community.Photo Credit: Pixabay
“The theme of isolation in Frankenstein raises many questions about the role of community and its importance. Many characters in the novel find themselves in isolated positions, and a few suffer grave consequences because of it. Characters suffer from both physical and emotional isolation, although, as in the case of the monster, the isolation is not always self-inflicted. Victor Frankenstein, on the other hand, chooses to isolate himself from his family, his peers, and even the monster he created.
In Frankenstein, horrible things happen when a character is isolated from the others. When Victor’s knowledge and ambition are unchecked by his peers, a monster is created…the destructive power lies not in the monster or his creator, but in solitude. Shelley uses this theme and its manifestation in her characters to pose questions about community, knowledge, and its role in society. Is unbridled knowledge always dangerous, or is there a middle ground? Should one abandon his or her pursuits if they are driving him or her away from a community?
Shelley makes it clear that there are two different types of isolation: self-inflicted and societal. We see self-inflicted isolation manifested in Victor; he detaches from his world and the people he loves and as a result, everyone suffers tremendously. Rejection from society is demonstrated in the monster’s life. Again and again, he is turned away from love and companionship, which what he has longed for since he was first brought to life.” – Wiki-Fandom Analysis of Frankenstein – Mary Shelley, an Academic Wiki
Of course, this is a novel, but incredibly insightful as a tale of human nature. We need community…we are made for community.
Somehow we must rally during this protracted social experience of COVID. What is your mindset on this and what are your intentional actions toward community and away from isolation? The kind of isolation that eventually diminishes us and our relationships. Please comment below.
In closing, I do want to affirm an Isolation in Community. We may have to deal with social distancing for sometime still. Especially those most vulnerable to severe illness from COVID. For some isolation can’t be avoided, but there is an isolation in community. Where we take steps toward and lean in to deeper community. Even if it isn’t always in person. This takes a different sort of effort, but we know it is possible. Fortunately. For me, it’s actually using the phone for conversations (including Facetime). It’s not stepping out of responsibilities (work or community service) because of a need for social distancing, but figuring out alternate ways to serve, or get a job done. I have also experienced the fruit of it, thanks to your efforts. Our mail is less junk mail and more actual real connections through cards/letters. Thanks for that. Again, please comment below what your experience has been here.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. – Colossians 3:15-20
37 years today.
The flight of years shows in our bodies and minds, but for us, it is most apparent in the launch of adult children into their own lives and marriages. Then…it comes back to just the two of us…and I am grateful for his company.
Our marriage has always been of a quiet steady sort . My husband and I married best friends. We were polar opposites in most ways, except our faith and being raised in Southern families. He was “read and follow directions” marrying “fly by the seat of her pants.” It was definitely a match made in Heaven because we would need the God of Heaven to keep us on course as we figured marriage out…both without and, later, with children.
In fact, those of you who know us well know the struggles we have had figuring out parenting (both young children and then adult children). Also the challenges of having very different ideas and giftings on doing life. I’ve written so much about this in my journals over the years, wrestling with God and myself in these areas. Our daughter already knows to handle with understanding the pages of angst about our marriage. She would probably be the only one who will read them. The best part is she has seen us pull together more than pull apart.
I’ve often quoted Elisabeth Elliot on love and marriage. Two thoughts come to mind. She speaks of love as being “a laid-down life.” She also talks of marriage as being good for Christians to mature in their walk with God, because [in marriage] “there’s so much scope for sinning.” My husband has taught me a lot in both of these areas, and I, him – hopefully more on the lines of laying down our lives for each other, rather than the scope for sinning part…sigh.
Whatever these nearing forty years have produced with us together, the best of it has been 3 great young people (and the extra children who’ve joined our family through them, so far)…and GRANDCHILDREN! Alongside those treasures is the unalterable way the Lord has knit us together, my husband and me, with each other and with Him.
I have some idea what is ahead, given our ages and the world around us (we’ve already been through a cancer diagnosis, big job changes, losses of dear parents, and sickness in our children and grandchildren). The hard is softened by what is promised (and proven) through God’s Word. Whatever is ahead, I am so grateful for what I’ve learned through this man who married me 37 years ago.
He has given me a face of one who does not give up, of one who fights for what is right, of one who is tender toward the weak, of one who loves no matter what. I have been both the recipient of this and the one on his side as he extends himself to others.
Now, we are two again…as in the beginning of our relationship. Yet we are at a very different place. God has shown Himself to be ever-present in all these years of our lives. For many years I didn’t think marriage was to be mine…then Dave came into my life quite providentially. God gave me exactly what I needed in this husband of mine – a man as true as steel in his walk with God and with his family. We count on him; he counts on God. Whatever happens out there in front of us…I have peace, on this 37th anniversary, that God will be there for each of us, to show us how to live…as He has in all these years thus far.
Anyway, back to this recommended book. If you consider yourself a creative or you have one in your family or friend group, then you know something of the battles. Our nearest and dearest creative is classical guitarist Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar fame (you know him if you read this each week).
Creatives have an incredible drive to do their craft, but they also have to work against resistance. The pressure of time, the struggle with self-doubt, the tension of balancing other parts of life.Photo Credit: Slideshare
As a writer, Steven Pressfield gets the warring that goes on inside creatives’ minds. He writes eloquently and insightfully about it:
“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”
“We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are. More than our parents/children/teachers think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent that our still, small voice tells us. That we actually have the guts, the perseverance, the capacity. We fear that we truly can steer our ship, plant our flag, reach our Promised Land. We fear this because, if it’s true, then we become estranged from all we know. We pass through a membrane. We become monsters and monstrous.”
“Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.”
“Fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”
“Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action. Do it or don’t do it. It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself,. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet. You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God. Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”
“Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. “I write only when inspiration strikes,” he replied. “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”
Two video clips follow. One is a clip of the “miracle of fish” from the TV series The Chosen. The clip below it tells the story of how the scene was actually and finally created…the beauty of art and technology working together, for sure.
2) Food Waste – Recently I was reminded of a time years ago when Dave and I bought a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts to share, just the two of us. Later, we decided, halfway through the box, that we didn’t need to finish it. “We don’t need to eat all these doughnuts.” [Like what were we thinking buying a dozen?!] Well, I threw the box into the garbage. We would both discover hours later that each of us, unbeknownst to the other, retrieved doughnuts from that box in the garbage. #TooGoodForGarbagePhoto Credit: Krispy Kreme, Facebook
[We were also reminded of a family legend of a certain adult child of ours retrieving an untouched chocolate eclair from his inlaws’ garbage. #RaisedRight]
Anyway, what I’m getting to is the matter of food waste in our country. When we lived in North Africa, we learned you just didn’t throw food away…you just didn’t. You either ate leftovers, reconfigured it for another meal, froze it to use later, or gave it away (either to neighbors, friends, or the less fortunate in your life – known or stranger. Also vegetable/fruit waste could be composted. What couldn’t be salvaged (like food scraps or plate leavings) were put in a separate bag from the garbage and set out for people to use to feed animals.
I loved that system/worldview.
What do you do with “food waste”? How can we shop and cook in ways that keep waste down as well?
Thankful for food champions who expose our waste and challenge us to do better – both in our homes and the public and private sector.
20 minute video below is so revealing of food waste in Canada and the US. Also follows food waste activist Rob Greenfield.
I struggle with clutter. Putting things where they belong. “Resetting the room”, as James Clear puts it. Letting go of stuff. Getting better but it is a challenge. Now…here’s our guest room…where my sweet Mom-in-law sleeps when she comes to visit.
However, it is only half ready for her next visit. In her absence, it quickly becomes a storage room. Stuff without a home is stowed there.
I’ve written about decluttering, and I’m getting there…slowly. After listening to her video, the guest room is closer to being ready for MomMom. Everything is not completely in its place or out of the house but it’s closer.
Dawn describes Pareto’s Rule in her coaching about decluttering. What that means is focusing on the imbalances in our lives and being intentional to clear some of them out. For example, let’s say we use just 20% of our stuff 80% of the time. What should we do with the rest of the stuff that requires us to manage it even if we rarely use it? [For me, Christmas decorations get a pass.] Or let’s say that 80% of our goals in life could be accomplished with 20% effort. What if that 20% effort included decluttering? Would the gains far exceed the losses?
Stuff management takes time and energy from the larger life goals we have. If we apply Pareto’s Rule to clutter, a small amount of concentrated effort can free us up to be able to focus on what matters more to us.
So how about you? What did you get from the 80/20 rule related to de-cluttering? Also, let’s be clear on this. Decluttering is definitely not a global issue…it is a problem in the wealthy West. Something to think about on the next trip to Target. 😉
4) Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden – Such a beautiful season. The grands thought so as well. Enjoy!
5) A Local Restaurant Find – This week we went on a cultural culinary excursion. Dave, some friends, and I went looking for a new restaurant. Local. Ethnic food. And it was amazing!
Chef Charles delivered up some of the best Caribbean food I’ve ever tasted. He was born in Guyana but his parents were from St. Lucia. He grew up in St. Thomas. In the US, he spent 35 years in the insurance industry as an underwriter. Then he moved into the restaurant business and has owned and operated Charles’ Kitchen for the past 6 years. He works his own culinary magic with family recipes, using locally grown vegetables and herbs (some of which he grows himself). The service was also just right.
Chef Charles and Dave
The food was excellent (as I’ve said before), but meeting Chef Charles and hearing some of his story topped off our meal. Then he did one better: served us caramel cake warm from the oven.
That’s it for this week. How about your faves of the week? Anything you want to share (in Comments below)? Thanks for stopping by.
Surely my soul remembers and is humbled within me. Yet I call this to mind, and there I have hope: Because of the loving devotion of the LORD we are not consumed, for His mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. – Lamentations 3:21-26
We need to teach our little ones how to lament. Otherwise, those children (especially bent toward the cup being less than half full or entirely empty) will develop habits of being sullen or inconsolable. In fact, as our children grow into adulthood, knowing how to lament will be a worship tool for handling all the painful and seemingly unfair losses.
What is Biblical lament? Its definition is, in Hebrew, “to passionately cry out, to wail, to express sorrow, to mourn, to express regret”.
“We live in a fallen world. We experience the consequences of sin and death on individual, cultural, and global levels. God knows we need a way to express and release the pain of these losses or we risk becoming numb to even the joys of life or allowing momentary sorrows to infect our entire being. The tool He’s provided for this release is lamentation.” – Lori Stanley Roeleveld
Yesterday I was spending the afternoon with our 5y/o and 3 y/o sibling grandchildren. We had a schedule, and they both understood it. Then the 3 y/o decided to change up the schedule. His strategy was to be miserable and make his sister and Gram miserable as well. He was successful. I don’t do sullen well at all. [My own struggle with responding to inconsolable children needs its own blog. Surely, I can do better.] The afternoon finished out fine enough, but we were all three worse the wear on feeling bad and making each other feel bad. Thankful for another day of learning to love well these precious ones.
Through the evening, I was reminded of my own children’s struggle with hardship and losses and how their dad and I tried to help them navigate them, growing up. Our sweet daughter’s struggle with our many moves, leaving friends behind and forced to start over in new places. Our darling youngest son who was different different (being both American and Korean living in Africa), and sometimes endured hard attention from other children. Our talented older son when his heart broke, not making the soccer team as a middle schooler.
[Sidebar: When this loss accentuated our son’s struggles later on his high school basketball team, we understood there would be dark times. Dave remembered last night about us giving him an after-dinner back yard task of 100 completed free throws. I can’t believe now that he actually went along with us. Hot, mad, and sweaty, he shot and shot until he got those 100 successful attempts. His confidence grew through the season with his practiced proficiency.]
Our sullenness and inconsolable hearts must have their origins in entitlement. This is something we fought against with our children from toddler-hood. Still it creeps in (to all our lives). Life should be better for us. Life should bring successes. Even for Christians, we are shocked, at times, when we suffer because we think it is not right. Not fair. [We never responded to that expression with our kids growing up. Just moved on. It might have been a teachable moment to sow lament in their hearts.]
Turn to God. – Tell God what’s happening. Talk to Him about everything about it, including how you feel.
Bring your complaint. – Tell Him what’s frustrating you. All of it. He can take the struggle you are having.
Ask boldly for help. – Don’t give into silence and despair. Ask Him for help. “Dare to hope.”
Choose to trust. – “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5–6). More than the stages of grief, this prayer language moves us to renew our commitment to trust in God as we navigate the brokenness of life.
Lament is definitely something we can choose as we walk with God. Teaching our children to turn their struggle away from themselves and toward God will move them to maturity. Just this week that basketballer son of ours gave counsel to treating perceived failure with perspective and perseverance. A good word for anyone.
For today, let’s turn our longing, our ache, our sorrow into a lament and a praise. Allow gratitude to flatten our fear. Worship with me with the help of this great old hymn that I’ve referenced before (see links below). Remember that our beloved Comforter, and Consoler, is ever and always faithful:
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.
Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
all I have needed thy hand hath provided–
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. [Refrain]
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide, strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! [Refrain]*
Music is as universal as a smile. We understand its impact on our mood, our larger experience, and our sense of belonging. In fact, we unconsciously develop soundtracks for our lives with little effort.
When our children were entering their teens, we would often do long roadtrips, visiting family or heading to a beach somewhere. All three kids had their own headphones on, with their own individual soundtracks for the road. Occasionally, being the parents messing in their lives, we would insist they put away their private listening devices. Then we shared our various personal favorites through the car’s stereo. With differing levels of enjoyment for sure.
It was a bonding exercise of a sort. Or at least a cross-cultural musical experience between the five of us. I wonder if they remember.
My wonderful mom-in-law is visiting us this week.
Over the weekend, we were driving and Dave cued up Alan Jackson’s Gospel country song albums. Sweetly familiar to all of us, even though some of those songs we haven’t sung in a very long time. We all sang along, even our youngest adult son who remembers those songs from childhood (only). It was a lovely experience that wouldn’t necessarily have happened without MomMom in the car.
Do you have favorite soundtracks for different times in your life? I know you do. Something nostalgic…or maybe new still? Something that restores you from a dark place or returns you to a happy time or just causes you to get out of your seat to dance or raise your arms in praise?
I sure do. A wide range of music because I’ve lived a long time now. One thing about music for me: for half my life, the soundtracks wouldn’t be instrumental. Music had to have words for me to engage. Marrying a quiet man began the reconstruction of that. If Dave was in the house, strains of big band, jazz, or classical music would always fill parts of the house. Even then, my appreciation for instrumental music just wasn’t happening.
Until our middle child, Nathan, picked up the guitar. He had his high school garage band days, but then honed in on mastering the classical guitar…and my soundtracks for life began to change.
Where words once seemed necessary, the music itself can bring “all the feels”. Especially when we already have the words in our heads, and all we need is just the right rendering of a melody, or harmony, to draw out the memory.
Nathan, at Beyond the Guitar, regularly brings to us his classical guitar arrangements of film, TV, and video game themes. Nostalgia is strong in this guy. When we listen to music that takes us back, we are, more often than not, fortified because we experience both an intimate connection (with our own sense of meaning) and with a social emotion drawing us toward others with similar music memories. It’s a sweet looking back. We don’t stay in the past, of course, but the emotions drawn out by such music refreshes, reconnects, and reorients us.
We have various playlists from Nathan’s beautiful, lyrical music, but I will post just a few of my many favorite videos of his below. Including his most recent “Tifa’s Theme” from the Final Fantasy video game franchise. No nostalgia attached to this one for me, because I never got into video games, but…The beauty of his arrangement of this gorgeous piece of music stands alone to touch my heart.
Here we go:
Just a few. Thanks for giving me this opportunity to share some of my soundtracks for life…music that lifts our mind and fills our hearts with sweet emotion. Put your earbuds in or turn your speakers up. Let the music flow and wash over you.
Please share some of your go-to tracks in the Comments. Have a soaring day!
[Here we are two days post Juneteenth and one day post Father’s Day. What’s on my mind? Recovering from a bad fall with back pain slowly dissipating, and its resultant writer’s block. Hard to sit at a computer and write with brain drain from this pain.
However, the pain is improving…and inspiration is returning. In fact, the weekend’s events have spurred so many thoughts and emotions.]
This morning, I slowly rolled out of bed with so many thoughts pinging around my mind…thoughts and accompanying emotions. Then, as happens sometimes, a song, and the question in its title, settled in my brain.
Even when our hearts are not presently under attack, we share space with those we love whose hearts are breaking. A dear friend whose husband wants another future. A friend who spent his Father’s Day without his children (because his ex-wife chose a different future). .Friends who lost their fathers before this Father’s Day…or parents who lost their children (whether to death or to an estranged life). Friends heartbroken over the what-ifs or what-may-never-be’s. Fill in the blank with your own. #BrokenHearts.
[Too heavy for a Monday morning? It does get better.]
Maybe you aren’t so aware of broken hearts. Maybe you haven’t had the experience of sitting on the phone of a friend scream-weeping at the hard reality of her life right now. Maybe you haven’t worked beside a friend whose stone face and deep quiet haven’t touched your awareness of what is going on under the surface of his silence…his pain.
Broken hearts can take us on spirals that lead to self-protective withdrawal, confused anger, terrifying isolation, or hard bitterness.Photo Credit: AZ Quotes
I also found some helps in a somewhat odd place: Kristin Weber‘s Adulting for Jesus. Whatever you currently think about Jesus, this book on adulting is refreshing, funny sometimes, and so real. Midway of the book she talks about developing something she calls godly grit.
“Adulting requires learning how to fall and get back up again, and again, and again.” – Adulting for Jesus, p. 89
Weber presents 10 ways to shift perspective on the struggle (our heartbreak) and develop that grit:
Expect hardship. – “Western comforts have lulled us into the false assumption that life is meant to be easy and the hard moments few. In reality, much of life is hard, and the easy moments are the exceptions.” We can learn to live in such a way that difficult situations/relationships don’t catch us off guard.
Depend on God. – “…when a relationship [ends] abruptly, failure hurts – often deeply. We can be honest about our hurt and struggles while still trusting God.” We don’t ignore the pain of our broken heart, but we recognize that God hasn’t gone anywhere. He sees; He hears; He will work on our behalf.
Ask “What’s Next?” – “Rather than ask ‘Why me?’…ask a different question about life: ‘What’s next?’ Obstacles, especially a long string of them, can make us short-sighted. By asking ‘What’s next?’ we recognize this failure or hardship isn’t the end of our story…Hardships will undoubtably change you, but keeping a long-term perspective will prevent them from destroying you.”
Look at Adversity through Eternal Lenses. – “As a child of God your trials, both big and small, have an expiration date.” When our hearts are broken, we are consumed and exhausted by our loss. We can’t see down the road but so far. “Do the next thing”. Eternity comes but until then we grieve the loss, but we also train ourselves to stay in the moment and hope for a better future…a different future. We have that confidence in God’s care.
Appreciate the Bottom. – “A lot can be learned on the bottom step of the ladder”. Our broken hearts can bring us low…but that is not where we stay. That is not where we belong.
Develop Thick Skin and a Tender Heart. – “Try to be slow in getting offended and quick in extending grace. If someone causes you to have a knee-jerk reaction, that person controls you. That person has all the power…Choosing a calm response and keeping a level head, you remain free to live your life.”
Be Teachable. – “Though we don’t need to let the opinions and critiques of everyone we encounter control our lives, we do need people who can lovingly speak truth into our lives…Our natural instinct is to make excuses or get defensive when someone corrects us, but adopting an attitude of teachability puts us on the track to growth and maturity. We need to take ownership of our actions and be humble enough to receive input about where we can improve.”
Do Something. – “Big changes happen through tiny actions, and tiny actions require doing something.” Every day…step by step. #MakeYourBed.
Laugh. – “Once I learned to laugh at myself and find humor in situations that didn’t tip in my favor, I became less stressed and anxious about every little thing. I didn’t dread life or failure as much…Our hope isn’t ultimately in everything going our way, and humor keeps the weight of our circumstances from crushing us.”
Count Your Blessings. – “Instead of focusing constantly on everything that’s going wrong, take time each day to remember what’s going right. We might find our ‘gratitude attitude’ changes our entire outlook on life.”
Thanks, Kristin. I can tell you’ve known heartbreak and have learned to come out whole on the other side.
Closing out this Monday Morning Moment, for those of us who are sharing space with one or many dealing with broken hearts, we need to remember its pain, and have patience and compassion…be present, listen, and, when we can, speak the truth in love.
P.S. The Scripture verses are strong anchors and the links below are super helpful. None of us are in these broken spaces alone.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. – Psalm 73:26
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. – Psalm 147:3
“I have chosen you and haven’t rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:9b-10
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Jesus – Matthew 11:28-30
1) Beyond the Guitar – Beauty to the Ears & Mind – We think of beauty more in what we experience visually, but there is a powerful connection between music and the mind. Beautiful music soothes the soul and lifts our hearts. Moves us. Often it is because of nostalgia attached to the music, but even without that emotional connection, music can bring our minds to a better place.
Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has that way about his craft. Moving our hearts with the beauty of his arrangements and performance. I don’t know any of the pieces in his medley of 4 Underrated (but Beautiful) Video Game Themes, but something happens when I listen. Shoulders drop; breathing slows; wonder sets in. Beauty has its way with our ears and our minds.
2) Mental Health Awareness – May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The theme message for 2021 is “You Are Not Alone”. Our need for connection is bigger than ever, having gone through so much COVID isolation. Whether mental health issues are our own personal struggle or we are family, friends, caregivers of those who struggle, helps abound. We just must be aware and utilize them.
Suicide and death by drug overdose have increased during COVID. They are shocking for us and real losses, either for us or for friends. We can’t keep isolating ourselves from each other. Finding ways to help is imperative.
3) Antidote for Self-Deceit – Self-deceit (or self-deception) is “a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument. Self-deception involves convincing oneself of a truth (or lack of truth) so that one does not reveal any self-knowledge of the deception”.
I’ve allowed myself to be deceived (either with the help of outside influences or from sheer will and desire, wanting something to be so, or not be so). It’s not pretty. One of my strongest memories was sitting in a circle of friends who essentially did an loving intervention with me. I was in a self-destructive (but non-abusive) relationship, and they had the courage to point me to the changes in my life and thinking. I will never forget it. The life I have now is much impacted by their willingness to go to that place with me. Forever grateful.
Regarding deceit, it is way too easy to get into our own heads and assess life with a self-tuned receiver. I wrote about this before (the practice of noticing). A somewhat dated video (with a still fresh message) speaks to this so well.
During the particular season of self-deception (described above), I got to the place that lying in my bed at night, when I would usually pray, it got impossible to pray. That was terrifying. It’s like all the desires and my rationalizations for them had crowded out any space for God. Especially for a holy God. Like I said, terrifying. No matter how loving God is, I couldn’t justify praying when my own desires trumped His for me.
As the video illuminates, as we get out of our own heads, and start seeing other people around us, we find the antidote. Caring more for others than ourselves, we can actually clear our heads some. Self-deception causes us to “circle the wagons” and keep others at a distance. As we determine to get close to people again, especially to genuinely listen and serve, our own deceit can be more readily understood/recognized. Of course, our neglected relationship with God will take its own time and action on our part. He is ready, when we are.
4) Showing Up…or Not – Showing up is a good thing. For all of us. Keeping commitments. Being present. Choosing to lean in. Listening.
So much is said about listening and its positive impact. To listen requires proximity.
On the East Coast, this week, we had a gas shortage (or a perceived gas shortage…not sure which is more accurate). Everyone was making decisions about filling their tanks and sorting out needful car trips vs. those that can be jettisoned for another time.
I was a part of a couple of meetings where some folks didn’t show up. Without a phone call, text, or email message. Was it the gas shortage? Or did it display something else? Honestly, I also wondered how often I’ve done this same thing myself.
We are in a culture right now when a RSVP yes can turn to no without a word. I’m showing my age…but does this matter?
Below you’ll find quotes from three different authors on this and what it can mean. The showing up…or not. After you read their observations, I’d love to hear what you have to say in the Comments.
“Standing someone up is a personal attack. You are saying that you have no respect at all for this person’s time, energy or feelings. This person set aside time from his or her day to hang out with YOU.
And maybe he or she didn’t feel like showing up. But no, this person had enough respect for you to feel as though he or she couldn’t bail on you. Then how did you repay the favor? You didn’t show up. With no warning.
And don’t even get me started on the fact that if this person cared about you enough to make and honor plans with you, odds are that he or she would probably be WORRIED about you when you don’t send a message. Because falling off the face of the Earth is a little alarming….You get the picture here.” – Candice Jalili
“There are commitments you are not going to keep no matter how hard you try, but even if you fail to keep them, you can still honor them. How do you do this?
“The difference between “keeping” and “honoring” is key: keeping a promise is about the letter of the promise, while honoring a promise is about the spirit. It is even possible to keep a promise while not honoring it. People will forgive an honored but un-kept promise, but it takes a real saint to let go of an un-honored promise—kept or not.
So what are the practical aspects of honoring a commitment? They are:
It’s uncomfortable to take responsibility (for a failed commitment), but discomfort is a lot easier to shoulder than disrespect or disappointment. Even if you failed to honor a commitment up until now, it is not too late: disrespect and disappointment can be rolled back or even erased in the face of genuine honor.” – Kenneth Vogt
[The two writers above have very different tones to their pieces. Both worthy of note. I especially appreciated Vogt’s distinction of honoring a commitment (whether you’re able to keep it or not). Honoring the person by communicating your inability to keep the commitment…as well as the honoring that goes on by making the effort to keep the commitment whether easy or not. We don’t really know what goes on for another who does the work of keeping a commitment or the one who just can’t. What we do know is what it is like for us to keep or not keep a commitment; to honor or dishonor a person in the commitment. So much more understanding and care come out of the smallest communications. Something to think about.]
Below Rachel Macy Stafford posted an image and (in the link) a Facebook story about sitting in a line for gas this week, and an elderly man, just ahead of her, deliberately nodding her way (as he chose not to completely fill his tank, doing what he could to “leave” some for her). No RSVP’ed commitment. No relationship. But a deeply kind gesture to her that she was seen. We all need that…that being seen.
It’s…“a deliberate decision to look out for the person behind (you)…It’s not about us. Even though it’s hard not to think only of our own needs, there is someone behind us…and someone behind that person…with their own set of struggles. If you can…will you look out for them? A wave will do, just so they know they are seen…it’s the kind of gesture that takes people farther than a full tank of gas.” – Rachel Macy Stafford
5) Unmasking – Get ready for another new culture shock thanks to the Coronavirus: unmasking!!! I am so excited myself.Photo Credit: Pexels, Gustavo Fring
Based on this week’s CDC recommendations, fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks or physically distance anymore (except in rare defined situations). This, of course, is still only a recommendation and each state must give direction at a local level. Our governor just announced that we will align with the CDC recommendations.
Now, no one is going to know who is vaccinated and who isn’t. If we have learned anything from COVID-19, it is to be wise in dealing with the viral world. Those not vaccinated will probably forego masks as well. The freedom feels intoxicating, honestly, but possibly fearful to some, even some who are fully vaccinated.
I hope we can leave fear behind us. COVID is still rampant in some parts of the world and that is tragic. As we in the US and other countries get past our own experiences with this virus, hopefully we can be a help to those still battling the disease.
The culture shock part is real. I will have my mask with me, and see what the signs say on the doors of each business, store, school, or community space.
5 favorite finds of the week. Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!
1) Music and the Soul – We all know the soothing touch of music on our souls. It lifts us and takes us to nostalgic places. Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, J. S. Bach
Nathan at Beyond the Guitar is like an online music therapist. Sweet guitar melodies that cause us to travel to a film, TV show, or video game that brought us fun, but more often, joy in the experience.
Nathan’s latest posted arrangement for classical guitar is linked below. Sweet piece.
Occasionally he plays a song just for his patrons. This week he performed Leo Brouwer‘s Cancion de Cuna. Such a romantic classical guitar piece. I wish I could bring you that video, but unless you’re already a patron, you will miss that one. Here’s him playing it in 2009 (thanks to his filmmaker roommate Duy Nguyen. He was a youngster then, but the soul knows. Enjoy the loveliness.
I love his music and how it elevates our souls. Words can often do the same for us, especially us extroverts. Below are links about how many see the impact of music on our hearts and health…here, words are used.
2) Asking Good Questions – Several years ago, we were in charge of a cross-cultural post-grad experience for groups of 20-somethings (millennials). One time, a mom came out to visit her son, and she gave us some good advice (although at the time it wasn’t something I wanted to hear). I’ll get back to that advice shortly.
In this cross-cultural context, these young people had many hurdles to quickly master – language, culture, worldview, physical and emotional challenges. Having lived well for many years in this particular culture, we could very easily fall into just “telling” them what to do and how to succeed, and often we did just that.
This mom told us, “Young adults want to discover their own way through difficulty. Ask them good questions and they will find the answers for themselves.”
Sigh…OK. I get it. It may take longer and require more work on the part of the teacher, mentor, supervisor…but it is excellent advice.
Asking the right questions is an art. Too often, we just default to giving the answer rather than asking the question. Four excellent articles on this are linked below. Asking questions (the right way with the right intent) can build trust and transparency. We also find out what we need to know rather than making suppositions that could be way wrong.
3) Hygiene Theater – We have dear friends who are still terrified by COVID-19. Even after so many of us are vaccinated. Lives have been severely altered by the safeguards put in place with the advisement of the CDC and other government agencies as we “follow the science”. That sacred science changes weekly because we are gaining new understanding of the virus with increasing data helping us to open up our lives more.
Thus the flurry of articles and videos now on the topic “hygiene theater”. Remember early on when we were told to sanitize our surfaces, wash our vegetables/fruits, and vigorously clean all public places on a daily basis.
What have we learned? How have we changed in our mediation of COVID impact? Now that I’m fully vaccinated and so many in my life have been, I look forward to welcoming people back into my home and visiting others as well. Shopping, though still often online or curbside pickup, has been happily opened up. Still, it seems we live in a world that is strangely toxic. All of us wearing masks and wiping down surfaces wherever we go. In this seemingly apocalyptic space.
When is the fear of COVID, of dying, so paramount that it squeezes all the joy and quality out of our lives? How can we move forward?
Now, I won’t play down the danger of COVID. We have lost friends and colleagues to it over this year. Not many, praise God, but some. The fact that there is still such a fear of it, over a year in, seems inordinate. Given the numbers. For sure in the US. Especially when COVID-related deaths reported appears suspect.
Maybe I am unwisely cynical. However, the deep cleaning still being advised (in our schools, for one huge example) seems unnecessary. Given all the findings. Given what we know about the transmission of COVID (through air and not surfaces). Follow the science, right?
I’m grateful for every turn in the COVID pandemic that restores life processes for our good. Kids in school. Friends visiting in each other’s homes. Work forces back in full. Weddings, births, graduations, funerals, hospital stays with our people in attendance, fully supporting us.
Enough with over-sanitizing. Now, on to masking. When is it truly protective and when is it theater?
4) Life-transforming Poetry – OK, maybe not everyone loves poetry. Yet. The poetry of artists like Preston and Jackie Hill Perry, Ezekiel Azonwu, and Janette…ikz have such a way with words. They lay down truth with their poetry. It is unique and powerful. God and person honoring. Check it out below:
Hope you’ve had some of your own favorite finds. Please share in the Comments below. It means a lot you came for a read.
Fave Quote This Week:“We are sometimes faced with circumstances that seem as if they must mark the final act. We sometimes encounter providences that make us believe the book has been closed and all has been lost. Yet when we are pressed, we must not think we have been crushed, but believe that God can still bring about a great redemption. When we are struck down, we must not think we have been destroyed, but rather have confidence that we are being prepared for some great blessing. When we are persecuted we must not determine we have been abandoned, but know that we are being made ready for some great usefulness to God’s plans and purposes. We must wait, we must withhold judgment, we must read to the end! For no story, least of all our own, makes sense until we have read all the way to the final page. It is only then, in light of the whole, that we see the skill, the ability, the genius of the Author.” – Tim Challies, Always Read the Story to the End
[A girl’s diary from 1929 – borrowed from a friend. The first owner of the diary is not written anywhere in it. Amazing for me to read her words about daily life almost a hundred years ago.]