Category Archives: Volunteering/Serving

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

Photo Credit: The Minds Journal

We hold the doors open for each other.

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

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

We hold the doors open for each other.

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

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

We hold the doors open for each other.

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

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

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

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

Deconstructing Critical Theory: Oppressed and Oppressor – Kevin Watson

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

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

Overcomers…

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

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

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

  Photo Credit: Courtney Wadley

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig, Embrace Richmond, Embrace Communities

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

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

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

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

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

Worship Wednesday – Sidelined? By Whom? – A Musical Account of Moses and His God – Ken Medema

Photo Credit: Heartlight

The Lord asked him [Moses], “What is that in your hand?”
“A staff,” he replied.
“Throw it on the ground,” he said. So Moses threw it on the ground, it became a snake, and he ran from it. The Lord told Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grab it by the tail.”
So he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand.
“This will take place,” he continued, “so that they will believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”Exodus 4:3-5
The life of Moses inspires us all. He definitely had seasons when he must have felt side-lined…looking out the palace windows with no royal way to help the Israelite slaves; then 40 years tending sheep on the far side of nowhere; and finally after leading God’s people through the wilderness to the Promised Land, dying without entering himself.
Who sidelines us? What exactly sidelines us? Too often we are our own limiting factor…we put ourselves on the bench.
Is God not still at work in our lives…through every season?
Earlier this week, I was lamenting (maybe even whining) to a friend about something that gets to me from time to time. That feeling of being sidelined…after a lifetime of great productivity and unmerited influence. What is it, I asked her (or maybe God), about this season that is so hard? That feeling of being place-less, ministry-less. Surely it’s not my age or gender…or is it? Is there no more fruitfulness to look forward to this side of Heaven?
Can I execute bountiful pity parties or what?!
Then even in this talk with my friend, God’s sweet truth broke through. Dr. Curt Thompson is spot on when he talks about how we can come “to our senses” just in the simple experience of being seen…being known by a trusted friend. At the end of that conversation, as we prayed, the tears flowed (which is rare for me), and God reminded me of His own goodness and good purposes – and while I had breath, nothing was about to thwart what He was doing in and through me…in and through all of us.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Just in the course of a few hours after that conversation, the Lord worked His grace in my heart, and I’m back in the life He has so generously given me.

5 lessons God taught me…again:

  • Let go of the past. – We can romanticize and pedestalize previous seasons of our life and work. We look back over the plow (Luke 9:62) and long for other days. This is the field. This is the day where He has us now. I don’t want to miss what He has for my life today because my thoughts are languishing, settled in the distant past. We don’t forget the past, but we remember it, glorifying God, not glorying in our own supposed “usefulness”. Sigh…
  • Check your heart. – Anytime a spirit of complaining clouds our thinking, it is a good reminder to see what’s going on in our hearts. Am I feeling unseen, unappreciated, under-utilized? [So what?! If that happens then we’re completely free to listen more closely to how God is directing.] Arm-chair quarterbacking is not a good look for any of us. I remember my mom was a treasure to the young pastors she had through the years. In fact, three of them preached her funeral…with others in the room, with the same testimony. They talked of how she loved them, spoke truth to them, and prayed over them faithfully. In her own quiet life, growing older…closer to God. The Lord got hold of me the other day in this area. So thankful for His love and care…and forgiveness.
  • Watch for the new thing. – God is always with us and at work in us. He may take us down familiar, well-worn paths (those we get caught up longing for), but He also chooses to stretch our faith and build our capacity for loving Him and loving others. Not necessarily in grand and glorious ways, but in small and subtle ways where we have the opportunity to decrease while He increases. Whew! Watching for it.
  • Will there be barriers? Always. The thing we should have learned from previous seasons of life and work is that God is our over-comer. More often than not, we find the battle belongs to God; all we have to do is stand. We forget that sometimes. We stare at the barriers (fashioning them, at times, to look like our own brothers and sisters in Christ), and fume about them…forgetting that our battle is NOT against flesh and blood…nor is it really our battle. [There’s a very short story that comes to mind about how we’re called to push against what seems an impossible weight…but God* (see below, worth the read). Compared to the person and presence of God, all seeming barriers are small.
  • Eyes on God – The most beautiful reminder out of this pity party of mine is that setting our eyes on God changes everything. If He means for me to finish in this life’s “Promised Land” or, like Moses, looking down into it but not quite arriving…it is His to make happen and for me to follow. The Scriptures do not record Moses grumbling about not getting to enter with all those he led… I think the reason it’s not recorded is that it didn’t happen. For Moses, being with God was enough. More than enough. Period. Full stop. Eyes on God.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.Colossians 3:1-4

OK…so Moses…he may have felt sidelined…and except for the years in Pharaoh’s palace, he did the sidelining to himself. God, however, did not let him stay on the bench. Singer songwriter Ken Medema wrote and performed an incredible account of Moses’ early encounter with God (the verses above, Exodus 4:3-5).

Worship with me, or listen to this amazing and revealing story of God…and His servant Moses. [In the video, you may notice Ken Medema is blind…but in his heart, he can see and sing God so clearly!].

“Do you know what it means, Moses?
Do you know what I’m trying to say, Moses?
The rod of Moses became the rod of God!
With the rod of God, strike the rock and the water will come;

With the rod of God, part the waters of the sea;
With the rod of God, you can strike old Pharaoh dead;

With the rod of God, you can set the people free.”

What do you hold in your hand today?
To what or to whom are you bound?
Are you willing to give it to God right now?
Give it up, let it go, throw it down.Ken Medema

I Stutter All the Time: Moses by Ken Medema

Photo Credit: Rick Warren, Heartlight

Thanks for joining me today. Do you ever struggle in this area? Maybe you don’t…yet. Maybe you do. Would love for you to share some of your own insight on how God redeemed that season for you.

Prayerfully…

What do you hold in your hand today?
To what or to whom are you bound?
Are you willing to give it to God right now?
Give it up, let it go, throw it down. from Moses by Ken Medema

Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:1-13

Worship Wednesday – Surrendering What’s Precious in Exchange for the Doubtless…the Supernatural Movement of God – Deb Mills

The Two Hurdles of God’s Will – Greg Matte

Intimacy with God Is the Main Thing – Letter to My 30-Year-Old Self – Kim Cash Tate

I’m Too Distracted with Life to Meditate on Christ – John Piper

*Pushing the Rock – Joshua Adams

The greatest gospel force is the lay person in the pew equipped by the preacher in the pulpit! Scott Sullivan

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s Spider-Man Theme Mashup, Engaging a Person Who’s Harmed You, True Community, Going Through Closets, and Spring Flowers

Friday Faves – super fast!

1) Beyond the Guitar’s Spider-man Theme Mashup on Classical GuitarNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar arranged and performed the three big themes of the three Spider-Man franchises of the last 20 years. So much to love in these movies, in particular the ones starring Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, and Tobey Maguire. You’ll welcome the nostalgia and the heart-filling beauty of what Nathan does with the classical guitar.

Which did you love the most? Share in Comments.

2) Engaging a Person Who Has Harmed You – Who is this person? A parent…a spouse…a child…an employer…a supposed friend? We have a way forward toward healing.

Engaging With Someone Who Has Harmed You – Part 1

I discovered Adam Young Counseling a few weeks back and have dived in to many of his podcasts. His 5-part series above on engaging with someone who’s harmed you was like sitting in a therapist’s office…a GREAT therapist’s office. We have all been harmed by someone, and we ourselves have harmed others, often without knowing or without intending. Still, to have counsel on how to take positive steps toward healing in such a scary situation is amazing. Adam Young has experienced trauma himself, and he has redeemed that trauma in so many ways, in particular his love and help for others.

In these podcasts, Adam Young distinguishes between the garden variety sinner, a wicked person*, and an evil person. I appreciated that he said we do well not to judge people as permanently in those states because God can move to transform any of us. He did however encourage those of us who have been harmed to determine if we are dealing with a wicked or evil person…and act accordingly. His helps are empowering and transformative if we have the courage to walk through them.Photo Credit: Alistair Begg, Truth For Life

*Dr. Young spends much counsel on engaging a wicked person who has harmed us. It helped me to be reminded that a person who is behaving wickedly can, on the whole, be a decent person. What causes a person to act despicably toward us could be generational sin – not to discount that person’s responsibility in harming us, but to strive for understanding and grace (which multiplies toward us, not just to the one who harmed us). Thoughts?

When we have been harmed by someone, we need safe people to counsel with in order to be wise in our engaging others with whom we don’t feel safe. Walling ourselves off from them, trying to just put the harm behind us, or claiming forgiveness when we haven’t – none of these things get us to healing. If you have been harmed by someone, spend some time in these podcasts. Seriously. It will make a difference.

Photo Credit: Adam Young Counseling, Instagram

3) True Community – We desperately need real or true community. Whatever the problem loneliness and isolation were for us before COVID has been severely compounded. We need one anther…not in a surfacy, thin-veneered way, but in a deep well of fellowship with each other. Jennie Allen has written a hopeful and provocative book about this in Find Your People.

The need for true community is neither new nor specific to our culture. It’s been written about, researched, and explored for decades. Two great thinkers and authors Jerry Bridges and M. Scott Peck (both now deceased) are quoted below.

Photo Credit: Jerry Bridges, Quote Fancy

“If we are to master the scriptural principles of true biblical community, we must master this one: True greatness in the kingdom of heaven involves serving one another. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26)…Fellowship is much, much more than food and fun and even more than reading and studying the Scriptures with another believer. Fellowship at times may involve blood, sweat, and tears as we stand side by side with our persecuted brothers and sisters…It implies a responsibility to fulfill our function in the body. We usually don’t think of fellowship in terms of fulfilling a responsibility, but that is because we have lost sight of the biblical meaning of fellowship. Fellowship is not just a social privilege to enjoy; it is more basically a responsibility to assume...But this is what servant-hood within the fellowship of believers is all about: being alert to the little things that need to be done and then doing them.” – Jerry Bridges

True Community: the Biblical Practice of Koinonia – Jerry Bridges

“In genuine community there are no sides. It is not always easy, but by the time they reach community the members have learned how to give up cliques and factions. They have learned how to listen to each other and how not to reject each other. Sometimes consensus in community is reached with miraculous rapidity. But at other times it is arrived at only after lengthy struggle. Just because it is a safe place does not mean community is a place without conflict. It is, however, a place where conflict can be resolved without physical or emotional bloodshed and with wisdom as well as grace. A community is a group that can fight gracefully.”~ M. Scott Peck

Photo Credit: One Community Global

The Four Stages to Building True Community

Do you experienced true community – where you are willing to serve sacrificially and receive that kind of care as well? We need to go after it for ourselves and one another.

4) Cleaning Closets- I’m not a spring cleaning kind of person, although, these days, we are so often called on to declutter, let go, and be free in the area of stuff management. Still we have two closets (among others) where things just get randomly tossed up onto the shelf. I decided to clear them out to know exactly what is stored there. One closet now contains my journals of the last 30 years!! Whew!

Haven’t re-read any of them but lined them up by date and found this little note from my sweet mama in the front of one of them (from many years ago). A treasure…

5) Spring Flowers – The month of March is bringing Spring along here in the US. With temperatures warming, trips to the park are becoming more regular. The glory of Spring is not lost on the kiddos.

I just want to share a few flower pics of recent days. Hope Spring is coming your way (of course, I get that’s only for the Northern Hemisphere…for you Southern Hem. folks, Happy Fall! 

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Thanks for a quick stop-by. It means a lot to me. Hope you’re surrounded by and creating beauty wherever you are…we sure need it in this world today…really every day.

Monday Morning Moment – A Cause for Celebration and a Celebration Culture – in Pictures

Photo Credit: Unlocking the Bible

What do we celebrate?

Kids’ birthdays, weddings, babies, anniversaries. For sure.

How about mileposts in our careers? A job well-done?

Have workplace celebrations (even micro-celebrations) gone by the wayside? Even before COVID? Too expensive? Too hard to keep up with? Considered frivolous and unaligned with a stream-lined cost-saving workplace? Have these cost-savings cut losses or added to them? If this is your situation, consider re-instituting celebrations. Omitting them may have cost you more than having them.

I’m not going to go into the particulars (links below will support those). However, I want to give a shout-out to one recent celebration which we got to attend and soak up the joy of it all.

[This had to do with a church celebrating the 10th anniversary of their pastor couple. The elements of a beautiful milestone recognition follow in the pictures and brief description. Enjoy.]

Andrew and Marcie came to this job after a catastrophic health event forced them to leave the international work they were deeply committed to. A redemptive story followed in these 10 years since.

They are not the kind of people who are ambitious for center stage, but they find themselves there because of what (and who) they bring with them. They take the hard and display the good and the God in it.

We had the opportunity to be one of the out-of-town guests for a surprise celebration of Andrew and Marcie’s work (10 years so far).

This church covered all bases in celebrating them and drawing all of us into that circle of deep gratitude. #Snacks and #giftbags for the travelers (you planning milestone celebrations – keep this! – for all involved as far as your budget allows).

The surprise actually happened (for Andrew anyway. Marcie helped to keep him in the dark). The sweet first sightings were emotional.

Milestone celebrations must always have food. No need for it to be elaborate, but special is nice. From eating at local specialty restaurants to a potluck. There is something about eating together from time to time (and especially to celebrate a person or progress) that creates a bond between people. When is the last time you ate with your team? Your boss? Make it happen.

Then the words. They matter. Words of affirmation. Words of inspiration. Vision. Purpose. However, not just for the big picture but how the pieces fit together. Celebrations are about the pieces…and the pieces are people. If I may add: God puts the puzzle together. [Because this was a church celebrating their pastor, the Sunday service included all us life-long family and long-time friends – joining their local church family who love them with us. This celebration was a beautiful demonstration of that love. No holds barred.]

Celebrations are meant to honor both the person/project and the larger purpose that holds us together. If it’s work or family or something other. For Andrew and Marcie, it would have been very awkward for them if they were the focus of the 10-year anniversary. Their church family knew this and kept in view what mattered most to them all.

That was our weekend with all the feels of a celebration. It was inspiring. I’m looking forward to being part of a force that celebrates more. The doldrums of this cubicled and isolating season almost put me to sleep. This weekend woke me (back) up!

5 Reasons We Should Celebrate Milestones – Julie Baumgardner

Back to Basics – What Are Community Celebrations? – Aaron Kinne

Creating a Culture of Celebration – Don Rheem

Commentary: Importance of Life’s Milestones – Doug & Lynn Nodland

5 Friday Faves – New Year’s Resolutions, Habit Planner, Year-End Review, Word for the Year, and the Last Days of 2021

2021 is rapidly winding down. Whew! Here are my Friday Faves to get us ready for the new year…hopefully a joyful one!

1) New Year’s Resolutions – 2021…the end is in sight. What do we do with this new year ahead? Do we revisit those habits we thought about changing up in this tumultuous year? Maybe so. Or maybe we didn’t alter course so much for good reason. Let’s give pause a moment and consider…

Photo Credit: David Lose

Monday Morning Moment  – 2021 Come On! – New Year’s Resolutions

Are We Doing New Year’s Resolutions After a Year as Lousy as 2020? There’s One I think We Need More Than Ever – Heidi Stevens

How to Make Healthy, Attainable New Year’s Resolutions During COVID-19 – Ashley Welch, Healthline

Are You Making a New Year’s Resolution This Year? Readers Weigh In – Sarah Fielding

I take New Year’s resolutions very seriously. They have served me well through the years in shaking up troublesome habits as well as galvanizing better ones. New (or restored) habits that nurture the body, the spirit….and, when possible, family and community.

New Year’s resolutions are not always exercises in futility. They can be excellent pathways to help us get off to a strong start into the next year. Some of my family and friends treat resolutions with disdain…they never work; they never last. Oh, but not always!

They are really very energizing. Whether we meet our goals or not, there is great promise within the resolution for resetting our thinking. A keen sense of self, or self-awareness, aids in our understanding of habits and true habit change.

Without knowing it, I have actually used a practice of habit change that Ken Sande writes about on his blog, Relational Wisdom 360. He first influenced my life years ago with his work on conflict resolution through his Peacemaker Ministries. He is a gentle guide in many of the issues that complicate our lives.

His article on Seven Principles of Habit Change came at a great time. Sande talks quite kindly about how we develop habits and what it takes to change them. His first principle of habit change gives us a look at the cycle of habits – the cue, the routine (or response), and the reward. I actually followed Ken Sande’s principles below (without knowing the wisdom of it).

  1. Every habit has three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
  2. You can change an undesirable habit by keeping the cue and reward but learning a new routine.
  3. The best way to overcome the temptation to revert to old routines is to have a detailed action plan.
  4. Habit change builds momentum if you can change a single “keystone habit” and then continue to build on consecutive “small wins”.
  5. Will power is like a muscle: it can be strengthened and yet needs to be exerted strategically.
  6. Faith is an essential part of changing habits.
  7. Habit change is more likely to occur within a community (even if it’s just two people).Ken Sande

Self-awareness is a huge factor relating to habit change. I can see that more now having come through seasons of looking at my own habits.

“Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of oneself; it’s a stepping stone to reinventing oneself, learning to make wiser decisions, and helps you tune into your thoughts and feelings. So often we place blame on externalities because it’s the easiest excuse, when in fact we should be thinking about our thinking, reflecting, trying on different perspectives, and learning from our mistakes.”Paul Jun

It is possible to affect true habit change if we are willing to take a studied look at ourselves – our awareness and our engagement with making choices/decisions and within relationship. I used to think that self-awareness was morally charged, i.e., it drove us to become more self-centered. That doesn’t have to be the case. When we take time to really examine where our minds go, through the day, we can train our thinking toward what matters most – related to people, resources, and life purpose.

New Year’s Resolutions and Reality Checks – Wally Bock

When we are willing to do that, New Year’s resolutions can become much more transformative than just a few weeks of good intentions. These habit change principles can apply to anger issues, pornography, other addictions, and pretty much any habitual process that negatively affects your work, relationships or general peace of mind.

Consider these questions as you think on resolutions for 2022:

  1. What do I want to keep from the changes I made to cope with the pandemic?
  2. What do I want to reclaim from the pre-pandemic time?
  3. How would I “build back better” if I were in charge of the world or my neighborhood?Katherine Arbuthnott

Four years back, our pastor Cliff at Movement Church challenged us to commit to some resolutions to the Lord…together [podcast of 12/31/2017 here].  I have kept the resolutions made that day in a visible place, to be reminded of the good change in life, and the struggle… I still have them in view…four years out. Still relevant to now. For 2022, on it again…plus prayer for wisdom how to be creative and intentional, given COVID’s continued intrusion. And also added this year: writing my life’s story (capturing the memories and maybe restoring/refining some as I write).

Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th century preacher and theologian, definitely understood the importance of praying through and writing out resolutions that would inform his daily life. Over the course of several months, he composed seventy resolutions for life. You can read them here. The five resolutions I made during church on a New Year’s Eve are weighty enough for me…can’t imagine 70! Edwards just gives an example of a man who, even as deeply devoted as he already was, did not want to miss God in a busy life of ministry. Nor did he want to miss the people God placed in his life.

Resolutions help us to keep the main thing the main thing. Sure, we may struggle to keep our bodies and houses in order. Those are temporary situations. Where we hope most to be successful is in keeping our hearts tuned to what matters most. Going deep with God and others. Even in the face of a continuing pandemic...if we are ruthless and wise, and don’t give in to another year of listlessness and waiting.

We’ve already enough of that…coming up on two years.

I am resolved…

Photo Credit: Reformed Outfitters

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Do You Want to Change Your Habits? – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Habit Change is a Team Project – Ken Sande

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

Why Self-Awareness Is the Secret Weapon for Habit Change– Paul Jun

RW Acrostics in Action– Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Ten Questions for a New Year – Don Whitney – Desiring God

Need Help With Your New Year’s Resolutions? – David Lose

Understanding True Habit Change and Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions – Deb Mills Writer

2) Habit Planner –Anyone who knows the writing of Justin Whitmel Earley knows his commitment to a life well-lived. He is determined to live intentionally, not leaving the substance of his life to outside powers or sloppy habits.

Unlike resolutions, we actually become our habits. There are no changed lives outside of changed habits. And if we want to actually change, we need to take a sober look at where our habits are leading us.”Justin Whitmel Earley

Habits are the little things we do over and over without thinking about them. And the tiny and subconscious nature of habits makes them powerful. Why? Because they create our “normal.” Normal life is what stays with you from January through December. Normal life is what shapes your kids, your body, your schedule, and your heart.”Justin Whitmel Earley

His two books – The Common Rule and Habits of the Household – lay out a simple path for examining our current lives and then setting strategy for habit change. So accessible and engaging whatever our preferences for methods are. If spreadsheets help, he has one for you. If you need a more fuzzy-boundaried approach (that would be me), you can glean from his wisdom, and alter course accordingly.

Below are his own examples of the habit planner. I appreciate his heart so much. He helps us all he can (in his books and free resources):

Photo Credit: Justin Whitmel Earley, Screenshots

Habits of the Household – Habit Planner – pdf – Justin Whitmel Earley

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

Unlock the Power of Family Habits in 2022 – Justin Whitmel Earley

3) Year-End Review – Business writer Stephen Jones shares author Tim Ferriss’ practice of doing a quick past year review. Ferriss prefers this over new year’s resolutions, and Jones gives a quick snapshot of his 5 steps.

Below is Tim Ferriss’ guide for a past year review from his own blog (and podcast):

  1. Grab a notepad and create two columns: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE.
  2. Go through your calendar from the last year, looking at every week.
  3. For each week, jot down on the pad any people or activities or commitments that triggered peak positive or negative emotions for that month. Put them in their respective columns.
  4. Once you’ve gone through the past year, look at your notepad list and ask, “What 20% of each column produced the most reliable or powerful peaks?”
  5. Based on the answers, take your “positive” leaders and schedule more of them in the new year. Get them on the calendar now! Book things with friends and prepay for activities/events/commitments that you know work. It’s not real until it’s in the calendar. That’s step one. Step two is to take your “negative” leaders, put “NOT-TO-DO LIST” at the top, and put them somewhere you can see them each morning for the first few weeks of 2022. These are the people and things you *know* make you miserable, so don’t put them on your calendar out of obligation, guilt, FOMO, or other nonsense.

We do a year-end review but not in order to plan out the next year. Mostly to celebrate the year rapidly coming to an end and to reflect on how we might reorder the course of the next year (re the negatives).

A creative friend of ours put his “year-end review” into a cool video:

Photo (Video) Credit: Todd AO, Facebook

4) Word for the Year –A year ago, I read Debbie Macomber‘s book One Perfect Word. She tells fascinating stories of persons’ choosing a word to guide their year. Finishing her book and praying a bit, the word compassion became my focus. 2021 was a good year for that as we dealt with so many divisions over COVID, race, politics, etc. Compassion for all on both sides of each issue.

At first I wasn’t going to do “a word” for 2022, and then a rapid series of “coincidences” drew me to the word: joy. As this year ends, I’ve become negative and even a bit cynical. Still having faith in God but not so much in humans, including myself. Even after a year of compassion!!

It dawned on me that I haven’t been “counting it all joy”. Or remembering that “the joy of the Lord is my strength”. Now my heart is resolved to be set on joy in 2022…no matter what.

Lord, help us to be people of joy,

to notice joy in this day and to hope for joy in days to come,

to look for light and share it with others this Advent season,

to see beauty in creation and the people we encounter,

to laugh heartily with childlike glee,

to feel true joy in your presence.     Amen.

Photo Credit: Prayer @inthecoracle, Instagram

5) The Last Days of 2021 – As may have been many of your experiences, we had people we know and love dealing with COVID in this last week of 2021. Still managed a sweet end-of-year. Hope yours was as well.

 

Now on to 2022!! Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot to me.

Bonuses:

Vimeo Video by Rodrigo Souza – Heart – with Nathan Mills, Beyond the Guitar

How to Stop All Procrastination: Dear You Trying to Do that Hard Thing in the New Year – Ann Voskamp (great piece on procrastination and perfectionism – both keeping us from presenting the gifts God’s given us)

Photo Credit: Samantha Reynolds, @Bentlily, Instagram (w/ permission)

52 Week Bible Reading Plan – Michael Coley

What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) and Tips for Building One

Photo Credit: Facebook

Monday Morning Moment – Spend a Minute with Pollyanna and the Contrarian – There’s a Place for Each of Us

A friend recently gave me the card above and it set me thinking about how far we get from who we are sometimes. She gets me. She knows my heart, even when it feels a tad dried up.

What would you say to the idea that we are all on some spectrum of Pollyanna to Contrarian (Curmudgeon even)?

Is that a bad thing? I say no.

Since my teens, friends (and not so friendlies) have used the word “Pollyanna” to define my responses and outlook. That person is defined as one who “looks for the good in everyone and everything – and she finds it!” For some odd reason, it wasn’t to be considered a compliment. Even one of my sons has said, “You can’t trust Mom’s take on people” – the reason being I see beauty in everyone, and all sorts of redeeming qualities. Well…I used to anyway.

Now, in recent years, reluctant contrarian is more what I’ve become. [After writing this piece, I came across someone who writes under the title of reluctant contrarian. Funny.] It certainly wasn’t my ambition to become curmudgeonly…but life happens. We see the things that, if tweaked, could make a difference in a person, product, or process…and wonder aloud why not? Then, if we persist in our opinion, we become like a dripping faucet or clanging cymbal. Sigh…

When my friend gave me the card (image above), it set in motion a resolve in me. To rediscover that Pollyanna inside. To look for the good. To extend grace. To brighten the day. To play Pollyanna’s Glad Game…until it becomes a habit again.

Photo Credit: The Glad Game, Pollyanna, Pinterest

The Glad Game – Lost in the Magic – Shez C.

What’s Wrong with Being a Pollyanna? – Christin Ditchfield

Pollyanna Principle: The Psychology of Positivity Bias – Courtney E. Ackerman

The Perils and Possibilities of Pollyanna – Dr. Judith Rich

Pollyanna vs. Curmudgeon: The Case for Realistic Optimism – Peggy Haslar

This contrarian/curmudgeon thing that happened to me in the last few years probably relates to some process of entropy – how life in this broken world drifts toward disorder or randomness…unless we constantly intervene.  This idea breaks down with those who start as contrarians. They don’t move toward being more Pollyanna’ish over time, BUT…it could be they move to being curmudeongly. What do you think?

[Sidebar: I asked my husband – who naturally bends more in the direction of contrarian: “Which would you say you are: Contrarian or Curmudgeon?” He answered quickly: “Are those my only two choices?!” We got a good chuckle out of that…and then decided he was serious more than contrarian, analytical more than curmudgeonly.]

What’s the contrast between these extremes? Night and day.

Photo Credit: Thesaurus

How to Become a Curmudgeon – Wikihow

Curmudgeon’s Day – Word List – Facebook

Walter – Analyst Contrarian – Corsairs – Some language but fascinating workplace observations

Finding My Inner Curmudgeon – Chuck Bloom

I do think there is a healthy place in the world for us to co-exist. The Pollyannas and the Contrarians. In fact, The article above – Walter – Analyst Contrarian – Corsairs – speaks to this somewhat in the workplace. I see the wisdom of cooperating “adversarial pairs” in any setting. Here’s a bit of what the article poses:

“There are two sides to most things. Honestly, most things are wickedly multi-dimensional but most humans are only good at comparing two things…two distinct points of view…Forcing alternate perspective is a great technique for combating cognitive bias…It doesn’t prevent it. It simply makes it more apparent…Minimally, take the contrarian side of every issue…Always test the opposite hypothesis…By forcing a counter view, you expose both sides of the argument…Taking the opposite position artificially, occasionally exposes that your initial inclinations were actually dead wrong. Two perspectives create intellectual leverage…use it.” – Walter – Analyst Contrarian – Corsairs 

For life in the world beyond business, I have had the great pleasure of being on advisory boards and ministry teams, both having very different sorts of people as members. Some more task-oriented, some more people-oriented. Some more thinkers, some more feelers. This is reminiscent of Roger Martin’s The Opposable Mind – regarding integrative thinking – where you are able to seriously consider different points of view – like how we grab hold (with our hands) and understand assessments not our own.

Beware, if you’re looking at yourself [people who think just like you] all around the board or conference room table. We gain from both the Contrarian and the Pollyanna… and all those in between.

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

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar – Beauty to the Ears & Mind, Mental Health Awareness, Antidote for Self-deceit, Showing Up…Or Not, and Unmasking

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.

Your Brain on Music – Pegasus, UCF

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.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

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.

Tools 2 Thrive – Mental Health America

Mental Health Awareness Month 2021: What to Know – Karen Veazey

Photo Credit: Twitter, Nicolino Frate

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.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Key Ministry, Your Neighbour #GiveHope

YouTube Video: Unseen: Exposing the Mental Health Crisis Among Special Needs Caregivers | Documentary Trailer

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”.

The Most Dangerous Form of Deception: Self-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.

The Antidote to Self Deception – J. D. Walt

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.

Photo Credit: Chip Scholz

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

Why It Is Literally Never, Ever OK to Just Not Show Up For Your Plans – 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:

  • respect
  • communication
  • productive effort

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

How to Cope When You Fail to Honor a Commitment – 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.

Photo Credit: Rachel Macy Stafford, Facebook, The Hands Free Revolution

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.

Still….so worth celebrating!!!

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s a wrap. Would love your comments below on your own favorites of the week. Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot to me.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, Twitter

Angry with God: Living in the Tension of Partial Understanding – Brad Hambrick

YouTube – Podcast – An Honest and Raw Conversation with Francis Chan – Preston Sprinkle

My next read:

Worship Wednesday – When We Love Like Jesus – How Beautiful – Twila Paris

Photo Credit: Burke Church, Facebook

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:9-10

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.  1 John 3:16

“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Our world is so full of words…so many voices. Too many are divisive and blaming. Too many propose solutions that seem beyond our capability or capacity. Beyond our understanding even.

Especially in the issue of racial inequality, racial reconciliation, and racial healing. When we look at the proposals made by politicians and even some educators, we are stunned and bewildered.

What will it really take for things to get better? What actions can bridge the racial divide? The words blasting through our news outlets seem more hurtful than healing. We as the church are wrestling with what to say…what to do. I have found that so puzzling given how the Lord has told us how to live and how to love…but we seem challenged especially in this dark dilemma of our times.

Then just today…two voices came through the noise: U.S. Senator Tim Scott and Reverend Keith Haney

Senator Scott posted the following on his Instagram and Twitter page today. Take the time to watch the video.

He deals with the politicizing of the racial unrest in our country, and he calls us as Christians to love people…really love people. Wow! Why “Wow!”? Because we know what is the truth and yet we don’t do it. We talk about it, we react when others tell us what we should do, but…We already know what Jesus tells us to do…and He has shown us how by His own beautiful life.

I have been thinking about what Senator Scott said the rest of the day, and then, in the kindness we regularly experience from God, I discovered this blog The Light Breaks Through authored by Reverend Haney. The piece below is a blog he wrote after George Floyd was killed and all that happened in Minneapolis in reaction.

How Should the Church Respond to Racial Issues?

Reverend Haney writes: “Genuine change only happens when we can change hearts, and only the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ can do that. The community is begging for someone to step up and make things better.

What I hear the world really asking is this:

Dear Christian Church,

As I look at the racial pain all around and the way it is portrayed in the national media, it saddens me. The tone is so negative, and it is feeding into the darkness that is already out there in our sin-sick world. I don’t expect the world to have real solutions. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Dear Church, especially the Black Church, just as you answered the call in the Civil Rights Movement, you have a pivotal role to play. You have the Light. You know the only real Love. The world is lost without your voice. Without your direction. It is time to stand and lead. Now is the time to speak out.”

Then Reverend Haney further encouraged us: “…We are living in a broken world, and the racial issues only serve as a stark reminder of our need for a Savior, a healer, a reconciler.

There is a spiritual reason behind this racial rift. Church leaders you have the power to change things. Our Lord and Savior armed you with the spiritual weapons of God. Battle Satan’s lies the way Jesus did with the truth of the Scripture. All people have value because we are created by the same One True God. We all begin our journey at the foot of the cross and end our trip at the grave.”

We have a beautiful Savior who showed us how to really love each other. Not, as Senator Scott read from his devotional, “just pretend to love others”.  We can state our beliefs about racial divides and racism. We can voice commitments as the church on where we stand. Words only (just talking about issues or doling out our opinions) do not take us to the cross…or to the grave.

Our Savior held nothing back. Maybe we don’t know what that means for us in specifics, given the problems we face as a nation, as a world today…but we know where to start.

We start with receiving the love Christ has given us, every one of us. We receive from His hands. Then we become His hands for one another. He loves…we love. He serves…we serve.

I don’t have sweeping answers but, after today, I am less confused… and less distracted by all the negative talk and virtue signaling. We don’t have to be led to answers, especially by people who have no interest in what Jesus says and does about injustices. He has given us a way forward…ours is to take that path.

Worship with me…to this song by Twila Paris on the beauty of Christ and the beauty of His church – How Beautiful

How Beautiful the hands that served
The Wine and the Bread and the sons of the earth
How beautiful the feet that walked
The long dusty roads and the hill to the cross
How Beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the body of Christ

How Beautiful the heart that bled
That took all my sin and bore it instead
How beautiful the tender eyes
That choose to forgive and never despise
How beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the body of Christ

And as He lay down His life
We offer this sacrifice
That we will live just as He died
Willing to pay the price
Willing to pay the price

How Beautiful the radiant bride
Who waits for her Groom with His light in her eyes
How Beautiful when humble hearts give
The fruit of pure lives so that others may live
How beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the Body of Christ

How beautiful the feet that bring
The sound of good news and the love of the King
How Beautiful the hands that serve
The wine and the bread and the sons of the Earth
How Beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the Body of Christ*

Photo Credit: QuotesLyfe

*Lyrics to How Beautiful – Twila Paris

YouTube Video – How Beautiful – Twila Paris (talks about the song before she sings it) 1994

Worship Wednesday – the Small Virtue of Humility – the Grand Journey of Self-Forgetfulness

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:3-8

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”Jeremiah 9:23-24

I’m still making my way through a re-read of The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. Long over-due. Although the chapters are super short, each contains such a wealth of wisdom to think through and process.

In The Letters, a senior demon, Screwtape, is advising his nephew on how to draw away a young Englishman from his new-found faith in God, whom the demon calls The Enemy. The nephew is given strategies to muddle up “the patient’s” thinking on God and how one is to live, “loving our neighbors as ourselves”.

Chapter 14 (in just 3 pages) dissects the issues of humility, pride, and self-forgetfulness. We may think ourselves that humility is having and expressing a low regard of self, even self-deprecation. That is not humility. In the fullest sense, humility is a right understanding of God, other people and ourselves, in relation to all. God and others.

True humility is a growing awareness of how all things work together, including the hard things in life, and an appreciation of the good and glory in the world. Celebrating God, and His choosing to continue to display His goodness in all of life…in mine and yours, and throughout the natural world.

When we can pull our eyes off our own successes or, on the flip side, our challenges, perspective comes. Not puffing ourselves up or bringing yourselves down, but just seeing God everywhere. He purposefully and beautifully knit each of us together and His purposes are not thwarted.

Focused on God and others, we can live in a place of self-forgetfulness. Satan wants to destroy such peace by pressing us to ever compare, ever put ourselves down, or ever feel envy and longing regarding others’ good works. Or, if he can to even push us into pride, thinking more highly of ourselves, even though we operate out of the gifts and opportunities God gives us.

Here’s a bit of Screwtape’s instruction to Wormwood in the tempting of the young Christian:

“To anticipate the Enemy’s strategy, we must consider His aims. The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents – or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall.C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Chapter 14

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote

Let’s worship the God who frees us from self as we turn our eyes each day, and through the day, onto Him. Why this old song? It speaks to troubled hearts. If humility is not where we live, our hearts become troubled – either in some embattled state of self-loathing or self-obsessing. We can live free of all that.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Chorus:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

Chorus

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Chorus*

Why did I call humility “a small virtue”? Because it doesn’t draw attention to itself. It points to God and to others. However, it doesn’t leave us out. We also get to be on this grand journey. We are flesh, so when God gives us the opportunity to do something amazing, we naively may say, “Wow, I did that!” Pride rears its head, even for a moment. We can then either beat ourselves for the pride and make ourselves small in some sort of false humility or…we regain perspective. “Wow, I got to do that! Thank You, God!” If it was someone else who “got to do that”, we rejoice the same. It is the beautiful sphere of self-forgetfulness.

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – Tim Keller

Room for everyone on the podium in a very real way…because God is at the foundation of every podium we will ever encounter. Actually, forget the podium. The ground is level at the foot of the Cross. We’ve all heard this. Humility is where we live it.

“The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself…True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.”– Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: 2 Chron 714 Network, Facebook

*Lyrics – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus – Songwriter: Helen Howarth Lemmel

Humble and Kind – Restless Pilgrim Blog & Podcast on The Screwtape Letters – Chapter 14

YouTube Video – Blessed Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller – Edited Synopsis – 7 Minutes

YouTube Video – Lyric Video – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus – Hillsong Worship

Worship Wednesday – On Compassion – Lead Me to the Cross – Brooke Fraser Ligertwood

Photo Credit: Music Notes World

When he saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Matthew 9:36-38

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.”Matthew 16:24

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus, the night before He gave His life for us – John 13:34-35

Did you ever ask your child or grandchild, “Do you know how much I love you?” Then you stretched out both arms as far as you could reach, and, with stretch in your voice, exclaimed, “This much!!!!”

That’s the kind of love we experience from Jesus, and that’s the kind of love He calls from us for others.Photo Credit: Your Quote

After reading One Perfect Word, I prayerfully chose a word to saturate myself in and explore the breadth of it…across this year. The word is compassion. You can find the beginning of this journey here. A good friend, also a writer, emailed me last night, having read that blog on my taking on the word, and life of compassion. He asked for action steps toward the goal of being more compassionate – how does one get there?

I don’t have the steps…except for this: the journey to compassion starts at the foot of the cross. Throughout Jesus’ earthly life, He pointed His followers to the Father and to one another, a widening circle of “one anothers” which would encompass the whole world. We are staggered by such a calling. Yet, if we remember His word, He has already given us all we need for a Godly life, and He has promised always to be with us. Always.

What are the steps to a compassionate life? Maybe in a few weeks or months into this year, I might have a different answer to that question. For now, it is small and, at the same time, tall. Love God and love others. Not on my terms…but His. Whew! I am not sure exactly how to make that work, given the conviction that I was a compassionate person, and yet now I think not so much. It has been a fantasy of mine…but in real life terms, in the will or heart…not on the daily.

With COVID and few routine outlets as a person at risk and retired, I can easily pull a blanket over my life…and feel almost justified in it. How about you? Has this been a struggle?

Praise God, I’ve wakened out of that dull slumber, with compassion lying dormant. Where this “wokeness” leads me, only God knows. He, in His kindness and mercy, will shake us out of our sleepiness; then we see where He takes us.

I don’t have the steps of my own making, but He has already given us a few to start just in the Scripture above.

  • Pray.
  • Give up our own way.
  • Follow Him – which would include that taking up His cross and not one of our own making or choosing.
  • Love others as He has loved us – which takes us back to the cross.

Like with New Year’s resolutions, if we make goals and put steps in place toward meeting those goals…those steps and goals just lie in our imagination, our fantasy life, UNTIL we take action. Every day, take action. As I deal in the real with letting go of personal preferences and sacrifice, then the wonder of Romans 5:3-5 happens:

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Tuning our heart toward the leading of the Holy Spirit and following Jesus can move us to lives where compassion becomes habit, through perseverance, and then character follows, bathed in the love of God.
Hallelujah!
Now, did Jesus have moments of counting the cost? Being God yet human, for an instant, He did, and we learned from Him. In the garden that night before He died, He asked the Father if it was possible not to have to die…but without hesitation He spoke His resolve, “Not My will, but Yours be done”.
This is where the work of building a life of compassion begins…and continues. Prayer and obedience. Prayer and obedience.
[Wall plaques by the door I take to get out of my house – my comfort zone]
So this is where I am today, with this new journey, exploring the word compassion, both in word and deed. Lead me to the Cross, Lord.

Photo Credit: IMB Photos

Worship with me to Brooke Fraser Ligertwood‘s “Lead Me to the Cross” – where life truly began for us…and the place where we learn how to truly love others.

Savior I come
Quiet my soul remember
Redemption’s hill
Where Your blood was spilled
For my ransom
Everything I once held dear
I count it all as loss

Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me to the cross

You were as I
Tempted and trialed
Human
The word became flesh
Bore my sin and death
Now you’re risen

Everything I once held dear
I count it all as loss

Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me to the cross

To your heart
To your heart
Lead me to your heart
Lead me to your heart

Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me

Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Oh, lead me
Lead me to the cross*

Photo Credit: IMB Photos

Postscript: Below you will find several other worship songs that may prove a blessing to you as they were to me in seeking God’s face to see with His eyes, to love with His heart, and to follow Him in the daily and the real.

*Lyrics to “Lead Me to the Cross” – Songwriter: Brooke Fraser

YouTube Video – Lead You to the Cross – No Other Name

YouTube Video – Give Us Your Heart – The Emerging Sound of People & Songs (feat. Melanie Tierce)

YouTube Video – Give Me Your Eyes – Brandon Heath

YouTube Video – Follow Me – Casting Crowns

YouTube Video – I Will Follow – Chris Tomlin

Monday Morning Moment – One Shocking Revelation After Another – Shaking Off Our Fantasies and Grounding Ourselves in the Real – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Worshipping Together and By Ourselves – God Draws Near – Deb Mills