Category Archives: Anxiety

Monday Morning Moment – I See You…or Refuse to – a Pet Peeve

Photo Credit: Pexels, Cottonbro Studio

[Pet peeves are not anything we want to cultivate or nurture…I get to a more positive place at the end so hang in there with me.]

US culture has changed – especially related to encounters with strangers or those we consider insignificant or irrelevant – as shown by turned down or away faces, looking beyond people, or not engaging with those we don’t know or don’t care to know.

People passing in hallways as if a living human being isn’t within their visual field. Charting a course from Point A to Point B, maneuvering around people without words. Stepping aside, disengaging, when someone else enters the space and greets one of the two in conversation. Disinterested.

I don’t understand this lack of desire in connection. This avoidance of engagement.

Avoiding Eye Contact in Body Language (10 Reasons) – Hanan Parvez

Where does it start? I occasionally teach elementary school-aged children, and even at this early age, there are kiddos who seem to easily engage across groups and with authority figures, others who are shy to engage or are awkward in social interactions, and, finally, those who only engage with their buddies (unless pressed to engage with others). Is it a personality thing? A social anxiety? Is there an environment (classroom or home) that sets a pattern for the children who see and engage with those around them and the ones who refuse to see beyond their friend group? It’s probably complicated, right?

We have grandchildren that look, gaze, see others…and refuse not to be seen. I hope it never changes as they grow older. How did they get where they are as children? I need to ask this question of their parents.

Eye contact as a behavior of connection can occur on a spectrum. No one wants the gift of creepy, penetrating stare-downs. A more subtle or passing gaze could communicate a desire for engagement but accompanied by a further desire not to intrude. Or at the opposing end of the spectrum, the total lack of eye contact as if there is no one there…or the hope, with social anxiety, that if I don’t look, you don’t see me. However, somewhere in the middle of all this, is the one who makes steady and engaging eye contact. That one that says with their eyes and facial expressions, “I see you”. Conversation may or may not follow…but to be seen and acknowledged is a small and precious gift we can present to another.

Photo Credit: Pexels, Cottonbro Studio

A life habit easily developed is to determine to see those around us. To make meaningful eye contact. To honor those in front of us (whether a store clerk, fellow employee, or guy in the gym). Lock eyes, a head nod, a smile, a greeting – communicating “I see you”.

This comes to play in all sorts of situations. It is a humanizing practice. A situational awareness that goes beyond keeping ourselves and others safe. It communicates that we matter in the spaces we share.

In our city, as one for instance, we see people with signs at many of the intersections. Beggars. Homeless. Not really sure. The very least we can give them is our eyes…acknowledging them whether we give money or not.

Remember, I spoke earlier of a pet peeve not being something I want to indulge, right? So…

A pet peeve is a button pushed. Long ago, I made it an aim to get rid of the buttons in my life. They divide us and there’s enough division out there already.

This is one I’m still wrestling with…and not to my credit. It becomes easy for me to intentionally ignore, or see past those who see past me…or those who “refuse to see” ones who matter to me. Yet…am I not doing the same thing then? By faulting those in my small opinion are “refusing to see”? When we fault people, without understanding them, we don’t really see them either.

May it not continue so in me. How about you?

The Power of Being Known – Holly Korbey (Video above details some of this article – so good!)

How to Overcome Eye Contact Anxiety – Arlin Cuncic

What a Lack of Eye Contact Says About You, According to Science (and How to Fix It) – Wanda Thibodeaux

Monday Morning Moment – When Distress Messes with the Joy of Christmas

Is it writer’s block? Words have always been a friend to me, but they are hard-won in writing these days.

Christmas is a time of tremendous joy for me…deeper than happiness. Much deeper. For in the joy are such things as longing, grief, disappointment, anxiety. Most of the time, I can shake those off so as not to miss Christmas. Most of the time.

Here’s a tiny example. You may think it frivolous but it is reminiscent of something more. Our children grew up doing the nativity story as part of our Christmas traditions.

(Mills Christmas, December ’94)

It was fun and chaotic – never sure how it would turn out, but for several years, the kids just acquiesced to the direction of the grownups in their lives. Some of it, I’m pretty sure they even enjoyed. Fast forward to them now being adults who bring their children – our grandchildren – into the picture.

For a year or two, our grands have also been caught up in the wonder of the Baby, donning costumes, and waiting patiently (sorta kinda) for the narration to move them to the next point of action. Not all of them wanted to participate but they were close at hand to add to the drama of the moment. It was sweet.

This year…it didn’t happen. In an attempt to do the play earlier (taking some stress out of a Christmas time together), we experienced a great divide – two eager and willing older grandchildren dressed in Middle Eastern garb, and, at the same time, being brilliantly silly with their parts. So…looking the part but definitely not in character. The other two younger grands…just not interested; not even present in the room. Now, Christmas weekend is still a few days away with another family occasion planned, but I have no inclination to revisit this tradition. Maybe next year.

After giving up on the play, and rejoining the rest of the family, I asked the kids to pray for me. Somehow longings and expectations had clouded my mind, and joy was left trembling at the edges of my heart. Such a small thing (right?)…it revealed more than just a family tradition in transition. It revealed an idol of some sort – so small but effective, distorting the reality of this beautiful time of the year.

This morning, in front of the fire, I had the last Christmas cookie (there will probably be more, but I savored it as if it was my last), while reading Scott Sauls‘ great book Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen.

In the chapter “Honest Songs”, Sauls proposed the ordinariness of distressed feelings. He wrote how some of the Scripture writers laid out these “negative” emotions, along with their praises, before a God who understands and loves us through them, not in spite of them.

In referencing Ecclesiastes, Sauls writes: “Like a skilled songwriter or poet, Solomon made sure that was was genuinely inside of him also came out of him. [Herman] Melville likened Solomon to Jesus, whom the Bible also describes as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief…The Suffering Servant [Jesus] fully embraces, and is careful not to diminish, dystopian stories as well as the happily-ever-after ones…He refuses to whitewash the darker parts of our history.”Scott Sauls, Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen

He goes on: “The Suffering Servant invites us, in our pain, to wipe disingenuous smiles off our faces and start living honestly concerning how damaged and hurt we feel…Jesus loves humans, and when the humans you love become injured or threatened, the natural and godlike response is to get angry and feel the swell of energy directed toward righting a wrong…There is a solidarity to suffering that we are meant to embrace, so that no one might suffer alone. Sharing in one another’s suffering binds us together in the deepest form of fellowship.”Scott Sauls, Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen

So what’s the connection between a situation of no Christmas play this year and the suffering of a grander scale? You probably already know. The play is not the point. It wasn’t about our darling grands meeting any expectations I might have…it was the larger story. How the play reminded me of sweet memories, and sad ones. Of parents no longer with us who I miss terribly. Of grown up children I want to pull in and keep close (they are close…but a mother’s heart seems never full…again a larger story). Of the account of Christ’s birth that is so magnificent and miraculous…and how He laid down his life, just a few years later, through death on a cross…for us. How do we communicate such grandeur to our little ones?

Our kids will figure it out…and we will support them.

So…how about you? My example probably seems so mundane. I could have shared heartache over a painful family rift. Or about a friend in a terribly troubled marriage, or one who lost both parents within weeks of each other, or another struggling with mental illness, or another praying her heart out for a grandson white-knuckling through early sobriety.

Distress messes with our joy. Let’s not let it isolate us…drawing us away from each other to suffer alone. Being real with people is complicated. “Real is unsettling, scary, even traumatic. Take the risk anyway and lean in. Leaning into lament is a necessary skill in the art of rejoicing…Almost every person is insecure and underencouraged. Almost no person wants to admit it…There is no shortcut past Good Friday to get to Easter. There is no joy without a sorrow, no rejoicing without mourning, no comfort without distress, no rest without weariness, no gain without loss, no songs of joy without songs of lament, no rejoicing from Philippians without the vapor from Ecclesiastes.” [Scott Sauls, Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen]

That day this weekend, when the Christmas play didn’t come together, my kids prayed for me. I don’t even think it seemed silly to them. [Dave was grilling our supper or he would have been right there in all that struggle with me.] Distress happens, and when it does, call on those who care for you to come alongside…for comfort and for joy.

Monday Morning Moment – Waiting – a Waste or a Way to Wisdom

Photo Credit: Henri Nouwen, Quote Fancy

Have you ever found yourself in a season of waiting that seemed as if it would never end? Maybe you’re there right now.

The more pivotal thing about waiting is what we do with it…can we stay on top of the entitlement and all its turbulent emotions when they are unsatisfied? That is a goal worthy of pursuing. Treating the waiting not as a waste but as a way to wisdom.

Just this morning, I was waiting with a friend for a promised outcome. She is an old grandmother, resettled here from another country, with few resources.

She had the hope this morning of receiving some much-needed dental work ( in process for several months now). Today was to be the day for her to receive the last treatment – the fitting of a partial denture which would allow her to enjoy eating again.

It did not happen.

For whatever reasons it was delayed and more appointments would be made. Apologies and explanations were made, and the grandmother pulled herself up out of the dental chair one more time. We weren’t entitled to a different outcome. She is receiving free care through a local university and foundation. So why did this make me so angry and sad at the same time?

I was sad for this sweet grandmother who has already been through so much this year. Sad for myself, as her driver, for another series of appointments ahead of us. Even a little sad for the dental student breaking the news to us. And close-to-tears angry that either we misunderstood or someone somewhere dropped the (proverbial) ball.

As I collected myself and came back to my senses, I was reminded (in the conversation going on in my head) that this was a small thing. What if I was waiting on a big thing?! What would my response be to that?!

In years past, cancer nursing was my profession. Talking to a friend about this whole waiting thing, she recalled what so many cancer patients go through in waiting – for biopsy results, for treatment decisions, for blood counts to come back, for reevaluations of their cancer, for…for…for. We wait. To conceive that much-longed-for baby. To meet that person we will spend our lives with. To hear the outcome of elections or military coups. To determine if we prepared well enough for landfall of hurricanes.

Big things and small things all require waiting in life. We either wait in wasteful, blaming, soul-diminishing ways or we wait in wisdom.

Maybe it’s in the wait that we find what matters more.

In the minutes that tick by, we re-order our thoughts toward life and hope and possibility. Photo Credit: Heartlight

By the time my grandmother friend and I left the dental clinic this morning, we were better. No blaming. No feeling mad or bad. We accepted that today wasn’t the day we would say our goodbyes to this long waiting. It was just another day situated in between more to come. I didn’t resign myself to the disappointment, but rather determined it would not rob me of the joy of the day. We would be back, and, one day, she would get what we originally came for, months prior.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Don’t get me wrong about waiting. I have, at times, pushed back against it. Not just for myself but because it was a disservice to someone else. There does seem to be a pecking order in waiting…the poor and marginalized are required to wait the most, it seems.

When waiting generates a disturbance in our hearts that takes us nowhere good, then we must check it, and check our reaction to it. In that space, we can choose to change direction and keep our heads and hearts at peace. We can choose a way to wisdom, rather than an explosive, diminishing waste of the waiting.Photo Credit: Elisabeth Elliot, AZ Quotes

Waiting can be exasperating…and any engineering to decrease it is a beautiful thing…so there’s that for which to be thankful. Also, what is the object of our waiting. If we look to people to always deliver (in a timely fashion), they (we) will disappoint. If we can take our eyes of people and on to God, waiting becomes a very different experience.

Two of my favorite verses from the Old Testament speak of this:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.Psalm 40:1-2

Those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:31

Even Jesus on his last day of life on earth waited…until all of the prophecies were fulfilled. While hanging in pain on the cross, He waited until just the moment all were fulfilled, and then he gave his last breath. Wow!

Photo Credit: Philip Yancey, Heartlight

May we learn to wait as the Messiah did with loving perseverance and hope of a greater future.

“While we are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives, pure and blameless in His sight. Consider the patience of the Lord as salvation.”2 Peter 3:14-15

Worship Wednesday – I Will Carry You – Ellie Holcomb

Photo Credit: Heartlight

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.Isaiah 40:11

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you go through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.Isaiah 43:1-3

“Even to your old age, I will be the same, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you, and I will carry you; I will sustain you and deliver you.”Isaiah 46:4

We are carried. From before we were born until we are delivered, after death, into our forever home…we are carried.

Not only by a finite, flawed human being but by the God of the universe, Creator of all things. We are carried by One who both transcends and enters into every element of our lives.

Singer/songwriters Ellie Holcomb and Benjamin Glover wrote a song entitled “I Will Carry You”. Originally meant to describe the deep love of a parent for their child, the writers found it actually described something much greater. God had inspired lyrics demonstrating His own love for His children.

“When I wrote this song with Ben Glover, we wanted to write a song for our daughters, but as it turns out, it ended up being a song that we desperately needed to hear for our own hearts,” the mother of three shares. “My hope for every listener who hears this song — no matter what they’re carrying in their lives or in their hearts right now — is that they would be reminded that they are carried by the God who made them and loves them.” – Ellie Holcomb

Last night a friend of mine shared this song with me…she shared it from her own deep dependence on her Savior. A Savior who is carrying her through a divorce, a hard extended family situation, and a long recovery from childhood trauma. At the end of our conversation about the struggle she is facing right now, she introduced to me this song I’d not heard before. God is good to His children. Suffering does not separate us from His care…we see even more clearly how He carries us through it…who He is and how He sees us…most beloved and treasured.Photo Credit: Katie Faris, Elisabeth Elliot

Worship with me.

I know you’re tired, I see it in your eyes
All that anxiety that rules your mind
I’ll be your shield when you don’t feel
Like you’ve got strength enough to fight
I’ll stand by your side

I will carry you
Through your darkest night
When you’re terrified
I will carry you
When the waters rise
When your hope runs dry
I will carry you

You are not the sum of your mistakes
You don’t have to hide the parts of you that ache
I choose you as you are a million times
‘Cause I am not ashamed of you
I won’t walk away from you

I will carry you
Through your darkest night
When you’re terrified
I will carry you
When the waters rise
When your hope runs dry
I will carry you

Up and over the mountains
Valley deep as the oceans
When you can’t keep going
I will shoulder your burdens
Up and over the mountains
Valley deep as the oceans
When you can’t keep going
I will shoulder your burdens

I will carry you
Through your darkest night
When you’re terrified
I will carry you
When the waters rise
When your hope runs dry
I will carry you
(I will carry you, carry you)
(Through the darkest night) You
(When you’re terrified)
(I will shoulder your burdens)
(I will carry you, carry you)
(When the waters rise) You
I will carry you*

“…no matter what you are experiencing, sweet or bitter, good or evil, no matter how long it has lasted, he has not left you alone (John 14:18). He is with you (Psalm 23:4), he is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28), and he will be with you to the end (Matthew 28:20).” – Jon Bloom

He is carrying you. Drop your shoulders. Relax your body. Rest your mind. Refresh your spirit. In the care of a wholly trustworthy, fiercely loving Shepherd and Savior.

[P.S. That friend of mine above…the one with so much going on…in the midst of all of it, there is a radiance about her…an unmistakable hope…in her heart, she KNOWS she is being carried. So thankful for that. Thank You, God!]

Photo Credit: Heartlight

*Lyrics to I Will Carry You – Songwriters: Benjamin Glover & Ellie Holcomb

Ellie Holcomb Shares the Song She Wrote for Her Daughter, “I Will Carry You” – Lindsay Williams

How Involved Is God in the Details of Your Life? – Jon Bloom – Desiring God

The Condescension of Christ – Charles Spurgeon

7 Timeless Verses Where God Promises to Carry Us – Diana’s Diaries

YouTube Video – Carry Me – Josh Wilson (written with Benjamin Glover)

YouTube Video – Steady My Heart – Kari Jobe (co-writers: Ben Glover & Matt Bronleewe)

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar – Magic on a Cheap Guitar, the Most Repeated Command in the Bible, the Evercrisp Apple, (Dis)Comfort Zone, and Old Friends

Friday Faves – coming in hot! Days later. Life races on, doesn’t it?!

1) Beyond the Guitar – Magic on a Cheap Guitar Sweet original composition by classical guitarist Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar. Showcasing two very different guitars…or rather what the difference – pretty much, it’s the guitarist, not the guitar. [Not to say the beautiful David J. Pace guitar isn’t his go-to instrument for all his guitar work/performances…but to emphasize it is the one playing it, whatever the guitar is, that makes the music.] Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Beyond the Guitar – #100 Mini Guitar vs. $10,000 Guitar

Beyond the Guitar – Fingerstyle Journey – 90 Days to Beautiful Playing

2) The Most Repeated Command in the Bible –  Even more than “Love the Lord your God” or “Love your neighbor as yourself. The most repeated command is  “Do not be afraid”.

Something to think about because we are surrounded to fearsome situations…yet, we are not to fear. How do we keep from it?

By practicing remembering. Remembering the provision of God in times past. Remembering the goodness of God in all we have in life right now – people who love us, work and other resources, health and/or helps toward restoring health, time, meaning, forgiveness, and beauty surrounding us.

Photo Credit: Heartlight 

We have circumstances that tempt us to fear, but we also have God’s promises to bring us through those circumstances. Fear itself robs us from sound thinking. Photo Credit: Flickr

The tricky thing about fear is that we can’t necessarily stop it from happening. It comes over us. However, we can keep it from overwhelming us…determining to live in the freedom and light of what is true, instead of what could happen. God is there for that as well.

When fear messes with our relationships or makes us timid to enter new ones, we can take courage in the command “Do not be afraid”. This week in our church, in The Art of Neighboring, we studied about fear in neighboring relationships1 Peter 3:14 (quoting from Isaiah 8:12) Do we allow fear of rejection or fear of our differences keep us from leaning into each other? What if we leave fear out of the equation in caring for one another? That’s the better path.

“Do not be afraid.”

The Art of Neighboring

Photo Credit: Heartlight

3) The Evercrisp Apple – One of the best parts of this time of year is the Fall apple harvest. Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, and Cosmic Crisp apples have been our favorite in recent years…until this Fall, when we discovered the Evercrisp apple. Wow!

We discovered this apple on a recent trip across Virginia toward the Appalachian Mountains. The Apple Shed delivers on several types of apples and introduced us to this one.

Once back in Richmond, we were thrilled to find it sold locally from the Saunders Brothers Orchards. Woohoo!!

A small delight in life but, for this season, a huge one. What’s your favorite apple?

4) (Dis)Comfort Zone – Is the phrase “comfort zone” a first world experience? I don’t think so. It is a universal idea – a place where we feel safe and soothed. A bad thing? Not necessarily except for how it insulates us from the rest of life. What if developing our capacity for discomfort helps us to live more fully, more in community?

Jason Seib, a health and selfcare coach, has actually built his whole platform on embracing a (dis)comfort zone. He teaches how we can maneuver around our uncomfortable moments in healthy ways.

If you go to his website, his home page currently seems all about his workshop (which I haven’t taken although it is reasonable cost-wise). However, hang in there. He also extends solid content to non-subscribers through his podcasts and social media pages. I think that speaks to his integrity as someone who actually cares about people wherever we are in our comfort zones.

The main message for us in his coaching is that we reach for food, alcohol, or other addictive substances or activities when faced with discomfort. Our temptation is to do whatever we can to restore comfort. Jason Seib points to developing skills in sharpening our awareness of discomfort when it happens and respond in ways that don’t harm us.

Jason Seib Facebook

Jason Seib Podcasts

Jason Seib reminds me of counselor Brad Hambrick whose webinar on “Growing in Negative Emotion Tolerance” was extremely helpful for me. Seib and Hambrick both talk about the importance of us recognizing that negative emotions are not necessarily bad [they are actually informative] but how we respond to them matters.

Photo Credit: SermonLab, Brad Hambrick

Counselor Brad Hambrick

5) Old Friends – This week has been one of celebrating old friends – visits both here and states away with people who have stayed the course with me through years and years.

I don’t know about you, but loneliness is a real time experience for me. So many moves and changes for us. A different season – children grown with their own lives, me now in retirement sorta kinda, and most of my closest friends living far from where we now live.

It gives pause to reflect on friendship and revisiting the kind of friend I am and hope to be. A key to having old friends in our every day life is continuing to reach out and nurture those relationships. I’m working on it…and trying to show up for these friends who have shown up for me. They, and others like them, point the way.

Old friends, even while not on the daily or even the regular, have the rare quality of history. Memory. Understanding. Loving anyway, through seasons of neglect, distraction, and loss. Old friends remain.

So grateful for forever friends – people who know us well and love us anyway. Singer, songwriter Michael W. Smith‘s song says it all:

Bonuses:

I Raised 2 Successful CEOs and a Doctor. Here’s the ‘Unpopular’ Parenting Rule I Always Used on My Kids – Esther Wojcicki

Photo Credit: Facebook

Photo Credit: Mark Allan – Mark’s Musings: God, the Proud Father

The Many Paths to Better Mental Health – a List of Excellent Resources

Shame vs. Guilt Infographic

Photo Credit: nicabm

Photo Credit: TobyMac, Facebook

“Come deeper. The waves won’t knock you down back here!”

Deeper in the Word
Deeper in Prayer
Deeper in Worship
Deeper in love with Jesus

Yes, the waves will still come, regular and strong.
But in the deep…
We will have peace,
We will be comforted,
We will have healing,
We will have restoration,
We will have joy,
Because we will be moving with The One who controls the winds and waves.

Go on, my sweet friends…go deeper.
HE is waiting. – Kristin Crawford Kerley, Facebook

Monday Morning Moment – Loneliness in Isolation – Fighting Against It and Occasionally Successful

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Just last night I was confronted again with one of the tolls of the COVID epidemic. That toll being a physical isolation that has grown into a lingering social isolation. A friend texted me about her sense of feeling disconnected, even unseen, in the midst of her church community, of all places. She is reaching out but has not yet found her people. I tried to encourage her to keep reaching out and she would eventually find those friends, that connection for which she is longing. This isolation, this loneliness, is something I, too, was fighting against and occasionally successful.

She told me this had to be my next blog (title) and so it is…although I don’t have answers…but will share what I’m learning from my own journey and from wise others.

“Here’s what we do: We spend hours alone in our crowded, noisy, screen-lit worlds, we invest only sporadic time with acquaintances, and then we expect close friends to somehow appear in our busy lives.”Jennie Allen, author of Find Your People: Building Deep Community in a Lonely World
Being retired from my usual work has afforded me much discretionary time…time which can be lavished on others or on disciplines like study, prayer, and writing. Too often…this time on my hands has taken me to places too quiet…where I get lost in my thoughts. That is an excellent description of this loneliness that comes from isolation.
We think too much maybe. Get lost in those thoughts and become slow to respond. Instead of going after friends, we wonder where those friends are…is it us? Is it them? We look for reasons for the unsought solitude we find ourselves in yet we can’t seem to fight off the sluggishness of too-long isolation. We text instead of call. We do electronic meetings instead of face-to-face ones. We cling to smaller rhythms instead of restoring larger lives.
OK…is that just my issue? I don’t think so. The phrase “new normal”, no longer in vogue, is a misnomer. It deludes us into a posture of waiting…rather than seizing on what’s right in front of us. Whatever is the present normal…that is what we have. This present normal.
This present that we have is fleeting, temporary…but the people  around us are not. Yet, relationships require some level of intentionality. A wise counselor once told us, during a season of multiple moves for work, to “put down your roots as deeply as you can – wherever you are”. COVID mediation has pushed us toward shallow relationships. We don’t want to miss people in the dullness of this odd season.
My beautiful friend above is already on the way to an answer to her loneliness because she is recognizing the “what’s not right” about her current situation and she’s not holding on to the status quo. That is forward motion right there. I am hopeful for her and for myself.

Writer, speaker, and mom Kari Kampakis wrote a fascinating post on Instagram and Facebook. It was titled: “What Middle School Girls Should Know About Friendship”. She wrote to girls but the lessons are redeeming for all of us, especially in this world that’s become COVID-isolated.

“What Middle School Girls Should Know About Friendship” – Kari Kampakis – Blog

“Friendships change.” Following you will find Kampakis’ 10 thoughts (abbreviated from her blog) on the struggle – written for middle school girls but applicable to any of us. Especially as we face loneliness and isolation and want to either jump-start or strengthen our friendships:

1. It’s normal for friendships to evolve and change.

2. Everything will be okay. – Be patient, pray for good friends, and pray to be a good friend.

3. Rather than focus on finding the right friends, concentrate on being the right friend. – When you treat people well, you’ll attract friends who treat you well too. By holding yourself to high standards, becoming the friend you wish to find, and choosing to be an encourager rather than a critic, you set yourself up for positive and long-lasting relationships.

4. Even when you find your “people”, always leave room at the table to invite someone new in. – Kampakis lamented: “One regret I have from high school and college is not reaching out more beyond my circle and letting God open the door to unexpected blessings.”

5. Love your friends well, but keep a loose grip. Give them space to explore new friendships and explore new friendships yourself.

6.Remember that everyone is learning and gradually maturing. Just because you don’t click with someone now doesn’t mean you won’t click later. 

7. The biggest friendship killers are jealousy, comparison, insecurity, and fear – fear of rejection, fear of being left out, and fear of being alone. Acting on these emotions can turn you into someone you’re not. – By being aware of your negative emotions yet learning the self-control to not act on them.

8. Form your own opinions about people, and don’t believe everything you hear. – Treat everyone like a friend until they give you a good reason not to, and when possible, give people the benefit of the doubt.

9. Know the difference between committed friends and casual friends. – Committed friends are the kind you carry through life. They have your back and will stand in your corner even if they’re your last friends standing. Casual friends are the kind you have for a season of life, maybe a few seasons.

10. Be kind, and keep in mind that kindness is more important than popularity.  

Photo Credit: Kari Kampakis

“What Middle School Girls Should Know About Friendship” – Kari Kampakis – Blog

Those 10 points were written for middle schoolers. It was a great reminder to me of the sweet simplicity of pursuing friendship. Both in rekindling neglected relationships and sparking new ones.

The world won’t all of a sudden become warm and welcoming…but I am ready to stretch again. It feels almost like a hungry bear coming out of a long hibernation.  It’s possible to shake off the sleep of shallow relationships. To be more present with people – not just on my terms but open to enter into their space…both heart and head.

Even if it’s one person at a time.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Life does not stand still for us. I have friends and family that are dear to me and yet we rarely see each other. Do we think that is going to happen somewhere down the road? Magically? There’s a place for urgency in dealing with the habitual loneliness we have come to know in recent months. My friend above is taking steps as am I. Cautiously, awkwardly…but occasionally successfully.

How about you? What’s your story? [Comment below.]

[Sidebar: If you’ve read this whole piece and wondered what’s the issue because you have great friendships – current and satisfying – maybe see Kampakis’ #4 again.  “Leave room at the table for someone new.” Don’t circle the wagons. If you are basking in the experience of an inner circle, turn around – someone who may need you, or you them, may be just outside. Invite her in.. New friendships can be costly but the benefits are worth the expense and the risk. *]

*Monday Morning Moment – Real Friendship – on Friends Who Wound, Fierce Friends, Friends Who Turn Around, and Friends Who Stay – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship Wednesday – The Faithful Love of God Wakes Us with Singing – with Zach Williams, Matthew West, Tasha Layton, & Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: Heartlight

“Don’t worry [be anxious] about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”Psalm 30:5b

My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my being. Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, O LORD, among the nations; I will sing Your praises among the peoples. For Your loving devotion extends beyond the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; may Your glory cover all the earth.”Psalm 108:1-5

My dear mom-in-law prays hard and often. She and I pray in unity on many, many things. Situations some of which she knows few details. Still she prays. Her prayers never end without the phrase “with thanksgiving”. Her anticipation of God’s answering prayer is thrilling…and inspires my hope and confidence in the heart of God.

Yesterday, I woke with heavy thoughts of many concerns: the dad of a colleague critically ill in the hospital, a visitation hearing on a beloved foster child in our family, the condition of our country, health issues with one of our kids, and the spiritual condition of some very close to us. There were also occasions for “joy in the morning” – the baptism of a precious great-niece of ours on Sunday and my husband’s birthday.

As those thoughts continued circulating in my head, I spent the morning with an Afghan refugee, a grandmother, who needed dental care. A lot of it. After her appointment, and translation help before leaving, we drove home in the silence of no shared language. [The love between us kept company, so there was that.] I used the radio to soften the silence.

Four songs in a row. Four songs in a row about the exquisite love of God. My friend couldn’t understand the words, but the lyrics moved me so much I had to stop and write the songs down to remember for today’s blog.

Then my quiet reading for today was Psalm 108 (the verses above captured my heart). Psalm 108:1-5. Oh God, no matter our situation, may we wake the dawn with singing of your great heart, your great love!

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship together with me to Zach WilliamsHeart of God (full lyrics and music in this link).

I know you’re hurtin’, I can see it in your eyes
So, pull back the curtain and take off your disguise
Whoever told you ain’t worth the fight
The cross tells a story that’ll change your mind.

No, He’s not sittin’ there shakin’ His head
Writin’ you off, leavin’ you lost
He’s not sittin’ there shakin’ His head
Wishin’ He’d never went to that cross
He’s not sittin’ there shakin’ His head
Writin’ you off, leavin’ you lost
He’s not sittin’ there shakin’ His head
He went to that cross, He went to that cross
‘Cause He loves you so much
Ooh-ooh-ooh, yeah

There’s only love in the heart of God
No room for shame in His open arms
There’s beauty from ashes, so come as you are
And there’s only love in the heart of God.

YouTube Video – Zach Williams – Heart of God – Official Music Video

…and worship also with Matthew West‘s The God Who Stays (full lyrics and music here).

If I were You I would’ve given up on me by now
I would’ve labeled me a lost cause
‘Cause I feel just like a lost cause
If I were You I would’ve turned around and walked away
I would’ve labeled me beyond repair
‘Cause I feel like I’m beyond repair

Oh, but somehow You don’t see me like I do
Somehow You’re still here

You’re the God who stays
You’re the God who stays
You’re the one who runs in my direction
When the whole world walks away
You’re the God who stands
With wide open arms
And You tell me nothing I have ever done can separate my heart
From the God who stays

My shame can’t separate
My guilt can’t separate
My past can’t separate
I’m Yours forever
My sin can’t separate
My scars can’t separate
My failures can’t separate
I’m Yours forever
No enemy can separate
No power of hell can take away
Your love for me will never change
I’m Yours forever

‘Cause You’re the God who stays.

YouTube Video – The God Who Stays – Matthew West (Official Music Video)

Now, let’s worship with the help of Tasha Layton‘s How Far Your Love Will Go (full lyrics and music here).

How far is too far
I thought I’d be there by now
I followed shame to the place
I was sure Your grace ran out

I kept running and running and running
You kept chasing and chasing and chasing

A million miles of my mistakes
Still couldn’t keep Your love away
However far away I am from home
That’s how far Your love will go… go…

Mercy’s arms stretched open wide
You paid it all
What kind of love lays down His life?
Willing to cross

A million miles of my mistakes
Still couldn’t keep Your love away
However far away I am from home
That’s how far Your love will go…

YouTube Video – How Far – Tasha Layton (Official Music Video)

Finally (for now), let’s close out with Tauren WellsKnown (full lyrics and music here).

It’s so unusual it’s frightening
You see right through the mess inside me
And you call me out to pull me in
You tell me I can start again
And I don’t need to keep on hiding

I’m fully known and loved by You
You won’t let go no matter what I do
And it’s not one or the other
It’s hard truth and ridiculous grace
To be known fully known and loved by You.

YouTube Video – Known – Tauren Wells (Official Music Video)

Whatever is going on with you – on the negative – be it shame, regret, fear, bitterness, sorrow – let known of that isolate you from the God who loves you. We can never get too far from God. We are fully known by Him. He is a God who stays. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”Psalm 30:5b

Photo Credit: Tauren Wells

YouTube Video – Joy in the Morning – Tauren Wells (Live Performance)

YouTube Video – There Was Jesus – Zach Williams, Dolly Parton (Official Music Video)

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship Wednesday – Asking Questions – 4 Questions the LORD Asks – Psalm 27 – Motion Worship

Photo Credit: Highland Park LC, Daily Verses

Daily our prayers are full of questions. We “inquire (ask from) the Lord”. The questions in our heads don’t always end up in our prayers, but they are there nonetheless.

Earlier this week, I wrote about the discipline of leading with powerful questions. God has certainly shown the way in this.

Why Does God Ask Questions If He Is Omniscient?

He wants us to wonder about Him, about life, about people…with Him. He also means for us to use His own explorations as a model for our interactions – our deep interactions – with each other.

Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson writes about four questions the Lord asks (in his book The Soul of Desire). These questions, when we ask them of each other, within context of relationship, can forge a path. A path for that other person to experience being “seen, soothed, safe, and secure” with us.   

1) “Where are you?” – God asked Adam this question (in Genesis 3:9), not because He didn’t know where he was but to give him an opportunity to say for himself what had happened. After Adam and Eve had sinned, they hid from God. In fear and shame. They had succumbed to distorted thinking after being tempted by the Evil One. They doubted the goodness of God and made the eternally consequential decision to choose for themselves what was good.

We also hide. We might not ask of another “Where are you?” exactly, but we might ask, “What’s going on?”, “What’s on your mind?” or “What are you feeling right now?” Rather than react to another’s anger, fear, or other distress, we lean in. Just as God was drawing out Adam, we give space for a person to feel safe to come out of hiding. We give space to ourselves in the same way when we go deep with God around this question.

2) “What do you want?” – In the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, two of John the Baptist’s disciples began following him. His first question to them was “What do you want?” (John 1:38) We don’t often ask God what He wants with us because the Scripture is clear. Yet, we struggle with what we want. Are our desires in line with the Lord’s? Do we ever edit or stifle our desires because we can’t fathom they are in line with the will of God? What if they are? Or some form of them? This is where we inquire of the Lord. This is also where we can be helpful to each other by giving opportunity to wrap words around those desires. To bring them out in the open in a safe environment with a trusted friend/family member. This, like Question 1, is something we also can explore with and seek affirmation from our Heavenly Father.

3) “Can you drink the cup?” – In Matthew 20:22, Jesus responded to a voiced desire of James and John to sit on each side of him in His kingdom. His question communicated that their desire implied a cost – a cup of suffering. They naively said they could drink the cup. His gentle reply was that they would drink that cup but the decision was not his but the Father’s. What beauty in the freedom of transparency and intimacy Jesus and his disciples had with each other.

“If we want to be this close to Jesus – if we are willing to enter into a confessional community and ask the first two questions – we must be prepared to suffer. Naming where we are and what we want invariably leads to discoveries that bring us great comfort but also demand that we be present to the brokenness of our own lives and that of others.” Curt Thompson, The Soul of Desire, p. 201

Part of the benefit of exploring the two first questions with a trusted someone is that we come to question 3. No longer is the stuff in our minds and emotions still hidden, but it’s out there. In the real world. This is when we can confront the cost…and this is where we find both healing and flourishing.Photo Credit: Heartlight

This is where we can have hope. Where our fear and shame can be removed. Where our addictions can be faced. Where our delights in the Lord can be fortified…within community.

“Evil does not intend to go quietly into the night. In this way, we will suffer; we will drink the cup that represents our resistance to evil as we swim against its current… In the context of a confessional community, we suffer, we grieve together, and as such our suffering itself is transformed…I learn to hope. I hope not in receiving exactly what I thought I wanted in the way I wanted it, but more.”Curt Thompson, The Soul of Desire, p. 205

4) “Do you love me?” – After his resurrection, Jesus appeared several times to his disciples before ascending to Heaven. This question he put to Peter. Now Peter was probably still reeling with shame from his denial of Jesus. He felt disqualified. Purposeless. Such that he returned to the trade he did before ever knowing Jesus. Jesus’ question “Do you love me?” clearly had multiple layers. He understood the rupture that happened when Peter acted the way he did. It wasn’t ruptured from Jesus’ side but was, in Peter’s head, from his side. Jesus drew close to Peter to fix that rupture and to remind him of the great work he had called Peter. “Feed my sheep”.

“Jesus takes the essence of our traumas and its attendant shame and creates New Wine. There is beauty to be found everywhere. But never is beauty more poignant than when we see it through our trauma and shame. We see Good Friday through the lens of Easter and everything about its brutality, its pulverization of God in the person of Jesus, is transformed into the beauty of the resurrection. This is what it means to fully answer the question, “Do you love me?”Curt Thompson, The Soul of Desire, p. 210

Worship, with me, the God who seeks after us and draws us close – the God who will create beauty in and through our lives as we live in the real, with Him within. [Psalm 27Motion Worship]

One thing I ask, one thing I seek
To live in Your house, to sit at Your feet
All of my days, delight in Your ways
And dwell in Your temple

So hide me in shelter when troubles may come
My feet set on high ground, my head lifted up
When darkness surrounds, in You I am found
And there’s joy in this temple

[Chorus]
I will sing, I will praise
With all that’s within me
I will seek, seek Your face
Jesus, my one thing
Oh Jesus, my one thing
(Yeah, yeah)

My heart believes, our eyes will see
The goodness of God in the land wе’re living
So we will be strong, and Hе won’t be long
And we’ll wait on You, Lord, yeah

[Chorus]
And I will sing, I will praise
With all that’s within me
I will seek, seek Your face
Jesus, my one thing, yeah
And I will sing, I will praise
With all that’s within me
And I will seek, seek Your face
Oh Jesus, my one thing
And oh Jesus, my one thing, yeah
Oh Jesus, my one thing (Oh, yes, You are, You are)
Oh Jesus, my one thing (Yes, You are, yes, You are)
Oh Jesus, my one thing, yeah

[Bridge]
And there’s joy in this temple, there’s praise in this house
With light and salvation, no fear can be found
When enemies rise up, they tremble and fall
None stand against Jesus, the name above all
There’s joy in this temple, there’s praise in this house
With light and salvation, no fear can be found
When enemies rise up, they tremble and fall
None stand against Jesus, the name above all

[Chorus]
And I will sing, I will praise
With all that’s within me
I will seek, seek Your face
Oh Jesus, my one thing
Oh Jesus, my one thing
Oh Jesus, my one thing (You are)
Oh Jesus, our one thing
Yes, You are our one thing (Jesus, my one thing)*

*Lyrics to Psalm 27 (Whom Shall I Fear?) – Motion Worship (Songwriters: Jesse Reeves & Caitlin Reeves)

Inquiring of the Lord – Posturing Ourselves for Success – Selenia Vera, International House of Prayer, Kansas City

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

Photo Credit: Heartlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and with another – MercyMe‘s Almost Home.

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Fitting Farewell, Pinterest, Henry Van Dyke

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

Friday Faves…GO!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May I do the same. – Beth Merrill Neel

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: YouTube

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

Photo Credit: YouTube

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

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

Rhiannon Giddens – 2022-2023 Perspectives Artist

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

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