Category Archives: Depression

Worship Wednesday – Set Free From the Lies about Ourselves and Each Other – Fear Is a Liar – Zach Williams

Photo Credit: Flickr, Lisa Hall-Wilson

[Adapted from the Archives]

Now this is what the LORD says–the one who created you, Jacob, and the one who formed you, Israel–“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine.”  Isaiah 43:1

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.  2 Timothy 1:7

There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear.1 John 4:18a

“If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32

What happens when we believe lies? Oh, it’s not that we are gullible or naive. Lies sound true when spoken in the first-person pronoun. As in “I’m such a failure.” or “It’s all my fault.” Or by someone we care about. As in “You are impossible to please.” or “You will never change.”

When we, or people we love, come under an attack of some sort, we respond. Always. Two physiological responses may immediately come to mind. We fight or fear (literally fleeing or just in our head). That fight or flight response is much researched and well-documented. My default is flight…in fear. If I have to, especially for the sake of my children or others needing help, I would fight, but fear would be part of that battle. So, even in the fight response, it is mixed with fear. The threat is perceived as so real, we fear for our lives or our personhood, at some level, and we fight for it.

I too often go to fearful flight. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you go to fight. Either one can be used in ways by our enemy to keep us from a third response. That being collecting our thoughts around what is true and acting in a way that gives space for God to fight for us…and for the relationship that feels threatened. That does not mean we won’t be physically removed from a fight (to protect or for justice or mercy’s sake). Nor does it mean that we won’t be tempted to fear. We must learn to resist the lies…and the Liar.  To replace the lies with what is true. So that we are not defeated already – by believing fear’s lies or by unleashing fury that hurts in its own right and only escalates fear in the end.

When I heard Zach Williams’ song Fear Is a Liar, the lyrics drew me in immediately. I knew that experience. That experience of fear being a voice in my head, telling me things that simply were not true…but sounded true. Paralyzing me when God means for me to be free. I am free in Him. Not cowering. Not withdrawing. Fear picks us up to throw us down somewhere dark and outside of who we really are. Fear is a liar…and is generated by the “father of lies”. At first, I struggled with the personification of fear in this song…but more and more, it is like battling with Satan himself, or one of his minions. The truth is that “greater is he (God) in me, than he (the evil one) in this world”. Photo Credit: Flickr, Artem Popov

My Mom and I, through the years, would often quote 2 Timothy 1:7 to each other.God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. We both struggled with fear and needed to remind each other of the truth. My husband Dave has often helped me come back to my senses with just the two-word imperative: “Pull up”. When we struggle with fear, our thoughts can grow more and more terrifying and send us on a deep dive, spiraling out of control. Just the reminder to “pull up” would spark my returning to remember what is true.

Those of us who fear need people in our lives who remind of us of the truth and the God of truth. Not in a platitudinous way. But in a way that wraps around us, stays with us, loves us through it. Who are your people?

[Sidebar: For those of you who default to fight or fury…the wisdom is the same. Return to what is true, what is full of love, what is genuine power. Being “wise as serpents and gentle as doves” is not weakness; it is a right response that gives space for God to act. Also, another huge truth to remember: God forgives as we repent. When we shrink away in fear or strike out in fear, God does not leave us in a crumple of failed flesh. We are His. Warriors. Prophets. Priests. Children of the One God. He has flung our sin as far as the east is from the west. It does not define us or diminish us as His repentant own.]

Worship with me and cancel the fear with the truth of God. Extinguish its darkness with the light of the perfect love of Jesus. As you worship with this song, remember the lyric “he” isn’t the person in front of you – the “he” is the Evil One. Our fight is not with that person in front of us…it is a spiritual battle…and we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.

When he told you you’re not good enough
When he told you you’re not right
When he told you you’re not strong enough
To put up a good fight
When he told you you’re not worthy
When he told you you’re not loved
When he told you you’re not beautiful
That you’ll never be enough

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar

When he told you were troubled
You’ll forever be alone
When he told you you should run away
You’ll never find a home
When he told you you were dirty
And you should be ashamed
When he told you you could be the one
That grace could never change

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar

Let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar*

Fear does not die easily. It requires an act of will and an act of faith. Often I have to pray myself out of fear before sleep at night, and praise my way out of picking it back up in the morning. This is after a lifetime of battling with fear. However, there is nothing sweeter…nothing…than knowing that God’s got this. Whatever “this” is. We live in a world full of scary and confusing struggle. We can’t see yet how it will all come out or what is happening in the unseen. Trusting God with what frightens and acting accordingly is how we deal with the struggle. We don’t retreat…we don’t attack…but we also don’t go it alone. That gives me joy, and I will not to be afraid.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” – JesusJohn 16:33

*Lyrics to Fear is a Liar – Songwriters: Zach Williams, Jason Ingram, Jonathan Lindley Smith

Zach Williams Music

Worship Wednesday – No Fear – Same Power – Jeremy Camp

YouTube Video – Casting Crowns – East to West (Official Lyric Video)

Fear Is a Liar – 91 Images on Pinterest

Monday Morning Moment – Conflict in Marriage – The Dance of Negative Escalation – with Esther Perel

Photo Credit: YouTube, Esther Perel

Do you have conflict in your marriage? Or even in roommate, friend, or family relationships? Maybe even at work with colleagues?
Of course, you do. Oh, there’s the rare situation where people can work out their differences amicably. My mom-in-law would always say she and our father-in-law never had a fight…well, once maybe. I’ve been around them in all sorts of situations, and I have to agree. Early in marriage, they worked out a system where they served each other and the family in complimentary ways. They genuinely loved and enjoyed each other.
Their oldest son, having grown up in this sweet and peaceful home, fell in love with a woman from a very different family…a home full of love but also where conflict and chaos sometimes reigned. That woman would be me.
Over the course of our 30+ years of marriage, we have matured. With age and experience, with resultant understanding, the fights are rare. The tears and silences are also pretty much absent.
We never ever considered divorce an option. Both of us have had too much experience with divorce (in my biological family and his in his extended family). We didn’t want it for ourselves or for our parents or children. So….we white-knuckled from time to time. In the end, I’m so thankful we hung in there with each other. It’s what I tell couples considering divorce…hang in there…it gets better.
OK…maybe not always, BUT the resources for helping us to do marriage and relationships are vast and easily accessible…if not in-person then online. If one or both of you are willing to inquire.
[Also, please, this is not meant to hammer anyone who’s experienced divorce. A betrayal is devastating and feels impossible to overcome.]
Dave and I had the opportunity just this weekend to hear couples therapist Esther Perel speak. She is Belgian and the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. She is married and has two sons. Her practice is international. She is a prolific writer and a life-long learner.
After hearing this brilliant, insightful, caring woman speak, I started looking for her online. So many YouTube videos, interviews, articles. Her podcasts, too. Among the topics was something she called a dance of negative escalation. What this entails is a process whereby two persons address an issue with one of maybe 3 or 4 responses.
  • Both listening and sharing, engaged, connected which would NOT be the dance of negative escalation.
  • Both withdrawing into their own thoughts – away from the perceived conflict or threat. Not outright escalation but no resolution either.
  • Both attacking, escalating into screaming and violence until…This wouldn’t even be considered a dance probably. I’m still learning.
  • One felt to be attacking, and the other felt to be withdrawing. This is where the dance takes place).

Perel defines this dance of negative escalation in this way: a “pattern occurs when one partner stonewalls and the other, in reaction to this refusal to engage, allows their emotions to escalate…For both partners the part of themselves they struggle with today is the very trait that saved them as a child. Sometimes what works as a survival strategy backfires when we are no longer under threat.”

“It takes two people to create a pattern, but only one to change it.”
Esther Perel, Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence

All kinds of light bulbs went off for me in reading and listening to Perel talk about this phenomenon.
There are always two sides. Two views of a situation. With two different histories (all the way back to childhood potentially). Two different emotional meanings.
When a conflict builds, the combative one, the aggressor, is usually seen and experienced as “the bad guy”. However, we all know from the classroom, that a child can be drawn into a negative response through the badgering of or intentional exclusion by another child. Yet, when the teacher is late to notice the interaction, only one child, the responder, is disciplined, and the other seemingly “good child” is left unchecked in the altercation.
We all want to be heard, to be valued, and none of us want to carry the responsibility or blame of an escalation. Four things are mentioned by Perel as being devastating to a marriage or long-term relationship. This can also be true of work relationships. Any of these can mark a relationship in peril. They are:
  • Indifference
  • Neglect
  • Contempt
  • Violence

We don’t want to go there in our relationships. Or if one partner or the other is there, the other can still begin to make positive change.

If you are in a relationship with the pattern using the dance of negative escalation to deal with issues , there is such hope! The links below are incredibly helpful…and they are just a few of the many resources available by Esther Perel and others.

I just wanted to introduce this subject. For those of you who know you struggle with these negative cycles, start with the links and go on your own journey of healing and restoration.

In her talk the other night, Esther Perel described the experience of having more than one marriage, sometimes with the same person. In a way, I experienced that with my sweet husband. We have a thick cord of continuity through our marriage, but, in ways, our marriage has passed through such seasons that almost feel like we are in a different marriage. I’m so thankful we stuck it out with each other.

Remember, a negative cycle is the problem. It may have absolutely nothing to do with the character of either spouse. “Name the cycle” rather than blaming your explosive partner or feeling betrayed by the withdrawing one. Start there. Then take steps to slow down the conflict in a safe environment in order to see what is happening underneath. With grace, accountability (external and internal), and time, you can come out on the other side, stronger, healthier, and with love rekindled and restored.

_________________________________________________________________________

Where Should We Begin? Podcast – It’s Very Hard to Live with a Saint – Esther Perel – excellent example of the dance of negative escalation. The podcast is an actual marriage counseling session. If you prefer reading, the transcript is here.

Marital Destructive Styles of Communication – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Couples Negative Cycles – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Naming Your Negative Cycle – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Withdrawers  Desire Safety – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Negative Couples Cycle: Finding the Bad Guy – Kevin Leapley, Round Rock Couples Counseling

YouTube Video – Fight Smarter – Avoid the Most Common Argument Patterns – Esther Perel

Emotionally Focused Therapy – a Roadmap for Working with Couples (pdf) – Tanya Radecker

Series : Marriage with a Chronically Self-Centered Spouse – Brad Hambrick – Dr. Hambrick is an excellent “counselor to the church”. He covers a lot of ground on this topic related to the different aspects of being self-centered in a marriage: the low emotional intelligence self-centered spouse, the lazy or apathetic self-centered spouse, the situationally explosive self-centered spouse, and the intentionally manipulative self-centered spouse. Fascinating. Great helps as well.

Growing in Negative Emotion Tolerance – Brad Hambrick

Monday Morning Moment – A New Day – It’s Gonna Be OK

Sometimes rolling out of bed is an act of faith. I’d been awake for an hour already. Trying to clear the dark thoughts out of my head. Praying. Remembering what is true and distinguishing what is only speculation. This time it had to do with a family concern…what could we do to help? What could I do? Only God could do anything at this point. So I prayed.

Prayer can clear the mechanism, for sure. Going to God when we are distracted beyond good sense, disoriented by the noise in our heads, worried that nothing good is coming down the pike. By concentrating our thoughts into a cry to God, we gain clarity. Maybe on how to deal with an issue ourselves, or finding no clear answer, on the goodness of a holy and wise God.

So I rolled out of bed, had coffee, spent a bit of time in Scripture, got my clothes on, and headed out the door.

What a sky! Past the vivid colors of sunrise, but still with the hint of pink, streaking the clouds. It was beautiful! In a split second, taking in the largeness of the sky and the clean slate of a Monday morning, I head out…with hope…and peace in my heart.

Just like the sky changes through the day, so do our thoughts. Is the family concern still real and present? Yes. As far as I know. Do I have a clear path to help? No. However, it’s a new day. Anything could happen.

Dark clouds are rolling in, and just a hint of blue remains before the rain starts.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. No big celebrations this time because the 2021 US Presidential Inauguration is in two days. This year our United States capital as well as state capitals, are under high alert for armed protests. Parades are just not happening.

FAQs: 2021 inauguration plans after Capitol riot, amid pandemic

Even since last year, when I wrote here on Martin Luther King Jr., our country seems changed. Divided, blaming, hostile, cautious. Remembering Dr. King is a good thing. He did much to bring us together, even as divided we were across racial and ideological lines.

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote, Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the car this morning, a song came on, unfamiliar to me. It was “Into the Sea (It’s Gonna Be OK”). By singer/songwriters Tasha Layton and husband Keith Everette Smith.

Perfect for reflecting on the action by which God had rescued me from my own thoughts. Giving me the will and determination to take on a new day.

The songwriters created this song from the Biblical text below.

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah  – Psalm 46: 1-3, 10-11

The song above, “It’s Gonna Be OK”, was born out of dark times for the songwriter couple, through which God brought them into light. A song just right for us going through COVID and this year of 2020.

We may not have any idea what “OK” is going to look like…but we can grab hold of it, and take each new day as both promise and possibility.

YouTube Video – Look Up, Child – Lauren Daigle

Clear the Mechanism: Finding God in the Middle of Anxiety – Joshua Crawford

For Love of the Game

5 Friday Faves – “Beyond the Guitar” Doing What He Does, From Cynicism to Delight, the Glad Game, a Great Life & a COVID Death, and Life’s Comforting Rhythms

Happy Weekend! Staying on the positive in my finds this week.

1) Beyond the Guitar Doing What He Does –Classical guitarist Nathan Mills, on the platform Beyond the Guitar, arranges and performs themes from movies, TV shows, and video games. The last couple of weeks he has showcased two arrangements of his that display his genre at its best.

YouTube Video – The Mandalorian/Force Mashup – Classical Guitar Cover

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, YouTube

YouTube Video – Spider-man: Miles Morales (PS5) Main theme on Guitar

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, YouTube

Nathan teaches privately and via his Arrangers Academy (membership opens twice a year). His music (videos, sheet music, and MP3s) are why we are patrons. Well, and because we love the guy playing the guitar. Beautiful, nostalgic themes. Heart-soothing on every level and on any day.

2) From Cynicism to Delight – With that noise of social media and biased news media, we struggle to know what to believe about what’s going on around us. The tendency is to gradually go cynical, thinking ill of others, moving toward mistrust. Our thinking becomes negative, and we become suspicious of motives, questioning authority, and even disbelieving people trying to do right by others.

Negativity can become a habit…a negative habit.

This is no way to live. Cynicism dulls our thinking and darkens our heart.

How do we upend cynicism? Writer Jennie Allen talks on a podcast about how we can move away from cynicism and toward delight. Now, that is a surprising and almost old-fashioned idea. Delight is defined as “a high degree of gratification or pleasure; joy; giving keen enjoyment”.

Jennie Allen Podcast – Cynicism vs. Delight

What do you take delight in? It requires a measure of savoring, pausing to take note, considering a different possibility. We rush around in life, or at least in our thoughts – flipping channels, scrolling endlessly, moving from class to class or meeting to meeting with little notice to what’s going on around us (or in our own heads). What if? What if? We stopped, or slowed down, our minds and just took note.

Allen talks about the importance of what we put into our minds. Do we even think about it? 20 minutes on social media (depending on those we friend/follow) could begin a stubborn funk in our thinking. What about the people in our lives? She doesn’t encourage cutting people off, but guarding our conversations against the negative –  gossiping, complaining, criticizing, thinking ill.

In the space we intentionally gain from the guarding above, we can begin practicing delight. At how well things are going instead of how badly, for instance. How beautiful the weather is, thoughtful your neighbor, generous your colleague, wise your mom or dad…This isn’t putting our heads in the sand; it is just considering life from a different angle…just as true/real as the negative, cynical take.

Allen encourages taking note of art as a fast track to delight. Whether it is music, or poetry, or painting. The world is full of beauty. We forget that sometimes in our “screened-in” lives. Many of us live in a place of four seasons. There’s always something to marvel at in nature. For many years, we lived in a part of the world with only two seasons. In each was still a myriad of beautiful discoveries. I have always enjoyed watching people, taking in all that’s there for the observer, without intruding. Then, of course, there is the wonder of God. How he continues to infuse our lives with good and possibility.

“The opposite of being cynical is being life-giving, and some might call you naive for it, but for the most part, people just need that in their lives. Most people will want to go to coffee with you because they need someone to speak life into them and actually believe it.”Jennie Allen

Photo Credit: Empowered Living, Facebook

3) The Glad Game – There is so much we can learn from sweet Pollyanna and young Anne of Green Gables. Either through the book about Pollyanna or the movie. Or Anne: the books or the movies/TV series.

Both these girls were orphans, and both had figured out a way to thrive in their circumstances. Very different ways, but fascinating.

Ten Things Anne of Green Gables Taught Me – Samantha Ellis

Anne of Green Gables vs. Pollyanna – (In the Battle for My Mind)

I was reminded (see Friday Fave #2 above) of Pollyanna’s Glad Game. She was determined to find something good in every situation… something to be glad about.

YouTube Video – Pollyanna and the Glad Game

YouTube Video – You Surely Will (Pollyann’s conversation with the minister)

“When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will.” – Abraham Lincoln

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Abraham Lincoln

If Your Behavior Is Contagious, What Will People Catch?

Networking Lessons from Pollyanna and Anne of Green Gables – Marzena Podhorska

4) A Great Life and a COVID Death – As we continue to physically distance during this pandemic, we are beginning to know people who have died from COVID-19. The nearest one to us died just before Christmas. Reverend David Pickard. He was just 76. One of the pastors Mom wanted to preach her funeral. He did. The pastor who officiated at Dave’s and my wedding close to 40 years ago. 

Pastor David has always held a special place in my heart. So full of joy. A smile and presence that would shake the chill off any roomful of people. He genuinely loved God and people. Generous and good, this man.

He always made time. That meant so much to us as first our mom became ill with cancer, and then years later, our dad with Alzheimer’s. Pastor David was no longer in their church, but he continued in their lives.

We have been in separate countries (for awhile) and states now for many years. When we heard he was in the hospital with COVID, we prayed hard like everyone else who loved him. It wasn’t meant to be. His time here was done, but not without leaving a wide wake of love and Gospel truth to everyone he had a bit of time with. He is so missed.Pastor Dave and his sweetheart for life, Mrs. Dottie.

5) Life’s Comforting Rhythms – Here’s to all the rhythms of our lives that we count on and continue to bless us. Christmas cards, even in 2020 (although most of them arrived in 2021 through a weary postal service).

Christmas cactuses blooming right on schedule (how do they do it?).

Kale planted in the Fall still yummy in January.

Daffodils and irises pushing up through the soil with the promise of blooms in the Spring of this new year.

Sharing hot soup on a cold day with old friends (the lunch location altered somewhat by COVID)

And birthday greetings [this one from a lifelong friend who hung with me through our many losses and gains, and my lapses in communication] and a memoir by someone we have also shared through the years – through radio and concerts. #Garrison[Karen, hope you don’t mind. Your note says it all. Especially getting through all the latest hards.]

That’s it for this Friday Faves.  Please comment yourself on the rhythms that comfort you and the things that bring you delight. Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Ten Habits of People Who Lose Weight and Keep It Off – Gina Cleo

7 Good Things That Came Out of 2020 (It Actually Wasn’t All Bad)

Here’s How to Get Stronger After 50 – Abigail Barronian

5 Things People With Tidy Homes Don’t Do

What If We Have Another Year Like 2020 – Nice Lessons Leaders Should Already Have Learned – Eli Amdur

Amazing Image of Unborn Baby at 18 Weeks Is Called the Photograph of the Century – Micaiah Bilger

Image may contain: 1 personPhoto Credit: Eric McCool, Facebook

Monday Morning Moment – Hope in Christmas Lonesomeness

Holidays can be lonesome. We all get that. Any of us who has had to be away from family, because of distance or work obligations, know the ache of celebrations missed…people missed. We make the best of it, of course, but we miss the memories not made.

Now, for some, Christmas is not a happy holiday. My dad died on Christmas Day. Other Christmases were spent far from our families. Or we may have other, painful reasons for not thinking of Christmas as a happy time. The lonesomeness can be right under the surface in a room full of people. We may have all the trappings of a happy holiday…but…

Then…add COVID-19.

Writer Joe Pinsker has posted an insightful piece on our experience of COVID 2020 – The Year We Lost – When We Look Back on 2020, Will We See Past All the Things That Didn’t Happen?

He talks about the missed celebrations, the delays in academic and career goals, the mass exit from our public lives…and how we have been affected. He also points to the lack of punctuation that holidays usually bring us…the missed comfort of rituals we have held dear or at least help define who we are as people attached to others.

The general shortage of chapter breaks in 2020 has three notable consequences.

  • First, as researchers have demonstrated, moments of transition can prompt people to reappraise their habits, and perhaps adopt new ones.
  • Second, a year without celebrations means fewer vivid memories—and looking back on vivid memories is one way people mark the passing of time.
  • Third, and maybe most powerfully, missing out on full-fledged birthday parties, baby showers, and so on can feel like cutting pages out of one’s life story. Rites marking important milestones “play a key role in shaping what we call our narrative self, the sense of who we are and how we came to be that person. – Joe Pinsker

This is where I want to pull us back from the edge.

I understand lonesomeness…it is my experience sometime during every Christmas. I miss my Dad…my Mom (who died almost 20 years ago…still miss her every day). We live still separated geographically from many in our family. All the gift-buying-and-giving is stressful, right? The question of “Did I do enough?” is both agonizing and ridiculous.

There is a longing that seems to belong especially to Christmas. A longing for something more…something beyond this world… something that doesn’t hurt. We we find ourselves in this mindset, we have to “pull up”. We have to shake off the darkness in order to see the light.

I am not saying that is easy. COVID has given us plenty of darkness this year. We do not have to let it take Christmas…not this year.

Maybe you like us won’t get to be with family and friends this Christmas. Even our Christmas Eve candlelight service is happening via Facebook Live. It is what it is this year.

We can fight to step away from the loneliness…the ache of lonesomeness. It does take some effort, but our being present, our showing up, matters. Not just to others, but to each of us personally.

We step outside. We use our phones to actually make a call. We pull some cans of food out of our pantry to feed someone else. We forgive. We ask forgiveness. We remember Jesus. He had to have been lonesome for intimacy with his Father in those years he came so close to us. He understands.

We remember. We receive. We re-enter.

Too often we have heard (and maybe said) “I can’t wait until it gets back to normal”. Or “I wonder what the ‘new’ normal will be after COVID”. We don’t have to be passive recipients of what is coming.

We turn the waiting of this year…the isolation of this year…into hope for the coming Savior…hope of the filling that this season can bring, even in the presence of a pandemic.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Contemplative Monk

2020: The Year We Lost (A Year Without Parties, Celebrations or Ambition) – Joe Pinsker

The Story of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s great losses that inspired the carol “I Heard the Bells” – Facebook

To the Lonely at Christmas – a Poem – Secret Angel

5 Friday Faves – Christmas Guitar Mix, the Mercy of Forgiveness, Virtual Christmas Parties, Festive Foods, and Forever Friends

Friday. Deep breath. Hope you can rest some and take in all the sweetness of this time of you. Here are this week’s favorite finds.

1) Christmas Guitar Mix Nathan at Beyond the Guitar has arranged guitar pieces for each Christmas over the past few years. Looking forward to the one coming out this year also (a surprise so far). Here’s the collection so far. Enjoy!Photo Credit: Tyler Scheerschmidt, TSVideoProduction

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

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

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

YouTube Video – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (w/ Surprise Guest!) – Beyond the Guitar

2) The Mercy of Forgiveness – Talking to my sweet mom-in-law this morning, and she was commenting on how “life is too short for unforgiveness”. Immediately the thought came to mind “and eternal life is way too long for unforgiveness”. We may have a lot to forgive, and we may think we have forgiven (willing & hoping to never see that person again in our lives)…the thing is, I’m pretty sure we know in our hearts if we have truly forgiven or not. Unforgiveness is living in the past, ruminating over the offenses and the person who did them, negative thoughts that permeate our mind. Can’t get clear of them …without forgiveness. Photo Credit: Twitter, C. S. Lewis

Peace in the present…that’s what forgiveness gives. It also frees us from the self-imposed imprisonment of unforgiveness…which imprisons us, our families/friends/coworkers – depending who all our unforgiveness includes. Forgiveness – it’s what we’re counting on from God. How can we think our reasons for unforgiveness are higher than His in forgiving us? Peace. P.S. I get how hard unforgiveness can be. So thankful my mom (in Heaven now for almost 20 years) practiced and taught us to keep short accounts with others. Short accounts, knowing we can hurt others, too…and we do.

The following is an excerpt from an excellent piece on “Forgiveness in the Family” by writer Ed Chinn:

“Every home (like every other micro-society) has a distinct culture. In other words, every home reflects a pattern of unspoken assumptions which convey the approved way to perceive, think, and feel.

One of the most important things parents can do is to create a culture of forgiveness in the home.

It begins with a gracious tongue. Parents should be quick (and sincere) to speak grace into every corner of family life. The language of graces and manners – “Please,” “thank you,” “pardon me,” and “I’m sorry” — should flavor the family conversation.

Additionally, parents should not tolerate disrespect, shrillness, selfishness or cynicism.

We didn’t dishonor our children; they couldn’t either. House rules.

[Included in our house rules as well]

Forgiveness should never be extended purely as a model or teaching tool. However, parents should be quick to apologize to each other and to the children. And, of course, children should be taught how to extend and receive forgiveness.

In view of God’s incomprehensible generosity, how can we remain locked up in the prison of resentment? We are free to forgive each other freely and generously because we have been freely and generously forgiven.”Ed ChinnPhoto Credit: Flowers On the Rubbish Heap; Forgiveness by C.S. Lewis

Scriptures on Forgiveness: Even When It’s Hard – Sunshyne Gray

How to Let Go of Resentment and Grudges – Sunshyne Gray

7 Dangers of Embracing Mere Therapeutic Forgiveness – Mike Leake

Therapy & Theology: What Forgiveness Isn’t and Isn’t According to the Bible – Proverbs 31 Ministries; Podcast with Lysa Terkeurst Transcript from the Podcast

Pinterest Page with Forgiveness Quotes

Photo Credit: Sunshyne Gray Christian Counseling & Coaching

3) Virtual Christmas Parties – Most all of our Christmas festivities this year have been cancelled thanks to COVID. Well, except for small family gatherings. We did decide to convert one annual friend party into a virtual “get-together”. A White Elephant gift exchange has always been part of our party tradition. How do we do that, physically distanced?

We gathered on a zoom call and chatted while we all ate our respective suppers in our respective dining or living rooms.

[A surprise element to this party was also a gender reveal. So fun!]

We had some extra gifts in case folks forgot or just didn’t come prepared…we had it covered.

Each party friend took turns choosing a gift. With Zoom, we just showed off the gift we had made or bought and kept it in view as turns were taken and gifts were secured or stolen by another.

In the days after the party, we work out a driveway visit with those who chose our White Elephant gifts. What a plus that we get to see our friends face-to-face, albeit physically distanced. Sweet times.

How about you? How have you altered your festivities? Please comment below. We all need ideas for this year, especially.

4) Festive Foods – So many holidays have festive foods attached to them. When friends of ours dropped by this past week, for a backyard visit, they brought a copy of their Christmas menu. They live in a 55+ community and will have these foods offered in their dining room. It was sumptuous with something yummy for everyone.

As we count down to Christmas, all sorts of goodies are gifted or created in our own kitchens.

What are some of your festive foods? Again, please share in Comments. The stew below isn’t attached to Christmas memories. It is a meatball tajine with memories of Morocco in every bite. Yum!

5) Forever Friends – I wanted to close with a salute to those forever friends in our lives. Because of COVID and all the restrictions, like many of you, I have not visited with friends as often or in the more usual ways. It’s been nine months now…nine months. Our friends, especially those who live out of town, have kept in touch by phone, social media messaging, and video calls. Even cards as birthdays and holidays have passed without our seeing so much of each other… or not at all. What a blessing that we have forever friends who will hang in there with us through this and whatever comes after.

On one of my rare outings to a favorite thrift store recently, I found this little Pooh ornament. The sentiment is true. So thankful for you.

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s it for this week…hope you have a weekend full of peace and joy. Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, and Merry, Merry Christmas!

Bonuses:

Crossroads Christmas Special with Lecrae and Amy Grant

Food Bank Collection at Home with Help from the Little Ones

To Live Remarkably, Repeat This One Affirmation Every Single Day for the Rest of Your Life – Jeff Haden

What Can You Do When You’re Flattened by Depression? Plan for It – Daryl Chen

The Rockettes Are Teaching Free Virtual Dance Classes This Holiday Season – Faith Brar

Facebook capture – the story of actor James Stewart, PTSD, and “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Video below is a walk down memory lane for me. Having lived in Cairo for many years, this was fun to watch some old familiar places.

Monday Morning Moment – Building Our Own Personal Surge Capacity in the Longer Stretch of COVID-19

Photo Credit: Long Running Living

Let’s talk about capacity! I’m still working on my Monday blog on a Tuesday. One of the fall-outs of COVID.

What started, in our country, as a sprint in March is turning into more a long-distance run. 6 months now. 184 days thus far of physical distancing (for this medically at-risk person).

Remember how we first thought it might be just 2 weeks of quarantining to eradicate the threat? OK, I was super-naive.

We’re becoming weary of certain words and phrases. Pandemic. Unprecedented. Uncharted. New normal. We’re all in this together. Even social distancing. [I was thankful when that phrase went out of vogue and “physical distancing” replaced it. “Social distancing” put a wrongful prescription on its hearers. We need to physical distance, yes, but never social distance. We have learned.]

Remember when surge capacity became a worrisome phrase in our daily news cycle. Will our hospitals have enough ICU beds and ventilators to properly care for the rising numbers of persons with grave cases of COVID? That was the fear. We heard the daily troubling reports from New York state officials. Those reports were heard, and hundreds of ventilators were sent, as well as the provision of field hospitals, even the arrival of a huge hospital ship.  Peak hospitalizations with COVID have passed for now. Surge capacity tested and proven ample.

Why does this matter?

Each of us has our own surge capacity (related to stress, trauma, loss). During COVID, we are all having it tested. Some more than others. I think of parents trying to juggle work, child care, and monitoring schooling. Teachers preparing in-class lessons and teaching remotely as well in the various hybrid programs. Essential workers. First responders. Hospital personnel.

Here is a general definition of capacity-building. It is where we are.

Capacity-building is defined as the “process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations and communities need to survive, adapt, and thrive in a fast-changing world.” An essential ingredient in capacity-building is transformation that is generated and sustained over time from within; transformation of this kind goes beyond performing tasks to changing mindsets and attitudes. – United Nations Academic Impact

Remember when we first started experiencing COVID (at least in the news)? We had big plans for the physical distancing and working remotely and the time we would recoup in that experience. We would take a college course, learn a new language, renovate the house, or declutter our lives.

Then we were surprised at the sluggishness that we encountered. The dullness. The quiet that gradually turned into isolation.

We mentally prepared for a sprint, but the rules changed. We had to change how we ran to set our minds and bodies for a longer run.

Science journalist Tara Haelle recently posted an excellent piece on human surge capacity. “We need to recognize that we’re grieving multiple losses while managing the ongoing impact of trauma and uncertainty. The malaise so many of us feel, a sort of disinterested boredom, is common in research on burnout, Masten says. But other emotions accompany it: disappointment, anger, grief, sadness, exhaustion, stress, fear, anxiety — and no one can function at full capacity with all that going on.”

[Her article is one of a collection of three articles at Medium.com on capacity, power surge, zoom fatigue, and workplace diversity and inclusion.]

Haelle writes in detail on our surge capacity and how we can endure and actually build capacity for this season of prolonged uncertainty. Her main points follow (read her piece for greater detail).

  • Accept that life is different right now
  • Expect less from yourself
  • Recognize the different aspects of grief
  • Experiment with “both-and” thinking
  • Look for activities, new and old, that continue to fulfill you
  • Focus on maintaining and strengthening important relationships
  • Begin slowly building your resilience bank account

We don’t want to fall victim to what seemed like it would be a sprint but has turned into a marathon. Organizational psychologist and professor Adam Grant tweeted wisdom about the problem of becoming sluggish or judging that in others. [I do disagree that we’re all socially awkward now…just pointing to his Tweet.]

Photo Credit: Twitter, Adam M. Grant

Moving into the 7th month of COVID experience, we are making decisions on how to better maneuver. Still committed to safe practices but re-engaging in life with people we love…people whose influence and very presence we have missed in these physically distanced days.

Life is precious. There is a balance in what is real and how we can build capacity to meet that reality. Otherwise life becomes something less. We know what’s working and what’s not. If not, we can counsel with each other. I say we go for it…stretching ourselves out for the long distance run, bringing all those we can along with us.

Forgive the “motivational speechiness” – it’s what happens when I think too long on something and yet lack the answers. Recognition, desire and hope all together birth action…so let’s get after it!

Please post in Comments what is working in your life to build capacity. See you on the road.

[Postscript: The image below is one sort of those “both-and” situations Haelle prescribes. We as parents teach our children had to be resourceful and responsible in hard times, and we also teach them how they might make the world a kinder place for us all.]Photo Credit: The Purposeful Parenting Movement, Facebook

I’m Listening – Talk Has the Power to Save Lives – Radio Show

5 Friday Faves – Food Anthropology, The Punisher on Classical Guitar, Pastimes, “Life Has Purpose”, and Community

Weekend! Go….five favorite finds for this week:

1) Food Anthropology – Anthropology is the study of cultures and peoples – their behaviors, values, etc. The TEDx talk below was a walk down the lane of pleasurable food memories for me. Syrian-American food writer Tony Tahhan talked on What Syrian Cuisine Can Teach Us About Humanity. In his talk, Tahhan gives sweet details about growing up in a Syrian home in Venezuela (?!). Then they immigrated to the US, blending more cultures. His stories of Syria itself center on food and culture.

Our first experience of Syrian food culture was when we lived in Cairo, Egypt, for a few years. Our friend Amal, a Syrian-American, often hosted us in her home. She and her husband reflected their culture of gathering and generous hosting of friends and family. Egyptians also have that wonderful hospitality as well..and their own yummy food. Still, being in Amal’s home and at her table was unique. So much food! So much preparation…chopping, blending, baking. Distinct flavors. Beautiful colors. Healthy and satisfying. Dessert, too…not healthy always (unless it was the huge bowl of fruit) but incredibly memory-making. Can you say baklava?

I took lots of food pictures in those days but couldn’t find them for this blog. The image below will have to do. This gives a good idea about Amal’s table. Beautiful and bountiful. Full of love.Photo Credit: Flickr

There is much we can learn from peoples and cultures through their food. Syria has been so traumatized by war. Still, I’m completely positive, that if anyone had an opportunity to sit at a Syrian table, whatever their hosts had would be presented sumptuously for the guest. That’s a lesson for us all.

Thank you, Amal, for the food and the friendship.

Syrian Cooking

The 9 Most Important Things I Learned in Cooking School – Jesse Szewczyk

2) The Punisher on Classical GuitarNathan Mills arranges another beautifully haunting piece – the theme Frank’s Choice from the TV show The Punisher. In the show (which I’ve never seen – too violent for me), Frank Castle has the horrific experience of watching his family be murdered. He then becomes a vigilante, hunting down those responsible. Then he seems not to be able to escape that life, going after other evil criminal types. Nathan (Beyond the Guitar) takes composer Tyler Bates‘ tortured theme (pointing to the “dead man walking” Frank Castle character) to a different place. A quieter, sad longing of a place. Beautiful.

3) Pastimes – The stuff of life outside of work. Hobbies, shopping, classes, volunteering, family/friend time, and desultory activities – being lost in the moment, wanderings.

With social distancing thanks to COVID, our pastimes may be altered somewhat. Before March, I spent a lot of time gone from the house. Now, not so much. Dave also presently works from home.

So when work is done, what do we do? What do you do?

We’re slow adopters. The Mandalorian, the web series on Disney+, wasn’t on our watch-list although we’re huge Star Wars fans. In fact, we didn’t know much about it except for the hype. Oh, and the piece  Nathan arranged and performed, of the show theme.

This week we signed up for Disney+ and are “bingeing” The Mandalorian. It’s a first, the whole binge thing. Such is some of the strangeness that COVID has brought to our socially distanced lives.

Now, watching movies is definitely a favorite pastime. This past week (including the weekend), we saw three “small” films (small in that they weren’t huge boxoffice hits).

I loved them all and recommend them. Lots of heart in these films. Heart and humor.

A few weeks back, I watched the 2020 Netflix documentary 13th (about the abolition of slavery) and I hope to watch  another 2020 documentary Uncle Tom soon. Anybody seen either of these?

During COVID, Dave and I have taken up playing Bananagrams after supper. It’s a quick game – he wins usually.

Just being outside in the back yard with a book, my camera, or a friend is also even more special with the press of COVID.

One favorite verse of mine in the Bible is: “Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor.Romans 12:10 It’s not about competing with one another for God’s favor (He loves His children purely and freely). It’s just an encouragement to be as generous as we can loving and showing honor to each other. out of the love we already enjoy from God. This “outdoing” a pastime worthy of making a skill/habit.

A dear friend dropped off some of her summer bounty for us this week…so for days, we enjoyed that sweet gift.

Then another friend dropped off a card from her little girl to our little granddaughter (these little ones are missing their friends, too). So special.

Finally, I got to be on the dessert delivery list of this amazing baker friend. She just drove pieces of cake around to different fortunate ones of us. Lemon pound cake. Yum! Right?

On the flip side – another friend has a birthday this week but was also heading to the beach…so no opportunity to gather. She is amazing at reaching out to people, always and also during COVID. For one time, I got a jump on her with some beach reading. Happy birthday, Karen!

What pastimes do you enjoy lately? Especially those that lift your heart or others.

4) Life Has Purpose – A friend of mine introduced Ryan and Bethany Bomberger to me via her Facebook post. They are pro-life adoptive parents. They are Christians. Give them a listen whatever your worldview…you’ll be drawn in to their hearts. They are not mush-minded (as some think of those with descriptions like this). Rock-solid people. Their podcast is Life Has Purpose.Photo Credit: Life Has Purpose

They are authors, and Ryan is a songwriter. He wrote Meant to Be as a tribute to his birth mother who conceived him in rape. He was adopted by parents who would adopt 9 other multi-ethnic kiddos.

Photo Credit: The Radiance Foundation

Part of what make finds favorites is that often there’s a beautiful ripple effect – finding favorites of the finds. Neil and Christina Shenvi came along with “Life Has Purpose”. Check them out. Fascinating.

5) Community – This comes up in my Faves from time to time, because it continues to just boggle the mind how essential it is and how deep it can be…even with COVID. [Our community group – so dear]

However…and there is a big HOWEVER here…social distancing can really do a number on community. When we think of how it has affected us as adults, we need to think also how it can affect our children (littles and bigs).

Earlier this week, this short film by 15-year-old Liv McNeil came to my attention and it surprised me with emotion – what it can be like for teens who are isolated by the COVID experience.

We must watch out for each other.

Shared Hope: Friendships Are Life-Saving Medicine – Jane Jayroe Gamble

That’s it for this week. Hope you get some rest and get some time with folks you love and who love you!

Bonuses:

SummerPhoto Credit: Kathryn Visneski

How to Declutter Your Closet with a Single Box – Olivia Muenter

YouTube Video – TEDx Talk – Everyone Has Hardships – John Guyon

The Real Secret to Aging Well & How to Feel the Luckiest About Growing Older Into a Deeply Meaningful Life – Ann Voskamp

Here’s the Science That Explains Why Drinking Diet Soda Makes You Gain Weight – Minda Zetlin

Negative Effects of Sugar-Free Carbonated Drinks – Erica Kannall

Thirty Minutes with the Perry’s – Podcast – Preston Perry & Jackie Hill Perry

These Four Phrases Will Make Life Easier for Teachers and Parents This Fall – Laura Milligan

This Dad and Pastor  Has Advice and Calming Words for Overwhelmed Parents – Erika Sanzi

The Nonconformist – Thomas Sowell on Race, Poverty, and Culture – Coleman Hughes

Two of my heroes at Southwood Community Resource Center:

Worship Wednesday – Keep Me in the Moment – Jeremy Camp

Photo Credit: Ramstein AF

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”Romans 12:1-5

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”Ephesians 2:10

“…and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death.”Philippians 3:9-10

The Scriptures give us a clear look at the large life God intends for us. He has set us apart from the world; He has prepared good works for us; He embeds us with His righteousness to faithfully endure whatever confronts us.

Then comes COVID.

Nothing in the character or purposes of God have altered. His children are still called to live in the present in His strength and to extend His love out to those around us.

[Writer Emma Grey Ellis has posted a fascinating article on the lethargy and depression that plagues us in the isolation of COVID. I can’t help but think there is also a spiritual component at work in this disease and in its prevention.]

This Sunday, our pastor Cliff Jordan of Movement Church finished teaching a series on God’s Kingdom Culture – focusing, this time, on the culture of displacement (listen here).

Displacement for us is that we’re not Home yet (Philippians 3:20). Cliff recalled his years playing high school basketball. It was a very high and privileged experience to be part of the Home team (playing in your own town and your own gym). When he was part of the Away team, it was a very different experience – no special treatment, and the team that most folks in the gym hoped would lose.

The church, here in this moment, is the Away team.

Basketball is a great picture of where we are as believers doing life, dealing with COVID.

When our children were in high school, the two oldest played basketball. At that time, our school was often the newcomer and underdog. What we lacked in experience and status, we made up for in enthusiasm, determination, and perseverance.[Seniors on the team of the 2007 boys’ basketball season of George Washington Academy, Casablanca, Morocco. Nathan “Beyond the Guitar” Mills is on the far right.]

We didn’t have a gym, so we were always the Away team.

As in life, especially in COVID life, we didn’t have to bring our “A” game. We had lots of opportunities to excuse ourselves from being all in. Between being “at-risk” or furloughed or parents all of a sudden juggling work and helping children school at home. The above-mentioned fatigue dampens our enthusiasm and stamina. Being truly “in the moment” as believers has become a challenge unlike any we’ve known previously.

It would be easy, again with the basketball analogy, to just wait out COVID and hope for better days, like the Away team might when the score starts mounting on the Home team’s board. Our enthusiasm wanes and our pace slows. We begin to give up before the game is over. And the bench!! What might have been “Put me in, Coach!” turns into thinking being #OfftheBench might not be a great idea. Our minds wander off the Word of God and onto anything else.

I love the tension of the pic below. The tension in those faces. Absorbed in the action on the court. Focused. Leaning forward. Ready at any moment to launch off the bench.Photo Credit: Needpix

Whether we feel benched by COVID or we’re very much in the game, the fact that we are the Away team doesn’t change anything about how God calls us to be engaged with Him and those around us.

Sure, we have to be creative at how to socially distance (for the sake of others and, at times, our own sakes)…but we don’t have to fall for being socially distanced from God’s glorious will for our lives.

Singer songwriter Jeremy Camp song “Keep Me in the Moment” could have been written for this season. The official video points to the beautiful, pulsating tension of lives lived well as God leads us through every situation. Redeeming the time.

Worship with me.
I’ve been thinking ’bout time and where does it go
How can I stop my life from passing me by, I don’t know
I’ve been thinking ’bout family and how it’s going so fast
Will I wake up one morning just wishing that I could go back?
I’ve been thinking ’bout lately, maybe
I can make a change and let you change me
So, with all of my heart this is my prayer
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Keep me in the moment
Oh, keep me in the moment
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (oh)
When I wake up in the morning
Lord, search my heart
Don’t let me stray
I just wanna stay where you are
All I got is one shot, one try
One go around in this beautiful life
Nothing is wasted when everything’s placed in your hands
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)
Keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Lord keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
I’ve been thinking about heaven
And the promise you hold
So, it’s all eyes on you
Until the day you call me home
Singing oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
(I don’t wanna miss, I don’t wanna miss)
Singing oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I’m chasing after (oh)
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (yeah)
Keep me in the moment
Oh, keep me in the moment
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me
Keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Oh, keep me in the moment (keep me in the moment)
Keep me in the moment
‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me (what you have for me)*
By the way…that Away team analogy is only for a few years. Home is also our experience. Home is where we celebrate with our forever Victor…together.

8 Ways to Be Present – Tom Stuart

Why God Wants You to Live in the Moment – Drew Smith

5 Friday Faves – The Grounding Nature of Music, Finding Our Voice, Ignorance Remedied, Performative Allyship, and Friends in the Fray

Welcome back, y’all. Let’s jump right in. Oh, and there are a couple of lengthy faves, so be aware and choose with care. [The words helped me; I hope they help you.]

1) The Grounding Nature of Music – No matter our preferences, there’s something both soothing and settling about music. Whether a college fight song, a rally call, or national anthem, we are drawn together by a common loyalty…a community, no matter how diverse, that agrees on some one thing.

Nathan Mills (of Beyond the Guitar) makes a commitment to his Patreon supporters of two arrangements a month. He has made good on that for a long time now. I think about his community sometimes – those 200+ patrons that help to support the music Nathan posts on various music platforms. Benefiting the thousands who listen and watch.

Whatever social significance his music has in this chaotic world of ours, Nathan brings some of us together to enjoy, reminisce, take heart. A quietening in our thoughts. A respite in a troubled time.

I would never have thought arrangements of TV, film, and video game themes rendered on the classical guitar could have such an impact. Thanks, Nathan. Keep making it happen…music for our souls.

His most recent:

Uncharted 4 – “Nate’s Theme”

The Last of Us

2) Finding our voice – I haven’t been able to write much lately. So many voices already out there…so necessary just to listen, sift, and determine action. A friend on Facebook pointed to this post, and with permission, I’m sharing it here:

Struggling to write lately.
Most days now I just feel myself wondering if my heart and soul belong in this world anymore? Every shocking post I read or attack on others or news story.. hurts. I start to see people with a lens I never would have before. It hurts to see friends called out as racists when I know their hearts and that just can’t be. It’s hard to see calls to abolish police, especially by such young people who just really don’t have a concept yet of the world they are creating. It’s hard to see those who want to pretend racism doesn’t exist when it clearly does. It’s damn hard to also see the rise in hatred for our military. What scares me the most is the realization that we are actually creating a world that is MORE black and white. We paint people with such a wide brush. We all seem to find ourselves suddenly on one side, or the other, of a line drawn in the sand. There is no room to question or to grow or to change. You either stand with something 100% or you are wrong.. no room in the middle. Not just about race or police. But politics, faith, love, quarantines, borders, you name it! We have just become a nation drowning in the extremes. In the drowning, many of us feel like we are begging to be thrown a life preserver but somehow feel we have to prove our hearts deserve to be rescued from the water.. and we can’t. Because we don’t fit on either side of the line. Not the black, not the white. The “gray” among us are drowning. Because we stumble and we don’t always know what we feel fully. We, the gray, are learning and listening and trying and praying and pausing to learn and hear truth. How do you prove that? Prove that you cry for the police who are being hunted down for the uniforms they wear, regardless of the heart that beats beneath it — even as you weep reading story after story of racism, and the inequity that is costing the lives of black Americans at an astonishing rate. The narrative will tell you that if you don’t scream for the hatred of all police and hold up the banner of defunding them, then you are, by default, part of the problem. Same for gun control. Or politics. Or borders. Vaccines. State government. Violence in sports. Parenting. Public school or homeschool. Pharmaceuticals or Homeopathic. You can’t be unsure or pause to understand…choose a side or you are just, well, wrong. (Being called wrong would be the most gentle thing you will be called.)
I’m tired. I’m scared for the nation of extremism we are watching form right in front of us. I’m scared for the hearts, like mine, that take it all in too easily and become too quickly overwhelmed. I worry about how my future grandchildren can possibly grow up into healthy adults who learn, who form opinions, who love people, just as they are? For future generations, this Nation of Labels, will have presorted every human they meet as “friend” or “foe” before a conversation is had or a relationship started. I am scared at the amazing level of hate and disrespect our young adults have right now and spout so freely. I’m scared these younger generations have learned it is easier to swim with the current — so they won’t be labeled “wrong” — and their raging opinions are not formed from any solid foundation of truth or life experience.
For so many years the cries for “love everyone” and demands for acceptance of.. ourselves, our fellow citizens, people of other faiths or backgrounds, people for who they really are and not a presumption.. have rung out across this land. This is no longer what I hear.
Hate and more hate seems to be creating a deafening roar that is shaking the very foundation of this country. I’m not doing well within the shaking. I don’t think I am the only one.
We are creating a vortex of hate that seems to be growing stronger as it pulls in the gathering darkness.
We will reap what we sow.
That truth should terrify us.
What you sow, you will reap in time.
That should terrify the future generations.
I want to believe in better days and hope for the future. I still cling to God’s promises because I know feelings lie. But it is so hard.

3) Ignorance Remedied – It’s definitely a work in progress.

Over the last few weeks, I have had to confront my own ignorance on hugely important matters. Relating to racial bias in our country and its detrimental fallout to a minority people in our population. Blacks, African-Americans.

I had the privilege of a great education. Scholarships (on need more than merit) and post-graduate opportunities. On topics of race and racism, I’m weary of having to process the reality of “I just didn’t know.”

Here’s one example (I posted earlier on Facebook):

#Juneteenth – I grew up in the South. My high school was integrated in the late 60s. I don’t know what I was thinking in those days, but it never seemed to occur to me that white and black children going to different schools might be wrong. My mom grew up very poor. She went into labor with my older brother while picking cotton – delivered him in a cotton shed in the field. She raised us to be color-blind, thinking that was the most loving way to deal with the racial hatred she had seen as a child. She was the most Godly woman in my life growing up. She didn’t know that being color-blind somehow would make us look past people…somehow.

It took me 5 sittings to get through the Netflix documentary “13th“. Now I’m very suspect of revisionist history, so considering those things taught in school, I try to get as many takes on it as possible…to find what might have really happened; what might have been true. As gripping as this film was and as much as it gave me, I had to pray through it for God to separate out the truth from the political twists.

“13th” taught me things (which I have since researched) I was never taught in school – even all those years ago. About slavery, about laws biased against blacks, about private industries who profit off of those incarcerated, about how people who can’t afford bail and refuse to “take a plea”end up in jail for months (years?) without a trial. People who may be innocent but remain jailed…because they are poor.

I learned again how costly a felony is. Don’t get me wrong, if a person commits a crime at the level of a felony, he should get a punishment that fits that crime. Just when is the payment finished? When he has done his time in prison? Paid for his crime as required by the court? No. A felony conviction lasts forever in most states. “Collateral civil consequences” are many, including the right to vote.

I am still learning. My Bible has seen much more wear in the passages on justice, mercy, and love. I think of the parable Jesus told about a Good Samaritan who cared for a man robbed and left on the side of the road. That man would have left him untended if tables had been turned…they were enemies. This is the kind of love Jesus taught and modeled for us.

This is the kind of love I want to have for people not like me. Jesus had that love for the sinner I am.

How I came so late to the understanding growing in me now is a puzzle. I am about as conservative politically as a person can get without becoming a person you might find loathsome. Some of you anyway. For those who, like me, might have grown up, just somehow not figuring out that we were missing hurting people on the side of the road because we turned aside (those others who passed, not like the Good Samaritan)… there is still hope for all of us.

And I’m pretty positive the Good Samaritan wouldn’t have identified with our favored political party…whichever it is. Jesus made sure to describe him in a way that he had nothing to gain.

There is everything to gain, however, in seeking God’s face in this painful place we find ourselves. My city (Richmond, Virginia) is a mess right now. We have policemen friends who are excellent people. We have black and brown friends who are hurting. We have seen the deep wounds in our city cut by “bad apples” and inciters, haters, and criminals.

God calls us to love all people, even our enemies. Not in just word but in humble and wholehearted deed.

This is #Juneteenth – never knew what it was until this week… https://calendar.eji.org/racial-injustice/jun/19…

If you judge me…God knows my heart. If we judge each other, we come under the same judgment. We have to figure out how to listen and learn from each other and stand with those who hurt, without supporting those who still want to hurt (even when their “righteous” double-speak sounds more like hatred). They need Jesus, too…

Photo Credit: Facebook

3 Things Schools Should Teach About America’s History of White Supremacy – Noelle Hurd

4) Performative Allyship – What a phrase, right? A good one to understand, and activist writer Holiday Phillips brings it to light.

“To understand performative allyship, let’s first look at what real allyship is. An ally is someone from a nonmarginalized group who uses their privilege to advocate for a marginalized group. They transfer the benefits of their privilege to those who lack it. Performative allyship, on the other hand, is when someone from that same nonmarginalized group professes support and solidarity with a marginalized group in a way that either isn’t helpful or that actively harms that group. Performative allyship usually involves the “ally” receiving some kind of reward — on social media, it’s that virtual pat on the back for being a “good person” or “on the right side.””

Performative Allyship Is Deadly – Here’s What To Do Instead – Holiday Phillips

Phillips spurs her readers on – how to avoid just reacting but rather to act in ways that are sustainable and increasingly impactful. She does emphasize that any allyship is better than none.

She gave me hope.

[Phillips talks about BIPOC – Black, Indigenous, and People of Color – I didn’t know that acronym so if you’re like me, I saved you a step in looking it up.]

Photo Credit: Flickr, John Englart

Outrage Isn’t Allyship – Common Traps in the Quest for Racial Justice and What To do Instead – Holiday Phillips – So helpful!

5) Friends in the Fray – These last two weeks have been heavy. I wish it was a Friday where we could talk about summer thunderstorms, or family visits, or just plain excellent news. We fortunately do have some of that, but to get through the heavy, I am thankful for friends in the fray. Those who stand with us with gentleness and understanding, without judging, and bring us along in areas where we are struggling.

Who are your friends in the fray?

Local pastors Jared Burwell and Rayshawn Graves have been those sorts of friends in these days, posting often on their social media pages – here and here, for example. In the video below, and Rayshawn encourages and equips us to lean in rather than pull back.

Photo Credit: Rayshawn Graves, Facebook

 

Friends in the Fray – Jennifer Benson Shultd

Granted – Adam Grant – also recommends resources in this post

Tim Keller’s 8 Qualities of a Healthy and Prosperous City and Community – Brian Dodd

Stevenson: “”We Have to Find Ways to Create More Equality, More Opportunity, More Justice” – Harvard Law Today

That’s it! If you read this far, you are my hero. Thank you. Until the next time, blessings!

Bonuses:

Monuments all over our country are being vandalized or brought on. Here’s one in South Carolina that might have been well-intended but speaks to the strange nature of our country’s civil war:

Photo Credit: Angela Sanders, Facebook, Ft. Mill, South Carolina

How Poverty Changes the Brain – Tara Garcia Mathewson

Frances Frei: How To Build And Rebuild Trust

What Can You Do When You Are Flattened by Depressions? – Plan for It – Daryl Chen

200+ Highly Recommended Black-Owned Businesses To Support

The Blessing

 

Photo Credit: Frank Sonnenberg