Category Archives: Babies & Children

[Cyber] Monday Morning Moment – Conquering the One Downside of Christmas

Photo Credit: Nerdist

Christmas is huge to those of us who love it. The beautiful upside to Christmas is Jesus Himself – celebrating His entry into the human world as an tiny baby. Because of Jesus, any of us feeling lonely or unloved this time of year can hopefully be sorted out…because we are loved, and we are not alone.

Strange then that the one downside (wait for it) would be so silly, really, in contrast. It does however exist for some and can make us a bit distracted and discombobulated…at least for awhile.

That downside is the quest for just the right present for each person on our Christian gift list.  For some fortunate ones that is actually a thrilling challenge and a worthy cause. These shopping wizards and crafting geniuses already have their presents sorted out before Thanksgiving. Black Friday is the occasion to finish off their lists, not start them.

For some of the rest of us, not so much.

Back when our kids were kids, we used to watch this funny little film Jingle All the Way. It tells the story of two good dads who love their families but procrastinated in buying Turbo-Man for their boys – that film story’s prototype of the most-sought-after toy each year that sells out early to the smartest of shoppers. The film focuses on their Christmas Eve race (with each other) to find one last Turbo-Man somewhere in the city. It is both funny and anxiety-provoking.

I love Christmas but this downside of it looms large right now. In recent years it the need to find that perfect Christmas present (or experience) is heightened by the addition of sweet grandchildren – and hoping to choose the gift both the little ones and their parents will love.

Just this weekend, we were doing a craft at the table in Sunday School, and the kids in my class began talking about what their grandparents were buying for their siblings. They, of course, don’t know for sure what THEY themselves are getting, but based on their wish-list and what their siblings are getting, they seemed confident of a nice haul. It was impressive.

Today is Cyber Monday, the last great post-Thanksgiving sale event where we can take advantage of sales online. Shopping made easy, in our pajamas, fortified with hot beverage of choice. I’m in my annual panic of what to buy for our precious little ones. What to buy…such that when they open their presents, a nervous tic won’t develop in their parents’ eyes. We have the instructions of not to buy too much, and yet, we don’t want to be the only grandparents who abide by those instructions… Aarrgghh!

Deep breath.

So this is today’s quandary…my Monday Morning Moment’s lament. Once the gift-buying is finished, Christmas loveliness will be restored. Whatever happens on Christmas morning will be wonderful, either way. It’s Christmas after all. By then, I’ll be at peace with it. In fact, by then, it will be more than fine that the grandkids get super fun presents from others who love them and money toward their college education from us… They know they’re loved, and that’s what matters.

For today,  I will stare at screen after screen of parent-preferred educational toys, latest greatest children’s books, and local family-friendly “experience” possibilities.

Then…whatever ends up under the Christmas tree for our grandchildren, we will still have play dates, and snuggles in front of the TV, and walks together with the neighbors, and joy at all the wonders of life.

Here’s to the grandparents who don’t wait until Christmas Eve to sort this dilemma out…who know their grandchildren so well they can scout out that perfect present…and who have their own sweet times with these kiddos.

You are rock stars and super heroes.

Anybody else out there with the same struggle as mine? Comment below…and any advice on this downside of Christmas is welcome.

Grandparent Giving: Unspoken Secrets You Must Know Before Giving Gifts – Dave Ramsey

Giving Mistakes that Grandparents Must Avoid

The Downside of Christmas – Sharon Woods Harris

The Pros and Cons of Christmas

How to Faithfully Celebrate Christmas in a World of Materialism – Lia Martin

5 Friday Faves – Emotional Pixar Themes, Relationships, Care for the Most Vulnerable, the Question, and Reason

TV is on in the background. Watching our government come apart at the seams. Or so it seems. Here are my lightning-speed Friday Faves;

1) Emotional Pixar ThemesBeyond the Guitar posted his arrangement this week of some of the heartbreaking Pixar movie themes. Masterful music – you just don’t expect to feel sad in a children’s animated film. Still the sweetest memories of these nights at the movies. Did you see them all?

2) Relationships – I discovered a few unique articles this week on the precious, life-giving quality of relationships. One of those articles even deals with relationship-shattering divorce (I have dear friends and family who have experienced the hard of divorce. This article is for those who have had divorce thrust on them or they are considering divorce as their only recourse…at least worth the read…).

Photo Credit: AFMC

So here they are:

You Won’t Make it Alone: Five Reasons You Need Good Friends – Drew Hunter

What is a Kind Husband?  Five Characteristics of True Kindness – Douglas Wilson

To a Spouse Considering Divorce – John Piper

If you have a resource you have found affirming regarding relationships, please share in Comments.

3) Caring for the Most Vulnerable – What does it take to care for our most vulnerable neighbors? There are so many books out there with warnings about charitable giving, or help that hurts. Giving is a good thing but it’s not a complete thing. Raleigh Sadler wrote a paper that speaks to this so well: Jesus’ Invitation to Care for Our Most Vulnerable Neighbors. He addresses five ideas regarding these we long to help but don’t know how. These ideas are: Identify, Empower, Protect, Include, and Collaborate. [His article is a quick read…let him answer your questions.] Along these very lines, Embrace Richmond does training on Assets-Based Community Development. Wendy McCaig, the trainer and executive director of Embrace Richmond, guides those in the audience in learning how to do community listening.Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig

Those we want to care for are the ones we need to get to know, look them in the eye, and give ear…then we might be able to come alongside them, and together we help make their lives better.

Look for this sort of effort in your own community.

4) The Question – Nope, it’s not “Will you marry me?”

This week marked TV’s Fall Season premiers. Lots of great story-lines and ensemble casts. My favorites are law, medical, and police shows. New Amsterdam is a new program that highlights the patient care in a huge medical center with all the drama of politics and corruption affecting the patients. A new medical director, Dr. Goodwin, comes on the scene, in the first episode, and turns the status quo upside down, for the sake of those most vulnerable. Over and over, he asked the question:

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

He drew in discouraged physicians, harried nurses, and desperate patients and families with this question.

I love the question…it works magic in the workplace, in families, everywhere.

‘New Amsterdam’ Premiere Recap: How Can Dr. Goodwin Help? – Emily Longeretta

5) Reason –The Supreme Court of the United States has a vacancy. The US President nominates a candidate. The next step is for the Senate Judiciary Committee to do the heavy and serious work of examining the fitness of the candidate before releasing their name to the Senate for a vote. This is a weeks-long process.

Finally the candidate sits before the Committee to answer their questions. The Judiciary Committee is made up of 11 senators – men and women. Documents and witnesses are presented. It can be a grueling process for everyone.

Our current situation is the accusation of sexual assault by a woman who once knew the nominee. This week, she gave testimony, and the nominee gave his response. She said…he said.

Everyone in the US who cares knows the facts of this proceeding in great detail…our political bias impacts what we believe is true…whether we admit it or not. [Great article below.]

Blasey Ford-Kavanaugh Testimony Tells a tale of Two Internets – Emma Grey Ellis

Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, establishing and verifying facts, applying logic, and changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information. It is considered to be a distinguishing ability possessed by humans.

Using reason, or reasoning, can also be described more plainly as providing good, or the best, reasons. For example, when evaluating a moral decision, “morality is, at the very least, the effort to guide one’s conduct by reason—that is, doing what there are the best reasons for doing—while giving equal [and impartial] weight to the interests of all those affected by what one does.Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Watching the proceedings of this confirmation hearing was like nothing I have ever seen before. The vitriole. The partisan divide. The reckless treatment of people. The lying (there must be lying somewhere).

Whoever watched these proceedings would take one side or the other. There is no room for fence-sitting on these issues. How do we reason out what is happening here? How do we reason together when it seems people refuse to hear and try to understand the other side?

Where I would see reason, another person might see something very different…and on the flip side, I also saw something else…so damaging to the individuals interviewed this week…and to our country. God help us.

Ten Reasons to Love Thinking – Dawn Field

All that said…It’s Not Over Yet.

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That’s the five for this week. How about you? Please share. Have a relaxing weekend…spent with people you love. Blessings!

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Karen Burnette Garner [my life-long friend Karen]

She Shaped Me: Ten Exemplars of Faith – Kelli B. Trujillo

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

5 Friday Faves – Divine Appointments, the Dark Side of Children’s YouTube Videos, Senate Confirmation Hearings, a Fostering Film, and Things That Have Almost Always Been

Happy Friday! Quickly, here are my 5 favorite finds for the week.

1)  Divine appointments – There is something other-worldly by chance encounters, or visits with old friends, or even an oatmeal breakfast that seem larger than life. I’ve had all three this week and all struck a chord of the wonder and mystery of life…of how circumstances are orchestrated such that only God could be responsible. Why? Because of how deeply and lovingly they penetrate the heart.Visit with an old friend – no agenda; no pretense; just a heart rest.

A bowl of steel-cut oats made into a feast by another dear old friend.

Photo Credit: PXhere  [A chance meeting turned into an opportunity and maybe a friendship.]

On the chance encounter: Have you ever spotted someone in the grocery story and something about their appearance or demeanor drew your attention. The image above is a stock photo, but here’s the story. Today while lost in thought over what to buy for Dave’s birthday supper, I noticed this woman in the coolest dress and matching jacket. The fabric was olive green camo. She pulled it off stunningly. I wanted to say something but didn’t.

We ended up in the parking lot at the same time (totally “accidental”; no stalking going on here). I determined if we stowed our carts at the same time I would compliment her fashion sense. We did, and I did. Then a several minute conversation launched easily. She made the suit out of men’s cotton tshirts. Then we talked about our careers, our children, our hopes to make a difference in the world, our faith and our culture. She is an amazing woman…

We exchanged phone numbers and I hope coffee together will follow. I’m currently in a study on justice and longing for an avenue to bring a voice to the voiceless in this city. This woman is a part of that kind of work every single day.

A divine appointment.

2) The Dark Side of Children’s YouTube Videos – Leaving a child unsupervised with a smart phone or tablet is risky. I’m now more convinced than ever after discovering writer artist James Bridle. He wrote an essay entitled Something Is Wrong on the Internet. If you have children, or care about children, please read it. It is a bit freaky. The video below also tells how he sees how the internet, with apps such as YouTube, using bots and AI devices, is drawing children into content we would never want them to experience.

Who makes these videos? Can you even trace their creators?

“The more time you start to spend with them, the crazier and crazier you start to feel you may be….deep strangeness and deep lack of understanding…Who is making them? Some of them really and clearly by people who shouldn’t be around children at all. ” “There are real people trapped within these systems…even if you’re human, you have to end up behaving like a machine just to survive.” Kids drugged looking at these videos. A few auto-clicks away from videos opening surprise eggs will be videos with sexual or violent content still with cartoon characters or superheroes involved. Creepy wrong stuff!!! “Kids’ worst nightmares”.

“Inequality of power [and understanding] always leads to violence.”

“We need to stop thinking of technology as a solution to all of our problems, but think of it as a guide to what those problems actually are, so we can start thinking about them properly and start to address them.” – James Bridle

The Internet as Monster – Rob Dreher

3) Senate Confirmation Hearing – The greatest distraction of my week has been the Senate Confirmation Hearings. 4 days of high drama and brilliant oratory. All toward the determination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh‘s worthiness to replace Justice Kennedy on the US Supreme Court Justice. It was a rollicking, hold-on-to-your-seat experience for those present and for the rest of us watching remotely. The last day when witnesses (i.e. non-Senators) gave their testimony of Kavanaugh’s fitness for the Supreme Court was especially gripping.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Don’t miss the 4th day of hearings when witnesses gave their testimony (5 in favor and 5 opposing) of Judge Kavanaugh’s character and judicial preparedness for taking a chair on the Supreme Court. YouTube video linked here (1 hr 39 min into the video begins the witness panel).

The last of those witnesses was Akhil Reed Amar, Law professor at Yale University, a registered Democrat, staunch liberal who voted for Hillary Clinton. He actually gave testimony in support of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Here are his closing remarks:

“Responsible naysayers must become yaysayers of a sort; they must
specifically name better nominees realistically on the horizon.
If not Brett, who?
Distinguished Republicans: Kavanaugh is your team’s brightest judicial star. Rejoice!
Distinguished Democrats: Don’t be mad; be smart, and be careful what you wish for. Our party controls neither the White House nor the Senate. If you torpedo Kavanaugh, you’ll likely end up with someone worse —less brilliant, less constitutionally knowledgeable, less studious, less open-minded, less good for America.”
.

Senate Concludes Kavanaugh Hearing; Confirmation Likely – MPR News

Akhil Reed Amar Testimony Transcript

4) A Fostering Film – A funny and endearing and hopeful film on fostering children debuts this Fall. All I know about Instant Family is the trailer but it’s already on my calendar. Have a look:

5) Things That Have Almost Always Been – British novelist Matt Haig‘s book Notes on a Nervous Planet came to my attention via the following Twitter photo:Photo Credit: Notes on a Nervous PlanetMatt Haig, iAuthor on Twitter

Haig writes and speaks about anxiety and depression. He knows these experiences personally. I have only read quotes from his books but they are now on my “to-read” list.

The page above from his book Notes on a Nervous Planet was a beautiful study into the things that endure. I’m surprised that Haig describes himself as an atheist. Comforted by the things that have almost always been would seem to lend itself to the great comfort of knowing the God who has always been. No matter his thinking on this, his writing reminds us of the wonder of life including the reasons to stay alive (the title of his earlier book).

By the way, this would be an idea for a great night out with  a love or night in with a friend – to come up with our own list of the enduring stuff of life.

Notes on a Nervous PlanetMatt Haig

Goodreads Quotes from Notes on a Nervous Planet

Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig

Goodreads Quotes from Reasons to Stay Alive

YouTube Video – Matt Haig’s Top 5 Tips on Good Mental Health in a Social Media Age

That’s it for me. How about you? Please comment below about your week’s favorites…or thoughts on mine. Blessings.

Bonuses:

Quote: “Leaders aren’t great because they have power; they are great because they empower others.” Lolly Daskal, TED Talk

Why You Can’t Name the Virtues – Karen Swallow Prior

A Neuroscience Researcher Reveals 4 Rituals that Will Make You Happier – Eric Barker

The State of Your Attention Determines the State of Your Life – Srinivas Rao

TEDed – How the Sugar Affects the Brain

5 Ways to Pray for Trafficked People

Photo Credit: Charles Spurgeon, Prince of Preachers, Facebook

5 Friday Faves – Tavern Music, Kindness, International Overdose Day, a Film and its Book, and Signs of Fall

Friday! A holiday weekend is upon us here in the US. Labor Day on Monday. Where we live that means this is the last weekend before public schools start their Fall session. On this hot, thunder-stormy weekend, the last sweetness of summer will be savored.

Here are my five faves of the week:

1) Tavern Music – My heritage is a mix of Scottish-English. I’m thinking, because of that, tavern music might be part of my family’s DNA. When Nathan Mills arranges and plays a tune reminiscent of Celtic music, he might come by the joy of it quite honestly.

Hearthstone is an online video card game set in a tavern. The theme music has very much a Celtic feel to it. Beyond the Guitar was actually asked by someone on the Hearthstone creative team to do an arrangement. Here it is for your enjoyment.

2) Kindness – Author Peter Economy has written a couple of pieces on kindness – one on kindness quotes and the other on the impact of kindness when expressed by our leaders.

“There is something incredibly appealing about leaders who place themselves on the same level as their employees without losing their authority as leaders. Tapping into kindness and small (and big) acts of showing your appreciation for your team allows those around you to know that you care–leaving them feeling like their work matters, and encouraging their engagement and loyalty.”Peter Economy

I find my tendency is to think I am kind but that kindness is not necessarily executed in a way others experience. It’s worth a few moments to consider how we think of kindness, what it means and how we could actively and intentionally express kindness at work or wherever else we find ourselves.

Photo Credit: Flickr

3) Overdose Awareness Day – Put August 31 on your calendar for next year. It is International Overdose Awareness Day.  We must bring this out of the closet. #NotOneMore

Photo Credit: Facebook

“Today is National Overdose Awareness Day! It still surprises me on how many people I talk to seem oblivious to this epidemic in our country and throughout the world. In 2017 the official number of deaths was over 72,000 people. (more in 2018) These 72,000 people were Mothers and Fathers, Daughters and Sons. Aunts and Uncles. Just think about how many peoples lives were affected by 72,000 deaths. Addiction is real……..Addiction kills……..Lets all get together and find ways to talk about this beast that kills more people than car accidents, guns, breast cancer, The Vietnam War. I pray that my Facebook friends never have to be touched in anyway by the Overdose of a loved one. Unfortunately, the math says …………..you more than likely will.”Jeanne Barney

4) A Film and Its Book – A strangely titled little book continues high on my top 5 books for recreational reading. It is:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Photo Credit: East Ridge News Online

This book gives the reader a glimpse into the lives of those who endured the 5 years of Nazi occupation of the English Channel islands during World War II. It is a story mixed with deep affection, dry humor, long grief and sweet romance. I highly recommend this book to anyone – men or women.

This year marked the debut of the film of the same name (aired on Netflix in the US). I’m so thankful Netflix picked it up otherwise we might have missed it altogether. Such a lovely film, true enough to the book, and a feast for the eyes. Several actors from our beloved Downton Abbey are part of the cast. You will love it…trust me.Photo Credit: Battle Royale With Cheese

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Trailer

5) Signs of Fall – This week has been hot and humid, but still there were signs of Fall all around us. Pumpkin spice has entered all of our coffee shop experiences again. Our young ones are back in school. The geese have taken wing for distant places again..

Photo Credit: Max PixelAnd Dave’s garden has the messy, overgrown beauty of late summer. Last blooms pushing out and flowers turned to seed for the birds to eat and scatter. Early brown leaves and surprise buds that couldn’t wait until Spring. Welcome Fall, my favorite season of the year.

What signs of Fall do you love…or not so much?

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Hope your weekend is filled with kindnesses.

Bonuses:

“To know the will of God, you need an open Bible and an open map.” – William Carey

Raising Our Kids Near Their Grandparents Is The Greatest Gift We Could Ever Give Them

Skim Reading Is the New Normal. The Effect on Society Is Profound – Maryanne Wolf [Along these lines, check out On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior]

Charlotte Non-profit Restaurant Hires Those Considered ‘Unemployable’ – Meilin Tompkins

Photo Credit: Quotes Gate, Facebook

Ethics in the Workplace: 5 Ways to Honor Christ from Cubicle to Boardroom – Leah Marianne Klett

Tulane Psychiatrist Wins National Award for Research that Shows How Trauma Seeps Across Generations – Keith Brannon

The video below is a biopic on a neighborhood near and dear to me heart in the Richmond metro area. For you, Lakesiders:

Worship Wednesday – MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine” – My Story About This Song

Photo Credit: New Release Today

The film I Can Only Imagine debuted in the Spring of this year. It’s the story of how a young man, Bart Millard, came to compose one of the most beautiful poignant songs written in recent years.

Millard is the lead singer for the Christian band MercyMe. The song I Can Only Imagine was inspired by his own faith walk and the death of his father to cancer. The lyrics express the wonder at what Heaven will be like for us when our time comes. Photo Credit: To Save a Life

The film featuring this song chronicles Millard’s early life with an angry, abusive father. Bart hated his father, and although he was sure God could forgive his father, Bart believed he himself never would.

Bart Millard: ‘I Can Only Imagine’ Was Born From a Life of Abuse – Jenny Rapson

It is a powerful story that resonates with many of us. My biological father (not this Dad) wasn’t physically violent toward me but he was emotionally abusive in his neglect and indifference toward us four children. Our older brother may have experienced worse abuse from our dad but he never talked about it. What makes me wonder is how angry he was as an adult. My brother died a few years ago, finally beginning to heal out of decades of bitterness and rage…just before he died.

This song and film, birthed out of a childhood marred by violence, remind me of how good God is and how He works healing even in the worst of situations.

My mom loved this song. I didn’t know its significance to her until right before her death in 2002. We were living overseas the year the song came out (2001, and I don’t remember even hearing it until Mom asked a friend to sing it for her, just days before she died. After her funeral, as we returned to “normal”, it seemed I heard that song every day for months. It had become wildly popular, winning two GMA Dove awards, and successfully crossing over to pop/country charts. That connection with her, day in and day out, helped me to grieve and heal the loss of the woman I loved most in the world. . Imagining her life in Heaven was very good for me…then and now.

Years later, when my older brother died, I heard the song again in an odd situation. We were visiting Dad, in the house where I grew up. My brother lived with them for many years, and I went into his bedroom. He had been gone for a few weeks at that time. There was an old-timey, pale blue box radio in the bathroom he used. I switched it on just to see what station he listened to. It was a Christian station which was strange because, although he was a Christian, he wasn’t into “churchy stuff”. The song that was playing when I turned on that radio was “I Can Only Imagine”. There…in a sacred moment, missing my brother, the Lord comforted me again…with this amazing song…and message.

Worship with me please.

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine

Yeah

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine when that day comes
And I find myself standing in the sun
I can only imagine when all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you
I can only imagine, yeah
I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you

I can only imagine*

Just this week, I saw the film for the first time…in the living room, lights dimmed, with sweet family. Some in my close circle of family and friends don’t rush to watch “Christian” films because, they say, they are too amateurish and trite. Not this one. Beautifully filmed, raw dialogue between Bart and his father, layer upon layer of brokenness. Then…the miracle of healing. Of God piercing through the pain and bringing beauty out of ugliness. Reconciling…first with Him…and then with each other.

See the film. Listen to Bart sing his own story of wondering about Heaven…and then let all that settle around you as it has me so many times…just the thought of what Heaven will be like…seeing my Mom again…my brother…others who have gone ahead…and especially the God of this universe…the One who saved me…the One who saved Bart’s Dad and Bart, and then the One gave Bart grace to forgive.

*Lyrics to I Can Only Imagine Written by Bart Millard

YouTube Video – Bart Millard Reveals the Origin of His Biggest Hit “I Can Only Imagine” – Huckabee

YouTube Video – I Can Only Imagine – “Forgiveness” Scene

YouTube Video – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe

5 Friday Faves – the Fortnite Phenomenon, Back to School, Clean Comedy, God’s Heart for Justice, and Bonuses Make Five

Happy Friday! One of those weeks that so rapidly entered history. Lots of travel and family and birthdays and then work, of course. Will go right to the faves before the clock runs down. Hope your weekend is long and lovely.

1) The Fortnite Phenomenon – Not a gamer myself, but when the game Fortnite comes up in conversation with men and boys of all ages, it’s easy to see what a phenomenon it is. A multi-player battle game (with elements of construction as well), Fortnite is free-to-play and wildly popular right now in the gaming universe. A unique component of the game includes avatars who break out into dance. These dances are emulated by player fans, and you would recognize some of them because of boys, in particular, master them as they master the game. These dances have become part of Nathan Mills‘ (Beyond the Guitar) classical guitar repertoire. His YouTube channel subscriber numbers have more than tripled since his first post of Fortnite Dances…and views of his videos are in the millions. Enjoy the latest…as the commenters clamor for Fortnite Dances #4.

YouTube Video – Beyond the Guitar – Fortnite Dances on Guitar (Part 2)

YouTube Video – Beyond the Guitar – Fortnite Dances on Guitar (Part 1)

2) Back to School – That time of year is back. So much new happens as summer ends, and Fall stretches out before us. Routines and rhythms crank up again. Growth spurts require new clothes. Then there are all the school supplies required for starting a new year.

As our children grew up, we had varying seasons of “back-to-school” between home schooling and other schooling, both in the US and in Africa. It was never easy for me to see them off, when we didn’t homeschool. I missed them…and those moments together when they talked about life as they saw it. I also missed being able to protect them from some of the meanness in the world. Still, the start of the school year is a hopeful time of anticipation and wonder, of new beginnings and possibilities.[Kudos to the teachers, Stacie Mills & Kirby Joseph, whose classrooms pre-student-return, were my inspiration on this fave.]

How thankful I am for teachers who really care for their students. Teachers who see themselves as partners with parents, even the most woefully unprepared ones…for the sake of these kiddos who will hold the future in their hands one day. What a marvel this is.

Putting the Basket in the Water: Trusting God in the Next Phase of Your Child’s Life – Ashlei Woods

The Trauma-Informed Teacher – Silent Front Line

3) Clean Comedy – So just this week I discovered Dry Bar Comedy. It showcases stand-up comedy that is actually family-friendly. No profanity. No sex. No mean putdowns. The first act (on video) that I caught was Leanne Morgan, a gorgeous Southern woman who puts her arm around our experiences of being female at all ages. Hilarious!

Another clean comic (not with Dry Bar) who I adore is John Crist. His tour this Fall brings him to Richmond, Virginia, and we have tickets. Crist is a preacher’s kid and uses that church experience as fodder for many of his routines. You can see his videos on his website or YouTube channel. Don’t miss him…high energy, so funny.

Michael Jr. Comedy – another favorite of mine.

4) God’s Heart for Justice – For the next six weeks, I’m digging into a study on God’s heart for justice through the International Justice Mission. I bought the book, but if you sign up for daily emails, you can glean great good just in that content and the resource videos.

It’s too easy to turn a blind eye away from the injustices of this world – human trafficking, poverty, racial and religious oppression… Arise focuses on the Biblical definition of justice and the mandate for each of us in turning the tide on it…until Jesus returns and rights all wrongs. We too often are numbed by the immensity of the problem, when, in fact, we can swing the pendulum toward justice… Each one of us can do something. Sign up for daily emails and discover your place in God’s mission of love for those most vulnerable.

Arise: A Study on God’s Heart for Justice

5) Bonuses: 5 bonuses make up my fifth find. Please don’t miss them.

What’s Happening to Our Kids? Technology’s Latest Disruptions – The Middle School Relationship – Alex Whitcomb

Leaf by Leaf: Satisfied (the journey of Mom Melissa and Teen Daughter Maggie through Stage 4 Colon Cancer – and Maggie’s Death and Homegoing – one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read

72 Challenging and Truthful Leadership Quotes from Craig Groeschel Opening This Year’s Global Leadership Summit – Brian Dodd

 YouTube Video – Faith In Imagination: The Fantasy Makers – Trailer

YouTube Video – Aretha Franklin (March 25, 1942-August 16, 2018)  – Nessun Dorma – and the National Anthem as only she could do it. Goosebumps! Thank you, Aretha, for all the music.

That winds down this week. Hope yours was stunning – full of meaningful work, real rest, family and friends, and deep conversations. Be gentle with yourself and each other. – some of those people in our lives. #Friends #Community

Worship Wednesday – Thank God for Vacation Bible School & Those Strong Winsome Women Who Make It Happen

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Parent

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:13

But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”Luke 9:47-48

See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 18:10

In the summer of my 9-year-old life, I came to faith in Jesus…at Vacation Bible School (VBS). My mom always worked outside the home so someone must have brought my brothers and me each day for 5 days. I have sown parts of that week deep in my heart and memory.

Strong winsome women leading the Bible School. A week of mornings packed with fun. Koolaid & cookies for snack. Pastor doing the Bible lesson for us like he did our parents on Sunday. Big songs I can still remember. Bible verses we memorized. Craft time. Friday night “graduation” service where we performed for our parents.

This was the Vacation Bible School of my childhood. I asked my daughter what she remembered about Bible School. Some similar memories…the songs stay with you. Here are some she remembers from her childhood:

Jumping Up and Down, Shout Hosanna

Kind, K-I-N-D, Kind; Love Is Kind

Romans 16:19 – Be Excellent at What Is Good

Ain’t No Rock Gonna Cry in My Place

Behold What Manner of Love the Father Has Given Unto Us

For today’s Worship Wednesday, I just wanted to thank God for Vacation Bible School. Although having received solid Bible teaching as a child through Sunday School, preaching, and my parents, VBS sealed the deal for me that year I was 9.

We have young moms in our lives today who seek out Vacation Bible School for their children through the summer…sometimes more than one. The churches who have made VBS part of their DNA amaze me. It has to be very hard work to pull off that kind of programming (even if it’s shortened time-wise to 2-hour evening sessions).

Earlier today, I talked to one of those strong winsome women who make VBS happen at her church. She talked about how the success of the Vacation Bible School hinges on their volunteers. She is blessed to have workers who really love the children of their church…sounds like they follow how Jesus thinks of children.  I’m thinking this friend models that for her volunteers. VBS has to be led by a woman (or it could be a man) who casts this vision for other adults and gathers them to extend themselves farther than they might usually be inclined. Photo Credit: Midway Community Church

Vacation Bible School makes for an obvious outreach opportunity for kids within the church community, but more than that, it’s an opportunity for an extended and concentrated touch into the lives of the kids in our own churches.

I will spend eternity with the Lord because of a Vacation Bible School…because some strong winsome women did the hard work (including recruiting the pastor and other Godly men) to break up a long, lazy summer with a fun, penetrating, life application of the Word of God.

Every Breath I Take (lyrics & music)

All That Is Good (lyrics & music)

Deep Cries Out (lyrics & music)

God Is For Me (lyrics & music)

VBS in the 1980s: Cookies, Kool-Aid, Songs and Jason – Holly Hollman

10 Myths People Believe About VBS – Part 1 and Part 2 Lori Hatcher

What Jesus Thinks About Children – R. Kent Hughes

YouTube Video – Never Let Go of Me – Songs from Shipwrecked 2018 VBS

YouTube Video – Honest VBS Volunteer – John Crist

5 Friday Faves – Solitude, a Culture Wall, Like a Mother – Serena Williams, Our Children, and Food With a Friend

Check this week as done. For us around here, it’s been a week of great highs punctuated by distinct lows. How amazing that we can pray through and lean in to God and each other for the lows…and celebrate the highs, in quiet and in company. Life is good and real.

1) Solitude – Writer, philosopher Zat Rana caught my eye with his article The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught You. Turns out his view of that most important untaught skill is solitude. That ability to just enjoy being alone. Sitting or walking alone. Lost in your own thoughts. Except for a self-portrait for a photography class, you won’t see many signs in my life that solitude is something that comes easy.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Blaise Pascal

The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught YouZat Rana

According to Pascal, we fear the silence of existence, we dread boredom and instead choose aimless distraction, and we can’t help but run from the problems of our emotions into the false comforts of the mind.

The issue at the root, essentially, is that we never learn the art of solitude. – Zat Rana

[My husband who often sits by himself at dawn and dusk to recharge. For him, solitude is something that has come naturally.]

Rana talks about how technology has connected us in a myriad of ways but the connectedness is more virtual than real. – We now live in a world where we’re connected to everything except ourselves.”

“Our aversion to solitude is really an aversion to boredom…we dread the nothingness of nothing. We can’t imagine just being rather than doing. And therefore, we look for entertainment, we seek company, and if those fail, we chase even higher highs. We ignore the fact that never facing this nothingness is the same as never facing ourselves. And never facing ourselves is why we feel lonely and anxious in spite of being so intimately connected to everything else around us.” – Zat Rana

Everything I Have Learned in 500 Words – Zat Rana

2) A Culture Wall – Benjamin Hardy is a writer, organizational psychologist dude. I am reading his book Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discovering the Keys to Success. This week he posted about having a culture wall, and it totally engaged this visual learner. Designed by Gaping Void, this is an art-as-inspiration tool for the workplace.Photo Credit: Benjamin Hardy, Medium; Gaping Void

Looking at Benjamin Hardy’s culture wall got me thinking of the truths that keep me going at work and at home. Coming up with those sayings or mantras, as a team, or family, would be an excellent exercise…and then making the art happen would flow naturally out of that. It doesn’t have to be 20 pictures, like Hardy’s. Even one is a good start.

[Sidebar – Guitarist, YouTuber Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, in his videos, often features a “nerd shrine” with striking wall art. I wonder what a culture wall would look like in his studio.]

These 20 Pictures Will Teach You More Than Reading 100 BooksBenjamin Hardy

3) Like a Mother – Serena Williams – American tennis champion Serena Williams made it to the Wimbledon final this year. She didn’t win but she played #LikeaMother.  The expression “like a mother” brings all sorts of images to mind…and makes for marketing genius… Two examples are a Lysol commercial and one by Gatorade, the latter featuring Serena Williams.

Here’s to Serena Williams…including a couple of interviews where she and husband investor Alexis Ohanian describe how they met.

4) Our Children – Writer Frederica Mathewes-Green could have been a buddy of mine in college. In those days of the Vietnam War, we were those conflicted ones who wrote our high school sweethearts away in the military and we vocally protested at the same time. The Roe v. Wade decision was very new and felt very progressive to all of us, in those days…the “make love, not war” crowd. I was young and being pro-life or pro-choice wasn’t even on my radar…until after that court case divided us into mostly two camps. Mathewes-Green has written the most definitive piece on abortion and the legacy we are leaving our children in the article When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense.

She writes:

“Whatever your opinion is on abortion, I ask you to read this article. Fresh eyes. Mathewes-Green was around when that court decision was made. She was also feminist, as were so many of us in those days. She is still very pro-women…pro-human.

We expected that abortion would be rare. What we didn’t realize was that, once abortion becomes available, it becomes the most attractive option for everyone around the pregnant woman. If she has an abortion, it’s like the pregnancy never existed. No one is inconvenienced. It doesn’t cause trouble for the father of the baby, or her boss, or the person in charge of her college scholarship. It won’t embarrass her mom and dad.

Abortion is like a funnel; it promises to solve all the problems at once. So there is significant pressure on a woman to choose abortion, rather than adoption or parenting.

A woman who had had an abortion told me, “Everyone around me was saying they would ‘be there for me’ if I had the abortion, but no one said they’d ‘be there for me’ if I had the baby.””

and

“No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

Photo Credit: CASA

Her article frames this Friday Fave.  Why “our children” as the heading? When I read Mathewes-Green’s article, she reminded me that our children or our children’s children may judge these decades very differently than our culture has – these decades of thousands of babies not delivered alive. Definitely, if those not delivered alive could speak…those silenced by their own mothers (out of desperation with no one offering to help them in life-giving ways)…if they could speak, we might see things differently today. Thankful for women, like Frederica Mathewes-Green, who provide a call to reconsider and a platform for the voices of all our children.

When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense Frederica Mathewes-Green

Video – 50 Mums – 50 Kids – 1 Extra Chromosome

Tending your Garden – Colleen Searcy

5) Food With a Friend – Don’t you love surprise visits with a friend, now living states away? When I got Nikki’s text to meet up for a lunch this week, it was like a healing balm on my heart. She suggested a restaurant new to me: Mezeh Mediterranean Grill.

How have I missed this yummy place? All the food memories of our years in the Arab world mixed together in a big bowl. Pretty much my experience that day.

Add a long conversation between friends (including one other who joined our happy table)…and it was like Heaven here in Richmond, Virginia. Any such happy occasions come to mind for you this week? Hope so.

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That’s the week. Please comment below on any of these faves of mine or introduce your own… Have a restorative weekend… whatever that means for you and those you love.

Bonuses

Here’s Exactly What to Do If a Tick Bites You – Kate Sheridan

What To Do When You Think Your Life Sucks

I Love Jesus But I Want to Die: What You Need to Know About Suicide – Sarah

The Space Between – Marilyn Gardner

Paris, the evening of the World Cup FinalPhoto Credit: Nikaley Chandler

Tour de France – The Climbers and Rapid Descenders – the stages through the Alps happened this week – so incredibly exciting watching these riders – their toughness and endurance:Photo Credit: Cyclist

Happily Ever After – 100 Wedding Songs for Your Ceremony and Reception – Music Notes

Photo Credit: Jimmy Lee Thompson, Facebook

5 Friday Faves – Bringing Children into the Light, Jurassic Park on Classical Guitar, Chris Pratt’s Rules of Life, Comic Aparna Nancherla on Depression, and Babies & Birthdays

It’s Friday! Summer solstice was just yesterday. Even here at the tiptop beginning of summer, the days will begin to shorten. Maybe that’s the pressure of summer to squeeze every bit of yummy goodness out of the days that have our children home from school and vacation plans unfold. On this shortening Friday, here are my favorite finds of this week.

1) Bringing Children into the Light – Even being a writer myself, I don’t trust media. To believe something that pops up on my newsfeed, especially something provocative, I go to different sources to try to piece together what could possibly be true in all the bias and politicalization of our news today. The detention of illegal immigrant children has been going on for years now, and I was totally blind to it. This week, it came to light for me and for many.Photo Credit: The Cut

I’m not going into detail here. The news is full of how this happened – how children are separated from their incarcerated parents and warehoused. Older children can understand and hold onto the hope that, in time, they will be reunited with their parents. Little children do not have the maturity to understand…

It is wrong. I don’t know what’s right in dealing with people who make such desperate decisions to flee their countries and cross into another one illegally. I just know this is wrong. Thinking of my little grandchildren being put in the same situation was unthinkable. How would a 2 y/o or 3 y/o not be somehow wounded in this action.

When I read Brene Brown‘s Facebook post on this, it was a much-needed wake-up call, bringing these children’s plight into the light for me. The over 5000 comments were also a great education, as one after the other gave personal accounts – not just about the kids in detention centers but others damaged or destroyed by their parents’ choices. Even choices they think are the only ones they have. Or choices for darker motives… Within the comments were laments about children in our broken foster care system as well as children who never see light themselves because of the choice of abortion.

I don’t want to just talk and talk and talk about these issues. God help us to do something of substance for the children, now that we’re paying attention. This is too critical to last just one week’s news cycle. This problem is way bigger than one executive order, although hopefully that will stop the hemorrhaging. Hopefully.Photo Credit: Twitter, Arnold Schwarzenegger

[We did see something this week about the powerful voice of the American people. The outcry, across political ideologies, was heard. I also think the anguished prayer of people of faith was also heard and answered by a much higher authority than our government.]

Together Rising – How to Change the World with $25 – one way to give

The Missing Children: How Abortion Changed America’s Literary Landscape – Jonathon Van Maron

2) Jurassic Park on Classical GuitarJurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the latest film in the Jurassic Park series.  I haven’t seen any of them because dinosaur-devouring-human action is not my idea of entertainment. Still the film scores are beautiful with John Williams as the brilliant composer. Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has written a lovely classical guitar arrangement of the main theme. With the videography team of Tyler Scheerschmidt and John Shutika, the YouTube video of this theme is both gorgeous and whimsical. Not afraid of that little featured dinosaur wandering around the beautiful James River environs of Richmond, Virginia.

3) Chris Pratt’s Rules of Life 9 rules of life– On a recent awards show, actor Chris Pratt used his acceptance speech to spell out his . Here they are:

9 Rules to Life From Chris Pratt

  1. Breathe.
  2. You have a soul. Be careful with it.
  3. Don’t be a turd. If you are strong, be a protector. If you are smart, be a humble influencer. Strength and intelligence can be weapons. Do not wield them against the weak.
  4. When giving a dog medicine, put it in a little piece of hamburger. They won’t even know they’re eating medicine.
  5. Doesn’t matter what it is, earn it.
  6. God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that.       I do.
  7. If you have to poop at a party, lock the door, sit down. Get all the pee out first. Then poop, flush, poof!
  8. Learn to pray. It’s easy.
  9. Nobody is perfect. You are imperfect, but there is a powerful Force that designed you that way. If you’re willing to accept that, there’s grace. Grace is a gift. Like the freedom we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with somebody’s blood. Do not forget it. Don’t take it for granted. Chris Pratt

4) Comic Aparna Nancherla on Depression – I never heard of Aparna Nancherla until this week. An accidental comedian, she is 35 years old and single. Nancherla struggles with anxiety and depression; growing up as a terribly shy child into a funny articulate woman. Her humor is so understated and staggeringly spot-on, especially for us as women. I’m thinking, though, she has perspective for men people as well. Her YouTube videos have me binge-watching. Writer E. Alex Jung posted an article on Nancherla this week entitled If You’re Feeling Anxious or Depressed, Aparna Nancherla Has Some Jokes for You.Photo Credit: The Day, Chris Barton

Nancherla has this to say about depression: “No matter how far or wide you go or how many lives you touch or how much money you make or success you achieve, your brain can tell you different. It is a constant companion and you cannot take a break from it…The truth of depression is it is often quiet and it is boring and it is insidious in its lack of spectacle.”Aparna Nancherla

5) Babies & Birthdays – This week brought a sweet new baby into our family and a second birthday. The baby is a girl and much-longed-for, making me a great-great-aunt (sounds old, I know, but the mommy and grandmother both married very young). Our little grandson can now turn forward in his car seat and he is discovering a whole new world looking in the same direction as his parents.

These are my five favorite finds of the week. I would love for you to share one or more of yours (in Comments below). Have a safe and sweetly peopled weekend.

Bonuses:

Vacation Bible School – This is a summer fixture around a lot of cities. Our church doesn’t currently offer Vacation Bible School, but young moms in my life are scurrying to find them around town as a wholesome summer option for their kiddos. I’ve decided that VBS is a community service. Tons of work on the part of the adults, not cheap, but worth it for families around town. The husband of a good friend of mine volunteers in the VBS at their church. 300 kids show up daily for that week of Bible stories, singing, crafts, and games. He helps the older elementary kids make their own Adirondack chairs. Great way to break up the routine of summer.

Is God Enough? – A Soulful Conversation  Podcast – Special Guest Helen Phillips – [she’s a friend of mine] with Sheila and Frank Battle

Reclaiming Your Family Trips From Technology – Chris McKenna

Photo Credit: Music Notes

Great Infographic!!! – Below is just one frame of the whole. Check it out.

Photo Credit: Music Notes

Saturday Short – Getting From “O Lord, How Long?” …to “Yet, I Will Rejoice”

Photo Credit: Slideshare; Sammie G. Smith

It’s been a week.

One of those where you’re praying hard, and yet, at every turn, you’re not sure God is on the same page…or you, with Him.

On happy, normalish, carefreeish weeks, we skip along, through time in the Word, time in prayer, time with friends and family. Even time at work and play. God’s got this, right?

Then there are weeks like this…no end in sight on some struggles. It is easy to wonder if we have lost favor with our heavenly Father. It’s way too easy to cry out to God, like the prophet Habakkuk did:

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not hear?Habakkuk 1:2a

I am so grateful to God that even His “little faith” children are beloved. He is a good, good Father. That isn’t just some praise song embedded in my brain. That is what I’ve come to know through decades of following Him…ever how imperfectly.

The Holy Scripture also reveals His character and the journey of His children over and over. We can know and anticipate that there will be weeks like this…even years like this for some…through His Word.

What else we can know is that God is present in all of this. We also know that, as frail humanity, we cannot possibly know or see or explain the thinking or activity of God. His ways are not our ways.

Trust comes to play in weeks like mine. Truthfully, it comes with wrestling before the Lord in prayer and staying in His Word and the company of His people.

In the brief narrative of Habakkuk, as he struggled in prayer with God, he went from complaining to worshipping.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer’s;
    he makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:17-19

This has been a hard week. Most of the situations continue unresolved. God continues quiet to my dull ears. Still…He speaks. In ways that I can hear.

Habakkuk was the topic of reading in my read-through-the-Bible calendar for yesterday. I read through – from the first verse of his cry almost against God to the last verses of his restored peace and joy with God. I read through…and God did the same to my own heart.

Are my circumstances changed today? No. My heart is changed. Even last night, I was recounting, to my mom-in-law, one joyful finding. It was an ultrasound followup on a potential problem for our in utero granddaughter who turns out to be growing and wonderfully healthy after all. And my Godly mom-in-law’s response? “Praise God, another answer to prayer.”

Another answer to prayer…

This morning I am rejoicing in the Lord. Is everything made right? Not yet. Not that I can see…but I know it will be.Photo Credit: Ben Steed, Precept Austin