Category Archives: Decision-making

5 Friday Faves – New Year’s Resolutions, Habit Planner, Year-End Review, Word for the Year, and the Last Days of 2022

[Adapted from the Archives]

2022 is rapidly winding down. Whew! to finish out the year, these Friday Faves can help us get ready for the new year…hopefully a joyful one!

1) New Year’s Resolutions – 2022…the end is in sight. What do we do with this new year ahead? Do we revisit those habits we thought about changing up in this year? Maybe so. Or maybe we didn’t alter course so much for good reason. Let’s give pause a moment and consider…

Photo Credit: David Lose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Year’s Resolutions and Reality Checks – Wally Bock

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

Five years back, our pastor Cliff at Movement Church challenged us to commit to some resolutions to the Lord…together [podcast of 12/31/2017 here]. That was such a pivotal exercise that I have kept the resolutions made that day in a visible place, to be reminded of the good change in life, and the struggle… Still in view…five years out. Still relevant to now. For 2023, on it again.

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

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

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

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

Habit Change is a Team Project – Ken Sande

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

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

RW Acrostics in Action– Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

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

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

New Year’s Resolutions After a Year as Lousy as 2020? There’s One I think We Need More Than Ever – Heidi Stevens – This is a great read about being stone-catchers – protecting the most vulnerable from the stones thrown at them.

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Justin Whitmel Earley, Screenshots

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

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

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

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

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

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

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

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

At first I wasn’t going to do “a word” for 2022, and then a rapid series of “coincidences” drew me to the word: joy. As 2021 ended, I had become negative and even a bit cynical. Still having faith in God but not so much in humans, including myself. Even after a year of compassion!!

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

Lord, help us to be people of joy,

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

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

to see beauty in creation and the people we encounter,

to laugh heartily with childlike glee,

to feel true joy in your presence.     Amen.

Now looking at 2023…what word? For awhile, I thought the word would be persevere. Dave and I both agreed that perseverance is essential but did I want to make it my word of the year? Prayed that one down. Then in the last several days, the Lord keeps bringing the word wonder to mind.

In the start of 2023, I’m studying Tyler Staton‘s book Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools: An Invitation to the Wonder and Mystery of Prayer. During this Christmas season, the song I Wonder as I Wander stayed with me for days.

I’m thinking God is preparing me for a year full of wonder…with eyes fixed on Him.

5) The Last Days of 2022 – What a year! Losses and gains as most years bring. The losses feel more lonely, and the gains more glorious. Maybe it’s my age, but as this year ends, I’m just incredibly grateful for God, for life, for loves in this life…and for opportunity…welcoming 2023 holding onto God and those around us…with joy and wonder.

Now on to 2023!! Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Resolve in 2013 to mend fences, repair broken bridges, build appropriate gates, and tear down unnecessary walls. — Burk Parsons @burkparsons

Christmas Ads 2022 – YouTube Playlist – 100 different commercials in lots of languages and traditions!

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

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

52 Week Bible Reading Plan – Michael Coley

Photo Credit: Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Heartlight 

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

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

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

“Do not be afraid.”

The Art of Neighboring

Photo Credit: Heartlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Seib Facebook

Jason Seib Podcasts

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

Photo Credit: SermonLab, Brad Hambrick

Counselor Brad Hambrick

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

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

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

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

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

Bonuses:

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

Photo Credit: Facebook

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

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

Shame vs. Guilt Infographic

Photo Credit: nicabm

Photo Credit: TobyMac, Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Heartlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Kari Kampakis

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

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

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

Even if it’s one person at a time.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Monday Morning Moment – a Parable of Lost Sons and Their Father

Photo Credit: Rembrandt, Wikipedia

Whatever your faith base is or even if you have none to speak of, the parables of Jesus are magnificent stories that call us to deep thinking about life…and the choices we make.

The parable reflected in Rembrandt’s extraordinary painting above is one such story. In brief, you see a father and his older son (both in red robes) and a younger prodigal son, returning home, repentant.

The Return of the Prodigal Son – Rembrandt – Wikipedia [read the short and powerful article – a beautiful synopsis of the work.]

“The Parable of the Lost Son” is found in only one of the Gospels – Luke 15:11-32 (the whole of his story is found in the link, within the larger context of Luke 15 – read that here). Jesus was responding to the questioning and contempt of the religious leaders of his day. Their problem with Jesus was the two opposing facts that he was a religious authority himself and yet he took company with sinners.

In Jesus’ response to them, he spoke of loss and our reaction. We go after what is lost, and we rejoice when it is found.

His story tells how a younger son wants his freedom and asks his father for his inheritance. He wanted something that would not normally come to him until his father’s death, but he demanded it still. The father then divided his estate between his two sons. The one left home to spend his wealth on folly, and the other, the older son, stayed, out of duty or love (we don’t really know).

The younger son’s foolishness quickly leads to a wasted, impoverished life. He longs for the life he once knew in his father’s house. He finally “came to his senses”, remembering his good father and how well even the hired workers in his household lived. He determined to return home and ask his father’s forgiveness – not to be restored as his son but in hopes of becoming one of those workers.

Jesus’ story goes on to show the father’s deep and loving character – seeing the son approaching from a distance, he ran to him. Receiving him back to himself, in joyous celebration.

This was part 1 of Jesus’ parable of the lost sons. Part 2 begins here with the older brother. He had been working out in the fields as always, and, returning at day’s end, he hears the noise of a party. When he asked a servant what was going on, he was told the younger brother had returned home and their father had ordered a celebration. Here, we find the other lost son’s response…

…he became angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him.
But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.
But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’
” ‘Son,’ [the father] said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” – Luke 15:28-32
Again, we capture the beauty of the father’s character. He loved both sons. He was generous with them both, and he invited both into his merciful love.
Jesus shared this story (as well as the story of the lost coin and lost sheep) with religious leaders who questioned his care for sinners. In a way, these religious ones were much like the older son.
Do you identify with one of these sons? One is reckless and searching – allowing his self-indulgent longings to take him far from home. The other is dutiful and obedient. Accepting the responsibilities of life to shape his character…and his subsequent lack of care for both his father and brother.
[My husband preached a sermon on this story years ago and I am often reminded of his reflection on it – how the elder brother must have thought he was pleasing his father because he stayed at the plow. What if that older brother would have come to the father and said, “Hey, Dad, would it be all right if I go and look for my brother?” If he truly knew the heart of his father, he would have left home, at some point, to search for that lost brother and bring him back to their dad.]
The father in this story is reflective of God. He is home. Whether that is your belief or not, we are place-oriented as humans. What (or who) we regard as home has a huge impact on how we do life.
I take heart in both of these brothers…my life has taken me far from home in both these ways. Wanting popularity and the stuff of this world as well as longing to do what is right and the influence that comes with that. Neither extreme brings us the joy we can have in being known and loved for who we are…and loving others the same.
Henri Nouwen‘s book The Return of the Prodigal Son is a short, winsome engaging of these three men in Jesus’ story.

Here are a few of Nouwen’s observations on Jesus’ story:

“Anger, resentment, jealousy, desire for revenge, lust, greed, antagonisms, and rivalries are the obvious signs that I have left home.”
“I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.”
“…the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”
“There are many elder sons and elder daughters who are lost while still at home.”
“The more I reflect on the elder son in me, the more I realize how deeply rooted this form of lostness really is and how hard it is to return home from there. Returning home from a lustful escapade seems so much easier than returning home from a cold anger that has rooted itself in the deepest corners of my being. ..Isn’t it good to be obedient, dutiful, law-abiding, hardworking, and self-sacrificing? And still it seems that my resentments and complaints are mysteriously tied to such praiseworthy attitudes… It seems that wherever my virtuous self is, there also is the resentful complainer.”
“In all three of the parables which Jesus tells to explain why he eats with sinners, God rejoices and invites others to rejoice with him. “Rejoice with me,” the shepherd says, “I have found my sheep that was lost.” “Rejoice with me,” the woman says, “I have found the drachma I lost.” “Rejoice with me,” the father says, “this son of mine was lost and is found.” All these voices are the voices of God.”
In closing, I would love to hear your thoughts in the Comment section of this blog. What struggle do you have in coming home? Or thinking of yourself as never having left, do you still feel alienated even at home? The best part of this story is that whether we feel more like the older brother or the younger brother, Jesus communicated that we can come home. A loving father is watching for us.
[Below are two sermons that got me thinking again about this great story – one of many Jesus told to those with “ears to hear”.]

YouTube Video – Parable of the Lost Sons – Part 1 – Sermon by Khiry Cooper – Movement Church RVA – September 18, 2022

YouTube Video – Parable of the Lost Sons – Part 2 – Sermon by Cliff Jordan – Movement Church RVA – September 25, 2022

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

Photo Credit: Highland Park LC, Daily Verses

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

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

Why Does God Ask Questions If He Is Omniscient?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday Morning Moment – “Be Curious, Not Judgmental.” – Leading With Questions

Photo Credit: Quotefancy

“Be curious, not judgmental”. This brilliant and pithy statement is attributed to the American poet Walt Whitman. I’d never heard it before today, and yet it speaks volumes to any human relationship – whether personal or professional.

There comes a time in knowing people that we think we have them figured out. Or we know enough…for better or worse. We stop asking questions. Whether in marriage or in the workplace. We think we know all we need to know about a person… ironically, just when we are feeling the less fond of them. When conflict bubbles up. When a critical decision is being made. When a door closes in our face…or on our way out.

This is humorously and poignantly illustrated in a scene from the TV show Ted Lasso. [Full disclosure: I have never seen the show itself. Also my understanding is the language is fairly unfiltered, so this isn’t exactly a recommendation…but this scene is perfect.]

Be Curious, Not Judgmental: A Leadership Lesson From Ted Lasso – Connie Whittaker Dunlop – super helpful article using the video above to introduce a great leadership lesson.

“Be Curious, Not Judgmental” – Something Walt Whitman Used to Say – Steve M. Nash – read this! You’ll be glad you did.

Questions are the main ingredient in curiosity. And curiosity is itself an important component of the communication patterns that generate psychological safety, quality in interpersonal relations, and collective intelligence. In other words: all the different elements that impact on the quality of our collaboration, decisions, and actions, and which ultimately become a determining factor for the results and value we create for our customers and the wider world.

We can ask questions in many different ways, and all are not equally constructive. For example, there is a great difference between a leader asking his employees: Why didn’t you do something about the problem? and asking: What do you see as possible solutions to the problem we are facing? The first question reflects the leader’s view that the employees ought to have responded and taken responsibility earlier. It creates a focus on blame. The second question expresses the view that there is a problem that everyone involved needs to address and come to a solution together. It invites employees to commit and involve themselves in finding solutions in a forward-looking movement. Being aware of our way of asking questions has a big impact on the way we relate to each other – and also on our ability to contribute, do, and achieve things together. As such, good questions can’t really be put in a template. The quality and effect of the questions always depend on the context they are asked in.” – Henry Kleive, Thomas Johansen and Thomas Specht, “Leadership for Sustainability Powered by Questions”

What if we went into conversations or meetings with an open mind and questions aimed at honoring and understanding the person across the table? What if we wanted to reconcile our relationship as much as we wanted to prove ourselves right about the project, or problem, or predicament?

Learning to ask powerful questions and being willing to use them can make a huge difference in our relationships.  Asking questions well can demonstrate care for that person. Sometimes questions actually help both the one who asks and the one who answers with what they really think about a situation…questions draw us out…often in positive and fruitful ways.

https://image.slidesharecdn.com/questions-130807203819-phpapp02/95/the-art-of-powerful-questions-7-638.jpg?cb=1424648128Photo Credit: Slideshare, Mark Gillow, The Art of Powerful Questions

So whether or not we think we’re right about a person – their motives, intentions, abilities, or intellect – we won’t do justice to the relationship if we stop asking questions.

Get to know him or her again…use the questions offered in the resources above and below. Find common ground, through good questions. See if you can turn the (relation)ship around…not just for the sake of the team, organization, or family…but because of the benefit to each of you.

“Lead From Within: A leader is as good as their questions. When you ask questions, you will change what you know. When you change what you know, you will have a new understanding. When you have a new understanding, you change your actions—and, ultimately, your leadership.” – Lolly Daskal

The Art of Asking Powerful Questions and 51 Powerful Questions to Ask in Different Situations – Sumit Gupta

The Art of Powerful Questions – Catalyzing Innovation, Insight, and Action – Eric E. Vogt, Juanita Brown, and David Isaacs – PDF

The Art of Powerful Questions – Slideshare – Mark Gillow (concise slideshare on book above)

The Art of Powerful Questions – Slideshare – Peter Bricknell (refers to the interviewing style from Mahan Khalsa’s bookLet’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play‘ 

“Leading With Questions” – Michael Marquardt – Notes by Dave Kraft

YouTube Video – Top 10 Most Heartwarming Ted Lasso Moments

Monday Morning Moment – Emotional Intelligence at Work and in Life – We Think We Have It or Can’t Be Bothered – Don’t Miss This!

blog-emotional-intelligence-ucreativePhoto Credit: UCreative

[From the Archives – I wrote before on Emotional Intelligence here, here, and here. Below you’ll find the summaries from those pieces.]

You can probably remember an encounter with someone who was so engaging and interesting that you hoped you would meet them again, or work with them some more, or even become their friend.

Below is a story of how I experienced emotional intelligence in a beautiful and transforming way.

Years ago, I worked for a beloved organization. In that work context, I’d had an idea of a particular needed next step. Even though it wasn’t a strength of mine to carry the ball on it, I saw such a need for it to happen that I floated it a couple of times to our leads.

It didn’t go anywhere…timing, not the right people in place…lots of variables.

Then, out of the blue, an announcement came down that we were going to run a pilot on that very idea. The woman leading the pilot was perfect for it. Enthusiastic, funny, bright, humble, and inclusive. Perfect.

I messaged her about how excited I was about the pilot and told her if I could be any help at all, just let me know.

Because of who she was (and maybe the timing…although I think it was just her), the project hummed along. Lots of others jumped in to help. I was so excited. Felt no need to push in but wanted to cheer-lead any way possible.

Then she wrote me this brief message – surprising and lovely – full of emotional intelligence. She said at that time she didn’t need more folks on the project, BUT she commended me and expressed her gratitude for my support. Just a message. A few lines.

It was just what I needed and I didn’t even know I needed it.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” 

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The Little-Known Relationship Between Emotional Intelligence and Success – Shane Barker– rapid read with definition and characteristics of emotional intelligence.

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Remember this distinction: there are smart people and then there are emotionally intelligent people. If you don’t have a sense of the difference in these two, Paul Sohn posted an infographic (yay!) that gives an excellent description of emotional intelligence. There are a lot of smart people out there but what a joy when your boss, as smart as he may be, is also a great communicator with and appreciator of people.  [Go back and click on that infographic – very helpful!]

Emotional Intelligence is a concept that’s been around for awhile now.  Matt Monge’s article for The Mojo Company sparked my interest some time ago. He described 6 symptoms of leaders with low emotional intelligence.

Two of Monge’s points were: 1) Leaders with low emotional intelligence say “I’m sorry you feel that way” more than “I’m sorry,” and 2) Leaders with low emotional intelligence often blame the people they hurt for the situations leading to them being hurt.

Daniel Goleman has written several books on this topic including Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than Intelligence and Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. The very cool thing about emotional intelligence is that it can be developed. The big dilemma is whether bosses or even teammates, not bothered by their impact on others, would buy into this relational skillset. Incorporating such concepts in personnel accountability metrics might provide some incentive. I’ve added graphics below that helped me further understand emotional intelligence.

Blog - Friday Faves - Emotional Intelligence - grid - dollieslagerPhoto Credit: Dollie Slager

Blog - Friday Faves - Emotional Intelligence - low & highPhoto Credit: The King and Queen

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Even people with strong emotional intelligence can find themselves off-balance when in conflict with someone. Leadership writer Marcel Schwantes gives counsel for this in 7 Brilliant Things Emotionally Intelligent People Do When Their Buttons Are Pushed.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Schwantes encourages us to respond rather than react in a conflict situation. His seven action points follow (read more of his article for his commentary on each one).

  1. Get perspective.
  2. Take a 6-second pause.
  3. Stay humble.
  4. Try empathy.
  5. Ask the most conflict-diffusing question. [“Are you ok?” What’s going on?”….what else would you think would diffuse the situation?]
  6. Speak from your authentic self.
  7. Be the first to reach out after conflict.

Don’t miss the brief video at the end of Schwantes’ piece on 3 Simple Questions to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence.

Blog - Friday Faves - Leadership - Emotional IntelligencePhoto Credit: Self Study History 

I hope you’re surrounded by emotionally intelligent people. Maybe you’re an “EI” rockstar yourself. For me, that woman above, piloting the project, had my respect from the beginning, but because she responded to me in such an honoring, genuinely considerate way, she also has my complete support and more.

Do you have any emotional intelligence stories? Please comment below. We can always use  stories of great bosses and coworkers to inspire and spur us on.

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Try These Two Smart Techniques to Help You Master Your Emotions – Lisa Feldman Barrett

How Emotional Intelligence Boosts Your Endurance – Alex Hutchinson

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Bonus: Resources for Raising Our Children to Be Emotionally Intelligent

Research Shows Reading Improves Kids’ Emotional Intelligence and Increases Empathy – Katie Priske

This Is How to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Kids: 5 Secrets From Research – Eric Barker

Parents Who Raise Emotionally Intelligent Kids Teach This Important Skill, Says Neuroscientist and Parenting Expert – Here’s How – Willian Stixrud & Ned Johnson

Chores Lead to Happy Children. So Why Do So Few Parents Require Them? – Annie Holmquist – OK…this doesn’t really have to do with emotional intelligence but it fits in the mix of raising kids well.

Monday Morning Moment – “The Chosen” – Jesus and Generation Z

Screenshot from “Unfiltered: Gen-Z Reacts to The Chosen”

The Chosen is an online TV series created and directed by Dallas Jenkins. The statement of faith posted by Jenkins includes the following: “The Chosen is a narrative show, which means it’s not a documentary…it’s absolutely not a replacement for Scripture. It is not focused on religious tradition, but on Jesus. It’s a show…but it’s a high calling for me.”

Dallas Jenkins and “The Chosen” production team developed a film project entitled “Unfiltered: Gen-Z Reacts to The Chosen”. It is a documentary where 9 strangers of Gen Z age were brought together to binge-watch “The Chosen” Season 1. They did not know what they would be watching. The documentary was just posted this week. It is below (starting 32 minutes in). You will love it!!

The Gen Z’ers (young people born after 1995) were really lovely. Different religious backgrounds. Very different social and family situations. More trauma and isolation than I would have imagined. Hard. Yet here they are grown, bright, their own people.

Screenshot from “Unfiltered: Gen-Z Reacts to The Chosen”

Binge-watching “The Chosen”. Their perspectives were fascinating – starting out, watching, and then processing afterward.

A little bit about “The Chosen” (from a previous blog I wrote):

I love the stories. They are reflective of Jesus and those closest to Him. They are plausible given what we know of Jesus in Scripture and what we know of the whole counsel of God in the Bible.

I have so many favorite scenes in this production (Season 1 and Season 2 also, and coming soon Season 3). One of the scenes is when Jesus calls Matthew as a disciple. Matthew…a Jewish tax collector – under the protection of the Romans – hated by his fellow Jews for the hardships he brings on them. In this treatment of this real person, Matthew is shown as one who could be on the Autism spectrum…brilliant and different. Watch the scene here.

Jesus’ line, “Get used to different”, although extra-Biblical, is so in character with the person of Christ. Winsome, loving, and right.

Merch from The Chosen Gifts

Worship Wednesday – Trouble – From The Chosen – Deb Mills

So what happens when a group of young people, very different from each other, watch this TV series?

Screenshots from “Unfiltered: Gen-Z Reacts to The Chosen”

I appreciated their take on “The Chosen”. Thoughtful, analytical, emotional, and open. No arrogance or judging. They considered the stories and the message. Did they all convert to people who follow Jesus? I don’t think so and it isn’t fully disclosed in the documentary …and…that certainly did not seem like the producers’ ploy.

What did happen for these Gen Z’ers is that they saw Jesus differently. Hopefully more accurately… They left the room changed.Screenshot from “Unfiltered: Gen-Z Reacts to The Chosen”

This documentary was just really good. I wish I could say to each one, thanks for being willing to risk being a part of that project. Their vulnerability was something we could all benefit from.

I wonder if they watched Season 2 of The Chosen on their own. I’m certainly looking forward to Season 3. In a world as cynical and jaded as ours, to be immersed in the place and community of Jesus is a great refreshing of the soul. Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus, is an actor, of course…but his portrayal of Jesus is brilliant and true to the heart of Christ.

If you haven’t seen The Chosen yet, it is free to you, on YouTube and the app. Catch up…you’ll be glad you did.

5 Friday Faves – Christmas in July with Beyond the Guitar; No Advice or Not Without Relationship; Summer Fun, Food, & Film; a Working Kitchen, and Parenting Trials & Travails

It’s Friday. Faves of the week lined up. Add yours in Comments below.

1) Christmas in July with Beyond the Guitar – OK, so Christmas in July is actually a thing. I’m actually a big fan…especially when the Hallmark Channel has its Countdown to Christmas movies through the month of July. Sentimentality and plot predictability not withstanding, you can’t beat the gorgeous winter scenes (or summer for you in the Southern Hemisphere) and all the Christmas-themes food and decor. So fun.

That’s why, I’m offering up these Christmas classical guitar creations of Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar. Merry Christmas in July!

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, Tyler Scheerschmidt, John Shutika

While Nathan takes a brief hiatus from his usual YouTube channel to focus on his other work, only we Patreon subscribers get new content (subscribe). In this bit of time, I decided to highlight some of his arrangements already appreciated by his 500k-plus subscribers. These four linked below are for your Christmas in July enjoyment.

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

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

YouTube – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (w/ a surprise guest) – Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

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

2) No Advice or Not Without Relationship? My husband and I are currently in a summer soulcare experience. It’s been fascinating and super helpful. One of the guidelines in the small group times is No Advice. I was surprised at how quiet I became in the sessions. Asking good questions that will allow others to make their way to their own solutions is a skill that may be just stirring for me. Sure hope so.

New Mom Advice Quotes. QuotesGram
Photo Credit: Quotesgram

When

Why are we so bent on giving advice? Can it be for the thrill of having power or influence? I don’t think that is my goal, but it could be part of my unconscious motivation. Also, it is not a conscious goal for me to advise so we can move on from the painful moment…I don’t think giving advice is born out of my own discomfort.

I frankly love advice personally (good counsel, mentoring, coaching). Maybe, though, it has always been in relationship with people who clearly love me and want the best for me.

That’s definitely the best foundation for any of us to advise others. We need to truly care bout them.

As for those who really don’t want advice from anyone else?…that’s a risky way to live, for sure.

Photo Credit: Heartlight
Photo Credit: Heartlight
The answer for sure, unless someone is stepping out in front of a proverbial bus (or a real one), don’t lead with advice. Ask questions. Go deeper. Give the seeking one an opportunity to understand their own situation better. Take it to God. He gives the absolute best advice.
Photo Credit: Heartlight
3) Summer Fun, Food & Film – Road trips. A day of fishing. Botanical Garden in full bloom. Summer fruits and vegetables. BLT sandwiches at their best. Ladies’ Teas. Fish fries. Top Gun Maverick.
Any road trip has to have Wawa coffee attached to it:
A day of fishing with three sweet generations:
Visits in the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden:
Summer fruits & vegetables:  
The summer BLT sandwich with a perfect tomato from the garden:
A tomato grown and enjoyed by this guy:
A ladies’ tea:
Fish Fries:
Top Gun Maverick – the best movie I’ve seen in a very long time!
4) A Working Kitchen – Just this week, I heard the term “working kitchen” and was intrigued. My sweet little kitchen has probably not had an update (except the floor) since it was built in the 60s. It is small but quite functional. Still it is not like the kitchen I had years ago in East Tennessee that supported a growing family, lots of company, and the huge vegetable garden of my green-thumbed husband. We used to can and freeze so much until I wasn’t very gleeful with the buckets of produce he’d bring in late in summer. And maybe I’m just not feeling it, work-wise right now. Still the idea of a working kitchen – with all the food prep, in-season fruits and vegetables, baked bread cooling on the stove, and something always simmering in the slow cooker – sounds so lovely. How about you? Would you say yours is a working kitchen?
[Our youngest son’s cooking club in a working kitchen of ours in Morocco.]
5) Parenting Trials and Travails – Those of us with children  want to be good parents, right? Now it’s possible the parenting gene isn’t dominant in some of us (therefore we need advice/counsel – see above). Good parenting is hugely important to help children know they are seen, soothed, safe, and secure…and to open the future for them to be good parents as well.
Photo Credit: Heartlight
We struggle sometimes with the culture where we parent. Western culture isn’t easy on parents these days. So many opinions. So many approaches. So much judgment… We are better served by searching maybe a mentor or two, or a book or two…and possibly changing those as our kids grow.
Sigh…
“Make the ordinary come alive” is something we can all do for our children. I have struggled with the guilt (or shame) of not being that “good parent”…or good enough parent. Fortunately, most days, I can turn toward that negative thought and face it down.
Our kids are grown, but we have the blessing of grandkids. What I might have missed in parenting well our kiddos may well be possible with the grandparenting of these littles. Making the ordinary come alive with them…and encouraging and praying for their parents. God knew what He was doing when He placed these precious one in their hands (as He knew the same placing our kids in our hands). Whew…
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That’s the 5 for this week. Please share in Comments below any favorite finds or favorite re-visits. We’d love to learn from you. Thanks for stopping by. It means the world!
Bonuses:
“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”
– C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”

Classical Art Memes That Are Too Accurate

Heaven In Ordinary

Because high heaven made itself so low

That I might glimpse it through a stable door,

Or hear it bless me through a hammer blow,

And call me through the voices of the poor,

Unbidden now, its hidden light breaks through

Amidst the clutter of the every day,

Illuminating things I thought I knew,

Whose dark glass brightens, even as I pray.

Then this world’s walls no longer stay my eyes,

A veil is lifted likewise from my heart,

The moment holds me in its strange surprise,

The gates of paradise are drawn apart,

I see his tree, with blossom on its bough,

And nothing can be ordinary now. – Malcolm Guite

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

Photo Credit: Heartlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and with another – MercyMe‘s Almost Home.

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Fitting Farewell, Pinterest, Henry Van Dyke