Category Archives: Decision-making

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

Photo Credit: Flickr, Lisa Hall-Wilson

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zach Williams Music

Worship Wednesday – No Fear – Same Power – Jeremy Camp

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

Fear Is a Liar – 91 Images on Pinterest

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

Photo Credit: YouTube, Esther Perel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_________________________________________________________________________

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

Marital Destructive Styles of Communication – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Couples Negative Cycles – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Naming Your Negative Cycle – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Withdrawers  Desire Safety – Round Rock Couples Counseling

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

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

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

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

Growing in Negative Emotion Tolerance – Brad Hambrick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote

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

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

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

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

Chorus

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

Chorus*

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

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – Tim Keller

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

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

Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: 2 Chron 714 Network, Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

A dear old friend gave me a book shortly before Christmas of 2020. Just starting to read it in January, and once in, I realized I was way behind. Debbie Macomber‘s One Perfect Word gives a strong case for choosing a word for the year. A word to dissect, and meditate on, and to make real in both our thoughts and walks of life. One Perfect Word. For the year.

[Thanks, Kay, for this book.]

Here, a bit into this year, the word compassion has become my word for 2021. For clarity: It is best defined as: to recognize the suffering of others and then take action to help. Compassion embodies a tangible expression of love for those who are suffering.

For those who know or think they know me, compassionate is a word that might seem already descriptive of who I am. “Seem” is the operative word.

10 Ways to Show Compassion – Katie Krawczyk

You see I have always thought of myself as compassionate. Being there for friend and family. A cancer nurse for many years. Hospice, as well. Living overseas for love’s sake. Volunteering in my community and beyond. Love God. Love neighbor. Love even my enemies. This is life…the life Jesus lived; the life I’ve ascribed to live.

So I chose a word compassion to examine and flesh out in my life.

As fate would have it, some friends and I decide to tackle an old and brilliant book: C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters (1942). In affectionately abbreviated TSL, Lewis presents a series of fantastical letters from a master demon (Screwtape) to his nephew, Wormwood. The nephew is on assignment to mess in the affairs of a certain young Englishman. In the letters, God is referred to as The Enemy.

[I recommend this book to everyone, whatever your worldview or belief system – the wisdom captured on the pages of this small book is phenomenal. Our human nature and struggles or challenges in life are exposed. Fortunately, we are also given a way forward; oddly by looking at the schemes set in place to trip us up or cause us to fail.  This book is both fascinating and heady. It requires a deep read, for sure.]

In Chapter 6 of TSL, the demon uncle advises his younger on how to trouble the human assigned to him. In the particular area of worrying about the future. This is where fantasy can overtake the real, and, fortunately vice versa: the real can prevail, if we pay attention. Remember my word, compassion.

Screwtape gives much “good counsel” to Wormwood on how to trouble the human by keeping his thoughts on the fears of and hopes for the future rather than on what is right in front of him. For those who do believe in God’s providential care of people, Lewis wholly satisfies us readers as well.

The main message of Screwtape is to keep the human off balance and focused on himself, thinking that he cares for people and outcomes and that he is a good person. The reality is that the human is actually overcome by cares of the world yet does little about them.

How do we shake off our fantasies and ground ourselves in the real?

Screwtape instructs Wormwood to deal with the human as one made up of concentric circles of will, intellect, and fantasies or imagination. Our will, or our heart in spiritual terms, is the deepest part of who we are. It is where we make our choices on how to act and then, in turn, take action. Different than intellect, or what we know about life (intellect) or what we imagine or fantasize about life…or about doing life.

YouTube Video – Screwtape Letter 6 – Providence eLearning – Dr. Arthur Hippler – a clear and excellent resource

Photo Credit: Providence eLearning, YouTube, Screwtape Letters

So I can think I am a compassionate person. In fact, one can choose to be compassionate. However, we can also simply apply our intellect to the whole idea of compassion and then only fantasize or imagine ourselves doing acts of compassion… This is NOT what we think it is. Compassion, in its truest most real sense, happens in the will…and in the moment. Oh, we can plan on acts of compassion and put in place steps toward compassionate outcomes… but, until we act, compassion itself lies in the realm of imagination or fantasy.

Sobering and extremely helpful.

A huge and relevant example in modern culture right now is the statement, and call to action, “Black Lives Matter”. Do black lives matter? Absolutely. Do all lives matter? Of course. Do lives “womb to tomb” matter? Not to everyone…but that’s for another day.

We can say and lean into powerful messaging. Yet, until we grapple with the realities of that messaging, and sort out what truly communicates the truth of that message…not just in word but also in deed…then, in fact, the messaging is just so many words.

Screwtape has wreaked his havoc in our culture and in us as fellow humans, as we struggle with how to respond to messaging. Both in our news and social media platforms, and conversations with neighbors and friends. What is fantasy and what is reality and how shall we then act?

“Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your [human’s] soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary.Screwtape to Wormwood, Chapter 6, The Screwtape Letters

Related to compassion, my word for 2021, I no longer want to stay locked in debate over whose lives matter or what hasn’t been done than needs to be done. I would love to settle in my will to act…with compassion. Not thinking I am showing some sacrificial compassion out there among those I don’t even know…but in fact, acting in compassion, toward my housemates, my extended family and friends, this neighborhood and beyond. Leaving off the malice of disagreeing or tweaking each others messages out there in the world somewhere.

This is the goal: shaking off my fantasies about compassion and the idea of my being a compassionate person and grounding myself, my very will, in the real…acting in compassion, in the moment and moving toward making it habit.

Restless Pilgrim – Pints With Jack – The Screwtape Letters 6 – “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”the most fun to be had in diving deep into C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

YouTube Channel – C. S. Lewis Doodle

Monday Morning Moment – Flipping COVID Lethargy into a Larger Life Productivity – Tim Challies

Photo Credit: Tim Challies, How to Get Things Done

How do we get everything done in our day? We can’t. Well, consider that maybe we aren’t supposed to…then we choose a path…driven by external forces (the tyranny of the urgent, the job as defined by the manager, the should’s and ought-to’s)…or internal. What are our internal forces? What kind of life do we hope to live, and the product we hope to leave as foundational for those we care most about?

A favorite old proverb of ours goes like this:Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.” (Proverbs 14:4). Canadian writer Tim Challies presents this proverb as a parable on productivity. That “much increase” can be enhanced by having the right tools (oxen, for instance). However, given the right tools, productivity can still be very messy. Hard to perfectly control, thus, cycling back, needing the best tools for the job. Sometimes those tools are people in our lives and workplace, and sometimes they are lists, schedules, apps, or right equipment – even a vacuum cleaner (my highly organized, hard working daughter-in-law had a new vacuum on the top of her Christmas list this year).

Several years ago, Challies wrote an incredibly practical blog series on How to Get Things Done. He has become a master at “learning how to simplify life and how to maximize productivity”. Now in the era of COVID, his counsel on productivity is even more timely as we slog through this pandemic.

[Now for those of you who are essential workers and you lay down exhausted every night, it may seem this isn’t for you. However, with the restrictions of life with COVID, you probably struggle with redeeming time with family and deciding how to maximize your time off the job. Tim Challies has wisdom for you as well. Thanks, also for how you serve us all, out there every day.]

In Challies’ blog intro to his book “Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity”, he offers several work sheets useful for those of us who need to organize our thoughts and time toward greater simplicity and productivity.

Don’t try to do it all. Do more good. Better.

Photo Credit: Tim Challies, Amazon

Too often, we measure the purpose of our lives by “how much” we can get done. What if we flipped that? What if we first sort out what the mission (or purpose) of our lives is? …Given our gifts, our education, our experiences, our opportunities, the people in our circle of influence, and the season in which we live at the moment. COVID informs that as well…informs but doesn’t define.

We do the work of sorting out our purpose, and then we order our days with that as foundation. We can’t do everything, therefore, we set our days on “doing more good…better”. Does that mean my house is always clean or my inbox is always manageable? No…but it is a shift away from shame/guilt and toward intentionality and joyful making of new habits. Sometimes we will have to say no, but the “yes’s” that are then ours to speak can be so freeing.

For me, this kind of restructuring my routines and thinking toward productivity require some prayer and reflection. Then, old-fashioned worksheets help. Challies also suggests other more techy tools, but I prefer starting with pen and paper.

Challies writes: “To be productive, you need a system. You need to build it, use it, perfect it, and rely on it. Your system needs to gain your confidence so that you can trust it to remember what needs to be remembered, to alert you to what is urgent, to direct you to what is important, and to divert you away from what is distracting…When you ought to be working on your computer, you are only ever one or two clicks away from checking out your friends on Facebook or welcoming a few minutes of mindless entertainment on YouTube. Text messages provide a welcome distraction from deep thinking, and binge watching the latest series on Netflix can set you back a week. You are surrounded by temptations to laziness and may succumb far more often than you think.”
COVID has not affected my health, for which I’m very thankful. However, the physical distancing has reeked havoc with daily life, work, routines of a few months ago, and even relationships. We have to work harder…smarter to keep high engagement in life and with our people. Tim Challies’ blog series, productivity tools, and book are a great starting place…for that good night’s sleep. Sweetly exhausted from “doing more good…better”.

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

Photo Credit: David Lose

[Adapted from the Archives]

2020…the end is in sight.

What do we do with this new year ahead? Do we revisit those habits we thought about changing up in this tumultuous year? Maybe so. Or maybe we didn’t alter course so much for good reason. Let’s give pause a moment and consider…

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

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

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

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

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

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

A couple of times in my life, I resolved to go off sugar. It was a successful endeavor for over a year each of those times. Excluding sugar from my diet. Never having really lost the weight from my first pregnancy, I decided to remove sugar from my diet for the pregnancy of our second-born. In those days, there was a chapter of Overeaters Anonymous in our town, and that group was a great help in my dealing with pretty much a sugar addiction.

The second time I “gave up” sugar was over 4 years ago, and I stayed the course of that habit change for over 1 1/2 years. Less accountability but even more resolve. Although I am back having dessert or sugary snacks sometimes, I am still operating with more self-awareness than ever before. Self-awareness, not self-condemnation. A very different experience.

Without knowing it, I was using 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. For me, in eating sugar (or in overeating, in general), the cue could be a number of things – fatigue, anxiety, loneliness, the mere presence of yummy food. It never takes much to send me to the refrigerator or pantry. The routine: feed the cue, whatever it is…with high-carb oral gratification. The reward: a brief soul satisfaction and temporary relief from whatever was the cue.

In my two seasons of not eating added sugar, I actually followed Ken Sande’s principles below (without knowing the wisdom of it).

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

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

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

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

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

Consider these questions as you think on resolutions for 2021:

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

Three years back, our pastor Cliff at Movement Church challenged us to commit to some resolutions to the Lord…together [podcast of 12/31/2017 here].  I have kept the resolutions made that day in a visible place, to be reminded of the good change in life, and the struggle… I still have them in view…two years out. Still relevant to now. For 2021, on it again…plus prayer for wisdom how to be creative and intentional, given COVID.

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

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

We already had a year like that.

I am resolved…

Photo Credit: Reformed Outfitters

New Year’s Day – Resolved – Deb Mills Writer

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

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

Habit Change is a Team Project – Ken Sande

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

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

RW Acrostics in Action – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

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

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

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

Monday Morning Moment – Hope in Christmas Lonesomeness

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

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

Then…add COVID-19.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We remember. We receive. We re-enter.

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

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

Photo Credit: Facebook, Contemplative Monk

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

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

To the Lonely at Christmas – a Poem – Secret Angel

5 Friday Faves – Self-care and the Ever Changing Science of COVID-19, Christmas Canstructions, Clint Bruce Elites, Seasonal Kindnesses, and a Call to More Than Politics

Happy weekend. Last month of 2020. December. Much to process and to be thankful for.

1) Self-care and the Ever Changing Science of COVID-19 – This has been a week of COVID awareness becoming more personally as we lost a dear old friend to COVID and have family friends in another country battling it. We are wise to do what we can to keep it away, without giving way to the media-induced hysteria it can also bring.

The most comprehensive and accessible clinical information for all of us has come from a 39-page article by Dr. Paul Marik, professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine. This article is updated periodically so if you click on and don’t find it just search for EVMS Critical Care COVID-19 Management Protocol. It covers the prevention of COVID-19 right through to the critical management of COVID patients with life-threatening disease. The article is definitely written for the clinician, but the most salient points can be understood by any of us.

Below are his current recommendations for prevention (p. 6):

  • Masks, social distancing, and avoidance of large groups of people.
  • Vitamin D3 1000-3000 iu/day. Note RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) is 800-1000 iu/day.
  • Vitamin C 500 mg BID (twice daily) and Quercetin 250 mg daily. There are some exceptions to the use of Quercetin, so read his article.
  • Melatonin (slow release): Begin with 0.3 mg and increase as tolerated to 2 mg at night.
  • Zinc 30-50 mg/day (elemental zinc).
  • B complex vitamins.
  • Ivermectin for postexposure prophylaxis. 200 ug/kg (12 mg) immediately then repeat day 3.
  • or
  • •Ivermectin for pre-exposure prophylaxis and for prophylaxis in high risk individuals (> 60 years with co-morbidities, morbid obesity, long term care facilities, etc). 150-200 ug/kg (or 12 mg) Day 1, Day 3 and then every 4 weeks. Ivermectin has a number of potentially serious drug-drug interactions.
  • Optional: Famotidine 20-40 mg/day.
  • Optional/Experimental: Interferon-α nasal spray for health care workers.

Photo Credit: Screenshot, Paul Marik’s EVMS Critical Care COVID-19 Management Protocol

2) Christmas Canstructions – Movement Church prepared an Advent calendar of readings in the Psalms. It is also a prompt to respond to the food scarcity issue for some of our city’s residents. One item a day through the month of December.

I love canstructions, so we made one with our gathered food.

3) Navy Seal Clint Bruce’s Elites –The word “elite” has taken on an unsavory meaning in my vocabulary this year. Seeing too much of small groups of people with enormous political clout, manipulating outcomes and moving public opinion…changing the foundational values of our country. OK…then I heard Navy Seal veteran Clint Bruce talk about being elite, as a much more positive other-focused  position or attitude. Check out the short podcast below for the basics:

How to Train the Mind with Clint Bruce – Jennie Allen Podcast

Bruce talked about what it means to be elite vs. excellent. Excellent is a mentality of “done” or “arrived”. Elite is to know you’re “not done”…understanding there is always more to learn, more preparation, more experience.

He speaks (on YouTube and in numerous podcasts – look them up) about five “pursuit points” of being elite.

  • Balanced – creating a high ground (faith, family, friends) for hard days because they will come
  • Curious – doing the work of finding out what more you need to know
  • Tribal – aiming at something bigger than themselves; needing people
  • Intentional – knowing the why of whatever they’re doing
  • Authentic – real; in the light; preaching from their pain and sharing their scars.

These are just five of the points he makes and then goes into greater depth in his teaching (two talks are linked below in YouTube).

YouTube Video – Clint Bruce – Pursuing Elite: Leadership Lessons

YouTube Video – Clint Bruce Keynote – Pursuing Elite – the Five Gifts of Elite Achievers

He puts interesting twists on familiar words. He defines precision, for instance, as “not being right more but being wrong less”. Also, his definition of endurance is “being wrong less for longer than your competitor”. He also talks about discipline as being “reduction” – learning what the mission doesn’t need, so you become more agile.

Bruce referenced this scene from the film Act of Valor. It’s beautiful.

4) Seasonal Kindnesses – A new book by the Voskamp Family has sparked a new adventure of watching for and executing acts of kindness through this month of December. We are using a little star to cue up kindnesses. If I have the star, I do a kindness (or more) for another family member, and then leave that star in their home space. They then take the next 24 hours to do the same for someone else.

Seasonal (Christmas) kindnesses are such a refreshment. People going out of their way to treat others with a kind word or service. Here are just a few that have lifted my heart. Use the Comments to share some of your own heart-lifts this season.

[Also don’t let these be a negative when your capacity is stretched about as far as it can be. Enjoy kindnesses coming your way. Even a smile crinkles through a COVID mask, or a word of gratitude is enough to lift the spirits of others.]

  • Mike is one of our faithful delivery guys. Excellent and kind in all he does.They deserve special treats and some sweet folks make sure they have them (I confess it isn’t me…but it has inspired me). 

#ThanksForDelivering – UPS Coloring Sheets

  • You know those people who, no matter when you show up, they offer you a snack or even a small plate to nourish your body and soul?

 

  • My 5 y/o granddaughter remarked recently when seeing a neighbor’s yard, “She’s so festive!” Fun and festive! Thankful for all the work that goes into bringing some extra light into our dark winter nights:
  • Those friends and family who still send Christmas cards, little presents through the mail, and even a tea break:
  • Times together tempered by COVID restrictions:
  • Brunch geared toward grandchildren – them telling jokes to each other 
  • Christmas brunch with friends – provision made for those of us (more COVID-vulnerable) to hang together outside, warmed by a fire pit and a bowl of chili. S’mores station for dessert.

5) A Call to More Than PoliticsThis weekend President Trump comes to my beloved home state, Georgia. Another huge rally. Some are reporting this may be his last big rally as President of the United States. Do we look to him for hope? Do we look to the next administration for hope? “Evangelical Christians”, as a political bloc, have taken some heat over the last four years for their/our perceived support of our current President.

As an evangelical Christian, I will take the heat…not for any party’s benefit at keeping us divided, but because of the worthiness of Christ. Our greatest hope is not in either political party. Our greatest hope, which, by the way, will never be disappointed, is in the Kingdom of God, the worthy reign of our Messiah. What is our hope? To infuse our lives, to overflowing, with the Good News and great goodness of God Almighty. He is for us. Let’s get our heads and hearts right and stand for Him…as we reach our hands out to all around us. No government can do what He means to happen in this world – for our good and His glory.

Photo Credit: Len Lacroix, Seeking the Lord

If My People Who Are Called By My Name – Len Lacroix

This medley by the worship community Tribl says it all through the songs Is He Worthy?, Agnus Dei, and We Fall Down:

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Bonuses:

“Covid ended our marriage”: The Couples Who Split in the Pandemic – Emma Ailes

Songs of Hope: A TGC Advent Concert

With all the hard this year, there must have been a huge harvest of Honeycrisp apples. Look at this price!

Here’s to all those gardeners out there (my husband being my favorite) who tend their gardens through the winter to bring beauty all year round. Those behind-the-scenes people in our lives – yay!

5 Friday Faves – A #COVID Walk with a Friend, Monopoly Money, Thanksgiving Memory Making, and Back to School (Please)

1) A #COVID Walk with a Friend – We planned a walk and then my friend thought of the conference she had attended days before, and decided it was safer for me, potentially, for us to walk together “remotely”. It was lovely.

We did our walks in our own neighborhoods while talking on the phone with each other.

Took selfies after the walk in our respective neighborhoods – not our best look but exhilarating the time outside and “with” each other

What have you done to stay in touch with friends/family during these days of COVID? Please comment below. I saw just this week how one extended family connects over zoom once a month, playing games they have adapted to a screen. Seems we can come up with lots of memorable ways to stay closer in touch. We await your ideas.

2) Christmas Commercials (Adverts) – Some of the best ads are the ones that pop up over Christmas. Greetings from stores, companies, and other organizations. Here are just a few (have a cup of tea/coffee sometime and do an internet search for these (both past and present). Lovely, some funny, some nostalgic – all commentate on culture as well, through the years.

So much Santa Claus (sigh…) but had to include this one also – longish but beautiful visuals and a determined dad:

Do you have favorite Christmas adverts? Please share in Comments.

3) Monopoly Money – It wasn’t so long ago that special grants of money for disaster response from the government measured in the millions. Those days are long gone. Now we talk trillions.

For some time now, I have at the top of my issues for the Office of President these three: Life/Abortion, Supreme Court, and national debt. Now, our debt seems completely off the radar. Whew…

Some of us were talking about this issue and the phrase “Monopoly Money” came up. That’s what it’s like…as money poured out, in response to the COVID-induced economic response, to almost everyone in the US, regardless of need. Where does that money even come from?

Our current President didn’t seem to have national debt on the top of his promises (many of which he kept), and certainly our President-elect isn’t concerned with debt by all the very expensive promises he is making. The whole idea of targeting the wealthy for tax increases is short-sighted. The wealthy aren’t stupid. They can move their operations where the tax base will be more in their favor. If the highest-eschelon wealth-owners (the supposed “1%” in the US) care about those in need, they are already assisting in their own ways.

End of rant. Note the links below. Fascinating.

Coronavirus Is Going to Be Expensive. Too Bad the Government Is Already in Massive Debt – Eric Boehm

How the Federal Reserve Literally Makes Money – William J. Luther

Be Informed: National Debt

4) Thanksgiving Memory Making – Masks on and physical distancing, it was a tender time.

Lewis Ginter GardenFest of Lights with as many of the grands as were available:

Then Thanksgiving Eve, we did our annual crazy family picture experience (thankful for friends who provided the behind the camera entertainment for the children). Here’s just one of the many pics taken. Our kiddos. The rest of the pics wait for Christmas.

On schedule the Christmas cactus begins to bloom. 

Thanksgiving morning, we had brunch with our kids. They did all the cooking. It was splendid – both the food and the time together. I will never take that for granted.

Then onto Delaware to spend the rest of the holiday with Dave’s mom and brother’s family. Sweet times on the Eastern Shore.

MomMom with her two boys.

The grandson who had to miss because of work came for a visit still.

Facetime with the big and little cousins:

#TurkeyLoveliness the day after Thanksgiving:

Home again – sunrise over the Eastern Shore and then Christmas lights that night back home in Richmond:

10 Ways to Connect Deeply at Thanksgiving – Ken Sande

5) Back to School (Please) – Both the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci agree that students need to be back in school. We all probably have very strong feelings about this. We don’t want our children to lose a school year with online learning (with the best efforts of their children). Nor do we want them infecting school staff or bringing the disease home. If we “follow the science”, it seems our concerns regarding COVID are unfounded. What do you think?

Save the Children – Kevin Roche

In-Person School During COVID-19 – Healthy Children

It’s Not Just ABCs – Preschool Parents Worry Their Kids Are Missing Out on Critical Social Skills During the Pandemic – Michele L. Stites & Susan Sonnenschein

Operating Schools During COVID-19: CDC’s Considerations

Photo Credit: The Micro Mama, Facebook

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Hope your weekend is relaxing and full of good health and sweet times. Thanks for stopping by here.

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Bonuses:

How to Get Smarter Every Day, According to Neuroscience – Jeff Haden

Feeding Nashville – feeding those in need and putting restaurant employees, whose jobs have been affected by COVID, back to work

Covid-19: Politicisation, “Corruption”, and Suppression of Science

God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

Prayers in Time of Infectious Disease

Prayer in Time of Plague

Prayers Amidst Coronavirus Crisis – The London Oratory

A Prayer in the Time of Plague – Rabbi Martin S. Cohen

Below is a Facebook thread from a friend of mine – she spoke with exquisite clarity on what it is for Christians in the US right now if we are not aligned politically with what is deemed the most popular opinion at the moment:

2020 US Presidential Election – tucking this in here at the bottom of Bonuses. No matter our political party, this election was the first one in my adult life when some of the states just stopped counting the votes election night. That was confusing, with no real rationale.

When to Expect Election Results in Every State – Fascinating graphics

Anyway, it’s been a strange ride for all of us. The certification of all the states’ votes is in process as is are the legal cases involving some of them. I do believe we will have a peaceful transition of power if President-Elect Biden continues to hold that position. It doesn’t hurt that our electoral process is being scrutinized. As a nation, we must all be able to trust our electoral process. It’s fundamental to our values in the US.

Reasons Why the 2020 Presidential Election Is Deeply Puzzling – Patrick Basham

Anomalies in Vote Counts and Their Effects on the 2020 Election

Fact Check: Vote Spikes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania Do Not Prove Election Fraud

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s “Spirit”, Reducing Brain Fog, Crucial Conversations, the Precious Nature of Life, and What We Have in Common

1) Beyond the Guitar’s “Spirit” – Below you will find the latest Beyond the Guitar video from the 2002 movie Spirit: the Stallion of the Cimarron. Nathan’s treatment of “Homeland” theme by masterful composer Hans Zimmer 2002 movie theme is beautiful. One of the commenters on his YouTube video stated that it was as if Zimmer composed it for guitar. Nathan’s arrangement definitely does justice to this incredibly triumphant orchestral piece. Enjoy!

2) Reducing Brain Fog – Brain fog is an inability to concentrate. It is essentially a feeling of “being in a fog” – you feel slowed-down, tired, draggy, unable to think clearly or even find the right words at times.

Photo Credit: Marcus Aurelius, Pexels

Writer and business consultant Thomas Oppong wrote this brilliant article on what we can do to reduce brain fog. He goes into great detail so be sure, if you struggle with this issue, to read his piece. He doesn’t quote from the science literature but his takes on the six points below make enormous sense. All worth a try.

  • Give up the clutter. – Decluttering bit by bit will lower stress and sharpen focus.
  • Stop the multi-tasking. – “Narrow down your most important tasks to 3, and then give one task your undivided attention for a period of time. Allow yourself to rotate between the three, giving yourself a good balance of singular focus and variety.”
  • Give up the urgent distraction. – We have our lists and our goals, but the easier and lesser things around us draw away our attention. Resisting the distractions help us stay on track.
  • Stop feeding your comfort. – Beware of the well-worn ruts in work and life. “Seeking new experiences, learning new skills, and opening the door to new ideas inspire us and educate us in a way improves mental clarity.”
  • Don’t sit still. – Plan physical activity into the day.  It helps us stay mentally fresh and focused.
  • Stop consuming media and start creating it. – Social media can rob us of our hours and energy. “Let creation determine consumption. Allow curiosity to lead you to discover and pursue something you deepy care about. Make time to create something unique. The point is to get lost in awe and wonder like you did when you were a child. When you achieve that feeling from a certain activity, keep doing it!” – Thomas Oppong

How to Overcome Brain Fog From a Long-time Sufferer – Tim Denning

3) Crucial Conversations – So many conversations don’t happen because they are just too risky. They make us feel too vulnerable. Yet we long for deep conversations. For conversations that enlarge us and bring understanding, even between people who don’t share opinions or worldviews.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High – Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, & Laura Roppe

Top 10 Takeways From Crucial Conversations – Tabitha Bower

Last week, I listened to a Jennie Allen podcast on “life-giving conversations”.

Between the current political division and the physical distancing necessitated by COVID, we are having fewer crucial conversations. That’s not to say we aren’t on video meetings or phone calls for much of the day, but we have to work harder to have satisfying conversations.

March 2020 (BC – Before COVID mediation)

April 2020 – AC (After COVID mediation)

Certainly conversations between people who disagree are happening less. They are just too hard. Especially via screens. Especially when opportunities to talk deeply are just not there.

What got me thinking about this is a couple of podcasts (see below) and also watching (and feeling) the strain of months long requirements of video meetings with work (and church) groups…instead of in-person opportunities.

How to Have Life-Giving Conversations – Podcast – Jennie Allen

How Shame Affects All of Us – Podcast – Jennie Allen with Dr. Curt Thompson

Crucial conversations, whether one-on-one or in a group structure, are harder these days. How can we get past the superficial or the daily grind kinds of talk? I’m thinking there’s a discipline we can develop – to really dig in and want to know the person(s) in front of us and to ask questions and pose topics others can really engage with…especially if we can communicate that we are safe with each other.

“We want to be seen and known in the place we live… we want to ask questions that invite people to be curious and creative. Tell me about something this past week that was really hard for you. Caused you joy.  That caused you to be creative. Regularly take time to validate that in each other. We want to invite people to be curious and creative.” – Jennie Allen, Dr. Curt Thompson

Anything with psychiatrist and writer Dr. Curt Thompson involved is great quality content. Whether it is on belonging, vulnerability, shame, or dealing with physical/social distancing, he has a wealth of practical and neurologically sound counsel. Just watch the YouTube videos with him talking.

Thoughts?

4) The Precious Nature of Life – What we think on this has divided our nation – those more for life from conception and those more for the rights of the conceiving adults.

As a mother and grandmother who has lost all but one of her cherished older relatives, I want to celebrate the precious nature of life. I want to invite you to celebrate as well.

We never know when we will be gone from here or when those we love will be either. We just never know. Thus, the imperative to not let anything stand in our way of loving…or at least honoring the lives of those in our own.

Why this for a Friday Fave?

The 21 y/o son of friends of ours died this week. The whole wrong gone of this dear young man has stopped us all in our tracks. God’s grace holds people up…as does His grace with clothes on, friends and other family, leaning in to love. His passing has been very much on my mind, and his parents on my heart.

Canadian author Tim Challies also lost his son, Nick, recently…also suddenly. 20 years old. We are thankful that the Challies family has a huge circle of support, too. He has been writing about their loss of Nick in a series of blogs. Here is one: The Cruelty of Quarantine: A Lament.

If you could use some help with your own grief, walk with Tim through his.

Cherish these loved ones we’re privileged to have in our lives. In all their scruffiness, various differences, political activism or not…they are gifts to us. We don’t throw them back. We figure out how to love them and be there for them…and hopefully, they do the same for us.

Right?

COVID (and its mediation) is putting incredible stress on our lives and relationships. Important to keep our eyes and minds clear on the precious nature of life…not just ours, but each others, of course.

5) What We Have in Common – When there are rifts (political or familial) or a growing discontent (in a relationship or at work) or a vain sense that life could be better with someone else, it’s good to give pause to that thinking, and consider: What do we have in common with each other? What might we be giving up that we may not see in the every day but that, once out the door, we may miss and regret the decision?

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Think of the person(s) you’re may be having difficulty with. Now, come up with what you have in common, make as long a list as possible. Be creative.

I’m thinking…ok, here goes:

  • We share the same core values.
  • We care about the world we’re leaving to our children.
  • We both want to be successful, but also to be effective.
  • We’ve both lost a parent (or two).
  • We are both American (fill in your country) and we care about our country.
  • We’ve both been to the doctor way too many times this year.
  • We both struggle with insecurity, although it surfaces differently.
  • We both have trouble talking with each other about these things.
  • Yet, we both know we are a part of a greater story.

Can we take the things we have in common and move toward each other instead of more apart?

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Just a few thoughts that didn’t get laid down until after a busy, lovely weekend. Hope the rest of your week is peaceful and full of good.

Bonuses:

How to Overcome the 5 D’s of Leadership and Life: Doubt, Distortion, Discouragement, Distraction, and Division – Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast – with Guest Jon Gordon (Podcast & Transcript)

The Curse of the Honeycrisp Apple – Deena Shanker and Lydia Mulvany

Fall Leaves in All Their Glory (Before the Rains Came)