Category Archives: Relationships

Monday Morning Moment – Holding Space for the Generations in Our Lives

We have a moment.

Everyone talks about how the weeks fly by, and I can tell you it does not slow down…at least it hasn’t for me. The wise live like there’s no tomorrow. That’s not to say we don’t plan for the tomorrows of life but we should never presume upon them.

My Mom (pic above) had cancer for three years. A very treatable cancer. She should have been cured of it…but she wasn’t, at least on this side of Heaven she wasn’t. I miss her every single day and she’s been gone almost 20 years.

I wish we would have had more time. More time with her and our kiddos with her as well. They gained so much from her…and would have gained so much more. From her and also from my Dad who’s now in Heaven as well.

In the extended family on my mom’s side, I am now the oldest. So weird. Especially living states away from siblings and their families. In reality we find our relationships shrink down to a couple of visits a year…and in those visits just a few hours of face-to-face time.

I long for more and attempt to open that window a bit. Phone calls and an occasional card. Social media contact. They have busy lives (we all do, for sure)…and we live far apart. And so it goes.

These young ones receive well my small communications and treat me as a cherished member of their family. It means the world…because my world without my folks, my older brother, and others in that generation past…is emptier. Yours?

We have a heritage. Our parents instilled values – deep, enduring, life-transforming values. We shook up and sifted those values in our own young adult lives, and held on (and passed on) those most treasured. As children grow up, marry, and have adult friendships, values are influenced and reshaped.  It is the way of generations folding one into another. Some values we may ourselves have mislaid and have been reinvigorated thanks to our children, spouses, and young friends.

All that to say…

Our parents’ impact in our lives continues. Their own love and struggles translated into their parenting and into the hard wiring of our own brains. Love and struggle. We pass it on. Fortunately, as we see in our children’s lives, some of the best of their grandparents remains in them (and us hopefully).

A much-loved 91y/o father and grandfather in our extended family died this weekend. Unexpectedly. As we grieve, we are comforted in the knowledge that he knew the Lord and was prepared for the inevitable last day of his life. We are also comforted that he knew well how much he was loved and honored, not just by his children, but by his grandchildren as well.

This is huge.

We have a moment with these old ones. These grandparents of ours. Spend it well. Draw strength and wisdom from them in these final years of their lives and ours with them. Communicate love for them. Allow yourselves the treasure of drawn-out visits with them. There is time. There won’t always be time, but there is time today.

In our little family, our kids only have one grandparent remaining. MomMom. She prays for them every single day and through the day. She is not a polite, check-the-box  pray-er for them. She fearlessly storms the throne-room of the King of the universe. She wrestles against the evil in this world on their behalf and she dreams big for these grandchildren of hers. What a blessing she is! So thankful she is still in the crowded rooms of our lives.

Saving space for you, MomMom. Thank you for reflecting the beauty of generations…the beauty of God Himself. Thank you for being so real and so human. We see Jesus in you. So grateful for you and these moments with you…

Monday Morning Moment – Confessional Communities – What Are They? You’ll Wish You Were In One If You Aren’t Already

Photo Credit: Group Therapy Central

[As I was preparing my own take on confessional communities, I came across Aimee Byrd‘s piece on the same, as part of her analysis of Curt Thompson‘s latest book The Soul of Desire. Byrd’s blog is a quick read and very helpful.]

Confessional communities – probably sounds like some sort of monastery life. Or a group with all kinds of touchy-feely exercises framed by unintelligible psycho-babble, right? Oh no! So much more and so much better!

I’ve been awakened to the presence and possibilities of confessional communities since recently reading of the Thompson trilogy below.

What rung intuitively right for me throughout my adult life has actually been tested and found true in something called Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB). No time to go deeply into this now, but, in short, our brains are wired for connection, and that is connection inside the brain/mind itself as well as with others (and God).

Confessional communities are used by Dr. Curt Thompson and others as ways to help clients get in touch with shame, trauma, fear, anxiety, etc. in the company of others struggling with some of the same. Shame, for instance, drives us to isolate from God and others. It compounds interest over time, if left to itself in our own minds, and muffles our desires and longings, as it condemns and flattens us.

“We need to create confessional communities where people are confessing the truth about their life – some of which includes confessing sin or doing things that show my brokenness. Some of it is just things that have happened to me, or things that I feel; things that I sense; things that I dream; things that I long for; things that I’m conflicted about. But I’m trying to tell the whole truth about my life – but not so that anybody can just hear it and then move on.…In confession, what I’m really looking for – in your eyes, in your body language, in your voice – is for you to be able to say, “You’re right, Curt; you were wrong to do that. You’re forgiven. I’m not leaving.” I need to know you can bear the weight of what I know to be really wrong [with me], and that you will still stay. If it’s minimized, it will continue to linger with me…Shame always requires outside help for healing. My shame needs you. If it’s a small thing, I might need only one conversation with you. But, if it’s much bigger than a very, very small thing, I’m going to need multiple conversations with multiple people, because shame will come through multiple different doors into my head when I’m left by myself…”Curt Thompson

Photo Credit: Curt Thompson, Twitter

“…in order for me to be liberated from the shame I carry, …I need to hear that my behavior was really as bad as I think, if not worse, while simultaneously sensing that the person I am confessing to is not leaving. Shame has the effect of coaxing us into pretending that sin is not as bad as it seems; for if it really is that bad, and I have to face it, it would be too much and I fear I would be overwhelmed. When someone seeks forgiveness for the wrong they have committed, we who have been wounded must be able to acknowledge the reality of the pain inflicted if forgiveness is to be real, and if the offender’s shame is to be effectively healed.” – Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame

Confessional communities are spelled out in Thompson’s writing, teaching (found on YouTube), and podcasts (his own and as guest on many others). The common factors include:

  • small group meetings over weeks or months.
  • willingness to tell our stories as truly as we can.
  • intentional leaning in to the stories of other group members such that “being known” is part of the outcome for all.
  • commitment to stay with each other; to “not leave the room”.
  • imagine beauty together – learning to explore and create beauty, to see what is good, true, and beautiful in each other’s personhoods.Photo Credit: Curt Thompson, Twitter

I have a friend who for several months was part of what I would now call a confessional community. She called it “Vegas”. Remember the adage “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”? It was a Bible study/house church. A group of people who committed to care for each other with masks off (not the COVID kind, but the masks we don in shame or fear). A group of people who would stay in the hard and love no matter what.

My Mom modeled this for our family. She died way too soon. My prayer is that our (birth) family will model it for each other, and my children will learn from their Dad and me how to love like this…To have the joy of being fully known and deeply loved. No matter what.

Trauma, Healing, and Side Effects with Dr. Curt Thompson – Jamie Ivey’s Podcast, The Happy Hour

Shining Light on Shame – Curt Thompson, Angulus Wilson, Steve Beers, and Morgan C. Feddes

Curt Thompson – 51 Podcast Episodes

Worship Wednesday – Giving and Receiving Blessing – We Need It Now – Elevation Worship

[The tapestry above hangs beside our door…one of God’s many blessings upon His peoples.]

This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind, who makes the flesh his strength and turns his heart from the LORD. He will be like a shrub in the desert; he will not see when prosperity comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives, but blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. He is like a tree planted by the waters that sends out its roots toward the stream. It does not fear when the heat comes, and its leaves are always green. It does not worry in a year of drought, nor does it cease to produce fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8

 Beware of division. Having just finished reading Francis Chan‘s book Until Unity, I am way aware of how divided we are as church, family, people. We curse too easily and withhold blessing too often.

In the book of Jeremiah, the Lord speaks about this very thing. In these days of COVID, political and economic upheaval, and media’s feeding on any and every weakness and falling of the church, we take sides. We trust (or distrust, depending on our preferences) governments and authorities. We lean on our own reasoning and make that our strength. Too often, we turn our heart from God and His Word.

We are addicted to our own opinions, our own sense of rightness or rights or entitlement, our own form of judgment and retribution.

This…from the self-proclaimed “people of God”.

God, forgive us. Clear our minds. Help us to see as You see. Help us to bless and not curse. Soften the soil of our hearts toward those around us – for Your purposes. We know extending our roots deep into Your Word, surrendering ourselves to the Lordship of Christ, and obeying the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives – are the source fruitful lives.

As Your image-bearers, Father, help us to be a blessing to those around us…to speak blessing over them. Loving others as You love us …and them. We receive such generous blessing from You, Lord. Remind us we are blessed to be a blessing.

I will never forget our children’s high school graduations, all in Morocco. As part of our son Nathan’s graduation, parents are selected to give the invocation. Because of the makeup of the Senior Class, it would usually be a Muslim parent and Christian parent. In Nathan’s graduation, the Christian parent stood and lifted his hand over the class and spoke blessing to them from Scripture. I can’t remember the exact blessing, but it was powerful to us in the audience, watching this man speaking and showing blessing over our young people.

So reminiscent of Jesus’ blessing in His Sermon on the Mount:Photo Credit: Heartlight

In March 2020, at the start of the COVID pandemic, Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes helped write and then performed a song entitled The Blessing. The lyrics are straight out of Scripture and a true blessing from the Lord. It became the worship standard for our experience of God in a year full of crisis. Covered in many languages. Still such a blessing. So much beauty!

YouTube Video – The Bay Area Blessing – Churches Sing ‘The Blessing’ over the San Francisco Bay Area

We continue in a time when people seem so willing to devour one another…to curse and slander those different from or in opposition to them. This song, born out of Scripture, reminds us of God’s intent for His children…to be a blessing, out of the overflow of His own blessing in our lives, and not a cursing. He will judge the wrong and wrongs of this world. We look for whatever/whomever we can bless…and we extend blessing. Just as that parent extended his hand of blessing…we extend ourselves to those around us…in Jesus’ name. Photo Credit: Bible Verses 2 U

Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, Bear with one another and forgive any complaint you may have against someone else. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which is the bond of perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, for to this you were called as members of one body. And be thankful.Colossians 3:12-15

I thank God for this reminder of blessing. In fact, just this week, I have blasted this song at home and in my car multiple times. What a blessing we have in Him. A blessing He means for us to extend without reserve. It’s His blessing…not meant to keep only for ourselves.

Worship with me.

The Lord bless you [Numbers 6:24-26]
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

May His favor be upon you [Deuteronomy 7:9]
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you [Deuteronomy 31:8]
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

*Lyrics to The Blessing – Songwriter(s): Christopher Joel Brown, Cody Carnes, Kari Brooke Jobe, Steven Furtick

Photo Credit: The Common Rule, Twitter

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed to Be a Blessing – Andy Flannigan – Deb Mills

When Our Greatest Fears Come True – The Story Behind “The Blessing” by Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes, and Elevation Worship – Jen Roland

Monday Morning Moment – Parenting “Knots” and Untangling Them

Photo Credit: Pexels, Hipkicks

Do you remember who taught you how to tie your shoes? Or ride a bike? Or drive a car? We all have persons attached to those lessons and memories as well.

A teacher friend of mine recently posted (on Facebook) Joseph Stroud‘s poem “Knots”. I don’t remember ever reading it…but it stirred vague memories and sharp emotions.

OK…that’s a weighty situation. Most of us as children and teens feel proud and accomplished with each skill mastered in life…and our parents the same for us (and themselves as our parents). Mastery is a blessing that goes in an array of directions.

As parents we don’t get it right all the time, for sure. Rarely do we have the opportunity to go back and do it over again. Shame is a dark process we don’t want stirred up in us nor do we want to plant it in the hearts and minds of our children.

We learn and we grow and, sometimes, we ask forgiveness.

Our youngest son was born prematurely. He had a brain bleed in his first week of life that left him with physical challenges. He has overcome so many in his life that we forget sometimes what an incredible person he truly is. How much he has faced and risen above.

He will probably never forget trying to learn to ride a bike. I know I won’t forget it. As we pushed, cajoled, and sometimes scolded his faulty attempts…little did we know that he physically was never going to be able to ride a bike. And so what?! OK…we finally got it.

I just hope he doesn’t have too many memories like that in Joseph Stroud’s poem. To this day, without any memories I can call to mind, having someone standing over me watching me work is anxiety-provoking. Wonder why.

“…That memory stays with you long after you have grown into an adult who keeps trying to find his way in the world — to be strong and brave and independent and competent — without tripping over his shoe laces, without entangling himself in doubts about his father’s love.”                          – V. Galligan, Knots

In the heat of parenting, when our own “reputation” is on the line, or so we think, we don’t always see these precious children…beautiful and brilliant…and vastly more valuable than anything we think we could possibly shape meerly into our own image.

In recent weeks, I’ve been reading the works of psychiatrists Curt Thompson and Dan Siegel and  wrote about it as well…repeating a bit below:

Dr. Thompson has written a trilogy of powerful, ground-breaking books – Anatomy of the Soul, The Soul of Shame, and The Soul of Desire.  He describes these books as exploring “how neuroscience relates to the ways we experience relationships, deep emotions like shame and joy and especially our own stories — and how we can process our longings and desire for spiritual connection with God and each other to live more fully integrated, connected lives.”

[I highly recommend the above books, and not just for parents.]

Thompson refers often to Dr. Siegel’s “4 S’s of Attachment-Based Parenting“. Those S’s relate to what our children need from us, as infants but throughout life. We want them to know they are “safe and seen” and to experience being “soothed and secure”. This is especially poignant when we introduce the word “No” into the great adventure of their lives. No…and discipline as they get bigger.

“Seen, safe, soothed, secure”

Hard lessons in life don’t have to be laced with fear or shaming. We may have not experienced all the 4 s’s as children, or definitely not all the time, but we can aim to make that happen in our own children (and grandchildren). That they may know they are safe with us (no need to “brace for impact”), that they are truly seen (all the big emotions and struggles), that they can count on being soothed, and that they are secure in the love they have from us.

The 4 S’s of a Healthy Relationship – Kirsten Belzer

I am learning so much about parenting as a grandmother. With small children, the first time around, I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Photo Credit: R. D. Laing

Today parenting helps abound – in all sorts of media. In fact, it is hard to sort it all out while moms and dads are in the hot lab of real-time parenting.  Almost too much information; too much guidance.

Better a fire hose than needing to lean on “a mother’s intuition” which is what I was told would get me through figuring out how to parent my tiny firstborn.

What are some of your best helps? Please post in Comments below.Photo Credit: Pexels, Keira Burton

Photo Credit: The Motivation Hotel

The Neurobiology of Attachment to Nurturing and Abusive Caregivers – Regina M. Sullivan, PhD

Podcasts

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, Senses and Memories, Parenting Well, Fishing Perks, and Attention Alcohol

Late again. That kind of week. Here’s the rapid but not to miss runthrough.

1) Beyond the Guitar – If you love Star Wars, you will love Nathan‘s interpretation of John WilliamsAcross the Stars. Actually…whether you love Star Wars or not, this is achingly beautiful.

Then there is his piece later this week, posting his arrangement of the theme of Genshin Impact video game. This was actually sponsored by the game creators. I am sure they are pleased. Another really gorgeous treatment.

2) Senses and Memories – One of the appealing features of Nathan’s music is the nostalgia attached to much of it. It takes us back. To a scene from a movie, a TV show we shared with family, a video game of one’s childhood. Sound is powerfully attached to memory. We have all had those experiences or have read/watched the positive impact of beloved music on critically ill patients, or those suffering with brain injury or Alzheimer’s. Memory is stirred.

Where we live right now, we can hear the sound of planes, trains, and interstate traffic. The sound is just in the background but it is oftentimes powerful. Looking up at a commercial jet going over takes me back to being new in Cairo, Egypt, walking toward a taxi stand. I wondered at the destination of the flight and in my stress as a newbie to to language and culture, that sound (and sight) comforted me somehow.

The sound of a train takes me all the way back to Sfax, Tunisia, when we lived by a train track. The train whistles marked time for us through the day.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Farther still, the sound of a train took me back to childhood, as we waited for it to pass, and looking between the cars to my friend Evelyn’s house. Her family was only there briefly, but I loved her. She was from a different era. Wore hand-me-down dresses to middle school every day. Old everything. Poor. Stretched by poverty, but she was elegant and full of dignity. Their large, spooky old house peeked between the passing train cars, and I wondered at their lives inside that house. They were gone too soon…but the memory of her remains…with the sound of trains.

We know when Fall is here, because all of a sudden, it is all things pumpkin spice. Flavored coffee, pies, and decor – all pumpkiny.Photo Credit: Pexels – Valeriia Miller

What the Nose Knows – Colleen Walsh

Brain’s Link Between Sounds, Smells and Memory Revealed – Rachael Rettner

Music and Memory – Why the Music We Love as Teens Stays with Us for Life – Catherine Loveday

Comment below what are some of your favorite sensory memories.

3) Parenting Well – Our grandchildren (six years old and younger) have big emotions. Then they act on those big emotions. Whining, crying, hitting, screaming. This is not who these precious children are, but they are trying to communicate what is going on deep inside. How we respond to them – as parents and other significant (to them) adults – is huge!

Emotions relate to desire. This topic hit me hard when I saw the poem below on a friend’s Facebook page.

Our responses to our children (in normal developmental situations as well as in distressed situations) communicate far more than we think. We have recurring opportunities to connect with our children in ways that help them grow into emotionally healthy and relationally mature adults.

Lately I’ve been learning more about this whole parenting thing from two brilliant psychiatrists Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Curt Thompson.

Dr. Thompson has written a trilogy of powerful, ground-breaking books – Anatomy of the Soul, The Soul of Shame, and The Soul of Desire.  He describes these books as exploring “how neuroscience relates to the ways we experience relationships, deep emotions like shame and joy and especially our own stories — and how we can process our longings and desire for spiritual connection with God and each other to live more fully integrated, connected lives.”

[I highly recommend the above books, and not just for parents.]

Thompson refers often to Dr. Siegel’s “4 S’s of Attachment-Based Parenting“. Those S’s relate to what we communicate to our children even as infants but throughout life. We want them to know they are “safe and seen” and to experience being “soothed and secure”. This is especially poignant when we introduce the word “No” into the great adventure of their lives. No…and discipline as they get bigger.

I’ll be writing about this more in the days ahead. For now, check out the “refrigerator sheet” below with Siegel’s 4 S’s, referencing his book The Power of Showing Up.

Photo Credit: Dr. Dan Siegel & Dr. Tina Payne Bryson

The 4 S’s of Attachment-Based Parenting – Daniel J. Siegel – Podcast

The Power of Showing Up – Daniel J. Siegel, MD & Tina Payne Bryson, PhD

Mindful Parenting: 4 S’s of Secure Attachment – Esther Goldstein

4) Fishing Perks – My sweet husband is a fisherman. He is a “catch-and-release” guy, fishing the rivers and lakes of Virginia. This joy started for him as a boy fishing with his dad. Then it grew during our years in Tennessee. Finally now, after years of living in North African cities, just on the edge of the Sahara. There are so many perks to this avocation. Some of which really came to mind on a recent adventure. [I realize this is a “duh” for many, but for me, it was a great revelation.]

  • The Buildup – The day of fishing is preceded by all the planning and preparation. Weather checks, getting the equipment ready, fueling the boat, provisioning for the day. It makes for a happy evening of anticipation…and to bed early.
  • The Thrill of the Hunt – or Thrill of the Catch – You hope not to get skunked, but the marking and revisiting sites where fish were caught once before, the thrill of the pull on the line, and finally the fish pulled into the boat. Fun stuff!

  • Solitude – the single chair on this old dock says it all. The quiet of being on the water in the woods. So refreshing. So invigorating.

  • Beauty – Everywhere you look. Water, trees, wildlife. Sun and cloud playing on the water. Changing colors as the hours pass.

  • Company [I’m glad Dave has fishing buddies who share the experience with him. I fish rarely but always gain from the time with him, in nature.]

5) Attention Alcohol –  Author attorneyJustin Whitmel Earley pointed to an article by journalist Derek Thompson‘s article on social media and its use like that of alcohol.

Photo Credit: Rachel Claire, Pexels

Earley gives these reasons below for considering limiting or taking sabbath fasts from social media:

THREE REASONS SOCIAL MEDIA IS LIKE ALCOHOL:

  • It is Addictive. This means you are not as in control as you think you are. Remember, there are 1,000 people on the other side of this screen paid inordinate amounts of money to get you to keep scrolling.
  • It Changes Your Mental Health. This means it is not neutral. Your interactions with yourself, your family, and your friends are changed because of what you do with social media. You must recognize that to use it appropriately.
  • Someone Needs to Teach You How to Use It. This is one of the hardest things about our cultural moment. Because this technology is so new, none of us had parents to teach us how to use it, set boundaries, and practice moderation. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start to learn now, teach our kids, and help our friends. 

Social Media and Alcohol – Justin Whitmel Earley

Social Media Is Attention Alcohol – Derek Thompson

That’s the 5 for this week. How about you? Please enrich my life and that of other readers with your favorite finds. Comment below. Thanks always for stopping by.

Bonuses:

Quote of the Week: “Beauty is…that which draws our attention with wonder and welcome and that ultimately leads us to worship – not worship of the object itself but worship of God in gratitude, humility, and joy.”Curt Thompson, The Soul of Desire

The “10 Things” Rule Keeps My House Uncluttered, Even with a Family of Six – Alexandra Frost – We actually had the 20 Things rule in our family once the kids were big enough to count to 10. It helped!

YouTube Video – Dr. Curt Thompson – Shame: The Details of Devouring

YouTube Video: Curt Thompson: Vulnerability Reframed: Healing Shame & Promoting Human Flourishing

Photo Credit: Ian Kremer, Twitter

How the Brain Stays Young Even as We Age – Katherine Ellen Foley

My Boyfriend Is Spiritually Lethargic. Should I Marry Him? – John Piper

87-year-old Man Rewrites News Headlines for 2020 and Inspires Us All

Biscuit Lover – Sean Dietrich

100 Skills Every Man Should Know – The Art of Manliness [Some are also excellent skills for us women as well. Not so ambitious about most of them, but glad I know men and women who do.]

Beauty is the extravagance that makes us human

Monday Morning Moment – Gently Confronting the Conflict Generated by Reductionism (You Want to Know this Word)

Photo Credit: Quote Master

Today, I want to talk about reductionism – how we reduce a whole person into one part – one facet that we take great pleasure in mocking or deriding. Thinking highly of ourselves in the process. Don’t miss this! Here we go.

Pierce Taylor Hibbs is a writer, teacher, and gentle theologian. I came across a piece he wrote this past week, and it has brought such clarity to a murky subject. The piece is “Reductionism: the Disease that Breeds Conflict”.

Don’t let that big word reductionism put you off. Hibbs will define it, but first, let me give you a scenario or two where we have seen this in action (and when we might have added to the fire of such a situation). We’re at a party of peers. We feel comfortable to just say what we think about any number of people, policies, or processes. No filters. What kinds of things pop up in those conversations? Mind you…they all are met with heads nodding (or shaking), laughter, and attitude. Mocking derision even.

Who are we in this conversation? The chief propagator of said comment. The amused and agreeing audience. The one uncomfortably close in character or worldview of the one being mocked. The one not necessarily close to the subject of putdown, but not comfortable with the putdown…or the people enjoying it.

Now…the definition of reductionism before we weigh in on our conversation topics. Hang in there. it’s so worth it. Pierce Taylor Hibbs on reductionism:

“Reductionism is the stepchild of our desire for mastery (complete control), which emerged from the ancient evil of autonomy Autonomy is the idea that you’re completely and utterly independent…You want full control. The thing is, you can’t have that. . . you know, because you’re not God. You’re limited by nature. That’s how you and I were made. But we’re so stubborn that we don’t accept limitation. We refuse to think we can’t master our own lives. So, within what John Frame calls the fantasy world of autonomy, we chase after mastery, and when we can’t get it (again, we never will get it), then we pretend to have it with . . . reductionism…If we can’t master our lives, then we can simplify them and make it seem as if we’re in full control. We can reduce the complexity of our own lives, the people in them, and the problems that surround us. We can take, in other words, an issue or person with a thousand dimensions and pretend that there’s only one dimension. That’s reductionism. Put differently by my friend and teacher, [Vern Poythress], reductionism happens when people “reduce the world to one dimension of the whole. . . . But reductionism is poverty-stricken, not only in its threadbare endpoint consisting of only one dimension, but also in its explanatory power.””

Reductionism, in short, is when people make something a lot simpler than it is. They do this for the sake of convenience, or egoism, or to build their own self-righteousness. There’s no shortage of motives, but I can’t think of any that are wholesome. And note what Poythress ended with: it lacks explanatory power. Read: it doesn’t actually explain much...In our frustration we reduce people, problems, and situations to manageable bits (ignoring swaths of information) in order to convince ourselves of our own mastery. You can start to predict why this is so destructive.”

Reductionism hurts people because it flattens them. It takes a human life (or a situation, political topic, etc.) and crushes it down to a single dimension, ignoring all of the others. That not only fails to align with reality (reality is always more complicated than we could ever dream); it insults people by making judgments based on that single dimension.”

OK…here we go on the topics “reduced”:

Vaxxers/non-vaxxers. Maskers/non-maskers. Cool/Not Cool. Liberals/Conservatives. Republicans/Democratics. Pro-lifers/Pro-Choice/Abortion. Boomers/Ageists. Patriot/Isolationist. Racists. Privileged. Stupid. Misogynist. Hurtful. Offensive. Homophobe. Sexist. Small-minded. Evangelicals. Enneagram or other reductionist labeling.

We can reduce a person into a box of one word or phrase. What is up with that? Nothing good. It’s handy for a laugh at a party or a sympathetic ear who “gets” people “like that”.

It is not reality. It may be entertaining, but it furthers the accepted divide between people. It degrades not only the subject of the derision but the audience, as well as the person speaking. Hibbs suggests a solution for those who want one:

“Reductionism is killing us because it’s killing our conversations. It’s killing open, receptive dialogue. It’s polarizing the nation, even the world. For our part, we have to start identifying and assaulting reductionism whenever it crops up in our conversations…But what are we supposed to do instead?…We need God and other people to understand not just the world, but even ourselves truly. We need two things: humility and a withholding of assumptions.” – Pierce Taylor Hibbs

He goes on in his piece, giving specifics of how humility and withholding assumptions work together to soften the elements of conflict, even to the possible healing of rifts. Hibbs is a Christian theologian and speaks eloquently of the life of Jesus in his people in the call to a ceasing of conflict. Not just avoiding conflict, but confronting reductionism. Whatever your faith, his counsel is sound in acknowledging the sting of our current biting and devouring social culture. And resisting the temptation of engaging in it…but not be just keeping silent and existing the conversation. Definitely worth our consideration.

Photo Credit; Janet Mock, Audi Quotes

Why Do We Have to Make Others Wrong to Be Right? – Lolly Daskal

Personality Tests: Why Are We Obsessed with Labeling Ourselves? – Sara Abdelbarry

[The above video is fascinating. Wow!]

Bullying: Scoffers, Mockers, Ridicule, and Scorn in the Bible and Today – Kelly Ann Christensen

5 Friday Faves – Life Without Forgiveness, the Power of Words, the CALM Superpower, COVID Close to Home, and the 20th Anniversary of 9/11

Here we go!

1) Life Without Forgiveness – An article on  life without forgiveness by Dave Burchett got me thinking even more about forgiveness. I’m in a study on Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by Lysa Terkeurst. Writing about it, too.

Life without forgiveness sounds truly awful. We imprison ourselves to the past and drag it into our present day and future with treasured grudges. Grudges we feel we can’t afford to lay down. They become part of our identity and how people relate to us – either protecting, justifying, or, at times, “returning evil for evil”.

Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, William Arthur Ward

We have the power to release ourselves and all these entrapped with us…through forgiveness. We need God to help us, for sure. We however must make the decision to forgive. Pretending to do so while hatred gains strength in our hearts is a delusion. God help us.

Here’s a bit of what Dave Burchett says in his article (read the whole here):

“There is no way I have found to release grudges without the healing power of forgiveness. Author Will Davis wrote this powerful insight.

‘Once you decide to forgive, you initiate the healing process. Forgiveness gives your soul permission to move on to the higher and healthier ground of emotional recovery. Forgiveness is to your soul what antibiotics are to infection. It is the curative agent that will help to fully restore your soul. It doesn’t immediately remove the pain of offense but it does start you on the road to recovery.’

I really like that perspective. The decision to forgive initiates but does not complete our healing. You will, in time, heal. I am asking you to pray that you can begin the healing process of forgiveness knowing that only time and God’s mercy can fully heal. That will start you down that road to forgiveness and empowerment to let go of the grudges that are weighing you down. You won’t get there today or tomorrow. But you will never get there without taking the first step of faith.” – Dave Burchett

Photo Credit: Spark People

Burchett refers to the song “Without Forgiveness” by Jerry Salley. Here’s a sweet cover by Jason Davidson:

2) The Power of Words – Words mean things. In fact, they are more powerful than we can imagine. Author, speaker Jackie Hill Perry has referred to a poem which says “Words make worlds”. Now I haven’t been able to find that poem, BUT I have read Genesis 1-3 with the account of God speaking the world into existence.

Photo Credit: Lidia Yuknavitch, @Seek5, Pinterest

Perry spoke on the power of words at a women’s conference. She used the text of the Apostle James’ epistle. James 3. This passage focuses on the influence of the tongue. She elaborated on three points:

  • The tongue is accountable. [We are responsible for our use of words. When we have torn down instead of building up, we will experience consequences. It does not go unheeded.]
  • The tongue is powerful. [We must control our tongues…what we say. Self-control has a wide reach, especially starting with “restraining our speech”. Words can hurt, but they can also heal.]
  • The tongue is inconsistent. [We say one thing to one person and turn around and say another thing to someone else. We may bless God and then curse a neighbor, made in the image of God. Perry talks about the huge disconnect when we speak with reverence of God but with contempt or disdain toward another human being. Words can be a “restless evil”. Pay attention. Are others’ names and personhoods safe on our lips?]

Listen to this fascinating and charged talk by Jackie Hill Perry.

Words Create Worlds – The Language We Use Shapes the Culture We Lead – Eric Geiger

3) The CALM Superpower – Author, leadership trainer Carey Nieuwhof recently interviewed psychologist Jennifer Kolari on his podcast. She spoke on dealing with irrational people, and, in fact, any situation of conflict. I learned so much.

[I’ve written about the brain, decision-making, and dealing with crisis many times. Such fascinating issues!]

Dr. Kolari introduced her CALM technique of dealing with conflict (including helping children in conflict with you or others). In brief, “the CALM method is a way of deep listening using language, compassion and empathy literally as medicine. It will soothe and calm AND bring both participants in the conversation into brain-heart coherence.”

Here’s a brief outline of the framework:
C – CONNECT – connect before correcting; deeply listen; give the sense that you are “for them”.
A – AFFECT – match the affect of the person in front of you; don’t say how the other person SHOULD feel; show understanding.
L – LISTEN – deeply; take that affect above into what you’re hearing; wonder at it; choose your responses based on what is being said to you, including the emotion. Respond not react.
M – MIRROR – allow what’s going on with the person to “hit you right in the heart”. Be in the moment with them/him/her. We do this with babies intuitively. Communicate with your face and body even more than with words.

Listen to the podcast. Check out the resources below. We too often go to correction, with other adults and definitely with children, when they need connection first…and maybe only.

Connect With Your Kids Using the CALM Technique

YouTube Video – Jennifer Kolari – The CALM Technique and Child Brain Development – really fascinating and informative

YouTube Video – The CALM Technique for Babies and Toddlers

4) COVID Close to Home – I’m not saying much here, but COVID has hit very close to home this week. I have friends and family with COVID. Check your thoughts if you’re going straight to “oh…not vaccinated”. Not so in every situation. People who did everything “right” – vaccination, mitigation, all the preventions – can still get COVID. The graphic below is updated often and is super helpful.

Photo Credit: Wesleyan College

The most important points in this conversation are these:

  • COVID is real and we will have to deal with it for some time (not at a pandemic level forever but definitely as endemic).
  • Everyone has to make personal decisions on how to prevent and treat it. To not make a decision is to make a dangerous decision. I’m not saying what to do (enough people are telling us what to do), BUT I am saying to think through our risks and that of those around us, and make informed decisions.
  • Be prepared. You don’t want to start searching out what to do to lessen the impact of COVID when you are already sick.
  • Test early. Even if it might be something else. Testing early helps you and all those who may come in contact with you (if it turns out you test positive.

The pieces below are actually not in support of one methodology or another. In fact, they expose the hard decision-making needed in determining how to act with the threat of COVID. We can depend on (or react against) mandates from government, or we can make the best possible decision we can, given the information we receive.

By the way, my friends and family members are all on the mend… except for one. On a ventilator, with family called in. We are praying still. This is why we can’t be cavalier with our decisions.

Let’s Stop Pretending About the COVID-19 Vaccines – Buzz Hollander, MD

Impact of Masking – Twitter thread – Buzz Hollander MD

FDA Vaccine Regulators Argue Against COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters in New International Review – Andrew Joseph

5) 20th Anniversary of 9/11 – Part of why Friday Faves is coming out on Monday is because I’ve spent an enormous amount of time this week watching, reading, and listening to stories about 9/11. It’s the 20th anniversary of the bombings.

In the twenty years that have passed since 2001, our country has changed so much. We are divided in really unhealthy ways. On that day…for awhile, we came together. We may have had very conflicted views on what happened after (Iraqi War, immigration issues, and the long engagement in Afghanistan). Whatever our opinions are on these, the stories of that day are so worthy of our time and attention.

Photo Credit: Beth Wayland

One of the most beautiful pieces I read this past week was by writer Jennifer Senior for the Atlantic. It was really long, but she did justice to the loss and grief of just this one family. 27 y/o Bobby McIlvaine died that day at the bottom of the World Trade Center. Son, brother, friend, fiancé. His was just one of thousands of stories that day…it matters and it also reflects the many other stories that we don’t know.

The two videos below speak to the day after September 11, 2001 and to the day 20 years later. Take the time…

“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.” – Naomi Shihab Nye

___________________________________________________________________________

Bonuses:

Community – “Every arrow needs a bow: William Wilberforce” — the power of community. If Wilberforce was the arrow that pierced the heart of the slave trade, the Clapham Fellowship was the bow that propelled him. As Pollock writes, “Wilberforce proves that one man can change his times, but he cannot do it alone.” The Clapham fellowship lived by Wesley’s maxim: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” And this was no mere slogan: tensions developed in their relationship that would have splintered most associations, even Christian associations, had they not been so radically centered on Christ.” — “Every Arrow Needs a Bow,” by John Hart, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, July 1998 [This was a quote in my folder of quotes; I can’t find the source online today, but it rings even more true now.]

Photo Credit: Vala Afshar, Twitter

This Is What Happens to Your Brain When You Declutter Your Home – Kelsey Clark

“If we major in criticism, we become polemicists, rather than agents of redemption. Often polemicists excuse their loveless rough edges by the demands of truth. But they lose more than they realize. In fact, when love and the growth of positive truth are lost, truth is also lost. Biblical truth loses its scope, balance, depth, applicability, savor, and growing edge [in this disordered priority]. … Words that are not constructive, timely, and grace-giving are rotten and non-nutritive, whatever their formal likeness to Christian content (Eph 4:29). To lose charity, tenderheartedness, sympathy, and generosity is always to simultaneously pervert the redemptive nature of biblical revelation. Narrowed “truth” may bristle enough to defend one city wall, but it is not good enough to conquer the world.” – David Powlison’s “Cure of Souls” (2007)
Recipe for a Quick and Easy Cherry Cobbler – my husband’s favorite
Photo Credit: Lena Vo, Facebook

 

8 Ways to Build a Strong Foundation for Your Kids – Frank Sonnenberg

Monday Morning Moment – Isolation and Community

Photo Credit: Jackie Hill Perry, Art of It

After one-and-a-half years in COVID, we all have grappled with a need for social distancing and isolation. What happens then when the diligent pursuit of physical safety causes a loss of community?

None of us want to get COVID or its latest variant. However, we also desperately need community. It is on each of us to make creative and persistent decisions toward going after community. Especially the most vulnerable of us, or we will suffer more than the health impact of COVID [see links below].

The dilemma with isolation is somehow it has brought a social lethargy with it. We are becoming more solitary and our community has shrunk to the lowest and tightest we can manage.

Not necessarily out of fear of COVID, but out of a growing incapacity for community. Real community. “Iron sharpening iron” relationships.

I know I am not alone in the need for such community. We have probably all thought of how altered our relationships have become over the last several months. Not the closest maybe, but especially those that spurred us toward a higher accountability, responsibility or integrity. Those relationships where we are helped to make better decisions or extend kindnesses (especially toward those outside our inner circles).

[Whether introvert or extrovert, we can easily sink down into a solitary life of less. And less is not always more. This less can breed a sort of self-serving life where we gauge our relationships by our own gains and extend ourselves by our own comfort levels. Been there, done that. Ugh! ]

COVID or not, we still need other people, and they need us. Whether on a work project better served with team problem-solving or a family crisis that could use “all hands on deck”. Death and divorce are still happening, but life celebrations are also still with us – all calling for the touch of our community.

In the Wiki fandom Mary Shelley article, we read a fascinating take on the impact or lack of community on the characters of Shelley‘s novel Frankenstein.

In the novel, Victor Frankenstein is a brilliant scientist. He is overwhelmed by a series of losses and the grief, as well as his increasingly unhinged genius, drive him into isolation. He decides to make a human-like creature who would be like a son to him.

It did not turn out well. The creature, because of the rejection and isolation he himself felt, was determined to be a monster.

Both Victor and the creature Frankenstein, throughout the story, are plagued with isolation and a terrible lack of caring community.Photo Credit: Pixabay

The theme of isolation in Frankenstein raises many questions about the role of community and its importance. Many characters in the novel find themselves in isolated positions, and a few suffer grave consequences because of it. Characters suffer from both physical and emotional isolation, although, as in the case of the monster, the isolation is not always self-inflicted. Victor Frankenstein, on the other hand, chooses to isolate himself from his family, his peers, and even the monster he created.

In Frankenstein, horrible things happen when a character is isolated from the others. When Victor’s knowledge and ambition are unchecked by his peers, a monster is created…the destructive power lies not in the monster or his creator, but in solitude. Shelley uses this theme and its manifestation in her characters to pose questions about community, knowledge, and its role in society. Is unbridled knowledge always dangerous, or is there a middle ground? Should one abandon his or her pursuits if they are driving him or her away from a community? 

Shelley makes it clear that there are two different types of isolation: self-inflicted and societal. We see self-inflicted isolation manifested in Victor; he detaches from his world and the people he loves and as a result, everyone suffers tremendously. Rejection from society is demonstrated in the monster’s life. Again and again, he is turned away from love and companionship, which what he has longed for since he was first brought to life.” – Wiki-Fandom Analysis of Frankenstein – Mary Shelley, an Academic Wiki

Of course, this is a novel, but incredibly insightful as a tale of human nature. We need community…we are made for community.

Somehow we must rally during this protracted social experience of COVID. What is your mindset on this and what are your intentional actions toward community and away from isolation? The kind of isolation that eventually diminishes us and our relationships. Please comment below.

In closing, I do want to affirm an Isolation in Community. We may have to deal with social distancing for sometime still. Especially those most vulnerable to severe illness from COVID. For some isolation can’t be avoided, but there is an isolation in community. Where we take steps toward and lean in to deeper community. Even if it isn’t always in person. This takes a different sort of effort, but we know it is possible. Fortunately. For me, it’s actually using the phone for conversations (including Facetime). It’s not stepping out of responsibilities (work or community service) because of a need for social distancing, but figuring out alternate ways to serve, or get a job done. I have also experienced the fruit of it, thanks to your efforts. Our mail is less junk mail and more actual real connections through cards/letters. Thanks for that. Again, please comment below what your experience has been here.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Isolation – Good Therapy

Isolation and Community – Helen Thorne – Biblical Counseling UK

Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions – CDC

Creative Communities Are Addressing Social Isolation – Maryjoan Ladden

Worship Wednesday – Until Unity & Beautiful Insanity – Mercy Gordon

Photo Credit: Heartlight

“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” – Jesus – John 13:34-35

Just recently, I have been immersed in two Bible studies – one on forgiveness and the other on unity. You can read what I’ve already written on these here and here.

Studying both of these Biblical concepts together has been a gut-punch and a wake-up call. We can NOT think we are walking with God if we hold onto offense and unforgiveness, nor if we allow our own personal preferences divide us from other believers.

Writer, Bible teacher Francis Chan hammers on the deep importance of living our lives with truth, holiness, and unity all in focus. That is only possible by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.  Forgiveness and unity are also only possible with proximity.

We can’t say, “I will forgive but that doesn’t mean I have to have that person in my life”. Now, there may be times when our own physical safety or that of another is in jeopardy, so proximity is difficult, even dangerous. Also emotional trauma may require the coming alongside of family and friends. Most of the time, however, we just don’t want to have to deal with the other person in our lives…our forgiveness extends just to the limits of our own comfort.

Praise God He does not keep us at arm’s length from Him because of all our offenses. He forgives…and He chooses not to remember. He is God, and we are not. I get that…but. Our unity with one another says that we may not prefer each other, or we may not trust each other, or we may think the other is downright wrong. Still, in His strength and by His grace, we can be one as He prayed for us to be…one as Jesus and the Father are one. Wow!

God calls us to prayer…to come boldly to Him with whatever is on our hearts. Chan talks (in the video below) about us coming to God, not with our own mess all the time, but actually in “silent, reverent awe”. Instead of just bringing our list to Him, but also asking Him, “What do You want, God?” Oh, Father help us.

As we humble ourselves before the most magnificent, perfectly loving, all-sufficient heavenly Father, our hearts are changed. That proximity…that coming into His presence…just to be with Him…can change our hearts, our preferences, our willingness. To forgive. To seek forgiveness of another. To live in unity with all the rest of the Family of God.

Proximity to Him…and to each other. Hallelujah! The world needs to see this unity in us. We need to be this unity. His will be done…on earth! As it is in Heaven.

Worship with me to this beautiful song written and performed by Mercy Gordon, Chan’s daughter. [Song also starts at 8:52 of Impossible Unity video; with lyrics]

Oh Lord, reigning on high Dwelling in unapproachable light Who can stand before Your glory and Your might Oh Lord, You reign on high

Chorus: And every time I think of who You are and all You’ve done I’m captivated by the thought that You desire us. How can my heart keep from bursting at the truth of this:

Emmanuel, our God wants to be with us

Jesus, incarnate deity – The spotless lamb robed in humility. He chose to die and with His blood to buy us peace. Jesus, it’s my joy to call You King.

(Repeat Chorus)

This mystery never stops confounding me. My God wants perfect unity. I’m undone – what beautiful insanity That my God is so in love with me.

My God abounds in love for me – What beautiful insanity!

And every time I think of who You are and all You’ve done I’m captivated by the thought that You desire us How can my heart keep from bursting at the truth of this

Emmanuel, our God wants to be with us. I stand in awe, that God you want to be with us*

Photo Credit: Heartlight

*Lyrics to Our God – YouTube – Mercy Gordon

Worship Wednesday – Forgiveness and Unity – Refusing to Offend or Be Offended

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” – Jesus – Matthew 6:12

“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” – Jesus – Matthew 24:10-13

Throughout Scripture, we are taught to forgive. How can we withhold forgiveness when Christ forgives us? How can we justify our own sin because we are offended by the sin of another? In Matthew 24 above, Jesus is teaching about the end times. We must be vigilant in how we live our lives because of 1) the temptation to pull away from the teachings of Christ and 2) the hold of entitlement and the sin of offense.

The three books above all speak to these matters. With a common theme.

The Bait of Satan: Living Free From the Deadly Trap of OffenseJohn Bevere

Until UnityFrancis Chan

Forgiving What You Can’t ForgetLysa Terkeurst

All speak of the deadening outcome of unforgiveness and its eroding impact on our hearts and relationships…with God and each other.

I wrote about offense another time. Please revisit it here. You may be surprised at the destructive nature of offense – offending and allowing ourselves to be offended.

Monday Morning Moment – Offense, Being Offended, and taking Up Offense – Deb Mills

Worship with me to Matthew West’s Forgiveness [Lyrics in the link].

Heavenly Father, thank You for this pattern of prayer that Jesus taught. Give me a gentle spirit and help me to be quick to forgive all those who have hurt or abused me… knowing that for Christ’s sake I have been forgiven of so much. I pray that I may maintain close fellowship with You, and be swift to forgive those who sin against me – in Jesus name, AMEN.” – Daily Verse

I’m going to close here. This topic on a Worship Wednesday is one that should draw us to prayer…and maybe repentance. We can’t always find ourselves in “righteous” indignation…when we look to the Cross. Are forgiveness and refusing to be offended hard? Yes, but we have the power of the Spirit of God indwelling us and making it possible, with willing hearts. Our families, churches, and communities have been too long divided. Jesus deserves better.

Photo Credit: Scott Sauls, Twitter

Scott Sauls’ Quotes and Sayings

Worship Wednesday – The Forgiven Forgive – David Crowder & Matthew West – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Until Unity – with Francis Chan – Deb Mills