Category Archives: Holidays

5 Friday Faves – Catwoman on Classical Guitar, The Ethical Skeptic & Lying, Notes to Self, Celebrating, and American Idol Highlights

Here we go! My faves of the week that flew by! What were some of yours? Post them in Comments so we can learn from you.

1) Catwoman on Classical GuitarThe Batman is the latest film in the franchise. Catwoman is one of Batman’s crime-fighting partners. I didn’t see the film and probably won’t. Too dark for me, but the music…wow! Composer Michael Giacchino worked his magic again in laying down the emotional themes for this movie. Beyond the Guitar‘s Nathan Mills does his own magic covering the Catwoman theme. Enjoy!

2) The Ethical Skeptic & Lying – I like Twitter. It has an underbelly for sure but I have found all sorts of knowledgeable influencers there that news/social media would never highlight. One such person is @EthicalSkeptic. He doesn’t name himself for professional reasons, but he helped me with some of my own misgivings about our mitigation of COVID.  Just looking at the problem globally, we seemed not to have done as well as we should given our technology and wealth.

The Ethical Skeptic is, by his Twitter bio and his writing, as he calls himself, skeptical. His focus on ethics is compelling. I actually never read his blog until just now. His latest piece, The Antiwisdom of Crowds, was fascinating. He draws on the research on lying done by the Paul Ekman Group (link below) and takes it farther in regards to crowd thinking and behavior.

Why Do People Lie? – 9 Motives for Telling Lies – Paul Ekman

Lie to Me – award-winning TV series inspired by Dr. Ekman

Photo Credit: Paul Ekman Group

The Ethical Skeptic writes:

Specifically, people lie in order to

  • attain or preserve something precious,
  • win or preserve the admiration of others, or
  • exercise power over others by controlling the information their target can access.

When a group in authority, seeks to exercise or preserve that authority, all these ubiquitous human factors not only come into play, but moreover become part of the re-enforced culture of the club itself. It’s alright to lie a little. After all, it’s for the club, it’s for science, it’s for virtue, and besides everyone in the club is also doing it.

…over time a syndicate or collective party will therefore be more likely to also be inhabited by a number of accrued false paradigms. Tangled webs which themselves must also be protected by means of more lies. This is what makes the silence of embargo a much more sustainable tactic than mere lying. Individuals then are innoculated by this collective antiwisdom…

This is just a taste of The Ethical Skeptic’s thinking. I don’t agree nor understand all of what he is saying in his substantive body of work BUT I resonate with much of it. If you want a good sense of how deep your vocabulary is, read his blog (rather, essays). He actually often gives definitions because honestly, it is stretching (or at least for me) to grasp all of what he is saying.

Lying has become a common and horrifying problem in our culture. Is it possible people don’t believe each other anymore? Or don’t trust what we’re saying when all we want is to be faithful to what is true? Or is it possible that people {the “crowd”] believe too easily what someone is saying? I would love to hear your take on this.

[Sidebar: the link below, including the comments that followed, shows something of an ethical experience he had involving the church, as well as some of his thinking about God and the Scriptures. It is hard to say how I feel about the whole of it…but his thinking is intriguing…so as not to confuse my readers, the God of the Scriptures and the Book itself have never led me down a bad path. Ever.]

The Riddle of Sin – The Ethical Skeptic

3) Notes to Self – So there’s this sock company called Notes to Self. Laura Schmidt is the owner/creator of this brilliant venture – “What you say to yourself matters!” I LOVE the idea of notes to self because it’s actually a daily habit of my own. Wearing socks that give affirmation for the day is a very sweet idea. Now they aren’t cheap ($15/pair, but like many companies, the price you pay helps others who can’t). Full disclosure: I got my socks by way of a charity thrift situation. They are wonderful socks! High quality! Comfy and encouraging! May reconsider the price tag as Christmas comes closer. Great socks and, again, a super sweet idea.

 

4) Celebrating – This weekend we’ll be celebrating moms (dates vary depending on country, of course). It’s a true phenomenon because 1) we all have a mom, and 2) many of us are moms or act in some mommish role. AND it mostly gets celebrated.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Sarah DeJarnette

Just the commercialism of this day greases the tracks for celebrating. I wish we celebrated more…not just moms, but dads, aunts and uncles (either real or stand-ins), children (born and not yet born), as well as great work teams, volunteers, and neighbors.

Celebrating is tremendously humanizing and the time it takes is so little compared to the outcomes. If the celebration is genuine and much-deserved. It’s one of those efforts that, like the tide, “raises all boats”.

Here’s to the two closest moms in my life – my own and the one I got when I married. So grateful for them.

Here’s to the moms I also get in marriage (my two married kids’ moms-in-law). Again, so grateful for them.

Finally here’s to the kids who made me a mom. So grateful for them!

5) American Idol Highlights –This is the 20th season of reality TV show American Idol. The young contestants are vying for a record contract and, even for those who don’t win, national exposure of their amazing musicianship. The music is really good, and we learn about genres we wouldn’t normally listen to. Below find a couple of highlights from a recent show, as well as one of the videos from a previous American Idol winner Scotty McCreery. I need to listen to more country music.

That’s it for this week. Thanks so much for stopping by. Much love!

Bonuses:Photo Credit: Picture Quotes

For the Joy!! – Kattie Normand, Facebook

8 of the Best Cognitive Therapy Exercises to Sharpen Your Mind – Eva Lewis

Being Known Podcast – Season 4, Episode 10: Healing Trauma: the Power of Presence – Dr. Curt Thompson & Pepper Sweeney

YouTube Video – Introduction to 8 Keys to Safe Trauma RecoveryBabette Rothschild

8 Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery – Babette Rothschild – Review by Ruby Usman

Why Make Your Life So Complicated? [25 Ways to Simplify Your Life] – Frank Sonnenberg

40 Random Pieces of Advice for the Christian Life

Palm Sunday – Day 1 of Holy Week – Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on the Way to the Cross

Photo Credit: Knox United Vancouver

[Adapted from the Archives]

For you critical thinkers, this week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one worthy of analysis. No matter your religion or non-religion, this Jesus, in these days, warrants examination, related to anything you may think of God. You will better understand the core beliefs of a Christ-follower, not just a person known to you as Christian. For in the study of Jesus’ life and his followers, in just this one week, you will see a deep distinction between “the religious” and “the redeemed”.

{Sidebar: I taught a World Religions course some time ago in a Moroccan high school. In that course, we studied all the major religions. The students were challenged to think critically of each religion. They were to study each religion in this way:

  • trying to put themselves in the perspective of one who believes (i.e., a true follower, using eye witness/historical accounts and Scriptures when available), and then
  • analyzing each belief/tenet of faith critically.

Any of us can benefit thinking through Holy Week this way; none will not come away the same by examining the life of Jesus.]

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Palm Sunday is celebrated as the “triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem, just days before he would endure a mock trial and then be crucified. He and his closest followers (disciples) came to Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover. Passover was an annual remembrance of God’s protection and deliverance of Israel during a time of slavery (Exodus 12:26-28). Jesus would celebrate Passover on Thursday of that coming week, but he did not come to Jerusalem for that reason alone.

He knew from his Father God why he came to Jerusalem, and he tried to prepare his disciples for what was coming.

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.Matthew 16:21

And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved. – Matthew 17:22-23

As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death,  and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”Matthew 20:17-19

I can’t even imagine what those disciples must have felt as Jesus predicted his own death. They loved him and all pledged their lives to him, even to death. They believed him to be the conquering king, sent by God, to deliver the Jews from Roman rule and to restore the nation of Israel. Although they had soaked up three years of his teaching, this “end of the story” was more than they could bear. Just a week later, they would gloriously understand that it would not be the end of the story of Jesus’ life.

On this Sunday, before the Passover, Jesus would enter the great city of Jerusalem, teeming with crowds there to celebrate. He entered, riding a donkey*, as was foretold by the Jewish prophet Zechariah:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

Imagine the scene as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Some in the crowd did recognize him, and then the word spread of the arrival of this great teacher, this healer, this man whose teaching was like none before him. Palm branches were pulled to wave in tribute to him, as others flung their cloaks on the dust before him welcoming him:

Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna** to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?”Matthew 21:8-10

“Who is this?” For those who did not know him, the wild welcome for him must have been confusing and captivating. For the religious authorities in Jerusalem, who knew him and were unwilling to welcome this “king of the Jews”, his popularity was infuriating.

The clock began ticking as they plotted against this man Jesus.

Over that bright hopeful day of palms hung the shadow of the Cross – the Cross that would bring even greater hope to all people. The “Hosanna” of Palm Sunday would change to cries to “Crucify!” just five days later. Jesus had no ambition to please the crowds; he was resolutely on task to redeem those who could not redeem themselves – the whole world.

[Each day in this week, the posts will mark the journey of Jesus of Nazareth through the last week of his earthly life. Join me please.]

*Matthew 21:1-11 & Commentary

**”Hosanna” means “God saves”.  YouTube lyric video of Hosanna – Hillsong

Spotify Playlist – From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Beth Wayland

Holy Week Timeline

Look, the World Has Gone After Him: Prelude to Palm Sunday – Jon Bloom

The Significance of Palm Sunday in Relation to Passover

Kings Riding on Donkeys? What? – Christopher Mark Van Allsburg

Photo Gallery: Egypt’s Coptic Christians Celebrate Palm Sunday – When our children were young, we lived in Cairo, and bought palm fronds to make some of these crafts, as well as buying them ready-made.

Monday Morning Moment – Reflecting on the Story of a Girl and Friendship

[School Days, Cairo, Egypt – a couple of decades ago]

[From the Archives]

This delightful girl has a birthday tomorrow.

I want to celebrate her here. The girl and the understanding of friendship she has brought to her mom and to those who have known her best.

She was born on a windy March morning. Our first-born. I have brothers, and my Mom had all brothers. Having a daughter as our first was a complete joy and wonder to me, as my Mom tells me I was for her in the midst of all boys.

She would be my sidekick for many of our early adventures together. Welcoming two brothers during her preschool years. Enjoying the friendship of neighbors and church family. Homeschooling in East Tennessee.  

I will never forget the Spring when she came home from Jack and Barbara Lavender’s Sunday School class with two tiny cups of growing seedlings. We planted them in her daddy’s garden and they grew an enormous bed of Cushaw squash. From those two little seeds. Sweet memories of friends who invested in our girl’s life.

Then there was the terrible time when she got desperately ill with what we would, over too many days, finally discover to be a ruptured appendix. This girl has always had a high threshold of pain, and it took four trips to the pediatrician’s office before I was taken seriously. She ended up with big surgery and 10 days on IV nutrition. This image shows her having her first meal over a week after her surgery (pillowcase from our friend, Kay – she still has this pillowcase).

Then our travels outside East Tennessee began.

For this quiet girl, having her life, and childhood friendships, disrupted was hard. Despite the incredible experiences of many moves across four countries, she learned resilience the hard way.

In those days, before smartphones, we carried our memories of people and places in tangible ways. Photo albums. This girl would often go deeper with new people in her life by introducing them to her previous life…through these cherished photo albums.

Everywhere we went, everywhere we lived, we have the photo memories of the sweet parts of those years. They are a treasure.

Friendships were not always easy for this girl…most probably related to adjusting to all the changes imposed on her by her parents’ many work moves. She was not the life-of-the-party, center-of-attention, making things happen, people magnet sort of girl. She loved books and they were often her friend -in the reality of multiple moves and too many goodbyes.

She did have two constant friends who went through all those moves with her. Her two brothers. They are still close. Remembering all the good, all the tears, and all the big sister times with her [calling her “Auntie” when she observed and advised where they preferred to be left to their own devices].

As this girl grew up, she learned how to recognize mean girls and not to take them personally nor to become one…which can easily happen for any of us in strained situations. She learned to embrace the new and sift for where she belonged in the different. And could even make a difference.[Her tiny Senior class, 2005, Casablanca, Morocco]

[Noor, a dear friend from high school, knowing the experience and also understanding what it’s like to move places and countries with your family]

[Maria, a fellow student and enduring friend as they both tackled teaching together. Different schools but similar challenges.]

Besides her brothers, this girl had two men she knew she could count on. Her Dad…and in time, her beloved whom she would marry. I love to catch snippets of conversations she and her Dad have on visits home. For two introverts, their words pour out with each other…safe people, safe places.

[This girl and her boy who would capture her heart and parent two little ones by her side – no pics of the littles – this girl’s preference and I honor it]

In this season of making a home and family, she has grown into this beautiful woman (OK…if you’re still reading, you either love her or the idea of her or you have such a her in your own lives). I am in awe of this girl. Not because she is anything of celebrity but because of how she handles today’s bumps. Also how she has taken both the bad and the beautiful of her growing up years and turned them into her own story.

Two Christmases ago she gave me a book by Sarah, Sally, and Joy Clarkson. Girls’ Club – Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World.

This sweet girl has recommended Sally Clarkson to me often in the last years as a mom and mentor in life. In the book above, Sally’s daughter Sarah writes a chapter entitled Saturday Mornings: The Girls’ Club Prototype. In this chapter, she describes “five progressive actions…central to the powerful cultivation of friendship”. They are:

  • Invite – Reach out and bring in a new someone to an adventure and your life.
  • Plan – Work out the logistics of an event, a meetup, an outing. Make it a welcome ritual or routine.
  • Provide – Show love, Sarah says, by preparing the table, so to speak. Whether it is the physical space itself (your home, for instance) or your own “mind and heart” to wholly receive the new friend.
  • Stay – This is huge! Whether distance or circumstance separate you, be a continual presence in the life of a friend. Be there. Show up. This takes effort and intentionality, and it’s not easy. It requires both forgiveness and faithfulness…no matter what.
  • Pray – When we remember that every single person we meet is an image-bearer of God, we are reminded of the value there. Even those “mean girls” in our lives didn’t get mean in a vacuum. “Hurt people hurt people”. They have God’s imprint like every other imperfect person… When we recognize our own frailty and that of others, we are drawn to pray. For our own hearts to love like Jesus. For eyes to see how God sees people…and to reach out in love…as only He has made us to do so.

I’ve watched this girl executing all the above. She has commented that making (and nurturing) friendships as an adult has had its own challenges, maybe because of all the other pieces of life that need our attention. However, I rejoice with her that she has settled into a life fairly full of friends with littles and some without (including me).

I’ll close this “Happy Birthday” piece on this note: our girl has a fierce faith in God that brought her through the hard so far in her life. I’m confident that whatever lies ahead – joys and sorrows – she will lean into God to sustain her. She will be there for those whom God has placed in her life – family, friends, and friends-to-be.

Like her, I will leave you with a few last images of life we’ve enjoyed together. Hope your day is filled with joys familiar and joys anew. Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl.[Learning to make biscuits with Memaw – my Mom, the master cook]

Saturday Short – My Mom – a Lifetime Full of Love Notes – Her Birthday Just Ahead of Valentine’s Day

[Today is Mom’s birthday – 19 of them now in Heaven. This blog adapted from the Archives. ]

Our little family never lived close to the grandparents. This was not easy…for any of us. Before I married, I lived close to home, and Mom was my best friend. She died almost 20 years ago, and I miss her every day still. To people who knew her well, I would often say  “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.

Mom and I shared a weakness for words…they are probably excessively important to us, delivering both positive and (sometimes) negative weight. She was an amazing encourager. She rarely missed an opportunity to lift another’s spirit or to speak loving truth to someone desperate for God’s touch.

Mom pictures for website 012

When I moved away to take a teaching job, she and my dad helped me with the move. New Haven, Connecticut would be a 2-day drive from Georgia. At that time, it was the farthest I had ever wandered from home. She stayed a week to help me settle in.  While there, she was such great company. We explored the city together and laughed over a new culture and cried at the missing that was ahead for us.

She filled my freezer with her baking, and, while I was at work, she wrote notes. Then she hid them everywhere. After she flew home, I began finding them. In my coffee mug. Under my pillow. In the pocket of my coat. Among my reference books. Behind my music books on the piano. She was with me in the love notes she left, and it made the distance between us…less.IMAG2720 (2)

My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I have kept every one of her notes. These from that move over 30 years ago are fading…red ink on pink paper. There is a lifetime of notes between Mom and me. The tradition she started on that first move has become a life-long tradition for our family. Our visits back and forth, across the US and then the globe, have been papered by these little notes.

Our children, from the time they could write, entered into this tradition much to the joy of their grandparents. Before we would leave from visits with them, these three young ones would write of their affection for their grandparents and hide them all over their houses. I delighted in their cooperation in this conspiracy of love.

Mom always wrote notes…not just to us but to so many. She and her Sunday School Class ladies would send cards every week to the sick ones or the sad ones. She had a special burden for the elderly, for widows (including functional widows, deserted by husbands) and for fatherless children (again including those “orphaned” by still-living fathers). She inspired me by her humble ambition .

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27

I am so thankful for my mom’s bits of paper…for her love…and for her perseverance in encouraging and serving others. Her generation is sadly almost gone, and it is for us to pick up these traditions, or traditions like them. Passing them on somehow to the next generations…Maybe there won’t be bits of paper or love notes like in the past. I do hope we still take the time to write. Definitely, the call to serve and to encourage is as current as ever. My life continues to be rich with those, young and old, who reach out with words of kindness and encouragement. Written or spoken, they are love notes to the heart.

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

Memory-of-Mildred Byrd McAdams

Monday Morning Moment – Moral Suasion – the Pathway of Truly Changing Minds – in Remembrance of MLK Day

Photo Credit: Alpha Coders

Don’t be put off by an unusual phrase. Moral suasion.

Photo Credit: YouTube, What Does That Mean?

We find ourselves in a cultural climate of power dictating more than it should. “Should”…well…who am I to judge, but I’m still saying it. For sustained change to happen, we are meant to wrestle together in the arena of conversations within community. This is where real and lasting influence lies.

We can take hope in that.

The phrase “moral suasion” is new to me. I discovered it in a piece by George Yancey entitled Breaking Up Fights and Race Relations. He defines it as:

“Moral suasion is when we convince people to do what we see as a moral good because they see that moral good as good…Moral suasion is best done working with someone to do the right thing instead of forcing that person to do what we want because of our power. Research has shown that the best way to engage in moral suasion is through relationships. In those relationships, we can build rapport, find areas of agreement, and clearly understand the other person’s perspectives. If we want people to change at the intrinsic level and not simply conform to pressure, then we should use the techniques of moral suasion instead of just overpowering that person.” – George Yancey

Breaking up Fights and Race Relations

[Is there a difference between persuasion and suasion? In the simplest terms, they are considered the same, but I do sense a difference. Persuasion is more an action of influencing another party to come to your reasoning or way of thinking. Suasion, especially moral suasion, is more a consideration that two or more parties have a sense of rightness about an issue/subject but differ in their opinion. Moral suasion works through dialog to seek and hopefully find common ground – a way forward together to do a right thing.]

Yancey’s article appears just ahead of his latest book (March 2022) –  Beyond Racial Division: A Unifying Alternative to Colorblindness and Antiracism. The publisher offers a brief summary of Dr. Yancey’s book: “an alternative approach to racial relations where all parties contribute and are mutually accountable to one another for societal well-being. He provides empirical rationale for how collaborative conversations in a mutual accountability model can reduce racial division. History and societal complexity mean that different participants may have different kinds of responsibility, but all are involved in seeking the common good for all to thrive.”

“There are times when power is necessary. But the temptation to use power to consistently solve our racial problems brings with it power struggles and the need to build up our own ability to force conformity. Different groups have contrasting ideas about what we should do. The temptation is to try to force others to accept the solutions we want to promote. But this power-driven approach is short-sighted and will not produce intrinsic changes. Those changes will not happen until we engage in moral suasion consistently rather than seeking power to force compliance.

That effort would be time-consuming. It is easier to just use power. Easier but not lasting…We must sit down with those with whom we disagree and try to understand their perspectives. We must seek out answers that meet their felt needs and show them respect. I find that few in the racial conversation want to do this. Until we are willing to have those conversations, we will continue to foster greater racial polarization in our society.”

It’s easier to just use power…but not so effectual.

Are you as tired as I am of the power plays in motion around us? …Not just regarding race relations, but in so many other areas of human experiences together. Life together.

Laws are laid out. Mandates put forward. Rules and regulations abound.

I miss conversations on the stuff of life. The stuff that matters most. That’s why I’m often one of the ones who raises their hand, offers a space, takes a corner of the table if given opportunity. Not to just say my piece but to hear yours.

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote

Today is the day in 2022 when we commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy. Certainly Dr. King was a man who exercised the great power of influence…not elected to a public office but commanding in his pursuit of a passion he believed possible.

We know him most from his speeches and some from his sermons. I wonder what his conversations were like. My hope is they were of moral suasion. In the last couple of years, we have gone through a huge transformation as a nation…to what end? Some change has come (for better and for worse). More positive, enduring change will come if we choose to reason together…across the lines that seemingly divide us but do not have to forever.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Monday Morning Moment – a New Day – It’s Gonna Be OK – Deb Mills

20 Quotes About Faith From Martin Luther King, Jr. – Jennifer Graham

Worship Wednesday – Epiphany or Three Kings Day – Kings of the Earth From “Saviour”

Photo Credit: Epiphany, Office Holidays

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled… – Matthew 2:1-3a

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”Isaiah 60:1-3

The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together, against the LORD and against His Anointed One…[Then He rebuked them] “I have installed My King on Zion, upon My holy mountain.” I will proclaim the decree spoken to Me by the LORD: “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father.  Ask Me, and I will make the nations Your inheritance, the ends of the earth Your possession.” – Psalm 2:2, 6-8

The celebration of Christmas 2021 actually draws out to January 6, 2022. 12 days of Christmas climaxing on Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. We are reminded of the kings (wise men) who searched out the young child Jesus.

In Matthew’s Gospel, we read of three different types of kings:

  • Jesus, only begotten Son of God, born King of the Jews…and King of Kings.
  • King Herod – one of the “kings of the earth” – serving his own ego, threatened by the news of King Jesus, responsible for the deaths of all those boys under the age of two, in his attempt to kill Jesus.
  • the Magi (Wise Men) who sought the prophesied birth of a king, following a star, until they found Jesus and worshiped him.

I personally love the 12 Days of Christmas because the parties and gifts are finished, and in the quieter days afterward, reflection is easier to come by.

The kings who did the work of study and watching for signs were rewarded by an actual visit with the Savior. They traveled a long way to see him, even altering their return visit to avoid betraying him to another king…Herod. We don’t know when, for sure, that they visited the Christ child. Their bringing gifts came just at the time needed for the flight to Egypt to avoid evil King Herod’s wrath.

How thankful we are to God for these persevering, worshipful Eastern kings!

What Does the Bible Say About the Three Wise Men (Magi)?

Did the Wise men (Magi) Arrive 12 Days After Jesus’ Birth? Or Was It Much Later? – Shari Abbott

How thankful we are also when we see the hardships caused by modern-day King Herods. We know from Scripture that the reigns of these kings of the earth will come to an end.

The Kings of the Earth – a brief and excellent study

In Revelation, the Apostle John wrote about the New Jerusalem where we hear one final time about “the kings of the earth”.

“I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its lamp. By its light the nations will walk, and into it the kings of the earth will bring their glory…And into the city will be brought the glory and honor of the nations. “Revelation 21:22-24, 26

As we celebrate the last day of Christmas 2021, a beautiful concert came to mind. In the performance of Saviour, we are reminded of (ok…not of the kings who visited the Christ child…but) the kings of the earth. Those rulers and authorities who wage war against the Kingdom of God. We are reminded that their days are numbered. Hallelujah!

May we reflect Epiphany – and those ancient Magi – seeking and receiving the Savior and celebrating the forever rule of the King of all Kings.

Worship with me.

[Saviour – written/created by Bob Farrell & Greg Nelson]

The kings of the earth and the kingdoms built by man
Rise up in their glory then go back to dust again
The kings of the earth who rule with might and power
Will bend their knee to God when time concludes its final hour
That day will come

The kings of the earth and their power to rule the land
Was founded by the Lord in His covenant with man
But the kings of the earth would make their own decree
They set themselves above their God and His authority
They mocked their God

Their empires feed upon the souls of men
And their lust for power becomes their sacrament
They rail the people with their cries of peace
But there is no peace

The kings of the earth and the kingdoms built by man
Rise up in their glory then go back to dust again
But The kings of the earth who rule with might and power
Will bend their knee to God when time concludes its final hour
That day will come

Take heart, ye children of the Promise
For God will not be mocked
For the Lord will repay,
and His Kingdom remains

Blessed are His children.
Blessed are His covenants
Blessed is His mighty Kingdom
And blessed is the Name of the Lord

Blessed the name of Lord
Blessed the name of Lord
In power, in glory His Kingdom, His Kingdom will come!
His Promise is now and forever and ever Amen!

Blessed is the name of the Lord!
O, blessed is the name of the Lord!*

*Lyrics to The Kings of the Earth

Below is a performance of Saviour with Wintley Phipps as special guest – it starts at 9:45 minutes in. So powerful!!

5 Friday Faves – New Year’s Resolutions, Habit Planner, Year-End Review, Word for the Year, and the Last Days of 2021

2021 is rapidly winding down. Whew! Here are my Friday Faves to get us ready for the new year…hopefully a joyful one!

1) New Year’s Resolutions – 2021…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…

Photo Credit: David Lose

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

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.

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.

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

His article on Seven Principles of Habit Change came at a great time. Sande talks quite kindly about how we develop habits and what it takes to change them. His first principle of habit change gives us a look at the cycle of habits – the cue, the routine (or response), and the reward. I 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.

New Year’s Resolutions and Reality Checks – Wally Bock

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

Consider these questions as you think on resolutions for 2022:

  1. What do I want to keep from the 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

Four 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…four years out. Still relevant to now. For 2022, on it again…plus prayer for wisdom how to be creative and intentional, given COVID’s continued intrusion. And also added this year: writing my life’s story (capturing the memories and maybe restoring/refining some as I write).

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 continuing pandemic...if we are ruthless and wise, and don’t give in to another year of listlessness and waiting.

We’ve already enough of that…coming up on two years.

I am resolved…

Photo Credit: Reformed Outfitters

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Justin Whitmel Earley, Screenshots

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

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

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

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

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

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

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

A creative friend of ours put his “year-end review” into a cool video:

Photo (Video) Credit: Todd AO, Facebook

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

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

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

Lord, help us to be people of joy,

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

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

to see beauty in creation and the people we encounter,

to laugh heartily with childlike glee,

to feel true joy in your presence.     Amen.

Photo Credit: Prayer @inthecoracle, Instagram

5) The Last Days of 2021 – As may have been many of your experiences, we had people we know and love dealing with COVID in this last week of 2021. Still managed a sweet end-of-year. Hope yours was as well.

 

Now on to 2022!! Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot to me.

Bonuses:

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

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

Photo Credit: Samantha Reynolds, @Bentlily, Instagram (w/ permission)

52 Week Bible Reading Plan – Michael Coley

What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) and Tips for Building One

Photo Credit: Facebook

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar on a Lava Me 3, Christmas Poems, Overcoming Anxiety, and Which Is It? Christmas or XMas?

The countdown is done. Christmas Day looms. For those with an Eastern Christmas, there is still a week to go. We loved celebrating two Christmases when we lived in Egypt. Then there are the 12 days of Christmas still ahead until Epiphany (or Three Kings Day). So we continue to celebrate. Sweet especially for those of us dealing with COVID interruptions or other struggles (loss, holiday work,etc.). Here are my faves this week. Please share some of yours as well …and Happy Christmas!

1) Beyond the Guitar on a Lava Me 3Nathan Mills‘ most recent piece is an original composition entitled “Dreams”. He plays it on this amazing smart guitar – the Lava Me 3 guitar. Check it out below:

2) Christmas Poems – Christmas is the kind of holy day that inspires poetry. This week, I had the opportunity of catching the online program A Christmas Celebration: Theater, Song, & Scripture. Created and produced by the Fellowship of Performing Arts, it was a lovely mix of classic Christmas songs, poems, and monologues. Some surprisingly humorous and some deeply spiritual. Two poems, both by Scottish poet George MacDonald, were powerfully performed.

Photo Credit: Poem Hunter

Photo Credit: Poem Hunter

My absolute favorite Christmas poem is “Little Jesus” written by English poet Francis Thompson. It’s a bit long but such a treasure.

LITTLE JESUS

by Francis Thompson (1859 – 1907)

Little Jesus, wast Thou shy

Once, and just so small as I?

And what did it feel like to be

Out of Heaven, and just like me?

Didst Thou sometimes think of there,

And ask where all the angels were?

I should think that I would cry

For my house all made of sky;

I would look about the air,

And wonder where my angels were;

And at waking ’twould distress me–

Not an angel there to dress me!

Hadst thou ever any toys,

Like us little girls and boys?

And dist Thou play in Heaven with all

The angels that were not too tall,

With stars for marbles? Did the things

Play Can you see me? through their wings?

And did Thy Mother let Thee spoil

Thy robes, with playing on our soil?

How nice to have them always new

In Heaven, because ‘twas quite clean blue!

Thou canst not have forgotten all

That it feels like to be small:

And Thou know’st I cannot pray

To Thee in my father’s way–

When Thou was so little, say,

Couldst Thou talk Thy Father’s way?–

So, as a little child, come down

And hear a child’s tongue like Thy own;

Take me by the hand and walk,

And listen to my baby-talk.

To Thy Father show my prayer

(He will look, Thou art so fair),

And say: “O Father, I Thy Son,

Bring the prayer of a little one.”

And He will smile, that childrens’ tongue

Hast not changed since Thou was young!

3) Overcoming Anxiety – Even as lovely and magical a time as Christmas can be, we can experience anxiety. Over family gatherings, or under-performing on gift buying, or just a creeping loneliness. Whatever our anxiety, the 4-step approach for overcoming anxiety is a healthy practice. Thanks to NICABM.

Infographic: A 4-Step Approach for Overcoming Anxiety – NICABM

4) Healing From Harm – We hope as parents that we do no major harm to our children. Unfortunately, there are relationships between parents and children that can go terribly wrong. Counselor Adam Young tackles this topic (and others) really well in his podcast . I listened to Episode 23 this week where he interviewed a woman named Autumn, on her relationship with an abusive mother. The title of this episode is “How to Engage a Parent Who Has Harmed You”. Her story gives hope. The dialog between her and Young is both instructive and prescriptive. To be able to get actual help from a podcast is a blessing. Especially in a time when counselors are hard to find (not enough of them or over-scheduled in these days of heightened mental health issues thanks to COVID).

One of Young’s free resources is “How to Write a Story”. I’m excited about this assist, because writing the story of my life since my earliest memories is actually on my list for 2022. Not that my parenting was harmful – I had a wonderful mom and step-dad, but my biological father was neglectful and then eventually just disappeared from our lives. I know the wounds of that have had impact, and actively recalling my growing-up years seems a way to take hold of anything that has harmed and can still be having impact on my family. By the way, this is not an exercise in blaming parents. We all have failings in this area. It’s an exercise to reframe memory such that it doesn’t control us.

Words That Harm, Words That Heal: A Short Guide for Parents – Justin Coulson

Any resources you recommend for healing from harm? Please comment below.

5) Which Is It? Christmas or XMas? – The great thinker and writer C. S. Lewis became a Christ-follower at the age of 33 (in 1931). He did not come to this decision lightly having first rejected God altogether, as a public and punishing atheist, and then a theist, and finally a Christian…the most reluctant convert. He never looked back. His writing and teaching since then have greatly influenced generations to follow. Even the most uncertain have been riveted by his works on the beauty and reality of God, and Jesus, the Son and Savior.

Again, in watching A Christmas Celebration: Theater, Song, & Scripture, I heard, for the first time, Lewis’ essay Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter From Herodotus. He writes of the irony of Christmas celebrated in the two ways done in the West – the sacred and secular – and how we as Christians blend the two. It is a rich narrative, short and very much worth the read. He targets the United Kingdom but it could be about the US as well. We rush around buying, buying, buying, and then partying, partying, partying. To the point, we end up in a heap on Christmas Day with the children wondering aloud “Is there anything else?” As they are practically covered over with wrapping paper and presents. Our little grands said themselves, so wise for so small, “It’s Jesus’ birthday, but we get all the presents”.

I don’t mean this as a rant…just wanted to point to the brilliant, short piece by Lewis…and maybe to call for a pause in the rush. I’m almost past caring that I get equally amazing gifts for the grands. It’s ok for the other grandparents to shine. I’m just thankful to have them all in my life.

So…have a happy Christmas, Dear Ones. For those who get caught up in the maddening rush without the transforming experience of Christ in it, watch for the Hound of Heaven …In the flurry of activity to make Xmas happen, you might chance to notice, like C. S. Lewis did finally, that persistent wooing of God to draw us to Himself…out of His deep love for each of His created ones.

‘Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’

Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly,

‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He Whom thou seekest!” – Francis Thompson (1859–1907)

Bonuses:

Labor to Give (Or Take) No Offense – Jon Bloom

5 Keys to a Great Apology (and Why Leaders Need to Apologize First) – Carey Nieuwhof

Photo Credit: Greg Mathias, Twitter

One of my favorite “Christmas songs”:

The most beautiful and powerful Christmas cantata I’ve ever heard: “Saviour – The Story Of God’s Passion For His People” – written by Greg Nelson and Bob Farrell – the cantata itself begins 9:45 minutes into the video. 

[Product description: Saviour is a pop-classical oratorio created by Bob Farrell and Greg Nelson, in performance around the world since 1994. Recorded live at Gateway Church, this spectacular performance features full orchestra and choir with standout solo performances by Steve Green, Twila Paris, Wayne Watson, Larnelle Harris, and Keron Jackson. – Available on DVD.]

Funny pic captured by our daughter – vultures at Voter Registration – must have gotten wind of the rumored registering dead voters:

Pic below from my dear friend Marc Merlin who captures the most fascinating images at a favorite cemetery – Oakland in Atlanta:Photo Credit: Marc Merlin, Instagram

A favorite Christmas tradition – canstruction for the food bank:

All the candles lit – focused on the coming Christ:

The Christmas cactus – somehow it knows – just days ago, nothing, no buds, nothing – and then…it blooms.

Worship Wednesday – We Need Christmas – Matthew West

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. – 2 Corinthians 13:11

And once more, Isaiah says: “The Root of Jesse will appear, One who will arise to rule over the Gentiles; in Him the Gentiles will put their hope.” Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:12-13

As we move to the close of Advent, and all the candles are lit, we are struck by what we have been given in the coming of Christ. The four candles symbolizing hope, peace, love, joy. Salvation and eternal life. All we need for life and Godliness. A forever relationship with the God of the universe…the God of perfect love.

It gives pause.

This beautiful God. This Jesus who came so near to us, as low as we are. He condescended Himself for us to know Him…and to know His unmerited forgiveness…to learn how to walk with Him and with each other.

In this Christmas of 2021, we pull these truths close around us. The world has become so divided and full of hate. Yet, not so full of hate that God cannot draw us together and to Himself. I’m reminded of an old carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”.

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

We take hope in the person of Christ, the promises and purposes of God untouched by whatever darkness surrounds us.

The candles have been lit and we are days away from Christmas. We lean into the hope, peace, love, and joy that God has already given us in Christ. As we lean in to Him, we draw those around us closer.

With the Christ of Christmas in mind, we can choose to put away hatred, unforgiveness, and those personal preferences that divide us. We can love like Jesus loves (John 13:34-35). Be at peace with those around us (Romans 12:18). Take joy in His provision for good (2 Corinthians 9:8). Hope in what is possible in Him, even when it feels impossible to us (Matthew 19:26).

We are not alone in this. “Emmanuel” – God is with us!

This Fall, singer/songwriter Matthew West released the We Need Christmas album. It is a mix of new music and great old standards done as only he can do them. He describes his inspiration below:

“These past couple of years have felt like peace is in short supply, hope has been hard to find, and love and joy have been lost for so many,” shares Matthew West about the inspiration for his new project. “Christmas is a time when our hearts can be powerfully reminded that the peace, hope, love, and joy we all need can still be found in a saviour.”Matthew West

Worship with me to this sweet song. “We need Christmas..now more than ever to bring us together.”

Lights that twinkle red and green
Charlie Brown on the TV screen
Hugs from friends and family
That’s what we need right now
Zipping up on a winter coat
Truck tires down a snowy road
That’s the sound of coming home
That’s what we need to right now
This world could use a little healing
And our hearts could surely use something to believe in

We need Christmas
Now more than ever to bring us together
We need Christmas
Come on, December, help us remember
The joy, the peace and the hope that love can bring
Cause we need Christmas

Singing carols in the living room
That’s Grandma’s favorite thing to do
And Grandpa reads Luke, chapter 2
That’s what it all about
It’s Red Salvation Army can
Reaching out a helping hand
Looking after your fellow man
That’s what we need right now

We need Christmas
Now more than ever to bring us together
We need Christmas
Come on, December, help us remember
The joy, the peace and the hope that love can bring
Cause we need Christmas
Oh, we need Christmas

This world could use a little healing
And our hearts could surely use something to believe in

We need Christmas
Now more than ever to bring us together
We need Christmas
Come on, December, help us remember
We need Christmas
Now more than ever to bring us together
We need Christmas
Come on, December, help us remember

The joy, the peace and the hope that love can bring
And the bells hear ’em ring
Let every angels sing
Cause we need Christmas*

*Lyrics to We Need Christmas – Songwriter

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

5 Friday Faves – Epic Spanish Romance Guitar Cover, Languishing, From Sad to Mad, Christmas Events, and I.O.U.S Acronym on a Divided Heart

Christmas week is upon us! This past week’s Friday Faves finally:

1) Epic Spanish Romance Cover– Get ready for one of the most beautiful pieces ever written for classical guitar. The composer is unknown. The arranger for this piece is  Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar. Enjoy.

[One of his subscribers on YouTube asked him to do for Niel Gow’s Lament what he did to the Spanish Romance. Here in his college days, Nathan plays that piece. Hope he does put his own touch to it again…all these years later. A funny sidebar to the piece below: Nathan’s sister wanted him to play this for her wedding. He said something to the effect that the whole title of the piece is “Niel Gow’s Lament For the Death of His Second Wife” so Nathan played other pieces instead. Didn’t seem a good fit for a wedding day. ]

2) Languishing– Who even knows what this is?! Well, author and organizational psychologist  Adam Grant does. He defines it as:

“Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it may be the dominant emotion of 2021.

As scientists and physicians work to treat and cure the physical symptoms of long-haul COVID-19, many people are struggling with the emotional long haul of the pandemic. It hit some of us unprepared as the intense fear and grief of last year faded.

In psychology, we think about mental health on a spectrum from depression to flourishing. Flourishing is the peak of well-being: You have a strong sense of meaning, mastery and mattering to others. Depression is the valley of ill-being: You feel despondent, drained and worthless.
Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It appears to be more common than major depression, and in some ways it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness.

So what can we do about it? A concept called flow may be an antidote. Flow is that elusive state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or a momentary bond, where your sense of time, place and self melts away. During the early days of the pandemic, the best predictor of well-being wasn’t optimism or mindfulness. It was flow. People who became more immersed in their projects managed to avoid languishing and maintained their pre-pandemic happiness.” – Adam Grant

There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing – Adam Grant

I’m very thankful to come across this article by Dr. Grant. He has much more to say both in the above piece and in his TED talk below. We can learn how to move from languishing back to flourishing.

The links below point to a varied and fascinating reach into languishing. Worth your time.

The Neglected Child of Mental Health – Bruce Isdale

The Neglected Child of Mental Health – Caron Leid

The High Cost of Calm – Why Relaxing Is So Much Work

I’m a Short Afternoon Walk and you’re putting way to much pressure on me – Emily Delany

How to Describe Our Pandemic State(s) of Mind – WNYC Podcast

Why You Need to Address Languishing to Retain Your Talent

3) From Sad to Mad – In the midst of a sweet time of year for some of us folks, I have found my capacity for sadness stretched super far. With a background in cancer nursing where loss was always part of life, and with all the hello-goodbyes in our overseas season as a family, and finally having lost very significant people in the last few years…sad is stretched. What has surprised me of late is how fast my “sad” goes to “mad”. I get angry at the losses – deaths to COVID, marriages broken, families estranged from each other, moral failures…and more. Mad is not where I want to be. “Righteous indignation” never stays righteous. It gets mean way too quickly.

Photo Credit: Pexels, Serkan Goktay

From Sad to Mad: How Suppressing Your Sadness Invites Anger – Joshua Nash

The piece above helped me immensely. Therapist Joshua Nash offers helpful steps (go there if this has become an issue for you as well). The main take-away for me is that I shift from sadness at a loss to anger at the injustice of it. What is better for my emotions, body, and relationships is to stay in the sadness. Feel it, examine its impact, mourn the cause. Sadness will subside. Moving into anger (as natural as it is in grieving a loss) mucks up the sadness. Anger is punishing (to yourself and others). As hard as staying in the sadness is, we (and our relationships) will be better for it.

Christmas Bitter and Christmas Sweet – Tim Challies

4) Christmas Events – December is practically glutted with events to celebrate Christmas. In a month when meditating on the mystery of a virgin birth and the long-anticipated coming of a Savior King, quiet is hard to come by. We make room for it…alongside all the fun of this month. Below is a photo array of just some of this past week for us.

  • Christmas Cookie & Ornament Exchange (us women):
  • Old-fashioned Carol Sing (mostly in our own basement):
  • VCU Holiday Gala with our favorite alum and his little son: 
  • Tacky Lights RVA:
  • Ethnic lunch out (#Mezeh) with our youngest:
  • Quiet times in front of the fire (quiet on the schedule AND with cookies & coffee):
  • Christmas with The Chosen:

[If the recording of Christmas With the Chosen: The Global Live Event becomes inaccessible, you can find it on The Chosen app.]

5) I.O.U.S Acronym on a Divided Heart – This morning I was struck afresh how little undivided attention is exercised in my day. Even my introverted husband will spill out all sorts of wise and wonderful words – when I am wholly there. Fixed. Not leaving the room mentally. These moments are more rare than I’d like to confess…all because of the struggle to focus.

Author theologian John Piper tackles this issue with our heart toward God. We struggle with all sorts of noise and clatter pulling us in directions that leave off the wonder of deeply knowing Him.

Photo Credit: John Piper, Quote Fancy

Piper uses an acronym that is hugely helpful in this (setting us in a positive direction for the New Year):

I.O.U.S. – [From John Piper’s Divided Heart article linked below]

“The embattled heart is typical of the Christian life. None of us has a consistently united heart in longing for God.”

  • “The letter I stands for incline. “Incline my heart to your testimonies,” we pray with Psalm 119:36. We ask God to take away resistance. We ask God to incline us toward God and his Word instead of away from God. And so we admit all our inclination toward God is a work of God. The psalmist would not be praying like this if the inclination was ultimately within our own power. If it were, he wouldn’t be asking God to incline his heart. We plead with God to take our hearts in his hands and to incline them, bend them, toward his Word.
  • Then the letter O stands for open. Psalm 119:18 says, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” We need God to work a miracle on the eyes of our heart so that we can see the truth, beauty, value of who he is right there in his word. If we are left to ourselves while meditating on God’s word, we will see nothing of his spiritual beauty and worth.
  • Then comes the third letter, U. It stands for unite. Psalm 86:11 says, “Unite my heart to fear Your name.” What an amazing prayer: “Unite my heart.” So what’s the problem that this psalmist is praying to solve? The problem is a divided heart.”

Plead Psalm 86:11 in prayer: ‘O God, unite my heart to fear your name.’Is It Normal to Have a Divided Heart? – John Piper

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Bonuses:

The Last Word – A one-minute video speaks volumes about our country, the media’s impact on us all, and one decision to step away. 62 y/o news commentator Brian Williams stepped away from a 28-year career with NBC/MSNBC. His last show was December 9, and he announced his resignation in this powerful short statement. We can all take something away from this, whatever our politics or nationality. There comes a time…

How to Engage a Parent Who Has Harmed You with Autumn – Podcast 23 – Adam Young Counseling

Photo Credit: Instagram, Adam Young Counseling

Women & Work Book Club – The Common Rule by Justin Whitmel Earley – Check out previous books reviewed and discussed with the authors.

Did Chevrolet Have to Make America Cry With Its New Christmas Ad? – Joe Cunningham

The Great Challenge of Every Marriage

9 Habits that the World’s Healthiest and Longest Lived People Share – Dan Buettner

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Contemplative Monk, Facebook