Category Archives: Children’s Books

Monday Morning Moment – Getting to Know the Person Behind “Beyond the Guitar”

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar Store

We all have our favorite artists, creators, personalities. This guy is at the top of my list. Forget that I’m his mom. If you’re like me, you go after details about a person’s life who you respect or who intrigues you – with his or her talent, worldview, or way of life. We search out and devour details of celebrity lives. I’m not saying that’s a healthy thing, especially if taken too far. It can, however, just be for fun. Like yesterday, I was at a baby girl shower for a friend who’s a great fan of Taylor Swift’s. She received the usual great essentials for the baby coming in a few weeks, and she also received some sweet surprises. Like 3 copies of the Taylor Swift Little Golden Book – one for home, one for the car, and one to keep for when Baby Girl becomes a fan.

Back to my favorite artist: Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar. A guitarist who plays both the classical repertoire as well as themes from TV, film, and video games. The covers he arranges and performs take the listener to a whole other realm of nostalgia. Then there are his original compositions, one of which could be a next Star Wars theme. Who knows?!

I used to feature Nathan’s latest arrangements/originals on my Friday Faves blogs. As much as I loved writing those, these days they are rare, with life pouring into other things. That’s one of the reasons I decided to take this Monday for a reflection on this favorite artist of mine. Not to give you those personal details (deep sigh of relief from Nathan, I’m sure)…but to point to where you can find more of the person behind the guitar.

Just this weekend, a vlog, featuring Beyond the Guitar, was posted by guitarist Josh Garofolo. He is an excellent musician himself, self-taught, and you can give a listen to him on his YouTube channel. What he brings uniquely for folks like us fascinated by favorite artists is a podcast where he does walk-arounds with guitarists, in their towns and studios. He did a couple of those with Nathan, here and here. Josh asks great questions and, given they are both musicians, his own passion for music and life makes an easy stage for Nathan to share deeply about the things that matter to him. Guitar, business, family, teaching, mindset, and way more.

Joshua Garofolo Guitar

Photo Credit: screenshots from GuitarTubers with Josh Garofolo

I watched both conversations with Josh and Nathan…like a total fan. Because I am. Even as close as we are, it’s a pleasure to be “in the room” with an artist talking about how he got where he is, and what he’s learned along the way. Not just about the craft but about life. This artist happens to be one of our kids, but he has his own large life to balance. One sweet gift he gave us recently (especially his dad) was to arrange and perform one of our favorite songs which we knew would be just amazing with him playing. Here it is:

I know you get me on discovering something about the heart of an artist – if you really love Taylor Swift, for instance, you want to know her heart. Or maybe, like sports fans, the numbers are enough. I still don’t understand how my husband, and other guys like him, can pull forward the most obscure (or seemingly obscure) stats on athletes and teams. My friends from the baby shower yesterday can happily talk on and on about Taylor Swift because she is, after all, a rock star. I get it!

For me, it’s Nathan Mills… Now if you want to hear about our other two great kids, I can help you out with that as well. For more on Beyond the Guitar: “subscribe, like, and comment”. Not here but on his channels.

Blessings.

Beyond the Guitar Podcast

Yet Podcast – T. C. Burr – Stop Making Excuses and Do the Work with Nathan Mills

Classical Guitar Corner – An Interview with Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar

P.S. Beyond the Guitar’s latest arrangements below

Monday Morning Moment – You’re Stronger Than You Think – Really? – A Truer Truth

Photo Credit: Quotir, Winnie the Pooh

OK…who hasn’t heard this encouragement? “You’re stronger than you think.” I have never cared for it. Why? Because it pushes the weary soul, doing all we can to stay afloat already, to “just keep swimming”.

Not that any of us wants to quit whatever we’re about…but…is there a truer truth?

The “stronger than you think” quote has been attributed to A. A. Milne, author of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Written by  and published in the 1920s. This was a time post-World War I and prior to The Great Depression and World War II. The expression of “pull yourself up by your boot straps” and the mentality of self-reliance was fueled in those days, in literature and culture. It continues today.

[Now, you should know Milne did NOT write that expression. A writer at Disney must have. It is a quote from the animated film (1997) “Pooh’s Grand Adventure: the Search for Christopher Robin”. Pooh’s dear friend Christopher Robin is going away to boarding school and is trying to give Pooh, and himself, the courage for them to be apart. That message is there but not in so many words as in the Disney film.]

So…after that bubble burst, let’s return to the oft-quoted “stronger than you think” encouragement we find everywhere. It seems to speak to our culture…across generations.

Self-reliance. Work harder. Work smarter. We can do better. Sigh…

When we are told by a friend or family member, or even a social media stranger, that we’re stronger than we think, we are not being encouraged to lean on community…or God. We are given the message that somewhere inside ourselves, alone, without others, we can tap into more strength than we are feeling at the moment.

Is that really encouragement? I know we mean well…but do we really want to offer up Disney verbiage to a real struggle?

When I’ve gone about as far as I can go, can I slog out more, just with my own “main strength and awkwardness”? Maybe. At what cost and to what gain?

I got a phone call earlier today from a mom needing an understanding ear on a hard struggle involving her young son. She’s a terrific mom. Yet…she’d come to the end of her rope on this one. She sounded on Empty. Did it help that we talked? I think so…and definitely it helped to pray afterwards. She will find the way to help her son. She has a way forward even if she doesn’t see it clearly yet. Through her own resolve and experience. Through deep community. Through an enduring faith in a wise and loving God.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

The Apostle Paul speaks so eloquently and practically on this issue of our weakness and God’s strength. In fact, when we come to the end of ourselves, we find God’s strength perfect in our weakness. It’s both a hard truth and great comfort. We don’t like the experience of coming to the end of ourselves. Nor do we like to see our friends and family moving so close to that reality. For this reason, we encourage those we love to dig deeper.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

You know I love words…and I squeeze as much good out of them as I can. The Pooh video clip above and its messages of the richness of relationship do have meaning for us. Part of that meaning is how sustaining relationships can be even with we are apart from each other. However, the best part of relationships and how much stronger they make us comes from the moment-by-moment reach of them in the present. When we are there for each other (and pray for each other) we become stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks.

When we seek to encourage with words like “You’re stronger than you think”, your heart will be heard. Lean in with those words…and pray for that one in the struggle.

Why I Believe ‘You Are Stronger Than You Think’ Is Not Always True – Arlene Pellicane

Monday Morning Moment – That Thing Does Doesn’t Need to Be Said – and If It Does – Deb Mills [Remember the quote from the Disney film Bambi? “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” That is actually part of my family’s lexicon – so Disney does have wisdom sayings in its film library. 🙂

[Mandisa sings about how hard things make us stronger BUT she says that in the face of God being right there with us – holding us through whatever comes. We can rest in Him…and each other.]

11 Reasons Why You’re Stronger Than You Think – Coaching-Online – this is actually a good article on the argument of “you’re stronger than you think”…but, there is a truer truth.

If you can’t get enough of Pooh – this is a sweet film:

5 Friday Faves – One Small Step, A Father’s Good Gifts, Gossip, Blended Families, and Mission BBQ

Happy New Year! Whew! May 2022 be a reprieve from the struggle of 2020 and 2021. May we see the fruit of new wisdom and sound actions taken toward a healthier future and a closer community across our world. Thank You, God, for this new year and getting us through the last. Here are my favorite finds from this first week of 2022.

1) One Small Step – A couple of years ago, Dave and I had the privilege of listening to Dave Isay, the founder and president of Storycorps. He is a strong advocate of the power of telling our stories (to each other, face-to-face). [See his TED Talk on this here.] Given what we’ve been through the last couple of years (with our country divided over politics and trying to keep our balance with COVID), his One Small Step Initiative has been incredibly timely. Isay has a vision of bringing our country together (and maybe yours as well if you live elsewhere) through the experience of face-to-face dialog. We may have some sharp disagreements and consider ourselves enemies, but we can find common ground and common values…if we keep (or start) talking to each other. StoryCorps has made a platform where strangers can engage. Strangers who would not usually, given their differences, talk together. This One Small Step Initiative is actually being highlighted on this week’s CBS TV show 60 Minutes. Don’t miss it (or catch it later).

Photo Credit: RVA Library, Ben Himmelfarb 

P.S. Two phrases that speak to the above…and positive, healing communication, in general, are contingent communication and contact hypothesis. They are both worth taking note of and considering:

Contingent communication – Face-to-face conversation with a determination of deep listening, strong affirmation, and the mutual sense of “feeling felt”. Dr. Curt Thompson describes it as “communication, in which two individuals, through both their spoken dialogue and non-verbal cues, each affirm the other as they interact”.  (Anatomy of the Soul, p. 139)

Contact hypothesis“suggests that prejudice and conflict between groups can be reduced if members of the groups interact with each other”. In this article, Dr. Elizabeth Hopper goes on to say that “One especially promising possibility is that contact between groups might encourage more powerful majority group members to work as allies”. Instead of talking around each other, we come together. One conversation at a time.

2) A Father’s Good Gifts – This week I discovered an article by Jon Bloom entitled A Father’s Good Pleasure. Bloom talks about the joy we as parents have when we participate in generating joy in our children’s life.

One example of this for me is how my sweet step-dad continued to travel overseas to see us after Mom died. This was not a thing on his bucket list He came because he loved us and he came because he knew the joy it would bring to us.

“Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” – Jesus (Matthew 7:9–11)

“Give them [your children] good things — things they value as good and really want. And really, authentically enjoy doing it. It has God’s endorsement, since he too takes great pleasure in giving good gifts to his children…Become, through your joyful, affectionate generosity, an opportunity for your children to experience [and you with them…what C. S. Lewis calls] transposition  — to see and savor the higher, richer pleasure of God in the natural pleasure of their father giving good gifts to them.

Become a student of what gives them joy.”Jon Bloom

I love that Jon posted this piece the first week of January – when we are reeling with all the “stuff of Christmas”, including the credit card bills coming in this month. It is a joy to give our kids what they want when we can (and that is carved deeply in our western Christmas culture). It is also a joy to give our kids joy in deeper ways.

Our youngest son eats lunch with us on some Sundays. Often it is just him and us; his older siblings and families joining us occasionally. When Dave and I are most attuned to him, we just take the opportunity to affirm him and take joy in him. He feels that joy.

Have you Buried Your Gifts? – Jon Bloom

[Sidebar: The piece above talks about the gifts that we have and how our abilities and capabilities (the strength to operate out of our abilities) go hand in hand. Don’t want to bury my gifts because of a lack of gumption.]

Photo Credit: Nancy Tillman, Facebook

3) Gossip – What we may consider processing (with a friend or spouse) could be just plain old gossip. Pastor, writer Scott Sauls calls it in a recent tweet.

Photo Credit: Scott Sauls, Twitter

Such a wake-up call about gossip helps us think about the damaging impact of it on relationships. Gossip (which we too often call processing or ranting) makes us think we’re doing something about the dysfunctional relationship we have, when really we’re causing it further harm. What we’re doing is something called triangling. When we have a problem with one person but complain about that person to another. It is passive-aggressive and if we aren’t coached to go to the person missing from the conversation, then it just remains complaining. The relationship continues to be dysfunctional.

We aren’t to just bury a struggle, but we can deal with an offense with care and respect…even if it feels undeserved. This is the beginning of a healthy connection in the place of dishonoring and dismissing complaining.Photo Credit: Heartlight

A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us Against Them – Scott Sauls

Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen: How God Redeems Regret, Hurt, and Fear in the Making of Better Humans – Scott Sauls (Publish date June 2022)

4) Blended Families – Step-families, or blended families, can provide safe and loving refuges for children of divorce. As an adult child of divorce, I remember well the shame of being a child whose dad just seemed to forget his children over time. When Mom remarried a man also divorced (with children of his own), we experienced the positive (and negative) of being in a step-family.

Photo Credit: Pixabay, John Hain

As older adults, both children sets have issues of parental neglect mixed in with loving relationships. Every step-family is different, of course. Many are healthy. For those who struggle, there is always help and hope…if we reach for it.

[Just some of my large blended family…including some friends who are family…for which I’m so thankful.]

A podcast I would recommend for step-families who have had broken or painful relationships is therapist Ron Deal‘s Family Life Blended. The podcast (and other resources) is a help for any family but especially for blended families. The link below is an excellent example.

Ridding Your Soul of Shame – Family Life Blended Podcast – Ron Deal with Curt Thompson

Photo Credit: Pixabay, Ben Kerckx

5) Mission BBQ on a MissionMission BBQ is one of our favorite restaurants in Richmond. Their generous customer service (even in this era of COVID) and consistently delicious food are super special. http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/IMG_6824.jpg

We are members of their birthday club and receive a free barbecue sandwich when our special day rolls around each year. Besides that, we will get an email occasionally inviting us in for another free sandwich. Today we redeemed our “Merry Christmas” freebies.

The food is great, but it’s also an uplifting in-restaurant experience. Mission BBQ sets the bar high in honoring first responders and members (and families) of the military. In fact…they make all their customers feel honored. Sweet. And very unique.http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/IMG_6827.jpg

In fact, if you’re in the Richmond area (or have a Mission BarBQ in your area, and are thinking about heading over on Monday, they will be closed.  It’s their National Day of Service when they feed homeless veterans around the city.

The Restaurant Dishing Up Patriotism with a Side of BarBQ 

If you have one in your town, don’t miss it. If you don’t, can you suggest your own exceptional business (in Comments below)?

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Those are this week’s Faves. How about you? Please also use the Comments to share some of yours. Thanks for stopping by. You are a blessing.

Bonuses:

Endangered Attention: How to Guard a Precious Gift – Scott Hubbard

One big mistake people repeatedly make is focusing on proving themselves right, instead of focusing on achieving the best outcome. This is the wrong side of right. — The Wrong Side of Right

Top 10 Surprising Lessons on the Genealogy of Jesus – Joshua Infantado

A Facebook post by a friend of mine in January 2020 – still speaks:

Photo Credit: John Williams, Facebook

“I make my bed every morning because it’s a gift that I get to open at the end of every day. A gift that not everyone has. So while I’m wrapping my bed in the morning and I’m unwrapping it at night I’m reminded of what a great blessing my bed really is in my life. When we stop viewing what we have as little, insignificant or not enough then we get to see what we do have as gifts we get to enjoy, great blessings in our lives and provision for our needs.”Theresa Nicely McCoy, Facebook

 

 

 

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar Christmas, 4 Advent Habits with Justin Whitmel Earley, Advent Readings, Forgive & Remember, and Christmas Ads 2021

December is here! The days will fill up fast with holiday celebrations. Here are this week’s faves. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

1) Beyond the Guitar Christmas – We’ve been listening to Christmas music since October. Both worship carols and secular songs. Even our favorite guitarist has arranged and posted some Christmas songs – a precious few. I post them here for you to enjoy a listen.

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

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

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

YouTube Video – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (w/ Surprise Guest) – Beyond the Guitar [After the special guest enters the frame, he gets our full attention with the sweet music in the background.]

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

YouTube Video – Amazing Grace – Beyond the Guitar [OK…not a Christmas song but one of my personal favorites of Nathan’s]

2) 4 Advent Habits with Justin Whitmel Earley – In less than a month, those of us who challenge ourselves with New Year’s resolutions will have our lists and resolve ready to go. When true habit change happens, it’s worth the work.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Justin Whitmel Earley speak. He wears many hats – attorney, writer, speaker, husband, dad. He spoke then on the habits of a simple life, introducing his fascinating book The Common Rule. His latest book is Habits of the Household. Both are excellent resources for examining our lives (home and work) with the goal of building habits of flourishing.

I was not surprised when he offered us Advent habits (practices, playlists, and readings). Earley offers all these free as part of his determination to do good with his lift. The books go deeper and are definitely worth the read. For now, check out the links and note below his recommended 4 Advent Habits – Kneeling posture in prayer, lighting candles, tuning to God as the first voice of the day, and pocketing our phones while waiting (restoring the art of waiting).

Photo Credit: Justin Whitmel Earley, The Common Rule, Advent Edition, 4 Advent Habits

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

3) Advent Readings – Advent means “coming”. We celebrate the coming of Christ, as Messiah, a helpless baby born of a virgin mother. God in arms. Miracle and mystery. Advent also commemorates the coming again of Christ in the last days. We look with hope to the day He will come again for His people, as Redeemer King.

The Advent Project – Biola University – Center for Christianity, Culture and the Arts – a daily Advent offering of art, poetry, and devotional from Scripture

This year, our church is working through an Advent study entitled Our Hope Has Come. Gathering in home groups, we celebrate Christ’s coming in our hearts and throughout history.

In our home, we have a shelf of Christmas books (for children and adults) that have been treasures to us through the years. We bring them back out at Christmastime, reading again the beautiful messages of hope we have in Jesus.

Do you have any favorite Advent books or online resources? Please share them in the Comments below. Thanks.

Hope for Hopeless Things: The First Sunday & Candle of Advent – Ann Voskamp [Advent readings start with this one]

4) Forgive and Remember – In less than a month, we leave 2021 behind. Hopefully without regret. I’ve written a lot about forgiveness this year. Partly because of seeing the pain of prolonged unforgiveness in some of my closest relationships. Too much hurt. Too deep the offense. Too unfathomable the possibility of reconciling. The best attempt is “I can forgive, but I can’t forget.”

Photo Credit: Pinterest

What if we don’t try to forget? What if we determine to remember, but remember in a way that moves us to healing…to true forgiveness.

Psychiatrist and writer Curt Thompson has become a favorite resource of mine in recent months. Books, podcast, and articles. This week, I discovered his piece Forgive and Remember. Intrigued by the title, I read it and found hope renewed in the possibility of forgiveness, even in chronic trauma or painful persistent memories.

I find Dr. Thompson very engaging, but if you aren’t used to his references to brain physiology, you may need to do a slow read. Here is his take on the importance of remembering, in company – with a sense of the presence of Christ in the pain, remembering in the skin of “the offender”, and remembering with people who care about you.

“Because I refrain from remembering, I prevent myself from eventually remembering additional parts of the story that I have likely thus far, albeit nonconsciously and unintentionally, ignored. For indeed, it is possible that forgiveness requires me to expand my awareness of additional realities that were in play at the time I was wounded. For instance, if I only pay attention to my hurt feelings, I never attune to my adversary’s own layers of brokenness; never consider their deeper story, the cistern of their own fear of their own deep shame from which emerged their hurtful behavior in the first place; the depth to which they “do not know what they are doing…” Through the hard, repeated work of my imagination, my awareness of the larger truths of the life of the one who has mistreated me begins to gradually diffuse the intensity of the emotional content of my anger and resentment.

“The work of forgiveness requires the remembering of the event in the context of others who assist you to remember the additional alternative realities that we so often forget. Imagining Jesus being with you in the moment during which and after you were mistreated begins to literally change the nature of those neural networks that represent the fury of the hurt you initially felt. Over time the remembering of the hurtful event alongside the memory of Jesus and others who represent him begin to diffuse the intensity of the electrochemical signals of the hurtful memory, and open up opportunities for you to begin to construct a different possible future between you and the one who has hurt you. We then begin to see that remembering the event is really about the process of remembering it differently. Remembering it in a way that is eventually utterly transformed and transformational…reminding us that we are not really ever alone.

This takes time, effort, and plenty of help from those with whom you are practicing together to forgive not seven, but seventy times; to forgive, even as your Father in heaven has forgiven you.

Forgiveness. Who would have thought that there would be so much freedom in remembering? Sounds like something we should never forget.” – Dr. Curt Thompson, Forgive and Remember

YouTube Video – However Long the Path Might Seem: It’s Christmas. Time to Reconcile. – Penny.

5) Christmas Ads 2021 – I love Christmas commercials (or ads). All the twinkle lights and unfolding family gatherings or intimate moments. The compilation of Christmas ads below are all from 2021. Many are from European stores/businesses. Take your pick.Photo Credit: Glossiplanka 360

  Best Christmas Adverts 2021

YouTube Video – This Christmas, Nothing’s Stopping Us – Tesco

YouTube Video – Unexpected Guest – John Lewis & Partners

YouTube Video – An Unlikely Friendship – Prime Video – Christmas Ad 2021

YouTube Video – The StepDad – Disney Christmas Advert 2021/Official Disney UK

YouTube Video – Imaginary Iggy – McDonald’s UK

YouTube Video – Christmas Is What You Make It – Hobby Lobby – Christmas 2021

YouTube Video – A Christmas to Savour – Sainsbury’s – Christmas 2021 Ad

YouTube Video – Coca-Cola – Christmas 2021 – Real Magic

YouTube Video – John Lewis 2021 Christmas Advert Alternative by NimbusBeds.co.uk – Stop Loneliness at Christmas [2020 revisited]

YouTube Video – Boots Christmas Advert 2021 – #BagsofJoy – Boots UK

YouTube Video – Ernste Christmas Ad 2021 – #BelieveInTomorrow

YouTube Video – 10 Emotional and Heartbreaking Christmas Ads EVER! Most Emotional Holiday Ads (19 minutes – Don’t miss these! Most are in languages other than English, but it won’t alter the beauty of the film story in these little ads. If you need a good and  cleansing cry for no reason except the beauty of a little story in an ad, your heart will be filled.)

YouTube Video – Top 10 Most Heartwarming Christmas Commercials Ever Made (Will Make You Cry) – 16 minutes. At least fast forward to the last few. So lovely.

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That’s it for this week. Please share a fave of your own from this week in the Comments. Thanks for stopping by. It is a joy for me to share in this together with you.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp

[If you want to see The Chosen Christmas – The Messengers but aren’t going back to theaters yet, it will be streaming soon free to all. Available on The Chosen app and we’ll see where else when it is announced.]

YouTube Video – Christmas with The Chosen – The Messengers – Watch This Before the Christmas Special

A Thanksgiving Prayer from the Anglican 1662 Prayer Book – Marlo Huber Salamy Facebook Page

John Harper – the Night the Titanic Sank – Facebook Story

She Was Tired of Her Giving Her Kids Candy So She Wrote Her Mother-in-Law a Letter

Monday Morning Moment – Protests, Pleading, and Prayers

Photo Credit: John Englart, Flickr

What kind of world do we call home where we can actually watch a man die in minutes, in handcuffs, begging to live? George Floyd died May 25, 2020. We hear of such things in other nations – public murders, executions – but to see them in the US awakens us more to the injustice and the utter wrongness of such situations. No wonder there is so much outrage right now. How we respond to that pain and anger matters…moving us either toward needful unity or worsening division.

How do we respond?

1) Protests – In the US, we have the Constitutional right to right to peaceably assemble and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.  There is a way to protest that gives pause; that rivets our attention; that demands a hearing. A protest that doesn’t destroy its very own cities.

Photo Credit: David Sanabria, Flickr

In Richmond, Virginia, friends on the police force see themselves on the streets, during these protests, there to protect the protesters. So they may be heard.

Whatever turns the protests to violent, destruction raids on businesses and neighborhoods makes the loss of George Floyd and others even more painful.

That’s Not Going to Bring My Brother Back’: George Floyd’s Brother Calls for End to Violence – Janell Ross

Atlanta is where I was born. Hear from this city’s police chief:

2) Pleading – As a mom myself, I’m so thankful for other moms who use what platforms they have to cry out against the evil in this world and call us together for the sake of our children. So many are doing this right now. We have to put our politics aside. People matter more. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms used her office to plead with her fellow Atlantans to “go home”. Don’t miss her impassioned appeal below.

Dear White Moms, Here’s What I Need You To Know – Jehava Brown

Now, I don’t believe Senator Susan Collins is a mom but she is a  fearless advocate for change, standing her ground for what she believes is right. Here she is speaking from the Senate floor on killing of George Floyd:

3) Prayers – The Scripture gives us clear direction in this response to the division in our country right now: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”2 Chronicles 7:14

We need to take God’s call to prayer seriously. He calls us to come to Him. He will listen. He will act.Photo Credit: Needpix

Songwriters Andy and Rachel Graham, on a visit to our own divided city, wrote this beautiful prayer song in response:

Cry Out – Susan Lafferty

Photo Credit: Facebook, We Are That Family, Brick House in the City

“Oh God, help us to listen. To You. To those in so much pain around us. Help us to listen. Our words take up space that needs to go to others right now. Help us to listen, Lord. Right now, we see in the news the chant “Take the knee” as police and protestors confront each other. Heavenly Father, we would all do well to take the knee, in humility, before a just and loving God. Forgive us our sin toward each other. Forgive our sin toward You. Thank You for the life of George Floyd. Have mercy, Lord. We need You now. We’ve always needed You…in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Monday Morning Moment – Martin Luther King Jr. Day – Where Are We Now? – Deb Mills

Today’s reading with our grandchildren…

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar and Billie Eilish, Moms-in-law, Duets & Collaborations, Hair Love, and Ethnic Foods

The weekend blows by sometimes, doesn’t it?! We have enjoyed more than usual family time over the last two weeks with the visit of Dave’s mom/my sweet mom-in-law. Not much time for thinking deeply about things with all the people time. Tried to stay in the moment. So these Faves are more for your entertainment and encouragement. Enjoy!

1) Classical Guitar and Billie Eilish – She is only 18 years old, but Singer, songwriter Billie Eilish has already won five Grammy awards. She and her brother Finneas O’Connell write and perform their music together. They co-wrote the soulful song No Time to Die which is the film theme for the latest James Bond movie of the same name (coming out March/April 2020). Nathan Mills (of Beyond the Guitar) has arranged this beautiful piece for classical guitar and here he is:

2) Moms-in-law – I have never experienced a mother-in-law that would be the brunt of a joke or complaint. My husband’s mom is one of the toughest, loveliest women I know. She grew up on a farm. The Ram Truck TV commercial below is a salute to farmers, and I can see her in this message. Hard working, creative, gentle, grateful, and persevering. She is a blessing to our family…and especially to me. Her servant heart beats strong, and she has taught me a lot about serving my family.

Between my mom-in-law Julia and my own mom, our extended family has a strong foundation for loving God and others.

[If you haven’t seen the video, don’t miss it – it’s the kind of heritage my mom-in-law experienced. You’ll hear the late storyteller Paul Harvey which is reason alone to watch.]

3) Duets & Collaborations – Valentine’s Day was last week, but it is still hanging in the air with all the songs we revisited. So many great love songs…made even better with duets and collaborations. One of my newer favorites is the collaboration between Malinda Kathleen Reese, Andrew Huang, and Nathan Mills – the song? Dodie‘s “Would You Be So Kind”.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Malinda Kathleen Reese

Here are some of my other favorite love song duets and collaborations:

YouTube Video – I Only Have Eyes for You – The Flamingos – Not a duet and probably not a collaboration but it has to go here because this is Dave’s and my song…a classic before us but still special to us.

YouTube Video – Patti LaBelle – On My Own – Ft. Michael McDonald

YouTube Video – Endless Love – Luther Vandross ft. Mariah Carey also the version with Lionel Richie ft. Shania Twain

YouTube Video – Up Where We Belong – Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes (Officer and a Gentleman & Top Gun)

YouTube Video – Fleetwood Mac – Landslide – Stevie Nicks & Lindsey Buckingham – OK, maybe not a love song…or was it? So beautiful.

What are some of your favorites?

4) Hair Love – The lovely Oscar-winning animated short this year is Hair Love. Matthew A. Cherry, football player turned filmmaker, wrote, produced, and directed this film.  The illustrator of this touching story is Vashti Harrison. Hair Love is funny and deeply meaningful showcasing an African-American dad and daughter and her larger-than life natural hair. I came across this short before the 2020 Oscars and was enthralled. Bought the book immediately.

Don’t move onto the fifth Friday Fave until you watch this 7-minute film. So endearing…it’s about hair, but so much more!

YouTube Video – Hair Love Accepts the Oscar for Animated Short – you want to hear the speech.

The CROWN Act – stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” – a law that prohibits discrimination based on hair style and hair texture.

YouTube Video – Top 10 Must-Know Facts About Hair Love

[Sidebar on Vashti Harrison – I have fallen in love with her illustrated story-telling. Just bought her boxed set on Little Leaders. She and Matthew A. Cherry are just beginning to bring culture-transforming stories to us…they are now on my watch-list for sure.]

5) Ethnic Foods– Food takes us places… Sometimes it takes us home…other times it takes us to the table of friends, down the street or around the world. Street food. Food truck food. Fancy uptown restaurants serving up an international cuisine. Authentic foods cooked in tiny ethnic restaurants tucked into strip malls. I miss the places we have lived in other seasons of life – North Africa. Mediterranean and Middle Eastern foods. We have forever friend and food memories from those days. Since coming back to the US, we’ve discovered other delicious ethic offerings – partly thanks to our foodie son, Daniel. Here are just a few food memories. How about you – any ethnic food delights you want to share with us?

[OK, the last picture is a Southern breakfast – ethnic to some; Home for me.]

Hope your week coming up is beautiful and blessed. It can be no matter the shape of the world. The beauty is there…thanks for reading.

Bonuses:

How to Fight Back Against Self-Doubt Ron Carucci

A “Million Word Gap” for Children Who Aren’t Read To at Home – Jeff Grabmeier

The Maddening Contradictions of Our Current Moment – Trevin Wax

Bread Mold Science Project – Anna Lee Skates – Twitter – Pic

Photo Credit: Facebook, 2 Chron 714 network

Monday Morning Moment – The Eye of Monet – 5 Books to Extend Your Summer into Fall

Today is the first day of Fall here. After walking this morning, I sat in our garden to cool off. The brilliant summer flowers are on the wane  after days of hot and dry weather. Many have gone to seed, now harvested by the birds (especially the goldfinch). The blooms remaining peek out, through those that peaked earlier and have since finished their season…The garden in early Fall is still a wonder…gloriously fading.

French Impressionist painter Claude Monet (1840-1926) is my favorite artist. Maybe because he made years of study of two of my favorite flowers – the iris and the water lily. He had an eye for such beauty.Photo Credit: Commons WikimediaPhoto Credit: Commons Wikimedia

“Monet has long been regarded, as Cezanne remarked of him, ‘merely an eye, but what an eye’, translating onto canvas the images before him… Monet’s eye was a painter’s eye, an eye with a creative mind behind it, interpreting apparent reality and putting into the context of the thoughts in the painter’s mind, thus creating a new vision for the spectator.”Edmund Swinglehurst

My favorite quote on reading these days is from author and patron of the arts John Ruskin:

“The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion, all in one.”
He could be describing Monet as well.  His paintings of what he saw around him in the natural world bring a beautiful nostalgia with them (similar to that of favorite books and music). Monet painted in a non-pretentious way, not intending to artificially move the emotions. He painted like one who saw the beauty of nature, and, with his own emotions aroused, painted what he saw. That eye of his…
Over the years, I have collected five books on Monet. Each is quite unique. I’d like to give a quick shout-out to each one.
1) Monet or the Triumph of Impressionism by Daniel Wildenstein – This beautiful biography of Monet’s life and rise of Impressionism. It’s a large book (coffee table size)…full of his artwork with exquisite detail of how Monet came to paint the scene and what was going on during the period in which it was painted. Beautiful book.

Monet

Photo Credit: Amazon

2) The Life and Works of Monet by Edmund Swinglehurst – This thin book (only 78 pages and much of it Monet’s artwork) is a quick study of Monet’s life. It’s a very easy read and yet still detailed enough to capture something of the Master Monet’s life, preferences, and influences.Photo Credit: Amazon

3) Monet’s Table – The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet by Claire Joyes – For the foodies among us, this book weaves together biography, art, and cooking. Monet's Table

Photo Credit: Amazon

Although Parisian, Monet lived for over 40 years in a cottage in the village Giverny. With Alice, his second wife, and 8 children. Monet’s Table. The “journal” aspect of the book is less about Monet’s diary entries and more about how he and Alice incorporated their love for good food into the lifestyle they enjoyed of late (by the Giverny years, Monet had become quite successful as an artist). His recipes (written for the American cook – so ounces instead of grams) include fresh and dried herbs from his garden, butter and full cream, and the flavors of France. For any of you who favor French cooking, you will love the recipes. I loved the stories Claire Joyes gives us and the pictures of his kitchen, the foods featured in the book, and the cottage and gardens (from which we have the iris and water lily paintings).  An interesting detail about Monet: he was an often moody and very private man. Although he loved having company in his home, it was always for an early lunch or tea. He retired to bed early to allow for early morning painting.Photo Credit: Apartment Therapy

4) Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork & Lena Anderson – This book is for young readers. Short chapters. Lots of Monet’s paintings. Also whimsical illustrations of Linnea and her trip to Paris, the Marmottan-Monet museum (where many of Monet’s paintings are exhibited), and finally to the Giverny cottage. Linnea in Monet's Garden

Photo Credit: Amazon

A wonderful introduction to Monet for children in early school years. Biographical details pepper the story and a helpful timeline of Monet’s life closes out the book.

[Written in 1985, it may seem a bit strange in today’s world that a young girl would be off traveling with an older neighbor gentleman, Mr. Bloom. Times have changed.]

5) A Picnic with Monet by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober – this is a small boardbook for tiny people. A poem talking through some of Monet’s paintings as if taking off for a picnic makes for easy reading. The paintings are easy to sort out for a preschooler. Sweet book.Photo Credit: Amazon

So…these are my books on Monet. One last detail covered in his biographies as well: Monet developed bilateral cataracts in his 60s. He refused corrective surgery for some time. Finally, he got to the place where he was willing to take the risk, so bothered by the impact of the cataracts on his vision and painting. Enough of a success, he actually returned to some of his painting to touch them up. He also did not finish his Grandes DĂ©corations’ of Waterlilies, on display in Paris’ MusĂ©e de l’Orangerie, until after his vision had been restored. Called the Father of Impressionism, the changes in his painting over the years may have been less about a progression of his art and more the reality of cataracts and vision impairment.

The Effect of Cataracts and Cataract Surgery on Claude Monet – Anna Gruener

Who is your favorite artist? How do you share him/her with your visitors or family members? I have a print of one of Monet’s waterlilies paintings over my writing table.

Dave and I went to Paris for our 25th wedding anniversary. It was a trip of a lifetime for us – especially because we set it aside to pursue the feast to the senses that is Paris. On my list was to see Monet’s paintings.

The Best Places to See Monet’s Art in Paris – Lena Blos

We saw some of his paintings, but regrettably a few of my favorites were away on exhibition. Oh well…may have to make it back to Paris one day…and do a day-trip to Giverny.

[Irises from our garden…water lily at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden here in Richmond.]

5 Friday Faves – Political Correctness or Not So Much, Claire’s Lion King Medley, Back to School, Michael W. Smith, and The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Here we go! Friday Faves! Just for you…

1) Political Correctness or Not So Much – It doesn’t do any of us good to use language or messaging that inflame division or hatred. The dilemma is that the rules on what is “politically correct” change and grow such that it becomes difficult even to have dialogue  across political or sociological lines. When we differ in how we think on today’s issues, we desperately need to keep talking to each other…listening to each other…to work toward solutions with positive lasting impact.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

What happens to me, in the face of articulate and passionate people who insist on a politically correct and savvy response? I go silent. Silence is serves no one.

This week I discovered author pastor Scott Sauls‘ article “Saying ‘No’ to Political Correctness”.

“What if we’ve gotten it all wrong in our efforts to be politically correct and not risk stirring the pot, ever? What if, in our sincere attempt to become relevant to the culture, we have instead become products and disciples of the culture? If we discovered that skeptics would take us more seriously for being open with our views versus secretive and timid about them, would we become more expressive about the truths we hold inside?” – Scott Sauls

Sauls also acknowledges that those of us who are Christian evangelicals may seem a minority and feel we have no voice…but hopefully it isn’t because we’ve given up our voice. We have a mandate from God to stand for Him, to hear, and to speak, even as a minority.

Ironically, the single thing that makes Scripture relevant to our culture, and any culture, is that Scripture shows no interest in being relevant. Instead, it acts as God still speaking, affirming what’s good and confronting what’s not. Where Scripture and culture are at odds, Christians too must remain countercultural.

But we must not allow our counter-cultural postures to become anti-cultural.

A perception of minority status can easily tempt Christians to get testy, even hostile, against a world God calls us to love. Scott Sauls

Politically correct or incorrect, we are called to love without prejudice or reserve. So I’m moved to listen more than ever. Listening takes getting close to people. Resolved to get close.

2) Claire’s Lion King Medley – When Claire Crosby was three, her dad Dave began videotaping her & posting to YouTube. My first awareness of her was their version of You’ve Got a Friend in Me. Even before that song, she did a totally adorable version of Little Mermaid.Photo Credit: Facebook, Claire Ryann Crosby

Her singing of “A Million Dreams” is amazing! Goosebumps listening to a 5 y/o sing.

Now the whole family has produced a video of Every Song From Lion King. So good. Also don’t miss the behind-the-scenes video of the making of this video. Fascinating and fun.

YouTube Video – Every Song From The Lion King Movie – 6 year-old Claire and the Crosby Family

YouTube Video – We Made a Lion King Video – The Crosby’s

YouTube Video – The Lion King (Main Theme – “This Land” – Beyond the Guitar (my kid’s version)

3) Back to School – [Adapted from the Archives] During the hottest days of summer, a Fall breeze blows through our favorite stores. Back to school supplies and cool kids’ clothes pop up everywhere. I have always loved the smell of pencils and paper. However, I never loved the long hours of school that boxed in our children to spend evenings separated from us and each other with hours and hours of homework. Sorry, wonderful teacher friends of mine. Anyway, seeing school supplies in the stores this week was fun…and also a reminder of the flight of time. Summer slow down (too late to slow down for some of you. Welcome to the next school year).Blog - Back to School Supplies - friday Faves

So much new happens as summer ends, and Fall stretches out before us. Routines and rhythms crank up again. Growth spurts require new clothes. Then there are all the school supplies required for starting a new year.

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

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

Back to School – Teachers On My Mind – Deb Mills

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

The Trauma-Informed Teacher – Silent Front Line

4) Michael W. Smith – Singer songwriter Michael W. Smith has given me words to worship God for over 35 years. Either writing himself, collaborating, or performing others’ songs. He has blessed so many of us over the years. Today when it seems people struggle so hard to finish strong, Michael is the real deal. Not yet 60, he has been married to Debbie for over 35 years. He wrote his first song when he was 5 and he’s been writing them ever since.

His “Agnus Dei” is one of my favorites. I’m actually not sure why it is entitled that, but it is a powerful worship song. Few lyrics; but great heart! Like Michael.

This week, I watched the TBN special “35 Years of Friends – Celebrating the Music of Michael W. Smith”. Here’s a highlight reel of that show. So great! All the emotions of decades of music that moved hearts and lives.

Thanks, Michael W. Smith, for living a life on- and off-stage that never compromised what you hold dear – God, your family, and all of us friends of yours.

Michael W. Smith – Grammy Winner and Grandfather – Jeremy V. Jones

10 Best Michael W. Smith SongsPamela Rose Williams (includes his bio and stories)

List of All Songs by Michael W. Smith (A-Z) – with links to the videos

Michael W. Smith – Song List (with links to iTunes)

5) The Last Black Man in San Francisco – Have you ever had to leave a house you loved? One that expressed home almost as much as the people who lived there? When my mom died and we finally had to sell the house where we grew up, it was hard. Every time, I go to home to Georgia, I still drive by that little much-loved house. If its walls could talk…

The film The Last Black Man in San Francisco is the story about a beloved house. I haven’t seen the film yet but it’s on my film list for this summer. Everything I’ve read about it (and watching the trailer below) touched my heart. Comment below if you’ve seen it. I love it already.

YouTube Video – How “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” Was Made – HBO

That’s it for me. Be blessed. Thanks for reading. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Size 14 Is No Longer the Average Size for an American Woman – Chris Adams

Photo Credit: Facebook, Maria Bessler

5 Friday Faves – First Responders, Wisdom of Charlie Daniels, Political Incorrectness, Housing for Homeless, and Vintage T-Shirts

5 of my favorite finds of the week. Thanks for stopping by!

1) First Responders – I’ve written about first responders previously – here and here. This week, pulling into my neighborhood, I immediately saw the flashing lights of the trucks of crews from Fire Station 5 and Lakeside Volunteer Rescue Squad. They were answering a call at a neighbor’s house. All ended up well. Seeing those men and women rush to serve someone in need reminded me of my own personal experience with first responders 3 years ago. What a blessing they are! Glad to see they are recognized by others as well (see link below)

Award-winning Lakeside rescue squad runs on volunteer power

2) Wisdom of Charlie Daniels– This week I came across a radio interview with Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels. This incredible musician and entertainer has been around a long time. In his 80s and married to Hazel for over 50 years now, he has shown a sturdy faithfulness to his relationships and to his craft. His song The Devil Went Down to Georgia shows off his musical ability and crowd appeal. Daniels cares about the music and clearly cares about people as well.Photo Credit: YouTube

His book Never Look at the Empty Seats is a memoir. I’ve only read excerpts but am waiting for it to come in the mail. It’s been described as a book about his journey, in life and music. He said the chapter on his faith was the most challenging for him to write. Can’t wait to read it. Here are just a few quotes full of wisdom from Charlie Daniels:

“When you develop an attitude of “I’m going to accomplish what I want even if I have to work twice as hard as anybody else,” you’re going to get there.”

“You have to recognize opportunity, no matter how subtle the knock. Everything doesn’t happen at once. One thing leads to another as the building blocks of your life start to take form.”

“Competition is good, and the only way to win is to try a little harder than everybody else in the game. The sooner young people find that out, the better off they’ll be.”

“I’ve always ascribed to the theory that if you can’t get what you want, take what you can get and make what you want out of it, and we tried to make the best situation we could out of whatever we were presented with. If there were only twenty people in the place, you played for those twenty people. If what you do pleases them, they’ll be back and probably bring somebody else with them. And it snowballs. That’s how you build a following. Bring your “A” game every night, and never look at the empty seats.”*

*Never Look at the Empty Seats – Charlie Daniels Quotes – Goodreads

[Can’t wait for that musician son of ours to read Daniels’ book. He is also faithful to play his heart out for those who show up.]

3) Political Incorrectness – First, here’s one definition of political correctness: “the avoidance of expressions or actions that can be perceived to exclude or marginalize or insult people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against”.

Even in the definition above, some self-proclaimed jury of a sort must act to determine who the persons are who are “socially disadvantages or discriminated against” and if, indeed, they are being “excluded or marginalized” by said expressions or actions of the insulting party.

Exhausting.

If I wanted to be successful in politics – i.e. 1) able to hold onto my constituency’s vote and 2) focus on being effective in the work/interests I’ve promised to uphold – political correctness would seem to include the following:

  • Choosing my arguments wisely and well, especially in dealing with adversaries inside and outside my party (level of government). Especially if I didn’t like them or their platforms.
  • Committing to work collaboratively with those in power, even when it is anathema for me to do so. Even if I feel it would compromise my own platforms. For the greater good of ALL my constituents. Being politically correct would not be about me.
  • Refusing to stoop to insults, finger-pointing, manipulating statistics, or rallying around half-truths.
  • Using resources entrusted to me by my constituents for their good and not for my own biases or perceived political gain.

Given what we see on any news report…no matter the network… what we find is more political incorrectness. A cavalier and relentless approach in accusing “the other side”, whatever it is, of wrong-doing and near-sightedness.

Photo Credit: eBay, C. Devane

It is as if we, the voters, the constituents of those elected officials in our government, are just sheep…who will follow the loudest voice, no matter what it is saying. God, help us.

OK…there’s my bit of a rant this week. We have real problems in our country that need to be addressed by people who care more about the work of finding solutions to the problems (cooperating across the aisle)…than winning the next election.

That would be paramount to political incorrectness in our current national environment.

I love what Mike Rosmann has to say about what could take us forward:

“We need logically and scientifically verified facts, fair appraisals of information, and consideration of a broad range of information to form reasonable determinations about almost everything. Politically incorrect insults inflame anger and avoidance rather than cooperation and reasonable solution-finding. Furthermore, replying with insults after receiving insults does little to resolve differences in opinions. Asking what others think gets us further toward reaching an understanding and agreement than proclaiming personal opinions and hurling insults.”

He had a whole lot more to say in how political incorrectness is used in today’s politics in the link below:

Political Incorrectness Can Be Problematic or Useful – Mike Rosmann

While you’re reading, also consider executive coach Ron Carucci‘s piece on hope – it is a much better place to land than the bitterness that tempts us.

Hope Hurts But It’s Our Best Option – Ron Carucci

Why listening matters. Even if you think the other side is wrong.

4) Housing the HomelessThe journey to housing for our homeless neighbors is complicated. Some we see at intersections in our cities, with their cardboard signs, have made a life, of sorts, on the streets. I have no idea how they survive winter. Others are freshly homeless, living in hotels, until they can’t anymore. Homelessness doesn’t come with its own guide of how to regain normalcy…the homeless need a compass. Thankfully, there are agencies who help these neighbors of ours, and help us learn how to help better.*  [*From an earlier blog] .

It’s been a joy to see that more positive and long-term effort in housing the homeless is happening today. Just this week, I discovered The Williamsburg House of Mercy in Williamsburg, Va. Also the Virginia Supportive Housing organization.Photo Credit: Virginia Supportive Housing

Do you have shout-out-worthy organizations in your area? Please comment.

The Renovated Homeless Shelter Gives Everything It Can to Make Those in Need ‘Feel Human’ – Benjamin West

Virginia Supportive Housing

5) Vintage T-Shirts – So this week we have another wave of nostalgia as we went through boxes long stored in the attic. Favorite t-shirts from years ago until now (note all the ones from Kingsport Tennessee’s Fun Fest – every summer since 1980 – so much fun!).

Along with all the t-shirts, we found old cassette tapes from our kids’ childhood (including homemade ones where our parents read stories to the kids to shorten the distance between them when we moved overseas). This is for another blog, but the plan is to make electronic files of all these for another sweet generation of kids.

Bonuses:

Summer Garden – Thanks, Dave!

Tour de France 2019 – Every single day; every stage – mesmerizing. NBC Sports has highlights videos for each stage on YouTube.

In the Final Moments of His Life, Calvin Has One Last Talk with Hobbes – Kashish

The article below is politically charged (not my desire) but it is also insightful of how some in our country might vote and what those in each party need to at least consider to win in the 2020 election:

The 2020 Democrats Lack Hindsight

Actor Cameron Boyce died this week at 20 years old, as a result of his epilepsy. His grandmother, Jo Ann Allen Boyce, was one of the Clinton 12. Below is a short and beautiful tribute of Mrs. Boyce, with Cameron narrating:

Why We Breathe Film Teaser & Crowd-Sourcing

The hardest truth for you to accept, based on your Myers-Briggs personality type

Girls’ Night In

Blessed are the Skeptics, and Those Who Don’t Know Where Else to Go

Monday Morning Moment – Ian Bremmer – on Global Politics and Replacing Rage with Hope

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

How do American politics affect our ability and capacity to be a force for good on the world stage?  What elements align to make any of global nations consequential or inconsequential? What natural or geopolitical events will lead to migrations of people to who knows where? What are the top political risks facing our country and our world today?

Political scientist and thought leader Ian Bremmer was just an unknown name on our Richmond Forum subscription for this year’s season. Then we heard him speak. Wow! My ignorance was what was showing.

Ian Bremmer is a brilliant, funny, courageous, optimistic analyst of all things global. He has conversations with world political and economic leaders and their staff, and I’m sure he asks excellent questions. His analysis is intriguing because he clearly knows what he’s talking about and he kindly brought it down to a fifth grader’s understanding.Photo Credit: Richmond Forum

Ian Bremmer Engages with Geopolitics, Honesty, and Humor at The Richmond Forum – Thomas Breeden

The best part of the whole evening was his unflappable honesty. He clearly had his biases regarding world leaders, including our own country’s leaders. Yet, he takes the larger and longer view. I so appreciated that. It’s part of why he’s not “crazy”, as he encouraged us not to be as well when we read and watch the news each day.

Bremmer told the audience his goal for the evening was to make us all “10% less crazy.” What makes us crazy regarding our country’s politics? He summed it up memorably:

“A lot of us feel like our system is rigged. A lot of us feel like our representatives are not representing us. A lot of us feel like the American dream no longer applies to us. And they feel like when the political leaders or the CEOs or the bankers or the journalists or the public intellectuals—God forbid—are talking to us, that they’re lying.”Ian Bremmer

If we daily wonder if we’re being lied to by our politicians and not truly represented by our elected officials, then we do become a little crazy…distrusting our government and divided and polarized in our thinking, depending on our particular brand of politics.

Adding to this, Bremmer gives four other factors that fuel the divide:

  • Immigration – So much talk and very little done on either side of the aisle to improve the system – with the hope of making it fair for all who would like a chance to immigrate as well as humane and just for those foregoing lawful entry to the country.
  • Economic Inequality – This continues to increase, and it heightens the political divide between peoples as well. It adds to the “us vs. them” scenario.
  • Wars – When we seem always on the brink of a war (either threatened by a nuclear power or compelled to enter because of an oppressed ally, we struggle again with trusting our leadership, especially as our spouses and children lay their lives on the line for these wars. For what purpose?
  • Social Media – The rage of the average citizen who feels unheard or discounted by his government is stoked through the comments of others on social media. Where are the conversations being had by reasonable people with a stake in the outcome?

Ian Bremmer addressed these stressors and then he calmly proceeded with a survey of global and national threats and trends. I won’t go into them here but you can follow his generous, insightful commentary on all the latest news via his website, broadcasts, books, and Twitter/Facebook feeds. He will educate you and encourage how to engage rather than isolate.

[Forgive me for staying general on this, regarding geo-political risks.]

Bremmer gave two excellent challenges to us. The first is to find a person who we disagree with politically but who we respect (I have a short list of those valuable friends and family members). Then engage in conversation, with the goal to listen, learn, and better understand. Our default is to be enraged but not engage…we just read their social media posts and don’t comment, or worse, do…when we could actually create face-to-face dialogue. Neither of us may change but we have the opportunity to grow closer in coming to viable solutions to the problems we face.

His second challenge was to encourage our young people to study abroad…even in high school, even just for a semester. To put themselves in the minority. To learn from others who have similar problems as well as quite different ones. To learn how to draw down conflict and create understanding. To learn how to problem-solve with less monetary resources. These young people of ours will be the ones who will have to figure out how to flourish in the world we are leaving them.

Ian Bremmer talks reality but with hope and a healthy sense of humor. We would do well to follow his example in this…whether we agree with him on all points or not.

From a secular point of view, he came as close to answering my life-long question “Why can’t we all get along?” Bremmer’s talk also reminded me of Dr. Seuss’ book Oh, the Places You’ll Go. In the midst of a forum on global politics, economic upheaval, war and poverty, he posed the possibility of hope…if we show up and engage with one another.

YouTube Video – Ian Bremmer on the Failure of Globalism – some of the content we enjoyed at the Richmond Forum.

YouTube Video – Ian Bremmer – How the US Should Use Its Superpower Status

Global Warming: Severe Consequences for Africa – Dan Shepard [Ian Bremmer got me to consider global warming more seriously when he talked about how the peoples of equatorial Africa will one day have to leave their countries and immigrate north.]