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

Photo Credit: Heartlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Kari Kampakis

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

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

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

Even if it’s one person at a time.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship Wednesday – The Steadfast Love of the Lord – On Repeat

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Psalm 118 – it was the focus of my devotional reading over the last few days. Not unusual in the Psalms, several attributes of God were repeated in this great chapter. Not only His character but how His character draws us out in utter worship and awe.

These repeated phrases reminded me of my days in church youth camp (as a camper and a counselor). All of us sitting around a smoky fire pit, someone with a guitar, and us singing familiar choruses. Camp songs often have repeated phrases, driving the truths of who God is into our youthful hearts. Those songs are still with me today… along with newer worship songs using less repetition…no need. As older believers, we know personally the enduring faithfulness of God and His unfailing love.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Wednesday Worship – Raising Up Worshippers – the Old Songs & the New – Deb Mills

Below you will find (bulleted) the repeated phrases from Psalm 118. The writer isn’t given, but it sounds like King David. Ever praising God for His deliverance, vanquishing the enemy.

When we feel the squeeze of our circumstances, as David must have, we cry out to God and He delivers us to freedom. Even freedom from our sins…thanks to Christ Jesus.

Let’s take a moment and reflect on these points of praise (links to songs if you’d like to use them as part of this time – both newer songs and some old church camp classics).

  • “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.” – Psalm 118:1, 29

YouTube Video – Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart

YouTube Video – Forever – Chris Tomlin

YouTube Video – His Love Endures Forever – Michael W. Smith [same song as above; different rendition]

  • “The LORD is for me.” [“The LORD is on my side.”]Psalm 118:6,7

YouTube Video – God Is For Me – JPCC Worship

YouTube Video – Steffany Gretzinger – Christ the Lord is With Me

YouTube Video – You Are My Hiding Place – Selah [Years ago, when Dave and I were first dating, we would sit at the piano and sing this one together. It was as much our song as the one that became our couple song (“I Only Have Eyes for You” – in case you would wonder.)

  • “I destroyed them all with the authority of the Lord [in the name of the Lord].” Psalm 118:10, 12, 13

YouTube Video – Authority – Elevation Worship

YouTube Video – Blessed Be the Name of the Lord – The Name of the Lord is a Strong Tower

  • “The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things!”Psalm 118:15-16

YouTube Video – Jon Reddick – God, Turn It Around (Feat. Matt Maher) – couldn’t find a worship song for this passage. This is just a beautiful reminder of His sovereignty. Someone needs to write such a song for “the strong right arm of the Lord”. If you know one, please comment its title/link below.

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I’d like to close with a part of Psalm 118 – verses that weren’t repeated but are so strong they make their own anthem to a God of love who is worthy to be praised with all our hearts:

“I will not die; instead I will live to tell what the LORD has done:

…The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing. and it is wonderful to see. This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”Psalm 118:17, 22-24

Until the day we do die and enter our Heavenly Home, we have this witness, this Gospel message. God, through Christ, made a way to restore us to Himself. This day! This day Jesus paid our sin debt with His own life. This day God made. This was His doing…and in this day, we will rejoice and be glad! Hallelujah!

Psalm 118 – Bible Teaching Notes – Omar C. Garcia

YouTube Video – I Will Call Upon the Lord/We Exalt Thee – Petra

Youth Worship Songs – 23 Praise Titles Teens Will Love to Sing – Stephanie Martin

17 Songs Every Youth Group Kid Still Knows By Heart – Jessica Misener

Praise the Lord, all you nations. Praise him, all you people of the earth. For his unfailing love for us is powerful; the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever. Psalm 117

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Monday Morning Moment – Abuse – Where Does It Begin and How Do We Respond?

Photo Credit: South Mountain Works

My childhood memories have gaps. A year ago, I began exploring the possibilities that there were memories being kept hidden in my brain. Reading and working through the three books of Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson moved me to consider the power of shame in keeping my memories silent. Dr. Thompson encourages his clients (and book readers) to write down our life stories, in long-hand. Journaling the decades. Especially working on recalling our childhood. Bringing those memories into the light.

My preschool years are still mostly devoid of memories. My mom had told me later that our rarely employed biological father neglected us such that she had to employ a babysitter daily while she worked. Whether neglect is abusive or not, I have no recallable memories of my father from those years. Mom divorced him by the time I was 6.

In doing the exercise of writing out my life, one childhood memory that I was able to re-remember started out happy. It was a neighborhood “garden party”. I was maybe 7 or 8. These so-called garden parties were a gathering of family and friends to process the harvest of large vegetable gardens – for canning and freezing. Those who came enjoyed lively conversations, engaging stories, and finally a large meal together. The adults were caught up in the moment, and the children wandered in and out…and farther away.

I’m not sure who all ended up with me in a large barn some distance away from the home of our hosts. In that barn, an older boy (trigger, sorry) talked me into letting him touch me in inappropriate ways.

I had put that memory far back in my mind.

In remembering it, I also recalled telling my mom that evening and her taking action by going to talk to the parents of that boy. That’s where it ended, I believe.

Later in my childhood, I would discover my older brother’s (I suppose) hidden stash of pornographic magazines. [We didn’t have internet pornography in those days, and this sort of perusing seemed an expected coming-of-age pastime.] Page after page of naked or scantily clothed women in sexually provocative poses. Even as a pre-teen, it drew me in, even though it felt dirty and shameful. I don’t think I understood the power of taking such images into my brain. It is what pornography does and why it is so toxic.

[Could this sort of pornography be a launch-pad for girls who, seeing those images, become sexually aroused, then thinking she might be  same-sex attracted? Especially if it happened today in our current culture…I wonder.]

Being exposed to pornography as a child isn’t abuse, of course, but it forces an unhealthy peering into an adult world. I wish I hadn’t stumbled on it and hope parents take seriously the availability of porn on the internet. OK…done with that topic.

At the age of 13, my parents invited a young co-worker of my step-dad’s for a cookout. He must have been 18 or 19. He stayed long into the evening. I have no idea what my parents were thinking at the time (and they were excellent parents), but they went to bed and he was still there. This seemed to set up a green light for him, and he became very aggressive physically. My 13-year-old sensibility was at first enthralled at his interest in me and then frightened, too timid to cry out or get away. If my older brother hadn’t returned early from a date, and sent him on his way, I’m not really sure where that would have ended. So thankful for my brother that night.

Where does abuse begin? Did it start with the neglect of a father? Even with an incredibly loving and supportive mom, she couldn’t be everywhere all the time. Was I vulnerable to the attention of boys (and men) growing up because of a father who started out uncaring and became increasingly absent (don’t remember seeing him after my early childhood years). Even with the love of a dear step-father, did I struggle with needing approval, wanting to feel special, absorbing the very adult messaging of pornography geared toward adult men?

[I’ll stop my story here for now.]

My extended family has known the searing pain of abuse. The abuse of power, the deceitfulness of sin (protecting the perpetrator), the isolation that comes with shame, and the complicit nature of silence.

In fact, with the statics (of sexual abuse alone), in the US, we’re talking as many as 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused by the age of 10 and 1 in 6 boys.

How do we respond to abuse? How do we even consider such atrocities? Put aside sexual abuse for a moment. It comes in many different ways.

Dr. Henry Cloud, in his book Changes That Heal, talks about the role of crossing personal boundaries in abuse…when people step over a line, a boundary, wounding another person.

“The essence of boundaries and limits is knowing what we own and what we do not own…when we do not own ourselves as separate people from the ones we are bonded to, we develop unclear boundaries, and we allow people to cross those boundaries when we should be saying no”. –  Dr. Henry Cloud, Changes That Heal

One thing we could all assess within ourselves is our own understanding of personal boundaries – where we stop and another person starts. Abuse can happen with overreach (in parenting, marriage, friendships, and the workplace) or a lack of understanding or ownership of our own personhood.

This boundary breach leading to abuse can happen with strangers, but, more often than not, it happens with people we know – parents and children, spouses, other family members, trusted teachers or clergy.

Abuse Is Never the Victim’s Fault – video – Dr. Henry Cloud

Abuse can be subtle…still with the impact of intimidation or silencing. Even something we are all familiar – the silent treatment – is its own form of abuse.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

I’m not going to cover what we need to do comprehensively in handling abuse. Resources abound in this area. However, my work on memories coming back to light (and processing them as an adult, not as a child) helped me understand some attitudes and behavior that affect my sense of self and relationships today.

So in brief, I would say:

  • Do a journey of self-discovery (with a counselor or trusted friend) – examining and reframing painful childhood (or early adulthood) memories.
  • If abuse is still a part of your current life – get what distance you can from it, as you develop coping skills to protect yourself but also the generations coming after you. Building forever boundaries between you and that person/those persons can be its own abuse. It is a stop-gap measure and still holds the abused in bondage to the abuser.
  • Don’t be silent. Talk to someone. Tell your story.
  • For those who suspect abuse in another, don’t be complicit in the abuse, by your silence. Prayerfully, carefully, come alongside the abused. If you have a relationship with the abuser, reason with that person, if you can.
  • Isolation is a product of shame for the abused and the abuser. It also works to keep the abused more vulnerable. Shame, isolation, and secrecy.  Don’t ignore isolation (even in these post-pandemic days when it may be harder to detect). Be vigilant in surveilling those in your circles – your family, neighborhood, workplace, and friend group.
  • Finally, be aware of “vicarious trauma” – for those helping, caring, mentoring persons – experiencing a secondary trauma because of your leaning in and coming close to the trauma of another. You may need help from another as well, choosing not to leave the room but needing support yourself.

This is just a start.

Again, there are so many resources. Curt Thompson’s books and podcasts. Dr. Diane Langberg‘s website and YouTube channel. Adam Young Counseling podcasts and videos. Counselor Matthias Barker podcasts. Just to name a few.

I’d appreciate your thoughts in Comments below. Please…don’t keep silent. There is help…and healing.

Photo Credit: Connecting Paradigms, Matthew S. Bennett

15 Trauma Therapy Techniques to Implement to Help You Heal From Trauma – Gala Gorman

Understanding Trauma – Loretta Grieve

Monday Morning Moment – Generational Sin and Trauma – Don’t Trip Over What’s Behind You – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Goodness of God – CeCe Winans

Photo Credit: YouTube

One generation will commend Your works to the next, and will proclaim Your mighty acts— the glorious splendor of Your majesty. And I will meditate on Your wondrous works. They will proclaim the power of Your awesome deeds, and I will declare Your greatness.  They will extol the fame of Your abundant goodness and sing joyfully of Your righteousness. The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving devotion. The LORD is good to all; His compassion rests on all He has made.    Psalm 145:4-9

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.Hebrews 10:23

Can we take a moment out of this busy day and reflect on the goodness and faithfulness of God?

I’d like to stay in the present except for just a few reflections on my life story which is His story of goodness to me. Here we go:

  • Born in a charity ward of a downtown hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Wanted by my mama.
  • One of four children – our lives protected while mom worked while a biological father didn’t nor did he care for us.
  • Following our parents’ divorce, we were unchurched until neighbors invited us to their church. Thankful for God’s protection and pursuit of us.
  • Saved at the age of 9. Discovered the wonder of a loving God.
  • Grew up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord who kept us all together with a working mom and step-dad.
  • Kept from wandering too far from God during college and my 20s.
  • Found favor professionally as a nurse and educator.
  • Came to my senses spiritually before marrying someone not right for me.
  • In my 30s, met and married Dave, a man who loved and reverenced the Lord …and loved me (no small thing).
  • 3 children I never thought I would get to have. A beautiful gift from God.
  • Served in the local church and then in work overseas. Privileged to raise our kids first in Tennessee and then in Africa. Blessing.
  • Have had great grace lavished on us in the losses of people most dear to us through the years.
  • Experiencing the joy of in-law children and grandchildren. Thank You, God.
  • All the goodbyes and hellos of enduring friendships and family relationships near and far – who share a forever future together with the Lord.
  • Healing from cancer and God’s protection in good health in this moment.
  • The opportunity to continue to serve Him in my neighborhood and beyond.

Well…that was a longer look than you probably thought. Me with you.

Now to this moment: listen to yourself breathe. What’s going on right where you are? Whose voices penetrate your hearing? What thoughts come sharply to mind…even as you tune to this moment?

We are never alone with those thoughts. The God of the universe has made His home with us. Each one of us.

Best of all, He loves us. He calls us to Kingdom purposes. Nothing or nobody is insignificant. We are vessels of His glory and His goodness. He is ever faithful. Forever faithful.

Remember He’s not finished. He finished the work to reconcile us to Himself in Jesus…that is done. Yet we can also take hope in this: Whatever He is doing in the world and in our lives right now…He’s not done yet. He has promised His faithfulness to complete what He has begun (Philippians 1:6).

Earlier this week, I heard CeCe Winans‘ rendition of Bethel Music‘s Goodness of God. It’s been on repeat in my head ever since.

We spend too much time in the past and the future. We have regrets and we can’t help but believe those regrets will tarnish our future. Stay here in this present moment and rest in the goodness of God. He loves us, Dear Ones. He loves us as only a good God can.

Worship with me:

I love You, Lord
For Your mercy never fails me
All my days
I’ve been held in Your hand
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

‘Cause all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
In darkest night
You are close like no other
I’ve known You as a father
I’ve known You as a friend
And I have lived in the goodness of God (Hey)

‘Cause all my life You have been faithful
(Oh yes you have)
And all my life You have been so so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
With my life laid down
I surrender now
I give You everything (Oh Lord)
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me

Your goodness is running after (Oh yeah)
It’s running after me
Your goodness is running after (Oh yeah)
It’s running after me
With my life laid down
I surrender now
I give You everything (Everything)
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me

And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I’m gonna sing of the goodness of God
I’m gonna sing

All my life You have been faithful (All of my life You’ve been faithful)
All my life You have been so so good (So good, with every breath)
With every breath that I am able (Every breath I’m able)
I will sing (I’m gonna sing) of the goodness of God
Yes I am
I will sing of the goodness of God
I’m gonna sing of the goodness of God*

*Lyrics to Goodness of God – Songwriters: Brian Mark Johnson, Ben David Fielding, Ed Cash, Jenn Louise Johnson & Jason Ingram

Gospel Singer CeCe Winans Launching First National Tour in Over a Decade – R. O. Read

Worship Wednesday – Habukkuk’s Response to the Incomprehensible Goodness of God – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – When Storms Come, We Still Have a Good, Good Father – Chris Tomlin & Pat Barrett – Deb Mills

The Story Behind Goodness of God – Joy 99 – featuring songwriter Jenn Johnson – song inspired by God’s goodness in her son’s adoption story

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

Photo Credit: Rembrandt, Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Friday Faves – A Lullaby by Beyond the Guitar, the Art of Neighboring, the Beauty of Fall, Ethnic Foods, and Telling Our Stories

Friday Faves. Here we go!

1) A Lullaby by Beyond the Guitar – Nathan Mills has been on hiatus from his public YouTube channel as he worked through the summer creating course content for his other channels. Big news: he’s back!!

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Talking through and then performing his treatment of the Game of Thrones theme (his previous arrangements of this can be found here). He takes Ramin Djawadi‘s epic piece and makes it into an ethereal lullaby. Just plain gorgeous.

2) The Art of Neighboring – Several years ago, my husband and I landed in an incredible neighborhood. With great neighbors. As happens, our neighborhood has changed significantly with elderly neighbors downsizing and moving away and new families coming in. The tight-knit feeling we had toward each other has changed…not lost but changed.

This Fall, our community group at church is studying “The Art of Neighboring”. This aligns closely with my deep dive, over the last several months, into our need for being known.

Being Known Podcast with Curt Thompson MD

Photo Credit: Art of Neighboring

There is neighboring where we might know someone by sight or even name, but little else. Then there is neighboring which leans in, where we know each other in ways that honors, enjoys, and serves.

It’s an art and it adds to our quality of lives and that of each other in immeasurable ways.Photo Credit: Grace Fellowship, The Art of Neighboring

The Art of Neighboring – Website, Book, Resources – Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon

3) The Beauty of Fall – Just a quick salute to the end of summer and beginning of Fall. Cooler weather prompting pulling out our hoodies and cozying up to fire pits. The harvest continues. The flowers, many going to seed, still have a glory that moves artists to paint. And pumpkins!

Photo Credit: Karen Burnette Garner, Facebook

4) Ethnic Foods – Our family has had the rich experience of living in several countries and enjoying the yummy “home cooking” of local friends. Some of that food is also sold by street vendors or in tiny restaurants for such a cheap price you wonder how they can afford to sell it, except for the volume of customers.

We search out those authentic food opportunities here, and various food festivals help fill the bill. Recently, we attended Armenian and Egyptian food festivals. So good! Visiting friends took us on the hunt of discovering new restaurants serving up foods so good they could have been cooked in mama’s homes.

In America, ethnic foods are not cheap. Part of that, I’m sure, is the cost of ingredients and labor. I couldn’t imagine paying the equivalent of $12 for a falafel sandwich when we lived overseas. Here, I’m just glad for the opportunity.

What Is ‘Ethnic’ Food? – Aaron Hutcherson

In the Hutcherson piece linked above, the phrase “ethnic food” may even be offensive in today’s cancel culture. Of me, it’s the best of home cooking served outside the home. America is such a cultural “melting pot” that we may come to the place where international foods become a part of the American food culture. Blended in. Beautifully.

“American food is the mixture of all food brought by our immigrants. Perhaps the recipes have been tweaked a little here, but they originate from past cultures, from identities new and old, and from our ethnic nation. Ethnic food is American food.”

This encouraging American ideal explains why Americans long to assimilate almost every food culture into their diets. It is socially encouraged to be more and more inclusive. The main way people try to find common ground is through food.

Ethnic food can best be described as a classification for types of food favored by cultural groups of people. This is different from authentic, which is a word used to describe food as something genuine or real. American cuisine may be classified as being only ethnic food because of the rich cultural diversity of its population. – DevTome

Still…I think we foodies will still look for the dining experiences that take us back to our mom’s table…or that table of friends in far-away places. Sweet memories.

Here in Virginia, we have an ethnic equivalent of food that’s hard to find anywhere but here and it’s Ukrop’s – a family-owned bakery, deli, and grocery business that’s been around since 1937. Their baked goods are very American. I say this because we have been told, by our international friends, that American sweets are “too sweet” for them. Maybe this is one American food that is uniquely American. I don’t know…but it’s good! No one does buttercream frosting like Ukrop’s. 

4) Telling Our Stories – Storytelling is in our very DNA. We appreciate the stories that draw us in – whether through books or film – or in the telling of our own lives.

Memory tends to embellish. A detail is added or emphasized beyond what really happened.

“Well, all good stories deserve embellishment.”J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

The Link Between Memory and Stories – Shawn Callahan

Embellishment entertains but what if our memory of an event or conversation stays the same even as we have grown into a person who has changed.

I think of childhood trauma or an incident that changed the course of our relationship with a person or organization. Sometimes all it takes is one circumstance.

Something may come to mind right now.

Is that a something that you want to affect your story forever?

Many of you may never have seen the 1981 British sports film Chariots of Fire. If you haven’t I highly recommend it. It gives an account of the Olympic Games of 1924. In particular, two runners, who compete against each other, are the focus. Two runners with very different stories.

Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell.

These two athletes had two very different stories…very different motivations and goals for life. In the film, some of their story may be fictionalized, but there are lessons for us here. Check out the film clips linked below.

“10 lonely seconds [will] justify my whole existence.” – Abrahams

“When I run, I feel His pleasure.” – Eric Liddell

[An extra: In the film, Eric was pushed off the track during an Olympic race, falling to the ground. He got back on his feet and got back on the track. In the crowd, a man was asked if Eric could do (recover the time lost), and he said, “his head’s not back yet”. Eric would put his head back as he felt the pleasure of God on him. And where did the power come from? Another clip.]

YouTube Video – He Who Honors God – Chariots of Fire – don’t miss this scene.

What is your story? Whether you know it or not, you’re telling a story? Is it the one you want to be remembered for? Or is there a healing, a reconciliation, a resolve you want to leave behind as part of your legacy?

Something to consider.

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s it for this week. Hope you have a delightful weekend. Thanks for stopping by.

Bonuses:

8 Rules to Do Everything Better – Brad Stulberg

What To Do When You Feel Like You Don’t Fit in at Work – Lisa Evans

How to Say the Unsayable – 10 Ways to Approach a Sensitive Daunting Conversation – Kathryn Mannix

Photo Credit: Facebook, Marjolein Bastin

Worship Wednesday – Community – People Need People – Cain

Photo Credit: Gainesville Times, Small Group Movie

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – Jesus – John 13:35

“Let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:24-25

This week our church launched our new small groups for this school year. It is an exciting time to meet new people in the church and to dig in, both in our relationship with God and with each other. “Life on life” community. Not a simple thing but definitely a beautiful thing as we lean in to one another and set our minds to NOT “grow weary in well doing” (Galatians 6:9).

A friend recommended a film to me, one I’d not heard of. “Small Group – the Movie”. This is not a documentary although it proposes the idea of a documentary for the audience. It tracks a young filmmaker who was hired to do an exposé on the diminishing relevance of Christianity. He and his family embed themselves in a small group of an evangelical church in Georgia. 5 couples who become friends and encouragers to each other in a Christian context. It has a striking mix of comedic and dramatic themes. Fascinating.

“Small Group” is rated PG-13 for brief gang violence and drug/alcohol references. It came at a perfect time for me as we were preparing to join a new group ourselves, not knowing at all what it would be like.

I have been in various kinds of church-affiliated small groups pretty much all my life. Maybe you as well. The dialogue in this film was familiar in ways but also stretching. It reminded me that community is not just having coffee together, retreat weekends, or surface talk before ducking out of group and heading home. Checking small group off our list for the week.

It’s so much more. In fact, I’m revisiting this even after having written about it recently. We have a deep need for true friendship. Not to replace intimacy with God but rather a both/and walk with Him.

Jesus declared, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”Matthew 22:37-40

Gathering this week with people we don’t know well, or at all, we could feel the joy and anticipation of the Holy Spirit of God sensing His “Well pleased” with this little group of His own. Are we nervous? Sure…but our hope is to be people who love well and stay in the room with these other brothers and sisters. To enjoy that experience of knowing them, growing and serving with them, and being truly known by them.

Worship with me to Cain‘s People Need Peoplereleased during the COVID pandemic.

You can go and build a mighty mansion
But with no family, all that house just goes to waste
You can fix a feast to feed an army
But with no friends, there’s no need to celebrate
Back in the beginning there were two in the garden
No, we were never made to be alone
God knows

People need people, need people, need people
To the Father there’s nothing better
Than when the kids all comе together
Peoplе need people, need people, need people
When there’s nothing, but love between us
We can finally start to see what God knows

People need people, need people, need people
People need people, need people, need people

‘Cause You know love is just like water (Water)
It’s no secret we all need it to survive (Woah, woah, woah) (Woah)
It won’t last long without your brother (Yeah)
‘Cause when you fall, he’ll lift you up every time
(Oh) God knows

People need people, need people, need people
To the Father there’s nothing better
Than when the kids all come together (Come together)
People need people, need people, need people
When there’s nothing, but love between us
We can finally start to see what God knows

People need people, need people, need people

People need people, need people, need people

The weak need the strong
The strong need the weak
We’ve all got something missing
And we’re all the missing piece (We’re all the missing piece)
The strong need the weak (Oh)
The weak need the strong
We’re all searching for an answer
That’s been here all along
People
People need people, need people, need people
Oh

People need people, need people, need people
To the Father there’s nothing better (There’s nothing better)
Than when the kids all come together (Oh)
People need people, need people, need people
When there’s nothing but love between us
We can finally start to see what God knows (What God knows)

People need people, need people, need people (Woah-woah)
People need people, need people, need people*

Worship Wednesday – The Faithful Love of God Wakes Us with Singing – with Zach Williams, Matthew West, Tasha Layton, & Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: Heartlight

“Don’t worry [be anxious] about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”Psalm 30:5b

My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my being. Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, O LORD, among the nations; I will sing Your praises among the peoples. For Your loving devotion extends beyond the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; may Your glory cover all the earth.”Psalm 108:1-5

My dear mom-in-law prays hard and often. She and I pray in unity on many, many things. Situations some of which she knows few details. Still she prays. Her prayers never end without the phrase “with thanksgiving”. Her anticipation of God’s answering prayer is thrilling…and inspires my hope and confidence in the heart of God.

Yesterday, I woke with heavy thoughts of many concerns: the dad of a colleague critically ill in the hospital, a visitation hearing on a beloved foster child in our family, the condition of our country, health issues with one of our kids, and the spiritual condition of some very close to us. There were also occasions for “joy in the morning” – the baptism of a precious great-niece of ours on Sunday and my husband’s birthday.

As those thoughts continued circulating in my head, I spent the morning with an Afghan refugee, a grandmother, who needed dental care. A lot of it. After her appointment, and translation help before leaving, we drove home in the silence of no shared language. [The love between us kept company, so there was that.] I used the radio to soften the silence.

Four songs in a row. Four songs in a row about the exquisite love of God. My friend couldn’t understand the words, but the lyrics moved me so much I had to stop and write the songs down to remember for today’s blog.

Then my quiet reading for today was Psalm 108 (the verses above captured my heart). Psalm 108:1-5. Oh God, no matter our situation, may we wake the dawn with singing of your great heart, your great love!

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship together with me to Zach WilliamsHeart of God (full lyrics and music in this link).

I know you’re hurtin’, I can see it in your eyes
So, pull back the curtain and take off your disguise
Whoever told you ain’t worth the fight
The cross tells a story that’ll change your mind.

No, He’s not sittin’ there shakin’ His head
Writin’ you off, leavin’ you lost
He’s not sittin’ there shakin’ His head
Wishin’ He’d never went to that cross
He’s not sittin’ there shakin’ His head
Writin’ you off, leavin’ you lost
He’s not sittin’ there shakin’ His head
He went to that cross, He went to that cross
‘Cause He loves you so much
Ooh-ooh-ooh, yeah

There’s only love in the heart of God
No room for shame in His open arms
There’s beauty from ashes, so come as you are
And there’s only love in the heart of God.

YouTube Video – Zach Williams – Heart of God – Official Music Video

…and worship also with Matthew West‘s The God Who Stays (full lyrics and music here).

If I were You I would’ve given up on me by now
I would’ve labeled me a lost cause
‘Cause I feel just like a lost cause
If I were You I would’ve turned around and walked away
I would’ve labeled me beyond repair
‘Cause I feel like I’m beyond repair

Oh, but somehow You don’t see me like I do
Somehow You’re still here

You’re the God who stays
You’re the God who stays
You’re the one who runs in my direction
When the whole world walks away
You’re the God who stands
With wide open arms
And You tell me nothing I have ever done can separate my heart
From the God who stays

My shame can’t separate
My guilt can’t separate
My past can’t separate
I’m Yours forever
My sin can’t separate
My scars can’t separate
My failures can’t separate
I’m Yours forever
No enemy can separate
No power of hell can take away
Your love for me will never change
I’m Yours forever

‘Cause You’re the God who stays.

YouTube Video – The God Who Stays – Matthew West (Official Music Video)

Now, let’s worship with the help of Tasha Layton‘s How Far Your Love Will Go (full lyrics and music here).

How far is too far
I thought I’d be there by now
I followed shame to the place
I was sure Your grace ran out

I kept running and running and running
You kept chasing and chasing and chasing

A million miles of my mistakes
Still couldn’t keep Your love away
However far away I am from home
That’s how far Your love will go… go…

Mercy’s arms stretched open wide
You paid it all
What kind of love lays down His life?
Willing to cross

A million miles of my mistakes
Still couldn’t keep Your love away
However far away I am from home
That’s how far Your love will go…

YouTube Video – How Far – Tasha Layton (Official Music Video)

Finally (for now), let’s close out with Tauren WellsKnown (full lyrics and music here).

It’s so unusual it’s frightening
You see right through the mess inside me
And you call me out to pull me in
You tell me I can start again
And I don’t need to keep on hiding

I’m fully known and loved by You
You won’t let go no matter what I do
And it’s not one or the other
It’s hard truth and ridiculous grace
To be known fully known and loved by You.

YouTube Video – Known – Tauren Wells (Official Music Video)

Whatever is going on with you – on the negative – be it shame, regret, fear, bitterness, sorrow – let known of that isolate you from the God who loves you. We can never get too far from God. We are fully known by Him. He is a God who stays. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”Psalm 30:5b

Photo Credit: Tauren Wells

YouTube Video – Joy in the Morning – Tauren Wells (Live Performance)

YouTube Video – There Was Jesus – Zach Williams, Dolly Parton (Official Music Video)

Photo Credit: Heartlight

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

Photo Credit: Highland Park LC, Daily Verses

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

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

Why Does God Ask Questions If He Is Omniscient?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Quotefancy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YouTube Video – Top 10 Most Heartwarming Ted Lasso Moments