1) Spider-Man on Classical Guitar – The latest Spider-Man (Far From Home) debuted in the theaters this week. With it, we have the treat of a Beyond the Guitar arrangement of the film theme. Composed by the incredible Michael Giacchino, Far From Home Suite Home is this huge orchestral piece that makes just the right backdrop for Marvel’s latest Spider-Man installation. Nathan Mills clearly loves this theme (as he does Marvel film music, in general). His arrangement again does it justice…on that single beautiful classical guitar:
2) American Idol Laine Hardy – I’ve written about our Independence Day celebrations other times (here, here, & here). One accidental tradition of ours is the PBS Capitol 4th TV celebration of the 4th of July (staged in front of the US Capitol building). It’s accidental because, as much as we love to watch fireworks displays, the crowds and traffic keep us home most years…so we watch them on TV. [We get some live fireworks in the neighborhood, but we see most of the magic on TV]. The fireworks in Washington, DC, never disappoint. Nor does Laine Hardy, the 2019 American Idol, who sang for the PBS special. Photo Credit: Countable
Here he is:
3) Le Tour de France – This magnificent bicycling race set annually in the beautiful mountains and countryside of Europe is a not-to-miss for us. Even with all the doping issues of the past (present?), it’s an amazing bicycling event – 3 weeks long. Beginning in Belgium this year and ending always in Paris, France. My husband, Dave, is a biker. He knows all those NFL stats that guys seem to know, and he has that same capacity, through the years, for Tour de France facts. Every summer we watch. Not yet in Europe…but maybe one day.Photo Credit: Pixabay
4) Moving Day – Packing up all your stuff and moving across the world, or even across town, is fairly stressful. You never know how much stuff you have until you actually try to put it all in boxes. Wrestling sofas and mattresses into a rental truck requires a lot of muscle and some engineering skill. This week some friends are moving and we are helping. Every time (at least in the last 5 years or so), after showing up for another friend’s move, Dave says: “That’s the last time.. I’m getting too old for this.” Moving is stressful and the cost of professional movers would add to that stress. Fortunately, friends and family still show up. They take a Saturday morning and determine to fit all the stuff into that rental truck and the cars of the movers. Every time, because they love those people moving. Every time, it always works out. Right? (Or do you have a story where it didn’t?)
5) Midsummer Garden – Our weather has languished for days in the 90s. Hard to just be outside for very long. However, the garden draws us out. The flowers are at their peak or just a bit beyond. Birds, bees, and butterflies tend the blooms almost as much as we do (to be accurate, it’s all Dave). It’s a beautiful time of the year…as it may be where you are as well.
So that’s this week’s favorites for me. Veered away from the more serious issues of late. Those can wait for another day. Blessings on your weekend…and you, in particular.
Statue in Amsterdan, entitled Addiction:Photo Credit: Bored Panda
Here’s to your weekend! 5 favorite finds from this week:
1) The Godfather Theme – One of the most iconic films of all time was The Godfatheradapted from the 1969 novel of the same name. The story focused on the fictional New York crime family, the Corleone’s. So engrossing was the narrative that two later films of the same name followed. Composer Nino Rota‘s theme from The Godfather is beautiful and memorable. Whether or not you’ve ever seen the film(s), you know this melody. Nathan Mills has again taken this giant of a song and arranged a gorgeous piece for a single classical guitar.
[Sidebar: One of Nathan’s guitar students is doing a semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland. He heard a local guitarist playing and it reminded him of Nathan’s style of playing -at Beyond the Guitar. He engaged the guitarist in conversation and found out that he knows Nathan’s work and follows his music. Small guitar world. Sweet little story for you who follow and support Nathan’s music as well.]
2) Roaring Lambs – Many years ago, I read TV producer Bob Briner‘s book Roaring Lambs. Says Briner: “In my circles, Christians are thought of as people who are against things. I want us to be known as people who are for things good, wholesome, creative, wonderful, and fulfilling. That’s the message of the Gospel and it ought to be the message in all that we do.” His audience was Christians but there is wisdom for anyone who wants to make a difference rather than just a reputation or wants to make a change rather than just noise. We don’t think of lambs roaring, but Briner challenged the reader to take their work to the next level but not only aiming for excellence but for a depth and breadth that touches the lives of those around them.Photo Credit: Mountain Pleasant Granary
A woman I only know by what her “roaring lamb” reputation retired recently. Her job was made redundant by a new software program that was adopted in her workplace. What everyone will miss, as much as they will miss her diligence to task, is the beauty she brought to her department. Her generous gift of hospitality in both decorating common areas and serving food to her colleagues made it a joy just to leave the elevator and enter that office suite. She will be so missed.
Another “roaring lamb” work can be environmental services in a hospital. The tasks that make for a safe place to heal often go unseen and unrewarded. However, we all know personally or have heard stories of what can happen when either care or diligence aren’t exercised in this vital work group.
Finally, award-winning cartoonist Johnny Hart, after coming to Christianity later in life, made an intentional decision to incorporate his faith into some of his work. Some newspapers dropped his comic strips (B. C. and Wizard of Id) because of this, but most continued to publish them. His work was much-loved and his intent was just to use the medium of cartoons to inform on faith issues (as some use comics to do the same with political issues).
He died at his drawing table on Easter Eve 2007 after finishing his strip for the next day. It was fitting for this “roaring lamb”. [I wish I could post it but you can find it here.]
3) A Very Different Jesus – I am always baffled when Jesus is treated as inconsequential…some sort of weak made-up messiah of even weaker people who call themselves Christians. Maybe, the reason is because of how we Christians have represented Him in the world. This historical profoundly world-changing Jesus is so much more than is captured in the Charles Wesley song“Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild”.Photo Credit: Slideplayer
The Scriptures say that Jesus is “the same, yesterday, today, forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If this is true then we can search out who He is and what He is like.
“Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh”, said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he…quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”…”Safe?”, said Mr. Beaver…”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”Photo Credit: Mark Meynell, Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
The night before the crucifixion of Christ, a large mob of both religious authorities and Roman soldiers came for him in the dark of night (John 18:1-14). If he had resisted, by the might of His power seen previously, they would need large numbers to insure his arrest. Jesus did not resist arrest. He went of his own accord, knowing his journey to the Cross was at hand. For our sake, He laid down His own power…His own life (Philippians 2:5-8 and John 10:17-18).
We admire first responders – those who run into danger for the sake of those who can’t save themselves. Everything we know, when we read both the Gospel and other religious (and secular) texts, is that Jesus was this kind of different.
The question for all of us is “what will you do with this Jesus?”
4) Core Values – A friend of mine this week raised the question of what were my family’s core values. I hadn’t thought of that…in a long while. Not even sure I’ve wrestled with my own core values lately.
So I went through this article and his list of values. He also gives a 4-step process for narrowing down to our core values. I’m still working through it, but below are my list of values (that I need to fine-tune to a Top 5, and then determine guiding principles, per his prescription):
How about you? Sands calls our core values our “safety net”. Otherwise, we don’t really have a mooring to dock our lives. I’m thinking he is right. What do you think?
5) Finally Spring – While this week marked the coming of Fall in the Southern Hemisphere, we in the North finally have Spring. Yes. Just a few pics of the glorious flowering around us right now.
Wherever you happen to live, your community needs you to show up and say words out loud, because white silence is violence.
Your people need you to acknowledge that Muslims are people who Jesus loves, and that whether we agree or disagree with their beliefs, nobody deserves this.
They need you to pray against terrorism, violence, and white supremacy, but also to do something about it.
They need you to shut down jokes and little comments that make targets out of people of color or other faiths. Don’t let them slide. Make supremacists uncomfortable.
Your community needs you because only when white people, a LOT of white people, actively stand up and stand with those who experience oppression, terrorism, and loss of life because of the color of their skin and their place of worship, will the terrorists understand that they have lost. That their sickening philosophies are not welcome, even among other white people.
POC cannot do this for us. It is up to us to fill our lives and words and deeds and spaces with so much love and inclusivity that white supremacy cannot fit. That it is squeezed out. We do this by how we react to jokes and comments, what we say or do not say, what we do, how we speak about and treat Muslims and other folks in the margins. Again, we don’t have to agree with their theology, but are we kind? Are we gentle? Are we protective of the oppressed? Do we shut down casual racism and xenophobism when we see and hear it?
Weekend! Sometimes the end of the week just pours out so quickly it splashes right into the weekend. Friday Faves on a Saturday, y’all.
1) Celebrating Fall – In this part of the world, Fall has arrived. For many years, we lived in countries where seasons were subtle in their changing one into another. The rewards were the lush foliage and flowers of the rainy season and the deep textures in the seeming sameness of the desert. [I miss those places now as our American Fall was missed in those years.]
Fall is just peeking out now around the corner of Summer…even as the sturdiest of bushes push out their last summer blooms.
An East Tennessee friend of ours, Pam Archer, laid out a Fall palette for us at The Colorful Cottage. It’s like turning the pages of a magazine taking in festive and inviting entryways into homes…and into Fall. [Click through all the pictures at the link above.] You can almost smell pumpkin spice and a fire in the fireplace.
…and before long, the full glory of Fall will be briefly and wondrously upon us.Photo Credit: Deb Mills
2) On Being Forgiven – This week I offended someone. It could be that offending people happens many times over, without me knowing, but this time…I knew. He made it very clear…and he didn’t forgive me.
This was a stranger…a business person we were contacting to do a service…After several messages left on the company voicemail, the last one got a quick call-back. He didn’t like my choice of words nor my tone…and essentially told me I could look somewhere else for service.
Gulp… I tried to explain again and said I was sorry several times over. He refused to understand my side of the situation. We don’t slam down phones anymore…but. That conversation and hang-up kept me up for hours. I felt terrible and then mad and then terrible again.
A two-minute conversation full of accusation and misunderstanding was rough on me and rough on him, too, maybe. We secured another company to do what we needed, and the gentleman above may remember me as a demanding and unyielding woman for a few days. Our conversation may make it harder on the next person who calls, and for that, I am also sorry.
The marvel is what a wonder in life it is to be forgiven. When people apply grace. When margin is extended for failure or unintentional misspeak. When we are given the benefit of the doubt. When a choice is made not to be offended. When a cheek is turned. When a harsh response is withheld. Even when we feel completely justified to do otherwise.
Forgiveness – that incredible experience of not getting what we might have deserved; that generous letting go of an opportunity to have the upper hand; that treating another person just as if they hadn’t wronged you. This is not doormat behavior…this is giving grace.
Kelly Delp‘s piece this week On Becoming an Outsider reminded me of times when we lived overseas. Day after day, person after person dealt gently with our offenses… We were foreigners; we didn’t know; we were forgiven.
It wouldn’t hurt, maybe, if we treated each other a bit more like foreigners… in a good way, of course.
3) Old Trees – Tall trees that have stood sentinel for decades upon decades deserve our gratitude and respect. In our backyard, we have had two giant oaks shade us in summer and drop leaves and acorns all Fall. Now, one has died. Some sort of blight. Just seeing it without green leaves in summer seems so wrong alongside the healthy sister tree.
So…it must be taken down…sadly.
Honestly, it was just such an excellent tree service company…and the way they took down that tree carried a measure of respect as well…I could have been imagining, but I don’t think so.
“Dust to dust” came to mind as that massive tree was chipped (branches) or hauled off (trunk) and the stump ground to mulch.
Grateful for that tree…and for the one still standing in the center of the yard.
4) Signage – Signage is a form of communication, either in words, symbols, or images. As new drivers, we all learned the importance of attending to signs to keep ourselves and others from harm. We read labels and note landmarks. Signage can communicate much more than the literal messages. Take the signage below as a for instance. It’s in a local church building. What does it say to you?
Everywhere you looked in and around this building, signs pointed to community – how folks could serve God and serve one another and with one another. This isn’t my church (I was there for a meeting), but the signage was so engaging and empowering.
Another sign that finally moved me to action was the sign below. Several of these have been placed around our city because of the daily presence of people begging at intersections. It seemed a hopeful “No worries. Your city is watching out for the homeless.”
This week, I called the number on the sign. It was our county’s social services division. The voicemail instructions were helpful and as promised I received a call back later in the same day. That was when I discovered this phone number was meant to start the process for homeless to get “in the system”. The person answering my question was honest and forth-coming. If someone was homeless (or would be in 3 days), if they called this number, it would start a process whereby he/she could get housing…as to when? Days, weeks…
This sign, its agency, and the church community above (and others like it) have the skills and desire to make good happen. Then there might be a place to sleep for that one begging …sooner.
5) a Pile of Books – Truth be told, I didn’t get nearly far enough on my summer reading list. We always plan an annual get-away to the beach for a few days, once the high season is over. A few of these books will be coming along.
One in particular will definitely make the cut. In this season of life, I seem always to be culling one thing or another from our stash of wonderfulness. Thinning out some of our books, I found Calvin Miller‘s Walking with Saints – Through the Best and Worst Times of Our Lives. Flipping through the pages of this old book of Dave’s I realized it was one that needed to be read sooner than later. It was a Christmas present, bought in Cairo, by a little boy who loved his daddy and loved to draw. That gift inscription alone means it will stay in our stash of stuff for the next forever.
Do you have some books on your must-read list? Please tell us about them in Comments below. Also, do you have books that have made it to be a sentimental favorite? Those stories are meant to be shared as well.
That’s the 5 this week. Hope your week was full of new and old favorites. Enjoy this first weekend of Fall…either for real, or through the images and stories of those of us who have the sweet experience of this season. Blessings.
Quote: Why does “Mid-Century Modern” sound so cool when describing architecture or furniture? It was made in the 1950’s. I was made in the 1950’s. Next time someone asks me my age, I’m gonna say, “Mid-Century Modern.” – Jody Ohlsen Collins
Quote: One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now. –Paulo Coelho
You know the story…how fast this week (this month, this year) is flying by. No time to waste. So let’s get right with it. Five of my favorite finds this week.
Reading Wars – What does that even mean, right? It’s the title of Philip Yancey‘s captivating article on waging battle on the mental clutter that crowds out even the possibility of deep thinking. What is our weapon against the onslaught of shallow that we expose ourselves through social media, email, and texting communication? Reading. Reading for learning. So simple and yet how many minutes a week do we commit to it?
“A commitment to reading is an ongoing battle, somewhat like the battle against the seduction of internet pornography. We have to build a fortress with walls strong enough to withstand the temptations of that powerful dopamine rush [which also happens with distracted media scanning] while also providing shelter for an environment that allows deep reading to flourish.” (Philip Yancey)
Sure, we can learn from what we find on social media. My friend Ann Lovell pointed us to this article through her Facebook page. If I just scan the article then I continue to “not” learn from it…as happens with most of the content that shows up in my various newsfeeds. This time…I’m taking it to heart. Yancey points out several cultural powerhouses who commit to a mininum of 5 hours of reading a week. I am joining them. Thanks, Mr. Yancey. Thanks, Ann.
[Sidebar: Whole cultures in the world prefer oral vs. written information delivery. Deep, detail-rich, reproducible storying. I wonder how these cultures are changing because of the same short-cut habits of sharing information we have developed here in the West. What do you think?
2) Lord of the Rings on Guitar – Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posted another of his arrangements this week. This one is from the legend Lord of the Rings Trilogy. You who love LOTR as much as I do will recognize The Riders of Rohan. It is another great orchestral piece translated by Nathan to classical guitar (like Beyond the Guitar‘s recent Game of Thrones arrangement). Just beautiful. Takes us back to the glorious battles of Lord of the Rings.
3) Walking in America – I feel so fortunate to have neighbors who walk. They make it so easy for me to join in even 6 days a week. It’s amazing how such a simple exercise wakes up the brain and loosens up the body. Whether we can afford a gym or whatever our health situation, walking is something we can do for ourselves. [Winter pic, I know, but it shows these neighbors of mine are out walking in all kinds of weather.]
After seeing the video below comparing “Walking in America & Walking in South Korea”I am glad for an easy neighborhood to walk in. However, it’s also clear how those in huge cities make do, with walking and staying healthier.
4) Boomer Parents & Their Stuff – What are we going to do with all this stuff? Our parents’ stuff and our own. The kids just aren’t interested in it. Samantha Bronkar’s article on the subject is thought-provoking. What do we do with all the collections? All the unique, hand-worked furniture? All the china and glassware? When we start down-sizing, we may have to think creatively what we do to dispose of these treasures of years past. Any thoughts?Photo Credit: Pinterest
I wonder, if our civilization is around for another 100 years, what will be in our natural and civil history museums? There could be a gap with all the “stuff” that will go eventually into today’s landfills. Would love to hear your thinking on this…as one of the many with unwanted treasures.
5) Susan Boyle – Just a few years ago, a middle-aged Scottish woman walked on the stage of Britain’s Got Talent and shocked the world with her singing. On that night and the days that followed, everyone in the English-speaking world had heard of Susan Boyle. Here’s the performance that brought her celebrity and a place in our hearts:
Just this week, I heard her sing Unchained Melody. Still magical. Her lovely simplicity in demeanor and her mesmerizing voice are a powerful combo. Do you know what happened to her? She’s still out there and is now a wealthy woman still living in her small family home in West Lothian, Scotland. She had a dream…and it came true. Her life inspires us all.
Happy Weekend. Be safe and be inspired…so much to enjoy in this life and to take joy in…even in the hard.
Writing has always been a joy for me…whether it is journaling or writing with the help of a computer. When we lived all those years in N. Africa, I would write about our experiences and send long emails home to family and friends. Those who actually read them repeatedly told me, “You need to write a book.” Never did.
Reading this latest book of Jeff’s has really primed the pump for me to put aside the many excuses I’d made for myself of not writing a book. He offers 12 principles to help an artist go from faltering to thriving. [I go into those below.]
His book has also given me a different sort of confidence and hopefulness as I’ve had the opportunity to see some of Goins’ wisdom in practice. Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, in launching his music career has “read” his culture, and in a prophetic way, has implemented some of Goins’ counsel without having read his book. Wait until he reads the book…then look out, World.
1. The Thriving Artist knows you’re not born an artist; you become one. – Goins uses stories of artists of old as well as current ones to show how we aren’t just born that way. We create or re-create ourselves as artists over our lives. That’s my earnest journey right now, and it’s never too late.
2. The Thriving Artist steals from his influences. – OK, this was refreshing. Sometimes, we are stifled by our own sense that we can’t do anything original. Jeff encourages artists to push through that. His counsel is a great follow-up of Austin Kleon‘s book Steal Like an Artist. We learn from others all the time. Have a self-talk and get on with it. [By the way, in every chapter of Goins’ book, he tells fascinating stories of other artists who have done what he’s calling us to do.]
3. The Thriving Artist apprentices under a master. – I don’t have a “master” yet but I’m learning from other writers (like Jeff Goins). Ann Lovell and Kevin Prewett are influences IRL (in real life). There are scores of other writers who have taught me lots just by their own process and writing. How about you? Have you had benefit of a master? I would love to hear about that.
4. The Thriving Artist is stubborn on vision but flexible on details. – Aren’t we all bogged down by details at times? Occasionally to the point that we are tempted to give up. The task is just too big to finish. It has to be perfect. Internet research on what is “perfect” can turn our creativity to concrete. What is your vision? Stay focused on that. Let the details die rather than kill your effort.
5. The Thriving Artist cultivates patrons. – This is huge. If we allow ourselves to be open to those around us, we may be pleasantly surprised by those who want to help get our art to the public. Nathan benefits from patrons on Patreon – a crowd-sourcing platform. We may also find patrons through unexpected sources – via social media and other outlets where like-minded people gather.
6. The Thriving Artist finds a scene. – Along with finding patrons, finding or creating a scene is crucial to getting your writing/art noticed and appreciated. I’m a part of an online (and sometimes gathered) group called Virginia Bloggers. Coming together with other artists is an extremely productive experience. I think of The Inklings which included C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.
7. The Thriving Artist collaborates with others. – Collaboration seems very much a cultural preference these days. When I write my Worship Wednesdays, it’s rare to find a worship song composed by just one person – it’s usually a group of 3-5 songwriters. Another example of a master collaborator is singer Peter Hollens. People who appreciate and complement each other’s art can make even greater art together.
8. The Thriving Artist practices in public. – “Practicing in public”. Who does that?! Live streamers! They make it possible to see musicians singing and playing live without having to fork out $25+ for a ticket. There is an app that helps artists “practice in public”. Krue.TV is an app (also available on computer) that gives artists a platform to sing and play for us to hear them live. We can even join an artist’s community and chat with them during a live stream. This is not for me, for now, but I’m thrilled to watch some of these artists, especially Beyond the Guitar. Of course. One day, maybe I will open my book and read it aloud publicly…well, when it’s written.
9. The Thriving Arts always works for something. Jeff encourages artists not to give away their work. We think giving away our art gets a wider audience but it also can devalue the art. Wisdom is important in deciding what are the exceptions (when to give our art away).
10. The Thriving Artist owns as much of his work as possible. In Jeff’s chapter on this, he talks about the recording industry among others. We must be careful not to give over ownership of our art to a company or publisher. There are considerations, and he goes into them through stories in the chapter on this. For now, I just want to throw this idea out there. It is a new concept but reflects a culture where independence, free-lancing, and crowd-sourcing are prevalent and sometimes preferred.
11. The Thriving Artist does many things. – Several years ago, I received excellent counsel from a professor. “Be good at more than one thing.” That’s not to say the proverbial “jack of all trades, master of none”, but…a diversified skill set grows our abilities to create art in a very diversified world. Developing such a skill set helps us to thrive and not starve as artists.
12. The Thriving Artist makes money to make more art. – Lastly, Jeff talks about our motivations. If our goal is making money, we will sacrifice our art. If our goal is making art, the money will help us get there. As artists, keeping that focus will help both our decision-making and our drive.
That’s the briefest overview of Jeff’s 12 principles of being a thriving artist. Read the book. You will love the stories. This book has stirred the creative juices in both my head and heart. Hopefully, this has been an encouragement for you.
[Please comment any thoughts below. Let’s learn from each other.]
On this quiet, rainy Friday morning, I’ve looked back on another week of days. Days that can transform our thinking as we brush shoulders with people like us and not so much. Days that introduce different ways of thinking that require us to check our own. Days that arrest us with their beauty and days that move us to note beauty where it seems lacking…but it isn’t. Here are five of my favorite things of this week. Your thoughts, please? In the Comments below.
1) Beyond the Guitar – Over the last few months, I have discovered a strange dichotomy in my experience of video games and beautiful music. In my mind, those two things did not exist together. I was wrong. Not a big fan of video games, I am now drawn to the music of many. Thanks to the arrangements of classical guitarist Nathan Mills. His most recent arrangement and YouTube posting of Yearnings of the Wind composed by Yasunori Mitsuda is hauntingly beautiful. This song is from the music score of popular video game Chrono Trigger: 600 AD.Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, Patreon
His arrangement begins almost like a melody you would find opening a turn-of-the-century music box. Pure and lovely. Then it moves to a romantic rendering of Mitsuda’s piece, such that you might hear in the background of a small café in Italy. Just wow!
Funny thing: I love this piece and have not one bit of sweet nostalgia from playing this game…as so many will have growing up with this game.
2) Recognizing Doublespeak – From the time our children were small, we tried to teach them how to cut through messages that seemed true but were not. We wanted them to be critical thinkers and not take the things they heard as fact just because they were spoken with authority from authorities. We wanted them to be able to distinguish between manipulation and persuasion.
Doublespeak is defined as language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., “downsizing” for layoffs), in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning. In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. Doublespeak is most closely associated with political language. – Wikipedia
“What is really important in the world of doublespeak is the ability to lie, whether knowingly or unconsciously, and to get away with it, and the ability to use lies and choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don’t fit an agenda or program.” – Edward S. Herman
“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible…Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness…the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. Whether there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms.” – George Orwell in Politics and the English Language
When we gather around the dinner table these days, our children are adults and have their own ideas and tolerances about doublespeak. We still talk about current events under the microscope of discerning the doublespeak, what the intention of the speaker is, and what bias I bring to the interpretation.
A high-ranking government official in the US was sacked this week. For weeks prior to his dismissal, his firing was insisted upon by one political party. Immediately after his firing, the action was deemed suspicious by the same party. Whatever was warranted in that action, we struggle with determining what is true and noteworthy in our present political climate.
What we believe about something can be affected by cleverly crafted messaging. I really loved The Oatmeal comic You’re Not Going to Believe What I’m About to Tell You . It’s a graphic illustration of how we might be made to change our mind on something. The key here is the compelling nature of the message and our core values. Our core values inform our worldview. Our worldview can change as we absorb a changing culture’s views. That is why revisiting such things with people you trust, whether they share your worldview or not, is important. Otherwise, we begin to believe the messages – the doublespeak – without thinking critically what we are really buying, and giving up, in believing/accepting the message. Something to consider…
3) On Distraction – I struggle with distractions, always have. Long before the various diversions found online became my struggle. Photo Credit: Flickr
This week, David Mathis posted a great piece entitled You Can Defeat Distraction. He talked about the importance of “setting our minds” on what matters. Where our mind is “at home” is also a factor. I want my own thoughts to return to God and the things of God. Just this week, an ancient Scripture verse has been on my mind: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5) This consideration follows Mathis’ take on defeating distraction. If I can truly say “I love God” with how I spend my time and who and what I invest my time in, then the issue becomes a non sequitur – Distraction is checked.
4) Uncelebrated Moms – Mother’s Day is a holiday celebrated around the world (not on the same date but remembered still). As Mother’s Day looms here, we prepare in the US to celebrate and be celebrated – fueled by TV commercials, social media blasts, and sometimes wild expectations of our own.
It got me thinking this week about the moms who aren’t celebrated. Let’s celebrate these moms here. I want to celebrate my youngest son’s birth mother who could have aborted him in a culture where she would have been shamed if her pregnancy became public. I celebrate the foster mother who loved him for 14 months until he came home to us (see pic).
Let’s celebrate the moms who aren’t in positions of being celebrated this week – those moms who miscarried; those moms who lost children to accidents, wars, or other calamity; those moms who care for children unable, by physical or mental challenge, to celebrate them; those moms whose children have walked away from them…for reasons they don’t understand.Photo Credit: Soldiers Magazine
Not all of us have moms who are easy to love. I did and still do in my mom-in-law. Still for our own sakes, and that of the next generation, finding something to celebrate in these moms can be so redeeming…for them…and for us.
5) Colored Glass – To close, I want to tell you about a joy from my childhood. My mom grew up just after the Great Depression. She knew a level of poverty I can’t begin to understand. Because of it, and maybe because of her own inclination, she surrounded us with beauty growing up. In the small house where she raised four children, she and my step-dad built open shelves across the windows in the kitchen and dining room. On this shelves she displayed mid-century whiskey decanters which she filled with colored water. I wish I had a picture from those days…it was so beautiful to my little-girl eyes. Walking into those rooms, on waking from sleep, with the early morning sun streaming in, seeing those decanters was like looking through stained glass windows.
Because of this, because of my mama, I have always loved colored glass.
Welcome to the weekend y’all. If you’ve had some favorites this week, please comment on them below.
Bonuses: A Quote on The Love of God/the Like of God, and Ducklings
When you are face-to-face with Love himself, you become more loving. When you are face-to-face with Kindness himself, you become more kind. When you are face-to-face with Generosity himself, you become more generous. When you are face-to-face with Hospitality himself, you become more hospitable. It’s how Jesus works. He rubs off on us. While Martha (Luke 10:38-42) is busy trying to be like Jesus, Mary spends her energy being with him. And in being with him, Mary becomes like him.
It was at Jesus’ feet that Mary learned she was deeply and dearly loved. But she also learned something more. At Jesus’ feet, Mary learned that Jesus liked her. And when you know that you are liked…it changes everything…in Christ we are the apple of God’s eye, he takes great delight in us, he rejoices over us with singing… – Scott Sauls, Befriend – Create Belonging in An Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear
At a conference and am running late so this will be a super quick run-through of five of my favorites of this week. Happy Friday!
Christmas Music – We start listening to Christmas music in October. There are so many songs that take us right to the throne-room of God Himself. This one by the King’s College Choir is so exquisitely beautiful. Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium (“O Great Mystery”). Enjoy –
2) Geese in Flight – In the Fall, seeing Canadian geese (and sometimes even snow geese) flying in formation gives me so much joy. My husband’s family lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland/Delaware, and the migratory return of geese northward is a common and extraordinary sight. Greg Richardson wrote a piece this week on spiritual life and geese in flight. He reminded me of a long-favorite short essay – 7 Lessons from Geese.
3) Restaurant Salad – O’Charley’s – where kids eat free – or at least they did when our kids were little. My absolute favorite salad is their Southern Pecan Chicken Salad (so much crunch and chew with fried chicken, dried cranberries, pecans, and Mandarin oranges. Also just the best Balsamic vinaigrette. Dave prefers O’Charley’s California Grilled Chicken Salad – similar array of textures and sweet and sours, but healthier. Not distracting me from my favorite. [Our friend didn’t even order the salad; the Fish & Chips is also yummy!]Photo Credit: Foodspotting.com
4) Bookstore – I’ve actually never been to this bookstore but the video below captured my book-lover heart. It’s a part of the Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, Pennsylvania. I saw the video as part of watching the livestream of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation conference last week. If you love books and best practices, watch the video. Your heart will sing.
4) Procrastination in Writing – I knew I had this conference this week and could have already written the pieces for this week beforehand – even Friday Faves could have been of a different week’s “faves”. But, no! Procrastination is a struggle for me. So many choices, so many other things easier to be distracted by than focusing on writing. Jerry Bridges, a successful and prolific author, writes sympathetically and encouragingly about procrastination – something he has also struggled with. Such a helpful article. If I hadn’t procrastinated, I would list out some of his helps…but instead I leave you with a graphic from an altogether different article. Sigh…
Book-lovers are divided into three kinds of people – those who borrow books from the library, those who buy electronic versions to read on tablets of some sort, and people like me. I buy books. Usually online. Two days later they arrive and I love tearing open the cardboard box, and turning the pages of those anticipated books.
I might read one book right away, or save it for a plane trip, or file it into the stack of “next reads”. Today my pre-ordered copy of the just out The Day the Crayons Came Homearrived in that cardboard box.
This children’s story, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, is that best sort of book both kids and adults enjoy together. Its best-selling predecessor, The Day the Crayons Quit,is my current favorite children’s story. It sits on the bookshelf to the right of my work desk as my inspiration for the day I write such a book.
Both books tell the woes of various crayons in the possession of young Duncan. So funny, and so human…for crayons. Jeffers’ illustrations are the perfect match for Daywalt’s writing. You want to buy these books for your children, or yourself. Of course, you can borrow them from the library. Not me, but you can.
Two other great books came in today’s cardboard box…
Thanks for the Feedback is written by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. They also authored the book Difficult Conversations, with Bruce Patton. I heard Sheila Heen speak about feedback at the Global Leadership Summit recently. It seems feedback is something we all want at work…until we get it. Stone and Heen talk about learning how to receive feedback well. My husband will read this book before me, but I look forward to tackling this subject and growing through it.
The third book that arrived today was Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. It is a manual for managers who want to merge creativity and excellence. Catmull, one of the founders of Pixar Animation, and the president of Disney Animation Studios, was also a speaker at this year’s Global Leadership Summit. I’m excited to read Creativity, Inc. to apply his principles in my work and life among creative. I am also intrigued by his many stories of how he keeps the culture and operations so user-friendly for the artists and designers. Looking forward to learning more from him in this book.
This day delivered on great books. I may review them later, but for now I’m just looking forward to reading them myself. For the joy and for the empowering that come with good books.
What books are you reading these days? Would love to hear about them. Maybe I’ll order them, too.
Summer…So many thoughts flood our mind at the mention of the word. Longer days. No more school (usually). Family vacation. Road trips. Reunions. Abundant fruits and vegetables. Cookouts. For our family, all the years our children were in school, wherever we were in the world, summer also meant a reading program. We always got a head-start on the books in their next reading level. That may sound like punishment, but it wasn’t. We all gained from each other’s reading. New characters, new places, mysteries and adventures, history unknown to us until we read about it in these books. Our summers were always marked by whatever we were reading – bookmarked.
The summer reading program is behind us all, but we still have an avid reader in our daughter. She continues to introduce our family to lovely stories, and such was the case with this strange-titled little book – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
Written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (an aunt and her niece), this little book is a historical fiction with some of the confounding twists of plot reminiscent of Jane Austen novels. This story is set in England, in 1946, shortly after the end of World War II. It focuses on the correspondence of a young writer, Juliet Ashton, and various people in her life, including her publisher, a childhood friend, a suitor, and a group of book club members on Guernsey Island.
During World War II, the tactical decision was made that the Channel Islands could not be protected from the Germans and therefore left on their own. They were occupied for most of the war by the German military. In fact, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society emerged in this isolated hardship situation.
“We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us.”
Through an odd turn of events, Juliet struck up a friendship with one of the island dwellers, and that friendship grew to include all of the remaining book club members as well as some of the other less literary islanders.
“It was so kind of you to write to me about your experiences during the Occupation. At the war’s end, I, too, promised myself that I had done with talking about it. I had talked and lived war for six years, and I was longing to pay attention to something – anything – else. But that is like wishing I were someone else. The war is now the story of our lives, and there’s no subtracting it.”
Through the letters between Juliet and her new-found friends, she was so moved by how they survived the German occupation, that she arranged a visit to Guernsey. The visit became a lengthy stay and her life was changed forever.
Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows*
I loved this story. Historical fiction has never been my favorite because the details (intertwining the history of the period with the characters) usually wear me out in the reading. This story engaged my mind and heart so well that I could smell the salt air and feel the sea mist in my hair. Yet, the terror of war coupled with the consolation of friendship became as real as if I were there in that moment. It surprises me that Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows are not English (Mrs. Shaffer is from West Virginia) because they crafted the story as if it happened to them. It was deeply personal to them. Some of the beauty of the book could have come out of their love for each other, as Mrs. Shaffer’s failing health required Annie to finish the book for them both (published in 2008, after Mary Ann Shaffer died). What a legacy for them together…
The picture below is the first page of the book.
It alludes to the curious way Juliet Ashton, the leading character of the book, came into the lives of the Guernsey islanders. My daughter recommending this book to me in the long days of this summer gave me a similar experience. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has marked not only my summer, but my life.
There is still time…don’t miss this book this summer. If you’ve had the pleasure of reading it, you know what I’m talking about.
“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive—all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”
We’re packing to move house. Now, I know wisdom is to purge as much as possible. These books, that I can hold in my hand, and recognize both intellectually and emotionally, are like old friends. Just looking at them on the shelf reminds me of the lessons God has taught me through them. It’s like the joke about the jokes that old men tell over and over around the wood stove in a country store. After years of telling the same jokes, (the joke goes), they just numbered them and call out the number of whatever joke they want to re-tell that day, and everyone chuckles, satisfied with the pleasure of remembering. That’s how these books are to me…just seeing them on the bookcase by my bed each evening reminds me of the great truths their authors have taught me over the years. Books are more and more electronically enjoyed these days, but I love to hold them in my hands, turn the pages, smell the paper…the older the better. Years of wisdom. Real life. Truth.
Biographies & Autobiographies – the story of a life is so fascinating. What were the influences? The relationships? The hopes and fears? The conflicts and challenges? What did they learn that they could teach us – decades or centuries later? McCasland’s Oswald Chambers – Abandoned to God tells the story of the short, full life of the man who gave us My Utmost for His Highest. Most who know Chambers’ books know that he only wrote one, and his wife Biddy, a highly competent stenographer, compiled the 29 other books by Oswald Chambers. He spoke; she wrote. And we all have the rich fruit of both their labors. A favorite autobiography of mine is C. S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy – The Shape of My Early Life. To hear Lewis’ voice in this volume brings to life all over again his wit (Screwtape Letters) and wisdom as he marks how God drew him to Himself. You’ll see other biographical books in the picture, but I’ll close this section with Noel Piper’s Faithful Women & Their Extraordinary God. In her book, she gives the reader biographical sketches of 5 “ordinary” women who lived in different periods of the last 250 years. Ordinary women completely devoted to an extraordinary God. Their legacy includes us who are inspired to live like them…for Him.
Devotional Books – I mentioned Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, which has been a companion to the Bible for countless Christians. A favorite of mine as well. Here, though, I want to mention four other devotionals. Two are authored/compiled by women. Mrs. Charles E. (Lettie) Cowman wrote Streams in the Desert (you can find a daily excerpt from this at http://www.backtothebible.org/index.php/devotions/classics/charles_cowman.html). Mary Wilder Tileston gathered the writings of many great spiritual fathers and mothers of our past and presented them to the reader in Joy & Strength (her daily devotionals are also found at http://www.backtothebible.org/index.php/devotions/classics/mary_wilder_tileston.html). One of the Puritan fathers, William Gurnall, wrote the classic The Christian in Complete Armour which focuses on spiritual warfare. All these books have several pages marked with bits of paper for me to return to as needed.
Relationship Books – Anything you ever discover written by Tom Elliff will be rich in humor, wisdom, and love. We’ve used his books on marriage/marriage preparation many times over, often having to replace them because they don’t always make it back home. Letters to Lovers and Unbreakable are two must-reads. Then there are books that have such a provocative subtitle that your horizon expands before you even make it to the first page. Such a book is Gary Thomas’ Sacred Marriage – What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? So many great books in this section I’d love to captivate you with but will close with Gene Edwards’ A Tale of Three Kings. This book is “a study in brokenness” (as the subtitle reveals), illustrated dramatically by the intertwined lives of Saul, David, and Absalom.
One book in my collection of favorites you may have as well, but maybe not in Arabic. It is The Bible. This book is the enduring Word of God. His Story. Over the last twenty years, during our time living in the Arab world, hearing the Word read or quoted in Arabic was a delight to my soul. My reading it aloud in Arabic sounds like that of a new reader, a child both new to reading and to the language. It’s all together a different experience to hear the Bible read by someone in his heart language who reads the same words, that opened life to me in English, but in Arabic. When I think of Heaven, it makes my heart glad to think that we might understand God’s Word in all languages. I won’t mind if there are no books there…but for me, here, they are a glimpse of Heaven…these stories of the saints, this great “Cloud of Witnesses”, spurring us on…to know God and to make Him known; to love Him and our neighbors as ourselves.
For now, for our moving day, these books go into a box marked “Open Early”.
What books are your old friends? I’d love to meet them.