Tag Archives: Facebook

Monday Morning Moment – Lies – and What Makes Us Think We Can Sort Them Out?

Photo Credit: Ask Ideas, Facebook, Enchanting Minds

Freedom of speech is a precious right that deserves our protection.

We are free in this country to speak. We can choose to treat truth as a lie or lies as truth. Without penalty in some cases. Even the Supreme Court has protected the right to lie in one instance (maybe others). The justices’ in-court conversation is fascinating and telling of the sanctity of free speech in our country.

As a nation, our values have included the adage “with rights come responsibilities”. Unfortunately, in the political arena, we may need to ask the question: has lying become an accepted “means to an end”?

For this first (maybe final) term of the Trump presidency, he has been accused of lying on a daily basis, by the Democrats and the main-stream media, among others. Now we are in the last days of a presidential election. Vice-President Biden, the Democratic candidate for President, is also under fire for lying. Even his own Vice-President candidate, Senator Harris, not many months ago, accused him of the same.

Let’s just say, for a moment, that telling the truth is not an American value in 2020. It seems it still is, if we base that assessment on the varied and verbose outcries, on each side of the political aisle. However, how is it that we, the American people, believe our particular candidate is always telling the truth and the other is not?

Here’s what I think? Take it for what it’s worth to you. I don’t think any of us can know who is lying and who is telling the truth.

We live in a political era of spliced sound-bytes, seamless film editing, brilliant speech writing, and high-dollar coaches and advisors. Our party and policy preferences are gathered from our social media posts and internet searches. What we want to hear and see is well-researched and incorporated into political campaigns. Then we have the tech giants and news media fueling what we believe about our preferred candidates…or the other catastrophic choices. This is where we are…in the political arena.

Many of us are disappointed in the amount of pandering politicians do. But that pandering is more a symptom of our high unadjusted expectations and abstract consumerism than it is of flaws of political characters. You can’t compete for the presidency these days without pandering, including meta-pandering — pandering about pandering, saying “You’re good honest folk. You don’t want pandering. You only want straight talk and that’s all you’ll ever get from me.” – Jeremy E. Sherman

The quote above speaks to the jaded nature of politics. “Pandering” is essentially saying what we think others want to hear to get what we want out of the transaction – a political win, in this case. Sad.

The win is what matters. Lie if you have to, to end up on top. Lying, and not getting caught in the lie, is even better. So what if you get caught? Then you lean on your allies to whitewash the lie or create doubt, especially, when possible, by casting doubt on the veracity of the one who exposed the lie. Round and round and round we go.

There’s so much more I’d like to say on this topic, but will stop here. In the US, a huge election is days away, and we are weighing our candidates by what we believe about them. Who has our best interests at heart? Some say they are voting for the “lesser of two evils”. Some are very relieved at their option. Still others believe the whole future of this country is at stake.

What is true here, and what are the lies? What makes us think we can sort them out?

Here’s how? We look past our party affiliation. We start the clock wondering:  how is it that this friend, colleague, family member, educator, legislator, celebrity, thought leader, media talking head…thinks differently from me? Be willing to ask the question, “Could it be possible that I’m the one who believes the lies? Could it be I have drunk the proverbial KoolAid?”

The sleek advertising notwithstanding, lies abound right now. Freedom of speech protects a certain level of lying. The end justifies the means…or so it seems. What we hope is that when the smoke clears on this election, and a winner is finally declared, that we as a people haven’t sold our souls to the Devil…the Father of lies.

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. – 2 Timothy 4:3

Here is the positive, the hope. We can be those who don’t need our ears tickled. We can, no matter the outcome of this election, choose to look for truth (not in the use of the word as in “my truth” or “your truth”) and stand there…together. When we dig down through all the political pandering and propaganda, we can hopefully find bedrock… if not in today’s popular culture…then elsewhere.

Peace.

Monday Morning Moment – Don’t Mess with my Facebook – a Cautionary Tale

Photo Credit: Pexels

I didn’t want to write this…but it had to be done so I could move on. Fortunately, waiting a day, some of the fire has died down.  Smoldering into reason.

Yesterday was a church gathering for us. At the start of the sermon, I had my journal open and my pen ready. Being a visual learner, it helps me to retain information if I “see” it by taking notes.

The pastor began with a long and pointed rant on social media – the time-sink it is and the fakery it showcases. The particular target was Facebook and Facebook users. I love our pastor-teacher guy, so it surprised me how mad I got listening to him showering putdowns on Facebook, Twitter and the like. Especially knowing Facebook is a key communication tool we use as a church.

What was causing all the anger inside of me? So silly especially related to social media…Facebook, of all things.

Later in the evening, I realized…the spent anger probably related to the fact that my Facebook usage could equate to an addiction. Not like pornography. Nor alcohol/drugs. Not even that of food or shopping. Facebook is something I have grown dependent on… accustomed to… comfortable with.

It is useful to me.

It is nothing like face-to-face communication or staying in touch by phone or mail with people I love. It’s nothing like getting in the car and driving across town (or country) to see the actual people I love, not just love seeing on Facebook.

Especially those I can’t easily get to…friends in Morocco, for instance. Facebook allows me to chat with them and see into their lives when reality prevents the same for me…although I have tried to get there…and will continue to do so.

I will share with my pastor the impact of this part of his sermon had on me… Not in anger but in understanding now that some time and reason have done their work…and most probably God.

For those of you, my Facebook friends, who have left Facebook because it’s less cool since us older ones are present, or it is all fakery and foolishness, or it’s an election year and the comments will cut like a knife…I understand and I will miss you.

Why don’t I leave?

  • Joining in 2007, Facebook gave me glimpses of the world that my college-aged children were entering – leaving home almost 4000 miles away. It helped make the distance not so achingly far.
  • It facilitated my finding some of the dearest college friends whom I’d lost track of. Now we see each other at least once a year in real time, but Facebook helps us catch snatches of each other’s lives in between.
  • Facebook picks the news it shows me, and I wish I had more of a say. Still that news of those friends helps me know when reaching out needs to happen – sooner than it might if I waited for a birthday or a passing memory or fleeting thought.
  • It doesn’t just display happy, healthy babies, engagements or weddings, or the new look of a friend having lost weight or on a new skin regime. It doesn’t just showcase where friends hang together on weekends and what fun they’re having… That’s cool and doesn’t bother me usually. Facebook especially helps when the news is hard and it’s broadcasted without hurting so much because it’s less personal to do it this way. We don’t have to call so many, because Facebook sends out the hard news past our immediate families and circle of friends and associates. The cancer diagnosis. The job opportunity that didn’t happen. The miscarriage. The breakup. The election lost. The death of a dear old one. All the harder things of life. Facebook gives us a place to send that out to the wind to carry it where we don’t have the strength to go.
  • Especially in an election year, Facebook gives us a platform to state our highest hopes and our darkest dreads regarding the possible outcomes. We can use the posts of our friends and families to gauge what we talk about…and how to…when we are actually face-to-face. Right? I have learned so much from this public venue that seems to feel safe to folks who post.

I could go on and on but will stop here. How about you? Any why’s or why not’s on Facebook, or social media, in general? Some of the dearest people in my life are minimal social media users. What’s your story? How do you stay in touch with people in your periphery…or it doesn’t matter?

Facebook has nothing on real flesh-and-blood encounters. It is better than nothing…or nearly nothing. I have 1,330 friends on Facebook right now. Some of them I see in real life, of course. Probably only see a tiny fraction of them in my Facebook newsfeed… but those (as a personal for instance) make my real life happier and my relational load lighter. They give hints about their lives – that they are there, engaged in life, and they see me sometimes (even on social media, it means a lot). They also get the same back from me hopefully…a “love”, a bit of encouragement, a private message reminding them of more love. This “almost reach” is a small but considerable thing in a polarized world and fast-paced life.

The cautionary tale is that Facebook can usurp our privacy, devour our precious time, market to us without our blessing, and choose what friends we see. Beware.

Also, if we wake at night, and instead of praying, pick up our phones and scroll away, we miss out on the most real person available to any of us. The One who is the most worthy of our following. If we pull up Facebook during the day, and never pull up in front of that friend’s house…or pull up her number in our phone directory…we have forgotten what Facebook is not. If we chat up our dearest causes or fight our political battles with social media posts and not with real skin in the game, then we miss out on the best of life…the rest of life. The #LoveYourNeighbor possibilities out there.

OK…I’m done.

Don’t mess with my Facebook, Pastor Friend. Putting my feet to the fire won’t change my social media usage (yet), but you caused me to think. Thanks.

Monday Morning Moment – Friends, Family, and Fellows at Work in the Digital Age

Photo Credit: The Art of Social Media” (CC BY 2.0) by  mkhmarketing 

My mom was an excellent communicator. She wrote emails like they were letters. Long and newsy, full of the details of her day, and her specific encouragements on the trials of life. Of course, this came out of her only daughter and family taking off to live overseas. With three of Mom’s grandchildren! I will never forget how she bought her first and only computer to be able to communicate regularly with us. She died before the advent of smart phones and social media. Believe me: she would have figured those out as well – to communicate with those she loved.

Dave works in a setting which requires much of his communication to be electronic. He talks about how it has been world-changing in terms of being able to have real-time communication with colleagues. Even time zones away. Email, conference calls, and a myriad of smart phone applications make work practices easier. Especially that of inclusion and having the right people at the decision-making table.

The challenge is when electronic communication is almost but not quite communication. A quick texting conversation or series of emails do not substitute for a face-to-face meeting where nuance and clarification are more easily secured.

I have a friend and one-time colleague who calls me regularly on her way to or from work. Those conversations are so rich. We haven’t lived in the same city for 25 years, but I know her…her take on things, her challenges, and the wealth of her wisdom for my own stuff. We text occasionally, but she has excellent command of the phone-conversation-catch-up-with-friends skill.

The article linked below came to my attention this week. It got me thinking on this topic more. We want to be good at friendship, “family-ing”, working well with our colleagues, right? At least we don’t want to do harm with relationships as we focus on others at the moment. This article is so packed with good stuff, I’m leaving it right here for you to read yourself:

How to Be a Better Friend in the Digital Age by Amy Maclin and Molly Simms

In thinking about our relationships and communication in the digital age, here are my notes to self:

1) Stay in the present. – When in the company of friends or family, or in a work meeting, put electronic devices away if at all possible. In your purse or pocket or another room. Cell phones always with us (at meeting or dinner tables) smack of self-importance, really. I struggle here, so preaching to self. Remember the days when we wrote the things we wanted to remember on pads of paper or a napkin? Maybe you’re not distractible but once I pull out my phone to make a note or take a picture of the food, say, it becomes an uninvited guest at the table…drawing my attention away.Photo Credit: Pexels

You may not have this problem of distractability. We can always make an electronic record later of what we wrote down. We cannot reconstruct conversation we missed while fiddling with our phones. Nor can we recoup that sense of full attention for those in front of us, lost while we were on our phones or tablets.

2) Be proactive in communication. – This may be a challenge for most of us. I am grateful for updates from bosses who want their employees in the loop. Also, how wonderful to get birthday and anniversary cards in the mail (?!)…from proactive loved ones.

Letting friends and family know news, plans, and other details (of special interest between you) sooner than later sends a message. They matter to you, and their time matters as well. If these same people don’t hear from you, in time, they will come after you…better to be proactive, loving in this way.

3) Be quick and appropriate in responding. – [Outside of situation #1] Take the call when possible instead of letting it go to voicemail. Text back even a quick response, with a more complete communication to follow. [Because of their disruptive nature, some texts seem now to be treated as emails to be answered later and in a clump. I get that. Unless the texts become emails that also go unanswered. Just saying.]

Consider the best way to respond. A text may require an email response to be effective. An email may require a phone call in followup. If positive communication is the goal, we go after the medium that best suits.

4) Our social media presence communicates different things to different people. We all know this intuitively. Something to think about if we’re using it for work or to maintain contact with friends/family. Social media, in general, is not a personal vehicle for communication. Definitely broadcasting. Unless you engineer it to be personal. I get how some have elected to go more private, more narrowcasting (see link below). We must remember with this medium: we think because we’ve communicated to some, we have communicated to all. A caution if we care.

Networking: Broadcast or Narrowcast?Genna Rodriguez

5) Avoid the fallout of negative or neglectful communication. – It always seems to have a greater impact than we intended. Or, should I say, a worse outcome. The “unfollow” or “blocking” or social media rant can be not only hurtful but relationship-altering. Not answering phone calls, texts, or emails will eventually stop those from happening…at a cost. Whenever a crucial or hard conversation needs to happen, a face-to-face meetup is best. Even if, because of geographic distance, it has to be via an electronic device (Facetime, etc).

We Have to Talk: A Step-by-Step Checklist for Difficult Conversations – Judy Ringer

Also related to social media:  we often fall to being more consumers rather than creators. Our communication gets more passive, even lazy (it happens to me, for sure)…if we don’t take steps to practice being proactive in communication.

Having electronic communication – even at its impersonal worst – is better than no communication…but maybe not forever.

___________________________________________________________________________

Did I miss something? Please comment below.

In closing, I just want to give a salute to those in our lives who get all this. My friend who calls, a boss who doesn’t forget to followup, a family member who regularly checks in, that one who uses texts in a fun and familiar ways to touch base, and the people in our lives who practice kind and intelligent reason on social media posts.

I have a younger brother who has a non-stop work day. Long hours, leaving for work before I even wake up, and therefore getting to bed much earlier in the evening than most. We haven’t always been super close, but in these years of getting older and losing loved ones, we are now the next two oldest in our family. We are also much closer friends now than before…part of that is his initiation of calling on his long drive home from work. With hands-free technology to keep driving safe, it has become a sweet occasion between us.

Lastly, social media itself has been more a blessing to me than a curse. I have learned much from folks I follow on Twitter and Facebook. Through Facebook of all things, some once-close college friends and I were able to reconnect. What a gift!

So with all its challenges, the digital age has brought us more good than bad. If we are willing, we can hopefully keep it that way.

P.S. Communication at any level is colored by culture. My husband and I had the privilege of chauffeuring some Egyptian friends to their wedding reception. Our car was decked out in fresh flowers and streamers. Driving through the crazy Cairo night, Dave’s job was to get our friends safely to their destination, but that wasn’t all. Leading a small and festive parade, we were to let it be known to all those on the streets and in apartments above the streets, that a bride and groom were coming through. Traditionally, the driver periodically is to toot his horn in a rhythmic manner signaling those around us of an oncoming wedding party. DA-DA-dadada, DA-DA-dadada. That was the signal. Photo Credit: The Cairo Scene

Everyone knew it and what it meant. Dave was an excellent Cairo driver, BUT he was timid in doing this small duty of horn-blowing. He would only do the first “phrase” of the announcement and not the obligatory second one. It was so not right. After a couple of times of my failed cajoling, he did it one more time with just the first horn toot phrase. A huge packed Cairo city bus passed by us, and its driver finished the phrase! I LOVED IT! We all did. Dave got the idea finally and we joyfully trumpeted to all those around us from that point on with just the right and understood alert!

Ah, true communication!

Monday Morning Moment – the Perils of Social Media – That Post Might Not Have Been Meant For You

Photo Credit: Needpix, Geralt, Pixabay

Some years ago, I got tapped for the communications strategist role for a work team that was near and dear to my heart. It was a joy for me to wave the banner for our work – to raise awareness, inform and educate via the various social media outlets. Part of the job was following the social media accounts of folks also engaged in similar work, learning from and engaging with them.

It was where my love-hate relationship with social media began. Sifting through hundreds of posts and scrolling through silly to discover the substantive – time-consuming for sure. Mind-numbing at times. It’s why friends and colleagues curtail their Twitter and Facebook habits. For me, it’s been more gain than loss in learning from those I follow.

In particular, from those I follow that I wouldn’t know otherwise.

Social media allows us a window into the lives of people we are only barely acquainted with.

Also, we have this odd access to people who are celebrities in their fields of expertise – be they actors, scientists, politicians, educators, artists, or thought leaders of some sort or other.

We must be wary of making social media more personal than it actually is. Social media by definition presumes that it is actually social – between amicable and obliging people. Community is also presumed. Communication, too.

We must be cautious about entering into dialog, even with just a like button…because, in fact, that tweet or Facebook status could have been meant for a rather different audience.

That post frankly might not have been meant for you.

On the flip side, the social silence that follows one of your own posts might also not have been personal either. It is what it is.

Recently, I began following author John Pavlovitz on Twitter. He popped up as author of an article and, intrigued, I shared it:Photo Credit: ChurchPlant

Then it turns out he is an wildly active tweeter, and my Twitter page has grown full of his take on both our country’s political and religious failings. I try not to engage, but today, it felt personal so I did…my mistake.

Photo Credit: Twitter, John Pavlovitz

If you’re Southern Baptist, or a white, middle class, heterosexual (definitely male) evangelical…this tweet might have been “meant” for you. I realized later in the day, it wasn’t meant for me. I replied, and got smacked down by another follower of Mr. Pavlovitz. Probably deserved since I actually thought I could enter the conversation…but it wasn’t about me.

You see…it wasn’t actually an open conversation.

That’s an important distinction in successfully maneuvering social media. Not all conversations are open to everyone. I would love to be in some of the dialogs going on in various cyber-locations. The problem is although it feels like we’re invited, it isn’t the case.

I’m slowly learning that.

However, remaining silent is not the answer either. Conversations are needed with places at the table for as diverse a community of people as possible.

It happens occasionally on social media and I’m thankful for what I learn in the gracious company of people who don’t necessarily agree with me, or I with them…but who consider a differing view and who practice reasoned dialog with others.

[Update: I did decide to “unfollow” the gentleman above. Increasing my understanding of how others think can come from others.]

What are your thoughts on this?

A quote by actor Denzel Washington bears repeating here (posted in last week’s Friday Faves). Washington won the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement award last week. His acceptance speech was the stuff of community and caring and healing…across the lines that too often divide us:

[In his acceptance speech,] he shared a brief 30-year-old video of his father-in-law talking to the camera and preaching a message of love. “God intends for us to love all mankind and by being in a loving mood, caring for one another, that’s our purpose for life,” his father-in-law said in the clip. “We should care for one another and we should help one another.”

Washington closed by reflecting on and reinforcing this message, saying, “In this Twitter, tweet, mean, mean world that we’ve created for our children, the least we can do is consider what we’ve done and think about the young people, the future, and individually, collectively, we can try and do the best we can. I blame no one; I look in the mirror. On the other side of it, what an opportunity we have because tomorrow’s the first day of the rest of our lives, so what an opportunity we have to practice what he preached.”Maureen Lee Lenker, Entertainment Weekly

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

In closing, I thought about extending an apology to Mr. Pavlovitz… but again realized (still learning) he wasn’t writing to me. I was not meant to come to the table set for those who would respond in affirmative to his tweet or in embattled reaction to it.

Mr. Pavlovitz, you help me grow in my understanding about how others experience politics and the church. I want to understand. It helps to realize your posts aren’t meant for me therefore I will not take them personally in the future. [Of course, you won’t be reading this…but just throwing it out there]. Blessings.

5 Friday Faves – A Happy Place, Preventing Generosity Burnout, Whistle-blowers, Spotify, and Beautiful Documentaries

Happy Weekend…without further ado, here are my Friday Faves, before it gets too much farther into the weekend. Enjoy.

1) My Happy Place – “My happy place” has usually been a phrase that makes me cringe when I hear it. What does that really mean? Then it came to mind this week as I strolled through a local business. RVA Antiques. This huge space is a showcase for all things 20th Century, upcycled and updated for today’s customer. Artful and lovely. Having just picked up a prescription at the pharmacy next door, I had some time on my hands so popped in…just on a whim. It was a real refreshment for my soul. I like old things…the stuff of my mom’s era makes me think of her…and that makes me happy. Words also just bring smiles …those words worthy of being painted on a canvas or splashed on a piece of wood. Just strolled around the different vendors’ booths. Even met one of the owners, Dean Lewis, who made me feel welcome. Now that my understanding of such “a happy place” has been enlarged, what’s one of your “happy places”?

2) Preventing Generosity Burnout An article by Adam Grant and Reb Rebele got me thinking this week about generosity burnout. Beat Generosity Burnout confronts the crucial fine line between effectively helping others and giving so selflessly we lose our joy and capacity. We burn out. If we base our helping on “the need”, we won’t build in safeguards, boundaries if you will, to determine how best to meet that need. Serving our communities is definitely something we need to always consider, but we serve best by applying sustainable, capacity-building planning and practice.

Photo Credit: Adam Grant, Reb Rebele, Craig Ellis – LinkedIn

Think of the ways you serve your various communities across a typical week or month. Are you all-in or holding back out of fear of too great a commitment or fear of burnout? Or what else? We definitely want to rise above the latter but what might “all-in” look like to be sustainable? For you personally and for the sake of the community you serve?

I would love this sort of dialogue with you.  Either in Comments below or via email.

[Sidebar – for those of you who flew through this, already cynical and shut down from demands/needs of your organization or community, please reconsider and lean in. People very close to you may be teetering on generosity burnout and could use your thinking on sustainability.]

Beat Generosity Burnout –  Adam Grant & Reb Rebele

Generosity Burnout – Selflessness Exhaustion – Craig Ellis

The Invisible Costs of Giving: How to Combat Generosity Burnout at WorkNicole Abi-Esber

Harvard Business Review – List of Articles on Generosity Burnout

3) Whistle-blowers – Who are these people? These who bring unethical or illegal practices into the light? These who risk reputation and career…even more at times…to expose wrong? This was a big news week in America. One of those related to Christopher Wylie, a former employee of Cambridge Analytica (CA) and a whistle-blower. Wylie revealed an incredible, yet not-surprising abuse of Facebook user data by the political consulting company Cambridge Analytica. This company has probably had influence on presidential elections in the US, Kenya, Argentina, and other countries.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia
First, the company secured Facebook user data by claiming it would be for academic research purposes rather than commercial purposes. Then the company used an app (a pop-up quiz on Facebook) to glean more data about the user’s personality. This was multiplied through the users’ friend lists…resulting in millions of Facebook users manipulated by Cambridge Analytica. Based on their findings, CA would then post “fake news” to these users’ pages that would move them to possibly vote in a certain way. This is essentially “weaponizing the internet”.
I’m not sure of Christopher Wylie’s motives in whistle-blowing at this time, but it definitely gives pause to every request we consider in clicking yes to an app having access to our data.
What is also thought-provoking is how this practice goes much farther back than just the 2016 presidential election.
Something to ponder…thanks to Christopher Wylie, previously the perpetrator, now a champion for truth.
4) Spotify – So many of you may already use Spotify, this music service for smartphones and computers. I’m a late adopter but now I’m a happy consumer of this free medium. Especially since Beyond the Guitar has his first album on the site. So nice just to be able to click on, and listen to Nathan’s music while I’m driving or working.
His first published original composition, Evenglow, is also available on Spotify.
Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar
Be a Patron – Support Beyond the Guitar music creation on Patreon.
5) Beautiful Documentaries – Documentaries are becoming film favorites of late…especially when they focus on documenting the beautiful and redemptive sides of life.

Jay Lyons Productions partnered with Topher Hall to create this amazing piece with current and vintage footage for Prison Fellowship. This documentary tells the story of how people who committed unspeakable crimes found a sustaining and redeeming faith in Christ while in prison.

Prison Fellowship – Video Review

Another of Jay’s documentaries that is coming out soon is The Long Goodbye: The Kara Tippetts Story. Kara died 3 years ago this week. She was a magnificent woman, full of love and faith.  Watch for this film.

 Have a rich weekend. Every day is a gift, right? Love on those people around you. Love you.
Bonuses: 

The Man That Came After – Michelle E. Steinke

Little Marlana – My Story

Salvation Army Launches Nonprofit Supermarket To Help Low-Income Families Buy Quality Food

Photo Credit: FrankSonnenberg Online

FSO_50-shades-of-waste

5 Friday Faves – Awards Speeches, Castle Theme, Prayer Breakfast, Harmony, and a Comedian

Hello, Friday! You know those kind of days when you work really, really hard, and you come home too tired to eat, much less cook….but it’s a good tired. You sink down in the closest chair…and 10 minutes later, wake up from a nap that felt longer…and…on with finishing the week… Hope your tired is a good tired. Here are five of my favorite finds…just for you!

1) Awards Speeches – We are in that season of awards shows – the Oscar, Golden Globe, Grammy, among others. Those of us who watch these shows do so to catch all the gorgeous or peculiar actors in the audience and stage. The fashions are a draw as well. For me, I love to hear what the award recipients say when they receive their award…their prepared words/speech. What they choose to showcase in their few minutes before their peers and the watching world. On the recent Screen Actors Guild Awards show, my favorite speech of the year was by Taraji P. Henson. She spoke for all the actors of Hidden Figures which won the award of Outstanding Performance By A Cast in a Motion Picture.

Watch her speech in the clip, or read it here. Part of it follows: “This story is of unity,” she concluded. “This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside and we come together as a human race. We win. Love wins every time.”

No political posturing. No pitting of one group against another. Lovely. Hopeful. True.

2) The Castle ThemeNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has done it again. He has taken the background music of a favorite videogame and demonstrated the incredible beauty to be found there. Castle Theme from Super Mario World is his latest arrangement for classical guitar. I honestly don’t know how he plays as fast as he does. Check it out here.

3) Prayer Breakfast – These days you never know what to expect in public observances. Protests, boycotts, and marches. A quieter but significant  event is the National Prayer Breakfast observed in February each year since 1953, in Washington, D.C. Keynote speakers in the past have included Mother Teresa, Bono, and Tony Blair. This year retired Rear Admiral Barry Black, the Senate Chaplain, delivered the message.  So powerful! He spoke on Making Your Voice Heard in Heaven.  If you can’t watch all incredible 25 minutes, at least watch from minute 22:16. Wow!

4) Harmony – Don’t you love when music and life flow with harmony? Jay Lyons is a filmmaker whose work I follow. In response to the dissonance of voices in this week’s newstream, he and his family wrote and performed together a song about harmony. Watch it here: Our House – Harmony – Jay Lyons & Family. Photo Credit: Music Early Childhood Presenter

5) A Comedian –  While Facebook friends of mine are deactivating left and right because of all the political wrangling going on right now, I had the biggest chuckle when a video featuring comedian John Crist showed up on my newsfeed. It’s about trying to find a parking place at a mega-church. He is new to me and so funny. Several of his videos are posted on his website. Enjoy.Photo Credit: YouTube

So that’s all I’ve got…jumping into my pajamas to fall asleep in front of the TV…don’t even care what’s on. Before I sign off though, I’d like to give a shout-out to Mike Sheley, owner/operator of the brand-new Chick-Fil-A at Smith Crossroads, Lenoir, North Carolina. This restaurant just opened this week. If you know about Chick-Fil-A, you know it’s all about a great-tasting chicken sandwich…and much more. Mike and team have a huge commitment to the community. Even before their grand opening, the restaurant team sponsored a book drive for local elementary schools and filled food boxes for Feeding Children Everywhere (over 10,000 meals total).Photo Credit: Facebook, Chick-Fil-A

Hope you have a great weekend, and if you’re anywhere near Lenoir, North Carolina, say hi to Mike & Jessica Sheley…and “eat mor chikin'”.

 

5 Friday Faves – Politics and a Confession, Beyond the Guitar, Must-See Documentaries, Writing Your Story, and the Tail End of Life – Plus Bonuses

Friday Faves – my favorite finish to a writing week. It suffers when I travel…today, I’m home. Lots of faves over the last several weeks went without my pushing them forward to you. I’ve added some bonuses to this one to pull in a few more.

Hope you are doing well in this first week of the New Year. I wrote about making resolutions and experiencing real change earlier. New resolve is something as welcome as each new year. It helps me, for sure…no matter how successful, I am energized by resolution. Glad for new beginnings.

Here are this week’s 5 and a handful of bonuses:

1) Politics and a Confession – Whatever your political bent, we are in a new era in the US. The presidential inauguration is fast-approaching, and President-elect Trump will become the next POTUS. I have enjoyed reading the pundits on their take on the new normal. Two of my favorite finds this week are from very different: pieces by New York Times writer Ross Douthat and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. From opposing sides, their articles (with Gingrich, it was a speech delivered after the 2016 Presidential election) are enlightening and the stuff that will help us move forward and cross aisles toward a nation for all Americans.Photo Credit: Joshua Lott, New York Times

Hope you take the time to read them…would love to hear your take on them (Comment below). Also Gingrich refers his audience to an article by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In it, Taleb describes the Intellectual Yet Idiot – “the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking ‘clerks’ and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for…The IYI pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited.”

I felt so vindicated in Taleb’s article – probably not an intellectual, hopefully not an idiot.

2) Beyond the Guitar – When Nathan’s Facebook hits on his Star Wars Medley passed 1.3 millions, I was like, “What?!” Not because I don’t complete agree with the beauty of these themes when arranged for classical guitar…but because of that whole social media phenomenon. Wild! Anyway, here’s his latest arrangement of Princess Leia’s Theme – as a tribute to Carrie Fisher:

3) Must-See Documentaries – Documentaries have neveer been high my watch-list, but this list was intriguing to me. 200  Documentaries You Must See Before You Die. My favorite documentary production group is Fourth Line. Bono & Eugene Peterson: The Psalms is my favorite film from that company…not on the list of 200 (this time around). After reading the list and making notes to self on what to watch, I’ve determined to come up with my own short-list of must-see’s (stay tuned for that). Any recommendations?

Photo Credit: Coffee and Celluloid

4) Writing Your Story – A dear friend of mine writes biographies – not for publication, necessarily, but for her and her family’s own pleasure. Lee Taylor-Wimett, twice-widowed, has written her husband’s stories and her parents’ stories. She has also written her own story…thus far. I had the joy of reading her story when she shared it with me – a simply bound volume of real life. She has, for years, encouraged me to write…to write about my own parents…and maybe, one day, to write my story. I have begun that process – writing about my mom and dad…and keeping up with bits of my own life. Memory is a precious thing and not to be taken for granted.

Photo Credit: Flickr

In this throw-away culture, I have boxes of bits of our lives – growing up in Georgia, having babies in Tennessee, moving around Africa, and now “empty-nesting”, figuring out this life with sweet aging parents, adult children with children…and work in a very different season. Whether any of my children or grandchildren read the story (and I know some will), I want to document this life…this amazing life God has given us.

Steve Anderson of Family Search has made a quick assist in this process with 52 Questions in 52 Weeks: Writing Your Life Story. This is a good week to get started.

Photo Credit: Family Search

5) The Tail End of Life – Tim Urban and Andrew Finn of Wait But Why make charts and graphs that put all kinds of information in a visual form. As a visual learner, I love that. This one is by Tim Urban who helps us look at the human lifespan in a lot of meaningful ways – how many Red Sox games or pizzas or presidential elections we might have left…and more.Photo Credit: Wait But Why

Urban’s observation on time left with parents was poignant [and for my children – this is even more telling for us and our own remaining parents,   as for you]:

I’ve been thinking about my parents, who are in their mid-60s. During my first 18 years, I spent some time with my parents during at least 90% of my days. But since heading off to college and then later moving out of Boston, I’ve probably seen them an average of only five times a year each, for an average of maybe two days each time. 10 days a year. About 3% of the days I spent with them each year of my childhood.

Being in their mid-60s, let’s continue to be super optimistic and say I’m one of the incredibly lucky people to have both parents alive into my 60s. That would give us about 30 more years of coexistence. If the ten days a year thing holds, that’s 300 days left to hang with mom and dad. Less time than I spent with them in any one of my 18 childhood years.

When you look at that reality, you realize that despite not being at the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in your life. If I lay out the total days I’ll ever spend with each of my parents—assuming I’m as lucky as can be—this becomes starkly clear:

It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end.

So what do we do with this information? I see three takeaways here:

1) Living in the same place as the people you love matters. I probably have 10X the time left with the people who live in my city as I do with the people who live somewhere else.

2) Priorities matter. Your remaining face time with any person depends largely on where that person falls on your list of life priorities. Make sure this list is set by you—not by unconscious inertia.

3) Quality time matters. If you’re in your last 10% of time with someone you love, keep that fact in the front of your mind when you’re with them and treat that time as what it actually is: precious.

Thanks, Tim Urban! I’m calling my Mom-in-law right now. Have a great weekend, y’all. Be safe!

Bonuses

New BookBellum Academicus: War Academy by Kevin Prewett – free today on Amazon (Kindle version). Great sci-fi read with lots of suspense – fun cross-generational read and read-aloud.


Sherlock (Season 4) on Masterpiece Theater – I love this mini-series. 3 episodes. Available on PBS.Photo Credit: PBS

First Episode: The Six Thatchers

A Garage the place Hewlett-Packard got started…

Photo Credit: Twitter

Tolkien Quote from The Hobbit

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.” – J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Worship Wednesday – Finding God in the Dark – the Dark that Cannot Extinguish His Light

Blog - Sitting in the Dark - Time Magazine

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.John 1:1-5

How extraordinary that revelation can come waiting in an exam room of a doctor’s office! I was waiting…of course, and noticed the pile of magazines on the counter (to help us waiting lose count of the time). In the pile was an old issue of a Time magazine. The cover story was intriguing. Who of us hasn’t considered, if not encountered, God during a dark night of the soul?

Flipping the pages over to the article, I found a familiar face. A face I hadn’t seen in decades: Barbara Brown…well, Barbara Brown Taylor now. She was my residence advisor my first year in the dorms of Emory University. Blog - Sitting in the dark - Time Magazine - Barbara Brown Taylor

 I loved our occasional talks together. She was funny, beautiful, loving, very real, and captivating – to be so close to our ages yet wise beyond her years. Flawed like the rest of us, but yielded somehow to an otherness of life that gives grace to our flaws, and her own.

Blog - Finding God in the Dark - Barbara BrownPhoto Credit: qotd.org

Barbara Brown Taylor. That day I was glad for the long wait and devoured the Time article (by Elizabeth Dias). It’s lovely to rediscover a friend from our past and to find one who had become so celebrated.

[Sidebar: It was just that same week when I found another old friend via Facebook. He and I lived across from each other, in an old brick apartment building, while in our 20’s. Rick Holm was a medical resident and I was the cancer nurse specialist at Grady Hospital in those days. We became friends and shared friends, and Saturday morning coffee, and late night stories. Now that same Rick Holm is The Prairie Doc, of Brookings, South Dakota. I wasn’t surprised.]

Barbara Brown Taylor, author of Learning to Walk in the Dark, shared some of her story in that magazine article and her thinking on experiencing the dark. Many of us try to avoid the darkness but, for Barbara, it is a place (or experience) to embrace – to discover, and to discover God there. The video produced by The Work of the People gives a winsome glimpse into what she talks about in her book – through clips of her and other writers talking about pain.Blog - Sitting in the Dark - Barbara Brown TaylorPhoto Credit: The Work of the People

I personally prefer light to darkness, although much of what she and her cohorts in the video say about darkness is. We have nightlights in the house, not because anyone is afraid of the dark but, to avoid not falling, tripping over something or running painfully into something.

We definitely need to learn from the darkness in our lives, as Barbara Brown Taylor writes. We are meant to incorporate that learning into the grace we have for ourselves and those around us in their own darknesses. It’s the light, though, that I am most grateful for. The pitch-black dark of suffering will come to all of us, sometimes in ways we can’t even fathom in daytime.

This one thing I know: We are never alone in that dark place.

Blog - Sitting in the Dark - Light - poetrybydeborahann

Photo Credit: Poetry by Deborah Ann Belka

In this moment…the darknesses closest to my heart (hard family situations, the suffering in the world, my own fears) are brightened in the light of God’s Word.  I recognize that, in the darkness around us, there is a call to action. We are meant to do whatever we can to bring light into the darkness of others. I am reminded of Chris Rice’s song Go Light the World.

We can trust the Giver of Light to emblazon our darkness.

Jesus is familiar with darkness. – He brought light into the darkness at the creation of our world (Genesis 1:1-4John 1:1-5); his birth was heralded by angels to shepherds in the dark of that Bethlehem night (Luke 2:8-16); he lived a life that exposed the darkness through the light of His truth and love (John 8:12); seeking the Father’s face in the dark (Mark 1:35); surrendering His life for ours on a cross  against a black midday sky (Mark 15:33); resurrected from the darkness of a tomb (Luke 24); – with us now in every situation we can’t see our way out of (Deuteronomy 31:6, Matthew 28:20) … His light will never be extinguished by the dark (John 1:5).

Whatever our darkness, He brings light. Worship with me:

Light of the World
You stepped down into darkness
Opened my eyes
Let me see
Beauty that made
This heart adore You
Hope of a life
Spent with You

Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me

King of all days
Oh, so highly exalted
Glorious in Heaven above
Humbly You came
To the earth You created
All for love’s sake became poor

Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me

I’ll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross
I’ll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross

Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me

Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me*

*Here I Am to Worship written by Michael W. Smith, Debbie Smith, Paul Baloche

Oh, the People I Meet and the Stuff I Learn – On Twitter

Blog - Twitter3 years ago, I opened a Twitter account as part of a new job as a communications strategist. Prior to this, Facebook was pretty much the extent of social media I regularly used. Entering the trendy Twittersphere has brought me a bit of good-natured grief from my way cooler young adult children, but I stand my ground.

Twitter reminds me of how I felt first reading Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! “You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.”

I have learned so much from the folks I follow on Twitter (and by default, the folks they follow). They are writers, musicians, theologians, moms, social activists, film makers, entrepreneurs, teachers, artists and athletes. Even how I take in world news is now affected by how these I follow comment on events. It’s surprising how rich a 140-character opinion can be, especially when I am pointed to a link that fills in the rest of the story.

In a world gone texting, a 140-character tweet is really quite substantive.

For the unconvinced of those friends of mine, I want to introduce you to some of the people I follow…just a few, there are many more. What I learn from them each day is well worth the time spent on Twitter. It, like all other social media, can be addictive, so it’s wise to be judicious in how often you check Twitter, but, again, I am thankful for these voices. They have helped me thrive in this world of so many messages. For with Twitter, like Facebook, I choose who I learn from, rather than being bombarded with so. much. noise.

Here are just a few of those I follow and their recent tweets:

Dena Dyer ‏@motherinferior2 34m34 minutes ago

McFarland, USA is a feel-good, inspirational and family-friendly movie–you take your whole family to see it. #supporthegoodstuff

TED Talks ‏@TEDTalks 19m19 minutes ago

#TED2015 begins in 3… 2… 1…

Russell Moore ‏@drmoore 2h2 hours ago

Can’t wait for #cafo2015! Will you be there? http://www.cafo2015.org

[CAFO – Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit April 30-May 1, Nashville, Tn.]

Micah Fries ن ‏@micahfries 2h2 hours ago

I’m pretty sure the New Jerusalem will be a bit like middle Tennessee today; 78, sunny & 30% humidity.

WSJ Sports ‏@WSJSports 2h2 hours ago

Who’s going to win in #MarchMadness? The Madness Machine will guide you through your bracket: http://on.wsj.com/1EkwGVW 

Intl Justice Mission ‏@IJM 3h3 hours ago

Thanks to @AmazonSmile, your shopping can help rescue slaves. Go here (http://smile.amazon.com/  ) + choose us! #YouShopAmazonGives

Business Insider ‏@businessinsider 3h3 hours ago

Amazing photos of a Pacific island nation just devastated by a monster cyclone http://read.bi/1HVSivB 

Mike C ‏@blogboy2 3h3 hours ago

7 Tips to Turn Your Clutter Into Cash Through Garage Sales: http://ht.ly/Koub3  #realestate

Trevin Wax ن ‏@TrevinWax 9h9 hours ago

Repentance has a fragrance; hypocrisy, a stench. http://ow.ly/KmjTB

Brad Hambrick ن @BradHambrick  ·  22h 22 hours ago

Video Overcoming Depression-Anxiety A Responsibility Paradigm (Step 9 of 9) STEWARD all of my life for God’s glory

Marilyn Gardner @marilyngard  ·  16h 16 hours ago

Christopher Yuan 袁幼軒 @christopheryuan  ·  Mar 14

Study: Parents who are absorbed by smartphones have more negative interactions with their children http://yuan2.us/288

Drew Daywalt retweeted

Penguin Books Canada @PenguinCanada  ·  Feb 28

The crayons are coming! The crayons are coming! The Day The Crayons Quit Is getting a sequel: http://bit.ly/1LLRLi6 

How to Sign Up for Twitter

@debmillswriter

 

Resolved: Whenever Possible, Be All There

Blog - CrowdsThe LORD looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. – Psalm 33:13

Seeing the people, He [Jesus] felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.Matthew 9:36

When was the last time you looked a stranger straight in the eyes? Or even lingered on a friend’s face? When was the last time you looked long enough in someone’s face that you saw her heart or sensed his struggle?

I grew up in the South during a time that everyone made eye contact to wave or say hello. It was unthinkable to look past a person…whether you knew them or not. There was a shared sense of community – a familiarity that brought people close, closer than just their geography.

For many years, we lived in the Arab world. My friends there would coach me as a woman not to be too familiar in encounters outside of family or close friends. I should divert my eyes, or just acknowledge them formally. Making eye contact was just too intimate. This didn’t apply to women, but in public situations, I had begun to change even with them.  I just didn’t make eye contact much at all…with anyone I didn’t know. Daily outings, doing errands, were completed with my thoughts elsewhere, pretty much on auto-pilot.

When we came back to the US after the 9/11 attacks, we returned briefly to our old ways of making eye contact, smiling at strangers along our way . This didn’t last long, because we saw more and more people didn’t really look at each other. It was as if a whole country had become more guarded, more isolated. Safety and security mattered more than the common space we shared and the common courtesies that came out of noticing need.

Not wanting to remain in this insular frame of mind returning back to the Arab World, I made the decision to really look at people…really see them, and notice their lives. Those were some of the richest years we spent overseas. It become easy to catch the eye of women, to smile at them, or greet them, or help in some small way. With men, less so…but my encounters with women became much more real and intentional and neighborly.

Back in the US now, I really don’t want to miss people. We are separated by so much – not looking at each other, ear buds in our own private soundtracked worlds. Our cell phones make it so easy to choose to focus on those not in front of us. We can miss that chance encounter – that divine appointment.  All our mobile devices, in fact, draw us to news being made by other people, entertainment to fill our times in between, and fantasy worlds of smiling people on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat (or whatever will come next). People (some real friends, some not) whose lives we try to match with our own. It makes me tired.

Resolved – to see people as Jesus saw them. To not be so distracted that I miss in-the-moment opportunities to serve or encourage others. To learn from them. People I may never see again. People who won’t necessarily give anything back except that momentary shared community. Oh, and the possibility of seeing them through the eyes of God…wow!

Many, many times, people have come to my aid…as if they were angels in disguise…through whom I’ve known the mercy of God. If they only knew how often they were a hand-up for me, a rope to hold onto, a real friend, even for a moment. They make me ambitious to be like them…to see the need…to notice those around me…whether it be another stranger…or a friend…and to be aware enough to respond.

I am resolved to put my phone away and to look up…to see your face…to listen for what’s really going on…and to respond with kindness. I am resolved.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about for awhile – this whole attending thing. Then a song came up on the radio by the Sidewalk Prophets entitled Save My Life, and my resolve was fueled. I’ve posted the lyrics below (and the links to the YouTube videos).

Save My Life by Sidewalk Prophets from Live Like That Album

We’ve met half a dozen times
I know your name I know you don’t know mine
But I won’t hold that against you

You come here every Friday night
I take your order and try to be polite
And hide what I’ve been going through

If you looked me right in the eye
Would you see the pain deep inside
Would you take the time to

Chorus
Tell me what I need to hear
Tell me that I’m not forgotten
Show me there’s a God
Who can be more than all I’ve ever wanted
‘Cause right now I need a little hope
I need to know that I’m not alone
Maybe God is calling you tonight
To tell me something
That might save my life

I’m the pastor at your church
For all these years you’ve listened to my words
You think I know all the answers

But I’ve got doubts and questions too
Behind this smile I’m really just like you
Afraid and tired and insecure

If you look me right in the eye
Would you see the real me inside
Would you take the time to

(Chorus)

Save my life

I am just like everyone
Jesus, I need You, I need Your Love
To save my life*

Blog - Sidewalk Prophets

*Lyrics

YouTube Video – Save My Life [Official] – Sidewalk Prophets

YouTube Video – Save My Life with lyrics – Sidewalk Prophets

Story behind the song Save My Life

Sidewalk Prophets website

Love Does by Bob Goff 

 Does Anybody Hear Her? by Casting Crowns

Photo Credit – Crowded Street

Photo Credit – Band