Tag Archives: family

Monday Morning Moment – A Day at the State Fair – A Lesson on Disappointment and 5 Steps to Recovering Joy

[State Fair, 2013 pic]

This week is our state fair. Once a year for 10 glorious days, we have all kinds of opportunities to relish all kinds of good – Fair food, concerts, carnival rides, animal and produce exhibitions, and home cooking and crafting. Did I mention fair food?

We pack in as much as we can in just one day. It’s not a cheap experience, but the sheer yummyness of fried everything is worth the splurge. It’s once a year…the nostalgia alone brings us back again and again.

Then…there was this year’s fair day. Today. Put one very tired adult (not mentioning names) together with little ones with very short attention spans, and grumpiness prevailed. At least with the adults…not so much the littles. Nothing at the fair today was quite what we remembered it to be (except for the funnel cakes…they were as tasty as always).

We did all our usual stuff…things that gave joy in all the years past… but disappointment crept in…starting with our tired person, but not stopping there. The little ones fortunately seemed still to have a great fair day, but the adults were thinking this could be our last one altogether. It was that dreadful for a bit.

Photo Credit: Billy Graham, All Christian Quotes

Then on the drive back home and with the rest of the day full of other people and responsibilities, five revelations unfolded about the disappointment…and any disappointment really.

  1. Expectations are exposed by our disappointments. There it is: expectations. When our expectations are dashed is actually the moment we discover we had them. I try not to let expectations color an experience or encounter, but if we aren’t aware they are always at work, then we are thrown off balance when they are not met…or disappointed. Suffice it to say, my expectations for the day weren’t met…which could have made it difficult for everyone else.
  2. Humility gentles disappointment. When we shake down our expectations, then we have the beautiful possibility of humbly dealing with the possibility that another person’s expectations were thwarted as well. This tired one I refer to had hopes (expectations) of the day as well. He hadn’t planned on the ill effect of a very late night working and a barking dog early awakening him this morning. He was looking forward to the day as much as the rest of us. The rest of us weren’t very empathetic toward his own share of disappointments. Sigh… As we look at our situation with humility, a kinder and healthier other-mindedness comes into play.
  3. Gratefulness deflates disappointment. We still got to try milking a cow. We still watched pig races. We still got to ooh and aah over hand-made quilts, knitted dolls, and other crafts we might try ourselves now (or ask the other grandmother to try, definitely). We still got to watch the ducklings go down the slide and pet the rabbits. We still got to be together, more happily than not. It was a good day…really.
  4. Perspective is a happy outcome of humility and gratefulness. So…we may reconfigure our fair day next time. Some things may need to change…but not the people. I love these people. In light of other much harder things that happened when we returned home (hospice called in for a loved one, in particular)…the frustration of an imperfect outing was brought into real-life perspective. Imperfect was still full of messy, lovely life.
  5. Joy is recovered…restored when we put disappointment in its place. Definitely want to still do life with these people always and for as long as God allows. No walking away from this family. We are a mess sometimes, but the love hangs on…always.

Sandy Peckinpah‘s piece Breaking Expectations…When Life Hands You Disappointment – don’t stop before reading this. Really good!

Don’t Let Overwhelm Steal Your Joy – Sandy Peckinpah

Monday Morning Moment – a Wave of Nostalgia and 3 Lessons Taken

This weekend, we had some family time with our children and the grands. In picking up some stray items last night, I discovered one of the littles must have been playing with a globe from a basket in our hallway. As I put it back in its place, I realized that to have reached the globe, (s)he would have had to reach over the picture of my older brother…who left us at the age of 61, 12 years ago.

At that moment, I was overcome by this wave of nostalgia…of gladness and ache, reminded of a dear person and a sweet time – in the past. To our little grandchildren, the picture was of someone they didn’t know. My older brother has been a huge part of my whole life – either in real time or through memories and processing life since he died. It wasn’t always pretty either, but I learned so much through loving him and trying to understand him during hard stretches.

One day, when they are older, I will tell them about their great-uncle Robert. They would have given him so much joy…and he, them. He was always great with children…even when we had our share of struggles as adults. Knowing him was worth that struggle.

That moment set in motion a whirlwind of thought – stirred by three other junctures in the last 24 hours that prompted three lessons learned in nostalgia.

1) Nostalgia is deeply personal. It wraps itself around a particular experience, idea, or person(s). Two people experiencing the exact same thing can have very different emotions about it in the moment and as time passes. What is important for us as we reckon with our own memories and that of others is to be gentle with and respectful of the experience and its meaning to us and to others.

Classical guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar recently posted his arrangement of a medley of themes – by composer Jason Hayes – from the classic video-game World of Warcraft. I personally know very little about this game, except the music (thanks to his arrangement).

My stirred emotions, in listening to this music, have everything to do with Nathan’s performance. However, there are thousands out there who listen to this piece (and those below) with strong nostalgia. The comments on his videos and Patreon Discord channel reveal the sweet memories of all those young people now grown who loved playing that game – waxing nostalgic through the music attached to that experience.

Why Do We Feel Nostalgia? – VSauce – YouTube Video

YouTube Video – World of Warcraft: Legion – Anduin Theme Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – World of Warcraft – Warbringers: Jaina – Daughter of the Sea – Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

2) Nostalgia reminds us of the past and who we were in the past. Some writers on nostalgia talk about how our memories are glowing, more positive than what was real at the time. I don’t overthink that. When we are reminded of something or someone from our past, and a sweet nostalgia follows, we should just enjoy the moment and its association. Whatever it was in the past, if our memory of it does us good, then that’s enough.

Today, two old friends of mine have birthdays. Now, we rarely talk these days (unfortunately for me) but our seasons together were glorious. At least how I remember it. Working on projects together, praying with each other, laughing at the craziness of life, and talking deeply on things that mattered. These are my memories. Just seeing a birthday reminder refreshes an incredible connection with them. I loved those seasons when we were closer.

You know those times when we meet up with someone and it’s like the time melts away? We are ourselves together…as whenever we were last? That’s the gift of nostalgia…untested. Just a delightful reopening of a vault of treasured memories…of those kinds of friends.

It just so happens that one of these friends is in town this week, and we made plans to visit. The other lives farther away, and it’s been years since our last visit. Still, I’m hoping to move that nostalgia into real time and get her on the phone.

The Incredible Powers of Nostalgia – Jeanette Leardi

3) Nostalgia brings to the present what we learned in the past – to consider again.

Something brings my mom to mind every single day. Along with that comes all the lessons she taught her children. Her wisdom far surpasses mine, but the nostalgia of memories of her gives me hope to be more wise. She taught us so well. Working outside the home all our lives, she somehow redeemed the time. When she enters my thoughts, the emotions that follow are empowering and full of love.

One day, we olders will be part of what sparks nostalgia for our children and grandchildren. I hope we will have made memories together that will remind them of who they are and who they can be…to God, to us…to all around us.

Last night, on a twilight walk in the neighborhood, I enjoyed a flock of geese flying over. Their honking and precision of flight have always stopped me in my tracks…just to watch. Memories wash over me of times with Dave’s family on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Geese seem often in flight there over the Chesapeake Bay. Maybe these geese last night were migrating south as we move into Fall. Whatever the occasion, I’m always reminded of Lessons from Geese – what we can learn from geese to get where we need to go…together.Photo Credit: iTS Leadership

[If you don’t know that short piece Lessons From Geese – take a look, either in the link above on teaming or this pdf. Or the video below.]

All this is part of the nostalgia that makes me this person today, having lived in that past…with the memories that surprise me in the present…and could help to forge a better future.

Thoughts? Please comment below. Thanks.

The Psychological Benefits – and Trappings – of Nostalgia – Krystine Batcho

Why Nostalgia Is Good for You – Matthew Hutson

There Are Two Different Types of Nostalgia – Ashley Hamer

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.

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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!

5 Friday Faves – Gladiator on Guitar, Documentaries, Our Faces, Toni Morrison, and Families Sorting Out Trauma Together

It’s been a week! Babies and birthdays, neighborhood gatherings and sweet homecomings, diner dates and conversations in a late summer garden, walking with friends and working in solitude…life shared. Here we go with this week’s 5 favorite finds.

1) Gladiator on Guitar – I remember the only time I watched the film Gladiator. It was in a theater in Cairo with an Egyptian girlfriend. We both covered our eyes for more of the film than we watched. There is a scene where the military general turned slave turned gladiator (Russell Crowe) came into the arena. He bowed to the warriors selected to kill him, and then he killed them all. Bloody and horrific. Then he called out to the ruler and commoner audience, “Are you not entertained?!” Underneath his imploring, you can faintly hear the orchestral theme – composer Hans Zimmer‘s gripping theme “Now We Are Free” . Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, this song is so exquisite on classical guitar. Watch it here.

2) Documentaries – Film gives us the opportunity to engage with a story. Documentaries offer us a look into a real world we might never engage without a bit of a push or pull. 16 Bars is one of those films. It is the story of what happens when hip-hop artist Todd “Speech” Thomas spends 10 days in the Richmond, Virginia jail, giving voice to the inmates.

Photo Credit: Richmond

This effort was part of a recovery program to help those in jail not to become re-incarcerated after release. Thomas taught some of the men how to write and perform music (a 16 bar rap). What came out of that was both painful and hopeful. Beautiful. I am working on seeing the full film, but here is the trailer.

16 Bars – REAL LIFE

Do you have a favorite documentary? Three of mine are below along with one I’m looking forward to, still in production.

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls – documentary on the global sex trade

The Long Goodbye – Kara Tippetts Documentary – Jay Lyons

Bono & Eugene Peterson – The Psalms – Fourth Line Films

The Funeral Home [Now entitled The Passing On] – Teaser – Fourth Line Films – The Passing On Movie website

3) Our Faces – What do people around us see in our faces? What do we see in others? In T. S. Eliot‘s poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, there is a line about preparing our faces for the faces we meet. As in the phrase “putting on a face/mask”.

T. S. Eliot – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – Brandon Colas

We want to be real with each other, right? To be the real persons we are all the time, not to mask our faces differently depending on whom we have in front of us.

Is it the performance rather than the person with which we interact? We can default to vilifying the person when it’s really the performance that offends…or the opposite: placing people on pedestals…and we don’t really know them.

I don’t want to wear a mask; nor do I want to profile a person based on a mask. It is a discipline to keep from doing both.

I was so touched by a video I saw this week…wondering if it was truly authentic – it seemed to be – and the masks were off.

Two huge TV personalities Stephen Colbert and Anderson Cooper  talk together in a 20-minute interview on loss, faith, and humanity (shorter section of same interview). I don’t usually watch them, but a man I respect posted this on his Twitter feed and I was mesmerized by it…the honesty, the tenderness, and the understanding of shared experience.

Are They Seeing the Face of God in You? – Lisa Brenninkmeyer

4) Toni Morrison – On August 5, author Toni Morrison died at 88 years old. I thought she was younger.

Confession: I’ve never read any of her books. Now, I am reading what others write about her and know I need to at least hear something of her heart…and her wisdom.

The Wit and Wisdom of Toni Morrison

What have you read by this author of many books?

Here’s what Toni Morrison taught Brené Brown about parenting:

When a child walks into a room. She asked, “Does your face light up? When my children used to walk in the room when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up. You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face. What’s wrong now?”

“Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they walk in the room my face says I’m glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see?”Brené Brown

5) Families Sorting Out Trauma Together – We don’t watch R-rated movies at our house…so when I chose Rachel Getting Married, I knew it was risky. [FYI: This film has foul language and tortured emotional conversations throughout.] The story centers on a family wedding. One sister is marrying and another sister came home from a drug rehab program for the weekend’s events. The sweet moments feel guarded as fights break out regularly over the sister’s addiction and its impact on the family…and there’s the grief revolving around a younger brother who died in a car accident caused by his older sister high on drugs… Over and over, each in her/his own way, the wedding party (sisters, groom-to-be, parents, friends) deals with the undercurrent of anger and grief.Photo Credit: Roger Ebert

Why do I mention this film? It resonated with my own experience of family at times. We children, even into adulthood, could have doozies of disagreements. We rarely came to blows, but thankfully we didn’t have alcohol or drugs as part of our growing up. Like in this film, that would have caused a worse, more volatile situation.

The film was fictitious, I imagine, but the hurt in my heart, watching it, came from recognizing familiar signs of a family in trauma.

That old adage “Hurt people hurt people” comes to mind. In real life, we are wise to look past what offends our sensibilities, and reach out to those hurting in front of us. To listen, encourage, pray, understand. This film family sorted out their trauma together… without benefit of faith in God…but with a love for each other, broken but stronger together.

7 Ways to Help a Loved One Who Has Experienced Trauma by Elizabeth Clayton Lee

[By the way, our family as we have gotten older don’t have those fights anymore. Thankfully. So thankful to God, and parents who loved us through their own hard, and siblings who refused to give up on each other.]

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That’s it for this week. Would love for you to share any of your favorites of the week in the Comments below. Blessings always.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Facebook, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

Goodbye Nursing Homes! The New Trend is Co-Housing with Friends – and Richmond CoHousing

Photo Credit: Victory Today, Facebook

I Want to Age Like Sea Glass – Bernadette Noll

Photo Credit: Bernadette Noll, Huffington Post

Photo Credit: Facebook, Vicky Appleton Eaton

Butterfly Breakfast Buffet

Worship Wednesday – Independence Day Reflection – You Say I Am Free – Lauren Daigle’s How Can It Be

Photo Credit: My God and My Dog

This week we Americans celebrate our Independence Day.

Food, fireworks, and freedom. That’s what it’s all about. Family, too, and/or friends gathered. It’s a big day around here.Photo Credit: PixabayPhoto Credit: NeedPix, Martinique Le Prêcheur

Today I’m reflecting on freedom.

American Independence Day (4th of July) commemorates our declaration of freedom (July 4, 1776) from the rule of Britain. We declared our own freedom.

On July 4, we celebrate the freedom we continue to have as Americans because of the many wars fought to hold onto freedom.

How much more transforming when the Lord Himself declares us free!

On Sunday, we were in Dave’s family’s home church – Grace Church in Seaford, Delaware. Their pastor is teaching a sermon series on Avoiding Colossal Mistakes. This Sunday’s sermon centered on the cross of Christ (podcast here).

During the worship service before the sermon, this lyric really penetrated my heart:

“You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free.”

When you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14

As we celebrate our Independence Day, we have a far greater celebration in the cross of Christ. Apart from receiving His death for our sin, His righteousness for our own unrighteousness, we would be dead in our sins today. Still in bondage, enslaved.

We, in the US, have a dark history of slavery. No matter how deeply we are grieved by it, the stain of that great sin is forever a part of our nation’s fabric. Try as we may, we cannot wash that stain out.

Those who lived as slaves in this country, like those who are enslaved today through human trafficking, did not bring their bondage on themselves. It was/is a wrong done to them.

Many anti-trafficking organizations have a key strategy:

Reach, Rescue, & Restore

This is exactly what Jesus has done for us. In our sinful state, He reached out to us. He rescued us through the cross, and He restored us to Himself.

As we think about the freedom we have in Christ and the freedom we have as Americans, I pray we don’t forget our own bondage, or that of others – spiritual bondage, and for some…the physical bondage of being trafficked, forced into slavery even today.

We must reach. We must rescue. We must restore.

Worship with me, as we celebrate freedom, to the Lauren Daigle song “How Can It Be“:

I am guilty
Ashamed of what I’ve done, what I’ve become
These hands are dirty
I dare not lift them up to the Holy one

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be

I’ve been hiding
Afraid I’ve let You down, inside I doubt
That You could love me
But in Your eyes there’s only grace now

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be

Though I fall, You can make me new
From this death I will rise with You
Oh the grace reaching out for me
How can it be
How can it be

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be*

He himself [Jesus Christ] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude. Colossians 2:6-7

*Lyrics & the Story Behind the Song “How Can It Be” performed by Lauren Daigle – Songwriters: Paul Mabury, Jason Ingram and Jeff Johnson

The Victory of the Cross – Chuck Smith Sermon Notes – Blue Letter Bible

Colossians 2:14-15 – Commentary – Precept Austin

Worship Wednesday – Surrendering What’s Precious in Exchange for the Doubtless…the Supernatural Movement of God

Photo Credit: Berea Project, Joshua Batchelor

He that goes forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
 – Psalm 126:6, King James 2000 Bible

Two Sundays ago, I was visiting family in Georgia. We didn’t go to church that day but we watched Jentezen Franklin on TV. He is my brother and sister-in-law’s pastor. His sermon was entitled The Power of the Precious. Its impact still continues on my heart.Photo Credit: Jentezen Franklin

Power of the Precious – Blog – Jentezen Franklin

Listening to sermons by mega-church pastors is not my usual…but I’m so glad I heard this sermon.

What Pastor Franklin focused his teaching on that morning was what happens when we surrender our “precious” to Him. “Doubtless” (in the King James version of the Bible) we will have a fruitful harvest by sowing precious seed.

When we give God what we consider most precious, He will do what only He can do in our lives.

The Scripture gives so many accounts of such surrender:

  • Abraham was willing to give his son, Isaac, in obedience to God and God provided a ram instead (Genesis 22).
  • Jacob gave his precious son, Benjamin, into the hands of his other sons for the sake of the family (Genesis 43:12-14), and God takes care of them through 5 more years of famine. Besides that, He restored Jacob’s beloved son, Joseph, to him again.
  • When God gave barren Hannah her son, Samuel, she remembered her promise to God, and gave Samuel back to Him to serve Him (1 Samuel 1:9-28)…and God used Samuel mightily to bring in the Davidic Kingdom. God did not forget Hannah either – giving her 5 more children (1 Samuel 2:21).
  • Stories abound in the Bible and in history since the writing of Scripture about of the supernatural return on our giving to God what is most precious.
  • He did the same for us…giving His only Son that all of us who believed in Him would be saved (John 3:16)…restored to our Heavenly Father through this sinless Savior. Jesus was given to us and gave Himself to us (Philippians 2:5-8).

What is precious to each of us? We all have that precious person or persons that we struggle even to say their names out loud if it means we surrender them to God.

Or maybe it’s our health or our career or our dreams or our hope of purpose or influence. Whatever it is, God is trustworthy, and He will do so much more, so much more beautifully, with that which we call precious, than we ever could.

Take a moment, in worship, as I did two Sundays ago, to again place that which is most precious to me, into the loving and capable care of a good God. I say “again”, because we have all had opportunity to do that with every good gift God has given us… Still, it’s important to revisit that which is precious to us to make sure we aren’t clutching it to our own selves but giving it to God…every day, in every way. So much better for them, for us, and for the glory of God.

There’s an account in Exodus where God was calling Moses to speak for Him as part of a divine plan for the Israelites to be set free from their Egyptian bondage. In Exodus 4, Moses questions his ability to do such a thing. God then uses Moses’ grasp of his most precious possession, his shepherd’s staff, as an object lesson. A lesson on what He can do in and through us when we surrender that which is most precious to us…to Him.

Singer/songwriter Ken Medema has put this story to music. It is one of my most favorite pieces of music. The lyrics come out of Exodus 4 with a heart-stopping challenge at the end. Listen to it all. 6 minutes into this beautiful and powerful song/story of Moses’ encounter with God, you will hear the lyrics below.

“Do you know what it means, Moses?
Do you know what I’m trying to say, Moses?
The rod of Moses became the rod of God!
With the rod of God, strike the rock and the water will come;

With the rod of God, part the waters of the sea;
With the rod of God, you can strike old Pharaoh dead;

With the rod of God, you can set the people free.”

What do you hold in your hand today?
To what or to whom are you bound?
Are you willing to give it to God right now?
Give it up, Give it up, let it go, let it go,
Throw it down.*

YouTube Video – “Moses” – Ken Medema in concert at Azusa Pacific University 3/18/13

*Lyrics to Moses by Ken Medema

Monday Morning Moment – the Cultural Phenomenon of Decluttering Stuff and Disposing of Relationships – the Marie Kondo Effect

Photo Credit: Lucy and Claudia

[Starting with Marie Kondo but not staying there, so for those not a fan, hang with me a few minutes.]

Marie Kondo is a petite and lovely Japanese decluttering guru. Her book and Netflix TV show Tidying Up are based on her KonMarie method of organizing one’s home. Such that joy is sparked. She ascribes to the Shinto belief that cleanliness is essential to a good life. In Kondo’s thinking, disposing of everything in your home that doesn’t spark joy brings an order and spiritual calm you wouldn’t have otherwise.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing  – Marie Kondo

YouTube Video – 10 Amazing Tips for Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (the KonMarie Method)

Shintoism: How It Influenced the Lives of the Japanese – Saki Yoshida

The Hidden Religious Promise Behind Marie Kondo’s Decluttering ‘Magic’ – Karen Swallow Prior

Because of the popularity of the KonMarie decluttering method (and other similar approaches), homes (in the West anyway) have less stuff and more open spaces. These are great days to shop in thrift stores because they are full of higher end clothing, antiques, memorabilia, and the nearly new impulse buys of the minimizing upper middle class.

This decluttering can be a good thing because it is visually refreshing and potentially allows for a greater enjoyment of the stuff we do have in our home. The problem comes when we indiscriminately toss items just because they don’t spark joy (joy being a tall order coming from material things). It sets in motion a wider worldview on what is disposable in life. What should be cut out of our lives (possessions) or cut off from our lives (people)?

In this culture of trending decluttering and downsizing, we must beware that the freedom we feel in letting go of things can transfer into an ease in letting go of people. Intentionally, ruthlessly letting go of people…maybe without even being aware we’ve changed along with our homes.

– Cutting off family and friends in the insatiable pursuit of joy –

There are always consequences in decluttering, disposing, letting go …and for sure in cutting off relationships with people.Photo Credit: Haiku Deck

You might say that some people don’t deserve further access to your life – they are complicated or difficult (even abusive). [I am all for getting help and setting boundaries when necessary…especially in the face of abuse.] It’s the cutting off of relationships that feels like it alters who we are as people, set in families, in particular.

My older brother, Robert, experienced enormous loss in his life. Because of all the losses and setbacks, he developed thick skin and a tough heart. He was hard on all of us who loved him. Brutally hard sometimes. There were plenty of occasions I could have walked away from him and not looked back. Fortunately, we had a mom who loved us all well, even when her oldest treated her as he treated us. Also, fortunately, I had two friends who kept counseling me to look beyond the contentiousness and mean words to what was going on inside him. “Hurt people hurt people” they would tell me. I finally came to the place where I didn’t react when he tried to push emotional buttons that would always end in sibling fights and walk-outs. My two younger brothers and I determined together not to get baited and to try to lean in, in love. It wasn’t long at all until he changed – almost as if he woke out of a long and terrible dream. He remembered he loved us and that we loved him.

I thank God that I didn’t cut him off. He died at a young 61, and those last years of being his sister were sweet. Those years were full of joy actually. Worth the wait…and the willingness to give up my own way.

We have all probably had the experience of drifting from relationships, of neglecting friendships, of just not showing up emotionally or physically.

This is part of the imperfect nature of life. What bears examination is the very intentional, thought-out cutting off people from our lives.

“Does it spark joy?” is the question Marie Kondo asks the person deciding whether to keep something or dispose of it.

“Make sure everything you keep sparks joy.” “Unless something makes you happy in your life, why would you hang onto it?”Tidying Up

“Does it spark joy?” Is the Wrong Decluttering Question – Joshua Becker

Beware of the worldview that decluttering leads to joy, because where, then, does it stop?

One writer goes as far as saying out right: “When you are confronted with people who do not bring joy to your life… it’s 100% okay to toss them out of it.”

There is so much being written about how to “Marie Kondo” relationships we perceive as toxic or at the least annoying and joyless. I chose not to link to those in today’s piece.

One really helpful article, though, about the reasons we cut off family members can bring real insight into why we rationalize such a decision:

10 Reasons Why People Get Cut Off From Their Family Dr. Barbara Greenberg

Click on the link and read Dr. Greenberg’s analysis on cutting off family and why we should think it through again. In brief, here are her 10 reasons people make this choice:

  1. Modeling
  2. Power and Control
  3. Exhaustion
  4. Rewriting Narratives
  5. Loyalty
  6. Perceived Slights
  7. Money
  8. Caring for Elderly or Sick Parents
  9. Abuse
  10. Lack of Elasticity

It’s just something I’m thinking about this Monday morning.

People are not stuff. They are made in the image of God. They matter, even with all their cluttered baggage, this side of Heaven. They aren’t disposable. Who we become across our lifetime is framed by those in our family and among our friends…who don’t always spark joy…nor do we.

I welcome your thoughts…in the Comments below.

The Hidden Religious Promise Behind Marie Kondo’s Decluttering ‘Magic’ – Karen Swallow Prior

Our Disposable Culture Means We Toss Relationships As Quickly as We Throw Away Objects – Charlie Sorrel

The Real Reason Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic Doesn’t Work for Parents – Tanya C. Snyder

‘Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” Isn’t Really a Make-0ver Show – Sarah Archer

Clean House, Full Thrift Stores: How Marie Kondo Inspired Mass Decluttering and Donating – Mary Ellen Wright

What Japan Can Teach America About Family Caregiving – Barry J. Jacobs

350 Family Quotes – Wisdom Quotes

Worship Wednesday – Joy to the World – For King and Country

Photo Credit: YouTube, For King & Country

Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.
 – Romans 12:12

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

Who’s heard this strange and woeful adage: “The world is going to hell in a hand basket.”? It’s a saying that’s been around a long time, and I’m thinking it originated around a holiday family dinner table.

This Christmas we were having one of those conversations about the mess the world is in…we were a multi-generational family gathering of teens to our eighty-somethings. All beloved by each other.

As our conversation spiraled down, I looked around the table at these precious young ones. This was more their world we were talking about than our own. This was the world we were handing them.

Then the realization washed over us all again as our conversation turned. This world pales in comparison to some of the other eras in history…and survived. This world is not beyond the care of God…not beyond His reach…not beyond His ability to save.

We may not take joy in the political chaos we see nor the hardships that surround us, but we can always take joy in knowing that what we see is not the whole story.

The Lord has come! He comes every day into this beautiful, messy world. He created it in perfection, and we have had our sinful way with it. Still, He comes. He shows up every single day in our lives and in the circumstances of the peoples and governments of this world.

For King & Country, one of my favorite Christian bands, has taken the Christmas standard Joy to the World and reminded us of this very truth…Christ has come, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Worship with me on the new beginning of another year…who knows what God will do? Joy…

Joy to the world the Lord is come
Let Earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing
Joy to the world the Saviour reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy
He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love

It’s remarkable isn’t it?
As Luke said that this baby boy
No family of promotion
No city of impressive nature
Just a manger
No social media campaigns
No presidential campaigns
No private aeroplanes
But he rose up with twelve ragamuffins
And He turned B. C into A. D.
Flipped the world on its head
He’s the most famous name around the globe
The most read book ever written

And the most beautiful news the world has ever known is this
That He reconnected us to heaven
He offered us redemption, a fresh start
Freedom, so that we can hold our heads high
And march through this life knowing,
My friends, that we are never alone
And that’s the greatest news the world has ever known
So let’s stand to our feet tonight
And let’s sing this like we mean it
Joy to the world the Lord has come

Joy to the world the Lord is come
Let Earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing*

“When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.” – C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

*Lyrics to Joy to the World – For King & Country

Joy to the World – Isaac Watts – original lyrics

YouTube Video – The One Hour for King & Country Christmas Concert, Phoenix, AZ

10 Bible Verses for a Joyful Spirit – Taylor Yenko

YouTube Video – Joy – For King & Country (Official Music Video)

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar Christmas, a Prayer for the Grieving, Experience and the Brain, Complaining Exposed, and Gift Giving

It’s Friday! Days before Christmas. So no time to lose…here’s this week’s five favorite finds:

1) Beyond the Guitar ChristmasNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has given us 4 sweet Christmas videos over the years. The latest is a medley of 3 Christmas movie classics on guitar. Watch it here:

A Star Wars Christmas – a Classical Guitar Mashup

December Song (Peter Hollens) – Classical Guitar Cover

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (w/ Surprise)

2) A Prayer for the Grieving – This Christmas more than any other I can remember is marked by multiple losses…friends who have died and family members of friends. Words are tricky when you want to reach out to those wounded by loss. Writer Dena Johnson Martin‘s prayer for the grieving at Christmas is a just-right-to-share piece for these dear ones who are still in the throes of grief right now. Especially those looking to God for help but don’t have the words either.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Dena Johnson Martin

A Prayer for Christmas Hope – Dena Johnson Martin [another prayer]

20 Messages of Advice for Suicide Loss Survivors During the Holidays – Sarah Schuster

What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas – Nancy Guthrie

3) Experience and the Brain – You know the saying, “Practice makes perfect”? Well, that has been found to be true only with the right kind of practice. Another saying “Use it or lose it” however does continue to hold true. Exercising our brain and building our brain through experiences are both still vital for brain health and aptitude – from childhood through old age.

Author and brain injury survivor Debbie Hampton has given us 5 Ways Experience Changes the Brain. [It is a ton of cool science. I decided not to list those points out because you really need to read it – to glean just how we can power up learning through experience, intentional and meaningful experience, from early childhood through late adulthood.Photo Credit: Experience Life, Jon Spayde

Neuroplasticity is a fascination of mine. It is defined as “the ability of the brain to change throughout an individual’s life, e.g., brain activity associated with a given function can be transferred to a different location, the proportion of grey matter can change, and synapses may strengthen or weaken over time.”

“It refers to the physiological changes in the brain that happen as the result of our interactions with our environment. From the time the brain begins to develop in utero until the day we die, the connections among the cells in our brains reorganize in response to our changing needs. This dynamic process allows us to learn from and adapt to different experiences.” – Celeste Campbell (n.d.).

What I love about the potential of experience’s positive impact on brain function is that we can be strategic in our own actions and responses. Building healthy and meaningful mental responses rather than being passively reactive to whatever stimuli comes our way.

What Is Neuroplasticity? Definition + 14 Brain Plasticity Exercises

Use It or Lose It – Exercising Your Mind Becomes Even More Important in Old Age – Dawn C. Carr

Upgrade Your Brain – Jon Spayde

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life – Deb Mills Writer

4) Complaining Exposed – When it comes to complaining, we all think of someone else who does it…not us. It is an irritating habit, and (like we saw in #3 on neuroplasticity), it only gets worse if unchecked. Poet writer Anne Peterson talks about complaining and how it flows out of 6 heart attitudes. Complaining reveals that:

  • We feel entitled.
  • We are impatient.
  • We hold on to resentment.
  • We compare ourselves to others.
  • We don’t think life is fair.
  • We are conformed to this world/culture.

Read her article for the particulars. Be prepared to rip the excuses off your complaining.

What Your Complaints Actually Reveal About Your Heart Anne Peterson

Photo Credit: Gary Vaynerchuk

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk writes about how his mom and wife seem to be incapable of complaining and it’s one of the things he loves about them: “Complaining has zero value. Looking at the negative, seeing the glass as half empty, and complaining are some of the biggest wastes of time a human being can engage in. Instead, tackle the problem head on. Assess it, see what you can do about it, and then do just that. ‘Woe is me’ is truly one of the biggest things that can stand in the way of success both professionally and personally.”

Gary Vaynerchuk

One of the Few Things I Complain About: Complaining – Gary Vaynerchuk

5) Gift Giving – My shopping for Christmas is probably about as done as it will get. As for what I want for Christmas? Forgive the song reference, but all I want for Christmas…is you.Photo Credit: Facebook, Kelly’s Treehouse

When you can’t always have your family around…if you have friends who are generous and genius gift-givers, you can still wrap up all cozy with your family [photo fleece] anyway.

_______________________________________________________________________

Happy Christmas, y’all. Thanks for spending this bit of time here. It means a lot to me. May God’s richest Christmas blessing find a place in your heart.

Bonuses:

Who Is Jesus? – Explore God

Marwencol – the website and the feature-length film: Welcome to Marwen – What a story!

2018 Lights on Canoe Brook – The Greatest Showman

I Fit the Description – The Good Men ProjectPhoto Credit: Steve Locke, The Good Men Project

Photo Credit: Facebook; Pal’s Blountville

Photo Credit: Facebook, Christmas comes to Aleppo, Syria under reconstruction.

Photo Credit: Twitter, Music Notes

December Daffodil and Narcissus shoots in December at Lewis Ginter Botanical GardenPhoto Credit: Lewis Ginter Twitter

Worship Wednesday – Our God Is With Us, Emmanuel – Steven Curtis Chapman

2013 December Christmas with Grandparents & Christmas Town 048

[Adapted from the Archives]

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.Isaiah 7:14

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.  But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:  “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”Matthew 1:18-23

I worship in my car. You know when you are stopped at a traffic light, and your windows are buzzing with the sound of the bass in the car next to you? You look over and they’re rocking out to some cool song? Well, I sometimes do the same…on a quieter less rockin’ level…but there’s still a lot going on in my car, too. Just for an Audience of One.

When Steven Curtis Chapman’s song Our God Is With Us comes on the radio at Christmas, my thoughts rein in to this great truth. We are not alone. God is always present with us.

He brought that reality as near to us as possible in the birth of Jesus, the God-Son, born to the virgin, Mary, over 2000 years ago. God revealed Himself personally through Jesus. I am no theologian, but this is very clear to me – everything I have read in Scripture on the life of Jesus, and everything I have experienced of Him myself. My heart resonates with the words of this song. Jesus is the “Immanuel” – He came to be with us – to save, to heal, to restore us to Himself. Hallelujah!

Worship with me…

One of us is cryin’ as our hopes and dreams are led away in chains And we’re left all alone. One of us is dyin’ as our love is slowly lowered in the grave, oh, and we’re left all alone.

But for all of us who journey through the dark abyss of loneliness There comes a great announcement, we are never alone. For the maker of each heart that breaks, the giver of each breath we take, Has come to earth and given hope its birth.

And our God is with us, Emmanuel He’s come to save us, Emmanuel and we will never face life alone. Now that God has made Himself known as Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel, oh.

He spoke with prophets’ voices and showed Himself in a cloud of fire But no one had seen His face. Until the One Most Holy revealed to us His perfect heart’s desire and left His rightful place.

And in one glorious moment, all eternity was shaken as God broke through the darkness that had kept us apart. And with love that conquers loneliness, hope that fills all emptiness, He came to earth to show our worth.

And our God is with us, Emmanuel He’s come to save us, Emmanuel and we will never face life alone. Now that God has made Himself known As Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel, oh So rejoice, oh rejoice, Emmanuel has come.

And our God is with us, Emmanuel He’s come to save us, Emmanuel and we will never face life alone. Now that God has made Himself known as Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel.

Our God is with us, Emmanuel Our God is with us, oh Emmanuel Our God is with us.*

*Lyrics to Our God Is With Us – Songwriters Steve Curtis Chapman & Michael W. Smith

YouTube video of Our God Is With Us – Full song – 6:43 minutes

YouTube video of Our God is With Us – shortened audio, with lyrics

Website for Steven Curtis Chapman [Our God Is With Us was a title on his first Christmas album, 1995, The Music of Christmas]

The Title Emmanuel and the Name Jesus

God Is One – the Wonder of Trinity [Tri-Unity] – God the Father, God, the Son, God the Holy Spirit – a simple lesson on an amazing reality

“Best of all, God Is With Us.” – John Wesley [for more great God-glorifying quotes by the John & Charles Wesley, click here.]