1) A City Tour – Have you ever taken a tour of your city or town? It’s a transformative experience. We toured our city (Richmond, Virginia) this week. No pictures of the James River this time around or any of the actual “tourist sites”…[I did write about our gorgeous Capitol building visit here]. Just neighborhoods this time. What about you? Comment below about your city/town.
2) Best Organizing Tips – OK, full disclosure: I’m not a fan of Marie Kondo (link to my blog on decluttering and relationships). I think what she helps people downsize gets repurchased. So it is a constant cycle. However, I get the stress that clutter can bring to moms of small children. Our children understand that I will downsize until it starts getting painful, and then they can just hire an estate clearing company, for the rest one day.
When I come across an article that shows wisdom in dealing with the strain of stuff, it encourages and empowers. The Pioneer Woman has a list of 76 tips for organizing our households. Some of the tips have affiliate marketing attached which means buying stuff to store your stuff. Still, among the 76 tips, there are great helps for anyone. I love the ideas on beautifying and functionalizing the foyer/entryway of a home. Also, her tips on managing toys and their cleanup were great!
3) Rise and Fall of Mars Hill – I don’t usually recommend sad things unless it causes such a stir in me, it seems necessary to share. The church doesn’t belong to people. The church belongs to God. He established it, and He will care for it. If judgment is required, He will judge. However, some situations may need to be examined, not to judge, but to avoid going there. We are all vulnerable. It can happen to any of us as collections of people. Power and ego can soil anyone. None of us are immune.
Our small but growing church in Richmond, Virginia, loves God, loves His Word, and loves the world. Hopefully we love each other and our neighbors as well. We will want to do our part in keeping our church on track with God’s mission.
Mission drift can occur to any organization. Watch out for it. Put guardrails around what matters.
4) On Being Heard – Just before doing the city tour above, a documentary focused on our city was recommended to me. The local film company responsible for this Emmy-award-winning gem is Belltower Pictures.
“Heard”– PBS Documentary – “HEARD captures the inspiring stories of five people who grew up in ‘the projects’ (Richmond, Va.), surviving and thriving in spite of, and often because of, the challenges they’ve had to overcome. Now they’re giving back to their home communities, trying to make a better life for those who come behind.”
I watched this documentary after the city tour.
It was an amazing opportunity to listen to residents of Richmond’s subsidized housing who talk about what they loved and hated about their neighborhoods and how they were able to take those foundations to launch into positive futures. So glad I listened. You will be, too.
1) Loki Theme on Classical Guitar – Twice a month a video. Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar) drops two classical guitar arrangements every month. Twice a month. It’s a happy time when that happens. Here’s his arrangement of the main theme from Marvel Studio’s Loki. Enjoy.
2) Farm to Table – Summer in this part of the world is a feast of flavors and colors as farm harvests come in. Markets abound and we reap all the good.
3) The Color of Law – Much of my adult life, I’ve lived in cities – Atlanta, New Haven, Cairo, Tunis, Casablanca, and now, Richmond, Virginia. Cities are where our children grew up. Amazing experiences for us all. Now we, who own homes, live in the suburbs. Last week I had the great privilege of hearing educator Sara Kennedy talk about the history of Richmond, Virginia. Particularly the history of the last 150 years or so. In just over an hour, she talked through the many laws, ordinances, and covenants put in place to seemingly protect the growth of the white middle class. Also to stifle or curtail the socioeconomic flourishing of African Americans in our country. In particular home ownership. How in the world? Through federal, state, and local laws. Kennedy explored all of this without shaming or judging those in the room…just talked about the laws, the impact on urban quality of life, and…”the color of law”.
Last year, I watched the 13th documentary about the abolition of slavery. It was hard to watch because, over and over, I had to take a breath, shake my head, and acknowledged to myself, “I didn’t know.”
“The core argument of this book is that African Americans were unconstitutionally denied the means and the right to integration in middle-class neighborhoods, and because this denial was state-sponsored, the nation is obligated to remedy it.”
“If government had declined to build racially separate public housing in cities where segregation hadn’t previously taken root, and instead had scattered integrated developments throughout the community, those cities might have developed in a less racially toxic fashion, with fewer desperate ghettos and more diverse suburbs. If the federal government had not urged suburbs to adopt exclusionary zoning laws, white flight would have been minimized because there would have been fewer racially exclusive suburbs to which frightened homeowners could flee.”
“We have created a caste system in this country, with African Americans kept exploited and geographically separate by racially explicit government policies. Although most of these policies are now off the books, they have never been remedied and their effects endure.”
Read the book. Until you are able to do so, start, as I did, with Goodreads quotes of The Color of Law. Mind-blowing.
I’m learning. Not taking responsibility for the wrong of previous generations, but taking in the why’s that such division (in our city, in particular) still exists. Change is difficult but not impossible.
“Heard”– PBS Documentary – “HEARD captures the inspiring stories of five people who grew up in ‘the projects’ (Richmond, Va.), surviving and thriving in spite of, and often because of, the challenges they’ve had to overcome. Now they’re giving back to their home communities, trying to make a better life for those who come behind.”
“Speak up, speak out, get in the way. Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”
If there was ever a person who turned our world upside down with something that could be termed “good trouble”, it was Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, the recent multi-season TV series The Chosen on the life of Christ has as its theme song “Trouble”.
Happy weekend! Here are my five faves of this week – rapid-fire.
1) Beyond the Guitar’s “Take On Me” – Nathan Mills does it again. He takes Norwegian band A-Ha‘s 1985 hit “Take On Me” to a whole new level on classical guitar. So beautiful that lyrics aren’t needed; the nostalgia is already there. This song is featured in the video game The Last of Us Part II. Whether you loved it or hated it in the soundtrack of that game (or not a gamer)…its melody is “all the feels” under the deft fingers of Beyond the Guitar. Enjoy!
2) To The Woman Slowly Fading – I didn’t know the work of Scottish poet Donna Ashworth until my great-niece posted the poem below on her social media. She (my great-niece) is mum to three little ones; in fact, three under the age of three at the time.
She is tired and pulled. Yet in the tired, she is full of joy.
I’m grateful she shared this poem because it told me something about her and it also illuminated something I had been feeling from a very different place. My niece is nearer the beginning of her life’s journey, and I am closer to the ending. Nothing sad here; just what is.
At our latest family dinner, I had that strange thought of fading. A moment of poignancy taking in the lovely scene of adult children and wee ones around the table. Ashworth describes this sense of fading so well. Read for yourself the lines below.
To the woman who has lost her spark.
To the woman whose get up and go, has well and truly gone.
This is for you.
This is to remind you whose daughter you are.
This is to remind you, that you don’t have to be everything to everyone, every day.
You didn’t sign up for that.
Remember when you used to laugh? Sing? Throw caution to the wind?
Remember when you used to forgive yourself more quickly for not always being perfect.
You can get that back again.
You really can.
And that doesn’t have to mean letting people down or walking away.
It just means being kinder to you, feeling brave enough to say no sometimes.
Being brave enough to stop sometimes.
It starts the moment you realise that you’re not quite who you used to be. Some of that is good, some of that is not.
There are parts of you that need to be brought back.
And if anyone in your life is not okay with that… they are not your people. Your people will be glad to see that spark starting to light up again.
So, if you have been slowly fading away my friend, this is the time to start saying yes to things that bring you joy and no to things that don’t.
I do take exception to the one line: “Saying yes to things that bring you joy and no to things that don’t.” Fortunately for my young niece’s children, she is not going to ignore their cries in the middle of the night, or their tears after a fall, or their fears of the unknown. These things do not bring her joy, but they are part of the journey.
Difficult family members, friends in crisis, health issues, mounting drama in the world’s press…we can’t always say no, but we can measure ourselves out in wise and thoughtful ways. There is sacrifice in life, and, with it, joy.
So if we are fading…may it be for good reasons. Squeezing all we can out of life and relationships…even the hard ones. Not leaving anything left on the field when the clock runs out (was that phrase from Vince Lombardi?). No slow fade. Intentional. Deliberate. Owning it.
For believers of Jesus, there is a call reflective of this: On the return of the Messiah one day, we are reminded of the joy of that great day when “He must increase, and I must decrease”. (John 3:30) As on a wedding day, we take in that glorious arrival of the bridegroom for his bride.
Fading may be how we feel, but the reality is we all have various seasons in our life’s journey. Each with its own glory, joy, and exhaustion.
3) Mama’s Table – Our youngest child, Dan, has been affectionately referred to as a food snob. He loves all kinds of food but can be hyper-critical of what he considers bland food or just the wrong mix of flavors or textures. Fortunately he is a good cook and he has been since middle school. On bake sale days back then, he would take his cupcakes into school and brought empty platters back home. His yeast rolls, from a favorite teacher’s recipe, were amazing. He and a small cadre of high school friends who loved to cook (well, to eat, for sure) even started a cooking club.
They had a great time together, and we enjoyed their feasts with them. Nothing like a kitchen full of friends and all good things – loud laughter, strong opinions, and the yummiest blend of fragrances.
Food has its own culture and anthropology. In fact, Dan has moved on from just cookbooks focused on recipes to thick volumes covering not just the food of Persia, Malaysia, or Russia but the culture that goes along with the food.
McArdle tells the story of how decisions were made in homes across America from the 1890s right through present-day. The quote below resonates deeply with the food experience I knew growing up.
“The great blessing of my life is that my mother did not let me become a food snob. She was from a small town in middle America, and she did not view this as any great handicap. Nor did she look down on the culinary tradition she inherited from her mother, a “good plain cook” of the miracle-whip-and-white-bread Midwestern persuasion whose pie crust was infallible. We did not mess around with limp chicken breasts and cans of Campbell’s Soup, but I have eaten plenty of Jell-O salad, and liked it. (On summer days, I still occasionally crave shredded carrots and crushed pineapple embedded in orange jello made with ginger ale. Don’t sneer; it is delightful and refreshing.) Apples, bananas and raisins, dripping with Miracle Whip, were served as a salad in my house, and one of my favorite dishes from my grandmother was ground meat and pasta shells in Ragu. I still bake out of the Betty Crocker 1950 cookbook, and have never found a better guide to the classic American layer cake.”
We got a Betty Crocker cookbook as a wedding present and I still use it. I remember growing up with Campbell soup and Jello salads. Money was always tight so Mom would use pork brains (??) from a can to add to eggs to make them stretch far enough for us four kids. My first pizza was from a Chef Boyardee box. We never ate out at a restaurant, but I remember when a McDonald’s opened up near us (the first one in our area), and Mom took us for burgers and fries as a reward for behaving ourselves at the grocery store. That was a big deal. Church suppers were a big deal as we sampled what our friends enjoyed at their homes. Food was (and is) much more than just nourishment.
How about you? What is your food culture? Or rather the culture you knew as a child. For many of us these days, our food cultures are diverse and delicious…but we still remember the culture of Mama’s table.
4) Relationship Hacks – Just a few finds on how we treat each other, and sometimes ourselves.
1) Beyond the Guitar – Beauty to the Ears & Mind – We think of beauty more in what we experience visually, but there is a powerful connection between music and the mind. Beautiful music soothes the soul and lifts our hearts. Moves us. Often it is because of nostalgia attached to the music, but even without that emotional connection, music can bring our minds to a better place.
Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has that way about his craft. Moving our hearts with the beauty of his arrangements and performance. I don’t know any of the pieces in his medley of 4 Underrated (but Beautiful) Video Game Themes, but something happens when I listen. Shoulders drop; breathing slows; wonder sets in. Beauty has its way with our ears and our minds.
2) Mental Health Awareness – May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The theme message for 2021 is “You Are Not Alone”. Our need for connection is bigger than ever, having gone through so much COVID isolation. Whether mental health issues are our own personal struggle or we are family, friends, caregivers of those who struggle, helps abound. We just must be aware and utilize them.
Suicide and death by drug overdose have increased during COVID. They are shocking for us and real losses, either for us or for friends. We can’t keep isolating ourselves from each other. Finding ways to help is imperative.
3) Antidote for Self-Deceit – Self-deceit (or self-deception) is “a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument. Self-deception involves convincing oneself of a truth (or lack of truth) so that one does not reveal any self-knowledge of the deception”.
I’ve allowed myself to be deceived (either with the help of outside influences or from sheer will and desire, wanting something to be so, or not be so). It’s not pretty. One of my strongest memories was sitting in a circle of friends who essentially did an loving intervention with me. I was in a self-destructive (but non-abusive) relationship, and they had the courage to point me to the changes in my life and thinking. I will never forget it. The life I have now is much impacted by their willingness to go to that place with me. Forever grateful.
Regarding deceit, it is way too easy to get into our own heads and assess life with a self-tuned receiver. I wrote about this before (the practice of noticing). A somewhat dated video (with a still fresh message) speaks to this so well.
During the particular season of self-deception (described above), I got to the place that lying in my bed at night, when I would usually pray, it got impossible to pray. That was terrifying. It’s like all the desires and my rationalizations for them had crowded out any space for God. Especially for a holy God. Like I said, terrifying. No matter how loving God is, I couldn’t justify praying when my own desires trumped His for me.
As the video illuminates, as we get out of our own heads, and start seeing other people around us, we find the antidote. Caring more for others than ourselves, we can actually clear our heads some. Self-deception causes us to “circle the wagons” and keep others at a distance. As we determine to get close to people again, especially to genuinely listen and serve, our own deceit can be more readily understood/recognized. Of course, our neglected relationship with God will take its own time and action on our part. He is ready, when we are.
4) Showing Up…or Not – Showing up is a good thing. For all of us. Keeping commitments. Being present. Choosing to lean in. Listening.
So much is said about listening and its positive impact. To listen requires proximity.
On the East Coast, this week, we had a gas shortage (or a perceived gas shortage…not sure which is more accurate). Everyone was making decisions about filling their tanks and sorting out needful car trips vs. those that can be jettisoned for another time.
I was a part of a couple of meetings where some folks didn’t show up. Without a phone call, text, or email message. Was it the gas shortage? Or did it display something else? Honestly, I also wondered how often I’ve done this same thing myself.
We are in a culture right now when a RSVP yes can turn to no without a word. I’m showing my age…but does this matter?
Below you’ll find quotes from three different authors on this and what it can mean. The showing up…or not. After you read their observations, I’d love to hear what you have to say in the Comments.
“Standing someone up is a personal attack. You are saying that you have no respect at all for this person’s time, energy or feelings. This person set aside time from his or her day to hang out with YOU.
And maybe he or she didn’t feel like showing up. But no, this person had enough respect for you to feel as though he or she couldn’t bail on you. Then how did you repay the favor? You didn’t show up. With no warning.
And don’t even get me started on the fact that if this person cared about you enough to make and honor plans with you, odds are that he or she would probably be WORRIED about you when you don’t send a message. Because falling off the face of the Earth is a little alarming….You get the picture here.” – Candice Jalili
“There are commitments you are not going to keep no matter how hard you try, but even if you fail to keep them, you can still honor them. How do you do this?
“The difference between “keeping” and “honoring” is key: keeping a promise is about the letter of the promise, while honoring a promise is about the spirit. It is even possible to keep a promise while not honoring it. People will forgive an honored but un-kept promise, but it takes a real saint to let go of an un-honored promise—kept or not.
So what are the practical aspects of honoring a commitment? They are:
It’s uncomfortable to take responsibility (for a failed commitment), but discomfort is a lot easier to shoulder than disrespect or disappointment. Even if you failed to honor a commitment up until now, it is not too late: disrespect and disappointment can be rolled back or even erased in the face of genuine honor.” – Kenneth Vogt
[The two writers above have very different tones to their pieces. Both worthy of note. I especially appreciated Vogt’s distinction of honoring a commitment (whether you’re able to keep it or not). Honoring the person by communicating your inability to keep the commitment…as well as the honoring that goes on by making the effort to keep the commitment whether easy or not. We don’t really know what goes on for another who does the work of keeping a commitment or the one who just can’t. What we do know is what it is like for us to keep or not keep a commitment; to honor or dishonor a person in the commitment. So much more understanding and care come out of the smallest communications. Something to think about.]
Below Rachel Macy Stafford posted an image and (in the link) a Facebook story about sitting in a line for gas this week, and an elderly man, just ahead of her, deliberately nodding her way (as he chose not to completely fill his tank, doing what he could to “leave” some for her). No RSVP’ed commitment. No relationship. But a deeply kind gesture to her that she was seen. We all need that…that being seen.
It’s…“a deliberate decision to look out for the person behind (you)…It’s not about us. Even though it’s hard not to think only of our own needs, there is someone behind us…and someone behind that person…with their own set of struggles. If you can…will you look out for them? A wave will do, just so they know they are seen…it’s the kind of gesture that takes people farther than a full tank of gas.” – Rachel Macy Stafford
5) Unmasking – Get ready for another new culture shock thanks to the Coronavirus: unmasking!!! I am so excited myself.Photo Credit: Pexels, Gustavo Fring
Based on this week’s CDC recommendations, fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks or physically distance anymore (except in rare defined situations). This, of course, is still only a recommendation and each state must give direction at a local level. Our governor just announced that we will align with the CDC recommendations.
Now, no one is going to know who is vaccinated and who isn’t. If we have learned anything from COVID-19, it is to be wise in dealing with the viral world. Those not vaccinated will probably forego masks as well. The freedom feels intoxicating, honestly, but possibly fearful to some, even some who are fully vaccinated.
I hope we can leave fear behind us. COVID is still rampant in some parts of the world and that is tragic. As we in the US and other countries get past our own experiences with this virus, hopefully we can be a help to those still battling the disease.
The culture shock part is real. I will have my mask with me, and see what the signs say on the doors of each business, store, school, or community space.
5 favorite finds of the week. Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!
1) Music and the Soul – We all know the soothing touch of music on our souls. It lifts us and takes us to nostalgic places. Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, J. S. Bach
Nathan at Beyond the Guitar is like an online music therapist. Sweet guitar melodies that cause us to travel to a film, TV show, or video game that brought us fun, but more often, joy in the experience.
Nathan’s latest posted arrangement for classical guitar is linked below. Sweet piece.
Occasionally he plays a song just for his patrons. This week he performed Leo Brouwer‘s Cancion de Cuna. Such a romantic classical guitar piece. I wish I could bring you that video, but unless you’re already a patron, you will miss that one. Here’s him playing it in 2009 (thanks to his filmmaker roommate Duy Nguyen. He was a youngster then, but the soul knows. Enjoy the loveliness.
I love his music and how it elevates our souls. Words can often do the same for us, especially us extroverts. Below are links about how many see the impact of music on our hearts and health…here, words are used.
2) Asking Good Questions – Several years ago, we were in charge of a cross-cultural post-grad experience for groups of 20-somethings (millennials). One time, a mom came out to visit her son, and she gave us some good advice (although at the time it wasn’t something I wanted to hear). I’ll get back to that advice shortly.
In this cross-cultural context, these young people had many hurdles to quickly master – language, culture, worldview, physical and emotional challenges. Having lived well for many years in this particular culture, we could very easily fall into just “telling” them what to do and how to succeed, and often we did just that.
This mom told us, “Young adults want to discover their own way through difficulty. Ask them good questions and they will find the answers for themselves.”
Sigh…OK. I get it. It may take longer and require more work on the part of the teacher, mentor, supervisor…but it is excellent advice.
Asking the right questions is an art. Too often, we just default to giving the answer rather than asking the question. Four excellent articles on this are linked below. Asking questions (the right way with the right intent) can build trust and transparency. We also find out what we need to know rather than making suppositions that could be way wrong.
3) Hygiene Theater – We have dear friends who are still terrified by COVID-19. Even after so many of us are vaccinated. Lives have been severely altered by the safeguards put in place with the advisement of the CDC and other government agencies as we “follow the science”. That sacred science changes weekly because we are gaining new understanding of the virus with increasing data helping us to open up our lives more.
Thus the flurry of articles and videos now on the topic “hygiene theater”. Remember early on when we were told to sanitize our surfaces, wash our vegetables/fruits, and vigorously clean all public places on a daily basis.
What have we learned? How have we changed in our mediation of COVID impact? Now that I’m fully vaccinated and so many in my life have been, I look forward to welcoming people back into my home and visiting others as well. Shopping, though still often online or curbside pickup, has been happily opened up. Still, it seems we live in a world that is strangely toxic. All of us wearing masks and wiping down surfaces wherever we go. In this seemingly apocalyptic space.
When is the fear of COVID, of dying, so paramount that it squeezes all the joy and quality out of our lives? How can we move forward?
Now, I won’t play down the danger of COVID. We have lost friends and colleagues to it over this year. Not many, praise God, but some. The fact that there is still such a fear of it, over a year in, seems inordinate. Given the numbers. For sure in the US. Especially when COVID-related deaths reported appears suspect.
Maybe I am unwisely cynical. However, the deep cleaning still being advised (in our schools, for one huge example) seems unnecessary. Given all the findings. Given what we know about the transmission of COVID (through air and not surfaces). Follow the science, right?
I’m grateful for every turn in the COVID pandemic that restores life processes for our good. Kids in school. Friends visiting in each other’s homes. Work forces back in full. Weddings, births, graduations, funerals, hospital stays with our people in attendance, fully supporting us.
Enough with over-sanitizing. Now, on to masking. When is it truly protective and when is it theater?
4) Life-transforming Poetry – OK, maybe not everyone loves poetry. Yet. The poetry of artists like Preston and Jackie Hill Perry, Ezekiel Azonwu, and Janette…ikz have such a way with words. They lay down truth with their poetry. It is unique and powerful. God and person honoring. Check it out below:
Hope you’ve had some of your own favorite finds. Please share in the Comments below. It means a lot you came for a read.
Fave Quote This Week:“We are sometimes faced with circumstances that seem as if they must mark the final act. We sometimes encounter providences that make us believe the book has been closed and all has been lost. Yet when we are pressed, we must not think we have been crushed, but believe that God can still bring about a great redemption. When we are struck down, we must not think we have been destroyed, but rather have confidence that we are being prepared for some great blessing. When we are persecuted we must not determine we have been abandoned, but know that we are being made ready for some great usefulness to God’s plans and purposes. We must wait, we must withhold judgment, we must read to the end! For no story, least of all our own, makes sense until we have read all the way to the final page. It is only then, in light of the whole, that we see the skill, the ability, the genius of the Author.” – Tim Challies, Always Read the Story to the End
[A girl’s diary from 1929 – borrowed from a friend. The first owner of the diary is not written anywhere in it. Amazing for me to read her words about daily life almost a hundred years ago.]
It was a day like no other day in history. For years we lived in countries where Christianity was a minority religion. While the few of us passed this week in reflection and wonder, it was, of course, just another week for most of our friends and colleagues. Easter had its name – Eid Al-Qiyama (“Feast of Resurrection”) – but Good Friday where we lived was shrouded in the ordinary. For Jesus, and all who have experienced life through his teaching, example, and sacrifice, this day was and is wholly extraordinary.
Jesus had no opportunity to sleep in the hours of night before this dawn. From the garden where he prayed, he was forcibly taken into the custody of the high priests. Through the early morning hours, he was bounced brutally between the Sanhedrin, the high court of Israel, and the Roman authorities (Pilate and Herod Antipas). While in their custody, Jesus endured hostile interrogation, false accusations, trumped-up charges, relentless attempts at public humiliation, and repeated beatings. Yet, he somehow retained his full faculties, responding to the authorities, when necessary, with great wisdom and understanding of both the proceedings and the people. In the midst of all this trauma, he even made eye contact with one of his dearest friends and followers, Peter, who was hiding nearby…in his own painful moment.
The outcome of all the wrangling between the Jewish and Roman officials was an unwarranted, undeserved death sentence. Execution by crucifixion. Pilate even washed his hands of the matter, literally, declaring Jesus innocent but still consenting to the death sentence. He didn’t know then but the “blood” he tried to wash off his hands was truly innocent. Still, it wasn’t Pilate who put Jesus on that cross, nor was it Caiaphas, head of the Sanhedrin. Not a Roman, nor a Jew.
Jesus’ death, that day, was an outworking of a divine plan. We cannot begin to understand the holiness of the Father, the resolve of His Son, or the steadfastness of the Spirit. This three-in-one God orchestrated a path for us, His fallen and broken people, to be restored to Him. That we, though wrecked by sin, can be whole again and one in Him, in that unity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (John 17:21) is a miracle of grace.
Jesus gave his life for us that day. It was not taken from him. He laid it down. For us. Though completely undeserving, we are ransomed and redeemed. At such a great cost. This Jesus. This life. This cross.
Jesus spoke seven times during the three hours he hung on that cross. Each time he spoke, as in all the other times his words have been recorded, there was something for all of us. If you don’t know what he said, in those seven brief cries from the cross, read them and discover more about him…and about us.
Just before he died, he cried out, “It. Is. Finished.” What? What was finished? His life…oh no…not at all…that story comes later. His work? Not completely…for he continues interceding for us (Romans 8:34). What was finished? The perfect sacrifice – the lamb without spot or blemish – his life for ours. “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Hallelujah!
There is so much more to say about this day and the people present. Pilate’s wife who warned Pilate about ruling against this innocent man. Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, who tried to return the money and killed himself in remorse that same day. Simon of Cyrene, a pilgrim, who was drawn into the dreadful drama of that day to carry Jesus’ cross when he could no longer. Barabbas, a notorious criminal, who gained his freedom, through a strange twist of the day. The nameless thief on the cross who cried out in repentance to Jesus. The Roman centurion who in his witness of Jesus all those hours professed faith in him. John, Jesus’ closest disciple, and Jesus’ mother to whom Jesus gave each other. The women, lives changed by their faith in Jesus, who stayed at the foot of the cross through all the horror of his crucifixion. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a Christ-follower, who tried to appeal for Jesus with the Sanhedrin. Joseph of Arimathea, another believing Pharisee, who went to Pilate to receive Jesus’ body for burial, to place in his own tomb.
So many stories of lives changed. Good Friday. This marked the day of Jesus’ trial, his death, and his burial, but it does not mark the end of the story. It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.*
2) Easter Reading – Every year, sometime early in Lent, I pull out the books below to read in anticipation of Easter. Rich and inspiring.
This year, I added Timothy Keller‘s new book Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter. Wow! It is taking time to read because every page is full of meaning…requiring savoring and reflecting. Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City (since 1989). Since 2017 he oversees the work of Redeemer City to City – teaching, mentoring, and writing. The book Hope in Times of Fear was written during the year of COVID-19 (2020) which is also the year he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Hopefully God will give him, and us, many more brilliant and beautiful books. For now, this is my new favorite. Thanks, Dr. Keller.
Just here you will find one of the stunning passages in this book:
“The claims of Jesus Christ, if they are truly heard for what they are, never evoke moderate response. Jesus claimed to be the Lord God of the universe, who had come to earth to give himself for us so that we could live for him. That is a call for total allegiance. You will have to either run away screaming in anger and fear or run toward him with joy and love and fall down at his feet and say, ‘I am yours.’ Nothing in the middle makes any sense. Unless you are running away from him or running toward him, you actually don’t really know who he is. Peter has done both. Because of the instruction that he has received from the risen Jesus, Peter now knows enough about the gospel of grace to realize he has nothing to fear from Jesus’s divine presence. But there is a great deal of unfinished business between Peter and His Savior.” – Tim Keller, p. 98, Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter
3) Forgiveness – I don’t have a lot to say right here. To me, it’s so clear. We are wise if we forgive. We are wise if we ask forgiveness.
This past week, I listened to this old Eagles song“Heart of the Matter”. It’s a sad song…about regret. The focus was the need to forgive…before it’s too late.
It reminded me of a blog I wrote some time ago (I’ve written many about forgiveness or the lack of it). Singer songwriter Matthew West wrote a really beautiful song titled Forgiveness, out of a story of terrible loss and extravagant forgiveness.
I just want to leave the lyrics right here:
It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve
It’s the opposite of how you feel When the pain they caused is just too real It takes everything you have just to say the word…
It flies in the face of all your pride It moves away the mad inside It’s always anger’s own worst enemy Even when the jury and the judge Say you gotta right to hold a grudge It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’
Forgiveness, Forgiveness Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Show me how to love the unlovable Show me how to reach the unreachable Help me now to do the impossible
Help me now to do the impossible Forgiveness
It’ll clear the bitterness away It can even set a prisoner free There is no end to what it’s power can do So, let it go and be amazed By what you see through eyes of grace The prisoner that it really frees is you
Forgiveness, Forgiveness Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Show me how to love the unlovable Show me how to reach the unreachable Help me now to do the impossible Forgiveness
I want to finally set it free So show me how to see what Your mercy sees Help me now to give what You gave to me Forgiveness, Forgiveness.*
4) On Death and Dying – Having been a cancer nurse, I am familiar with this topic more than most maybe. However, it is never an easy one, given we don’t want to lose people we love nor do we want to leave people we love.
It is important for us to talk about death and preparations for dying, even if it is uncomfortable. It is a loving thing to do. My husband’s sweet dad, John, prior to having surgery some years ago, executed an advance life directive spelling out his wishes for end-of-life. He did great through that surgery and lived many healthy years afterward. Julia, his wonderful wife, didn’t think about it again. Then after years of poor health with Parkinson’s, he had a massive stroke. We were so grateful that the medical staff were able to retrieve a forgotten document that made decisions regarding his care so much easier for us. John had made decisions in his love for his family… years before. Because of this, we got to bring him home, with hospice support, and be with him, caring for him, until he died a week later.
With COVID, and now even with vaccines, we have had to take a clear-eyed look at death. When my neighbor, who is a bit older but as healthy as me, told me she and her husband had met with the funeral home to do their planning, I was a bit stunned. Yet, it is important and such a loving thing to do for a family.
Julia, my precious mom-in-law, and I, on a visit last year, had challenged each other to complete our own advanced care (or end-of-life) directive. We haven’t done it yet. Either one of us. So I pulled it up again…and hope to finish it this weekend.
Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, one of President Biden’s medical advisors on COVID, has been very public in his desire not to live past 75. Of course, he is only 63, this year. 75 may not seem as young to him as it might in a few more years. He talks about the diminishing returns of getting older, and that it its own loss, for the person and for those who would care.
I don’t care for Dr. Emanuel’s take on this, but I do very much agree with the following:
Think seriously about your beliefs in God and what happens in the after-life.
Get right with God and reconcile with those you are at odds with…especially family members. For them, if not for yourself.
Decide what your wishes are about end-of-life. Write it down. Tell your children or medical representative.
Make whatever arrangements you can while you still have your health.
Be sure your will is clear and understandable to those for whom it will matter most.
Then live your life in all its beauty. When dying begins, it can have its own meaning and purpose. I think of Kara Tippetts and so many others who died as they had lived.
What else should be added to these points? Please comment below.
5) Music in the Family – Wow! Don’t know how I missed the Kanneh-Mason siblings until recently. They have been playing, both together and as soloists, since at least 2017. Ranging in age from 11 to 24, these seven are incredibly talented and hard working in their craft – playing either cello, violin, or piano. When the COVID pandemic hit, they were all home together, in Great Britain, and made even more music together. The video below of them playing Redemption Song is how I first heard them. Wow!
We are a musical family as well. Not world-class maybe (yet…who knows?!). However, we do know what it is like to hear music all the time and to always have an audience or somebody who plays alongside. The Kanneh-Mason siblings have really benefited from growing up together with supportive parents. Read this great piece to find out Everything You Need to Know About the Kanneh-Mason Family.
Happy weekend! Hope this finds you well and enjoying the many small miracles of life. I’m a bit behind on posting Friday Faves. Sometimes they are so excellent they still end up in my Friday Faves weeks later…some of these are like that, and others are as fresh as this weekend. These are all for you. Enjoy!
1) Romantic Flight on Classical Guitar – Anyone new to this blog will have the pleasure of experiencing Nathan Mills‘ music, maybe for the first time. He is a classical guitarist whose work is found under the brand Beyond the Guitar. He arranges and performs themes from movies, TV shows, and video games. A heart and body lift on sweet nostalgia. We probably all know the positive impact of music on our minds and bodies. I personally never cared for instrumental music before Nathan’s journey with classical guitar. Now, we always had music in our home. Always. My preference was anything vocal. The thing that’s interesting in Nathan’s music. It feels vocal. He makes the guitar speak to the heart. Maybe the nostalgic familiarity of the tunes is part of it, but there’s something in his expressive playing…just so heartening. Check him out with his latest arrangement: Romantic Flight from the film How to Train Your Dragon. #LikeSubscribeShare
2) Snow Days Turned to Spring – In Central Virginia, our snow days might be past us. Early Spring flowers are popping up and flowering trees are beginning to brighten the gray of our landscape here.
A friend pointed me to the poet Billy Collins and I’d like to present in contrast his “Snow Day” poem and his poem celebrating Spring entitled “Today”. The kids (above) are ours and the flowers (below) are in our yard/neighborhood.
If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze
that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house
and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,
a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies
seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking
a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,
releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage
so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting
into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.
3) Normal – What does that even mean? As we come up on a year physical distancing and wearing masks to keep COVID at bay, people don’t even talk anymore about a return to normal. Nor even about a new normal. We are reinventing normal. If we’re wise, we’re also looking “down the road” to where our choices today will lead.
One issue for me is my struggle with reckless eating. COVID restrictions have not been my friend in this area. I overeat for about every reason possible – for recreation, out of boredom, when under stress, and even when happy. Food is just such a lovely go-to. Until this last year’s isolation pushed me to the highest weight I’ve ever been…but that’s again in the past.
In October I started seriously looking “down the road” to a life possibly shortened by my casual over-eating. Started using the My Fitness Pal app and asked for a Fitbit for Christmas. The non-Premium app is free and we caught a sale on the Fitbit.
After four months, I’m way below the highest weight I’ve ever been.
Do I miss the reckless eating? Absolutely! I miss McDonald’s double-cheeseburgers and fries. I miss Waffle House. I miss eating all I want. I miss Shyndigz fresh fruit cake and Piccola Italy‘s feta cheese and sausage pizza. One day those things will come back in my life… maybe. What I don’t miss is the normal of too often getting short of breath climbing hills and struggling to get up off the floor after playing with our grands. Also what I hope to miss is a stroke or…(almost hard to write this scary thing) dying from COVID because I put myself at even greater risk.
Now normal is weighing and logging food, eating less than I would before, listening to my brain when I’m actually full, and having only one cookie instead of 3…or 5. It all works out to a beautiful different…a new normal.
The change in eating is one thing. Way more challenging is how to be in people’s lives with the struggle of physical distancing and Zoom fatigue. That I am still figuring out…but one shot down and one to go and it will become less of a challenge hopefully. And a different normal will emerge.
[Sidebar: There was a time in the not too distant past when I went off sugar for over a year. It happened, there was benefit, but I don’t want to repeat it. As I get more fit, do I miss the chew of a French baquette or a perfect frie? Absolutely. Sugar though is still a part of my daily intake…and there will come a day when I will enjoy my daughter’s birthday cake again and MomMom’s refrigerator coconut cake. Many times over. For now: a Kathy Kaye popcorn ball is enough. Sorry for the long sidebar – like confessing in an Overeaters Anonymous group. 🙂 ]
4) Relief vs. Rescue – Words mean things. The 2020 CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) and the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act reflect a difference in meaning and approach. I just want to focus on two words: relief vs. rescue. Relief communicates easing the pain or stress of someone in a difficult situation. Rescue communicates much more. Rescue is to come to the aid of someone who can’t help her/himself. Rescue is freeing or delivering someone from an impossible situation. Both describe a response but one is a greater response and a greater need. Can words be prescriptive? Making us think we have a greater need? Making us think we need a greater response? Making us think we are helpless without the intervention of government?
“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.” – Diane Setterfield
We can woo and cajole with words. We can speak with an authority that demands acquiescence. We can speak with such brilliance or passion that we must be believed.
Check out this little TikTok video below (forgive the thumbnail shot of the young woman; it’s the second woman, @thesavvy, you will see that brings the point). Now I haven’t done fact-checking, but she I believe. How about you?
“If you're gonna be a white savior, make sure you get a white hood to match”
We don’t agree on everything, BUT their authenticity and brilliance in calling out the use of words to move political agendas and change culture is super fascinating. See one of their videos linked below.
5) Carefully Taught– The food for thought on this fave of the week is the painfully exquisite song from the Rogers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific. Classic movie released in 1958. Remade in 2001. The song You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught relates to an American military officer who has fallen in love with a young woman from the islands during WWII. He struggles with his own prejudice even in the face of his love for her. I saw the first movie sometime in my childhood. It was confusing for me then because I had not been raised to hate people different from me.
We are confronted right now with so much racism and presumed racism, it’s hard to know how to think critically on it or what to do definitively about it. Somehow we must separate the politics (driven to divide) from the persons (being used by those various platforms).
The song speaks to the incredible importance of parenting our children to choose love over hate; understanding over withdrawing. I do wonder if we are born with a bent toward racism…of choosing people who look like us, for whatever reason. Fortunately, if that’s the case, we don’t have to stay there. Parenting matters. Thankfully.
The most extraordinary quote I’ve just discovered:
The question is not whether the things that happen to you are chance things or God’s things because, of course, they are both at once. There is no chance thing through which God cannot speak—even the walk from the house to the garage that you have walked ten thousand times before, even the moments when you cannot believe there is a God who speaks at all anywhere. He speaks, I believe, and the words he speaks are incarnate in the flesh and blood of our selves and of our own footsore and sacred journeys. We cannot live our lives constantly looking back, listening back, lest we be turned to pillars of longing and regret, but to live without listening at all is to live deaf to the fullness of the music. Sometimes we avoid listening for fear of what we may hear, sometimes for fear that we may hear nothing at all but the empty rattle of our own feet on the pavement. But be not affeard, says Caliban, nor is he the only one to say it. “Be not afraid,” says another, “for lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” He says he is with us on our journeys. He says he has been with us since each of our journeys began. Listen for him. Listen to the sweet and bitter airs of your present and your past for the sound of him. – Frederick Buechner, from The Sacred Journey and Listening to Your Life
2) Asking Forgiveness vs. a Poor Apology – These days, when a person says “I’m sorry”, we often get the reply, “It’s not your fault”. Or, “it’s all good”. That, of course, is only when it really isn’t your fault…and it probably isn’t really all good. Sometimes I say, “I’m sorry” just as a condolence of sorts. “I’m sorry you weren’t able to have that night away.” “I’m sorry you’re sad.” “I’m sorry you didn’t get the job.” I didn’t cause the pain but feel sorry because you have pain.
Because the sentiment “I’m sorry” has become altered in its meaning, a real apology requires different vocabulary. Asking forgiveness is not the same as an apology. If I was harsh with you, I might say, “I was wrong to be harsh. Would you please forgive me?” A true apology asks a response. If the offended person can forgive then healing between the two can hopefully begin.
Just saying “I’m sorry” may very well be something the other person can agree with: “Yep, you are sorry for saying/doing that!” A sorry individual! Anyway, I don’t mean to make this about semantics, but word choice and resulting dialogue matters.
Author Frank Sonnenberg has written a short wisdom piece on apologies. He offers 11 common mistakes people make when they apologize.
His counsel is something to consider as we teach little children how to put things right in their tustles with others. “Say you’re sorry”, mommy coaches the child…she/he is probably not sorry but often has to oblige the parent to kickstart play again. How could this coaching be done differently? Any thoughts on apology?
He might be considered conservative or even right-wing to the casual observer. What I appreciate about him is his clarity – how clear his thinking is and how articulate he is when talking about the issues of today. He wants to unite people rather than divide them. He is pragmatic, honest, and calls out behavior that can be harmful.
“Don’t let politics take away your humanity. Don’t let the fact that you agree or disagree with someone on various issues, don’t let that stop you from having sympathy for them, compassion…In general, people need to stop trying to dunk on people, insult people, dunking on people when they are…sick, going through dark times. It’s just despicable behavior. This is not me virtue-signaling. This is just me trying to encourage you to be a decent human being. Humanity over politics always!” – Zuby
4) Pornography Examined – Pornography is playing with fire. In fact, it will not only burn you but it will burn down your house and everyone in it. I remember (showing my age with this one) the first time I found pornographic magazines hidden in my childhood home. Not saying whose they were, but page after page of women in provocative poses burned images in my mind – my little girl mind that was never meant to have them. “Be careful little eyes what you see” was a song I learned as a child and taught our children as well (in English and then in Arabic, when we lived in North Africa). Pornography feeds the mind with what will not satisfy and will never be enough.
Spoken word artist Preston Perry and author, teacher Jackie Hill Perry attack the issue of pornography openly and honestly for us. They are Christian and deal with pornography as the sin it is, not as casual observers but as two people who have both struggled with it. Whether you are Christian or not, what they have to say can help.
Their Thirty Minutes With the Perrys podcast on pornography is linked here. Also carve out time to watch their more in-depth examination of pornography – what it does to us, what the battle is, and how we can deal with its destruction and move, with God’s help, toward healing. It is fire…and too prevalent not to take seriously.
Then we lived for many years in places where the church was less the building and more the people. “Here’s the church”. Hands opened straightaway and the intertwined fingers fanned upward. I loved that change-up because it describes more the truth of what the church was/is meant to be in the world.
This week I “was introduced to” Reverend Junius B. Dotson. He is the general secretary of the United Methodist Church’s Discipleship Ministries. He is responsible for a program and movement of intentional discipleship. #SeeAllthePeople
Fastest week ever. Here I am late again for Friday Faves, but they have to be posted. It was a beautiful and amazing week for this woman here. Hope you will find something through which you are encouraged or amused. Happy week ahead!
1) Big Birthdays – I had a big birthday this week. Big. One of those with a 0 in the 1’s place. Another year, it would have been celebrated by a beach somewhere. With a dinner in a nice restaurant or a movie out with Dave and a family-size buttered popcorn. COVID. So…my kids planned a birthday lunch for me, and that would have been sweet enough. Coming so close after Christmas, I just couldn’t come up with any gift ideas. It was going to be ok…just being thankful for life and with my little family. Well…this birthday turned into a one-day-after-another, full of surprises huge hurrah!! Dear friends and neighbors showed up in so many sweet ways. In so many humbling and satisfying ways. That birthday joy was spread through a full week. Wow! So many thanks to you who knew this was going to be a bit bewildering for me. Can we do this again next year?!
2) Long Life – During my younger years, the Bible verses promising long life to those who honored their parents were easy to grab hold of. My parents were easy to honor. It just wasn’t much work for me. In fact, it was a joy.
Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. – Deuteronomy 5:16
Here’s to long life! And wonderful parents! Especially after one of those “big” birthdays.
3) Words on Inauguration Day – Every four years, this large day is observed in the United States of America. The peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next (after a two-term presidency or if the incumbent doesn’t win the second term). There are speeches, songs, and oaths. Many highlights. The most special for me? The 22 y/o poet laureate Amanda Gorman asked to recite one of her poems for President Biden…as the rest of the world listens.
Below is just a bit of her poem. Click on the video for the whole.
4) The Life and Wisdom of Hank Aaron – Baseball great Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron died this week. He was a great athlete and a great man. my Dad loved the Atlanta Braves…so much so that whenever they lost in the playoffs, the World Series no longer had interest for him. Hank Aaron spent most of his baseball career with the Atlanta Braves, and I grew up watching him and hearing Dad talk about him.
I should have known, but didn’t, how much racism Hank Aaron endured. Especially as he edged closer to beating the homerun record of national hero Babe Ruth. Aaron could bring homeruns…Photo Credit: Hank Aaron, AZ Quotes
…all day long. Hammerin’ Hank. He was a champion and a man with deep character. How is one’s character forged? With Hank Aaron, he probably learned it from a mom and dad, but he also unfortunately learned it through suffering. [“…suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5]
I thank God for Hank Aaron – for enduring the racism of that era without bowing to bitterness. He was a shining light to so many.
“In playing ball, and in life, a person occasionally gets the opportunity to do something great. When that time comes, only two things matter: being prepared to seize the moment and having the courage to take your best swing.”
“I need to depend on Someone who is bigger, stronger and wiser than I am. I don’t do it on my own. God is my strength. He gave me a good body and some talent and the freedom to develop it. He helps me when things go wrong. He forgives me when I fall on my face. He lights the way.”
“What you do with your life and how you do it is not only a reflection on you, but on your family and all of those institutions that have helped to make you who you are.”
“I am very proud to be an American. This country has so much potential, I’d just like to see things better, or whatever, and I think it will be.”
“The way I see it, it’s a great thing to be the man who hit the most home runs, but it’s a greater thing to be the man who did the most with the home runs he hit. So as long as there’s a chance that maybe I can hammer out a little justice now and then, or a little opportunity here and there, I intend to do as I always have — keep swinging.”
“A high school class learning about the Salem Witch Trials, and their teacher told them they were going to play a game.
“I’m going to come around and whisper to each of you whether you’re a witch or a regular person. Your goal is to build the largest group possible that does NOT have a witch in it. At the end, any group found to include a witch gets a failing grade.”
The teens dove into grilling each other. One fairly large group formed, but most of the students broke into small, exclusive groups, turning away anyone they thought gave off even a hint of guilt.
“Okay,” the teacher said. “You’ve got your groups. Time to find out which ones fail. All witches, please raise your hands.”
No one raised a hand.
The kids were confused and told him he’d messed up the game.
“Did I? Was anyone in Salem an actual witch or did everyone just believe what they’d been told?”
And that is how you teach kids how easy it is to divide a community. Some adults can learn a bit about this too.”