Tag Archives: gratitude

Worship Wednesday – the Small Virtue of Humility – the Grand Journey of Self-Forgetfulness

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:3-8

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”Jeremiah 9:23-24

I’m still making my way through a re-read of The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. Long over-due. Although the chapters are super short, each contains such a wealth of wisdom to think through and process.

In The Letters, a senior demon, Screwtape, is advising his nephew on how to draw away a young Englishman from his new-found faith in God, whom the demon calls The Enemy. The nephew is given strategies to muddle up “the patient’s” thinking on God and how one is to live, “loving our neighbors as ourselves”.

Chapter 14 (in just 3 pages) dissects the issues of humility, pride, and self-forgetfulness. We may think ourselves that humility is having and expressing a low regard of self, even self-deprecation. That is not humility. In the fullest sense, humility is a right understanding of God, other people and ourselves, in relation to all. God and others.

True humility is a growing awareness of how all things work together, including the hard things in life, and an appreciation of the good and glory in the world. Celebrating God, and His choosing to continue to display His goodness in all of life…in mine and yours, and throughout the natural world.

When we can pull our eyes off our own successes or, on the flip side, our challenges, perspective comes. Not puffing ourselves up or bringing yourselves down, but just seeing God everywhere. He purposefully and beautifully knit each of us together and His purposes are not thwarted.

Focused on God and others, we can live in a place of self-forgetfulness. Satan wants to destroy such peace by pressing us to ever compare, ever put ourselves down, or ever feel envy and longing regarding others’ good works. Or, if he can to even push us into pride, thinking more highly of ourselves, even though we operate out of the gifts and opportunities God gives us.

Here’s a bit of Screwtape’s instruction to Wormwood in the tempting of the young Christian:

“To anticipate the Enemy’s strategy, we must consider His aims. The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents – or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall.C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Chapter 14

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote

Let’s worship the God who frees us from self as we turn our eyes each day, and through the day, onto Him. Why this old song? It speaks to troubled hearts. If humility is not where we live, our hearts become troubled – either in some embattled state of self-loathing or self-obsessing. We can live free of all that.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Chorus:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

Chorus

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Chorus*

Why did I call humility “a small virtue”? Because it doesn’t draw attention to itself. It points to God and to others. However, it doesn’t leave us out. We also get to be on this grand journey. We are flesh, so when God gives us the opportunity to do something amazing, we naively may say, “Wow, I did that!” Pride rears its head, even for a moment. We can then either beat ourselves for the pride and make ourselves small in some sort of false humility or…we regain perspective. “Wow, I got to do that! Thank You, God!” If it was someone else who “got to do that”, we rejoice the same. It is the beautiful sphere of self-forgetfulness.

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – Tim Keller

Room for everyone on the podium in a very real way…because God is at the foundation of every podium we will ever encounter. Actually, forget the podium. The ground is level at the foot of the Cross. We’ve all heard this. Humility is where we live it.

“The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself…True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.”– Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: 2 Chron 714 Network, Facebook

*Lyrics – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus – Songwriter: Helen Howarth Lemmel

Humble and Kind – Restless Pilgrim Blog & Podcast on The Screwtape Letters – Chapter 14

YouTube Video – Blessed Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller – Edited Synopsis – 7 Minutes

YouTube Video – Lyric Video – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus – Hillsong Worship

Worship Wednesday – Thanksgiving Edition – Everything – Lauren Daigle

2006 -- Nov -- Thanksgiving table

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.James 1:17

Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises.2 Peter 1:2-4a

Happy Thanksgiving, Family and Friends. Through the years, I’ve written so much about this loaded holiday we love. Links to some of those blogs are below.

5 Friday Faves for Thanksgiving – the Gathering, Family Recipes, Table Talk, Living Room Sprawls, and All the Emotions – Deb Mills

Thanksgiving Memories – All Good Gifts – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – a Thanksgiving Moment – God’s Enduring Mercies – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Songs of Thanksgiving – Great Are You Lord – All Sons & Daughters – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – All Good Gifts – Thanksgiving Memories – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Thanksgiving – For the Beauty of the Earth – as Fall Fades into Winter – Deb Mills

Today, I have few words. Just so grateful. For health. For family. For friends, colleagues, neighbors, and church family. For work. For rest. For so much good in all this crazy and complicated life.

Especially for a good and gracious God. He gives us everything we need. He is “everything we need”.

Photo Credit: Heartlight Gallery

Worship with me to Lauren Daigle‘s song Everything.

Even the sparrow has a place to lay its head
So why would I let worry steal my breath
Even the roses, You have clothed in brilliant red
Still I’m the one You love more than this

You give me everything
You give me everything
You give me everything I need

Even the oceans push and pull at Your command
So You can still my heart with Your hand
You tell the seasons when it’s time for them to turn
So I will trust You even when it hurts

You give me everything
You give me everything
You give me everything I need
You give me everything
You give me everything
You give me everything I need

When I can’t see, You lead me
When I can’t hear, You show me
When I can’t stand, You carry me
When I’m lost, You will find me
When I’m weak, You are mighty
You are everything I need

You give me everything
You give me everything
You give me everything I need
You give me everything
You give me everything
You give me everything I need
[Repeat until end]*

*Lyrics to “Everything” – Songwriters: Jason Ingram, Paul Mabury, Lauren Daigle

Monday Morning Moment – Gratitude and the Brain – All Good Gains

Photo Credit: Twitter

Have you noticed the increased expressions of gratitude on your social media? At least in the US, we are gearing up for Thanksgiving. Some of us take this occasion as an opportunity to daily and publicly express our gratitude. Based on what we know from research, this could make November one of our happiest and least stressful months of the year.

Below you’ll find quotes from some of these authors, reporting on both clinical research and anecdotal data that support how the practice of gratitude can actually alter our habits of thinking and our sense of well-being. It’s all good for us and those around us.

“Our brain is always on alert to threat and is more predisposed to look at the negative side of life [stress response]. There are many things that happen to us everyday that are positive but we don’t notice them because we are always looking for the next threat to us. Now these actions are below our level of awareness. It takes some concerted effort to get our brain to move to the positive side of life. And that is where paying attention and expressing gratitude plays a role in establishing that positive mindset. When we start to place attention on the positive events in our life our brain responds by producing the neurotransmitter dopamine…We do feel better when dopamine is flowing but that also makes are brain wanting more – so it becomes the motivating neurotransmitter also…In addition, the brain loves confirmation bias: it looks for things that prove what it already believes to be true. Dopamine then strengthens that action. So if you start seeing things in your life that you are grateful for, your brain will start looking for more things to be grateful for.”Patricia Faust, How Gratitude Affects the Brain

Six Habits of Highly Grateful People – Jeremy Adam Smith

  1. Once in awhile, they think about death and loss. – As we think of past losses and future losses (say of those we love), we remember and reflect on the good we’ve known in those situations or relationships. Of future losses, we then take action to savor and bless those persons while we have them near.
  2. They take time to smell the roses. – Whether our current situation feels difficult or just mundane, we look for the beauty.
  3. They take the good things as gifts, not birthrights. – We see entitlement for the life-diminishing thing it is.
  4. They’re grateful to people, not just things. – We can be thankful for great food, for blue skies, for warm clothing, but we go beyond that to the one(s) who provided the good we have.
  5. They mention the pancakes. Being grateful for the specific little things disciplines us to enlarge our gratitude for the greater things in our lives. Those things that can cause stress if we don’t remember the value and significance in them.
  6. They thank outside the box. Even in adversity or hard times, we can find things for which to be grateful. Gratefulness doesn’t minimize the difficulty; it actually strengthens us to endure.

What Gets in the Way of Gratitude? – Robert Emmons

“Given its magnetic appeal, it is a wonder that gratitude might be rejected. Yet it is. If we fail to choose it, by default we choose ingratitude. Millions make this choice every day.

Why? Provision, whether supernatural or natural, becomes so commonplace that it is easily accepted for granted.  We believe the universe owes us a living. We do not want to be beholden. Losing sight of protection, favors, benefits and blessings renders a person spiritually and morally bankrupt.  It’d be hard to improve upon the words of our 16th President in 1863:

‘We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation ever has grown; but we have forgotten God! We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.'” – What Gets in the Way of Gratitude? – Robert Emmons

8 Ways to Express Your Gratitude

  1. Keep a gratitude journal.
  2. Write a gratitude letter to a past mentor or teacher.
  3. Count how many things you can find to be grateful for in each room of your home.
  4. Listen to a guided gratitude meditation [my suggestion if you don’t prefer guided meditation: spend some time in the Psalms].
  5. Start business meetings with a “what went well” one-sentence reflection.
  6. Savor receiving thanks.
  7. Take a daily photo of something you are grateful for and post to Instagram or Facebook, tagging it with #365project.
  8. Try a gratitude jar or tree.        – Tamara Lechner, The Neuroscience Behind Gratitude: How Does Cultivating Appreciation Affect Your Brain?

So…what are you grateful for at this moment?

How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain – Joshua Brown, Joel Wong

How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times – Robert Emmons

Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy – Nancy Leigh DeMoss

The Science of Gratitude – a White Paper – UC Berkeley

Photo Credit: Robert Emmons, Greater Good, Daily Good

Monday Morning Moment – a Non-partisan Prayer for America on the Eve of the Election

Photo Credit: Savio Sebastian, Flickr

[6 minute read…and prayer]

Oh God,

We come to You because “where else would we go?”. You alone, Lord, hold all things together (Colossians 1:17). How thankful we are that nothing can separate us from Your love. (Romans 8:38-39)

Father, You call us to love You, not because You need our love, but because You know if we do harm to ourselves in loving anyone or anything more than You. With loving You as our primary call, You also urge us to love others as we love ourselves. Help us to daily become more like Jesus, that when we love others, they will experience His gracious love through us. Even our enemies.

God, You remind us how we work out that love in our lives – by “doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with You” (Micah 6:8).

Forgive us, Lord, when our identity as partisan citizens takes priority over Your Kingdom rule and reign. You remind us that You have created “thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities”. You have given us the blessing of being Americans. Forgive us when we elevate that blessing over Your place in our lives. You are God – You “exalt and You bring down”, “remove kings and establish them“, “appoint authorities”. Thank You, God, that no matter the outcome of this election, we can be confident that You are ever at work in the world.

How do we vote, Lord? Guide us to vote not just our sensibilities but out of conscience drenched by your Holy Spirit. Some preachers and writers counsel with us that neither candidate may deserve the vote of a true follower of Yours. Then there are Godly responses that followed of how we must live “in this world but not of this world” (John 17:9-19) – not drawing away from voting. There are so many opinions, so many platforms…both outside Your church and inside.

Teach us how to be as fully a part of our culture as possible, but without sin. How does that work with voting in a post-Christian country? Lord, our hearts burn with desire for You to be glorified in this place. We need Your clarity.

Will voting our conscience drive away or draw others to You?

Please help us, Lord. Are we to be silent in the arena of politics?

Guide us, Lord. We need Your wisdom. We also surrender ourselves to Your will in this…just please lead us. Whichever side we align with politically has its unique secular agenda. With no interest in Godly outcomes. Give us discernment, God, as we make our decisions and act on them.

We need Your humility. Help us Democrats to fight for the unborn; help us Republicans to intervene for children at our country’s borders.* Help us see Your love for the whole world, and move us to act, not just on election day, but every day thereafter.

You call us to demonstrate Your love to the most vulnerable in our society – the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, the poor. Help us, Father, move from intention, from words only, to be the hands and feet of God…following the life-giving (and life-giving-away) example of Jesus.

How ever the election ends, whatever the outcome, Father help us, each of us, to “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). Also, we pray for the grace to continue to obey You by praying for those in authority over us, whoever that might be.

Thank You, Father, for the amazing grace You give us to quieten our hearts and still our resolve.

Thank You for Jesus, whom You’ve given all authority. He has given us a great work in this world, from which we do not want to be distracted. Praise Your name that You are always with us…even in these moments ahead of the election. It is a small thing for You. Help us keep that perspective.

Lord, many of us came to faith in a supportive environment where we had freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembling together. Forgive us when we fall to fear of losing these currently protected rights. Should we experience persecution, Lord, we know from Your Word and the testimony of Your saints, that You continue with us always. Thank You, Father.

We keep our eyes on You. Whether we line up to vote tomorrow…or decide we won’t be voting this year. You are God. You are good. Your purposes are not thwarted. Every morning, Your mercies are new to us…just what we need for each day. Thank You, Father, that You love Your children and You remind us, throughout the Holy Scriptures, to be strong, to not be afraid, and to not lose heart.

We will ever keep our eyes on You, to finish Your work, in each of our lives, in this country, and in this world. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Oh, and Lord, could I pray for one thing more? Please, Father, please rid our world of COVID-19. We pray in the name and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not just divided by politics; we are divided by this terrible virus. Free us from the bondage and hardship that has come out of this disease and its mitigation. Lord, You have told us to come boldly in prayer to Your throne. This is a time of great need for us, all around the world. We ask for Your mercy. Thank You, Lord. Again, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

*YouTube Video – Politics: How Would Jesus Vote? – Scott Sauls – He also encourages us in how we vote. Best sermon I’ve heard on this topic in this election season.

Positive Living: No Matter What You Do – God’s Plans Cannot Be Aborted! – Margaret Hodge – Great passages of Scripture included

What Christians Should Do If Their Candidate Loses the 2020 Election – Andy Stanley

A Facebook post from a friend – short and worthwhile read

Worship Wednesday – Gratitude Flattens Fear – Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Photo Credit: Interrupting the Silence

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

You yourself have recorded my wanderings.
Put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will retreat on the day when I call.
This I know: God is for me. – Psalm 56: 3-4, 8-9

When I am afraid..when I am afraid…when I am afraid…I will trust in You, God…This I know: God is for me.

There’s a lot of fear in the air these days as the Coronavirus pandemic makes its way across our states and the world’s nations. We hear a lot about flattening the curve of the new cases and mortality rates. What we need to flatten as well is the strangling fear that rises up with the COVID case numbers.

Fear is an enemy to our health and to our hearts.

Fear may also look more like anger when people politicize the problem or rail at the why’s of this disease we are facing.

Blaming, fault-finding, nay-saying.

Both fear and anger have negative impact on our immune systems and sense of well-being – both of which are vital to staying healthy.

How about our faith? Is there a way we can flip fear as believers?

Absolutely. When we shake ourselves out of the “what-if’s” and into the “what-is”, our thinking clears. Our shoulders drop. We breathe. We remember.

Whatever the enemy…human foes or COVID-19…God is present with us and He is for us.

Psychologist Gregg Jantz Ph.D. reminds us that Gratitude Is an Antidote for Anger and Fear. In his article, he states,Gratitude is an antidote for fear. Fear focuses on all the things that could go wrong. Gratitude focuses on all the things that have gone right. When our gratitude is based upon the power and promises of God, we have an abundance of things that have gone right!”

This morning I came across the Reba McEntire 2017 song Back to God. Early in the video, she sits in an empty church.Photo Credit: GodTube

The story in the video begins in a cemetery and then moves to an empty church (which looks normal to us now with COVID). As Reba sings, we see individuals and small groups dealing with losses. There is sadness, isolation, anger, fear. Something like we are feeling in our current situation.

When we find ourselves, because of this pandemic, without work or school, facing ruined plans, or worse…unable to delay deaths of people we love…we are prone to default to fear.

Throughout Scripture, God calls us to remember. Remember who He is and how He has moved throughout history and in our own personal lives. To pull ourselves up out of fear and take a longer view of gratitude for a good and gracious Father God. He is for us. He stands with us, in whatever feels like it is overtaking us.

Reba’s song is an anthem for us who say we believe…to pray like we do…whatever it takes to turn our fear, anger, loss…and unbelief…to a loving God. We want to hold this life, our loves, our preferred “normal” tightly in our hands…but.

Because He is good, and we remember, we open our hands, and trust Him with what He gave us in the first place. Whatever comes, He is faithful in His love and at His word.

Worship with me with the help of this great old hymn and remember that God is ever and always faithful:

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Refrain:
Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
all I have needed thy hand hath provided–
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. [Refrain]

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! [Refrain]*

At the end of Reba’s video, the church building goes from her alone to being filled with all those who had experienced anguish and loss… a church filled with worshipers. People praying and praising God. All together.

That’s who we are and who He calls us to be. We may, for a season, be physically distanced from each other, but we are still in this together, and Him always with us.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.Revelation 21:3-4

*Lyrics to Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Songwriters: Thomas O. Chisholm and William Runyan

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

Worship Wednesday – No Matter What I Will Trust in You – Lauren Daigle

Saturday Short – Give This World Back to God – Reba McEntire – Deb Mills

5 Friday Faves for Thanksgiving – the Gathering, Family Recipes, Table Talk, Living Room Sprawls, and All the Emotions

[Adapted from the Archives]

In the US, our Thanksgiving Day celebrations are renowned across the country. Traditions abound. We’re always sorry when people have to work…which happens more now that Black Friday, the biggest shopping day in the US., has pushed in on Thanksgiving Day.

For this week’s Friday Faves, our Thanksgiving Day regulars are posted below. Paramount over all the day’s festivities is thanksgiving itself – reflecting on and reviewing all we’re thankful for over this past year and always. God is good…present with us at every turn.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Singing News Radio

Holidays can be tough. Family doesn’t always cooperate, nor do our work schedules, or our health situations. Still we can redeem even the hardest days. I really appreciate the hacks in the link below.

Ten Pre-Thanksgiving Hacks (2019 Edition) – Shane L. Bishop

1) The Gathering – Our celebration of American Thanksgiving always involves some sort of gathering. When children grow up and start their own families, sharing them with their greater extended families on various holidays. I’m very thankful for the inlaws/in-loves inherited through marrying Dave, and we’re also thankful for our children’s inlaws. Whatever configuration you have, either for Thanksgiving or another occasion, here’s hoping for sweet times.

VCU International Thanksgiving Dinner – a few years back

2) Family Recipes – It’s all about the food, right? Every year finds family recipes honored through the generations. Uncle Mark’s oyster stew, MomMom’s strawberry salad, my mom’s cornbread dressing, and sweet wet cornbread (Aunt Stacie’s and Bekkah’s recipe neither of which I have).

Thanksgiving Dinner at Mom & Dad’s years ago – Feast on the bar

The dilemma is when the recipe is a bit sketchy…as in this video below (so reminded me of how my mom cooked – a little bit of this and a little bit of that…to perfection).

Do you have any favorite family recipes you’d be willing to share? Even if it’s just the story? Please! In Comments below.

3) Table Talk – With so many around the table, the conversation is never dull. There’s always some variation of the theme of “what are you thankful for” – and then we turn to topics as varied as the feast spread before us. We hear about new boyfriends, new babies, new jobs, etc., etc. Always fascinating and occasionally we learn something outside of the good news category – politics, technology, and the world. There’s always reminiscing on past Thanksgivings, when more dear ones were still with us. This time, what will it be?

4) Living Room Sprawls – After we leave the dinner table, and the dishes are washed and food put away, it’s find a place to sprawl in the living room. Either for a football game or a nap.

What favorite activity do you have besides those I listed? A walk outside? Playing football instead of watching? Table games? Talking family history with the old ones? Loving on the babies?

A Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt or a Gratefulness scavenger hunt:

Blog – Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt – the housewife modern Photo Credit: Facebook, Maude Metzger Meyers, One Thousand Gifts Study Group

One activity I would love to add to Thanksgiving is singing around the piano. We do that at Christmas time, but the video below, by People and Songs, below got me excited about pulling folks together to sing at other times of the year as well.

YouTube Video – People & Songs – Revelation – FB Live Living Room

5) All the Emotions – Because of the family nature of Thanksgiving, it’s as full of emotions as it is the annual carb load. This year our beloved PopPop (Dave’s dad) is gone from the table, nor will we be seeing Aunt Nancy on Black Friday. They both died this year and their loss is significant for us.

Then the emotions of all that’s going on in the lives of those we love – kids home from college, our littles in their various developmental milestones (and all they bring, as small as they are), marriages weathering the storms of life, friendships enduring distance, and the experience of peace…

Thankful.

[It is not always…these happier times and emotions, and for that we are there for each other. It is what family is meant for…]

Bonuses:

Christmas Playlist for the Roadtrip by Beth Wayland

Raising Memories: The Ultimate List of 100 Non-Toy Gift Ideas – Heather Lynne

Raising Memories: 100 Kid-Approved Stocking Stuffer Ideas – Heather Lynne

Monday Morning Moment – Going After Big Goals When Life Seems Small – with Benjamin P. Hardy

Photo Credit: Flickr

If you search within my website for author and productivity coach Benjamin P. Hardy, you’ll find he’s a favorite of mine. In fact, this blog will be my 15th highlighting his prescriptions on getting where we hope to go.

Today is his 30th birthday. Happy birthday, Buddy! It is just a tad annoying that this guy is so young and yet has done the hard work of getting to this peak place in his life. However, it’s a bravo and high five because, in truth, he practices what he preaches. I have learned from him and been encouraged by him to reach for what some days feels impossible. So thanks, Benjamin Hardy!

This morning, as much as I love Mondays, was one of those rare mental low, “life seems small” starts to the week. It didn’t last long thankfully. One reason is the ritual I have (which he also strongly emphasizes) – waking early, high-protein breakfast, quiet time (for me in Scripture & prayer), exercise, and goal-setting. Mind you, I am not always successful in this, and at times, the goal-setting part does me in. That’s why his birthday post today was providential.

This blog was a longer than usual read (17 minutes) but had a huge positive push for me and I will share highlights and takeaways. Maybe you can read it in full at lunch. Worth your time.

How to 1) Get Into Peak States, 2) Make Bold Decisions, 3) Invest in Yourself, and 4) Achieve Your Most Audacious Goals – Benjamin P. Hardy

Don’t be put off by what sounds a bit like an infomercial from some jazzy motivational speaker trying to see you his product. His astuteness related to productivity is matched by his generosity in sharing with whomever wants to benefit. Hardy does have a book coming out in March 2018 – Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success. I look forward to reading it.

Anyway, quickly, back to the epiphany ushered in by his blog. Here are the quotes to set foundation:

“You get in life what you tolerate, as Tony Robbins has said. And most people have developed tolerances for distraction and addiction. They’ve become okay with it. They’ve settled for that reality….the root cause of their problems is always themselves. Even if the actual problem is something (or someone) in your environment, it’s up to you to make that change.”

“To quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.,A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.’”

“When you act, then you start to get clarity. In order to achieve your goals, you need to become the person who can have those goals.”

“Most people are very disconnected from themselves. They are living in an addictive and reactive state. In those few moments when people purposefully pull themselves from their mesmerized state of unconscious, peak experiences happen. They are predictable. You can create them. What if you made being in a peak state a priority? What if you literally needed to operate at peak levels on a daily basis in order to achieve your goals? What if that was your standard?”

“Being in a peak state means you’re operating at the level you want to be, so that you can achieve ambitions beyond anything you’ve done before.”

“…a ship without a sail. They go wherever life takes them. Theirs’ is a random and unconscious evolution. Their behaviors are reactive and without much consequence. It doesn’t matter if they blow several hours roaming around on the internet. However, if you want to set a new path in your life, you need to make a powerful and definitive decision.”

After my walk this morning, and an incidental conversation with a good friend (read answered prayer I didn’t even know I asked)…a peak mental state, as described by Hardy, emerged. I have more focus, resolve, and confidence.

Some of Hardy’s takeaways for me today are:

  • Shake off negative, small life thoughts, and put yourself into a peak state mentally…then make that decision/goal. (He gives how-to’s in his post.
  • Keep that decision ever before you (in whatever way is most effective). I’m visual – it’s written and posted as a frequent reminder.
  • Invest in that decision (brings skin into the game…yours). Commit in such a way that there’s no easy way out. Invest yourself in your own future. [For some, this probably makes perfect sense…it’s hard for me to do; that investing in my own development.]
  • Put yourself in proximity with the people who will most invest in you and your goals and who care enough about you to tell you the truth. Take the time to do the work of gathering that sort of team.
  • Be honest with yourself about what needs to happen to reach that goal, then do what you have to do to be prepared for that goal to happen. [I know, it sounds both hard and exciting, right?]
  • Be grateful; stay humble.  Be grateful; stay humble. Be grateful…
  • Fight for the goal you’ve made. You made it in a peak state, such that you know that you know that you know it’s your right direction (a word from God, a burning passion, a deep longing). You fight for it; no one else will care the same as you care about it.
  • Photo Credit: Twitter

Benjamin P. Hardy is living the life. He still contends with deadlines and sick kids and freezing cold days. He’s not my hero or anything… BUT as a complete stranger, he encourages me not to give up, and to take this day as the precious gift it is and not treat it like it’s small.

Reactive, distracted, addicted…doesn’t win today. Hope the same for you!

5 Friday Faves – Celebrity, Beyond the Guitar, Happily Ever After, Good News, and Mommies Matter

Friday is here. The Friday before Thanksgiving in America. Kids home from college. Vacation looming. Pantries full preparing for a foodie’s feast day. The anticipation of more time with family. For the moment, a sigh at the end of a long week…and five favorite finds:

1) Celebrity – In the wildly popular TV show This Is Us (season 2), we see deep content on a myriad of issues – including family conflict, racism, weight, alcoholism, loss, adoption and foster care. Even my husband watches this show with me. Actor Justin Hartley, is one of the three siblings, and actually plays an actor on the show. This week’s episode was all about him. No spoilers here. The thing about this character is that he has it in him to be wildly successful. The story though winds around how celebrity and the pursuit of celebrity can actually destroy a person and damage that person’s relationships. Not all of that being on him. We, the fans, the audience, the bedazzled also bring some of what’s toxic to this scenario.Photo Credit: Popsugar, TooFab

Whether it’s celebrity politicians, celebrity preachers, celebrity athletes, actors, or artists…we put them on a pedestal. They can do no wrong. We are determined to trust their character, their motives, their game (whatever it is)…even when they lose their way.

This episode of This Is Us was heart-wrenching as we see what celebrity does to a vulnerable young man surrounded by people who just want to adulate or admire him…not really know or care about him.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Be a Celebrity – Jeff Goins

[Sidebar: We actually were made for glory – but if we get caught up in our own self-importance, we lose sight of what it really means. A friend this week pointed me to The Gospel in Two Poems – written by Christian Burkhardt, pastor at Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA. Tell me what you think (Comments, below).Photo Credit: NewSpring Fuse

2) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest Arrangement – You may be seeing more of these in my Friday Faves, because Nathan Mills‘ is pouring it on, creating an arrangement every week presently. His latest is Evil Morty’s Theme from the adult cartoon TV show Rick and Morty. I’ve never seen the show, but this piece is definitely worthy the listen (composed originally by the rock band Blonde Redhead, arranged for classical guitar by Beyond the Guitar).

3) Happily Ever After – My husband and I have been married over 30 years. Live long enough, single or married, and we all discover that relationships are challenging and do need tending. No matter how much love holds them together.

Some of the best counsel I’ve received about marriage was through the book Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than To Make Us Happy?  by Gary Thomas. “Happily ever after” was less a goal than a sweet dividend of a love that doesn’t quit on God or the other.

[I realize that some marriages are terribly hard and can be lost no matter how much we pour into them.  Sadly. That’s for another day…]

This week I read Richie Norton‘s piece 47 Best Ways to Accelerate Happiness in Marriage by 1000x, Backed by Experience. It was actually quite fascinating. Definitely something to discuss together on a date night…when that happens next.

Sacred Marriage Seminar – A Morning with God, My Husband,  and Gary Thomas – Deb Mills Writer

4) Good News – This week has been shrouded by bad news around here – news of a layoff, a death in our extended family and a friend’s father, as well as the worsening of cancer in a near neighbor. Bad news seems to find us too readily.

It makes good news so much more a thing to celebrate. I have a loved one who has been working hard to fend off the addition of some cardiac drugs to her life. As we get older, it can feel futile trying to make lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, sleep)…changes capable of turning around a diagnosis.

Well, it does happen…and it happened for her. Her doctor actually called her personally to tell her that she doesn’t need the medication the doctor felt warranted just a couple of months previously.

This may seem a small thing, but I’m dancing a jig for her today. Her resolve and hard work paid off. Very motivating for me, as well.

What good news have you received this week?

Photo Credit: SlideShare

5) Mommies Matter – Eric Metaxas posted a book review and commentary this week on the impact of moms at home with their little ones. He reviewed Erica Komisar‘s book Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters.

Photo Credit: The Stream

Komisar’s book and Metaxas’ commentary are bitter pills to swallow for the mom who works outside the home, either because of preference or circumstance. My first-born was cared for parttime by another because, at that time, I loved my career so much I wasn’t prepared to let it go completely. She turned out well…praise God.

But what if…

The research findings and recommendations in Komisar’s book are not what we would imagine. Sure, we all believe moms are important to their little ones. We work out the best possible situation we can, if we have the choice (the dad, a grandparent, a trusted friend). Still, it’s something to consider…how much mommies matter to a child.

Read Metaxas’ review below. I think you’ll want to buy the book after.

Why Mommies Matter: Being Present in the First Three Years –  Eric Metaxas

There’s another Friday Faves. What discoveries would you share with the rest of us? Please use the Comments below.

Be kind to yourself and each other. We never know how much it’s needed.

Bonuses: [They deserve their own Friday Faves.]

Favorite quote of the week: “It does me good to hear what I believe repeated in your voice.”C. S. Lewis

When Vision Betrays: Cataracts, Aging, and Creating Art – Sidney PerkowitzPhoto Credit: Emory Health Digest

Darren Hardy – The Brutal Truth – YouTube Video [on Excuses – really good]

Thanksgiving – in a few days. Grateful.

Magnetic Gratitude: JOIN People Skills Global Chat Nov. 19th | #PeopleSkills

5 Friday Faves – Reversing Diabetes, Circle of Gratitude, Love Songs, Asking Good Questions, and the Ideal Team Player

1) Reversing Diabetes – Maybe you don’t think about diabetes. I do.
So far I have held it off. Not because I’ve mastered a healthy diet or an active lifestyle. Just teetering probably on the brink. Diabetes is one of those diseases that, if we live long enough, will probably hit one out of three of us. 1 in 3. So when I come across a great article about reversing it (which is rare), I jump on it. Lou Schuler has written a powerful piece for Mens’ Health on How to Reverse Diabetes. He writes in a non-shaming, matter-of-fact way with lots of pragmatic counsel and success stories. Our problem is we don’t think we can reverse it…we figure it is inevitable if we continue with reckless eating and holding our couches down so they don’t get away. I was encouraged by Schuler’s article.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

We can reverse diabetes with three specific interventions – lose the weight (or don’t gain the weight over our lifetime); especially control our belly fat; and exercise (even just walking after we eat can make a big difference). I have loved ones who are diabetic or pre-diabetic. I hope they are encouraged by this….I am. Resolved not to be 1 in 3.

Photo Credit: Flickr

2) Circle of Gratitude -Gratitude is a terrific gift all by itself. What’s really fun is when our expression of gratitude actually triggers gratitude in the person for whom we’re thankful. Justin Kanoya describes this as a circle of gratitude. You have been the recipient of some great service or other good thing (fill in the blank) and you want to thank them well for what they did for you. You don’t just send an effusive text or Facebook message. Nor do you pick up a one-card-fits-all-purposes to send them. You want it to be reflective of what they did themselves. Kanoya carefully picked out some hand-made cards from local artisans. He then wrote specific detailed thanks for each person’s generosity toward him. Lastly, he slipped in gift-cards for spa treatments.Photo Credit: Flickr

Kanoya describes how satisfying that was, but the circle of gratitude closed for him when he received back all manner of thanks for his thanks, from those who received his cards. Sweet. Have you had this experience – when someone’s gratitude felt even more generous than what you did for him/her? That’s a circle of gratitude.

3) Love Songs – Do you have a favorite or meaningful love song? For Dave and me, it was the oldies song playing on the radio when we first kissed. I Only Have Eyes For You. He tells me he actually waited for just the right song because we would remember it always (not like “Hotel California”). That was a long time ago. It was such a moment that, after we married, we even asked a local artist to do a painting for us as a reminder of that sweet song and sweet moment. Photo Credit: Artist – Betty Skaggs

Facebook has become a bit redundant for me lately – not just the political parlay but all the videos. Still there was one this week that touched my heart. It was a homemade video at a church Valentine banquet. A couple was standing at the mic and the husband was singing a karaoke version of Lionel Richie’s Truly to his wife. So funny and deliciously dear.

Do you have a favorite love song and moment? Please share with us in Comments below.

4) Asking Good Questions – There was a season in my professional life when my husband and I directed a study abroad program with young adults right out of college. They would return to the US to attend graduate school but wanted a deeper understanding of the Middle East, through an immersion experience. During those sessions, we would often have visits from their parents. One mom gave me surprising and difficult advice. She said her son (along with these other 20=somethings) prefer coming up with their own answers (solutions to their own problems). The key for us in supervision and mentoring was to ask them the kind of questions that would get them to those answers. I wanted the easy way out; I wanted to just tell them what they needed to know. Saves a lot of pain for all of us, but didn’t help them become better problem-solvers. Ever since, I’ve been trying to figure out how to ask good questions.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

When leadership coach and blogger Paul Sohn interviewed talk radio host and author Ken Coleman, they talked about this very thing. Asking good questions.  about asking questions.  – What’s the greatest question a person can ask/answer? “Why am I here?”

[When you read Sohn’s interview, don’t miss the Comments. Really fascinating.]

One Question: Life-Changing Answers From Today’s Leading Voices – Ken Coleman

5) Ideal Team Player – Pat Lencioni’s book The Ideal Team Player is one of our favorite books lately, and I’ve already written about it here. It’s a fave again this week because I discovered some helps for discovering just how humble, hungry, and people smart we are. On Lencioni’s website, he offers several free resources and tools. Photo Credit: Pexels

One tool was a free self-assessment of these three virtues of an ideal team player.  It was very helpful, especially in pointing out areas where I tend to hold myself back. Check it out. Seriously.

Photo Credit: Table Group

Monday Morning Moment – True Humility in Leadership – So Not Cliché

Those are my five faves for this week. Below you will find a bonus from one of my favorite documentary makers – Andrew Morgan. He’s directing a series of short films on Untold America. This past month, he focused on the many sides of democracy in America. Next, I believe, he is covering immigration stories. Follow him and Untold America on Facebook or Twitter. You don’t want to miss any of these films and the people whose stories they capture.

Have a safe and refreshing weekend, Friends.

Bonus: Untold America’s Documentary Series on Democracy

Untold America – Facebook Page

Worship Wednesday – We Won’t Be Shaken – Building 429

Photo Credit: ABC News

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.Hebrews 12:28

The longer we live, the more we have those stop-you-in-your-tracks, breath-catching experiences. Those “Do you remember where you were when……?” moments . Those consummately positive memories like our wedding day, the birth of a grandchild, or that time a guitarist son‘s music video goes viral.

These are not the experiences that take us to our knees (except in gratitude, for sure). What shakes our core are times we are faced with something so devastating we fear we cannot recover – a cancer diagnosis, the death of someone dear, or even what could have just happened in our lives this week.

When the San Francisco Earthquake of 1989 struck, it shook (literally and metaphorically) that community in California…and all of our nation. We had grown quite accustomed to a safe and settled America. A time of relative peace before the wars began again. Since then, we have had so many natural and international shakings, we wonder if the ground will ever again be still under our feet.

John Piper, after hearing the news of the 1989 earthquake, preached comfort and truth on the unshakeable Kingdom of God. As he started speaking, he prayed:

O Father in heaven, it’s times like this in the life of a nation when the voice of the Lord needs to be heard, and you have much to say, and we have little time in which to say it. So come, Father, boil everything down to the bare essentials, sharpen the arrow of your Word, may it sink home to do its appointed work of mercy in the lives of every person here. I ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.John Piper

The Christian group Building 429 well describes our experience as Christ-followers when faced with confusing and faith-shaking times. In the song We Won’t Be Shaken, we are reminded of the great truth that whatever we face in this culture and the larger world around us, God is always in the mix. God’s purposes are never thwarted and His love and mercies will help us stand, even when the earth shakes all around us. This is not platitude. We know it, because we’ve experienced it. We know God, because we’ve experienced Him…with us. In the darkness and in the shaking.

Worship with me.

This world has nothing for me
This life is not my own
I know you go before me
And I am not alone
This mountain rises higher
This way seems so unclear
But I know that you go with me
I will trust in you

Whatever will come my way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won’t be shaken
No we won’t be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we’ll rise and sing
That we won’t be shaken
Oooh Oh Oh
Oooh Oh Oh
Oooh Oh Oh
No we won’t be shaken

You know my every longing
You’ve heard my every prayer
You’ve held me in my weakness
Cause you are always there
So I’ll stand in full surrender
It’s your way and not my own
My mind is set on nothing less
Than you and you alone
I will not be moved oh

Whatever will come my way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won’t be shaken
No we won’t be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we’ll rise and sing
That we won’t be shaken

(3x)
We will trust in you
We will not be moved
We will trust in you*

Take time to read the transcript of Piper’s sermon. He closes with this appeal to those in his hearing who  do not yet know the God of the unshakeable kingdom:

Receive the kingdom that cannot be shaken. Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you receive the kingdom like a little child, you will never enter it.” See how simple it is? What does “a little child” mean? It means you humble yourself and recognize that you can’t make a place for yourself to stand. You can’t cut it in life and make the future what it needs to be. You just humble yourself like a little child. You recognize that there’s a Father in heaven. You see the gift offered through his Son Jesus Christ—forgiveness and the hope of everlasting life and a firm kingdom that can’t be shaken—you extend your hands and say, “Sinner though I am, I receive it. This is now my portion forever and ever.” – John Piper

Photo Credit: Mariel Davenport

Lyrics to We Won’t Be Shaken by Building 429

YouTube Video – K-Love – Building 429 – We Won’t Be Shaken – LIVE

A Kingdom That Can Not Be Shaken – John Piper

Photo Credit: Pinterest