Tag Archives: isolation

Monday Morning Moment – Loneliness in Isolation – Fighting Against It and Occasionally Successful

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Just last night I was confronted again with one of the tolls of the COVID epidemic. That toll being a physical isolation that has grown into a lingering social isolation. A friend texted me about her sense of feeling disconnected, even unseen, in the midst of her church community, of all places. She is reaching out but has not yet found her people. I tried to encourage her to keep reaching out and she would eventually find those friends, that connection for which she is longing. This isolation, this loneliness, is something I, too, was fighting against and occasionally successful.

She told me this had to be my next blog (title) and so it is…although I don’t have answers…but will share what I’m learning from my own journey and from wise others.

“Here’s what we do: We spend hours alone in our crowded, noisy, screen-lit worlds, we invest only sporadic time with acquaintances, and then we expect close friends to somehow appear in our busy lives.”Jennie Allen, author of Find Your People: Building Deep Community in a Lonely World
Being retired from my usual work has afforded me much discretionary time…time which can be lavished on others or on disciplines like study, prayer, and writing. Too often…this time on my hands has taken me to places too quiet…where I get lost in my thoughts. That is an excellent description of this loneliness that comes from isolation.
We think too much maybe. Get lost in those thoughts and become slow to respond. Instead of going after friends, we wonder where those friends are…is it us? Is it them? We look for reasons for the unsought solitude we find ourselves in yet we can’t seem to fight off the sluggishness of too-long isolation. We text instead of call. We do electronic meetings instead of face-to-face ones. We cling to smaller rhythms instead of restoring larger lives.
OK…is that just my issue? I don’t think so. The phrase “new normal”, no longer in vogue, is a misnomer. It deludes us into a posture of waiting…rather than seizing on what’s right in front of us. Whatever is the present normal…that is what we have. This present normal.
This present that we have is fleeting, temporary…but the people  around us are not. Yet, relationships require some level of intentionality. A wise counselor once told us, during a season of multiple moves for work, to “put down your roots as deeply as you can – wherever you are”. COVID mediation has pushed us toward shallow relationships. We don’t want to miss people in the dullness of this odd season.
My beautiful friend above is already on the way to an answer to her loneliness because she is recognizing the “what’s not right” about her current situation and she’s not holding on to the status quo. That is forward motion right there. I am hopeful for her and for myself.

Writer, speaker, and mom Kari Kampakis wrote a fascinating post on Instagram and Facebook. It was titled: “What Middle School Girls Should Know About Friendship”. She wrote to girls but the lessons are redeeming for all of us, especially in this world that’s become COVID-isolated.

“What Middle School Girls Should Know About Friendship” – Kari Kampakis – Blog

“Friendships change.” Following you will find Kampakis’ 10 thoughts (abbreviated from her blog) on the struggle – written for middle school girls but applicable to any of us. Especially as we face loneliness and isolation and want to either jump-start or strengthen our friendships:

1. It’s normal for friendships to evolve and change.

2. Everything will be okay. – Be patient, pray for good friends, and pray to be a good friend.

3. Rather than focus on finding the right friends, concentrate on being the right friend. – When you treat people well, you’ll attract friends who treat you well too. By holding yourself to high standards, becoming the friend you wish to find, and choosing to be an encourager rather than a critic, you set yourself up for positive and long-lasting relationships.

4. Even when you find your “people”, always leave room at the table to invite someone new in. – Kampakis lamented: “One regret I have from high school and college is not reaching out more beyond my circle and letting God open the door to unexpected blessings.”

5. Love your friends well, but keep a loose grip. Give them space to explore new friendships and explore new friendships yourself.

6.Remember that everyone is learning and gradually maturing. Just because you don’t click with someone now doesn’t mean you won’t click later. 

7. The biggest friendship killers are jealousy, comparison, insecurity, and fear – fear of rejection, fear of being left out, and fear of being alone. Acting on these emotions can turn you into someone you’re not. – By being aware of your negative emotions yet learning the self-control to not act on them.

8. Form your own opinions about people, and don’t believe everything you hear. – Treat everyone like a friend until they give you a good reason not to, and when possible, give people the benefit of the doubt.

9. Know the difference between committed friends and casual friends. – Committed friends are the kind you carry through life. They have your back and will stand in your corner even if they’re your last friends standing. Casual friends are the kind you have for a season of life, maybe a few seasons.

10. Be kind, and keep in mind that kindness is more important than popularity.  

Photo Credit: Kari Kampakis

“What Middle School Girls Should Know About Friendship” – Kari Kampakis – Blog

Those 10 points were written for middle schoolers. It was a great reminder to me of the sweet simplicity of pursuing friendship. Both in rekindling neglected relationships and sparking new ones.

The world won’t all of a sudden become warm and welcoming…but I am ready to stretch again. It feels almost like a hungry bear coming out of a long hibernation.  It’s possible to shake off the sleep of shallow relationships. To be more present with people – not just on my terms but open to enter into their space…both heart and head.

Even if it’s one person at a time.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Life does not stand still for us. I have friends and family that are dear to me and yet we rarely see each other. Do we think that is going to happen somewhere down the road? Magically? There’s a place for urgency in dealing with the habitual loneliness we have come to know in recent months. My friend above is taking steps as am I. Cautiously, awkwardly…but occasionally successfully.

How about you? What’s your story? [Comment below.]

[Sidebar: If you’ve read this whole piece and wondered what’s the issue because you have great friendships – current and satisfying – maybe see Kampakis’ #4 again.  “Leave room at the table for someone new.” Don’t circle the wagons. If you are basking in the experience of an inner circle, turn around – someone who may need you, or you them, may be just outside. Invite her in.. New friendships can be costly but the benefits are worth the expense and the risk. *]

*Monday Morning Moment – Real Friendship – on Friends Who Wound, Fierce Friends, Friends Who Turn Around, and Friends Who Stay – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Monday Morning Moment – Abuse – Where Does It Begin and How Do We Respond?

Photo Credit: South Mountain Works

My childhood memories have gaps. A year ago, I began exploring the possibilities that there were memories being kept hidden in my brain. Reading and working through the three books of Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson moved me to consider the power of shame in keeping my memories silent. Dr. Thompson encourages his clients (and book readers) to write down our life stories, in long-hand. Journaling the decades. Especially working on recalling our childhood. Bringing those memories into the light.

My preschool years are still mostly devoid of memories. My mom had told me later that our rarely employed biological father neglected us such that she had to employ a babysitter daily while she worked. Whether neglect is abusive or not, I have no recallable memories of my father from those years. Mom divorced him by the time I was 6.

In doing the exercise of writing out my life, one childhood memory that I was able to re-remember started out happy. It was a neighborhood “garden party”. I was maybe 7 or 8. These so-called garden parties were a gathering of family and friends to process the harvest of large vegetable gardens – for canning and freezing. Those who came enjoyed lively conversations, engaging stories, and finally a large meal together. The adults were caught up in the moment, and the children wandered in and out…and farther away.

I’m not sure who all ended up with me in a large barn some distance away from the home of our hosts. In that barn, an older boy (trigger, sorry) talked me into letting him touch me in inappropriate ways.

I had put that memory far back in my mind.

In remembering it, I also recalled telling my mom that evening and her taking action by going to talk to the parents of that boy. That’s where it ended, I believe.

Later in my childhood, I would discover my older brother’s (I suppose) hidden stash of pornographic magazines. [We didn’t have internet pornography in those days, and this sort of perusing seemed an expected coming-of-age pastime.] Page after page of naked or scantily clothed women in sexually provocative poses. Even as a pre-teen, it drew me in, even though it felt dirty and shameful. I don’t think I understood the power of taking such images into my brain. It is what pornography does and why it is so toxic.

[Could this sort of pornography be a launch-pad for girls who, seeing those images, become sexually aroused, then thinking she might be  same-sex attracted? Especially if it happened today in our current culture…I wonder.]

Being exposed to pornography as a child isn’t abuse, of course, but it forces an unhealthy peering into an adult world. I wish I hadn’t stumbled on it and hope parents take seriously the availability of porn on the internet. OK…done with that topic.

At the age of 13, my parents invited a young co-worker of my step-dad’s for a cookout. He must have been 18 or 19. He stayed long into the evening. I have no idea what my parents were thinking at the time (and they were excellent parents), but they went to bed and he was still there. This seemed to set up a green light for him, and he became very aggressive physically. My 13-year-old sensibility was at first enthralled at his interest in me and then frightened, too timid to cry out or get away. If my older brother hadn’t returned early from a date, and sent him on his way, I’m not really sure where that would have ended. So thankful for my brother that night.

Where does abuse begin? Did it start with the neglect of a father? Even with an incredibly loving and supportive mom, she couldn’t be everywhere all the time. Was I vulnerable to the attention of boys (and men) growing up because of a father who started out uncaring and became increasingly absent (don’t remember seeing him after my early childhood years). Even with the love of a dear step-father, did I struggle with needing approval, wanting to feel special, absorbing the very adult messaging of pornography geared toward adult men?

[I’ll stop my story here for now.]

My extended family has known the searing pain of abuse. The abuse of power, the deceitfulness of sin (protecting the perpetrator), the isolation that comes with shame, and the complicit nature of silence.

In fact, with the statics (of sexual abuse alone), in the US, we’re talking as many as 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused by the age of 10 and 1 in 6 boys.

How do we respond to abuse? How do we even consider such atrocities? Put aside sexual abuse for a moment. It comes in many different ways.

Dr. Henry Cloud, in his book Changes That Heal, talks about the role of crossing personal boundaries in abuse…when people step over a line, a boundary, wounding another person.

“The essence of boundaries and limits is knowing what we own and what we do not own…when we do not own ourselves as separate people from the ones we are bonded to, we develop unclear boundaries, and we allow people to cross those boundaries when we should be saying no”. –  Dr. Henry Cloud, Changes That Heal

One thing we could all assess within ourselves is our own understanding of personal boundaries – where we stop and another person starts. Abuse can happen with overreach (in parenting, marriage, friendships, and the workplace) or a lack of understanding or ownership of our own personhood.

This boundary breach leading to abuse can happen with strangers, but, more often than not, it happens with people we know – parents and children, spouses, other family members, trusted teachers or clergy.

Abuse Is Never the Victim’s Fault – video – Dr. Henry Cloud

Abuse can be subtle…still with the impact of intimidation or silencing. Even something we are all familiar – the silent treatment – is its own form of abuse.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

I’m not going to cover what we need to do comprehensively in handling abuse. Resources abound in this area. However, my work on memories coming back to light (and processing them as an adult, not as a child) helped me understand some attitudes and behavior that affect my sense of self and relationships today.

So in brief, I would say:

  • Do a journey of self-discovery (with a counselor or trusted friend) – examining and reframing painful childhood (or early adulthood) memories.
  • If abuse is still a part of your current life – get what distance you can from it, as you develop coping skills to protect yourself but also the generations coming after you. Building forever boundaries between you and that person/those persons can be its own abuse. It is a stop-gap measure and still holds the abused in bondage to the abuser.
  • Don’t be silent. Talk to someone. Tell your story.
  • For those who suspect abuse in another, don’t be complicit in the abuse, by your silence. Prayerfully, carefully, come alongside the abused. If you have a relationship with the abuser, reason with that person, if you can.
  • Isolation is a product of shame for the abused and the abuser. It also works to keep the abused more vulnerable. Shame, isolation, and secrecy.  Don’t ignore isolation (even in these post-pandemic days when it may be harder to detect). Be vigilant in surveilling those in your circles – your family, neighborhood, workplace, and friend group.
  • Finally, be aware of “vicarious trauma” – for those helping, caring, mentoring persons – experiencing a secondary trauma because of your leaning in and coming close to the trauma of another. You may need help from another as well, choosing not to leave the room but needing support yourself.

This is just a start.

Again, there are so many resources. Curt Thompson’s books and podcasts. Dr. Diane Langberg‘s website and YouTube channel. Adam Young Counseling podcasts and videos. Counselor Matthias Barker podcasts. Just to name a few.

I’d appreciate your thoughts in Comments below. Please…don’t keep silent. There is help…and healing.

Photo Credit: Connecting Paradigms, Matthew S. Bennett

15 Trauma Therapy Techniques to Implement to Help You Heal From Trauma – Gala Gorman

Understanding Trauma – Loretta Grieve

Monday Morning Moment – Generational Sin and Trauma – Don’t Trip Over What’s Behind You – Deb Mills

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar Medleys, Life Online, Late Summer, the Older Generation, and Friendship

Friday Faves…here we go!

1) Beyond the Guitar Medleys – Music themes can fill us with such emotion – deep nostalgia about a shared experience, a memorable adventure, or a sweet story. Really great soundtracks often have several themes that draw us in and take us back. Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar,  has arranged and performed some lovely medleys from such music scores. Here are some of them (5 faves for Friday) and the rest are at the bottom of today’s blog:

2) Life Online – Obviously, if you’re reading this, then you’re online. The thing is, our lives have been greatly enhanced by the benefits of technology. We do, from time to time, need to revisit our habits which might include time spent online and for what purposes.

So much has been written already about the downside of screen-time and the prevalence of smartphone addiction. The distractions, mental laziness, shallow thinking, almost communication.

My husband got his first smartphone for work around 2005 or after. The rest of our family slowly moved in that direction.

I personally spend way too much time online. Sometimes for positive outcomes, sometime just because it has become knee-jerk…a time-filler. It’s what I do now unfortunately. When I used to carry a book around in my purse.

It could be addiction, and that’s got to change.

Photo Credit: Science Info

“The same chemicals are released in your brain when you get a text message as when you drink an alcoholic beverage, smoke a cigarette or gamble. What in essence is happening is we’re allowing children from 6 to 10 years of age access to our liquor cabinet when we give them a smartphone. They’re constantly texting so they’re continually getting high.”John Gatica

Our Brains on Smartphones

John Gatica is an educator, and his observations regarding children and neuroscience are sobering. Now not all texts are happy for adults, but the addiction phenomenon still holds true.

Our phones give the illusion of presence…and good. We are doing “good” with a text to a friend or family member – a text taking the place of a full-on “showing up”. Social media have grown a forest over our sleepy selves where we become lazy and reactive (mildly or harshly depending on the subject matter).
Now I’ll take a text over no contact. What the concern here is more what is happening to us when our online life is more real to us than our actual face-to-face, with skin-on, encounters with people… What’s going on in our brains long-term? Something to think about.
For more than a few seconds.

The Effects of Smartphones on Your Brain – Kendra Cherry

Is Social Media Making us Stupid? – Alex Kantrowitz

3) Late Summer – My sweet husband’s garden is all a tangle now. The vegetables are finishing up, and the flowers, though still beautiful, are winding down. As the feel of Fall teases us in the early mornings, I wanted to capture, once again, for your enjoyment and my own, some of this not-to-be-undone late summer garden of ours. Please post some of your own beauties below.

4) Older Generation – Just want to give a quick shout-out to the older generation – our parents and others who have graced our lives with wisdom, beauty, humor and Godly values.

When our children gather around our table, I realize we are fast becoming the older generation. We have one precious mom left this side of Heaven and hopefully she will be with us for many years more. I am thankful for her – and all I’ve learned from her over the years… Hopefully our own adult children and the grands will take every opportunity to lean in to her wisdom and love. We are a bit of an “old soul” family and I’m thankful for each one in this family.

“But I know people who as children had their grandparents’ memories in their memories, so that in a sense, as young people
they had old minds.  They had a kind of seasoning.”  Wendell Berry, 1973 [Source undetermined]

So here’s just a bit of gratitude for the older generations…those who give us a glimpse into the future which can seem too dark at times, and yet with faith in a good God and a love that holds us together, we take hope. Thankful for three sweet parents who have gone on ahead…and for MomMom still very much with us, encouraging us always.

Do you have the pleasure and great good of the company of “olders”?

YouTube Video – Mother – (Love Bigger Than the Ocean Is What You’ve Given to Me)

5) Friendship – Friendships have always come easy for me and I’m thankful. A few years back, I read Scott Sauls‘ book Befriend. It was both affirming and convicting as the realization that friendship, like marriage, takes nurturing…more than maybe I was giving. Then 2020 happened and the Coronavirus wreaked havoc on relationships, isolating us from one another.

Fast forward to 2022, and I find myself very much needing Jennie Allen‘s latest book Find Your People. Oddly, her online study (shades of COVID Zoom calls) drew me to the book. Finishing the study this coming week, I now want to take her counsel in finding my people.

Allen talks about how we can quite accidentally just stop investing in relationships. Our post-COVID culture has pushed us into even more independence and self-reliance than we had before. We isolate without even thinking about it and our days move quietly on.

Maybe that isn’t your experience…so hang in there with me.

Allen reflects back on how life through the ages flourishes within community. More a village experience than whatever it is we have today. People know each other and they are invested in each other. She lists out the realities necessary for healthy community:

  • Proximity
  • Transparency
  • Accountability (real connection)
  • Shared Mission
  • Consistency

It’s out of this realm that true friendship grows. Spending time together. Being our real selves. Allowing others to speak into our lives. Teaming together for a greater good. Showing up again and again.

These are the basic elements of community…and friendship.

If you are experiencing the loneliness of untended friendships, Allen’s book will help. If you just can’t put another book in your queue right now, at least consider what’s going on in your friendships. I’m not talking about acquaintanceships either. Deep, beautiful, lasting friendships.

Let’s get back out there and find our people.Photo Credit: Find Your People, Jennie Allen

[The liturgy below doesn’t really focus on friendship, but it speaks to hospitality which also took a hit with COVID. A beautiful prayer.]Photo Credit: Tiffany Holden, Facebook, Rabbit Room Chinwag

___________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot. Hope you have a weekend full of your people…with quiet in between.

Bonuses:

Even Tolkien Felt Like a Failure – Scott Sauls

An incredibly helpful Twitter thread on marriage:

[Trip to Cracker Barrel]

3 Simple Habits that Can Protect Your Brain From Cognitive Decline – Tara Swart

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes, C. S. Lewis

Photo Credit: Facebook, Rabbit Room Chinwag

*The rest of Beyond the Guitar’s medleys (so far):

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, Keep Climbing, the Spirituality of Food, Foul Weather Friends, and Rhiannon Giddens

Friday Faves…GO!

1) Beyond the Guitar – It’s difficult to fully describe the joy this guy’s music brings to me. He posts videos on YouTube a couple of times a month (have you subscribed?). Sometimes it’s a recent film theme, this time Pixar’s Luca with music by Dan Romer. Other times he reaches back to beloved songs from years past: Joseph Kosma‘s romantic jazz standard Autumn Leaves. Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar. Besides arranging and performing all the beautiful songs on his YouTube channel, he is always at work developing content to help other musicians play music they love. There’s so much noise in the world, but in this small space, there is sheer beauty. So enjoy.

2) Keep Climbing – Rock climber Erik Weihenmayer (who is also blind) is someone I look for online these days. He is an encourager and overcomer, passionate about life and using adversity to his advantage. In fact, he wrote a book about it. [I wrote about some of his story here.]

This Spring he spoke at the commencement service of his son’s alma mater, The University of Vermont. Below you will find a highlight reel and the full speech in the link following. He talks about life in a deeply empowering way…His challenge for these young people was to “Keep climbing!” – worth a listen.

Erik Weihenmayer – 2022 UVM Commencement Speech – Start at 2:09:40 of video

3) The Spirituality of Food – A documentary on the spirituality of food just came to my awareness this week. Its title is Taste and See. Now I haven’t watched it yet, but the trailer was even satisfying. The title beckons to the Psalmist’s words, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Food and drink are such blessings. Enjoying them with people we love is one of the great joys of life. Food scarcity/insecurity is lately a frequent news topic as the world faces shortages in a coming “slow-moving disaster”. For some, it is already here.

So…to talk about the spiritual nature of growing, preparing, and sharing food seems frivolous on the surface. Yet, it is the very common and natural experience of eating that draws us together as a world of people. Compassion is rekindled. Resoluteness in our actions to make food accessible to all flourishes.

Celebrating food and its source is a good. Being grateful in our plenty can move us to extend our table to those less fortunate than we are. Anyway, I’m not sure about the theology or life science at the core of the documentary “Taste and See”…but I’m intrigued.

Life From Death: an Interview with Director Andrew Brumme – Drew Miller

I will watch it…and I will read the book that inspired it: Robert Farrar Capon‘s The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection. Below are a couple of excerpts from the book that speak the gift of food.

“O Lord, refresh our sensibilities. Give us this day our daily taste. Restore to us soups that spoons will not sink in, and sauces which are never the same twice. Raise up among us stews with more gravy than we have bread to blot it with, and casseroles that put starch and substance in our limp modernity. Take away our fear of fat and make us glad of the oil which ran upon Aaron’s beard. Give us pasta with a hundred fillings, and rice in a thousand variations. Above all, give us grace to live as true men – to fast till we come to a refreshed sense of what we have and then to dine gratefully on all that comes to hand. Drive far from us, O Most Bountiful, all creatures of air and darkness; cast out the demons that possess us; deliver us from the fear of calories and the bondage of nutrition; and set us free once more in our own land, where we shall serve Thee as Thou hast blessed us – with the dew of heaven, the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Amen.”
Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection
“To be sure, food keeps us alive, but that is only its smallest and most temporary work. Its eternal purpose is to furnish our sensibilities against the day when we shall sit down at the heavenly banquet and see how gracious the Lord is. Nourishment is necessary only for a while; what we shall need forever is taste.”
Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection
Robert Farrar Capon – Books, Quotes, Excerpts – Justin Holcomb [One of my favorite quotes of Capon’s is this one – totally not related to food – “We are in a war between dullness and astonishment. The most critical issue facing Christians is not abortion, pornography, the disintegration of the family, moral absolutes, MTV, drugs, racism, sexuality, or school prayer. The critical issue today is dullness. We have lost our astonishment. The Good News is no longer good news, it is okay news. Christianity is no longer life changing, it is life enhancing. Jesus doesn’t change people into wild-eyed radicals anymore; He changes them into ‘nice people’.” –Robert Farrar Capon, The Astonished Heart]

4) Foul Weather Friends – Talking to a friend earlier today, she had this to say, “I’d not sure if I’m fun. More of a foul weather friend, than fair weather”. She was noting that she seems not thought of for the fun, rousing, weekend get-togethers…but is remembered when times get hard. Her observation was less a lament and more of a statement of fact…and one about which she had peace.

It gave me pause. What delight if we could be all-weather friends, enjoying the company of others in all the extremes and as well as middling times of life. Maybe, however, we must pace ourselves. Maybe some of us are more bent toward being there in foul weather.

Just this week, I wrote about different sorts of friends. This sort of friend wasn’t on the list. In doing an online search for “foul weather friends”, most of what was written described someone not at all like the friend I know above. They were either friends who only reached out to you when they were going through hard times. Or these “friends” were those who seemed to thrive on the drama of hard times in your life, having the “need” to be needed. Or, worse, they took some bizarre pleasure in coming alongside someone having a hard time. I’m reminded of Job’s so-called friends.

When I think of the friend above, she is a complete grace in a friend’s life. Beth Merrill Neel wrote a sweet piece on foul-weather friends and here is a bit of what she said:

I’ve known people who are foul-weather friends. I won’t hear from them for months or years, but if there’s a crisis, they are there with a phone call or email or casserole. And somehow they know just what to do – how to be present without being pushy, just when to express the gallows humor, to bring the big box of kleenex and not the little travel-size pack.

If it were one of those forced-choice quizzes, would I rather be a fair-weather friend or a foul-weather one?

Truth be told, a foul-weather one. Friendship takes time and energy and if I’m going to spend some of that time or energy, I’d rather spend it with someone in a bind rather than sitting back and sipping mojitos on some exotic beach with a friend who just won the lottery.

But if I were standing in front of the pearly gates and St. Peter were checking my account, would I be found faithful in my friendship? Would he say, “There is joy abundant and you missed out on that”? Or would he say, “You showed up when it was hard and the dawn was far off”?

I’ve realized the gift of so many kinds of friendship lately, and I’ll take what I get, which is folks who show up in the rain, and folks who show up in the sunshine, and folks who bring umbrellas, and folks who bring casseroles.

May I do the same. – Beth Merrill Neel

What’s Your Listening Style? – Rebecca D. Minehard, Benjamin B. Symon, & Laura K. Rock

[In foul weather, reaching out to friends is hard, but isolation is worse. Hopefully your foul weather friends will figure it out and come after you, but if they miss signals, just reach out. They WILL want to show up. So…I want to leave these last two resources right here.]

YouTube – Comedians Tackling Depression & Anxiety Makes Us Feel Seen – Laughing Matters – Documentary [Beware: there is language in parts of this that may/will be offensive.]

Me, Myself, & Lies – The Spiritual Dangers of Isolation – Marshall Segal

5) Rhiannon Giddens – Thanks to The Richmond Forum, we had the opportunity, this past week, to hear musician Rhiannon Giddens speak and perform. She was phenomenal.

Photo Credit: YouTube

As she talked, my husband commented on what an overcomer she was. Even as she talked about slavery, she didn’t talk about slaves but rather called them “enslaved people”. Everything in her talk –  about music and music origins, the banjo, and the history of “American” music – was honoring. She gives opportunity to learn and understand and embrace possibilities, without the need to blame or shame people. When you listen to her music, you will see that overcoming worldview. Her song “At the Purchaser’s Option” is so powerful.

Photo Credit: YouTube

If you don’t know her or her work, get to know her, beginning with the links below. She is truly a brilliant and beautiful person.

TED Talk – Songs That Bring History to Life – Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens – 2022-2023 Perspectives Artist

YouTube Video – Rhiannon Giddens on African American Contributions to Music – Amanpour and Company

 Singer Rhiannon Giddens Taps America’s Deep Musical Roots – PBS Newshour

Worship Wednesday – Coming Out of the Dark of Shame – Glorious Day – Passion Music

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.Romans 8:1

For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” – 1 Peter 2:6

Turns out I’ve written a lot about shame. Strange for me, in that until a few months ago, I didn’t think shame was something that bothered me. Guilt, yes. Shame…no.

I was wrong. Even studying Scripture, I must have just skipped over all the “shame” passages. We are introduced to the experience of shame very early in the Bible as Adam and Eve (before sin) were described as “naked but unashamed”. Too soon, they tasted the bitter fruit of disobedience and couldn’t stomach the shame of their nakedness. Naked and, this time, ashamed…and wanting to hide themselves from each other…and God.

What are we trying to hide? What are we working so hard to bury or cover or avoid? Quick to judge someone else before we ourselves are judged.

Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson helps us understand shame and find a way to healing and freedom. In his book The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves, he talks about how shamed people try to shame others. We don’t want our lives to be examined too closely…our secrets might be exposed. We hide. We isolate ourselves. We turn aside rather than be truly known.

“When we experience shame, we tend to turn away from others because the prospect of being seen or known by another carries the anticipation of shame being intensified or reactivated. However, the very act of turning away, while temporarily protecting and relieving us from our feeling (and the gaze of the ‘other’), ironically simultaneously reinforces the very shame we are attempting to avoid. Notably, we do not necessarily realize this to be happening-we’re just trying to survive the moment. But indeed this dance between hiding and feeling shame itself becomes a tightening of the noose.  We feel shame, and then feel shame for feeling shame. It begets itself.” – Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves

Photo Credit: IIRP, Nathanson

The irony here is that none of us is exempt from this experience of shame. We have all endured the pain and sorrow of it. How we deal with it is to name it and take it out of the darkness into His marvelous light… Shame is not meant to be a tormentor. God gave us this gift, really, as a signal, a marker, that something is wrong and can be righted. We are to turn our eyes away from hiding our sin and look to Jesus to heal our sin.

To this God, whom we meet in Jesus, we must direct our attention if we are to know the healing of our shame. We must literally look to Jesus in embodied ways in order to know how being loved in community brings shame to its knees and lifts us up and into acts of goodness and beauty.”
Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves
Sometimes we feel shame not from anything we’ve done wrong but from what others have communicated to us about us…from childhood. Our “not enough-ness”. That communication gets wired into our minds and we recall it over and over through life.
We can derail that messaging when we name it for what it is, talk about it with a person with whom we feel safe, and give it to Jesus.
Just this week, I had the responsibility of arranging housing for a refugee family. Rentals in our city are often expensive, and even at that, hard to come by. I found an apartment that would work well (praise God!), then in the process of applying for a lease, the monthly rent went up (LIKE $50). It changes daily I was told. After venting my frustration with the rental office agent, and we ended our phone conversation with me answering his question, “Yes, I still want the apartment!!!” After a few minutes, the shamed bubbled up. What if I lost us the apartment? What if my rant meant we would have to keep searching for a home for this weary, displaced family? What if? What if?! Shamed turned my focus inward and I was terrified at being found out…being found wanting…being a failure.
The Lord, in His mercy, reminded me of all I had been learning about shame, and I recognized it for what it was. Processing it, I prayed… and I called Dave. Talking through it took away much of its power. In the end, there was nothing to worry about. We agreed to the rent offered (which was still within the budget…I overreacted!), and the agent had taken no offense, it turns out. God had quieted my heart and reminded me of the truth of His love. He provided. Period. Full stop. We take deep breaths, and look to Him.

“…Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” – Hebrews 12:2

What Does It Mean for Jesus to Despise the Shame? – John Piper

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Shame’s healing encompasses the counterintuitive act of turning toward what we are most terrified of. We fear the shame that we will feel when we speak of that very shame.  In some circumstances we anticipate this vulnerable exposure to be so great that it will be almost life threatening.  But it is in the movement toward another, toward connection with someone who is safe, that we come to know life and freedom from this prison.Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves

The key here in dealing with shame is to refuse to let it isolate us. In the dark of our own silent shame, we allow our thoughts to torment and accuse…or we tamp down those thoughts by dismissing them or turning on others in judgment. When we hide, we miss the comfort God means for us through fellowship with Him and each other.

You did it: You turned my deepest pains into joyful dancing; You stripped off my dark clothing and covered me with joyful light. You have restored my honor. My heart is ready to explode, erupt in new songs! It’s impossible to keep quiet! Eternal One, my God, my Life-Giver, I will thank You forever.”Psalm 30:11-12

Worship with me (Passion Music‘s Glorious Day – music & lyrics in link). Let’s celebrate the blessed freedom we have in Christ…

I was buried beneath my shame
Who could carry that kind of weight
It was my tomb
Till I met You

I was breathing but not alive
All my failures I tried to hide
It was my tomb
Till I met You

You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day
You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day

Now Your mercy has saved my soul
Now Your freedom is all I know
The old made new
Jesus, when I met You

You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day
You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day

I needed rescue
My sin was heavy
But chains break at the weight of Your glory
I needed shelter
I was an orphan
Now You call me a citizen of heaven
When I was broken
You were my healing
Your love is the air that I’m breathing
I have a future
My eyes are open

You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day
You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day*

For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  Romans 10:11

*Lyrics to Glorious Day – Songwriters: Jonathan Smith, Kristian Paul Stanfill, Jason Ingram, Sean Curran

Behind the Song: Passion Shares the Heart Behind Their Song “Glorious Day” –  Abby Young

20 Quotes from Curt Thompson’s New Book The Soul of Shame – Jordan (the Levite) Williams

Monday Morning Moment – Isolation and Community

Photo Credit: Jackie Hill Perry, Art of It

After one-and-a-half years in COVID, we all have grappled with a need for social distancing and isolation. What happens then when the diligent pursuit of physical safety causes a loss of community?

None of us want to get COVID or its latest variant. However, we also desperately need community. It is on each of us to make creative and persistent decisions toward going after community. Especially the most vulnerable of us, or we will suffer more than the health impact of COVID [see links below].

The dilemma with isolation is somehow it has brought a social lethargy with it. We are becoming more solitary and our community has shrunk to the lowest and tightest we can manage.

Not necessarily out of fear of COVID, but out of a growing incapacity for community. Real community. “Iron sharpening iron” relationships.

I know I am not alone in the need for such community. We have probably all thought of how altered our relationships have become over the last several months. Not the closest maybe, but especially those that spurred us toward a higher accountability, responsibility or integrity. Those relationships where we are helped to make better decisions or extend kindnesses (especially toward those outside our inner circles).

[Whether introvert or extrovert, we can easily sink down into a solitary life of less. And less is not always more. This less can breed a sort of self-serving life where we gauge our relationships by our own gains and extend ourselves by our own comfort levels. Been there, done that. Ugh! ]

COVID or not, we still need other people, and they need us. Whether on a work project better served with team problem-solving or a family crisis that could use “all hands on deck”. Death and divorce are still happening, but life celebrations are also still with us – all calling for the touch of our community.

In the Wiki fandom Mary Shelley article, we read a fascinating take on the impact or lack of community on the characters of Shelley‘s novel Frankenstein.

In the novel, Victor Frankenstein is a brilliant scientist. He is overwhelmed by a series of losses and the grief, as well as his increasingly unhinged genius, drive him into isolation. He decides to make a human-like creature who would be like a son to him.

It did not turn out well. The creature, because of the rejection and isolation he himself felt, was determined to be a monster.

Both Victor and the creature Frankenstein, throughout the story, are plagued with isolation and a terrible lack of caring community.Photo Credit: Pixabay

The theme of isolation in Frankenstein raises many questions about the role of community and its importance. Many characters in the novel find themselves in isolated positions, and a few suffer grave consequences because of it. Characters suffer from both physical and emotional isolation, although, as in the case of the monster, the isolation is not always self-inflicted. Victor Frankenstein, on the other hand, chooses to isolate himself from his family, his peers, and even the monster he created.

In Frankenstein, horrible things happen when a character is isolated from the others. When Victor’s knowledge and ambition are unchecked by his peers, a monster is created…the destructive power lies not in the monster or his creator, but in solitude. Shelley uses this theme and its manifestation in her characters to pose questions about community, knowledge, and its role in society. Is unbridled knowledge always dangerous, or is there a middle ground? Should one abandon his or her pursuits if they are driving him or her away from a community? 

Shelley makes it clear that there are two different types of isolation: self-inflicted and societal. We see self-inflicted isolation manifested in Victor; he detaches from his world and the people he loves and as a result, everyone suffers tremendously. Rejection from society is demonstrated in the monster’s life. Again and again, he is turned away from love and companionship, which what he has longed for since he was first brought to life.” – Wiki-Fandom Analysis of Frankenstein – Mary Shelley, an Academic Wiki

Of course, this is a novel, but incredibly insightful as a tale of human nature. We need community…we are made for community.

Somehow we must rally during this protracted social experience of COVID. What is your mindset on this and what are your intentional actions toward community and away from isolation? The kind of isolation that eventually diminishes us and our relationships. Please comment below.

In closing, I do want to affirm an Isolation in Community. We may have to deal with social distancing for sometime still. Especially those most vulnerable to severe illness from COVID. For some isolation can’t be avoided, but there is an isolation in community. Where we take steps toward and lean in to deeper community. Even if it isn’t always in person. This takes a different sort of effort, but we know it is possible. Fortunately. For me, it’s actually using the phone for conversations (including Facetime). It’s not stepping out of responsibilities (work or community service) because of a need for social distancing, but figuring out alternate ways to serve, or get a job done. I have also experienced the fruit of it, thanks to your efforts. Our mail is less junk mail and more actual real connections through cards/letters. Thanks for that. Again, please comment below what your experience has been here.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Isolation – Good Therapy

Isolation and Community – Helen Thorne – Biblical Counseling UK

Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions – CDC

Creative Communities Are Addressing Social Isolation – Maryjoan Ladden

Monday Morning Moment – Building Our Own Personal Surge Capacity in the Longer Stretch of COVID-19

Photo Credit: Long Running Living

Let’s talk about capacity! I’m still working on my Monday blog on a Tuesday. One of the fall-outs of COVID.

What started, in our country, as a sprint in March is turning into more a long-distance run. 6 months now. 184 days thus far of physical distancing (for this medically at-risk person).

Remember how we first thought it might be just 2 weeks of quarantining to eradicate the threat? OK, I was super-naive.

We’re becoming weary of certain words and phrases. Pandemic. Unprecedented. Uncharted. New normal. We’re all in this together. Even social distancing. [I was thankful when that phrase went out of vogue and “physical distancing” replaced it. “Social distancing” put a wrongful prescription on its hearers. We need to physical distance, yes, but never social distance. We have learned.]

Remember when surge capacity became a worrisome phrase in our daily news cycle. Will our hospitals have enough ICU beds and ventilators to properly care for the rising numbers of persons with grave cases of COVID? That was the fear. We heard the daily troubling reports from New York state officials. Those reports were heard, and hundreds of ventilators were sent, as well as the provision of field hospitals, even the arrival of a huge hospital ship.  Peak hospitalizations with COVID have passed for now. Surge capacity tested and proven ample.

Why does this matter?

Each of us has our own surge capacity (related to stress, trauma, loss). During COVID, we are all having it tested. Some more than others. I think of parents trying to juggle work, child care, and monitoring schooling. Teachers preparing in-class lessons and teaching remotely as well in the various hybrid programs. Essential workers. First responders. Hospital personnel.

Here is a general definition of capacity-building. It is where we are.

Capacity-building is defined as the “process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations and communities need to survive, adapt, and thrive in a fast-changing world.” An essential ingredient in capacity-building is transformation that is generated and sustained over time from within; transformation of this kind goes beyond performing tasks to changing mindsets and attitudes. – United Nations Academic Impact

Remember when we first started experiencing COVID (at least in the news)? We had big plans for the physical distancing and working remotely and the time we would recoup in that experience. We would take a college course, learn a new language, renovate the house, or declutter our lives.

Then we were surprised at the sluggishness that we encountered. The dullness. The quiet that gradually turned into isolation.

We mentally prepared for a sprint, but the rules changed. We had to change how we ran to set our minds and bodies for a longer run.

Science journalist Tara Haelle recently posted an excellent piece on human surge capacity. “We need to recognize that we’re grieving multiple losses while managing the ongoing impact of trauma and uncertainty. The malaise so many of us feel, a sort of disinterested boredom, is common in research on burnout, Masten says. But other emotions accompany it: disappointment, anger, grief, sadness, exhaustion, stress, fear, anxiety — and no one can function at full capacity with all that going on.”

[Her article is one of a collection of three articles at Medium.com on capacity, power surge, zoom fatigue, and workplace diversity and inclusion.]

Haelle writes in detail on our surge capacity and how we can endure and actually build capacity for this season of prolonged uncertainty. Her main points follow (read her piece for greater detail).

  • Accept that life is different right now
  • Expect less from yourself
  • Recognize the different aspects of grief
  • Experiment with “both-and” thinking
  • Look for activities, new and old, that continue to fulfill you
  • Focus on maintaining and strengthening important relationships
  • Begin slowly building your resilience bank account

We don’t want to fall victim to what seemed like it would be a sprint but has turned into a marathon. Organizational psychologist and professor Adam Grant tweeted wisdom about the problem of becoming sluggish or judging that in others. [I do disagree that we’re all socially awkward now…just pointing to his Tweet.]

Photo Credit: Twitter, Adam M. Grant

Moving into the 7th month of COVID experience, we are making decisions on how to better maneuver. Still committed to safe practices but re-engaging in life with people we love…people whose influence and very presence we have missed in these physically distanced days.

Life is precious. There is a balance in what is real and how we can build capacity to meet that reality. Otherwise life becomes something less. We know what’s working and what’s not. If not, we can counsel with each other. I say we go for it…stretching ourselves out for the long distance run, bringing all those we can along with us.

Forgive the “motivational speechiness” – it’s what happens when I think too long on something and yet lack the answers. Recognition, desire and hope all together birth action…so let’s get after it!

Please post in Comments what is working in your life to build capacity. See you on the road.

[Postscript: The image below is one sort of those “both-and” situations Haelle prescribes. We as parents teach our children had to be resourceful and responsible in hard times, and we also teach them how they might make the world a kinder place for us all.]Photo Credit: The Purposeful Parenting Movement, Facebook

I’m Listening – Talk Has the Power to Save Lives – Radio Show

Monday Morning Moment – Maximizing the Benefit of Video Meetings and Minimizing “Zoom Fatigue”

Photo Credit: Flickr, John Kless

What would we do during these days of COVID-19 without FaceTime, Zoom meetings, Microsoft Teams, or Skype?! Sheltering at home, working from home, and social distancing have all drawn us into more of a solitary work and life. Having these online conversation opportunities keeps our daily lives open to those we wouldn’t otherwise see. Unfortunately just as meetings in real life as well as large family gatherings can exhaust us, so can the electronic facsimiles.

We want the good of them, and we sure don’t want to burnout on them before our stint with the Coronavirus is over.

Thankfully there are clinicians, creatives, and other thought leaders out there who are keeping online meetings fresh and inviting.

Psychologist Steven Hickman has written an incredibly insightful article on Zoom fatigue. Here are some of his observations:

[Related to his various Zoom meetings during COVID-19] “I have felt joy arising to see the faces and hear the voices of people whose faces and voices I first encountered when we were breathing the same air, standing in the same physical space, each (in Dan Siegel’s term) “feeling felt” by the other. And so it was nice to be with them electronically in this age of social distancing and sheltering in place.

And that was it, it was nice. I’ve been so busy lately that I thought perhaps I was just fatigued. But the more it happens, the more I realize that I end up feeling both connected but disconnected to these dear people.”

“…when we start to be over-stimulated by extraneous data that we haven’t had to process in the physical world [all the faces on a Zoom meeting, the pets, the background, our own fiddling with phone or other outside the screen’s view], each new data point pushes us just a little bit farther away from the human-to-human connection that we all crave and appreciate.

“Italian management professor Gianpiero Petriglieri recently tweeted ‘It’s easier being in each other’s presence, or in each other’s absence, than in the constant presence of each other’s absence.’

Zoom Exhaustion Is Real. Here Are Six Ways to Find Balance and Stay Connected – Steven Hickman

Dr. Hickman then offers 6 interventions to boost the benefit of these online meetings while dissipating their down-side:

    • Take a few moments before clicking “Start” to settle and ground your attention. [My note: I find this so helpful because otherwise we are rushing into an online meeting, as if we’re running late for an in-person meeting. All the emotions and some of the guilt of being late.]
    • Take the time to truly greet whoever is in the room with your full attentionoffer your attention to each face that appears (if the group is not too big). Give yourself a moment for each person to make an impression on you, and “take in the good” as Rick Hanson would say. Give yourself an opportunity to feel what it feels like to be in the presence of another. [My note: I LOVE his reminder of mindfulness. We struggle with truly being present with people…in the moment. Good word.]
    • Choose “speaker view.” In Zoom, one can choose Speaker View or Gallery View. [My note: I didn’t notice before that a “speaker view” is available. I love seeing all the faces, but maybe they can be distracting as well. Something to think about, especially for a work or content meeting.]
    • Resist the urge to multitask. I need to let go of a bit of “efforting” and let my attention rest more lightly and lovingly on what (and who) is before me. [My note: This multitasking adds to our “Zoom fatigue” when we are trying to get more done than is reasonably possible and stay tuned into what’s going on in the online meeting. We may need to look away or focus more lightly on the screen, but multitasking will take away from our experience of those in the meeting.]
    • Try to take measured breaks between sessions.
    • And finally, remind yourself periodically that this is a new place between presence and absence that we will have to learn how to accommodate as we go forward into the uncertain future. It is both better than absence…and not quite as resonant as presence.

Thank you, Dr. Hickman, for this excellent piece of counsel.

What counsel do you have to keep online meetings engaging and pleasurable for those in attendance? Please comment below.

In my experiences of late with video meetings, we have tried to keep things rolling in terms of content and invite the addition of humor/play if it doesn’t already exist. Game nights came even be planned as online meetings. Family dinners, coffee breaks, teatimes, or happy hours can also be orchestrated via Zoom or one of the other platforms. Time limits are helpful. Chatroom groupings as part of a larger online meeting are helpful. One friend of ours actually added a dressup/costume element to his video meetings.

Online meetings should be just part of our arsenal of tools to stay in touch with each other. It’s way too early in this historical season for us to grow weary of them. I am grateful and will continue to be…let’s help each other to keep them beneficial for all involved…whether it’s two people or a large roomful.[Our son who is an essential worker and therefore unable to visit us because of his potential exposure to COVID-19 at work. So grateful to see him at least this way.]

Zoom Fatigue: Don’t Let Video Meetings Zap Your Energy – Some “Cheats” to Help You Beat Zoom Fatigue Before It Beats You – Suzanne Degges-White

6 Pro Tips for Overcoming Zoom Meeting Fatigue – Kelsey Ogletree

I’ll Be Right Back. How to Protect Your Energy During Zoom Meetings – Elizabeth Grace Saunders

6 Tops For Avoiding Zoom Fatigue in the Age of COVID-19 – Leah D. Schade

Monday Morning Moment – 3 Observations on Life Around Here

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

  1. What Might Goofing Off Communicate? – This weekend, a friend told me about her son’s internship in a local organization. This young man expressed his disappointment at the amount of goofing off he saw among his coworkers, all more senior than he was.Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Suffice it to say, after his internship, he did not seek employment with this company.

What can we take from such a situation? Is it possible, those employees were blowing off steam from already completing large chunks of work, either earlier in the day or at home the night before? Are they taking healthy breaks from doing a good job, or have they lost the vision of their value in the big picture of their work? Also, what part of this scenario belongs to their supervisor? When goofing off is a pattern, where is the leader guy or gal in the mix?

This may be a disconnect for you, but I found myself strangely sympathetic to those “goofing off”. Maybe an organizational move toward leanness would be appropriate, but never without drilling down to the core of what’s going on here. Otherwise lean becomes just mean.

Any thoughts?

Why You Shouldn’t Punish Employees Who Goof Off – Rob Enderle

Ten Signs You’re Failing as a Manager – Liz Ryan

2. Proverbs – a Father Appeals to His ChildrenA couple of times a year, I read through the Book of Proverbs in the Bible. All the Proverbs were either written or collected by Solomon, the son of King David. There are 31 chapters in the book so it’s easy to incorporate one a day in one’s usual Bible reading. This time around, I noticed something in the ESV Bible study notes that was new: 10 paternal appeals. As a father might teach his son about life and making good choices, so Solomon did the same in this wisdom book.Photo Credit: Flickr

Here are the 10 paternal appeals in brief:

  1. Do not join those greedy for unjust gain (Proverbs 1:8-19).
  2. Get wisdom (Proverbs 2:1-22).
  3. Fear the Lord (Proverbs 3:1-12).
  4. Walk securely in wisdom (Proverbs 3:21-35).
  5. Wisdom is a tradition worth maintaining (Proverbs 4:1-9).
  6. The two ways: the way of wisdom or the way of folly. We choose. (Proverbs 4:10-19)
  7. Maintain a heart of wisdom (Proverbs 4:20-27).
  8. Sexuality – the presence of sexual temptations and the response of a wise person (Proverbs 5:1-23).
  9. Adultery leads to ruin (Proverbs 6:20-35).
  10. Keep away from temptations to adultery (Proverbs 7:1-27).

What might appear to be redundancy is more for emphasis. God will give us wisdom, but it is on us to live according to the wisdom he gives.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.Proverbs 3:5-6

Proverbs – a 12-week Study (pdf) – Lydia Brownback

3. None of Us Are Invisible – We are Seen – A circumstance this weekend struck a chord about how easy it is to just not see others. We have our close friends, our near colleagues, our people. It takes an intentionality to watch for those on the outside of our circles…and to extend to them a welcome. An old song by Casting Crowns came to mind today, as it relates to this dilemma – this strange experience of feeling invisible. Can Anybody Hear Her? is that “looking for love in all the wrong places” kind of story. Searching for a place to belong, to flourish, to be loved.

I’ve taken to watching for those solitary ones…they are not all in the midst of poor life choices. Those closest to God can feel isolation as well. The key to all of this is to know He sees…He sees, and He loves us. We can reflect that love to those who feel unseen…because they are…who feel they don’t matter…because they do.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Worship Wednesday – All I Have Is Christ – Sovereign Grace

Photo Credit: YouTube

The LORD appeared to him from far away. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.”Jeremiah 33:3

How do we stand against the mean-spiritedness of this world? How do we pull ourselves out of the cycle of shaming, blaming and blame-shifting? How do we still the voices in our own heads and hearts… voices that tell us we don’t deserve love or honor? Or maybe it’s someone else who we have decided doesn’t deserve our love or honor?

We turn our eyes off of those we think betray us and off our own betraying hearts, and we look to Jesus.

To set the foundation here, I am deep in the book Befriend by Scott Sauls. Its byline is Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear. Sauls writes about real friendship and spends twenty-one chapters unwrapping the beautiful possibilities of going deep with others. This book came at the perfect juncture in life for me as I shake off a sense of judgment (whether it’s true or not, it feels true) and the isolation that comes with it.

We get crossed-up in life by either the expressed opinions of others or our self-shaming sense of others’ take on our lives, our choices, and our preferences. My default is to go straight to fear…fear of losing place in the lives of those who differ with me. For some reading this, it may seem nonsensical. After reading Sauls’ chapter “Befriend the Shamed and Ashamed”, I am convinced we all deal with shame. It may be covered well by pride, (un)righteous indignation, or self-justification. Still…it is as present with us as in the original garden when Adam blamed Eve (and even God) for his sin, and she blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:12-13).

We want to self-protect. The pain of our own failings, and sin outright, is too much for us so we blame others…we shame others.

God knows us, through and through, and loves us. Full-stop. Not in a pitying way but in the purest, life-giving way of a faithful parent. A Heavenly Father…who came down and came close to show us how much He loved us…through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

We lose sight of that sometimes. Lost in our own self-imposed dark thinking, we forget He loved us first (1 John 4:19). We forget that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:31-39). We can’t earn and don’t deserve His love. His love is ours, always and forever, for the taking. The God of that kind of far-reaching love transforms us…our thoughts, our actions toward others, our understanding of who God is and who we are in Him.

We see more clearly that those who judge and isolate others are just like us. We are reminded of our own capacity to do the same. Hurt people hurt people. As we see what is true through the eyes of a God who loves, we can humble ourselves and love in return. In fact, we can love first, as God loves us, and stay on ready to do so. What glorious peace is in that possibility!

“The ground is level at the foot of the Cross.” (Billy Graham and others).

Jordan Kauflin wrote the song All I Have Is Christ (Sovereign Grace Music), with input from his dad, Bob. We sang this at Movement Church this past Sunday, and God touched my heart, all over again, with the stripped-down truth of His love for us. Gospel Truth. Good news that can change a world – a heart and household at a time. Because of His love for us…there is no more shame. Hallelujah!

Worship with me.

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life*

Story Behind the Song All I Have Is Christ – Interview with Bob and Jordan Kauflin

*Lyrics to All I Have Is Christ – © 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI), by Jordan Kauflin

Explore God – Questions About God, Jesus, Christianity, and More