Tag Archives: Scott Sauls

Monday Morning Moment – When Distress Messes with the Joy of Christmas

Is it writer’s block? Words have always been a friend to me, but they are hard-won in writing these days.

Christmas is a time of tremendous joy for me…deeper than happiness. Much deeper. For in the joy are such things as longing, grief, disappointment, anxiety. Most of the time, I can shake those off so as not to miss Christmas. Most of the time.

Here’s a tiny example. You may think it frivolous but it is reminiscent of something more. Our children grew up doing the nativity story as part of our Christmas traditions.

(Mills Christmas, December ’94)

It was fun and chaotic – never sure how it would turn out, but for several years, the kids just acquiesced to the direction of the grownups in their lives. Some of it, I’m pretty sure they even enjoyed. Fast forward to them now being adults who bring their children – our grandchildren – into the picture.

For a year or two, our grands have also been caught up in the wonder of the Baby, donning costumes, and waiting patiently (sorta kinda) for the narration to move them to the next point of action. Not all of them wanted to participate but they were close at hand to add to the drama of the moment. It was sweet.

This year…it didn’t happen. In an attempt to do the play earlier (taking some stress out of a Christmas time together), we experienced a great divide – two eager and willing older grandchildren dressed in Middle Eastern garb, and, at the same time, being brilliantly silly with their parts. So…looking the part but definitely not in character. The other two younger grands…just not interested; not even present in the room. Now, Christmas weekend is still a few days away with another family occasion planned, but I have no inclination to revisit this tradition. Maybe next year.

After giving up on the play, and rejoining the rest of the family, I asked the kids to pray for me. Somehow longings and expectations had clouded my mind, and joy was left trembling at the edges of my heart. Such a small thing (right?)…it revealed more than just a family tradition in transition. It revealed an idol of some sort – so small but effective, distorting the reality of this beautiful time of the year.

This morning, in front of the fire, I had the last Christmas cookie (there will probably be more, but I savored it as if it was my last), while reading Scott Sauls‘ great book Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen.

In the chapter “Honest Songs”, Sauls proposed the ordinariness of distressed feelings. He wrote how some of the Scripture writers laid out these “negative” emotions, along with their praises, before a God who understands and loves us through them, not in spite of them.

In referencing Ecclesiastes, Sauls writes: “Like a skilled songwriter or poet, Solomon made sure that was was genuinely inside of him also came out of him. [Herman] Melville likened Solomon to Jesus, whom the Bible also describes as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief…The Suffering Servant [Jesus] fully embraces, and is careful not to diminish, dystopian stories as well as the happily-ever-after ones…He refuses to whitewash the darker parts of our history.”Scott Sauls, Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen

He goes on: “The Suffering Servant invites us, in our pain, to wipe disingenuous smiles off our faces and start living honestly concerning how damaged and hurt we feel…Jesus loves humans, and when the humans you love become injured or threatened, the natural and godlike response is to get angry and feel the swell of energy directed toward righting a wrong…There is a solidarity to suffering that we are meant to embrace, so that no one might suffer alone. Sharing in one another’s suffering binds us together in the deepest form of fellowship.”Scott Sauls, Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen

So what’s the connection between a situation of no Christmas play this year and the suffering of a grander scale? You probably already know. The play is not the point. It wasn’t about our darling grands meeting any expectations I might have…it was the larger story. How the play reminded me of sweet memories, and sad ones. Of parents no longer with us who I miss terribly. Of grown up children I want to pull in and keep close (they are close…but a mother’s heart seems never full…again a larger story). Of the account of Christ’s birth that is so magnificent and miraculous…and how He laid down his life, just a few years later, through death on a cross…for us. How do we communicate such grandeur to our little ones?

Our kids will figure it out…and we will support them.

So…how about you? My example probably seems so mundane. I could have shared heartache over a painful family rift. Or about a friend in a terribly troubled marriage, or one who lost both parents within weeks of each other, or another struggling with mental illness, or another praying her heart out for a grandson white-knuckling through early sobriety.

Distress messes with our joy. Let’s not let it isolate us…drawing us away from each other to suffer alone. Being real with people is complicated. “Real is unsettling, scary, even traumatic. Take the risk anyway and lean in. Leaning into lament is a necessary skill in the art of rejoicing…Almost every person is insecure and underencouraged. Almost no person wants to admit it…There is no shortcut past Good Friday to get to Easter. There is no joy without a sorrow, no rejoicing without mourning, no comfort without distress, no rest without weariness, no gain without loss, no songs of joy without songs of lament, no rejoicing from Philippians without the vapor from Ecclesiastes.” [Scott Sauls, Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen]

That day this weekend, when the Christmas play didn’t come together, my kids prayed for me. I don’t even think it seemed silly to them. [Dave was grilling our supper or he would have been right there in all that struggle with me.] Distress happens, and when it does, call on those who care for you to come alongside…for comfort and for joy.

Worship Wednesday – Community – People Need People – Cain

Photo Credit: Gainesville Times, Small Group Movie

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – Jesus – John 13:35

“Let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:24-25

This week our church launched our new small groups for this school year. It is an exciting time to meet new people in the church and to dig in, both in our relationship with God and with each other. “Life on life” community. Not a simple thing but definitely a beautiful thing as we lean in to one another and set our minds to NOT “grow weary in well doing” (Galatians 6:9).

A friend recommended a film to me, one I’d not heard of. “Small Group – the Movie”. This is not a documentary although it proposes the idea of a documentary for the audience. It tracks a young filmmaker who was hired to do an exposé on the diminishing relevance of Christianity. He and his family embed themselves in a small group of an evangelical church in Georgia. 5 couples who become friends and encouragers to each other in a Christian context. It has a striking mix of comedic and dramatic themes. Fascinating.

“Small Group” is rated PG-13 for brief gang violence and drug/alcohol references. It came at a perfect time for me as we were preparing to join a new group ourselves, not knowing at all what it would be like.

I have been in various kinds of church-affiliated small groups pretty much all my life. Maybe you as well. The dialogue in this film was familiar in ways but also stretching. It reminded me that community is not just having coffee together, retreat weekends, or surface talk before ducking out of group and heading home. Checking small group off our list for the week.

It’s so much more. In fact, I’m revisiting this even after having written about it recently. We have a deep need for true friendship. Not to replace intimacy with God but rather a both/and walk with Him.

Jesus declared, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”Matthew 22:37-40

Gathering this week with people we don’t know well, or at all, we could feel the joy and anticipation of the Holy Spirit of God sensing His “Well pleased” with this little group of His own. Are we nervous? Sure…but our hope is to be people who love well and stay in the room with these other brothers and sisters. To enjoy that experience of knowing them, growing and serving with them, and being truly known by them.

Worship with me to Cain‘s People Need Peoplereleased during the COVID pandemic.

You can go and build a mighty mansion
But with no family, all that house just goes to waste
You can fix a feast to feed an army
But with no friends, there’s no need to celebrate
Back in the beginning there were two in the garden
No, we were never made to be alone
God knows

People need people, need people, need people
To the Father there’s nothing better
Than when the kids all comе together
Peoplе need people, need people, need people
When there’s nothing, but love between us
We can finally start to see what God knows

People need people, need people, need people
People need people, need people, need people

‘Cause You know love is just like water (Water)
It’s no secret we all need it to survive (Woah, woah, woah) (Woah)
It won’t last long without your brother (Yeah)
‘Cause when you fall, he’ll lift you up every time
(Oh) God knows

People need people, need people, need people
To the Father there’s nothing better
Than when the kids all come together (Come together)
People need people, need people, need people
When there’s nothing, but love between us
We can finally start to see what God knows

People need people, need people, need people

People need people, need people, need people

The weak need the strong
The strong need the weak
We’ve all got something missing
And we’re all the missing piece (We’re all the missing piece)
The strong need the weak (Oh)
The weak need the strong
We’re all searching for an answer
That’s been here all along
People
People need people, need people, need people
Oh

People need people, need people, need people
To the Father there’s nothing better (There’s nothing better)
Than when the kids all come together (Oh)
People need people, need people, need people
When there’s nothing but love between us
We can finally start to see what God knows (What God knows)

People need people, need people, need people (Woah-woah)
People need people, need people, need people*

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):

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

When you think of a real friend, who comes most immediately to mind? That old friend you’ve known your whole life? That new friend who came close quickly during a life crisis? That like friend who shares many of the same growing pains you’re having in life right now? Real friends. What an incredible gift they are! As we look for a few minutes at friendships, a bit of self-examination might prove profitable.

On the way to the airport last week, returning home, I grabbed a quick supper with one of my dearest long-time friends. As we caught up on the latest turns in our lives, she shared something I didn’t expect. Well…to be honest, it is a subject that occasionally comes up. I, at some point or the other, drop the ball on communication. It is a failing of mine through the years. Quick to repent, but the turning and trying to do better don’t last. Sigh… And it’s not because that friend (or any other) is not worthy of constancy. She certainly is.

These relational struggles and misfires make the gift of real friendship even more precious. We are not always great friends to one another…but being great at friendship…being real…is worth the effort. You, Dear One, who actually reads my blog, are worth the effort.

Photo Credit: Amazing Things, Facebook

I’ve written about friendship several times. Below are some of the pieces I’ve shared previously…and a new bit. Maybe you’d benefit from a review…I sure have.

Friends Who Wound – OK, this isn’t for everyone. When my friend shared what she did above, it felt yucky. Wounding. However it was a wound that potentially brings healing. I don’t want something inside my own heart to grow, without my awareness, into something that hurts others. Greg Morse recently wrote a piece for Desiring God on finding a friend to wound you.

We see on social media, and say ourselves sometimes, that it’s right to just get rid of people who have a negative impact on us, to walk away from punishers or diminishers, and hang with people who only affirm us.

The article above talks about friends who love us enough to say the hard thing…and stay. I appreciate people who love me in this way and take the risk to point out the huge potholes in my path or who reach into my life and help hoist me out of a ditch of my own poor choices. Here’s a quote from Morse’s article (he’s speaking to Christ-followers):

“The world cares nothing for our eternal good. Ungodly friends cheer us on toward destruction. They bequeath the kiss of flattery — the Dementor’s kiss. They coddle our egos, telling us what we want to hear, not what we need to hear. Even the most genuine and moral among them sets sail away from God. Thus we need a crew of Christian companions — a body — to keep us from shipwreck. Finishing the race is not an individual endeavor, and eternity is at stake.

Praise God then for the faithful wounds of true friends who protect us from ultimate injury. They tell us plainly, “You’re flirting with destruction!” …Friends who ask us hard questions, who crush the whispering lizard on our shoulder, who are for our eternal soul above our momentary feelings — these are true friends.”   – Greg Morse

There is a delicate balance here…and relationship matters. We’ve too often been put off balance by words unfitly spoken. What is your experience of friends who wound in a good way? For me, the best experiences I’ve had with this have turned into crossroads in life…isolated incidents where a friend helped me step back from a habit, a person, a life choice that could have destroyed me…and step toward a better way. Very thankful for the courage and love of such friends. – Deb Mills, from the archive

blog-best-friends-woundsPhoto Credit: Dgreetings

Fierce Friends – How grateful I am for friends who don’t give up on me. You have friends like these, too – those who love us enough to tell us the truth without ripping our hearts out. Friends who will keep loving us no matter the distance or ideologies that could separate us but don’t. These are fierce friends…friends who “stick closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

I’m reminded of an occasion when a room full of women gathered to discuss a hard thing going on in our current city. These women deeply love each other but have some very different stances on issues that mattered to all of us. The tension was palpable but the love more so. Our culture today seems peopled with friends when convenient, fair weather friends, and friends with benefits. Friends who politic together, work together, play sports together, or drink together. Take away the activity, and the friendship fades. What a wonder are these fierce friends who stay with us through the worst…those we know have our backs and we have theirs.Photo Credit: Quotesta

Real Spiritual friendship is eagerly helping one another know, serve, love, and resemble God in deeper and deeper ways.”
Timothy Keller

When connections are real, they simply never die…If you’ve deeply resonated with another person or place, the connection remains despite any distance, time, situation, lack of presence, or circumstance… Real connections live on forever.” Victoria Erickson

True friends aren’t the ones who make your problems disappear. They are the ones who won’t disappear when you’re facing problems.” —Author Unknown

“If you fishin’ for a friend you just gon’ catch and release, then I ain’t got no desire to be your friend…but if you is lookin’ for a real friend, then I’ll be one. Forever.”Ron Hall, Same Kind of Different as Me

Who are some of your fierce friends? Please share in Comments if you want to give a salute to some of them. – Deb Mills from the Archive

Real Friends – Beyond Cliques and Closed Communities – Because friendships seem fragile and temporary, when we find ourselves in a group with staying power, we hold on tight. Now some of my dearest friends are actually family…I guess that would constitute somewhat of a closed community. They aren’t going anywhere…not to say it couldn’t happen, but so far, so good.[The husband, the daughter]

As my friend lamented above about my own “leaving the room”, I was deeply convicted by Curt Thompson’s work in confessional communities. He talks often and at-length about the healing nature of groups who listen hard, speak truth, and commit to care over time – choosing over and over NOT to leave the room. These are therapy groups, but I think they are the substance of what may develop into cliques outside of mental health situations. A good thing that can turn too inward. Now, none of us would say we’re in a clique, but do we sometimes find ourselves so committed to a few that those friends just beyond our tight circles begin to miss us?…and we didn’t know it was happening…in fact, didn’t mean for it to happen.

“Is it possible to have the benefits of close relationships without becoming a clique with our close friends? It is. And the process is very simple (although like many simple things, it isn’t easy). There is one basic movement that can transform a closed clique into an open and welcoming community:

Turn around.

That’s it. Instead of facing in, focusing only on the good things inside the group, we can face out, focusing on sharing whatever good we have with others. We can unlock the circle, and let it grow.

I’ve seen this in action in our church—a community of people who are facing out together. I was freely welcomed into that circle by those who were there before me, and I’ve experienced the joy of joining them in welcoming others. I’ve seen how a welcoming circle of friends is deepened, not diluted, by including others…friendships do not grow the deepest when we face in and focus only on the deepness of our friendships—they deepen most when we face out, together, in a shared mission of giving for the good of others beyond us. –  Seth Lewis, How to Turn a Clique Inside Out

Photo Credit: Emily P. Freeman, Quote Fancy

Friends Who Stay – Finally, I offer this book on friendship:

Photo Credit: Sarah, Sally, and Joy Clarkson – Girls’ Club – Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World

In the book above, Sally’s daughter Sarah writes a chapter entitled Saturday Mornings: The Girls’ Club Prototype. In this chapter, she describes “five progressive actions…central to the powerful cultivation of friendship”. They are:

  • Invite – Reach out and bring in a new someone to an adventure and your life.
  • Plan – Work out the logistics of an event, a meetup, an outing. Make it a welcome ritual or routine.
  • Provide – Show love, Sarah says, by preparing the table, so to speak. Whether it is the physical space itself (your home, for instance) or your own “mind and heart” to wholly receive the new friend.
  • Stay – This is huge! Whether distance or circumstance separate you, be a continual presence in the life of a friend. Be there. Show up. This takes effort and intentionality, and it’s not easy. It requires both forgiveness and faithfulness…no matter what.
  • Pray – When we remember that every single person we meet is an image-bearer of God, we are reminded of the value there. Even those “mean girls” in our lives didn’t get mean in a vacuum. “Hurt people hurt people”. They have God’s imprint like every other imperfect person… When we recognize our own frailty and that of others, we are drawn to pray. For our own hearts to love like Jesus. For eyes to see how God sees people…and to reach out in love…as only He has made us to do so.

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Forgive the length of this piece…hopefully you were able to skim over parts and dig into others. I want to be a real friend to those God has placed in my life. Not a thin-veneer, “say all the things” but not truly by there for that person, shallow kind of friend. In closing, I had wanted to share a bunch of images of friends through the years…but decided not to. We have been wildly blessed with great people in our lives… people who have been real friends to us and others over a lifetime. You know who you are. Thankful for all the real friends in my life…striving to be one.

[P.S. We can be real friends and not always behave so. Life circumstances, personality, strengths/weaknesses, losses, pressures, as well as joyful distractions can all affect our leaning into and staying deep into a friendship. When we come up short, we can face it and hopefully restore, and be restored in, real friendship. Grace upon grace.]

Photo Credit: Incourage.me

What Makes For a Lifelong Friendship? – A Snapshot of Such a One – Deb Mills

15 Signs that Prove Your Friendship Is the Real Deal

I Believe in Guilt-Free Friendship – Lisa-Jo Baker

Befriend – Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear – Scott Sauls

5 Friday Faves – One Small Step, A Father’s Good Gifts, Gossip, Blended Families, and Mission BBQ

Happy New Year! Whew! May 2022 be a reprieve from the struggle of 2020 and 2021. May we see the fruit of new wisdom and sound actions taken toward a healthier future and a closer community across our world. Thank You, God, for this new year and getting us through the last. Here are my favorite finds from this first week of 2022.

1) One Small Step – A couple of years ago, Dave and I had the privilege of listening to Dave Isay, the founder and president of Storycorps. He is a strong advocate of the power of telling our stories (to each other, face-to-face). [See his TED Talk on this here.] Given what we’ve been through the last couple of years (with our country divided over politics and trying to keep our balance with COVID), his One Small Step Initiative has been incredibly timely. Isay has a vision of bringing our country together (and maybe yours as well if you live elsewhere) through the experience of face-to-face dialog. We may have some sharp disagreements and consider ourselves enemies, but we can find common ground and common values…if we keep (or start) talking to each other. StoryCorps has made a platform where strangers can engage. Strangers who would not usually, given their differences, talk together. This One Small Step Initiative is actually being highlighted on this week’s CBS TV show 60 Minutes. Don’t miss it (or catch it later).

Photo Credit: RVA Library, Ben Himmelfarb 

P.S. Two phrases that speak to the above…and positive, healing communication, in general, are contingent communication and contact hypothesis. They are both worth taking note of and considering:

Contingent communication – Face-to-face conversation with a determination of deep listening, strong affirmation, and the mutual sense of “feeling felt”. Dr. Curt Thompson describes it as “communication, in which two individuals, through both their spoken dialogue and non-verbal cues, each affirm the other as they interact”.  (Anatomy of the Soul, p. 139)

Contact hypothesis“suggests that prejudice and conflict between groups can be reduced if members of the groups interact with each other”. In this article, Dr. Elizabeth Hopper goes on to say that “One especially promising possibility is that contact between groups might encourage more powerful majority group members to work as allies”. Instead of talking around each other, we come together. One conversation at a time.

2) A Father’s Good Gifts – This week I discovered an article by Jon Bloom entitled A Father’s Good Pleasure. Bloom talks about the joy we as parents have when we participate in generating joy in our children’s life.

One example of this for me is how my sweet step-dad continued to travel overseas to see us after Mom died. This was not a thing on his bucket list He came because he loved us and he came because he knew the joy it would bring to us.

“Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” – Jesus (Matthew 7:9–11)

“Give them [your children] good things — things they value as good and really want. And really, authentically enjoy doing it. It has God’s endorsement, since he too takes great pleasure in giving good gifts to his children…Become, through your joyful, affectionate generosity, an opportunity for your children to experience [and you with them…what C. S. Lewis calls] transposition  — to see and savor the higher, richer pleasure of God in the natural pleasure of their father giving good gifts to them.

Become a student of what gives them joy.”Jon Bloom

I love that Jon posted this piece the first week of January – when we are reeling with all the “stuff of Christmas”, including the credit card bills coming in this month. It is a joy to give our kids what they want when we can (and that is carved deeply in our western Christmas culture). It is also a joy to give our kids joy in deeper ways.

Our youngest son eats lunch with us on some Sundays. Often it is just him and us; his older siblings and families joining us occasionally. When Dave and I are most attuned to him, we just take the opportunity to affirm him and take joy in him. He feels that joy.

Have you Buried Your Gifts? – Jon Bloom

[Sidebar: The piece above talks about the gifts that we have and how our abilities and capabilities (the strength to operate out of our abilities) go hand in hand. Don’t want to bury my gifts because of a lack of gumption.]

Photo Credit: Nancy Tillman, Facebook

3) Gossip – What we may consider processing (with a friend or spouse) could be just plain old gossip. Pastor, writer Scott Sauls calls it in a recent tweet.

Photo Credit: Scott Sauls, Twitter

Such a wake-up call about gossip helps us think about the damaging impact of it on relationships. Gossip (which we too often call processing or ranting) makes us think we’re doing something about the dysfunctional relationship we have, when really we’re causing it further harm. What we’re doing is something called triangling. When we have a problem with one person but complain about that person to another. It is passive-aggressive and if we aren’t coached to go to the person missing from the conversation, then it just remains complaining. The relationship continues to be dysfunctional.

We aren’t to just bury a struggle, but we can deal with an offense with care and respect…even if it feels undeserved. This is the beginning of a healthy connection in the place of dishonoring and dismissing complaining.Photo Credit: Heartlight

A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us Against Them – Scott Sauls

Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen: How God Redeems Regret, Hurt, and Fear in the Making of Better Humans – Scott Sauls (Publish date June 2022)

4) Blended Families – Step-families, or blended families, can provide safe and loving refuges for children of divorce. As an adult child of divorce, I remember well the shame of being a child whose dad just seemed to forget his children over time. When Mom remarried a man also divorced (with children of his own), we experienced the positive (and negative) of being in a step-family.

Photo Credit: Pixabay, John Hain

As older adults, both children sets have issues of parental neglect mixed in with loving relationships. Every step-family is different, of course. Many are healthy. For those who struggle, there is always help and hope…if we reach for it.

[Just some of my large blended family…including some friends who are family…for which I’m so thankful.]

A podcast I would recommend for step-families who have had broken or painful relationships is therapist Ron Deal‘s Family Life Blended. The podcast (and other resources) is a help for any family but especially for blended families. The link below is an excellent example.

Ridding Your Soul of Shame – Family Life Blended Podcast – Ron Deal with Curt Thompson

Photo Credit: Pixabay, Ben Kerckx

5) Mission BBQ on a MissionMission BBQ is one of our favorite restaurants in Richmond. Their generous customer service (even in this era of COVID) and consistently delicious food are super special. http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/IMG_6824.jpg

We are members of their birthday club and receive a free barbecue sandwich when our special day rolls around each year. Besides that, we will get an email occasionally inviting us in for another free sandwich. Today we redeemed our “Merry Christmas” freebies.

The food is great, but it’s also an uplifting in-restaurant experience. Mission BBQ sets the bar high in honoring first responders and members (and families) of the military. In fact…they make all their customers feel honored. Sweet. And very unique.http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/IMG_6827.jpg

In fact, if you’re in the Richmond area (or have a Mission BarBQ in your area, and are thinking about heading over on Monday, they will be closed.  It’s their National Day of Service when they feed homeless veterans around the city.

The Restaurant Dishing Up Patriotism with a Side of BarBQ 

If you have one in your town, don’t miss it. If you don’t, can you suggest your own exceptional business (in Comments below)?

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Those are this week’s Faves. How about you? Please also use the Comments to share some of yours. Thanks for stopping by. You are a blessing.

Bonuses:

Endangered Attention: How to Guard a Precious Gift – Scott Hubbard

One big mistake people repeatedly make is focusing on proving themselves right, instead of focusing on achieving the best outcome. This is the wrong side of right. The Wrong Side of Right

Top 10 Surprising Lessons on the Genealogy of Jesus – Joshua Infantado

A Facebook post by a friend of mine in January 2020 – still speaks:

Photo Credit: John Williams, Facebook

“I make my bed every morning because it’s a gift that I get to open at the end of every day. A gift that not everyone has. So while I’m wrapping my bed in the morning and I’m unwrapping it at night I’m reminded of what a great blessing my bed really is in my life. When we stop viewing what we have as little, insignificant or not enough then we get to see what we do have as gifts we get to enjoy, great blessings in our lives and provision for our needs.”Theresa Nicely McCoy, Facebook

 

 

 

Monday Morning Moment – We pray…and We Don’t Give Up.

Photo Credit: David Sanabria, Flickr

I really don’t have words this morning.

Scott Sauls gave me the words below.

The blaming takes us nowhere. The hating definitely diminishes all.

Some think of prayer as a soft and impotent action. Not so! The God who hears our prayers is mighty to save. His purposes are not thwarted. He calls us to prayer and we, and those of the this broken world, are best served when we obey.

Do we do other things? Like sending our resources and opening our communities to those no longer with a home. Absolutely. However… if we don’t pray, we neglect the greatest salvation…and the greatest Savior in these seemingly hopeless situations.

The blaming and hating change nothing and care for no one. It is a dreadful waste and dishonors both God and humankind.

So…we pray.

…and we don’t give up.

Photo Credit: The Fellowship Site

5 Friday Faves – Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, Reading, Moving On or Staying In Relationship, Recycling, and Home for the Holidays

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! For some, you may understand Christmas as just a fun, family-oriented holiday. It is so much more than that for many of us. Christmas commemorates the birth of the Messiah – the only son of almighty God. Christmas is huge for those who have experienced God coming close to humanity. Coming close to us in a sinless life, laid down in love for us. If you don’t know Jesus, consider getting to know Him, rather than just making the assumption you do. It (He) might change your life. He did mine.

1) Christmas Eve to Christmas Day – It’s looking somewhat different this year, but the things we hold dearest can still be celebrated.

  • Grandchildren  – bringing joy and wonder into every experience. Super sweet to have their parents around as well.
  • Friends and neighbors who make life fun are not deterred by the need to physically distance.
  • Baking goodies and playing games – still happening. Our grands are big enough that this year we played a new game. “Bring Baby Jesus Home” – we gathered the Jesus figures from all the nativities (I have a collection), and our littles (with help from their parents) “raced” to return them to the proper nativity.

  • Candlelight Christmas Eve Service – Every year at Movement Church, we have this lovely service. The worship center is normally packed with families and friends gathered for Christmas. We sing carols and light the last Advent candle. Then Pastor Cliff brings a Christmas devotional. Finally, we light our candles, passing the light from person to person. So thankful that we still had this worshipful time this week…albeit not quite together. Thanks, you who made it happen.

2) Reading – My husband asked for books for Christmas. Somewhere along the way, he lost his collection of Chronicles of Narnia.

He’s already reading it this afternoon.

The British author of Chronicles, C. S. Lewis, had this to say about reading:Photo Credit: RelicsWorld

“We seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves…Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”C. S. Lewis

Words: “We Seek an Enlargement of Our Being” – C. S. Lewis

What are you reading these days? Please comment below.

3) Moving On or Staying In Relationship – Holidays can be especially hard when we find ourselves in tough places with family or in a marriage. One writer and marriage counselor who has been instrumental in our married life is Gary L. Thomas. The book we always recommend to folks struggling in marriage is his: Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?

Marriage and family rifts are the deepest heartache in life. The ripple effect is wide. Now, there are times, we find ourselves in this situations…not wanting it to be so. Thomas is very candid about these issues. Candid and kind.

He talks a lot about the life-altering decision of leaving a marriage. I was touched at how he described the losses that come at us blind when we divorce. All the history…gone. [Now maybe you hope it will be gone…I can understand that in abuse, for sure.] My mom and dad divorced when I wasn’t quite 6 years old. It was not amicable. In fact, I saw my dad once after that, and never again. I wrote letters to him for 20 years (at his last known address…never got a letter back so I figured he got them). At the birth of his first grandchild, when he didn’t respond even to that announcement, I stopped writing.

Anyway…I have dear friends separated from each other and family members deeply hurt with each other…so I listen, write, and pray…

Below, you’ll find some of what Dr. Thomas has said about marriage and the relationships attached to them.

“A good marriage isn’t something you find; it’s something you make.”
Gary L. Thomas, A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together?

“I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouse.”  – Gary Thomas
“Love is not an emotion; it’s a policy and a commitment that we choose to keep in the harshest of circumstances. It’s something that can be learned and that we can grow in. Biblical love is not based on the worthiness of the person being loved—none of us deserves Christ’s sacrifice—but on the worthiness of the One who calls us to love: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).” – Gary L. Thomas, The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not about Who You Marry, But Why?
“Contempt is conceived with expectations. Respect is conceived with expressions of gratitude. We can choose which one we will obsess over—expectations, or thanksgivings.”
Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?
“Just when we are most eager to make ourselves understood, we must strive to understand. Just when we seek to air our grievances, we must labor to comprehend an other’s hurt. Just when we want to point out the fallacies and abusive behavior of someone else, we must ruthlessly evaluate our own offensive attitudes and behaviors.”
Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?

 

4) Recycling – OK, here’s a question. Do you know anyone who works in a recycling plant? Now, I’m not talking about the very kind drivers of the big trucks that pick up our recycling every other week. I’m talking about someone who works, at any level, in the recycling industry. I haven’t. Yet, we have been recycling for a very long time, thinking we were helping the environment…doing what we could.

What if our recycling is ending up in landfills…if not our own but those in another country, China, for example?

The other side of our sacred holiday of Christmas is its full-out consumerism. We buy a lot of merchandise this time of year (less this year because of COVID). All kinds of stuff to give those we love. Besides the commercial packaging of said stuff, we also love to wrap or bag it in festive ways. It’s a heavy week for generating and processing recycling.

Now, like many of you, I love to reuse or repurpose things when possible. Especially, now, that I’m looking at the possibility that recycling may not be offsetting my use of materials. Not sure, but am becoming more suspicious.

So, more than ever, I am reusing whatever gift bags, bows, and boxes are left at my house after Christmas. This isn’t new around here. You can see in the image below a bag with a cut-out angel and a bag with a handsome young man‘s picture on it. We’ve had those bags since these two kids of ours were in high school. Now they are many years married and parents. It’s a small thing, but we’re rocking at the reusing aspect of recycling. How about you? I’m also still putting the recycling bin on the curb next time our neighborhood recycling truck comes around. I will keep believing…for now.

5) Home for the Holidays – Who is your “home for the holidays” person? Several in our family fit the bill, but this COVID year, the one in particular for us is our youngest son. Last night, he spent the night in his own bed at our house for the first time in over 9 months. He is a front-line worker and has his own place. Because of his situation and mine (being more at-risk), we have only visited more from a distance since mid-March. Some back-yard barbecues, and an occasional family dinner. He is so kind about wearing his mask except for eating. We miss him. This Christmas, we decided it would be really good to have him home. So…here’s our youngest, and our joy is full…he’s home. Hope you are able to connect with that person of yours…if not at home, then in as real a way as our modern lives allow.

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Be safe out there and enjoy the moments that make Christmas the best it’s meant to be.

Bonuses:

What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give him –
Give my heart.* – Christina Rossetti

The Remarkable Woman Behind “In the Bleak Midwinter” – Karen Swallow Prior

Who knew?! The Babylon Bee has a book out. Ever #TongueInCheek

Thankful for organizations who give us paths, all year but especially during the holidays, to give to those in need. Movement Food Drive:

The Christmas Star – the Great Conjunction – Facebook – Best image

Andrea Bocelli Sings ‘Silent Night’ in an Empty Cave, in Haunting Duet with His Own Echo

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

Monday Morning Moment – the Art of Argument

We were younger than we thought. Fresh out of graduate or med schools. In our first big real-world work. Most Saturdays in those days, we met for breakfast at Horton’s (now a Chipotle) and lingered over coffee. Talking about life and how to solve the problems around us. We didn’t always agree, and sometimes we got loud and passionate…but never unkind. We loved each other after all. We also cared about the same things but often saw those very same things differently.

Each going our separate ways those Saturdays, we had learned from one another. Always coming away with a larger sense of what it takes to make a better world. We valued our debates, our arguments, as much as our happier takes on life. Civil and thoughtful – with space to disagree.

A few years later, we all relocated across the US, in next real-world jobs. I took a teaching post at Yale University. My first foray out of the South. There, I had the same experience as with our Saturday morning breakfast club. Lively debate on life, university regulations, student issues, course content, and the politics of the day. I was definitely an outlier on some of the topics, being one of the youngest on faculty and from a part of the country sometimes maligned for its thinking. Still, the grace and respectful interest given to me by my colleagues again gave room to grow…maybe for all of us as we wrestled together things that mattered. The experience of belonging also breathed consideration into our arguments. We shared commonalities. A tenure track respected no one over another.

Recently, a lawyer friend of mine, in Seattle, sent me the following article on this topic of argument or dissent:

The New Truth – When the Moral Imperative Trumps the Rational Evidence, There’s No Arguing – Jacob Siegel

What we are witnessing, in the rapidly transforming norms around race, sex, and gender, is not an argument at all but a revolution in moral sentiment. In all revolutions, the new thing struggling to be born makes use of the old system in order to overthrow it. At present, institutions like the university, the press, and the medical profession preserve the appearance of reason, empiricism, and argument while altering, through edict and coercion, the meaning of essential terms in the moral lexicon, like fairness, equality, friendship, and love. That the effort wins so much support speaks to the deep contradictions and corruption of American meritocratic institutions, and of the liberal individualist moral regime it seeks to replace.

Moral revolutions cannot tolerate ambiguity, but there is so much that I’m not sure of. How does one argue with this new form of truth? Not in the old way. Not by taking the bait.Jacob Siegel

Siegel writes about the lost art of argument. His is a long and scholarly piece very worth the read. In brief, he states a strong case of how American culture, in particular, has become intolerant of reasoned debate. Pick the issue, and folks line up on one side or the other. If you are not on my side, then you are dead wrong. More than just wrong, you are a racist, sexist, fascist, Communist. And so it goes…far from the days of civil disagreement.

Photo Credit: Prezi, Christopher Lasch, Stephanie Rugo

I am still hopeful.

In the midst of all the meanness, especially in this election year, with political debates upon us, I believe we can turn this around.

Surely, we see the danger of hateful, polarizing exchanges. Part of our dilemma is that we are less face-to-face than we used to be. Before email and social media. Before COVID.

It’s too easy to use social media to make a public case on an issue and then dare someone to expose her biases and disagree.

I’m so thankful to have friends and family who allow for arguments on issues of religion, politics, etc. but without attacking.

The key to the art of argument is our persistent care for the person across from us. We may not love them, may not even like them, but we refuse to belittle or grow contempt for them. We refuse.

We determine to show respect, no matter how hot the argument becomes. We learn how to deescalate because the person matters more than the problem.

Scott Sauls speaks often on this matter of argument. His Tweet below expresses it better than I can.

Twitter source: Scott Sauls

“Attack problems not people…especially problems that attack people.”

Although in the public arena we see too much ungracious confrontations, we can find exceptions. I’ve taken to watching Blogging Heads on YouTube. On split-screen, two people (often educators but others as well) tackle some of our most pressing societal issues. They have been immensely helpful to me. Equipping their listeners on how to problem-solve and see issues in ways we might not have before. Mentoring on how to have respectful, thoughtful discussions on topics they may or may not agree on…but they amicably agree to disagree.

Twitter source: Ian V. Rowe

The art of argument (debate) doesn’t have to be lost. We can choose to weigh in on matters of extreme importance without taking the other person to the mat. Stating our reasoning without condescension. Listening, learning, allowing that we could be missing some part of the issue. Whether or not we get the same treatment, we both lose if at least one doesn’t remember the person in front of us has greater value than winning the the argument.

In closing, you’ll find two clips from Denzel Washington‘s 2007 film The Great Debaters. The plot is based on the true story of the rising debate team of the historically black Wiley College. The time was the 1930’s during the era of Jim Crow. The place, Texas. Washington played the role of Melvin Tolson, the outspoken debate coach. These two clips are riveting examples of an argument and a debate…and how it might be done again.

Thoughts? Please. In the comments below.

The Art of Having a Productive Argument

The Lost Art of Argument – Stephanie Rugo

YouTube Video – The Art of Argument – Jordan Peterson

Social Control and Human Dignity – Ben Peterson

5 Friday Faves – Shrek Revisited, 200 Days, Humanity Over Politics, Civil Thought & Voices, Mushrooms Everywhere

Here we go! Friday Faves late edition.

1) Shrek Revisited – The Fairytale theme from the movie Shrek (by English composers Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell) is  sweetly suited to classical guitar. Especially arranged and performed by Beyond the Guitar‘s Nathan Mills. Enjoy.

2) 200 Days – It’s been 200 days of physical distancing and wearing masks in public. Over half a year. COVID-19 has been a global health threat for many months now. We have learned so much in how to prevent, mediate, and treat. It’s become a political issue which is unfortunate and unfair. It is a novel virus. We are all learning.

For me, the biggest thing, after not contracting the virus, is how to navigate life with physical distancing. I’ve found instead of my capacity for work and people growing, it has contracted. Fatigue is a daily issue to battle. This is so curious since we are in the physical lives of far fewer people…and much of the clutter in our work lives has been removed.

Still…we are challenged to stay in play in life and relationships. I really appreciated the counsel of the two articles below. Won’t elaborate here, but read what you need…and don’t give in to the sluggishness of this constrained life. It will get better or stay different – we want to effectively meet the challenge whatever it is.

The Nine Habits to Increase Your Energy – Scott Young

How to Build Closer Relationships – Advice from 7 TED Speakers on Creating Better Connections – Kara Catruzulla

Photo Credit: Spencer Seim, Facebook

3) Humanity Over Politics – “Don’t let politics take away your humanity. Don’t let the fact that you agree or disagree with someone on various issues, don’t let that stop you from having sympathy for them, compassion…In general, people need to stop trying to dunk on people, insult people, dunking on people when they are…sick, going through dark times. It’s just despicable behavior. This is not me virtue-signaling. This is just me trying to encourage you to be a decent human being. Humanity over politics always!”Zuby

I follow @ZubyMusic on Twitter. This young man is British with an international accent (sounds American to me, raised and schooled in Saudi Arabia). He is truly brilliant with a wide range of giftings – podcaster, rapper, health/fitness coach, author, and culture commentator. He seems to truly care about people…and even us Americans, which is so refreshing. I learn from him daily.

4) Civil Thoughts and Voices – Who are those in your lives? Please comment below and let us in on those we might want to learn from, as well. On the Christian front, writer/pastor Scott Sauls is one of those for me. His book A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us Against Them is a great resource.

In the last several weeks, you have heard me rave about economics professor and social scientist Glenn Loury. He is one of the thought leaders in our world today, and his voice has helped me stay calm in a world gone crazy. He is weekly on a YouTube Blogging Heads episode and also on other media platforms. This week, Loury speaks with Ian Rowe on education and society. There is not one dry point in this whole conversation.

Hope-giving. Whatever your biases or preconceived notions are, Do. Not. Miss. This. Especially if you love children.

Rowe is currently a fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, focusing on education and upward mobility, family formation, success sequence, adoption, and poverty studies. If you truly care about issues related to racism, poverty, opportunity, and family, you want to read everything he writes…and talk about it with whomever and wherever you have a voice.

[Rowe also talks about the role of not only individuals but mediating institutions who will add to the conversation and strengthen the solutions.]

The Power of the Two-Parent Home Is Not a Myth – Ian Rowe

1776 Unites – free US history curriculum, alternative to 1619 Project

Photo Credit: Facebook, Chris Bear & Wendy McCaig

The Politics of Spin and Culture War Fatigue – Scott Sauls

Six Tips for Speaking Up Against Bad Behavior – Catherine A. Sanderson

5) Mushrooms Everywhere – The natural world around us is full of wonder and surprises. I had the pleasure of a walk in the woods this week. Highlighted by a closer to the ground view by two small grandchildren. They spotted and we marveled at the incredible array and variety of mushrooms and fungi growing on the forest floor and downed logs.

We see mushrooms pop up in our yards overnight. How do they do it? Seemingly out of nowhere. Not tackling that here, but you can find several timelapse videos of mushroom growth on YouTube.

For today, I just wanted to post some (not all) of the mushrooms we discovered on that one walk. Phenomenal!

Time-lapse video of composting worms – ok, so this has nothing to do with the above topic, but… When my husband takes the grandchildren fishing, they fish with worms. Dug up from our compost pile. Except for the creepiness factor, it amazes how worms can turn garbage into compost, and over a very short amount of time.

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That’s it for this week. Hope you had a great weekend (given this is posted after the weekend instead of on Friday). Stay well out there.

Bonuses:

COVID-19 Emergency Measures and the Impending Authoritarian Pandemic – Stephen Thomson

Here’s How US Presidents Get Elected (It’s Not Be Winning the Most Votes) – the Electoral College Explained – John Letzing

Warren Buffett Says This 1 Simple Habit Separates Successful People From Everyone Else – Marcel Schwantes  – In case you don’t read the article, the habit is that successful people say “No to almost everything”. Schwantes also quotes Steve Jobs and Jim Collins on how we make our decisions in choosing what really matters to us.

“Every ‘yes’ you say means a ‘no’ to something else.” – my husband, Dave

Twitter source: Kenneth Williams

“There are times in the experience of almost every community, when even the humblest member thereof may properly presume to teach — when the wise and great ones, the appointed leaders of the people, exert their powers of mind to complicate, mystify, entangle and obscure the simple truth — when they exert the noblest gifts which heaven has vouchsafed to man to mislead the popular mind, and to corrupt the public heart, — then the humblest may stand forth and be excused for opposing even his weakness to the torrent of evil.” – Frederick Douglass, from Maria Popova’s article “Frederick Douglass on the Wisdom of the Minority and the Real Meaning of Solidarity

The following video is an intersection in Cairo, Egypt. I never could bring myself to drive when we lived there, but I loved watching how the drivers made their way through all the traffic. Fascinating!

Why the World Needs Heroes – Jenn Phillips

I posted this Howard University commencement speech once before – if you didn’t see it, don’t miss it. Chadwick Boseman.